Unlikely alliance on Olympic ballot question
Independent Falchuk joins with conservative anti-gas tax group
The leader of the newly minted United Independent Party, who ran for governor on a fairly progressive platform on education, energy, and health care, has teamed up with the Republican-led group that repealed the gas tax index last year to gather signatures for a ballot question prohibiting the use of public funds for the Olympics.
Evan Falchuk, who has been pushing for a statewide referendum to ensure a privately funded Olympics, says joining forces with the conservative group will help them gather the 65,000 signatures needed by December to put the question on the 2016 ballot.
Falchuk was joined by Republican state Reps. Geoff Diehl of Whitman and Shauna O’Connell of Taunton, who spearheaded the successful drive to repeal the Legislature’s inflation indexing of gas tax hikes. Falchuk acknowledged it was a “unique coalition,” but said the contradicting claims about the need for tax money from the Olympic bid organizing group Boston 2024 were common ground for the unlikely alliance.
“We all agree that tax dollars should not be used for the Olympics,” Falchuk said at a rally Tuesday in front of the State House. “I think at this point, people don’t trust Boston 2024.”
“Boston 2024 is focused on continuing to provide information to the community and elected officials, as well as listening to the suggestions and concerns of the public as the next phase of the bid is shaped,” she said in a statement.” We are committed to ensuring that a clear, transparent ballot question is put before the voters to consider and believe our bid will be stronger with a majority of citizens of Massachusetts and Boston in support. However, it is still early in the process to know what final referendum language will be on the ballot.”
In addition, Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim has proposed four ballot questions for the city elections this fall, although Mayor Martin Walsh and several other councilors are opposed to putting the questions before voters.
Steve Aylward, who, along with Diehl, was co-chairman of the Yes on 1 Committee that whipped up opposition to the gas tax indexing, said there are “a lot of similarities between question 1 and this.” He said the grassroots effort that worked to place the repeal on the ballot will be energized and mobilized for the new effort.Though saying they weren’t necessarily opposed to the Olympics coming to Boston, the leaders said the determination on using public funds is up to the voters after legislators turned back efforts in the State House to pass such a law. Under the proposed language, there would be an exception for investments in transportation such as improvements to the MBTA that are already needed and would benefit the Olympics.
Diehl said he saw no conflict between his group’s push to repeal the gas indexing last year, which many observers say has hindered MBTA repairs and upgrades, and the allowance for transportation funding in the ballot question. Diehl said he has “trust” in Gov. Charlie Baker and Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack to make the right choices with the resources.