by Mick Dumke
Members of the City Council’s finance committee were universally happy Friday to have the chance to approve a “memorandum of understanding” between Chicago’s Olympics bid committee and dozens of business and neighborhood organizations.
The only problem was that there were so many people to thank.
“I just want to commend Michael Scott and Terry Peterson,” said 28th Ward alderman Ed Smith, referring to the co-chairs of the bid committee’s “community outreach” efforts.
“I just want to thank you, Ms. Healy,” said 27th Ward alderman Walter Burnett, referring to bid committee president Lori Healy.
“I want to say thank you to the committee,” said 20th Ward alderman Willie Cochran, referring to the entire outreach team.
“I congratulate my colleagues,” said 29th Ward alderman Ike Carothers, referring to his colleagues.
“I share my colleagues’ joy,” said Sixth Ward alderman Freddrenna Lyle.
Actually, several aldermen realized, it was possible that another problem might arise: somebody out there would probably find fault with the 13-page agreement, even though it laid out ambitious targets for affordable housing (30 percent of the units developed for the Olympics and eventually sold off), contracting set-asides (30 percent for minority-owned and 10 percent for women-owned firms), workforce training and education (it would be good to offer some), and hiring from underemployed communities (there will be an “ongoing effort toward workforce transformation”).
“I want to say to the folks who are going to start criticizing this document as soon as we’re done: you can’t play Monday morning quarterback,” said Latasha Thomas of the 17th Ward. She acknowledged that not every group’s every concern had been worked into the agreement, but insisted that everyone had been given the chance to offer input. And so the complainers had really lost their right to play quarterback at any time on Monday. “You can’t play Monday evening quarterback,” she said.
No one talked about how exactly the deal would be enforced. The targets are laid out with the qualification that they’ll be pursued “where feasible and within the scope of Chicago’s 2016 mission and purpose,” terms that could conceivably be open to interpretation.
The agreement promises the creation of an “independent compliance monitoring body” that will issue quarterly reports on meeting the goals, but aldermen said the matter of who sits on the body hasn’t been fleshed out yet. The document doesn’t mention what would happen if feasible targets aren’t met.
Still, Toni Preckwinkle and Pat Dowell, the aldermen who pushed hardest for a deal before next week’s visit by members of the International Olympic Committee, clearly believe they got as much as they could, and the measure is sure to pass the full council in a couple of weeks. “I wasn’t a cheerleader for the Olympics, but I’m feeling a lot better today,” Dowell said.
Several of her colleagues, and a succession of citizens who testified, offered her their thanks.