Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Olympic-size sinkhole

Posted By on 05.14.09 at 12:24 PM

I get a call from a reader in Hyde Park who tells me about a giant pothole on 49th Street that you have to see to believe. She says it's a perfect example of the city's whacked-out priorities in that they're looking to spend billions for the 2016 Olympic Games while they let the streets fall apart.

So I drive down to Hyde Park and there it is--just like she said. A gargantuan pothole, more like a sinkhole, right in the middle of the intersection of 49th and Woodlawn.

I get out of my car and walk over for closer inspection. It's about ten feet long and ten feet wide and at least four feet deep. The city's thrown up barricades on the sides to keep passing cars from falling in, and a metal ramp has been placed across the top. But apparently no ramp is large enough to bridge the gap completely.

I call back my Hyde Park reader and she says the sinkhole--which showed up about two weeks ago--is only part of the story: "Did you see the sidewalks? They have grass growing in them. Did you drive down Ellis? It's one pothole after another. This is right down the street from President Obama's house. If I were Mayor Daley I'd be ashamed of myself."

I was thinking about that giant pothole/sinkhole when I read Kenneth Vogel's article in Politico about President Obama and the Olympics. Apparently, White House aides are trying to convince Obama to lobby the International Olympic Committee to give Chicago the games. As the insiders see it, Chicago's only chance to get the nod is if Obama himself flies to Europe and personally appeals to the IOC.

Here's oping the president does everyone in Chicago a big favor and forgets about the Olympics. We have far more pressing problems--like filling the 49th Street sinkhole before it swallows the rest of Hyde Park. Don't listen to the former Daley aides you have working at the White House. I'm sure the mayor's bugging them to get you to push for the games. They could never say no to him when they were working here, and I guess they still can't say no to him. That's our problem--no one ever says no to the boss.

I don't even know why you would want to stick your neck out for Mayor Daley anyway. He never did a damn thing for you when you were coming up. More to the point, there's nothing he can do to you now.

I know there are some people--including Nate Silver--who think bringing the games to Chicago will help the Democrats win the 2016 presidential campaign (they figure your re-election in 2012 is in the bag). But they don't know Chicago politics the way you do. If Daley and his cronies run the Olympics the way they run everything else around here, it will mean cost overruns, construction delays, scandals, rip offs, fronts for phony minority contractors--you name it. Reporters will be hounding you every time there's another scandal. It will be Tony Rezko times ten.

You spent your political life trying to get out of this swamp. Why would you ever want to jump back in? 

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