To the Editor: Olympic opposition rooted in fact, not NIMBY rhetoric

To the Editor:

In political discourse, the strength of someone’s substantive arguments usually has an inverse relationship to how readily they resort to logical fallacy.  Recently, Boston 2024 and its proponents have resorted to this tactic to distract from their own ever-changing plans and eroding credibility.

In April, John Fish employed the patriotic appeal, bemoaning our lack of pride and patriotism.  Depending on whom you believe, this was intended to slight those who oppose the Olympic bid or as a diagnosis of the ills a Boston Olympics would cure.  Whatever the goal, his comments did not explain how hosting the Olympics would improve our schools, our infrastructure, or our lack of affordable housing.

Mayor Walsh resorted to the bandwagon and genetic fallacies, claiming that there was no “sincere” opposition to the Olympics before suggesting that those who question Boston 2024 are outsiders who dominate city meetings to the detriment of locals.  This, despite recent polls showing below 50 percent support for the Olympics among Bostonians and the serious criticisms offered by residents at neighborhood association meetings in Dorchester and South Boston, two communities likely to bear the brunt of hosting. 
None of these fallacies, however, match the ubiquity of the “resistance to all things new” trope that James G. Keefe invoked in his article, “Let’s not quit on Boston 2024.” 

In essence, Mr. Keefe claims that if you question whether a three-week party taking place nine years from now is the proper lens through which to view Boston’s future, it’s not because Boston 2024 has repeatedly dodged serious questions raised by the public.  It’s not because they and their political patrons have changed direction on whether MBTA improvements are needed to host the Games and whether such improvements have been funded.  And it’s not because hesitating to sign a blank check for cost overruns in a city and state known for them just makes good sense.

Instead, Mr. Keefe argues that Bostonians oppose the Olympics because of a tradition of negativity inherited from Puritan ancestors.  Supposedly, this same “self-defeating defect” is the reason that Facebook is headquartered in California instead of Boston.  And this old Yankee negativity, not the $20 billion of cost overruns, is the reason that the Big Dig still makes us wince.  I’d point out that Mr. Keefe errs by asserting that July and August are moribund times for local tourism—our hotel occupancy is highest in these months, exceeding 90 percent—but such reliance on facts might solidify my reputation as a naysayer.  And his argument that “no true Bostonian” could question former Governor Patrick’s erstwhile fee arrangement is an example of rhetorical trickery so venerable that it has its own Wikipedia page:

In reality, we oppose the Olympic bid because we have different priorities, none of which are unpatriotic or the result of Calvinist predestination. 

We support expanded affordable housing to prevent the hollowing out of our city’s middle-class, not the acceleration of gentrification that Boston 2024 and the BRA offer.  We support transportation improvements designed to increase the quality of life for families throughout the city rather than those intended to shuttle one-time tourists to temporary Olympic venues.  We support spending money on our schools rather than on consultants, bureaucracy, and presentations giving the illusion of transparency while public records requests are ignored, questions go unanswered, and the Mayor changes the name of the “Office of Olympic Accountability” to the “Office of Olympic Planning” at Boston 2024’s behest.  And we support protecting the public fisc from the cost overruns that have happened at every Olympics since 1960, despite Boston 2024’s vague promises to insure against such risks while never including the costs of estimated insurance premiums in their budget or explaining precisely what insurance vehicle would cover this commitment.

In 1630, the Puritan John Winthrop spoke of hard work and real challenges, of building Massachusetts into an example for the rest of the world to emulate, a “shining city upon a hill.”  We don’t oppose the Olympic bid out of an ingrained negativity or a resistance to new things. We do so because we believe that our home is made for bigger, better, and more important things than playing party host.

– Christopher Hurld

The author is an appellate lawyer and a lifelong resident of South Boston.