Boston’s Olympic transportation dilemma

If a door falls off of a moving Green Line train and the US Olympic Committee doesn’t hear it, does Boston still get a chance to host the 2024 Olympics?

Twitter wags were in high dudgeon about the hapless Green Line train and other transit delays early in the rainy work week.

The MBTA is a major focal point in the debate over a Boston Olympics. Proponents claim that the Olympic Games would expedite already identified improvements. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Wednesday that the Games would provide “outstanding” ” long-term legacy benefits.” Naysayers argue that planning for a party diverts attention from other more worthy projects.

 

MBTA bashers, political types, and in-tune activists seem to be the only ones deeply engaged in the Boston Olympics debate. Everyone else is just getting ready for the holidays.

Monday’s Boston Globe debate between Chris Dempsey, theNo Boston Olympic co-chairman, and Juliette Kayyem, the former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and national security expert (who sits on the board of MassINC, which publishes CommonWealth magazine), failed to fill half the spots in the Institute of Contemporary Art’s 325-seat theatre. The Boston Police Department called in a handful of cops to deal with the small group of anti-Olympics protestors.

Perhaps that’s why Dempsey proposed that Massachusetts voters should weigh in via a ballot initiative on whether Boston should host and spend taxpayer dollars on a 2024 Games.

Yet in a sense, voters and the business community have already weighed in on spending taxpayer money on any transportation investments to buff up the state’s deteriorating road, bridge, and mass transit networks.

In November, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly voted to repeal gas tax indexing, a revenue injection that the Legislature passed last year. The outcome removes $1 billion from transportation planning efforts over the next decade.

In 2013, the state’s business community raised a titanic fuss over the infamous “tech tax” on software services which would have brought in $160 million annually. The measure was repealed.

The pros and cons of gas tax indexing and the tech tax were hotly debated. The people have spoken. It is unclear how the Legislature plans to replace those funds.

If Massachusetts cannot agree on which dollars should be spent for basic upkeep, should planning for an international event become a Trojan horse for developing a viable statewide transportation strategy that would largely benefit Greater Boston? The Boston Globe outlined the transportation challenges facing the state in a recent editorial. The Olympics did not get a mention as a catalyst for solutions.

Transparency has not been a hallmark of the current Olympic planning process. Supporters of the Olympics bid such as Kayyem have not seen Boston’s Olympic bid proposal. What Boston 2024 is setting the region up for is a tightly held secret of a few people. The group promises to open up the conversation to the general public- if Boston gets the nod from the US Olympic Committee.

Boston is no Los Angeles circa 1984.  How far private dollars can really go before taxpayer dollars get pulled into the picture remains one of the great, unanswered questions about a Boston Olympics. Organizers swear that they will not resort to a public ask.

One thing is certain: Private organizers have already spent about $11 million and will peel off another $50 million just to get on the final roster of cities that compete for the Olympic Games.  That’s about half the cost of the new fleet of Green Line cars.

GABRIELLE GURLEY

BEACON HILL

Gov. Deval Patrick says his “lone walk” down the State House steps will take place a day early, State House News reports. He also tells the Boston Herald he would like to stay in Massachusetts after he leaves office.

Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation taps Eileen McAnneny, a former top official at Associated Industries of Massachusetts, as its new president, replacing Michael Widmer, who is retiring.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Princeton voters OK $1.4 million for town-wide broadband, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

The cost of the overdose-reversing drug Narcan has dramatically increased, in some cases doubling in price, since the state legalized it for local police to carry and administer.

Tommy Nee, the longtime president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, is ousted in a membership vote, the Boston Herald reports.

Abington police are investigating one of their own who allegedly sent his ex-girlfriend’s teenaged daughter a video of himself performing a sex act in uniform behind the wheel of his cruiser.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence releases a report on CIA interrogation techniques. Democrats call the techniques horrifying and unlawful, Time reports.

A massive $1.1 trillion spending plan seems headed for approval in Congress to avoid a government shutdown, the Associated Press reports.

MIT economist Jonathan Gruber gets grilled well-done by a congressional panel over remarks he made saying the “stupidity of the American voter” in not fully understanding the Affordable Care Act was helpful to its passage.

ELECTIONS

The Saugus selectmen table a proposed recall election targeting four of them after raising doubts about the signature-gathering effort, the Item reports.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Supreme Court rejected a claim by Amazon workers at a Nevada warehouse that they be paid for the time they have to go through security checks following their shifts, which can sometimes take up to 25 minutes.

Local PR flak Conor Yunits goes from No Boston Olympics to Go Boston Olympics. Masslive’s Garrett Quinn says Monday’s Boston Globe forum on a Boston Olympics bid was a one-sided affair, with No Boston Olympics co-founder Chris Dempsey running Olympic rings around Juliette Kayyem, who argued on behalf of Boston 2024.

A Scituate father is upset about an adult-themed display of bawdy humor in the windows of a Spencer Gifts store in the Hanover Mall right by where children pose for pictures with Santa.

EDUCATION

Racially-charged hate letters sent to two black staff members at Milton Academy are roiling the waters at the pricey private school.

The attorney general’s office has ruled Marshfield cannot require seat belts on school buses because it counters state regulations.

Texas is shutting down 14 charter school operators, Governing reports.

HEALTH CARE

A physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center tells Greater Boston Americans should be more concerned about measles than Ebola as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documents a growing number of cases of the once-eradicated virus.

A rival hospital is decrying a state decision to grant Steward Health Care a waiver to open a new cardiac catheterization service at Saint Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, saying it conflicts with the state’s goal of limiting the unnecessary proliferation of high-cost health care services.

Heroin overdoses spike in Haverhill, with 11 since Thanksgiving, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

TRANSPORTATION

Gov. Deval Patrick says he’d like to see some state regulation of ride-sharing services. Uber and Lyft officials cheer the idea; taxi officials call it weak tea.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Kinder Morgan officials brief the Lowell Sun on the new route of the company’s proposed natural gas pipeline, which would follow more existing rights of way and cut through southern New Hampshire. Selectmen in Dracut, where the proposed pipeline would terminate, say they plan to take a nonbinding vote against the project, the Sun reports. The pipeline requires federal approval.

Meet the Author

Gabrielle Gurley

Senior Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A trio of legal heavy-hitters, including former federal judge Nancy Gertner, say prosecutors and the defense should spare Boston the agony of reliving the horror of the Boston Marathon bombings in a lengthy trial and agree to a plea deal that sentences Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to life in prison with no possibility of parole.

MEDIA

Northeastern University’s School of Journalism has partnered with Esquire magazine under a grant by the Knight Foundation to launch a program for graduate students to work on projects with the magazine’s reporters and editors.

More on the resignation of New Bedford Standard-Times editor Bob Unger.