Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who has long seemed in thrall to the Boston 2024 Olympic bid, said at a press conference this morning that he refuses “to mortgage the future of the city away.” He added, “I will not sign a document that puts one penny of taxpayers’ money on the line for Olympics cost overruns,” according to The Boston Business Journal. According to other news reports, the U.S. Olympic Committee has been pressuring the Mayor to sign on to the requirement that the city backstop Olympic cost overruns, and to do so immediately. Walsh refused to be pressured.
Good for him. (Governor Charlie Baker has pledged to withhold his opinion until the results of an independent analysis are made public next month. Walsh’s opposition, he said, was based only on financial considerations, not the event itself. He was quoted as saying that he thinks “the opposition for the most part is about 10 people on Twitter,” and, of course, he’s wrong about that. But at least his bottom line was clear. “This is about the taxpayers of Boston and what I have to do as mayor.”
Some analysts are predicting that this stance by the Mayor will be the death knell of the current Olympics bid. If so, here’s a modest proposal.
Boston 2024, including some of the metropolitan area’s most powerful business leaders, has routinely pitched bringing the 2024 summer Olympics here on the basis of what it can do to help the infrastructure, create jobs and housing, and meet other community needs. But they have been putting the cart before the horse, prioritizing Olympics-centered improvements before the city has a comprehensive strategic plan.
If Boston 2024 boosters are really serious about a long-term vision and strategy for greater Boston, why not join forces with Mayor Walsh in his nascent Boston 2030 planning? If this wasn’t just marketing palaver, they could put their resources (including their unspent budget) and talent together with others in the city (including the No Boston Olympic supporters) to develop and implement a smart and integrated plan to upgrade housing, roads and bridges, public transit, education, creating jobs and more so that greater Boston can express its aspirations in a practical and achievable blueprint that can transform the city and meet the needs of all its people. That would be a gold-medal-winning performance.
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