The Failed Olympics Bid: The Boston Business Journal Polls the PR Pros

Well, to be honest, there are those outside Boston who would prefer that we *don't* mind the p's and q's, and ask pertinent questions, and ask for full and consistent accounting and transparency. But maybe we don't want to do business with them. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

All you Olympics fans can stop the self-pity now.  The BBJ asked the PR experts. Below are a sample of their responses:

And what they had to say about it all should help ease the fear of those here who might feel that the city’s overall brand was irreparably damaged after the USOC abruptly pulled the city’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics.

“The impact will be minimal, I believe,” said Jim Farrell, president of PR First. “Although the Olympics might have brought excitement and revenue to the region, we should not fault our officials for insisting on due diligence before signing on the dotted line.”

“We are Boston Strong. Agree or not with the outcome, that is the Boston the world knows,” Solomon McCown & Co. CEO Helene Solomon said.

An ancillary point made, with which I agree, is that Mayor Walsh came out of this smelling like a rose. The IOC and USOC, by pulling the bid made excellent scapegoats.

Here's what a real infrastructure vision looks like

"Slow, dated, universally derided" ... there's your Green Line right there. Not an actual mode of transportation, any more than a soap box racer or a saucer-cup ride at the carnival. A joke. Needs a vision, a plan, and the will and money to get it done. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

In the wake of the USOC pulling out of the Boston 2024 Olympic bid, we are already seeing a narrative form that Boston likes things small, is too provincial to think globally, and is scared of wide scale city changing projects. I would argue against this, the Olympics was the wrong project at the wrong place at the wrong time. But there are other places we can look to for inspiration when it comes to fixing our infrastructure.

New York is showing us what real leadership on infrastructure looks like. It has taken what has been an eyesore that has become a national punchline and committed itself to completely transforming that out of date airport into a 21st century transportation hub. Fully linked to mass transit including new rail lines, bus terminals, and a direct ferry service to Manhattan.

Travelers would also have better options to get to La Guardia; Mr. Cuomo said the plan called for a rail link between the airport and a subway station in the Willets Point section of Queens, as well as re-establishing ferry service to the airport.

It would also significantly decrease delays, like the O’Hare expansion has in Chicago, by reconfiguring the flight paths themselves.

The plan went beyond aesthetics: The airport buildings would be moved south, closer to the parkway. The move would allow the creation of roughly two miles of new taxiways that officials said would help alleviate the airport’s chronic delays.

And despite the $4 billion pricetag, there is universal political consensus behind the project

There seemed to be even more unanimity about the need for a better La Guardia, which the governor characterized as “un-New York” because it is “slow, dated” and “almost universally derided.”

‘slow, dated, universally derided’ sounds like something closer to Boston

The project will create 8,000 construction jobs and several hundred permanent ones, and alongside the Tappan Zee bridge, shows a state government willing to commit money to public infrastructure projects. Boston and the surrounding region have many, many, unmet infrastructure needs. Instead of relying on the dying casino industry or the now faded pipedream of a Boston olympics, maybe we can make the smart bet on committing to fix the problems actually in front of our faces.

The death of Boston 2024: Shirley Leung gets it right, and wrong

There’s an enormous amount of commentary regarding the decision to withdraw Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics.  I’ll leave it to you, diligent reader, to dig out your favorite bits and post them here as the day wears on.

I’m going to focus on the column by the Globe’s Shirley Leung, perhaps the media’s most stalwart advocate of bringing the Olympics here.  She gets a couple of things exactly right, but then draws the wrong conclusion.

In a long-ago era, a cabal of businessmen worked with mayors behind the scenes to impose their vision on the city. It was known as the Vault, and it seemed that former Boston 2024 chairman John Fish and the United States Olympic Committee unwittingly followed their playbook.

This is correct, except that I’d question the use of the word “unwittingly.”  Rather, I think that this is precisely how Boston 2024 was planning to operate.  It apparently never occurred to the Pooh-Bahs who appointed themselves the masters of Boston’s future that things don’t work that way anymore, and that the people of Boston might actually have something to say about it.  It also never occurred to them that the drastically changed media landscape since the era of the Vault would make it much more difficult to “impose their vision.”  Back in the day, if you could get the Globe and maybe Chet Curtis and Natalie Jacobson on your side, you were in pretty good shape.  Things don’t work that way nowadays.  As Leung disparagingly puts it, “thanks to Twitter and Facebook, everyone has a platform to blast their opinion to the world.”  Leung seems to think that only she and others employed by the (no longer so) mighty Globe should have such a platform; fortunately, technology has rendered that view obsolete.

I’m with the legendary Globe sports columnist Bob Ryan on this one. He’s been to 11 Olympics. He loves them, and thinks Boston could have pulled one off — but needed stronger leadership from the start.

This, too, is correct.  Boston 2024′s leadership, in part for the reasons outlined above, was a disaster.  They had no idea how to sell their idea to the public; they thought they could get away with obfuscation and half-truths (at best) in an era of public records laws and social media; it never occurred to them that people wouldn’t wholeheartedly buy into every idea they proposed, so when people didn’t (case in point: beach volleyball on the Boston Common), they kept getting caught flat-footed and scrambling for an alternative.  In short, they didn’t know what they were doing.  Not the people you want shepherding an effort that would have consumed much of the city’s energies for the next 10 years.

I regret that Mayor Walsh didn’t get a few more weeks to get comfortable with the insurance. I regret that Governor Charlie Baker didn’t get those weeks to digest his independent report. I regret that the USOC didn’t level with us about its desire to look elsewhere the entire time.

Right again, especially the last point.  The USOC repeatedly proclaimed that Boston was their city, and they weren’t looking anywhere else.  But, of course, we now know that that was false.  And how ridiculous of the USOC to insist that Governor Baker countermand his own decision to commission a feasibility study on the financials of hosting the games, and instead go all-in before he had the facts.  It’s so typical of the Olympics establishment to expect elected officials to kowtow to their demands.  Kudos to Governor Baker for not doing so. And kudos too to Mayor Walsh, who, despite his enthusiasm for hosting the Olympics, was reluctant to commit to the onerous host city agreement (placing the city on the hook for cost overruns) until the insurance question was resolved satisfactorily.

Indeed, one of the major lessons seems to me that the USOC (and probably the IOC as well, though we never got to that point) really are just as awful as everyone has always assumed.  I said months ago that we ought to be thinking really, really hard about whether we want to be in bed with these people for the next 10 years.  I’d say the events of the last several days have shown that those who were skeptical about whether dealing with the IOC/USOC crowd was a good idea were right.

We still put up a fierce fight when someone tries something novel. Given the chance to think big about our future, we tied ourselves up in the minutiae of tax breaks and traffic studies. Accusations quickly replaced ambitions.

And this is where Leung is wrong.  Boston 2024 wasn’t a “chance to think big about our future.”  It was a chance to think about hosting a very big three-week sporting event.  Thinking big about our future goes far beyond the Olympics.  It is the job of the Mayor, the Governor, other elected officials, and the people of the city, and it of course will continue.  And to disparage the “minutiae of tax breaks and traffic studies” is exactly backward, and quite unfair.  Boston 2024 of course should have been on top of those kinds of details from the get-go – that they weren’t was one of their major failures.  The devil is always in the details in large projects like this one, and Boston 2024′s inexplicable decision to leave those details to others predictably led to the details not playing out very well for them.  But Boston 2024 has nobody to blame for that but themselves.

More broadly, of course, Boston has always been a glorious mix of tradition and innovation.  Nobody in Boston ever gets to try anything new?  Tell that to the doctors and scientists working in the gleaming new buildings in Boston’s medical areas, or to the tech entrepreneurs who have transformed Kendall Square (in Cambridge, but close enough).

A much more persuasive overall take is over at Boston Magazine from Kyle Clauss, who first hilariously lampoons Leung and other disappointed pro-Olympics folk:

In the coming days, attempts will be made—likely out of Morrissey Boulevard—to further shame Bostonians for their intransigence. While world-class cities like Paris and Rome continue their courtship with the International Olympic Committee, we obstinate bumpkins in Boston will be on the sidelines because we couldn’t pry open our small, blizzard-wracked minds to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

And who then offers some much-needed perspective:

The USOC pulling Boston 2024 isn’t an “L” on our foreheads; it’s a badge of honor. The people of Boston, armed only with shoestring budgets and broken public records laws, stood up to the IOC, an organization as contemptible and endlessly wealthy as FIFA, and said: “Slow your roll. We’re doing things our way.” This David-and-Goliath dynamic lends well to an already trite Revolutionary War narrative, but better to one evoking any failed invasion of Russia. But in addition to the crippling cold, Boston’s best defense was its native skepticism….

The question now is this: will all the titans of industry who banded together, rallied behind the knockoff Chase Bank logo, and promised transformative change in our region stay true to their commitment to the public good without the prospect of beach volleyball on a marsh in Quincy? With the bid dead, how many will care about your morning commute a year from now?

Now that is a great question.  How committed are you, John Fish, Steve Pagliuca, et al., to Boston’s future?

Let's not cloud the issue with facts

A fair point. - promoted by david

From today’s Globe

Supporters were never able to ignite much visible passion for the Games, and the public debate descended into a joyless cost-benefit analysis of financial risks and rewards, which seemed to inspire only dissenters. [emphasis added]

Sorry we did the math.

Breaking: Boston mayor says he ‘cannot commit’ to Olympic bid

This is almost certainly game over. And it's just as well. In some respects, the Olympics was a nice idea. But the people organizing the bid had no idea what they were doing, which meant it was never going to happen the right way. - promoted by david

From the Globe:

Mayor Martin J. Walsh Monday vowed not to mortgage the city’s future in order to bring the 2024 Summer Olympics to Boston and said he is willing to let US Olympics organizers choose another city to serve as its host.

Walsh said at a hastily called City Hall press conference that the US Olympic Committee is pushing him to sign a host city contract soon. But he said he will not sign any such contract until he knows more about the financial picture of the proposed games.

“I cannot commit to putting the taxpayers at risk,’’ said Walsh. He said if signing the contract is required by USOC, then “Boston is no longer pursing to host the 2024 Summer Games.”

USOC members are set to discuss Boston’s status at a board meeting Monday. Walsh thanked bid organizers for the hard work they’ve put in so far, and said, “we’ll see what happens” going forward.

Walsh said he will not yield to pressure from the USOC to put taxpayers on the hook to guarantee the 2024 Olympic Games take place in Boston.

“I refuse to mortgage the future of the city away,’’ he said. “This is a commitment that I can’t make without ensuring the city and its residents will be protected. … I think it’s unfortunate that it’s come to this point.”

How About a Sales Tax Holiday Holiday This Year?

Do people buy things they otherwise wouldn't on a sales tax holiday? Or do they just buy the same stuff on a different day? - promoted by david

Looks like the Legislature will soon be taking up veto overrides and (sigh) a bill providing for another sales tax holiday weekend next month. In honor of Judy Meredith and Kelly Turley, who are advocating for an override of $5 million in funds for our state’s homeless residents (one-quarter of what a sales tax holiday will cost), here’s a post from 2013 on the holiday’s increasingly dubious policy wisdom. In the two years since this post was written, the state has held two more sales tax holidays, with net losses in tax revenue of $22 million (2013) and $21 million (2014). We’re well on our way to giving up $200 million since the first holiday 11 years ago.

Summer is at its peak. The tomatoes are ripening, tassels are appearing on the corn, and our Legislature, once again, is entertaining the idea of a “Sales Tax Holiday.” For eight of the nine past summers, the Legislature has chosen one weekend in August to suspend the state sales tax, declaring the event a once-a-year respite for the hardworking taxpayer. That hardworking taxpayer, whose car needs four new tires because of the deplorable condition of our roads, will get to pocket about $20, and our roads will remain deplorable.

The prize for stupidest idea in public education goes to...

Read Edushyster's post at the link - it's fascinating. - promoted by david

…Lawrence, where they have taken standardization to a whole new level.  Now it appears that some teachers are being directed by coaches talking in their ear about what exactly to say, what tone of voice to use, and even how to stand.  Even the kids aren’t buying it and are begging the teachers to ignore these voices.  Memo to self – don’t apply to teach in Lawrence.

(Technical note:  Yesterday and today BMG has been very slow to load on two different browsers, even timing out in some cases.  It also took me a couple of tries to write this post.) [Hopefully, this problem has been fixed. -ed.]

Technical difficulties [updated]

BMG is loading very slowly, if at all, as you have probably noticed.  We’re trying to get to the bottom of it.  We apologize for the inconvenience, and we appreciate your patience.

UPDATE: I’m now finding that the site is loading more normally.  Please post any continuing problems in the comments, if you’re able, or let us know via email (blue at bluemassgroup dot com) if comments aren’t working for you.

An ultimatum? Really, USOC?

AP:

A person familiar with the bid says the U.S. Olympic Committee has given Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker until the end of the day Friday to declare whether he supports the movement to bring the 2024 Olympics to Boston.

If true (and Baker’s office appears to be denying it), this is perhaps the most boneheaded move yet by the folks interested in having an Olympics in Boston – and that’s saying quite something.  Baker, after all, has already commissioned an outside consultant (to the tune of something like $250,000) to do a detailed evaluation of the feasibility of a Boston Olympics.  And the USOC knows this.  Yet, they expect him to preempt his own consultant and jump on the bandwagon by this afternoon?  Absurd.  And if he doesn’t, then what?  How does the USOC hold any cards in this situation?

Baker, if he has any sense, will politely ignore this nonsense from the USOC, and will await his consultant’s report, just like he said he was going to do.  And if the USOC wants to fold their tent, well, that’s their call.  At this point, maybe they’d be doing us all a favor.

BMG BBQ This SUNDAY July 26th. NO Rain. Perfect Weather!

BUMPED - This Sunday! Topic of discussion could include this piece at ThinkProgress -- "What Happened to the Progressive Netroots" -- featuring a quote from our own Bob. Where do we go now? See you Sunday. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

Here’s the deal:

 

Who:  YOU

What: BMG BBQ

Where: 7 Copperfield Lane, Franklin Massachusetts

When: Sunday, July 26th Noon-??

 

Weather Forecast:  78 Degrees, partly sunny, and NO Rain.

 

Why?:  Why NOT?

 

I’ll host a Blue Mass Group BBQ on Sunday, July 26th at my humble home at 7 Copperfield Lane, Franklin Massachusetts.  (about a 30 minute drive from the Weston Tolls for you Boston folks)

The cost is FREE.  I’ll supply the main course vittles (I am a very good cook) and ask all to BYOB and snack or side if you please.  If you would like to DONATE to help maintain the website, well, that would be appreciated.  There will be a donation jar.

 

I have a deck area that can seat 25 people along with a front porch and a large yard (but please, don’t let Trixie the Wonder Beagle loose)  so there is lots of room to mingle.  There is also an in ground pool, so if you have little ones and want to watch them, bring them!    Or bring your suit and dive in.

 

It would help to organize if you would send me an RSVP  JohnTMay55@gmail.com

 

And if you know any elected officials who would like to attend, by all means, invite!

#SolarisWorking! Now tell Speaker Deleo to Sun Up.

Awesome - thanks for the thorough run-down, Joel. To echo: How can companies who want ratepayers to buy a new gas pipeline turn around and complain about net metering? - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

This week, bipartisan leaders in the Massachusetts Senate acted to lifted a cap on solar net metering. Net metering is the way we buy and sell the sun’s energy in the Bay State (and most of the country) and it’s a solid system for compensating solar owners and other users for what they generate. Caps on solar net metering hinder municipal, low-income, community shared and other solar projects from proceeding, meaning that cities and towns can’t save money and those who most need relief on their bills are boxed out of our clean energy economy. A major Boston energy company has estimated 10-20 industry jobs are lost PER DAY that these caps go unaddressed, and clean energy investors are fleeing the state–if they haven’t already. The Senate’s action was important, and while it needs some important tweaks to secure community and low-income solar’s place on the power grid, it does give them consideration and represents a strong leadership step. It’s time for the Massachusetts House to act and lift the solar net metering cap.

MOST OF U.S. DON'T BELIEVE LGBT CAN STILL BE FIRED AND EVICTED...

Couldn't agree more with this. That people can be fired for being gay in a majority of states is beyond ridiculous. - promoted by david

Polling confirms that 75% of Americans believe that discrimination in housing, employment, etc. based on sexual orientation is illegal.  [But they're wrong: as of today, at least 28 states offer no such protection to LGBT Americans, and federal anti-discrimination law does not apply. -ed.]

I think it’s because of the progress made in recent years on marriage equality and ending the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

The Equality Act was introduced in Congress today to amend the 1964 Civil Right law to include sexual orientation and gender identity to protect against discrimination in housing, workplace, schools, credit and jury selection.  Its chief sponsors were Sen. Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) who said : ” In most states, a same-sex couple can get married on Saturday, post pictures on Facebook on Sunday, and then risk being fired from their job or kicked out of their apartment on Monday.”

Within hours 155 signed on as sponsors including 40 Senators — all Democrats.

Everyone should call their Congressperson to support this legislation.  It’s long past due. Honestly, I’m ashamed we’re still talking about this in 2015.

Fred Rich LaRiccia

Founder, P.O.W.A.R.