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The [Monday] Papers

Are "we" game for the Olympics?

That's what the big front page story in the Tribune said on Sunday, based on a Tribune poll. (The online version had a more, um, tempered headline.)

But that's not what the ill-executed poll said at all.

Let's take it from the top.

"Nearly two-thirds of Chicago-area residents want the city to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, but most don't want tax money to pay for it, a new Tribune poll found."

Too late!

"Yet many supporters - as well as a vast majority of those opposed to bringing the Games here - don't buy the idea that private funds will cover nearly all the costs."

Okay, we have several problems right away.

First, the question highlighted on the front page is: "Do you favor or oppose Chicago hosting the 2016 Olympic Games?"

The answer: 64 percent in favor.

But inside the paper we learn that 75 percent of those polled disapprove of "using tax revenue to cover a revenue shortfall for the Olympics."

Ignoring for the moment the awkward wording of the question - shouldn't it just ask if respondents approve or disapprove of spending tax dollars to host the Olympics? - isn't the headline that 75 percent of Chicago-area residents don't want to host the Olympics if it will cost them tax dollars?

From what I can tell, the question was never asked quite that way, but that's what I believe the answer is telling us.

Sure, 64 percent of those asked favor hosting the Olympics - in a vacuum, without considering any details. Who wouldn't want to host the Olympics?

[COMMENT 9:26 A.M.: An observant Beachwood reader writes:

Ooh, ooh! I know this one!

Isn't the answer 36 percent? And isn't it something that, all else aside, ignoring the cost and the threat to neighborhoods and the prospect of security issues and, don't forget, the cost, even if all the question asks is, you want them or no, 36 percent said "no, even if they were free and wouldn't wipe neighborhoods and parks off the map and didn't raise the specter of a police state in our city, I still wouldn't want them." Wow.]

But that's besides the point.

What's worse is the Tribune engaging in the fiction that (massive) tax dollars have not already been committed to the project and not challenging Mayor Daley's statement to the paper on Saturday that "There's no city tax money whatsoever."

Oh really? How is that again?

The Tribune does acknowledge deep in its story that "Chicago will have to pay about $45 million for city services such as street cleaning to support the Olympics. The city also has pledged property tax revenue to cover infrastructure improvements for the planned Olympic village. The federal government is expected to spend $1 billion or more on security." (One billion or more! I'm betting on more!)

I wonder if Trib pollsters informed respondents of those facts, and then told them about the city's $500 million guarantee, as well as the state's commitment of funds.

Or sent them the the links I provided above so they could brush up on the subject matter, including the Trib's David Greising writing that "Taxpayers already have skin in the game."

But that's not all.

Let's move on to another question.

"Which of these, if any, do you think would be the major advantage if Chicago hosted the Olympics?"

* Boost to the local economy: 40 percent
* Enhance city's global reputation: 25 percent
* Improve city transit services: 16 percent
* Other/don't know: 18 percent

You might as well ask respondents, How dumb are you?

Study after study shows that sporting events - and building stadiums like Soldier Field - do not result in additional economic activity. Just displaced economic activity. There are only so many dollars to go around. Perhaps the Trib could have asked, "Are you aware that the Olympics has almost always been a costly boondoggle for host cities resulting in little short-term and no long-term economic benefit?"

Just ask latest chumps Vancouver and London.

After all, also in the Tribune on Sunday:

"With the deadline for Chicago's final Olympic bid less than a week away, a piece of property on the South Side is casting a long shadow over the city's plans.

"The property, now the site of a foundering hospital, is where officials want developers to build a privately financed, $1.1 billion Olympic Village to house athletes for the Summer 2016 Games.

"But the global economic crisis is expected to make international Olympic officials question whether Chicago can deliver the massive project. And taxpayers are likely to wonder whether they will end up paying the bill.

"These concerns have intensified in the past few weeks because of news out of Vancouver and London, the cities that will host the next winter and summer Olympics. As credit has dried up, both have been forced to bail out high-priced construction projects that were supposed to have been built with private money."

And that's just the latest in those cities' long string of problems.

As far as whether the Olympics would "enhance the city's global reputation," maybe the Trib should have asked residents how much they would be willing to spend on an international public relations campaign to clean up our image as corrupt pols who tolerate police torture.

And it would have been nice to have asked if city transit services should be improved regardless of whether we get the Olympics here.

The next question asks about disadvantages to hosting the Olympics. Congestion/inconvenience won 28 percent of the vote. But the Trib didn't ask if two weeks of congestion was enough of a problem to oppose the Olympics. Like we can't take two weeks of clogged roads. (Security problems/terrorism threat was named by just 18 percent as a disadvantage.)

What was the objective of this poll?

It's too late to ask if Chicago-area residents support an Olympic bid. We're a finalist. It doesn't matter.

And we know the bid isn't possible without tax dollars. That's been established.

A better poll would have asked Chicago-area residents how upset they are that Daley keeps lying about how the Olympics will be funded - and what they intend to do about it.

COMMENT 1:40 P.M.: Another observant Beachwood reader writes:

The statistic that "impressed" me was that 97 percent of those polled who declared opposition to the games also cited their opposition to having their taxes used to pay for them. So, who are the other 3 percent?

COMMENT 2:45 P.M.: And yet another observant Beachwood reader writes:

And isn't the bloated salary we pay for our squeaky-clean Police Superintendent already a sunk cost of the chase-the-Olympics-folly? He's the one who had all the terrorism experience, to reassure the Olympic Committee. He's the one who warranted the enormous salary because he was going to be in charge of the Police and disaster preparedness and so much more. Oh, that's until they took half his duties away from him.

Weis reminds me of a vignette in the series, The Wire. Whenever the Baltimore detective would need to meet his friend in the FBI, the Fed could never manage to position his car so that the two drivers could talk. And the Baltimore Detective would say, "You never worked Patrol, did you?"

From page two on Sunday - on the other side of the page from the Trib's Olympic poll:

"There's only one question in the Kass poll. Just ask yourself: Does wanting the Olympics in Chicago make me a big chumbolone?"


There's always enough money for the rich and powerful to throw their parties and build their stadiums. Meanwhile . . .


"As of Sunday, it has been 1,615 days since the mayor promised he'd find out who promoted ex-gangbanger Angelo Torres to run his scandal-plagued Hired Truck program that cost taxpayers at least $40 million," Kass writes. "We're still waiting."

A real City Hall press corps would ask him this question every single day - and publish and broadcast the answer. Every single day.

Obama's Shirtsleeves
Filling in the Washington press corps.

Value Meals
"Starbucks, Wendy's Revamp Breakfast to Win Customers."

Wendy's to offer coffee; Starbucks to serve shakes and baked potatoes.

Oil Spill


The Beachwood Tip Line: A toxic asset.


Posted on February 9, 2009

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