State lawmakers file legislation for state oversight of Boston Olympics bid

The Boston Globereports that state representatives Michael J. Moran, a Brighton Democrat, and Aaron Michlewitz, a North End Democrat, are seeking to pass a law to increase state oversight and create more transparency for the Boston 2024 Olympics bid. Both told the Globe they are concerned about the effect of the Olympics on taxpayers. According to the Globe:

The bill, due to be filed Wednesday and already discussed with legislative leaders and Baker administration officials, would establish a commission, heavy with State House appointees, that would review “the public safety, economic, and social impacts” of the 2024 Summer Olympics. Failure to provide the commission with “any information formally requested” could result in the withdrawal “of any and all public funds related to the Olympic bid.”

The commission would also maintain a website apprising the public of “all public and private funds that would be expended” for the Games. Boston 2024, the local Olympic organizing committee, has pinpointed a number of public projects — some already underway — that they say would enhance the Games.

“We’re trying to find space in the process for the state to get some independent analysis of what the Olympics means for us on the state level,” said state Representative Michael J. Moran, a Brighton Democrat co-sponsoring the bill. “At this point, I’m not for it, I’m not against it, I think we just need to take a real hard look at what this means from where we sit in state government and the fiduciary responsibility we have to the taxpayers.’’

The Olympics, which has a history of massive cost overruns, is likely to cost taxpayers billions despite promises from Boston 2024, so this is welcome news.

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.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who previously "promise[d] that this will be the most open and transparent and inclusive process in Olympic history," is dead set against the proposal:

Walsh called the proposal redundant, saying that if such a bill were necessary, Boston should simply give up now. “I don’t need legislation to explain to me how important it is to have transparency,” Walsh said. “If we need legislation to have transparency, then we should just forgo the bid altogether.”

But it does in fact seem that new legislation is necessary to ensure a transparent process, because Boston 2024 and the Walsh administration have been so secretive. Boston 2024 initially would not release any of its bid documents to the public, but later relented and released most of them. However, the group has still refused to release some of the most important bid documents, which detail expected land and venue costs. Walsh, for his part, has signed a non-disclosure agreement with the US Olympics Committee that bars him from releasing information about the Olympics to the public.

Unsurprisingly, Walsh's statement to the Globe has become fodder for anti-Olympics organizers, who have turned it into a meme: