Boston lawmakers air concerns after meeting with Olympic foes

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JAN. 26, 2015…..Members of Boston’s delegation to the State House met with opponents of the Olympics bid on Monday, and left the meeting saying valid concerns were raised about how the undertaking would be funded.

Rep. Michael Moran, a Brighton Democrat, said the No Boston Olympics presentation on finances was “eye-opening.” He said, “I would want honestly to hear more about the finances. The thing that concerns me the most is the finances.”

The group that was organized to oppose Boston’s summer 2024 Olympics bid pegged the total Olympics budget at $14.3 billion, including the $4.7 billion Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (OCOG) budget that bid backers previously disclosed, $3.4 billion for a “non-OCOG budget,” $5.2 billion in state infrastructure improvements, and $1 billion for security and athlete transportation.

“That’s the fundamental issue here, is how much will it actually cost and who will actually be paying,” No Boston Olympics Co-chairman Chris Dempsey told the News Service.

Boston 2024, a nonprofit led by construction magnate John Fish and Richard Davey, the former transportation secretary, is leading the effort to bring the summer games to Boston in 2024 and claims the endeavor will be financed with private dollars. The group also disputed the inclusion of infrastructure improvements in the costs tallied by the opponents.

“It’s unfortunate that the opponents are misleading the public by including billions of dollars in transportation funding that will be spent regardless of whether Boston hosts the 2024 Games,” said Boston 2024 Executive Vice President Erin Murphy in a statement. “We have been very clear that the operation of the Games will be paid for with revenue from the Games and private funds.”

Dempsey and No Boston co-chairwoman Kelley Gossett conducted the briefing for lawmakers Monday afternoon. An information packet from the group claimed the 2012 London games went at least $7.8 billion over budget and added only about a third of the new housing units promised.

Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, a North End Democrat, said he went into the meeting with an open mind and said, “Whatever the number is, it’s going to be a significant chunk of change coming from the Commonwealth.”

Sen. Michael Rush, a West Roxbury Democrat who attended the meeting, said he still has an “open mind” about the games.

“I’m not anti-Olympics. I think it’s very exciting like everyone else, but we know everything is in the details isn’t it?” said Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, a Dorchester Democrat who also attended the meeting. Forry, whose district would be home to many of the Olympic venues under the current plan, said the Boston delegation has met with Boston 2024 and said No Boston Olympics raised “real concerns” about funding.

Forry said the potential displacement of residents and businesses is also a concern as is the impact on the state’s transportation system, and she would be interested in an Olympic games that is more dispersed around the state.

Moran and Michlewitz said more than a dozen Boston lawmakers attended the briefing, and Michlewitz said lawmakers from outside Boston have raised “concerns in terms of what it means for the rest of the state and what that’s going to mean in terms of what the state puts into it.”

“If the shoe was on the other foot and this was a Worcester proposal, I think Boston would have some concerns. I think we all would have some concerns about where tax dollars are being spent,” said Moran.

The massive Big Dig investment burying Interstate 93 below city streets has soured some outside Boston on the notion of major transportation expenditures that primarily benefit the state’s largest city.

“It’s always good to hear from all sides when you’re considering something of this magnitude,” said Moran, who said he wants to know more about how the games could affect his constituents.

Copyright 2015 State House News Service

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