When government officials play the Olympic lottery, taxpayers lose. That has been the disastrous experience of host cities around the world. (Forbes magazine even dubbed the post-Olympic financial burden the "Host City Curse.") So, why are President Obama and his White House entourage headed to Copenhagen, Denmark, this week to push a fiscally doomed Chicago 2016 bid? Political payback.
Bringing the games to the Windy City is Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's "vision." The entrenched Democratic powerbroker -- in office since 1989 -- would like to cap off his graft-haunted tenure with a glorious $4 billion bread-and-circuses production. The influential Daley machine backed Barack Obama for the presidential primary. Obama lavished praise on Daley's stewardship of the city. Longtime Daley cronies helped pave Obama's path to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Now, they're returning the favor for their hometown boss.
Senior White House adviser and Obama consigliere Valerie Jarrett is a Daley loyalist who worked as his deputy chief of staff, deputy corporation counsel and planning commissioner. She hired the future first lady of the United States, then-Michelle Robinson, as a mayoral assistant. Jarrett went on to serve as president and CEO of The Habitat Company, a real estate firm with a massive stake in federally funded Chicago public housing projects.
One of those public-private partnerships, the Grove Parc Plaza Apartments, was run into the ground under Jarrett's watch. Federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex a bottom-of-the-barrel 11 on a 100-point scale. "They are rapidly displacing poor people, and these companies are profiting from this displacement," Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle of Southside Together Organizing for Power, a community group that seeks to help tenants stay in the same neighborhoods, told the Boston Globe last year. "'The same exact people who ran these places into the ground,' the private companies paid to build and manage the city's affordable housing, 'now are profiting by redeveloping them.'"
Coincidentally enough, Grove Parc -- now targeted for demolition as a result of years of neglect by Obama's developer friends -- sits in the shadows of the proposed site of the city's 2016 Olympic Stadium. Jarrett served as vice chair of Chicago's 2016 Summer Olympics bid committee before moving to the White House, where she has helmed a new "White House Office on Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport" with an undisclosed budget and staff.
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