The big news from last night's mayoral budget hearing is that the Olympics are back to being free.
That's right: building, staging, and removing the venues for the 2016 Olympic Games won't cost the public a dime; it will all somehow or other pay for itself.
I know this because I heard it from Mayor Daley himself, who was leading his annual budget hearing at the Falconer School on the northwest side.
In response to comments from one concerned resident, Daley said there will be "no public money for the Olympics. There will not be any money used for the Olympics."
Whew, what a relief. Silly me, I'd thought we were on the hook for at least $500 million ever since last year, when Daley, at the urging of the United States Olympic Committee, got the City Council to, you know, authorize up to $500 million for the games. I believe the USOC called it putting some governmental "skin in the game."
Of course, there's always the possibility that Mayor Daley forgot about that $500 million authorization. Just as it's possible that he forgot his more recent proposal to borrow $85 million to buy and demolish Michael Reese Hospital so he can eventually build the Olympic Village there.
You have to understand, there are hundreds of details a guy's got to master in order to be mayor of a city as big as Chicago. It's possible things slipped his mind.
At the 2006 budget hearing at Falconer, the mere mention of Quigley -- an outspoken critic of the mayor's TIF program -- drew a sarcastic barb from Daley. Last night someone mentioned Quigley and mayor said nothing. But when preservationist Jonathan Fine mentioned that people in West Town would like a library installed in the city-owned Goldblatt's building on Chicago Avenue, Daley assailed Waguespack, the local alderman in that area, for voting against last year's tax hike -- which, if you remember, was supposed to be used to build libraries.
It just goes to show you how memory's a funny thing. When it comes to multimillion dollar Olympic expenditures, the mayor's memory is fuzzy. But when it comes to one small act of aldermanic insubordination, man, our mayor doesn't forget a thing.