TIME Innovation

Boston’s 2024 Olympics Bid Could Have Been Saved

Signatures of support for Boston 2024 cover a banner on the table at a grassroots campaign in Boston on March 14, 2015.
John Tlumacki—The Boston Globe via Getty Images Signatures of support for Boston 2024 cover a banner on the table at a grassroots campaign in Boston on March 14, 2015.

It needed a bold statement of commitment to the city—not the Olympics

Boston’s pursuit of Olympic gold has been dying a slow death over the past seven months.

The final nail in the coffin came Monday, when Mayor Marty Walsh refused to sign a taxpayer guarantee as requested by the Unites States Olympic Committee (USOC), which would have taken effect in the event of cost overruns and revenue shortfalls.

As the city’s chief public official, Walsh was right to hold the line, to protect taxpayers and safeguard the future fiscal health and economic growth of the city and region.

But before the Walsh rebuff, Boston 2024 had other big hurdles to overcome. From the beginning, the bid played as a struggle between Boston’s business elite and commoners – the powerful versus powerless, the haves versus have-nots.

The Boston 2024 Olympic committee read as a who’s who of Boston corporate giants and sports celebrities. Those opposed included a collection of concerned residents, city councilors, local politicians and academics.

Boston 2024 and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) saw it necessary to alter and access neighborhoods, institutions and roads to accommodate Olympics venues, athletes and media. Those opposed said not so fast – we live and work here, want to know the true costs and would like to be included in the planning.

And tidbits such as assuring exclusive travel lanes on highways for IOC VIPs, athletes and corporate sponsors, and the high salaries and compensation for Boston 2024 staff and consultants, only added fuel to the haves versus have-nots narrative.

In the end, this narrative and, ultimately, the failed Olympic bid is unfortunate. As executive director of Wheelock College’s Aspire Institute, a social and education innovation center, I’ve seen and studied firsthand the many problems that plague Boston, from crumbling schools to endemic homelessness.

While the Boston 2024 bid raised many questions about the priorities of its backers, it also offered a historic opportunity to catalyze new development and transform the city in key ways. Boston 2024 could have been saved with only a bit more vision and a bold statement of commitment to the city – not the Olympics – by backers.

The wrong priorities

The prevailing narrative stems from the perceived sharp contrast between the priorities of the bidding committee and those of Bostonians.

At the same time as Boston 2024 proposed spending billions to construct new venues, the Boston Public Schools (BPS) announced its own 10-year Educational and Facility Master Plan.

While the former involved building an Olympic stadium, aquatics center, velodrome and an US$800 million deck over Widett Circle, the latter aimed to improve the physical condition of BPS’s 133 aging school facilities, expand early childhood programs, support dual language learners and children with special needs and promote STEM learning and technology-enhanced education.

Boston 2024 revealed slick plans for an Athletes’ Village that would be converted, post-Olympics, to 2,700 dorm beds for the University of Massachusetts’ Boston campus and 8,000 housing units nine years from now.

Yet this wouldn’t address the current housing crisis. Boston leads all of the 25 major US cities in the number of residents living in emergency shelters. Massachusetts also has one of the highest rates of family homelessness of any state in the country.

Further, Transportation for Massachusetts (a local coalition of organizations advocating for new transportation policy and initiatives) and TRIP (a national nonpartisan transportation research group) warned of the state’s huge need to invest in its system of roads, highways, bridges and public transportation in order to support economic growth, ensure safety, protect the environment and enhance residents’ quality of life.

Boston 2024 agreed that transportation enhancements were needed and critical to hosting a successful Olympics. Yet they had no plans to contribute funding to these enhancements.

Could Boston 2024 have been saved?

Whether the critiques of Boston 2024 are fair or not, the casualty of Boston’s derailed bid is the loss of a truly historic opportunity for long-term, large-scale economic and community development.

Plans included development of two new neighborhoods in currently underdeveloped, underinvested areas, as well as the creation of new public spaces and commercial areas. Lost too is the $4 billion in private investment, creation of thousands of jobs and intensified scrutiny of and urgency to improve our outdated transportation infrastructure. I concur with Boston 2024 Chairman Steve Pagliuca that this could have been “the biggest economic development opportunity of our lifetimes.”

What would have saved Boston 2024? What could have countered the anti-bid arguments and sentiments?

One bold move: Boston 2024 and the business leaders behind it should have pledged planning, support and private funding for economic community development in the city, regardless of whether Boston won the bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Such a pledge would have instantly and powerfully communicated the goodwill, commitment and intent of Boston 2024 leaders to all of Boston and Massachusetts. And this pledge could have had important, reasonable caveats.

For example, in the case of a failed bid, the pledge might be downsized to $2 billion in private investment (half of the current goal), a focus on just residential and commercial development projects and the already committed public capital funding.

Tax breaks and other incentives to developers – as proposed in the Olympic plan – would still lure private investors, and the city would still benefit from the projected tax revenue from new residential and commercial areas. Gone would be the billions in projected Olympic revenues. But the important community development would have gone forward.

Would such a pledge have been a long shot? A huge risk for business leaders? Of course, but so was Boston 2024 all along. Perhaps the risk was not having gone this far, in making this “no matter what” pledge.

As Chairman Pagliuca put it: “The riskiest move of all can be watching an opportunity slip away.”

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME olympics

Boston Bids Farewell to 2024 Olympics

The Boston attempt was met with poor communication, low public support and an active opposition group

Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics is over.

A person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Monday that the U.S. Olympic Committee has severed ties with Boston. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision had not yet been made public.

The Boston bid soured within days of its beginning in January, beset by poor communication, low public support and an active opposition group.

The USOC board decided via teleconference after Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced he would not be pressured into signing the host city contract that puts the city on the hook for any cost overruns.

The deadline to officially nominate a city is Sept. 15. If the USOC wants to stay in the race, Los Angeles would be its likely choice.

TIME Massachusetts

Millions Online Seek Answers in Case of Baby Found in Boston Harbor

Girl Found Dead
Suffolk County District Attorney/AP This flyer released on July 2, 2015, includes a computer-generated composite image depicting the possible likeness of a young girl, whose body was found on the shore of Deer Island in Boston Harbor on June 25, 2015.

The Massachusetts State Police released computer-generated image of what the deceased child may have looked like alive

As authorities work to identify a young girl whose body was found on a Massachusetts beach last month, millions of people are immersed in the mystery on social media.

The girl, whom authorities believe was about 4 years old and refer to as “Baby Doe,” was discovered on June 25 by a woman walking a dog on Deer Island in Boston Harbor, officials said. Her body had been stuffed into a trash bag and was in the early stages of decomposition.

The Massachusetts State Police, with help from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, posted to Facebook a computer-generated image…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Science

Boston Museum Stands By Equation Fact Checked by 15-Year-Old

Exhibit Error Joseph Rosenfeld
Jeff Taylor—AP In this June 23, 2015 photo, John Handley High School sophomore Joseph Rosenfeld, poses for a photo at the school in Winchester, Va.

"Less common — but no less accurate — way to present it"

(BOSTON) — A Boston science museum that praised a teenager for catching a mistake in the golden ratio at a decades-old exhibit now says it wasn’t an error after all.

The Museum of Science released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying the equation in the 34-year-old “Mathematica exhibit” with minus signs instead of plus signs is actually the “less common — but no less accurate — way to present it.”

The museum had initially written 15-year-old Virginia high school student Joseph Rosenfeld a letter acknowledging the error and saying it would be fixed. He noticed the minus signs June 4 on a family visit to the museum.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Emeritus Arthur Mattuck tells the Boston Globe that the two formulas are equal. He says Joseph presented the fraction upside-down.

TIME Accident

Plane Crashes Into Massachusetts Home Killing 3 Passengers

Plane into House
Mark Stockwell — AP A firefighter moves a hose into position outside a house into which a small plane had crashed in Plainville, Mass., June 28, 2015.

All 4 people inside the house were able to escape safely

Four people safely escaped after a small plane slammed into their house in Plainville, Massachusetts, but the three people in the plane were killed, state police said Sunday night.

The plane, a Beechcraft BE36 that had departed from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, crashed into the house about 5:45 p.m. ET, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board said.

Massachusetts State Police confirmed that all three people on the plane were killed. The NTSB said it has launched an investigation.

State police said that the house became engulfed in flames before it was extinguished after almost three hours.

But somehow, all…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

MONEY Insurance

Study Shows Taxpayers Subsidize Rich People’s Ocean Views

Flood Insurance Cheap Rich Towns
Tim Laman—Getty Images/National Geographic RF Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Research on flood insurance in Massachusetts shows wealthy towns pay disproportionately low premiums.

Rich residents of coastal areas may have yet another financial advantage over poorer neighbors, according to new research from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

The study finds that homeowners in more affluent Massachusetts towns tend to pay hundreds of dollars less in flood insurance premiums than those in poorer communities—despite similar levels of storm and flood risk.

The taxpayer-subsidized National Flood Insurance Program does not use income to determine eligibility, and for a host of potential reasons wealthier people end up paying disproportionately less for protection, says study author Chad McGuire.

“Those with more expensive properties receive more of a subsidy,” McGuire says.

For example, in the more blue-collar town of Fairhaven, residents pay an average premium of about $820 per $100,000 in property value, compared with $400 for residents of Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, widely known as a summer playground for the wealthy.

The study did not determine precise reasons for the disparity, but several factors may be at play. For one, McGuire says, many expensive older homes may have grandfathered status and be eligible for lower premiums because they were built before the current flood maps were drawn. Additionally, richer towns might be more likely to be able to afford the modifications—such as building seawalls and elevating houses on stilts—that lower risk and therefore premiums.

But those factors don’t entirely explain the study findings, says McGuire, and the way NFIP community ratings translate into federal dollars allocated is not fully transparent.

As a result of the relatively low cost of insurance, wealthy homeowners are incentivized to keep rebuilding along coastal areas—and hundreds of thousands of federal dollars can be used to repair flood damage to the same expensive vacation homes, over and over again.

“The government shouldn’t be incentivizing risky behavior,” McGuire says.

Federal Emergency Management Agency is reviewing the study results, a spokesperson told the Boston Globe.

McGuire says he and his coauthors plan to look at flood insurance data for other coastal states next.

TIME Culture

A Museum Honoring Dr. Seuss Is Going to Open in Massachusetts

Author Theodore Geisel ("Dr Seuss") at home
Mark Kauffman—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Author Theodore Geisel, or Dr. Seuss, at home in February 1984

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go"

Springfield, Mass., is to be the home of a museum honoring the much-loved children’s author Dr. Seuss.

Visitors to the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, in the author’s hometown, will “explore a series of environments that replicate scenes from Dr. Seuss’s imagination and encounter life-sized three-dimensional characters and places from the books,” say the operators. A re-creation of Seuss’s studio, with his actual furniture and artwork, will also feature.

The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham writer was born Theodor Seuss Geisel in Springfield in 1904. More than 600 million copies of his books have been sold across the globe.

The museum is set to open in phases from mid-2016.

TIME weather

New England Is Braced for More Snow as a Historic Winter Continues

A woman walks through blowing snow in the East Boston neighborhood of Boston, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015
Michael Dwyer—AP A woman walks through blowing snow in the East Boston neighborhood of Boston, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015

Boston is on the verge of breaking a 20-year record for snowfall

Another four to seven inches of snow is expected to fall in Massachusetts early Monday, delaying any hope of respite from the extraordinarily harsh weather that has battered New England throughout February.

Boston is expected to receive up to four inches overnight, while other parts of the region, stretching into Rhode Island, may see as much as seven inches, according to the National Weather Service.

The snow storm is expected to pass before the morning commute, but the winter weather advisory calls on motorists to stay cautious and be alert for snow and ice patches on the road.

Boston has received 102 inches of snow this year, far exceeding the 34 inches considered to be normal and surpassing last year’s total of just over 56 inches. The twenty-year record for snowfall in Boston is 107.6 inches, according to media reports.

The average temperature in Boston for the month of February was just 19 degrees Fahrenheit, almost 13 degrees Fahrenheit colder than normal.

TIME Bizarre

The Time Valentine’s Day Was 96 Hours Long

A heart is painted in the snow on a tabl
Jochen Luebke—AFP/Getty Images A heart is painted in the snow on a table of a sidewalk cafe in Berlin on another snowy Valentine's Day, in 2005

Thanks to one romantic governor

Valentine’s Day of 1978 shouldn’t have been a particularly special one — in fact, for a while it looked like it might end up being one of the worst in history.

That year, early February brought with it the legendary Blizzard of ’78 to Massachusetts. It was, quite literally, a perfect storm: certain meteorological conditions combined to keep the storm off the Atlantic coast for a few days, where it built up force. When it hit, around February 5 of that year, thousands were stranded or worse, having been unprepared for the magnitude of the blizzard. The storm continued for days. Dozens of inches of snow were recorded, along with flooding and high winds.

Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis declared three days of official holiday, to keep people off the road — and, about a week later, he made a similar declaration. Though the storm had finally passed, Valentine’s Day was still disrupted, at great cost to the hearts and wallets of the state — so he decided to act. As TIME reported on the Feb. 27, 1978, issue:

Valentine’s Day was different this year in Massachusetts: it was 96 hours long. The extension was due to Governor Michael Dukakis, who realized that the recent blizzard had left ardent suitors trapped in several feet of snow. Worse, merchants estimated that they would lose $10 million worth of sales of candy, flowers and greeting cards. So Dukakis extended the Tuesday holiday to Friday, for “spiritual as well as economic reasons.” To fulfill the spirit of the thing, he sent Valentine messages to his wife Kitty all week long.

Those four days of Valentine’s celebration are unlikely to be repeated any time soon — but there’s always a chance: Boston’s forecast for Saturday shows a chance of snow.

Read more about love, with TIME’s 2008 cover story about the science of romance, here in the TIME Vault: Why We Need Love to Survive

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