BOSTON (CBS) –The residents of Massachusetts will have the final say on whether Boston will serve as host of the 2024 Olympics.
“These are the people’s games, and it’s something important that we want everybody to have the opportunity to weigh in [on],” Boston 2024 CEO John Fish said on Tuesday.
Fish’s comments came as he explained the abrupt reversal of his group’s strategy for winning public support for a Boston Summer Olympics.
“It’s good to see Boston 2024 change its position,” Chris Dempsey of the group No Boston Olympics said in response. “Two months ago it said it didn’t want a ballot initiative, and now it does.”
But that was before a string of negative stories about the Olympic effort, most notably the revelation that Boston 2024 had hired a slew of top local political operatives (including, briefly, former Gov. Deval Patrick at an eyebrow-raising $7,500 per day stipend).
The backlash produced a stunning poll last week showing support for the Boston bid had dropped 15 points in two months, with few voters buying the key Boston 2024 argument that taxpayers would he held harmless from the huge cost-overruns and debt that traditionally come with Olympic Games hosting.
And with even top bid booster Marty Walsh, Mayor of Boston, expressing public dismay over the meltdown, Boston 2024 has sought to turn things around by endorsing a statewide question on the November 2016 ballot and promising to drop their bid if a majority of voters statewide or in Boston proper rejected the plan.
“I’m hoping by offering up the referendum with the approval of the governor and the mayor that people understand how sincere we are about wanting this conversation,” says Fish.
And for today at least, the bid’s leading critics seemed nonplussed.
“It would make sense for them to be reaching out to groups like us. We’ve been working on this for some time to make sure language is there, to say ‘Sure, we want to support what you’re doing,’” Evan Falchuk of the United Independent Party, which has been developing its own ballot question, told WBZ-TV.
“But they haven’t done that, and that ought to raise a red flag for people about what it is they’re actually up to.”
And Dempsey of No Boston Olympics was left to issue a sure-to-be-ignored call for Boston 2024 to unilaterally discard one of its most potent campaign weapons.
“Boston 2024 has a $75 million budget already, so they’re clearly going to have more resources than those of us who are skeptical about this bid,” he said. “We think it’s important to engage on the facts, not to see who has a bigger megaphone, so we would ask Boston 2024 not to go up with TV, radio or newspaper ads as part of this campaign.”