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Bill seeks details of Boston’s Olympic expenses

Walsh insists House measure is unnecessary

Two Boston lawmakers close to House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, saying they are concerned that the city's Olympic bid lacks state oversight, are pushing legislation that would impose financial disclosure requirements on all public and private expenditures associated with the Games.

Coming little more than two weeks after Boston's legislative delegation met with anti-Olympics activists, the bill is a clear indication that Beacon Hill leaders are increasingly determined to play a more significant role in the process. Even before the measure has been filed, it drew a swift rebuke Tuesday from Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston, who dismissed it as unnecessary.


The bill, due to be filed Wednesday and already discussed with legislative leaders and Baker administration officials, would establish a commission, heavy with State House appointees, that would review "the public safety, economic, and social impacts" of the 2024 Summer Olympics. Failure to provide the commission with "any information formally requested" could result in the withdrawal "of any and all public funds related to the Olympic bid."

The commission would also maintain a website apprising the public of "all public and private funds that would be expended" for the Games. Boston 2024, the local Olympic organizing committee, has pinpointed a number of public projects — some already underway — that they say would enhance the Games.

"We're trying to find space in the process for the state to get some independent analysis of what the Olympics means for us on the state level," said state Representative Michael J. Moran, a Brighton Democrat co-sponsoring the bill. "At this point, I'm not for it, I'm not against it, I think we just need to take a real hard look at what this means from where we sit in state government and the fiduciary responsibility we have to the taxpayers.''


Walsh called the proposal redundant, saying that if such a bill were necessary, Boston should simply give up now. "I don't need legislation to explain to me how important it is to have transparency," Walsh said. "If we need legislation to have transparency, then we should just forgo the bid altogether."

Modeled after a similar initiative during Chicago's failed effort to lure the 2016 Summer Games, the measure comes from the desks of two House members close to DeLeo. Both DeLeo and Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg have said they want the promised benefits of the Games to spread beyond the Boston area.

The bill's other co-sponsor, Representative Aaron Michlewitz, a North End Democrat, said "there is a large appetite within the House" among lawmakers across the state for a measure opening the books of the Olympic effort.

"My biggest fear in this entire ordeal is that we could be creating a large debt through these Olympics that future generations will have the burden of cleaning up, similar to the one that the MBTA is dealing with right now in part because of the Big Dig financing," Michlewitz said. "And so the Commonwealth needs to hold the line as best it can to ensure transparency."

One criticism of the Olympics bid has been that organizers have not shared many details of the effort with the public, particularly before they won the US bidding rights from the US Olympic Committee.

Olympic organizers said the state's $13.7 billion in expected transportation infrastructure spending over the next decade, authorized in 2013, would cover the costs of the projects listed in the bid document.


A legislative commission early last year, before prominent business leaders threw their full backing behind the idea, recommended creating a nonprofit entity to steer the Olympics proposal — a fact Boston 2024 officials pointed to on Tuesday.

"We look forward to working with Mayor Walsh, the Legislature, the Baker [a]dministration, local officials, and the general public to craft a proposal that is transparent and in the best interests of Boston and the Commonwealth," Boston 2024 executive vice president Erin Murphy said in an e-mail.

The bid documents Boston 2024 submitted to the US Olympic Committee touted backing from major political players and hinted at a "proposal of comprehensive Olympic legislation to facilitate venues and transportation in a unified manner."

Boston 2024 has also sought to minimize political opposition, hiring some of the state's most influential and well-connected political operatives and downplaying the prospects of a potential ballot referendum on the Games.

But the principal drive behind the enterprise has come from the city's business community. The effort's leadership roster reads like a who's-who of corporate heavyweights, led by John Fish, Suffolk Construction chief executive and chairman of Boston 2024.

Once the bid gathered steam, Walsh climbed aboard and helped lobby the US Olympic Committee. Governor Charlie Baker has been supportive of the exercise but more reserved in his enthusiasm. "The governor is hoping for a transparent process and intends to continue discussions with the Legislature about reasonable means to accomplish that," said Jim Conroy, a senior Baker adviser.


How Beacon Hill should involve itself in the Olympic process has been a frequent topic among the governor, speaker, and Senate president during their regular closed-door meetings, according to people familiar with the talks.

A DeLeo spokesman and a Rosenberg spokeswoman declined to comment Tuesday. A spokesman for Attorney General Maura Healey, who was also briefed on the proposal, also declined to comment.

Top lawmakers said they think the Legislature has been cut out of the process and warned that if the Olympics are to come to fruition in Boston, some degree of legislative involvement would be necessary.

It is not the first time the two Boston lawmakers have clashed with their former colleague, who was elected mayor in 2013. Moran and Michlewitz encouraged one of Walsh's opponents, Charlotte Golar Ritchie, to enter the mayoral campaign, where she placed third.

The seven-member commission would include one appointee each by the governor, attorney general, treasurer, inspector general, Senate president, House speaker, and Boston mayor. The governor's appointee would chair the panel.

Jim O'Sullivan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports.