Archive for Olympics

No! Town, Boston

You want to do something exciting and edgy? Boston will watch from a distance.

Let’s not talk about the old Banned-in-Boston literature and performance. Let’s not talk about Blue Laws. Let’s come to recent times, the past few years

The mayor, other pols, and citizens have defeated:

  • Summer Olympics
  • More, easy-to-get liquor licenses
  • A single F1 car race
  • In town casino
  • 24-hour mass transit
  • Late-night mass transit

What gives in a city, town really, that loves to brag it is world class? Alas, Adam Gaffin over at is like spot on when it call this the city that always sleeps.

A few centuries ago, Boston and Charleston SC were seen as sister cities. Their social conservatism accounted for much of the zeitgeist. They did develop stifling Blue Laws together. Boston also hid behind Puritans, then and still it ducks behind its Roman Catholicism. Those were supposed to account for and excuse the petty and nasty limits on human behavior, speech and even thought.

I’ve lived in Boston for 36 years, after a decade in Manhattan. I draw my conclusions on why this town will live vicariously through its huge student population and asthenic arts life, as though that was plenty of vitality and creativity for everyone. Harrumph.

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OK, No Boston Olympics; Get to Work

Wring hands and rend garments…or not. Boston won’t host the 2024 Summer Olympics, as a big fish might not host a lamprey eel.

I spoke of why we simultaneously backed out of the bid as the US Olympics Committee told us to get lost. Fundamentally the catalyst came when the USOC visited and our Mayor Marty Walsh said in effect, “If you won’t tell me what I’m signing up for, I won’t sign.” Frankly both the International (iOC) and the USOC are accustomed to in fact demand, obeisance. Walsh is a simple man from the land of the maple trees (Guantanamera), not palms and ring or butt kissing aren’t his habits.

Of course the queering of the deal involves a lot more and I got into some of it.

More important, I am on the side of the many who not only resent the don’t-you-worry-your-pretty-little-head attitude of both the national and local proponents of the bid, but also stomp and point to the big promise. The USOC and Boston 2024 folk said repeatedly that we need this and that (infrastructure improvements, transit overhaul, affordable housing), and that we’d do it only under the deadline pressure of the Olympics bid.

We do need those things, but diluting our resources of money and time with Olympics folly can only delay or prevent that. Instead we need:

  • a governor, mayor, and legislative leaders committed to achieving these improvements
  • a clear and precise vision of where we want to go with mass transit, roads, housing and such

So far our newish governor, Charles D. Baker, has not shown himself a visionary. Moreover, our legislators are capons scratching the Beacon Hill yards clucking, “No new taxes. No new taxes.”

They may not have guts and smarts on their own. Yet with the passions educed from this 18-month bid process, the public has gotten a taste for improvements.

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Banned in Boston, for 2024, No Games

Oh No rings I had no intetion of a solo commentary on the Boston bid for the summer Olympics in 2024. They are making me, making me.

The bid is off. The US Olympics Committee reps came to down for some ring kissing, but got something else kicked instead.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about what went suddenly bad after over half a year of promises, lies and politicking. If you want to listen live, click here, Tuesday, July 28th, at 2:30 PM Eastern. If you have your own comments, call 718-664-6966 during the show.

As always you can hear it on demand back here, at the show URL, or on our iTunes page.


Murphy’s Lawmaking Podcast

Steve Murphy at micBoston Councilor Steve Murphy came on to discuss what the city, the mayor, the council and he have been doing. Individually and collectively, that’s quite a bit.

We’ve had a new mayor (Marty Walsh) for a year following the 20-year tenure of Tom Menino. We’ve had outrageous snow and public transit failings. For pluses, crime hasn’t been terrible and our economy is doing well.

On its face, the Council has one primary legal charge — analyzing, tweaking and approving the multi-billion-dollar budget annually. In that sense, Murphy is THE MAN. He is the money guy, the councilor others turn to to answer can we afford that and if we do this, what will it cost?

Beyond the budget, Boston’s Council really is a legislative body. It studies all big issues, creates and helps direct policies, and works with the mayor’s office to identify, prevent and solve serious problems. That’s where Murphy sees himself adding value. This is an election year for all nine district and four at-large councilors. Murphy has always been at-large, having to be one of four convincing the entire city to elect him.

Listen in as Murphy addresses:

  • The new and previous mayors, how they differ
  • The conflict between council and mayor on a committee to advance Latino and Black men and boys, and who the council ended up having its way
  • Why he and fellow Councilor Michelle Wu are advancing a BYOB option for the many restaurants without any liquor licenses
  • What the Council wants to do about getting the damned snow off the streets, maybe like Toronto does
  • How Boston has handled losses of $200 million in federal and state subsidies
  • Quality-of-life issues only parents of asthmatic kids may think of, like filtering older construction equipment operating in town
  • New technologies in the works, including enhanced 911
  • Adding that pesky Styrofoamâ„¢ (a.k.a. polystyrene foam) to single-stream recycling

Even though we know each other pretty well, Murphy wouldn’t bite on my request for more info on his pending reelection campaign. It is true enough that papers aren’t really due and the candidates won’t be set for a couple of months. However, he isn’t showing his hand yet.

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Steve Murphy’s Boston Outlook

Next week’s guest will be Boston City Councilor Steve Murphy. He earned stripes on top of stripes, as long-time financial guru of the body along with a couple of terms as its President. While a quiet type, he has always been one of the highest vote-getters among the at-large councilors.

Since he termed-out of the presidency, he seems to have been more active proposing legislation. For example, he has driven a change to update our antiquated liquor licensing structure with BYOB ability for the many restaurants which don’t have a coveted beer/wine license.

We’ll likely have a rambling discussion, including, of course, how he compares and contrasts previous Mayor Tom Menino and current Marty Walsh. Also, this is an election year for Council, so we’ll hit on his platform.

If you want to catch him live, click here at 2:30 PM Tuesday, March 10. As always you can hear the show afterward at that URL, back here at Left Ahead or on our iTunes page.


Is Boston Broken?

Snow, even lots of it, in New England is not some wacky act of God, on a par with tornadoes, hurricanes, tidal waves and such. Boston’s inability to clear its streets and the MBTA’s to run its trains, buses and trolleys says bad things about us.

I looked at those and beyond. Let’s recall the inane reactions to the toy LED displays of Mooninites. The other 9 or 10 cities who got a couple of these took ’em down and went on. We paralyzed roads and waterways. This goes to a silly post-9-11 paranoia that permeates our society even beyond here.

I suggest fixes in several areas, some very hard. Several require both vision and courage of our Mayor and our Governor.

icon for podpress  Is Boston Broken? [28:05m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


February Boston Updates

Boston City HallSnow is more than a conversation starter in Boston. It’ll be a serious catalyst for fights and changes.

I talk about how our mayor and governor have been forced into facing phalanges primed for battle. Our subways, commuter rail and buses are shut down. I discussed the underlying causes, but the tow bigs will assign blame. We can hope when the political blood dries, we can get to those base causes.

Otherwise, I talked about some of the pending actions and excitement, mostly in city hall. The terrible weather has delayed guest scheduling, but I’ll try to line up some of the most active city councilors — Steve Murphy (BYOB scheme), Josh Zakim (casino referendum for November), and Tit Jackson (commission for Black and Latino men and boys).

If we ever see 32F or higher again, it’ll warm in Boston. Meanwhile, we can be sure the political climate heats up.

icon for podpress  Feb. 2015 Boston Updates [24:08m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Boston Councilor Matt O’Malley Chat

Popular Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley comes on Tuesday, January 27th. We’ll talk a range of topics from his very positive Environment Committee efforts to the plans for the city schools. We’ll surely get to the Olympics bid and maybe a Patriots’ scandal.

He represents District 6 — West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain and slivers of Roslindale and Mission Hill. That makes for a very diverse and demanding set of issues and constituents.

If you can join us live, click here at 2:30 on 1/27. Of course, you can listen to him on demand later at that URL, back here at Left Ahead or on our iTunes channel.


Olympics? Maybe Not.

Aaron Leibowitz, NoBostonOlympicsIt’s not showtime yet, but auditions are underway for the big stage of the 2024 Summer Games here in our wee burg of Boston.

Somehow Boston edged our the U.S. competition to become the USOC pick. Now of course, it will go up against numerous cities around the world for the same prize. Or is it a prize after all and not a curse?

Last week I sat in for the unabashed boosters who proclaim the (to them) certain glories of hosting an Olympics games. While clearly skeptical, I tried to put their position forward, the likes of thousands of jobs, huge advances in infrastructure and housing, tens of thousands of new jobs, and all financed privately with no tax dollars. There is another view.

Today Aaron Leibowitz represented No Boston Olympics with that view. It centers from every angle with we don’t know.

NoBostonOlympics leads the public opposition. It starts with the secrecy and obfuscation. Leibowitz notes that the bidding process to this point lunged and plunged ahead in camera. Under the umbrella of Boston 2024, the boosters have gone from we’ll tell and show you nothing, to we won the bid for the U.S., to we’ll surely be transparent…eventually, to we’ll show reporters our bid but they can’t have copies, to we’ll have public meetings around town. Those meetings do have a schedule, which is here, starting next week and then one monthly through September.

I’m not sure Boston Mayor Marty Walsh reads the dictionary the same way as most of us. He has claimed repeatedly that this drive to host the games will be entirely transparent and open. So far that has not at all been the case. Whether opening up the bid and books and process to hoi polloi will turn us too into boosters will only be seen if that happens.

Meanwhile, WBUR stepped in with its own poll of citizens. A bare majority was in favor of having the games here, a third were opposed, but most tellingly, three quarters wanted a public vote, like a referendum, on the matter. Leibowitz noted that in cities seeking games, 70 to 90% of the public normally supported the bid.

NoBostonOlympics cites the invariable massive cost overruns in Olympics going back 60 years or more. Many have pointed to white-elephant stadia and other facilities after what Leibowitz called “a three-week party.” Moreover, Olympics history shows that a lot of public money, paid by taxes, will be required; the Boston 2024 folk and Mayor Walsh swear that we are different and this Olympics would be privately financed.

Leibowitz and I kicked around the billions of preparatory infrastructure improvements. That is a fascinating sales point for pro and con sides. The pro-Olympics folk hold that having to plan and prepare for games would force the Boston area to invest in roads, bridges, housing, mass transit and other permanent public goods. The con folk make it plain that if we need these, we should simply do them without the huge added costs associated with the Olympics.

There are those arguing that we are so clever here that we can show the IOC and the whole world the right way to host games physically and financially. Leibowitz counters that much of the process and costs are out of the host city’s control and responsive to IOC requirements. Those who believe that we in Boston and Massachusetts can avoid the pits into which the other host cities have fallen are simply “naive,” he says.

NoBostonOlympics is also hosting public meetings, with notifications on the mailing list, main site, and Facebook page. At the least, they want that promised transparency. They think a public vote, maybe a ballot referendum next year would make sense. They are also lobbying legislators and city councilors.

Leibowitz said they were getting some good responses already. However, he cited a quote in a Boston Magazine article that so far pols are afraid to be openly anti or even questioning of the Olympics. Until the public is also expressing skepticism, being anti-Olympics may be seen as “unpatriotic.”


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Boston Olympics: Pro Side

hkurdle.jpgBoston really wants to play with the big kids. That’s going to take more than local teams winning national championships. Olympics 2024 or bust! is the cry.

In the first of two parts on Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Games, I dealt with the pro side as framed by both Boston 2024 and the feasibility study commissioned by Massachusetts. I decided not to ask one of the organizing committee members to join us. Instead, I worked off and summarized their materials.

If you want details of how Boston might be able to pull this off, go to both links above. On the Boston 2024 site, be sure to start with the FAQ. The commission report lays out the challenges in venues, infrastructure, transit, housing and more, with their possible fixes.

Residents of the area are not yet sold on converting Boston’s success in winning the US bid into expectation of becoming the host city over its international competition. The selling has begun in earnest though. Meanwhile, I touch on the major pro side points.

Next week, Aaron Leibowitz of the No Boston Olympics folk joins me with a less sanguine view. If you can catch him live, click here Tuesday, Jan. 20th at 2:30PM Eastern. You can play it on demand later at that link or back here at Left Ahead.


icon for podpress  Boston Olympics 1 of 2 [23:51m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download