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August 2, 2009 No free check for the 2016 Summer Games By Manny Flores We will soon learn if Chicago receives the honor of hosting the 2016 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. Winning the Games will be a testament to our city's vitality and global leadership, and will offer an unparalleled opportunity for economic stimulus and community development. But these beneﬁts will only be realized if we host a Games that respects community needs, is fully transparent in its contracting and hiring and is accountable to the citizens who will live with the Games' infrastructure and ﬁnancial legacy for coming decades. Unfortunately, we're not there yet. At this late date, Chicago taxpayers have yet to receive information that is key to securing citywide support for the Games -- a full accounting of Chicago 2016's donors and expenditures, a plan that ensures an open and fair contracting process, detailed information about an insurance policy to protect Chicago taxpayers from cost overruns, and an independent third-party analysis of the proposed Olympics budget. This information already exists. The technology to make it easily accessible also exists. And with only two months remaining before the host city is announced, it is time for the 2016 Committee to provide a greater degree of transparency and accountability by adopting these ﬁve principles: 1 Authorize an independent oversight committee that will have regular access to ﬁnancial statements and contracts. This committee should be composed of respected civic, business and law enforcement ofﬁcials who have no ﬁnancial ties to City Hall or the 2016 Committee, and should be staffed by an independent compliance ofﬁce that can regularly monitor the Games' ﬁnances and practices. 2 Implement a process for contract bidding that allows citizens to easily learn who is being awarded contracts, how much each is worth, and what work is being done. This should include a full listing of contractors and subcontractors, and should be completed before any contracts are awarded. 3 Publish ﬁnancial disclosure and conﬂict of interest forms for Olympic committee members -- just as all elected ofﬁcials do -- by Sept. 15. 4 Publish all committee and public expenditures related to the Games onto an open and searchable database on a quarterly basis. 5 Disclose funding commitments to cover the Games' expenses and outline protections that will be in place to limit the liability for Chicago taxpayers, including the proposed insurance policy to cover cost-overruns. This information should be made available immediately. I have introduced legislation to cap the city's ﬁnancial commitment for the Games at the $500 million that was authorized by the City Council in 2007. It has been said that if my legislation passes, we will not be able to sign the host city ﬁnancial guarantee contract required by the International Olympic Committee -- effectively killing our chances at being named the host city. I don't want that to happen, but the 2016 Committee and City Hall have a responsibility to protect Chicago taxpayers. The ﬁve points I outlined would be a signiﬁcant step forward in providing the protections we need to support a city guarantee. Only with an open process can we be guaranteed that the needs of communities are met and that taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly. Now is the time for Chicago to set the highest standard for transparent and accountable leadership. Let's not squander the opportunity. Ald. Manny Flores represents Chicago's 1st Ward.