Blizzard burying Olympics bid?

It’s easy to forget in the mind- and finger-numbing midst of Snowmaggedon about Boston’s 2024 Olympic bid – easy to forget, that is, if you don’t pay attention to everyone decrying the shape of the MBTA and what it will be like in eight years should millions of visitors from around the world descend on the city and overload the underperforming system.

This winter’s epic transportation collapse has apparently had a major impact on support for the Olympics as a new WBUR-MassINC Polling Group survey finds that, for the first time, opposition outweighs support for the bid. Steve Koczela, president of the polling group, lays the shift directly at the feet of the stalled trains.

“It has to do with voters now having a new appreciation of how bad the MBTA actually is and seeing the impacts of the storm and thinking there are other priorities in which money would be better spent,” Koczela told WBUR.

In January, when only about 5.5 inches of the white stuff had fallen in the city, a majority of those polled – 51 percent – supported the bid, while only a third of Boston area residents opposed it. Now that they’ve had eight feet of snow dumped on them in less than a month, and they’ve turned a little cranky as they slog through drifts higher than hurdles or wait in sub-freezing lines for trains that never come, support has dropped to 44 percent while opposition has risen to 46 percent.

Some of those surveyed said in follow-up interviews that officials need to focus on getting the T running rather than making sure Olympic marathoners can run. But the news isn’t all bad for backers. The survey shows that, while the overwhelming majority of those polled are opposed to any public money being spent on building venues for the Games, they would theoretically support the expenditure of funds to improve the MBTA in advance of staging the Games.

The poll comes as Boston 2024 organizers announced a road show of 20 public meetings over the next 20 weeks to show their plan around the state and listen to public concerns and adopt usable input. The meetings will be held as far west as Springfield and up north in Lowell, an indication the bidders are trying to build broad-based support for what their plan envisions as a “walking” Olympics in Boston. But even that has become fluid as more proposals are being floated to hold events a long drive from Boston.

The group No Boston Olympics has been stellar in whipping up opposition to the bid, citing a history of misused taxpayer dollars, white elephant structures left vacant, and the diverting of scant resources to keep a bid moving forward. But while No Boston Olympics officials issued a dire warning that all the donations normally earmarked for nonprofits would instead prop up the bid, charity executives are not convinced.

“People flex to support things and rally around things,” Rick Jakious, CEO of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network, told Boston University’s Daily Free Press. “There’s definitely elasticity in charitable giving. The question is whether there might be a redistribution of resources that are currently going to existing needs… Our primary concern is to make sure that nonprofit organizations have a seat at the decision-making table.”

Two members of the House have introduced a bill to make public all expenditures in pursuit of the Games. They’re going to need more chairs and leaves for that table.

–JACK SULLIVAN

BEACON HILL

A Senate GOP plan would give Gov. Charlie Baker control of the MBTA through a new board, State House News reports. Meanwhile, Senate President Stan Rosenberg tells The MetroWest Daily News that he was surprised by the MBTA’s collapse and that it would take $13 billion to “build out the system to what it should be.”

Rosenberg may lead the Senate to exercise a “nuclear option” and unilaterally form new Senate committees that operate separately from the House in order to give the chamber more ability to move legislation. Many bills currently go to joint committees made-up of members from both branches, but the House has far more representatives on each panel and therefore can control outcomes.

Bureaucratic snafus are plaguing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and sending people who can’t get food stamps to local food pantries.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A former state housing official who uncovered health and safety violations at the Quincy Housing Authority that led to massive changes and upheaval is being considered for one of the top spots at the agency.

The local option meal tax that Hingham voters approved by a narrow margin has far exceeded expectations, pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars more into town coffers than projected.

Moody’s Investor Service bumps the Lawrence credit rating up a notch to a level the city last reached in 1986, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Demolition of the empty Woolworth building in Haverhill begins, paving the way for a new development, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Boston City Council is divided over a BYOB proposal for city restaurants.

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has embarked on an unusual public campaign, using social media to gather testimonials from Bay State residents on how same-sex marriage rights have affected them. She plans to use the testimonials in a filing to the US Supreme Court as it considers the question of whether all 50 states must permit same-sex unions.

Utah’s Housing First policy has a chance of ending homelessness, Governing reports.

A leader of the Boston Muslim community is objecting to a Justice Department effort to combat domestic violent extremism because he says it singles out the American Muslim community.

Two Harvard University students have done an analysis and determined that women in the Senate are, indeed, better at dealmaking, cooperation, and bipartisanship than their male counterparts.

ELECTIONS

A new study says statewide office candidates spent $33 million in the last election, with nearly two-thirds of the money spent in the governor’s race, State House News reports.

Jeb Bush has to navigate between his father’s and his brother’s views on foreign policy. And he has already got problems.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The regional transit meltdown is taking a toll on the bottom line — and the nerves — of area businesses. It has been a boon, however, to taxi and Uber drivers.

A small group of Internet activists that got started in Worcester helped drive the recent FCC decision to maintain “net neutrality.”

Local advertising bigfoot Hill Holliday is moving some of its focus from the era of 30-second television spots to the digital age.

Trying to shake the perception of putting workers in low-paying, dead-end jobs, Wal-Mart has announced it will raise the wages and benefits of about 40 percent of its employees and institute a training program to help them advance to better jobs in the company.

EDUCATION

Bowing to protests from faculty and students, the University of Massachusetts Amherst has reversed course on the decision it announced earlier this week to ban Iranian students from enrolling in its graduate engineering programs.

Massachusetts education commissioner Mitchell Chester urges cities and towns to rethink school calendars, State House News reports.

TRANSPORTATION

Gov. Charlie Baker lays into Keolis, the operator of the regional commuter rail system, over its dismal performance, saying the system better be working on schedule by Monday.

When it comes time to rebuild Greater Boston’s transit system, Larry DiCara and Conor Ahern say policymakers should pay attention to the Fairmount commuter rail line.

Pittsfield residents want to know why their streets are in such poor condition after snowstorms, especially compared to neighboring towns.

And once the snow is cleared, get ready for the next roadway plague: potholes.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Two members of the National Guard, who were helping clean up after the storms in New Bedford, rescued a woman who was being sexuallty assaulted on a side street where they had taken a wrong turn.