Walsh Says Boston Wouldn’t Use Eminent Domain for Olympic Stadium

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh spoke about Boston’s Olympic bid on Friday.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh spoke about Boston’s Olympic bid on Friday. –EPA

Speaking on the WGBH program Boston Public Radio Friday afternoon, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the city would not take property by eminent domain to facilitate a 2024 Olympics bid.

“This is the first time I’ve publicly used the words eminent domain, and I am not going to be using powers to remove businesses because of an Olympic bid,’’ Walsh told hosts Margery Eagan and Jim Braude. “They (Boston 2024) will either negotiate and work with somebody, or they’ll look at another venue.’’

There has been some speculation that the city could take parts of Widett Circle, which organizers see as the site of an Olympic stadium, by eminent domain if Boston were to wind up winning the bid. Members of the New Boston Food Market, a co-operative of more than 20 wholesale companies, have said they are not looking to move from the area, and that they feel shut out from the Olympic planning process.

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In its bidding documents, Boston 2024 listed Suffolk Downs as a backup option for a stadium, but the group’s founding president Dan O’Connell (who has since been replaced by former state transportation secretary Richard Davey) said last week that the idea had not been pursued.

Walsh spoke further about the possibility of a referendum on the Olympic bid, saying he remained opposed to the idea. “If (2014 third party gubernatorial candidate) Evan (Falchuk, who has launched a committee to explore a ballot initiative) or anybody wants to put a ballot question forward, that’s their right,’’ Walsh said.

“If people feel this is one of those times that the government has to be checked on, because of the Olympics, then this is the time they should go forward with the ballot question,’’ he added. But, he also said, “I would vote against it, absolutely.’’

Braude asked Walsh why, if the city and Boston 2024 say they would not put public funds toward the Olympics operating budget, he would oppose a ballot question barring the use of taxpayer money. Walsh did not directly answer the question.

“Because as mayor of the city of Boston, I’m going to make sure we protect the taxpayers of the city of Boston and the residents of the city of Boston,’’ he said. “I’m viewing the Olympics as an opportunity, a very positive opportunity, and we’re going to tell that story as we move into the next few months here. … There’s been a lot of insinuations made of the city of Boston, about not focusing on education, not focusing on transportation, and that’s all just not true. If (Olympic critics) listened to my State of the City (address), all I spoke about there—a very little piece was the Olympics, I just kind of mentioned it—was about what my vision of the city is.’’

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The mayor also said the city was working to remove what he has called “boilerplate’’ language from its agreement with the United States Olympic Committee that suggests city employees cannot speak critically about the games. Walsh has said since the stipulation was publicly revealed last week that the term will not be enforced.

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