On Thursday, over 300 Bostonians crowded a small room at Suffolk University for the city’s first public Boston 2024 meeting. For more than three hours, Boston 2024 leaders and Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, answered questions regarding the bid.
Boston 2024 officials began the meeting with a brief video that outlined the proposed details of the Olympic bid, including the bid’s potential to bring improvements to the city in the future. John Fish, chairman of Boston 2024 and chief executive of Suffolk Construction, argued that the public process of the bid will allow Boston to consider its goals in the future.
Mayor Walsh also advocated that the bid will speed up the processes of building more affordable housing in the city and revamping an aged MBTA system. These are two key areas of much-needed improvement for the city. “The opportunity to bring the 2024 Olympic games to Boston would speed up our infrastructure and improvements in the city of Boston,” Walsh said. “It’s something that has to happen. We saw it this very week when our MBTA system went down.”
During the question-answer portion of the meeting, the majority of audience members who commented or asked questions said that they were opposed to the bid. Many local residents at the meeting voiced their concerns about the absence of opponents of the proposal on the speakers’ panel. Walsh met personally with opposition leaders on Friday, which can be considered a step forward for a mayor that is currently on the side of the bid.
Last Monday, City Councilor Josh Zakim proposed putting Boston’s bid to a citywide vote through four nonbinding questions on this upcoming ballot. The proposal would have to get passed by a 13-member city council before the ordinance would end up on Walsh’s desk. Although Walsh had previously opposed this type of referendum, on Thursday night Walsh said the impact of such a vote would depend on whether the referendum was binding. “If it’s a binding referendum and the voters say no, it’s binding and it’s done,” Walsh said. “If it’s not binding, that’s a different story.”
It is our hope that Mayor Walsh keeps to his promise of not signing off on a bid document if he feels that it wouldn’t benefit the majority of Bostonians. Although we feel Boston 2024 leaders and city officials should be more transparent in this process and allow the public to be more involved as the bid progresses, we also feel it is necessary for a strong executive hand to move this process forward in a concise manner.
Wealthy stakeholders involved early in the process certainly should not be the end-all of discussion, and it is prudent for Walsh to open the discussion to the public. However, it is worth noting that the significant infrastructure improvements proposed for the Olympic bid are sure to be disruptive in the short term, and relying too heavily on a fickle public could cloud Walsh’s long term decision-making for the city.
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor