After 30 years of disastrous multi-billion-dollar public construction disasters, cost overruns, and scandals, it appears that a bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Boston may be the last straw for overtaxed voters in the deep-blue state of Massachusetts.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) gave Boston the nod as the American city to bid for the 2024 summer games. In its presentation, the pro-games group Boston 2024 smugly informed the USOC that “Boston is overwhelmingly united in its bid.”
Er, no. Critics quickly began comparing the Olympics to the “Big Dig,” the ambitious downtown Boston highway project that ended up costing $25 billion after initially being budgeted at $2.2 billion.
When the (leaky) Big Dig finally opened in 2006, then-Sen. John Kerry intoned, “This tunnel will be a bargain!”
Now, on message boards in Boston, Kerry’s clueless phrase is endlessly paraphrased: “These Olympics will be a bargain!”
But is the Big Dig the only miserable man-made Massachusetts miasma? To quote Kerry once more, “Would that it were. Would that it were.”
Last year, the state’s attempt to green-light a Boston-area casino ended in the federal indictments of three landowners, including a Mafia associate who was recorded bragging to a fellow ex-con of his plans to provide hookers for high rollers in a bar adjacent to the casino. The City of Boston has since refused to accept an initial payment from the would-be developer, casino mogul Steve Wynn.
A state process for awarding licenses to “medicinal” marijuana dispensaries collapsed last year after the vetting process failed to uncover, among other things, a convicted drug kingpin whose brother won the downtown Boston license. The awarding of three of the 20 marijuana licenses to an ex-congressman, a Democrat, also raised eyebrows.
“Massachusetts just can’t do this kind of thing,” said one major Democratic officeholder who requested anonymity. “I’d say we’re more corrupt than a banana republic, but that wouldn’t be fair to the Third World.”
The voters understand. A poll last week for a Boston radio station showed a bare 51 percent majority in favor of the bid, and then only if public funds are not used. In the poll, 75 percent of the sample said they wanted a public referendum a few months before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is scheduled to make its final decision in 2017.
And now it appears the disenchanted electorate of the Commonwealth will get an opportunity to put a stake through the heart of this latest billion-dollar boondoggle. The candidate who finished third in the race for governor last fall, Evan Falchuk, has announced plans to put a referendum question on the 2016 statewide ballot.
Despite ironclad Democrat control of the State House and City Hall, a Republican, Charlie Baker, was elected governor last year. And voters have rejected two statewide tax increases—on alcohol and gasoline—in the last four years.
Boston 2024 has issued a “non-negotiable” pledge not to use taxpayer funds, but no one, Democrat or Republican, believes them, perhaps because they have exempted from their pledge “investments” in the “infrastructure.”
Evan Falchuk, the politician pushing the ballot question, said: “Raising critical questions about the billions the Games would cost, as well as security and traffic concerns, doesn’t make anyone a ‘naysayer.’ It makes us taxpaying, thinking adults.”
They are not the sort of people Boston 2024 is looking for, in other words. Last week, they released details of their winning bid to the USOC. Even though the Cambridge City Council is on record saying no public funds should be spent, the organizers listed several venues in Cambridge in their proposal. Golfing events would be held at The Country Club in Brookline—which came as news to the Town of Brookline.
One of the recurring reasons cited for bringing the Olympics to Boston is the need to reaffirm the Hub’s status as a “world-class city.” The local yokels seem to have an municipal inferiority complex, especially about New York, an impression that was only reinforced last week by the revelation that they dream of renaming part of the city that would host many of the events as “Midtown.”
The games are the brainchild of John Fish, who took over a politically-wired construction company from his father. For many years, while Thomas Menino Sr. served as mayor, the Fish family’s Suffolk Construction employed Boston police officer Thomas Menino Jr.
Other local Babbitts pushing the proposal include Steve Pagliucca, an owner of the Boston Celtics who was roundly drubbed when he ran a vanity campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2009, spending $5 million to finish fourth in a primary field of four.
The bid has already embarrassed Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. First he said he was against putting it to a public vote (for obvious reasons). Then he realized he couldn’t halt a referendum and backtracked. Then it was learned that he had signed an agreement with the USOC prohibiting city employees from speaking out against the scheme.
In the ensuing uproar, the mayor claimed his written pledge to void the First Amendment rights of city workers was mere “boilerplate.” The ACLU described it as “unconstitutional.”
“I will not – and will never – limit your right to free speech,” a chagrined Walsh backtracked in an email to city employees Thursday.
Now the Olympic oligarchs are trying to raise $75 million to make the final pitch to the IOC. Among those thus far absent from the list of “Founders 100” is John Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox as well as The Boston Globe, the money-hemorrhaging local daily that can usually be counted upon to credulously back any crackpot schemes cooked up by the local grandees. The Globe’s at least partial skepticism thus far should serve as an ominous warning to Fish et al.
The first boss of Boston 2024 hinted last week that even if voters reject the proposal at the ballot box next year, it won’t necessarily stop Fish’s fishy crew from continuing their campaign. The Democat hack who let that cat out of the bag has now been replaced by Richard Davey, the former state transportation secretary, who last year tried to save a Democrat-backed automatic annual increase in the state gasoline tax from a referendum question designed to repeal it.
Davey and his minions, backed by well-heeled union thugs, Big Asphalt and Triple A, outspent the rag-tag anti-tax forces 30-1. They claimed the endless increases in the gas tax were needed for the “infrastructure.” The more TV ads the hacks ran, the less anyone believed them. The tax was repealed by a 53-47 margin.
Introducing his new puppet on Friday, John Fish described the bust-out Deval Patrick coatholder as a “perfect fit” to push the Olympic bid. Yes, he is.
Find more by Howie Carr at howiecarrshow.com and follow him on Twitter @HowieCarrShow.