Cambridge Official’s Draft Policy Order Calls For More ‘Transparent’ Olympic Bid Process

Unlike Boston, they want city employees to voice concerns about the 2024 games coming to the area.

Image via Boston 2024

Image via Boston 2024

A draft policy order that will appear on the Cambridge City Council’s agenda next week calls for City Manager Richard Rossi to make public any agreements that may have been signed between his office and organizations representing Olympic interests.

City Councilors Dennis Carlone and Leland Cheung drafted the policy order this week in response to news that Mayor Marty Walsh had signed a “boiler plate” agreement to ban employees from making disparaging remarks about the United States Olympic Committee and Boston 2024’s proposal to bring the games to the region.

According to the Boston Globe, which obtained documents detailing the joinder agreement, Boston employees are barred from making “any written or oral statements that ‘reflect unfavorably upon, denigrate or disparage, or are detrimental to the reputation’” of the Olympics during the bid process. Walsh later clarified that workers wouldn’t face consequences in the event that they violated the order. 

Even so, Carlone didn’t take the move lightly.

“The Boston mayor said and signed the agreement that no office or employee can reflect unfavorably. What we are saying is, is Cambridge under that? If so, we want to say we are not willing to do that. We want a complete and open process,” said Carlone.

The policy order, if passed, would require Rossi to report back to councilors with any proposed agreement regarding the Olympics, and put it in front of the board for debate prior to being signed.

It would also allow councilors to go on record in support of city employees providing their “unbiased, professional opinions and judgments about the Olympics,” both positive and negative, as the case may be, according to the language in the proposal.

“A private organization restricting the freedom of speech of officials who represent their citizens is anti-democratic,” the draft order reads.

In others words “don’t hold back,” said Carlone.

Councilors would also go on record in support of popular ballot initiatives and referenda to determine if Cambridge should be part of the Olympic proposal.

During a public presentation on Wednesday, members of the privately funded organizing group Boston 2024 revealed details of preliminary plans to rope in Cambridge as part of their Olympic bid. An “anchor” of venues, dubbed the “University Cluster,” would make use of college and university buildings and properties for events like archery, fencing, football games, and swimming competitions.

“While I consider myself an optimist and like to keep an open mind, I am nevertheless deeply concerned about issues of transparency, democracy, and public accountability as they related to the Boston 2024 bid for the Olympic games,” said Carlone, citing cost concerns that haven’t been addressed.

In December, the Council went on record in opposition of the bid based on the fact that they felt the submission process lacked broad community discussion and deliberation, and excluded stakeholders from surrounding communities that would be impacted were the Olympics to be held in Boston. They said Boston 2024, a private organization, submitted the bid to the USOC without “meaningful public input or any real community engagement” in Cambridge.

City Councilor Tim Toomey, who is in support of Carlone’s current draft proposal, also penned a letter that slammed Boston 2024 for not holding a “single vote, public meeting, or hearing” prior to the bid presentation.

“If hosting the Olympic games is as good of an idea as Boston 2024 says, then they should be welcoming public input, not hiding from it. Unfortunately, the most transparent thing about this group so far has been how little they care about what the rest of us think,” he said at the time.

On Thursday, after putting some finishing touches on the draft proposal, Carlone told Boston that he’s not against the Olympics; he’s just against a process that keeps public input out of the plans.

“I’m not out to kill the Olympics. Basically, I just want us to be part of the discussion. I’m an optimist, I think things could be wonderful, but the effort just has to be there, and the realistic funding has to be there,” he said. “We just want it open and discussed fully. The effort’s huge, and it has to include the people.”