Organizers of Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics announced Wednesday night that they plan next week to release a full copy of the initial proposal submitted in December to the United States Olympic Committee.
Boston 2024 had refused for months to release the complete document but relented under pressure from the Boston City Council, where tempers flared at a hearing earlier in the day. The abrupt about-face by Olympics organizers capped a fast-moving series of events initiated by Councilor Tito Jackson’s threat to subpoena records from Boston 2024.
The fallout reached Rome, where Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh was attending a papal conference at the Vatican. Walsh issued a statement hours after the council hearing calling for the release of the initial bid, saying the fight over the documents had become “an unnecessary distraction in what should be a constructive civil discourse about the future of the city of Boston.”
Then, moments later, Boston 2024 chairman Steve Pagliuca followed with a statement pledging to release the documents early next week.
“Mayor Walsh and I spoke, and I agreed with him that we should release the full version of the preliminary bid package (Bid 1.0) to the public in order to continue to maintain this high standard of transparency,” Pagliuca said in the statement. “The preliminary bid package, produced in December of last year by the previous leadership team, included redacted portions as part of bid-city confidentiality commitments.”
Boston 2024 recently released an updated proposal, and Pagliuca said in his statement that the “preliminary bid package has been supplanted by the detailed release of Bid 2.0, which has been released to the public and posted in its entirety on the Boston 2024 website.”
Earlier Wednesday, Jackson had failed in a push for an immediate vote to subpoena financial documents from Olympics organizers, but not before a contentious hearing involving an elected body known for avoiding conflict and controversy. One councilor rebuked a colleague for laughing at his remarks. Others lamented that Boston 2024 had “disrespected” the City Council. At a crucial point in the debate, councilors recessed the meeting to discuss the issue out of earshot of the public.
Ultimately, City Council President Bill Linehan blocked the measure from coming to a vote. The subpoena was sent to committee and likely would not have been taken up at least until the next council meeting, on Aug. 12. The issue will be moot if Boston 2024 follows through on its promise to release the document.
“This is a simple issue of transparency for Boston 2024,” Jackson said before the vote was scuttled. “We’ve been rebuffed. I believe we’ve been disappointed, and we’ve been disrespected as a body. That should stop.”
State law gives the City Council authority to compel witnesses to appear before the body and produce documents. But that power has been used rarely until the last year.
After a series of calls for subpoenas, the City Council unanimously adopted a new rule to delay the process. On Wednesday, Linehan cited the rule, which forbids the council from voting to approve a subpoena at the same meeting at which it was introduced.
The council often waives its own rules to approve mundane issues, but it requires unanimous consent. The objection of a single councilor can kill a motion, which is what happened Wednesday.
“I object,” Linehan said. “Therefore, there cannot be a vote on that particular matter today.”
Nearly half of the City Council backed Jackson’s call for an immediate vote. His supporters included Matt O’Malley, Ayanna Pressley, Michelle Wu, Charles C. Yancey, and Josh Zakim.
Linehan held his ground.
“I’ll reiterate our rule,” Linehan said. “If someone objects to suspension of the rules and passage, no matter can move forward.”
The debate veered into the absurd when Yancey parlayed the discussion into a call to build a new high school in Mattapan, an issue he has pushed unsuccessfully for decades. As he spoke, City Councilor Stephen J. Murphy laughed.
“It is not a laughing matter at all,” Yancey said. “Children all around Boston go to first-class facilities, and we’re sending some of our children to storefronts and outmoded facilities.”
Murphy later defended himself.
“I was not laughing at the fact that [Yancey] brought up Mattapan high school,” Murphy said later. “I was laughing at the fact that he was violating the rules because he talks about Mattapan High on every issue when you are supposed to stick to the subject matter at hand. That’s just an inside joke.”
Murphy trained his fire on Olympic organizers.
“I find the tone that comes from Boston 2024 to be off-putting, arrogant, [and] condescending,” Murphy said. “Who elected them? No one. . . . I just don’t know where this thing is headed other than off a cliff.”
During the heated discussion about transparency, Councilor Michael F. Flaherty Jr. asked for a recess. Flaherty and Jackson joined Linehan on the council president’s dais for a discussion that could not be heard by the public.
Moments later, the meeting was called back into session. The matter was immediately sent to committee without further debate.