In response to an inquiry about whether she supported a vote on the city's Olympic bid, on March 2, 2015, Councilor Pressley affirmed that she was "in full support of a referendum on whether or not Boston should host the 2024 Olympics." She continued, "It is imperative that Boston’s neighborhoods and residents are being engaged on this matter in a meaningful way. Our challenge is to ensure that our collective values – our community’s interests – remain at the forefront of what is driving this conversation and that we do not take away from the very pressing needs we have right now."
Councilor Pressley was not able to stay long for the March 6, 2015, City Council hearing because of a prior commitment. However, a few days later, on March 11, 2015, she filed two hearing orders related to the city’s Olympic bid. The first order called for a hearing to “analyze the diversity and inclusion plan from bidding process through the potential games.” It notes that “there needs to be clear goals, requirements, and outcome measures to ensure that women, people of color, persons with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community have true equity in access to jobs, wealth building contract opportunities, and in the very planning process that will shape the future of this City” and that “a strong foundation of diversity and inclusion must be built from the very beginning and remain a centerpiece through the entirety of the Boston 2024 process.” Her second order was for a hearing to “discuss comprehensive approaches to reduce sex trafficking around mega sporting events such as the Olympics.”
On March 30, when asked whether she supports a referendum on the four ballot questions proposed by Josh Zakim, Councilor Pressley said that she is in “full support” of doing so. She continued, “It is imperative that Boston’s neighborhoods and residents are being engaged on this matter in a meaningful way. Our challenge is to ensure that our collective values – our community’s interests – remain at the forefront of what is driving this conversation and that we do not take away from the very pressing needs we have right now.”
On April 23, 2015, Councilor Pressley’s office provided us with the following statement:
"My job is to advocate for what is best for this city, and to date, I do not believe the case has been made that the benefits of the Olympics outweigh the costs to the residents and neighborhoods. In order to for me to get to yes, I need to understand where our neighborhoods, our residents, and our schools fit into the proposal and the legacy. I need to hear a real plan for addressing the affordable housing crisis in our city and ensure that the Olympics will not displace our residents and the most vulnerable among us. I also need to see the implementation of a clear diversity and inclusion plan throughout the entire process from planning to the potential games. Finally, I want to be sure that the city is prepared for the byproducts of hosting a mega sporting event, like sex trafficking and police surveillance. I want to see our residents being engaged in a meaningful way, and that the four ballot questions sponsored by my colleague Councilor Josh Zakim make it onto the ballot this November. In addition, I have thus far filed two hearing orders around the Olympics – one on diversity and inclusion in contracting and another on sex trafficking – and look forward to a hearing on Councilor Zakim’s proposed ballot questions."
At our invitation, Councilor Pressley’s research director attended No Boston 2024’s forum on housing rights and displacement on May 14, 2015.
At the City Council hearing on May 18, 2015, Councilor Pressley noted that she was uncomfortable with the BRA being the oversight authority. She noted that we shouldn’t need the Olympics as a prompt or impetus to do things that we should be doing anyway. She noted that Boston “can play host to the world community” but that she wants to “make sure we are playing the best host possible to the people who already call this place home.” She said that she remains unconvinced because she still doesn’t see a plan or a successful model already in place that can be scaled up to the size of the Olympics. She raised concerns about diversity/inclusion, affordable housing, and displacement. She noted the importance of studying the long-term impacts on host cities beside three weeks of enhanced city pride.
Councilor Pressley attended No Boston Olympics’s community meeting on May 18, 2015. She said that she is still in “listen and learn” mode but “remains unconvinced.” She was critical of the lack of a clear plan, the lack of robust democratic oversight, the lack of a clear commitment to diversity and inclusion, and the lack of a scalable or replicable model that could ensure that this could be done without exacerbating gentrification and inequality. She said that, if she had to identify her three biggest issues relating to the Olympic bid, she would cite human trafficking, police surveillance, and diversity and inclusion.
At the JP Progressives Candidate Forum on June 3, 2015, Councilor Pressley echoed points made in her response to No Boston 2024 and past statements about the bid. She stressed that her being skeptical about the bid does not make her any less “aspirational” or “patriotic.” She noted that she had worried that the Olympic bid would prove a distraction—and it has. She affirmed that she wants to see a successful diversity and inclusion plan but that there are no scalable models in Boston. She also noted that lack of successful models in the city for public-private partnerships, especially at the scale required. She brought up the issue of cost overruns and noted how Boston 2024 has painted a very different picture about costs in public meetings as they did in the bid to the USOC. She emphasized that our priority should be on making Boston a welcoming city for everyone currently here before we go about staging an international party. She also expressed concern regarding the uptick in sex trafficking around mega-events.
At the June 26, 2015 City Council hearing on Olympic venues and financing, Councilor Ayanna Pressley arrived late because she was speaking at commencement ceremony. By the time she arrived, Rich Davey had already left, but Councilor Pressley said that she planned to watch the video and that she was “glad” to be there for public testimony.
On July 9, 2015, she tweeted an article from the Dorchester Reporter critical of Boston 2024's insufficient promises on affordable housing.
On July 16, 2015, she tweeted an article from the Boston Business Journal about how leaders in the black community have been critical of the lack of diversity in Boston 2024 and its shortchanging of minority neighborhoods.
On July 20, 2015, Councilor Pressley expressed her support of Councilor Jackson's effort to subpoena Boston 2024 in order to obtain the full, unredacted version of Bid 1.0.
At the City Council meeting on July 22, 2015, Councilor Pressley spoke in favor of suspending the rules and passing Councilor Jackson's subpoena order. The following are her remarks, as prepared:
"This is the right action, at the right time. It’s common sense. There are still holes that remain in bid 2.0 about the financing of the Olympics; the information obtained from the subpoena may be the breadcrumb trail that leads us to better understand the rationale, as well as the financial commitments.
The bottom line is, as an elected official, I have a fiduciary responsibility. I’m not a venture capitalist; I don’t get to play start up with people’s lives and the city’s money. Throughout this process there has been a great deal of talk about legacy. I remain skeptical about the Olympics. The case for me has not been made. This information may help us all to better determine if this is positioning Boston for the kind of legacy and future we want to write.”
Contact Councilor Pressley to tell her why you oppose the Boston 2024 Olympics bid.