Community benefits | Bleader

Community benefits

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South-side aldermen and community activists long ago realized that Mayor Daley had fallen headlong in love with the idea of bringing the Olympics to Chicago, and that it didn’t matter what they or anyone else thought or did—he was going to press ahead with plans to use their neighborhoods and parks for housing and athletic facilities.

So instead of trying to stop the Olympics push, they promised to go along with it—as long as the mayor and his people agreed to go along with their demands for affordable housing, construction jobs, and other “community benefits.”

It’ll soon be evident if the strategy has worked.

With activists and union members standing behind them, aldermen Toni Preckwinkle and Pat Dowell announced this morning that they were introducing an ordinance at today’s City Council meeting requiring the bid committee to include community benefits in their plans. Aldermen Bob Fioretti, Willie Cochran, and Leslie Hairston had signed on as cosponsors though they weren’t there.

The ordinance, which activists said was developed through a series of neighborhood forums, is wide-ranging and ambitious. It would mandate that the city and Olympic planners

·        “seek to make” 30 percent of the housing developed for the Olympic Village affordable when it’s turned over to the private market after the games;

·        pay home owners market-rate value or above for their property if they’re displaced by the games, and give three months’ notice to renters;

·        set aside 50 percent of all Olympics-related contracts to minority- or women-owned firms;

·        generate quarterly reports detailing the use of public funds;

·        create a jobs program for unemployed residents;

·        sign a labor agreement with building trades unions;

·        “rebuild Chicago’s bus and train system” and “fill in critical gaps” in it;

·        work with state and federal officials to bring high-speed rail to the region.

No one at the Chicago 2016 press office returned my call for comment, but Preckwinkle said a copy of the ordinance had been delivered to the committee last week. “I think they understand this has to be done,” she said.

If that’s true, it will be well received in the City Council. But I’m betting it won’t sail through as easily as the mayor’s Olympic funding plan did at today’s meeting, leaving even finance committee chairman (and master rhetorician) Ed Burke wondering why there wasn't any debate.

But for now Jay Travis, executive director of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, prefers to signal optimism. “We’ve talked to a few folks in the City Council, and we know that building the support it takes to pass the ordinance will take a lot of work.”

If by "work" she means something like “threats to picket the mayor’s ass whenever international Olympic officials just might be looking,” she's got a chance.

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