Zakim asks for Olympic vote

February 6, 2015
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City Councilor Josh Zakim announced on Monday that he has filed an order for four nonbinding questions about Boston’s 2024 Summer Olympics bid to appear on the Nov. 3 municipal election ballots.

The yes-or-no questions would ask whether Boston should host the Games, and if so, whether public money or seizing of private property by eminent domain should be used. The vote would come after a September deadline for submitting the first draft of Boston’s official bid, but before the International Olympics Committee would make a final decision in 2017.

“Hosting the 2024 Olympics is indeed an opportunity to showcase our wonderful city to the world,” Zakim, who represents Mission Hill, said in a press release. “But it also presents a number of potential issues for Boston residents, from the everyday to the deeply complex. I have heard from Bostonians in my own district and across the city who are justifiably worried about how they will commute to work, or whether their tax dollars will be used to finance Olympic construction and operations”

“I applaud Boston 2024 for bringing its proposal for the Boston Olympics into the community for public discussion and scrutiny, but the people of this City deserve even more,” Zakim’s statement continues. “Bostonians need the chance to have their voices heard collectively and on the record. The scope and scale of this project are too large to bypass the democratic values that we as a City hold so dearly.”

The Gazette asked Zakim about his opinions on Boston winning the U.S. bid to host the 2024 games last week, and he did not mention his intention to seek the ballot questions. He did say, “I think it’s a testament to Boston that we won it. I’m not surprised we beat other cities, But it’s time to sit down as a city and think about the long term consequences…A lot of folks haven’t felt included in the process.”

Zakim, who represents Mission Hill, planned to present the order to the full Boston City Council at its Feb. 4 meeting, after the Gazette’s deadline.

For the questions to appear on the 2015 ballot, Zakim’s proposal will require a majority vote of the City Council, followed by the approval of Mayor Martin Walsh. If Walsh chose instead to veto the proposition, the council could override it with a unanimous vote.

The ballot questions, if they appear on the ballot, would be nonbinding, meaning they would carry no mandatory action. Instead, the result would be “advisory,” Zakim’s Deputy Chief of Staff Kyndal Henicke explained to the Gazette.

“It would be a way for the City to speak as a whole to the International Olympic Committee. We see it as a valuable tool,” she said. “Being such a big event and investment in and from the city of Boston, the community should have a way to weigh in on whether we feel this is good for the city.”

The proposed questions are, verbatim:

  1. Should Boston host the 2024 Summer Olympic & Paralympic Games (the “Games”)? YES/NO
  2. If Boston were to host the 2024 Olympics, should the City commit any public money to support the Games? YES/NO
  3. If Boston were to host the 2024 Olympics, should the City make any financial guarantees to cover cost overruns for the Games? YES/NO
  4. If Boston were to host the 2024 Olympics, should the City use its power of eminent domain to take private land on behalf of the Games? YES/NO

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