An elephant in the Olympics financing room

There has been all sorts of talk about the costs of a Boston Olympics, with elected officials left and right stamping their feet, drawing lines in the sand, and otherwise declaring with the utmost gravity and certainty that they will not allow the commitment of any public funds (other than those already planned for infrastructure projects) for a global sports extravaganza here.

The officials may be perfectly sincere, but in one sense their pledges ring hollow. That’s because, in order for the Boston bid to go forward, Mayor Marty Walsh will have to sign a guarantee that Boston taxpayers will cover any unanticipated cost overruns.

That is the dirty little secret behind the constant refrain from Boston 2024 boosters that this will be an entirely privately-funded affair. It’s been looming over the talk of a Boston Olympics from the start. Today it gets an airing on the front-page of the Globe, but it’s a pretty friendly one for Walsh, Olympics honcho John Fish, and others who are hoping this issue doesn’t blow-up and become the the bid’s undoing.

The public guaranteeing of cost overruns “seems to always be an issue in the US,” the Globe quotes the editor of an Atlanta-based publication that covers Olympics issues worldwide. That may be because there is a more vigorous public review of proposals here, but it’s also because it is state or local governments that end up on the hook in US proposals, while national governments tend to be the financial backstop for proposals in other countries.

Walsh says he’s confident that the “talented Boston 2024 team” will put together a “real solid business plan” for the $9 billion to $10 billion proposed Games.

Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca, a co-chairman of the Boston 2024 fundraising and finance committee, tells the Globe he thinks revenue projections of $4.8 billion to $5 billion are “very doable, and doable with a cushion.”

Of course, if there was no chance of ever blowing past any such “cushion,” there would be no need for a government backstop.

Chicago obtained a $1.5 billion insurance policy against overruns as part of its failed bid for the 2016 Games. A University of Chicago economist who was critical of projections for the proposal there thinks Boston may find it can’t put forward a competitive proposal on the budget it has projected.

The Globe story says, high up in the piece, that the need for government backing of any cost overruns has become a “rallying cry” for opponents of a Boston Games. Yet in what seems like a glaring omission, the story then includes no comments from those opponents.

While there is a bit of a nothing-to-see-here-folks quality to the story, this won’t be the last exploration of the question that will take place. Indeed, telegraphing a take on the matter that is anything but matter-of-fact,Globe columnist Scot Lehigh tweets out today’s story and calls the need for a city guarantee of any cost overruns a “key & perhaps fatal issue” for the Boston Olympic bid.

–MICHAEL JONAS

SNOWMAGEDDON

Gov. Charlie Baker, in Washington for a meeting of the National Governors Association, takes the opportunity to press federal officials for disaster aid related to the state’s record snowfall.

A fire triggered by falling ice that ruptured a gas line gutted the Norfolk District Attorney’s office, making the building uninhabitable. Officials say the fire was contained before reaching the evidence locker.

School districts are getting testy about how to meet the 180-day state requirement in the face of historic snowfall.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who already tossed overboard a policy of only allowing drivers to reserve parking spaces for 48 hours after a storm, says the city will also ease up on towing cars parked illegally during snow emergencies and on street cleaning days.

The MetroWest Daily News joins the chorus wanting to know why MBTA operations collapse in the face of winter.

BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker creates an MBTA advisory commission and tells it to report back by the end of March.

The Sunday Boston Herald reported that cabinet secretaries in the Patrick administration cashed in hefty checks for unused vacation and sick days on their way out the door, led by former public safety secretary Andrea Cabral, one-time transportation chief Rich Davey, and energy and environment secretary Maeve Bartlett.

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The New York Times takes up Rudy Guiliani’s challenge to the media to find examples of President Obama expressing his love of America and the paper unearths hundreds.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A bill filed by Boston state Rep. Jay Livingstone would prohibit employers from asking about a prospective hire’s salary history, a practice that some say has hurt women in the workplace.

A slowdown by longshoremen at 30 West Coast ports is having an impact on offloading cargo is beginning to take a toll on the nation’s businesses relying on imports.

EDUCATION

Boston’s troubled school desegregation history from the 1970s will now be included as part of the social studies curriculum in the city’s public schools.

HEALTH CARE

Officials of a medical marijuana dispensary planned for Quincy say the facility will not open until December, at the earliest.

TRANSPORTATION

Some local officials say the state should abandon the plan for the South Coast Rail line in the wake of the MBTA and commuter rail problems but a spokesman for Gov. Charlie Baker says the administration is still committed to the “concept” of the project.

On Keller@Large, House Speaker Robert DeLeo continues to defend the Legislature’s funding of the MBTA.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito hops on the 6:35 commuter train out of Worcester that left at 6:45 and arrived in Boston at 8:55, more than 40 minutes late.

Even as the state’s overall commitment of funds to transportation has dropped, so has the federal government sent fewer dollars, resulting in a 10.1 percent drop in the highway trust fund over the last five years, according to an Associated Press analysis.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Ten former high school friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev talk to the Globe about how the case has affected them and their trust in others.

Online access to court documents is raising concerns among some experts, who are concerned that defendants in lawsuits are being judged by the public on often lurid and embarrassing allegations in complaints that have not been substantiated.

MEDIA

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

Colleagues of Bill O’Reilly when he was a correspondent for CBS News covering the Falklands war say his “war zone” claims are false, CNN reports. O’Reilly continues his offensive in defending himself, planning a full frontal attack on his accusers on his show tonight.

Newsflash: Millennials like print. Really.