Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim announced yesterday that he filed an order for four non-binding ballot questions related to the proposed Boston 2024 Olympics. Zakim said he will present the order to the city council during a meeting on Wednesday. The questions, if approved, would appear on the ballot during the Boston Municipal Election on November 3, 2015. The proposed questions are as follows:
1. Should Boston host the 2024 Summer Olympic & Paralympic Games (the “Games”)? YES/NO
2. If Boston were to host the 2024 Olympics, should the City commit any public money to support the Games? YES/NO
3. If Boston were to host the 2024 Olympics, should the City make any financial guarantees to cover cost overruns for the Games? YES/NO
4. If Boston were to host the 2024 Olympics, should the City use its power of eminent domain to take private land on behalf of the Games? YES/NO
"Robust and meaningful civic participation is the hallmark of a truly exceptional city,” Zakim said in a press release statement. "Hosting the 2024 Olympics is indeed an opportunity to showcase our wonderful city to the world. But it also presents a number of potential issues for Boston residents, from the everyday to the deeply complex. I have heard from Bostonians in my own district and across the city who are justifiably worried about how they will commute to work, or whether their tax dollars will be used to finance Olympic construction and operations. I applaud Boston 2024 for bringing its proposal for the Boston Olympics into the community for public discussion and scrutiny, but the people of this City deserve even more. Bostonians need the chance to have their voices heard collectively and on the record. The scope and scale of this project are too large to bypass the democratic values that we as a City hold so dearly. Boston 2024, as well as the USOC and IOC, are all private organizations seeking a partnership with a public entity – as such, the public must have its say on whether that partnership should go forward.”
In order to appear on the ballot, the questions will require a majority vote of the city council and the approval of Mayor Marty Walsh. Walsh previously said he did not support a referendum on the Olympics, but later said he "will not stand in the way of a vote." It's unclear how he will approach Zakim's proposal, especially given that the questions are non-binding.
Evan Falchuk, the former gubernatorial candidate and leader of the United Independent Party, is also pursuing a binding, statewide ballot question that would prohibit the use of tax money on the Olympics. Falchuk announced last month that he had filed the necessary paperwork to create a ballot question committee.
Two Republican state senators also recently filed legislation that would require both houses of the state legislature to hold a public hearing and vote before any tax money could be spent on the Olympics.
Even if the games are largely funded by private sponsors, Boston 2024 hopes to use large amounts of public land to locate venues for the games. For instance, the group hopes to build a volleyball stadium on Boston Common. The group also wants to create a quasi-public agency to manage land for the Olympics, which could cost taxpayers.
Given that the Olympics would entail the use of great amounts of public resources, these various proposal to increase public input are welcome news.