United Independent Party's Evan Falchuk reminds taxpayers of cost of Olympics during Pittsfield visit

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PITTSFIELD >> Roughly two dozen supporters attended a meet and greet with United Independent Party Chairman Evan Falchuk Saturday at Starbase Technologies in Pittsfield, with the main point of conversation Boston's 2024 Olympics bid.

Cost overruns for Olympic Games in the years 1976-2012 averaged more than 200 percent, according to a London School of Economics and Political Science study.

If Boston succeeds in its 2024 Olympic bid, current estimates place the total cost of hosting the games at $10 billion, divided in half between private sponsors and taxpayer money.

So, who's going to cover the $10 billion difference?

"Taxpayers," reminded Falchuk. He's organized a People's Vote Olympics Committee to support a binding statewide referendum on the issue.

A "power elite," according to the Boston Globe, make up the Boston 2024 group organized to advocate the city's bid. It is comprised of "construction magnates, lobbyists, political insiders" who stand to gain enormously from associated contracts and other projects brought on by the games, Falchuk said.

"No one voted for these people, but they're driving the public policy debate right now in Massachusetts," Falchuk said. "Meanwhile, we've got such great needs for other things. A few people are trying to make billions of dollars at taxpayer expense and they don't want you involved in the process."

Boston 2024 submitted a bid to host the 2024 games to the United States Olympic Committee in December. The group still must finalize its plans and submit a bid to the International Olympic Committee before the city can be officially chosen.

The stop in Pittsfield on Saturday was just one of dozens Falchuk is presently making, focused on the referendum. On the state tour, Falchuk and his party seek to gin up support for a bid to collect 70,000 signatures from residents across Massachusetts to force the issue, which Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and others have publicly opposed. Collection could begin as early as March.

Falchuk ran for governor last year and earned more than 3 percent of the vote, making his party official in the state.

Now, the former, and future, gubernatorial candidate sees this issue as ripe to press his message of "policymaking driven by people and their needs" and wise spending of taxpayer money.

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Both parties, Falchuk said, remain silent, or outwardly supportive, of the Boston Olympic bid, despite pretenses of fiscal responsibility.

"You can see where their priorities really are," Falchuk said. "It's with taking care of their buddies, who are going to make money off this. That's what's wrong with our system. We need to elect new people. They don't want to represent us."

Terry Williams, a member of the Dalton Finance Committee, called the proposal "a fiscal black hole."

Boston 2024's bid outlines the need for building temporary-use stadiums, huge upgrades to public transportation and the use of established venues like Harvard Stadium, TD Garden, Gillette Stadium, Franklin Park, Olympic Village and perhaps even venues in Western Massachusetts. The group says the London Games created 100,000 game-related jobs, 70,000 volunteer positions, and 40,000 permanent new jobs for Greater London, but economists have debated these figures, and in any case, if present, the gains would be short-term.

Falchuk said rather than building temporary-use stadiums, the funds would find better purpose in the Commonwealth's deteriorating schools and social programs, among other things.

The general picture, Falchuk said, recalls the Big Dig, which was originally estimated to cost $2 billion and ran up to $15 billion.

"A lot of people made money off of that; you paid for it; have you been in it?" Falchuk said.

"It hurt our road projects out this way," Williams added. "They canceled a lot of them."

The move against the Olympics also serves as a platform for alternative politics. Falchuk said Massachusetts beats all other states in unenrolled voters, and 84 percent of people stayed home for the most recent primaries.

"You know what you can get away with when 84 percent of people don't vote?" Falchuk said. "Things like: Olympics."

Opposition to Olympic Games is not new. Denver turned down the 1976 Winter Olympics. Strong opposition to the 2016 Olympics exists in Rio de Janeiro, after planners choose it over Chicago and Tokyo, where public opinion too was divided. In the wake of the Sochi Olympics, the international press ran stories on billions in public funds stolen and embezzled by vested interests.

In a democracy, Falchuk said, the people ought to have a say about a major decision like the one ahead, and the referendum would allow the people to make the call on whether the idea is a good one.


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