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Olympic committee agrees to more contracts for minorities and women in new ordinance

March 30, 2009 – The Chicago 2016 bid committee presented their 13-page “Memorandum of Understanding” before the city’s Committee on Finance for last minute questions before it was approved Friday.

The document covers a wide variety of topics, ranging from construction and affordable housing to community enhancement, which would be tackled if the city is picked to host the Olympics.

“This is not something that was just thrown together overnight, it’s a wonderful document,” said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th).

Although the aldermen have spent the past two months discussing details of the document with the bid committee and community organizations, there were still some concerns brought up at the meeting.

Contract percentages included in the memorandum were the main source of contention between the aldermen and the bid committee. Originally, 25 percent of construction contracts were to be allotted for businesses owned by minorities and people with disabilities. Another five percent were to be granted for women-owned firms.

Many of the aldermen agreed that the percentages were not high enough and would not be satisfied until the numbers were increased. After a heated discussion within the council chambers, the bid committee agreed to raise the percentages to 30 for by minority and disabled business owners, as well as 10 percent for women-owned companies.

“I think diversity is a great thing,” said Ald. Ed Smith (28th). “We all really want to do the best we can for the city of Chicago.”

Other topics highlighting the economic impact on the city and goals for affected communities are also included in the document. For example, the committee aims to increase the minimum number of affordable housing units within the Olympic village from 20 percent to at least 30 percent, if possible. It also strives to include as many local businesses and residents in the construction and staffing of new venues.

The Memorandum of Understanding was created in anticipation of the first visit from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Valerie Leonard from Lawndale commended the group’s hard work and said they “exceeded expectations.”

“I’m really impressed with the transparency going through a process that proves minorities exist,” said Leonard.

Cecilia Butler, president of the Washington Park Advisory Council, praised the committee on their ability to include as much community feedback in the memorandum as possible. Butler has worked with the committee over the past two years to make sure the concerns of her neighborhood were properly addressed.

“They asked what it would take to the support the Olympics and the community created a 26-point plan,” said Butler. “Sixteen of the 26 have been met.”

Hailed by Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) as an “historic document” created through a collaboration of public and private entities, the memorandum still faced criticisms from members of the audience. Members of the public had a brief opportunity to voice their opinions to the aldermen shortly before the meeting ended.

Lawndale residents Mark Carter and Paul McKinley were disappointed in how their neighborhood was represented throughout the process.  In their opinion, fellow Lawndale resident and co-chair of the Chicago 2016 committee Michael Scott did not properly address their community’s needs.

“We’ll wait for the IOC to get here and bring the real community out,” said Carter. “Michael Scott does not speak for us.”

Tom Tresser, a volunteer with No Games Chicago, expressed his group’s desire to shut down the city’s Olympic bid and instead use the funding for Chicago’s public transportation, schools and parks. The group is hosting a rally at Federal Plaza on April 2 to let the IOC know that “Chicago 2016 does not speak for the people of Chicago.”

The IOC will make their first of several evaluation visits to Chicago on April 2 to help determine their final decision. A countdown to the final selection on Oct. 3 can be found on Chicago 2016’s website.

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