Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

Boston Being Played for a Fool in the Political, Olympic Game

Boston 2024

Forget the salaries. When do we get to see the list of bribes that Boston 2024 has handed out?

Ah, yes, the 2024 Olympic Games are but nine years away, but we’re already well into the main event — the campaigning and lobbying biathlon.

Jeez, had I known the Boston Olympic boosters were handing out this kind of coin I would have been a whole lot nicer.

Then again, unless you’re among Boston’s political elite, your ticket to the ball likely got lost in the mail as well.

Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is finally (inevitably?) joining his former cronies on Boston 2024 — a team more reviled these days than the New York Yankees — serving as a “global ambassador” for the boosters, and landing $7,500 per day. The group also released its payroll numbers, revealing $1.39 million in annual staff salary.

That’s some bundle of cash for a movement that began its Olympic dream as an unwelcome long shot. But there’s also, of course, a message that comes with the numbers.

Boston is screwed.

These are powerful people with deep pockets that Bostonians find themselves up against in their erstwhile battle against the Olympic Games landing in their backyards in 2024. But let’s make this clear: This isn’t about you. It never was and never will be.

The City of Boston is but the playing board in a corporeal game of Monopoly, with the political players all holding “Get Out of Jail Free” cards as they aspire to build on Park Place, leaving Baltic Avenue as a primary afterthought. Boston’s Olympic bid has about as much to do with the civic pride hogwash that you were fed as it does making the city into a world-class city and tourism mecca. As if that whole birthplace of the American Revolution business had gotten stale.

This movement is, in fact, what many feared it was in the first place, a grandstanding cash flow for Boston’s politically-connected society.

And they don’t give a damn about the public’s impression.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who pushed Boston 2024 to release its much-ballyhooed payroll figures earlier this week, recently told Boston Public Radio that he wouldn’t feel comfortable about Boston’s bid without at least 70 percent of the Boston population behind it. Last month, a WBUR survey showed that only 44 percent of the Boston region supported the bid, down from 51 percent in January. Opposition over that same period rose 13 points from 33 to 46 percent.

“I don’t think 51 percent is adequate enough,” Walsh said.

That seems to go without saying. But Boston 2024, which has finally begun hosting a variety of community initiatives — i.e., public forums that explain the variety of ways you’re going to get ripped off — already seems pretty blustery in its agenda, despite what the people of its namesake have to say on the matters.

Doug Rubin, communications advisor to Boston 2024, and (surprise!) a former chief of staff in the Patrick administration, is the founder of Northwind Strategies, on the Boston 2024 books for $15,000 a month as a consultant (Keyser Public Strategies also makes $15,000 a month, while Josiane Martinez/Archipelago Strategies Group only rakes in $5,000 among Boston 2024’s “strategic” operations). Rubin appeared on WGBH’s “Greater Boston” Monday night and was asked by host Jim Braude about the mayor’s comments in regards to public perception.

“I think that’s the mayor’s opinion,” Rubin said. “We do believe that we need the public’s support behind this, that would make sense.”

Oh. Is Rubin sure? That’s a pretty bold concept, to need the backing of taxpayers and citizens while they watch their city overtaken by crooked deals with shady endgames.

When Braude pushed Rubin on the mayor’s goal of 70 percent, he stammered into another non-answer.

“I think that’s the mayor’s opinion and we support that, but…”

It’s not only the mayor’s opinion, but the thousands that he represents, the public which has already seen a decline in Olympic support both because of the incompetent infrastructure that presently exists to host an event of this magnitude as well as Boston 2024’s ping-pong promises and daydreams. As it attempts to sell the blinded Commonwealth a dirty goody bag laced with aspirations of a better tomorrow, it is also watching its approval ratings plummet. Bostonians are smart enough to know when they’re being had. Even the distant glow of prestige that would result in hosting the world in 2024 can’t dull that.

Boston 2024 has collectively said it would not stand in the way of a ballot initiative, but it has also said a lot of things lately that are dubious in nature. The group’s CEO Richard Davey (making a cool $300,000 and — surprise — Patrick’s former transportation secretary) recently told WCVB the “the conversation is more complicated than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question.”

With all due respect to Mr. Davey, no. No, it isn’t.

Boston 2024 seems to like to think that key projects dedicated to improving public transportation are already funded, when in reality they’re simply sitting on some bill somewhere in the state house, or haven’t even been addressed.

So, how exactly were the Olympics supposed to be a “catalyst” for this again? If anything, this winter’s relentless snow did more to convince those in power that dramatic improvements are needed for the MBTA’s aging albatross.

But you can bet the IOC will have its demands met by the time it makes its decision in 2017. Meanwhile, the bulk of this city’s demand to end this charade goes ignored. There are still too many pockets to be lined.

In 16 days of traveling as a “global ambassador,” Patrick could probably pay for four years of college tuition, room, and board based on his current asking rate. Just imagine the sort of scholarship that money could create instead of being awarded to a political face in front of the movement.

But this isn’t about Boston and its future. Please. It’s about greasy, political endeavors.

Don’t act surprised.

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