Drivers Demand Equitable Olympics

By admin - Posted on 15 September 2008

Cabdrivers join community-based coalition calling for City of Chicago to sign “Community Benefits Agreement”

Cabdrivers with the United Taxidrivers Community Council (UTCC) have joined forces with a dozen other community groups under the banner of Communities for an Equitable Olympics 2016 (CEO 2016).

On August 16, 2008, CEO 2016 released a list of demands to the city calling for the community to be included in the city’s bid process for the 2016 Olympic Summer Games at a press conference and march that attracted over 500 community leaders.

The newly formed coalition calls upon the City of Chicago and the Chicago 2016 Committee to include the community in the planning process for the 2016 games, and to include a “benefits agreement” with the city’s Olympic bid detailing strategies to improve transportation infrastructure and ensure living-wage jobs in Chicago.

Cabdrivers with the UTCC, through their partnering organization American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) now have a seat at the table with some of the most influential community organizations, including the citywide Grassroots Collaborative. Their demands, including centralized dispatching and a guaranteed living wage through reviews of rates of fare every two years for Chicago cabdrivers, are included in the coalition’s demands.

UTCC Chair Fayez Khozindar addressed the hundreds gathered at the rally: “Cabdriver in Chicago deserve a decent living wage… and we need a centralized dispatching system, so that better taxi services can be brought to the west side, the south side, the north side and the east side!” The crowd roared with applause and chants as he outlined the proposals.

CEO 2016 made clear that it does not oppose a Chicago Olympics. However, the coalition believes that only a seat at the planning table can prevent a negative impact to the community in the lead-up to the 2016 games, and that all impacted communities, whether low-income or not, have the right to protection from displacement.

“Today, we are asking Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and Chicago 2016 Committee chairman and CEO Patrick Ryan to bring the community to the Olympic planning table,” said Deshun Bray of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization. “We believe that embracing the community’s input is the surest way to strengthen Chicago’s bid for the 2016 summer games.”


In order to protect Chicago’s low-income communities of color, the CEO 2016 coalition is seeking a signed legal benefits agreement with the city. Such an agreement would specify minimum levels of affordable housing and employment opportunities that must remain in areas adjacent to planned Olympic facilities. In the minds of many community leaders, only a legal agreement can ensure that South Side jobs and residents will be able to stay where they are in the lead-up to 2016.

At today’s press conference, community leaders detailed the elements that need to be included in a benefits agreement to adequately prevent community displacement. Improvements are sought in eight key areas including: economic sustainability, employment and workers’ rights, housing, public safety, education, public space, financial accountability, and transportation.

“These are the core areas that affect the quality of life in any neighborhood,” said Erma Davis Williams, director of senior services at the Centers for New Horizons. “These areas all could stand significant improvement on the South Side of Chicago.”

Among the improvements sought:

  • Transportation improvements including integrated Metra and CTA service with trains every 10 minute or better, and a centralized dispatch system for taxi service in underserved areas.
  • Taxi drivers shall earn a living wage via biennial review of economic factors and fares impacting their earnings.
  • An assessment of the types of businesses needed in the community including grocery stores, and a plan for retaining revenue and employment generators after the Olympics end.
  • Creating partnerships with financial institutions to offer small business Individual Development Accounts (IDAs).
  • All jobs created by the Olympic process should be living-wage jobs that are indexed with increases in cost of living and should offer the potential for management positions, and no background checks should be required as a condition of employment.
  • Eighty percent of development-project jobs should go to local candidates, and local, Women-Owned, and Minority-Owned businesses should be given priority on construction contracts.
  • Protection from no-cause and forced residential evictions, including through eminent domain, and the creation of environmentally sustainable affordable housing for families with annual incomes below $30,000 and seniors.
  • Relocation benefits for residents and homeless shelters displaced by the Olympic process, including those displaced by owner-foreclosure, comparable to federally established levels of compensation.
  • Establishment of a Public Safety Consortium to decide local spending, programming, and police engagement, with a significant youth-participation component.
  • Establishment of a fund from Olympic revenue to achieve equitable per-pupil spending in the Chicago Public Schools, and requiring all school policy changes or closings to be vetted through a community engagement process.
  • Increased investment in parks utilized as Olympic venues, including the construction of community centers, with the cost to operate them written into the Olympics budget.
  • Taxi Full and publicly accessible documentation of all public subsidies involved in the Olympic process, and a process for accountability to community residents.
  • Taxi Equitable distribution of city resources and services.

“These demands are not new, the community has been asking for many of them for a long time,” said Denise Dixon, executive director of Action Now. “With the Olympics potentially coming to town, however, we can no longer wait to roll out strategies to protect affordable housing and living-wage jobs in low-income South Side communities of color.”

Mayor Daley and the Chicago 2016 Olympic Committee tout the potential for hosting the Olympic Games as a catalyst for widespread urban revitalization. Yet research shows that when North American cities have hosted the Olympic Games, low-income residents and low-wage jobs are displaced in significant numbers. For example, according to a 2007 Chicago Urban League study:

“We are unfortunately accustomed in these communities to getting the short end of the stick when it comes to development decisions,” said Reverend Booker Vance of the Metropolitan Alliance of Congregations. “But we have no intention of giving up our homes and our jobs so that others can play games on the graveyards of our neighborhoods.”

CEO 2016 also sent letters to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and Chicago 2016 Committee Chairman Patrick G. Ryan requesting to meet for a discussion of a potential benefits agreement. Community leaders plan to continue the campaign throughout the lead-up to the 2016 Olympic Summer Games until their demands for official protection of South Side jobs and business are met by the City of Chicago.

“We know we’re fighting an uphill battle to get our needs met in our communities,” said Fayez Khozindar of the United Taxidrivers Community Council. “And you know what? That’s a wonderful thing. Because right now, we’ve got nowhere to go but up.” Communities for an Equitable Olympics 2016 (CEO 2016) is a coalition of community organizations seeking to protect Chicago homes and jobs from displacement due to the 2016 Olympic Summer Games. Members include Action Now, American Friends Service Committee, The Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Centers for New Horizons, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, The Grassroots Collaborative, Illinois Hunger Coalition, Metropolitan Alliance of Congregations/SOUL, Metropolitan Area Group for Igniting Civilization (MAGIC), Metropolitan Tenants Organization, and SEIU Healthcare Illinois/Indiana.