Less than a month ago, Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham warned Mayor Marty Walsh that he "can’t be both [a] cheerleader and watchdog" for Boston 2024, the group trying to bring the Olympics to the city that year. It seems that the mayor didn't take her words to heart. According to WBZ, Walsh announced Wednesday "that he’ll establish an Office of Olympic Accountability where his hand-picked analysts will double-check every planning and budgetary claim – with the $750,000 tab for their work paid for by Boston 2024." While it certainly nice to hear that the taxpayers won't be footing the bill for the "Office of Olympic Accountability," it remains to be seen how much accountability the office will actually bring. The fact that the office will be paid for by the very group it's supposed to be holding accountable is a pretty glaring conflict of interest.
It's also rather questionable that the office's staff will be handpicked by Marty Walsh, who is practically an honorary member of Boston 2024. Walsh traveled to California with the group last December to help them make their presentation to the United States Olympic Committee. Walsh and the three other city employees who went with him had their travel expenses covered by Boston 2024, according to expense reports provided to us by his office. Since the December trip, Walsh has continued to speak in favor of Boston 2024 and the prospect of hosting the Olympics, though he has occasionally criticized the group.
This whole move, which seems to be part of an effort to rehabilitate Boston 2024's image in light of its tanking popularity, also seems pretty suspect because of Walsh's past resistance to transparency and accountability. Earlier this year, when two state legislators filed a bill that would establish a state oversight commission, Walsh was dead set against the idea. He went so far as to tell The Boston Globe, "If we need legislation to have transparency, then we should just forgo the bid altogether."
The announcement of the "Office of Olympic Accountability" isn't necessarily bad news though. With a government agency reviewing Boston 2024's work, you can at least bet that we'll be making lots of public records requests.