Bill Weld to Jeremy Jacobs: Do the right thing and live up to the agreement you made with the state of Massachusetts when you got the go-ahead to build a new Boston Garden.
Back in 1993, then-governor Weld championed legislation that allowed Jacobs, the wealthy owner of the Garden and the Boston Bruins, to obtain air rights and property easements needed to build a new arena. The final product involved a flurry of last-minute horse-trading. That’s how Chapter 15 — An Act Furthering the Establishment of a Multi-Purpose Arena and Transportation Center — came to include Section 7, a provision requiring Jacobs to “administer, produce, promote and sponsor no less than three charitable events per year at the New Boston Garden” and pay the net proceeds to the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), now the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).
“I remember the deal vividly,” said Weld, now a principal at ML Strategies, the government relations arm of the law firm, Mintz Levin. “My recollection is that this fund-raising undertaking was a bit on the vague side. It was thrown into the pot to cover one of a great number of bases. But it was real.”
No dollar amount is specified, and no charitable vehicle was ever set up to ship any fund-raising proceeds to the state. As a group of young people who belong to the Hyde Square Task Force recently found out, for 24 years, Jacobs never sent a dime to Massachusetts. After their discovery made headlines, Jacobs agreed to pay $1.65 million to the DCR, which has in turn agreed to put it toward a community athletic facility in Jackson Square.
Not only is that payment low, there’s no agreement about how Jacobs will meet his obligation going forward. One reasonable option would be for Jacobs to do what most people have to do when laws are passed — follow them — by holding the three yearly events. But Weld suggests there may also be another way to satisfy the law’s requirement. He believes a legal doctrine known as “cy pres” would allow Jacobs and state officials to come up with a formula for sending money to the state without specifically changing Section 7’s requirement of “no less than three charitable events” a year. As he explains it, a charitable foundation could be set up, to be funded by what is now called the TD Garden, with DCR named as the beneficiary. He suggests looking at the arrangement between Steve Wynn (a client of ML Strategies) and the City of Boston. The city set up the Charlestown Impact Trust Fund as a conduit to hold Wynn casino mitigation payments, which can be designated, among other uses, for Charlestown nonprofits, parks, quality of life, and cultural and recreational activities. Wynn has already made an upfront payment of $1 million and is committed to paying $2 million annually into the fund once his Everett casino doors open.
Another model can be found in the nonprofit called the DCF Kids Fund, which supports children in the state Department of Children and Families system. Lauren Baker, the governor’s wife, just recently took on the role as that group’s unpaid vice-chairwoman.
Weld said he is sure Jacobs and the Garden “will live up to the spirit of the law.”
It’s more than time to do so.