Olympic Protests Avoided, or Not?

Group wants agreement with city to be legally binding

Officials with the Chicago Olympic Committee said Thursday they have reached a long-awaited agreement with community groups, designed to guarantee housing and jobs if Chicago wins the 2016 Olympic Games.

A group calling itself CEO 2016 had vowed to disrupt an upcoming visit of the International Olympic Committee, if their demands for affordable housing and a share of city contracts for minorities were not met.

Only problem is, CEO 2016 did not appear today at a news conference where the Olympic Committee said the agreement had been reached.

But after the news conference, CEO 2016 said it wants the agreement, called "Memorandum of Understanding" to be legally binding. Until that happens, CEO 2016 has a "wait and see" attitude. If the city does not follow through, then there will be unrest and they will be vocal during the IOC's visit next month, CEO 2016 said.

Chicago Olympic organizers remain optimistic.

"This is the first step in the process of ensuring that if the games come to Chicago, they will have a positive impact on our communities," said Terry Peterson, co-chair of the Chicago Olympic Outreach Advisory Council. "We hope to promote a living wage and sustainable jobs."

CEO 2016 had demanded that 30 percent of the proposed Olympic Village be set aside as affordable housing after the games, and that 50 percent of the Olympic contracts go to minority and women-owned companies.

Today's agreement established a 30 percent goal of affordable housing in the Village property, and officials said they were hopeful they could exceed Atlanta's benchmark of 40 percent minority contracting. But the document only provides a minimum floor of targeted hiring objectives: 25 percent for businesses owned by minorities and persons with disabilities, and 5 percent for women-owned firms.

Other community organizations hailed the Memorandum of Understanding, which goes to the city's finance committee tomorrow, as a positive step forward.

"We are encouraged by this document," said Cheryle Jackson, president of the Chicago Urban League. "I think the real legacy here is the spirit of inclusion and diversity".

Juan Rangel, with the United Neighborhood Organization, echoed those sentiments. "Let's be clear, these games are intended for all Chicago," he said. "It is our responsibility as advocates for our communities, to rally behind this bid."

"The prospect of hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games has presented us with a unique opportunity in our city's history, to have leaders from across the region come together," said Michael Scott, co-chair of the Advisory Council. "This plan is both detailed and deliberate."

On another issue, Chicago 2016 president Lori Healey deflected questions about possible demonstrations by Chicago Police officers during the upcoming Olympic Committee visit. "Everyone has a right to voice their opinions," Healey said, saying the police matter is "not a 2016 issue."

Police union officials are angry about a lack of progress in contract negotiations, and a decision by the Daley administration to withdraw a pay raise offer.

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