^ Rich Davey, Boston 2024’s CEO, can save the Bid or be the poster boy for its collapse. it’s really in his hands to do — assuming he realizes it.
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Sometimes you turn a lemon into lemonade. Other times, you turn lemonade into a lemon.
That’s what the Boston 2024 Olympics committee definitely seems to be doing. Hosting the 2024 Olympics should be Boston’s ticket to big changes — and I do mean big. I see no downside at all, and much upside, if the Games are hosted correctly — atop a Metro-wide plan that prepares the ground, renovates it, re-imagines it — and staffed by all and sundry in this beautifully diverse city.
At first, the Bid committee seemed well attuned to get there : big vision, big plans, inclusive, enthusiasm, ad all of it private funded. At first, the opponents — few in number — seemed petulant at best, anarchic at worst, a clique of agitators merely. Bid committee leaders Dan O’Connell and John Fish presented authoritatively at those first Bid Group meetings; they impressed me with their mastery of the issues and details.
The O’Connell dropped out, to be replaced as Bid CEO by Rich Davey. Alongside Davey came a claque of political operatives associated with either Governor Patrick or Mayor Walsh. The Mayor himself went all-in for the Bid, confronting opponents at meetings and sending his top operational guy, Joe Rull, to the Bid staff as its operations man. Walsh’s moves took us back into 2013’s heated campaign for Mayor, in the key of “unions versus ‘new Boston’.” It was not pretty, and it created an organized opposition to Walsh that he seemed to dismiss.
And then, in a move stunning in its poitical deafness, Patrick himself was brought aboard as the Bid’s top spokesman.
Had no one in the Bid group noticed that we have an rew Governor now, and that he might not like to see the Olympics Bid group deploying a kind of 2018 re-election opposition ? And that he might thereby not feel comfortable supporting the Bid ?
John Fish, too, who looked so commanding a presence early on, now looks more and more sidelined by the politicals and at a loss to recapture the dominance he began with. His company stands to gain much good will, and some ancillary business, from the Bid if won. But what at first seemed just reward for a civic-minded business leader has now been made to look like political patronage. Whoever had a hand in reducing Fish to a sidebar needs to step way, way back NOW.
Blowing the politics of the Bid was bad enough. Creating the impression, to the public generally, that Boston 2024 was simply a vehicle or paying big bucks to political operatives was worse. And then the Bid plan details began to get looked at, and what we have seen has not been nice. The Dorchester Reporter, especially, has done classic journo work showing how specific Bid plans contradict proposals already in place and BRA-approved : the Olympics village to be sited on Columbia Point requires taking by eminent domain 462 apartments approved just last week as well as other buildings whose owners had no idea that they were on the takings list.
I’m guessing that the Columbia Point situation is not the only one like it. After all, owners and developers aren’t going to stop presenting plans to the BRA simply because the Olympics Bid committee is talking up their stuff. Why should they ? There’s a building boom afoot in the real world.
Even less is the building boom likely now to rethink its plans in light of Boston 2024’s very public missteps. I sense that Mayor Walsh is pulling back from the brink. Once doggedly opposed to submitting the Bid to referendum, he now agrees to allow it.
The final nail in Boston 2024’s popularity coffin has been the report by Governor Baker’s MBTA reform panel. In it, every aspect of the T’s management and finance has been put to the question and, as Joan Venocchi pointed out today in the Boston Globe, the T manager — and later, Massachusetts Transportation Secretary –for much of that period of misfiring was the same Rich Davey who now CEO’s the Olympics Bid. His appointment looks purely political — yet another Deval Patrick man aboard the Exile Train.
This impression may well be unfair. I’ve see Davey in action at many meetings. He is knowledgeable, aware, passionate, and attentive to the max. He’s ot happy captaining a Titanic.
Davey needs to change course entirely, rethink his mission. The Olympics Bid can be saved, should be saved, should win. But it won’t even survive to Bid selection date (in 2017) if Davey doesn’t transform the entire operation. I therefore offer the following suggestions :
1. lay off the political operatives. Many are fine people, some are friends of mine. But they are being mis-deployed; their presence alone sends a wrong message.
2. hire public relations people from the private sector. Boston is filled with smart, young, networking stars whose personal rolodexes trump those of just about any political operative. I know several such PR people — most of them women — and I would trust them with almost any major project I can think of. Many already guide major City projects. Davey sould get to know them and hire all that he can get.
3.hire a diverse staff of people not politically known. A good place to look would be the many self-help and charity organizations that keep Boston’s communities of color alert to the future and attuned to surviving the present.
4.rethink the “walkable Olympics” rubric. Siting the big Olympics buildings in Boston itself invites tripping up developments already under way. I think especially of the Fort Point neighborhood, where constant development looks to be jokered by Bid Committee plans. Locate at least some in outlying communities, even in Gateway cities.
5.Plan for a referendum. Embrace it and frame the campaign for it, including a fully detailed promise not to use public funds except for infeastructure.
6.use Mitt Romney publicly in support. A president Romney isn’t, nor a Deval Patrick Democrat; but a Olympic Games master he is.
Rich Davey, the rest is up to you.
—- Mike reedberg / Here and Sphere