Gov. Baker supportive of expert Olympic bid review

As support for Boston hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics suffered a drop in a public poll, Gov. Charlie Baker cautioned the bid is a "notion in formation" that will have to be vetted by "smart people" representing the state's interests.

In a poll for WBUR conducted by the MassINC Polling Group and released Thursday, 44 percent of Boston area residents said they supported the Olympic bid, while 46 percent said they opposed. A WBUR poll in January showed 51 percent saying they support it and 33 percent saying they were opposed.

During an appearance on WGBH Radio's monthly "Ask the Governor" segment, Baker was asked if he supported a planned proposal for a commission to keep an eye on spending on the Olympics. The legislation, being pushed by Reps. Michael Moran and Aaron Michlewitz, both of Boston, would also set up a website to track public and private spending.

"I think it's quite likely and appropriate that the state will have some sort of process where we'll engage some smart people to make sure that the state's interests are understood and represented as part of this process," Baker said.

"There should be some -- and I don't know if it needs to be as formal as a commission or a panel of experts -- but there definitely should be some mechanism, some group of people who really know what they're talking about, who can make sure that the state understands exactly what's at stake with respect to the Olympics before the city files that, sort of, 'bid book' in January 2016, nine months from now," Baker added.

Michlewitz, one of the lawmakers backing a bill setting up an Olympics commission, said he was skeptical of the bid receiving support from the federal government.

Supporters say private financing will mostly pay for the bid and claim public infrastructure upgrades needed for the Olympics are already planned. Federal money will be needed for security, they add.

Opponents argue that the bid will drain attention and resources from other priorities, such as housing, education and public transit.

"I don't believe we're going to get much help from the federal government, especially a Republican Congress," Michlewitz said during an appearance on WGBH's "Greater Boston" television show on Wednesday. "You know, many members have gone on the record and said, 'It's their bid, let them deal with it.'"

Michlewitz added, "I think we're going to have to make sure that if we do have to invest into this process, whether it be public infrastructure or some facilities, then we should make it as transparent or have as much accountability online as possible."

Michlewitz told WGBH's Adam Reilly that he hasn't decided whether to support the Olympics bid or oppose it. But, he added, Boston is an "attractive" and "legitimate" contender for hosting the 2024 games.

"The sports fan in me -- you know, I'm a Celtics season ticket holder, obviously I'm rooting on the Patriots in the Super Bowl -- would love to see the Olympics take place," Michlewitz said. "The proud Bostonian in me would love to see the Olympics take place. The state rep in me, the person who's supposed to be watching over the state tax dollars, has real concerns. And I think a lot of my colleagues share those concerns."

Separately, Senate President Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst) said in a WCVB-TV interview in January that he plans to bring in experts to go into "great detail" on the Boston 2024 Olympics bid in order to "make sure that they really have a rock solid proposal because we're really not in a position to come up with public funds to support this."

Asked on WGBH radio if he would support a ballot question stating that no taxpayer money should be used to fund the Olympics, aside from transportation infrastructure improvements and federal security funds, Baker said it's a concept he would consider supporting.

Baker added that Boston's bid process, spearheaded by the nonprofit Boston 2024, should be more transparent than the initial campaign to receive the U.S. Olympic Committee's approval to be the host city, and that he was heartened by a series of public hearings that have started.

Boston 2024 on Wednesday announced a series of 20 statewide community meetings over 20 weeks, starting on Feb. 23 in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood.

Other meetings are slated to take place in Lowell, Cambridge, Springfield, and on the South Coast. An April 7 meeting in Malden will be hosted by Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester).

"The purpose of these meetings is quite simple- to listen to the people of Massachusetts and use those conversations to help shape the bid to bring the Games to the United States," Rich Davey, Boston 2024 CEO, said in a statement. "We want to hear residents' ideas on how the Games can touch every part of the state and we also want to hear any concerns and answer any questions. In the end, these will be Massachusetts' Olympic and Paralympic Games and we are committed to every corner of the state having a voice in this effort."


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