City Hall suffering from Olympic hangover?

October 5, 2009 4:26:42 PM PDT
From budget problems to mass transit, there are a lot of things that will demand attention from Mayor Daley and city council aldermen now that the Olympic bid is over.But some at City Hall are suffering from what you might call an 'Olympic hangover.'

In the wake of Copenhagen, there is a definite mood shift at Chicago City Hall. Facing the worst projected deficit in city history, the mayor and aldermen will not be able to assure the public that 'help is on the way.' Instead, they'll tell residents and city workers to brace themselves.

Thirty seven acres alongside South Lake Shore Drive, now occupied by the vacant Michael Reese Hospital, will not be the site of an Olympic Village - and there's no telling when there might be a developer with enough money to build anything there.

"There's a couple of, two or three years of work to do before we put a spade in the ground and by then, I would hope the credit markets and the economy are in much better condition than they are today," said Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, 4th Ward.

The CTA, facing a $300 million deficit, cannot expect an Olympic-sized federal windfall to buy new buses and trains. Instead, its newly-designated chairman cannot rule out a fare increase or service cuts.

"We're going to look at the federal government and looking to see what management can do," said Terry Peterson, CTA Chairman-designate.

And the Chicago Police Department will not see its depleted ranks restored by Olympics-related federal security funding.

"It certainly would have boosted Chicago in terms of having more officers available," said Ald. Isaac Carothers, Police and Fire Committee Chairman.

Mayor Daley, for whom the Olympic loss was perhaps the biggest setback of his 20 years in office, was unavailable for comment on Monday. But across the state line, Indiana's Republican governor Mitch Daniels joked that Chicago lost its bid because "couldn't fix an election anymore."

"Har-de-har-har. I want to say a few things to say about that," said Gov. Quinn. "Rio De Janiero won the Olympics in 2016; we have nothing to be ashamed of."

The mayor, who has led the sale of city assets, ordered service cuts, worker layoffs and furloughs to balance recent budgets, now faces a half billion dollar 2010 shortfall. Some alderman walked away from questions about possible tax increases and deeper service cuts, while others said there was no avoiding the bitter truth.

"As long as we're in this recession and constantly losing jobs, we're going to have to constantly ask people to do more with less," said Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th Ward.

"We don't know when we're coming out of this recession," said Ald. Leslie Hairston, 5th Ward.

Traditionally, the mayor delivers the budget address during the second or third week of October. A spokesman for Daley's budget office could not pinpoint the date this year.


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