Friday, July 3, 2009

We back the bid and you can too [sic]

I first noticed this proclamation displayed prominently in the building across the street, the pillars of which had been painted in colors complimentary to the logo, then in my building, then seemingly everywhere downtown. This ubiquitous display of Olympic love, it turns out, had been carefully orchestrated to coincide with a visit by the International Olympic Committee.

Who is the "we"? I wondered.

The answer to that in this case is no mystery—every business that needs to stay in the plus column of Mayor Richard M. Daley's ledger. When Da Mare's cruising, you want to make sure you, your business, and your building conform to his mantra, even if you personally pay your taxes in Naperville or don't care one way or the other. It's the wise thing to do.

I live in Chicago, I care, and those signs don't speak for me. I am not part of the universal "we."

I don't back the bid. I don't think I'm alone.

I'm sure many Chicagoans and suburbanites crave the excitement, prestige, and economic stimulus it's claimed that the Olympics would bring to Chicago. I don't. I also don't desire the long-term disfigurement of places like Jackson and Washington Parks for the sake of a two-week event whose benefits are debatable.

I'm jaded enough to wonder if Daley, during whose reign the classic Soldier Field was transformed into a futuristic glass toilet bowl where the regular folks are huddled together on one side of the field while the wealthy and influential take the other, envisions the Olympics as the capstone of his legacy. Perhaps he has Chicago's best interests at heart, at least when they coincide with his.

Rootless, I've remained emotionally detached from Chicago, even as I approach my 30th year here. I missed the regime of the first Mayor Daley and have never been interested in the Machine, whether yesterday's powerhouse or today's more sophisticated and streamlined version. But a recent incident in Hyde Park is a measure of how I feel about the government of the city that works. A local restaurant was shut down by city inspectors for not having the right kind of Dumpster, or for having an outdated one. J. and I had the same thought: "Sorry, we gotta shut ya down until ya get the right kind of Dumpster. Say. I gotta card here of a guy who sells the kind of Dumpster ya need, the kind in the city ordinance. He'll fix ya up good. He's the mayor's [insert relationship here]."

That's how the city of big shoulders works. And that's part of why "we" back the bid, although no one asked us, just like they didn't ask us if we wanted the runways at Meigs Field rendered useless by enormous Xs gouged into them late on a Sunday night. That's just the way it is in "My Kind of Town." The mayor’s way or the highway.

So, no offense, but I hope I don't see you in 2016, unless you're here for the zoo, the aquarium, the planetarium, the museums, the parks, the universities, or the professional sports —all things that Chicagoans are and should be proud of.

2016 would be my 37th year here.


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