BOSTON OLYMPICS BID : LOSING THE POLITICS

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^ The Mayor stands in the target spot (L) (R) CEO Rich Davey feels the heat

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Even before I read Yvonne Abraham’s timely column in today’s Boston Globe, I was set to write what I am about to. You’ll just have to believe me on this, OK ?

I’ve been thinking a lot about our City’s Olympics Bid and the dynamics of it. Those who know me as “all in for Boston 2024” may think I’m an uncritical cheerleader. Not so. Just because I join a team doesn’t mean I let its mistakes slide. With the Olympics bid process there have been — continue to be — many mistakes.

Surely the big mistake is for the committee to allow it to become basically a thing of the Massachusetts Democratic party. The participation of leading Democrats — Juliette Kayyem, Steve Kerrigan, Doug Rubin, and Rich Davey —  is fine, but the absence from Boston 2024’s Team of leading Republicans is not fine. The Olympics bid should not be a party matter. What was already an obvious mistake a month ago has now become a blue wound, as Mayor Walsh and his team — all Democrats, of course — have taken over.

Is the Committee tone deaf ? Just this week, former Governor Deval Patrick has been added as a pitchman.

Has no one at the Bid Committee learned that our Governor now is a Republican ? Charlie Baker has had a great past month, moving to fix broken parts of state government — and of the MBTA — and he has also notably kept his distance from the 2024 Bid even as serious opposition to it has coalesced on several fronts. Is the Bid Committee assessing what Baker’s distancing might mean ? They should.

Just last week, East Boston nominated a new state representative, quietly backed by Baker and his local team, over an opponent vigorously supported by Mayor Walsh. The Olympics didn’t become an open issue, but I couldn’t miss noticing that opponents of it, or skeptics, aligned with the “Baker guy” even as the Bid’s strongest supporters plunked for the “Walsh guy.”

It would be wise for the Bid Committed to give prominent roles to some Republican A-listers. So far I haven’t seen it.

As if these signals aren’t enough, it’s hard to miss that at least a couple of Boston politicians are moving aggressively across the city — one of them very loudly — as the City gears up for this year’s Council elections with ther 2017 Mayor election portending. Three months ago, as the Mayor delivered a fighting, confident state of the City speech to a gathered audience of local Biggies, it was quite unthinkable to see him seriously challenged for re-election. One ambitious person to whom I talk almost daily told me, “Michael, he’s gonna be unbeatable.” I wonder what that person would say to me today.

The Olympics bid has fierce, ferocious opponents. The City’s Caucasian progressives, other than those who are union activists (these are Walsh’s Core) dislike itvintensely. They don’t like its plans, its site uses, its big projects, its appropriations of public space, its open-ended budgets. They scorn its cloakroom deal making. They distrust its big capitalist backers. Walsh might as well kiss these voters good bye. He probably already has.

He can be thankful there’s no such radical opposition in Boston’s communities of color. These seem, from what I can tell, ready to embrace the Games as long as it brings jobs and money into the community and that “what the City looks like” be reflected as the Olympics staffs up. These are easy objections to satisfy, and the Bid Committee seems very sensitive about it.

But what if a Black candidate is Mayor Walsh’s 2017 opponent in November ? Boston’s communities of color were very frustrated not to have at least a finalist in 2013. The power elite in these communities endorsed Walsh over Connolly at least in part because he was the weaker, electorally, of the two men, thus easier to beat in 2017.

Given that prospect, the voters Walsh can count on are almost the same people as those who now support the Olympics Bid : the City’s unions, most City workers, activists who make a living from incumbency, and the developers whose building boom business Mayor Walsh touts endlessly because they’re who pay the big real estate taxes and employ his core constituency : union labor.

It is not enough.

Two big voting blocs remain up for grabs, and they could be the deciders : schools people, and Governor Baker’s team. The two overlap.

In part, Mayor Walsh’s Boston schools record depends on Tommy Chang, newly appointed as School District superintendent. But equally it lies with charter cap lift legislation sure to be pushed vigorously by Baker. Which side eill Walsh back ? No matter which, he risks a split. The Mayor cannot feel confident that schools constituencies will be a plus for him in 2017, and there is really no way, so far, that he can anticipate how Baker’s decisions in school issues it will play out.

One thing he has to know : the Olympics bid fight will only intensify, and polarize, as its decision year approaches. That year is also 2017.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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