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Boston Mayor Walsh 'Will Not Stand In The Way' Of Olympics Referendum

A conceptual drawing from the Boston 2024 Summer Olympics bid to the USOC. (Boston 2024)  MoreCloseclosemore
A conceptual drawing from the Boston 2024 Summer Olympics bid to the USOC. (Boston 2024)

Clarifying his stance, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Tuesday he still does not support a public vote over whether to host the 2024 Summer Olympics but supports the right of the public to pursue one.

Earlier this month, at a press conference after Boston was chosen by the U.S. Olympic Committee to bid for the games as the U.S. host city, Mayor Walsh said there would be "no referendum."

City spokeswoman Bonnie McGilpin said via email Tuesday that Mayor Walsh "will not stand in the way of a vote."

A WBUR poll released Tuesday shows 51 percent of Boston-area residents back the Olympic bid, and 75 percent support a public referendum.

The opposition group No Boston Olympics praised the mayor's position.

"We welcome support from Mayor Walsh and other elected leaders for the idea that voters should have a say in whether Boston 2024's bid advances," co-chair Chris Dempsey said.

Several groups say they are considering a statewide ballot question or a city-wide referendum. Dempsey says his group is considering both measures.

"While we think there would be benefits to hosting the Olympics, it’s also about what you give up," Dempsey said. "As more Bostonians become aware of the tradeoffs that host cities are forced to make, we think more and more will oppose Boston 2024's bid."

Former gubernatorial candidate and United Independent Party chairman Evan Falchuk is also exploring a statewide referendum.

"Like so many people in Massachusetts, I’m a sports fan and enjoy the competition of the Olympic Games," Falchuk said in a statement last week. "Yet we cannot avoid the reality that the Olympics are a business, and one with a track record of massive cost overruns where taxpayers end up stuck with a huge bill."

A statewide ballot would allow voters outside of Boston to weigh in on the issue. But securing signatures to get on the ballot and then waging a statewide campaign is a tall order. A city referendum, however, would require fewer signatures to get on the municipal ballot and could potentially come before Boston voters as early as November.

Walsh has no legal power to block a city referendum or a statewide ballot question. But the mayor's political machinery and strong ties to unions, which are often key in mobilizing support for issues, could stand to be a formidable force if motivated to defeat a referendum.

McGilpin, the mayor's spokeswoman, said Walsh is confident when the residents see the benefit of bidding for the 2024 Olympics that they "will be excited for the opportunity to host the world class sporting event."

Curt Nickisch Twitter Business & Technology Reporter
Curt Nickisch was formerly WBUR's business and technology reporter.

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