Looks like reality just slapped the Boston 2024 pooh-bahs in the face. After a really terrible two weeks, in which the folks trying to bring the Olympics to Boston saw their poll numbers nosedive so that a majority of Boston-area respondents (52%) now oppose the idea, were so embarrassed by the revelation that they were planning to pay ex-Gov. Deval Patrick an eye-popping $7,500 a day for boosting the bid that Patrick himself had to reverse course and say he’d do it for free, and came close to losing the support of their most sympathetic Globe columnist, they’ve come around to what should have been obvious from the get-go: they cannot have an Olympics in Boston unless the people want it. From today’s Globe:
The local Olympic bid committee says it will move forward with a proposal to bring the 2024 Summer Games to Boston only if a majority of the public shows support for the effort — and the panel would be open to a statewide referendum to accomplish that.
“We’re only in this if we have a majority with us,” said Richard Davey, chief executive of the bid committee, Boston 2024, in a Globe interview over the weekend. “It’s clear we have to find a measure to show that support. How we measure, we’re open to that.” … Davey stopped short of directly calling for a referendum, saying the committee is open to how the support would be measured, either with a vote or through public polling closer to the deadline for submitting a bid.
This is a startling turnabout from Boston 2024′s earlier statements, which (under now-departed president Daniel O’Connell) seemed to take the position that even a defeat at the ballot wouldn’t necessarily mean the end of the bid. Perhaps not coincidentally, O’Connell is now gone from the process, and that surprising line hasn’t been repeated.
Boston 2024′s newfound commitment to majority public support is certainly welcome – some of us have been saying from day 1 that Boston 2024 should be the first to embrace the idea of a ballot question.
It’s politically stupid not to hold a referendum. A positive result allows backers to proclaim that the public is behind the bid, without fear of contradiction. Whereas relying on polls, or on elected officials, can and will always be second-guessed…. I frankly can’t imagine what the case against a public referendum would be. So come on, Boston 2024 and Mayor Walsh, just back a referendum. Then everyone will know that you mean it when you say that you only want to have the Olympics in Boston if the people are behind it.