Boston 2024: If You Like the Marathon, Ipso Facto You Want the Olympics

Looks like the Boston 2024 folks are going to be swarming the Boston Marathon on Monday. They’ll be trying to create the impression that any fan of the Marathon also supports Boston 2024’s bid to host the Olympics nine years hence.

And as today’s Globe reports, Boston 2024 has some Marathon-related news that it’s hoping will jump-start their flagging campaign: the winner of last year’s men’s race thinks that it would be a swell idea for Boston to host the Olympics. Boston 2024 COO Erin Murphy gushes at the endorsement:

Meb is universally loved and respected for his achievements and we are so honored to have him be part of this,” Murphy said. The Eritrea-born runner who became a US citizen is so well known, Murphy said, “he’s like Madonna and Cher — he doesn’t even need a last name.”

For those of you who don’t want to be seen as so out of touch that you don’t know Meb’s last name, it’s Keflezighi, and here are his comments in support of Boston 2024:

You need unity of the community, unity of the city, in order to make it happen,” he said. “Somebody will be happy, somebody will be upset, and obviously it cannot satisfy everybody but hopefully we can meet halfway, with commitment and sacrifice in a common goal to make it a reality. Not just for Boston, for America.”

Meb’s hometown is San Diego, so maybe what he means by “meeting halfway” is that the 2024 Olympics will be held in Topeka.

*****

In other Olympics news, the state House of Representatives will soon be debating the budget for the coming fiscal year. In light of the IOC’s practice of requiring that all city transport, airport and billboard advertising be under their control for the duration of the games, some Representatives are concerned that this demand might harm ad revenues that go to the MBTA, Massport and other state agencies with outdoor advertising space. So they have filed an amendment to the budget requiring that Boston 2024 pay market rates for any advertising space it commandeers.

Here is more information on the amendment. There’s still time before the budget debate begins on April 27 for you to ask your State Representative to sign on as a co-sponsor.

Everyone seems to be in agreement that the Olympics will be paid for by private money, so maybe the Boston 2024 folks will also be chatting up this budget amendment when they descend on the Marathon on Monday.

“A State Government That Gets Out Of The Way”

In his campaign for Governor last year, Charlie Baker promised us “a state government that gets out of the way.” And it seems that’s what we are getting.

Right after taking office, Governor Baker announced that one of the ways that state government would be getting out of the way was by not issuing any new regulations for some time. A “regulatory pause” by Executive branch agencies would “enable the administration to implement new guidance that regulations going forward communicate a clear, desired and effective goal.”

This pause was not a surprise. You might say that the notion that regulations are somehow adverse to good government started with Charlie Baker, the Secretary of Administration and Finance as well as the “heart and soul” of the Weld administration. Governor Weld issued the first executive order requiring agencies to pare down their regulations in 1996 (“WHEREAS, the inefficiencies and intrusions resulting from excessive government regulation constitute an unreasonable financial and personal burden on residents of the Commonwealth”). Since then, it has become fashionable in Massachusetts for our governors to begin their terms in office with a similar reproof of the idea that government ought to be in the business of regulating business, as Mitt Romney did in 2003 and Deval Patrick did in 2007.

The right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council offers model legislation for states to trim their inventory of regulations. And our state Legislature got in on the act in 2010, prohibiting agencies from putting out new regulations until they had thoroughly analyzed the potential effect on small business and requiring all agencies to review the need for all of their regulations every 12 years.

Which brings us to Sunday’s Globe article on Baker’s further pursuit of regulatory cutbacks in a new Executive Order. The moratorium on new regulations he announced in January is to continue until further notice. And there’s lots more. Baker has often likened government regulations to the junk that accumulates in your basement and which, in the interests of good housekeeping, you need to clean out every so often (as the Legislature had already concluded in mandating a top-to-bottom review every twelve years). The Executive branch agencies are going to be very busy making sure that every state regulation passes a lengthy series of tests before it may continue to be in effect. The most controversial of these tests is that no regulation may exceed what the federal government requires:

Baker, in a March 31 directive to all state agencies, is requiring a yearlong review of nearly all state regulations, with a mandate that none should exceed federal requirements, which in many cases are far less stringent than the state’s. He wants only regulations that do not “unduly and adversely affect Massachusetts citizens and customers of the Commonwealth.”

This apparently means that if the federal government is not ready to say that the chemical perchlorate, a persistent, inorganic anion found in industrial pollutants that interferes with thyroid function if ingested in significant quantity, is unsafe, then Massachusetts will stop saying it is unsafe and will rescind the current regulation (in place since the Romney administration) capping the amount of perchlorate that safe drinking water may contain. The people of Massachusetts, especially those living in the towns where perchlorate has been found in the drinking water will be on their own, happily unburdened by excessive regulation.

Government regulations are presumptively the enemy, except of course when something goes badly wrong. Then everybody wants to know why government did not prevent the catastrophe from happening — why was nobody minding the store?

Let’s take the example of the New England Compounding Center, the pharmaceutical operation that sold contaminated steroid drugs causing meningitis which led to the deaths of 64 people across the country, caused 750 others to fall ill, and which resulted in second-degree murder charges against an owner and one of the pharmacists.

The Legislature responded to that disaster by recognizing that oversight of the compounding pharmacy industry was inadequate and by passing a law directing the Board of Pharmacy to regulate these pharmacies more strictly. The Board was told, for example, to determine which drug preparations require special training or equipment to prepare in a safe manner, to report adverse drug events in a database available to the public, and to set new penalties for pharmacies that do not comply with the new law.

The legislation passed unanimously, without discussion of whether it might be excessively burdensome or detrimental to the state’s competitiveness. The House Minority leader told the State House News Service that “everybody recognizes the terrible situation that happened and see this bill as progress on that front. I think the bill is an important step forward to bring some accountability and clarity to compounding pharmacies.” In that conversation he apparently did not mention “An Act Reforming the Regulatory Process to Promote Job Growth,” the bill that he files each session that would allow a legislative committee to bottle up any proposed regulation for up to two years in the interests of making Massachusetts a more competitive place to do business. (You may have been unaware that the Legislature has expertise in such matters as acceptable perchloride concentrations in groundwater and the meningitis-free preparation of steroid drugs.)

And so, speaking of the increased regulation and oversight of the compounding pharmacy industry, what’s up with that?

The Herald reported last week that “the state agency that oversees compounding pharmacies is still in disarray two years after a deadly meningitis outbreak, failing to inspect facilities, allowing dirty labs to stay open and rarely publicizing recalls of possibly tainted meds.” Any disarray may have to do with the fact that Board of Registration in Pharmacy has not yet issued any of the regulations that the Legislature ordered. The minutes of the Board meetings show that the regulations received some discussion last year during Governor Patrick’s administration, but progress was slow, in part because of the Legislature’s requirement that no new regulation can take effect until the agency has prepared a “small business impact statement,” which includes, among other things, an estimate of the number of small businesses subject to the proposed regulation, and an analysis of whether the proposed regulation is likely to deter or encourage the formation of new businesses in the commonwealth.

And now with Governor Baker’s new Executive Order in effect, we won’t be seeing those pharmacy regulations anytime soon. We have other, higher priorities, like getting state government out of the way. And that’s going to be keeping our state agencies very busy — cleaning out their basements.

The Ballad of Stacey Monahan

“Few of us can resist a story of triumph against the odds — this is that kind of story.”

So begins the very flattering account in last month’s issue of Government Technology magazine of how Stacey Monahan, the onetime Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, triumphantly rebuilt public confidence in that beleaguered agency.

Government Technology magazine specializes in stories “about how a specific agency is using software, hardware, a network or some other information technology to improve response time, provide better service and cut costs.” And true to form, the story of Stacey Monahan’s success revolves around her bold embrace of new technological, data-driven solutions for old problems like limited resources and a demoralized workforce. (Indeed, if this story has room for a co-star, that co-star would be data, the building-block of Monahan’s new culture of efficiency and accountability. As in: “An emphasis on data integrity and investments in rebuilding the data warehouse and creating data dashboards helped staff get a data-driven view of the work they were doing.”)

The article informs us that Monahan’s two biggest triumphs were putting photographs on Electronic Benefits Cards and modernizing the food stamp program by introducing electronic document management and a centralized contact number, which in turn allowed her to redistribute the workload of agency employees.

Thus fortified with these information technology breakthroughs, we learn, Monahan’s pragmatic, hands-on approach succeeded in soliciting feedback, empowering staff, rallying stakeholders, engaging multiple constituencies, demonstrating executive stewardship, creating a wide circle of support and delivering outcomes for working families (all the while leaving no human-resources cliche unspoken).

It’s an inspiring story. And if you’re wondering how its author became motivated to set fingers to keyboard to tell it, you might ask him. His name is Matthew Burnham, and he is a public service strategy executive with Accenture, a management consulting company whose clients include the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (While you’re at it, you might ask if a $70,000 payment from the Department of Transitional Assistance to Accenture had anything to do with his interest in Monahan’s story.)

But alas. This tale does not have a happy ending. It turned out that the Electronic Benefits Cards with the photographs on them were not exactly delivering the outcomes for working families that they were supposed to deliver, and in December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture intervened and ordered that the widespread problems be fixed. Then last week, the Globe reported that the once-vaunted electronic document management system, instead of making for happier clients, had all the while been cutting off thousands of eligible residents from their benefits, leaving them unable to buy food. In short, the technological successes that this story is based on were in fact technological disasters.

Not surprisingly, incoming Governor Charlie Baker announced before he had even taken office that Monahan would not be part of the new administration. But Monahan believes strongly in moving things forward until she gets them right. And she has this nice puff piece in Government Technology to accompany her resume (for which she is presumably grateful to the taxpayers). Maybe there’s an organization out there looking for somebody who “communicates a vision effectively at all levels.” An organization where maybe she already has an in. I understand that the Boston Olympics folks are hiring. Seems like an ideal match.

Boston 2024: “Gullibility, What’s Your Policy?”

By now it’s clear to everybody that Boston 2024 is having a public relations crisis over its plan to bring the Olympics here. You’re having a public relations crisis when you need to reverse yourself all of a sudden and come out in favor a public vote on the wisdom of your proposal. You’re having a public relations crisis when you have to retract the $7,500 daily rate promised to former Governor Deval Patrick for schmoozing the members of the International Olympic Committee. And you’re definitely having a public relations crisis when the communications director for the U.S. Olympics Committee offers up this tepid defense of your Twitter output: “Pretty sure they were not deliberately promoting the nazi agenda.”

Fortunately for the Boston 2024 team, its members include specialists in public relations work, such as the marketing firm Hill, Holliday. And fortunately for the rest of us, a preview of the kind of PR blitz we may soon expect in support of Boston 2024 is already available on the Hill, Holliday website. Here they are tooting their horn about a successful marketing campaign they undertook for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (not coincidentally, another member of the Boston 2024 team) a couple years back. I quote from it at some length because — I just could not help myself.

Making a Challenger Brand a Leader

Liberty Mutual…needed a resonant idea that would impact awareness and consideration, magnify its media investment, and drive growth – particularly online.

Liberty Mutual was founded on the belief that the employees were responsible for “helping people live safer and more secure lives.” Internal interviews of everyone from the CEO to the call-center reps confirmed a resounding desire to do the right thing rather than the easy thing. This shared value of responsibility became our resonant idea. It also meant we had found our best customers: “The Responsible Ones” who shared the same values and culture as Liberty Mutual itself.

By going beyond the demographical information to connect the consumer to Liberty Mutual via a shared value of responsibility, we struck a chord that has generated familiarity, fame, and favorability.

Kicking off in 2006, the campaign, tagged with “Responsibility, What’s Your Policy?,” launched with TV, print, a new Web site, and digital focused on people “doing the right thing” versus the easy thing.

The campaign struck a chord and the client was surprised and delighted by hundreds of letters and e-mails thanking them for the effort celebrating responsibility. Customers recognized themselves, employees rallied to the idea, and prospects became customers based on their alignment with this shared value. When it became clear that stakeholders wanted to further engage in this idea, we created a platform for them to continue the conversation.

The ResponsibilityProject.com launched in 2008 and became a program where consumers could seek Liberty Mutual out. We directed people to the site and blog where rich, compelling stories and videos about responsibility were brought to life…

Ah, yes, some favorable press involving compelling stories about responsibility and doing the right thing rather than the easy thing. That sounds just like what Boston 2024 is in the market for about now.

Which brings us to the question of what else was going on at Liberty Mutual during the time that Hill Holliday was orchestrating the “Responsibility, What’s Your Policy?” pitch. As it happens, we know a fair amount about that, thanks to former Globe columnist and current Globe editor Brian McGrory. It seems that most of the time the executives at Liberty Mutual were doing the easy thing rather than the right thing. In a series of nine columns written during two months in 2012 (a sampling of these columns: here, here and here), McGrory detailed Liberty Mutual’s lavish corporate ethic: $50 million in compensation for its CEO, a top-nine executive payroll that exceeded that of the Boston Red Sox starters, $200,000 in compensation for each member of the Board of Directors, five private jets for flights to luxury vacation homes, etc., etc., and all this money coming from the hundreds of thousands of Liberty Mutual policy holders. Then, as now, the Liberty Mutual executives were among a group of friends circulating enormous riches. During the administration of Governor Deval Patrick, now Boston 2024’s ambassador to the International Olympic Committee, the state gave a $22.5 million tax break to Liberty Mutual to build its new headquarters in Boston. Liberty Mutual awarded the contract to renovate its CEO’s executive suite (woven silk wallcoverings from the Netherlands, personal exercise room, price tag $4.5 million) to Suffolk Construction, whose CEO, John Fish, is now the Chairman of Boston 2024. And, back to where we started, the public relations contract with Hill, Holliday, whose CEO is the co-chair of Boston 2024’s public relations and marketing committee.

You get the picture. Boston 2024 is in serious need of a resonant idea right now. Therefore, we’ll soon be hearing of one homespun value or another that will be said to animate our would-be Olympians. If it’s as good as “Responsibility, what’s your policy?” was for Liberty Mutual, maybe the folks at Hill, Holliday will be bragging about it in a few years. Or maybe we’re smarter than that now.

Dear Boston 2024: Just Be Your Rich, Well-connected Selves

After their initial public relations effort was panned as the work of a secretive, hubristic cabal, the folks who want to bring the Olympics to Boston in 2024 have gone back to the huddle to plan a relaunch. Here’s a suggestion, Boston 2024: just be yourselves. For example, let’s see more of the honesty you showed in that pitch you made to wealthy executives, urging them to join the elite Founders 100 Club (admission, $50,000):

Supporting Boston 2024 brings with it the opportunity to network and develop relationships with the businesses, entrepreneurs, and wealthiest individuals in New England – groups who are already working together to bring the Olympic Games to Boston.

As you said elsewhere in that pitch, investing in the Olympics is a smart opportunity. So why not say a little more about why? Like who those “wealthiest individuals in New England” who are already on the Olympics bandwagon are? Just for starters, we know that at least seven of them belong to the wealthiest one-tenth of one percent (measured by Forbes Magazine at $3.8 million annually — “the point at which one achieves orbital velocity and starts to escape earth’s monetary gravitational field”):

  • Bill Teuber, Executive Vice President, EMC Corporation: $6.0 million in 2013
  • Ron Sargent, Chairman and CEO, Staples Corporation: $10.8 million in 2013
  • David Long, Chairman and CEO, Liberty Mutual: $10.9 million in 2013
  • Roger Crandall, President and CEO, Mass Mutual Financial Group: $11.4 million in 2013
  • Jeffrey M. Leiden, Chairman, President and CEO, Vertex Pharmaceuticals: $13.1 million in 2013
  • Joseph L. Hooley, President and CEO, State Street Corporation: $15.8 million in 2013
  • Joseph M. Tucci, Chairman, President and CEO, EMC Corporation: $16.6 million in 2013.

(Not for nothing does Boston’s income inequality score rank us very high among U.S. cities.)

Also, Boston 2024, you should chat up the networking possibilities. After all, one of the reasons the U.S. Olympic Committee picked you over the three other U.S. cities was, to quote the Globe, “the deep interlocking involvement” of political and business leaders here, which the USOC likes because it “gets things done.” Of course, the give-and-go play (Deval Patrick to Richard Davey to Deval Patrick) will probably never be surpassed as a classic of the genre, but it’s just one example. Consider these other deep interlocking involvements:

  • Doug Rubin is a Boston 2024 Member and Founding Partner of Northwind Strategies, which has done lobbying work for Suffolk Construction (John Fish, Boston 2024 Member and President of Suffolk Construction);
  • Karen Kaplan is a Boston 2024 Member and President and CEO of Hill Holliday, which has done public relations work for Liberty Mutual Corporation (David Long, Boston 2024 Member and CEO of Liberty Mutual);
  • David Manfredi is a Boston 2024 Member and Founder and Principal of Elkus-Manfredi Architects, which has provided architectural services for State Street Corporation (Joseph Hooley, Boston 2024 Member and State Street CEO), Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Jeffrey Leiden, Boston 2024 Member and Vertex CEO), and Bentley University (Gloria Larson, Boston 2024 Member and Bentley University President);
  • John Fish is a Boston 2024 Member and President of Suffolk Construction, which built the David Koch Center for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT (Israel Ruiz, Boston 2024 Member and Executive Vice President at MIT), and which has provided construction services for Harvard University (Katie Lapp, Boston 2024 Member and Executive Vice President at Harvard), Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Jeffrey Leiden, Boston 2024 Member and Vertex CEO), Hill Holliday (Karen Kaplan, Boston 2024 Member and President of Hill, Holliday), and Liberty Mutual (David Long, Boston 2024 Member and President of Liberty Mutual).

So to conclude, Boston2024: When you relaunch, just be yourselves. Not so much talk about “living legacies,” “powerful global experiences” and especially “transparency.” You got to your lofty places making money together and that’s one of the reasons why the U.S. Olympic Committee picked you. No sense trying to hide it.

(March 25: Post edited to reflect the fact that the U.S. Olympic Committee, not the International Olympic Committee, chose Boston.)

On Wednesday: More of Robert (DeLeo)’s Rules of Order

In our last episode on the parliamentary wrangling between the chambers of the Massachusetts Legislature, House Speaker Robert DeLeo was insisting that under the Joint House-Senate rules, the House was in charge of deciding if and when any bill would move out of committee (and the Senate was in charge of cleaning the chimney and sweeping the hearth). The Senate had responded by proposing changes to those rules to reflect the position of John Adams, among others, that “the House and the Senate are equal.”

Yesterday, a conference committee of the two chambers met for the first time to try to reach a compromise. It didn’t sound like much progress was made, although House member Ron Mariano did comment on how nice it was to see Senate member Anthony Petruccelli.

Speaker DeLeo’s insistence on the prerogatives he claims for the House (which he refers to as “the committee process”) is often in evidence, dramatically so on one occasion last March when he engaged in a labyrinthine series of maneuvers simply in order to avoid having the House act on a minimum wage bill that the Senate had acted on first. Here’s how he explained why such elaborate choreography was required: “It’s always been my feeling that this piece of legislation or any other piece of legislation must go through the committee process and that’s what this bill did, go through the committee process.”

Well, maybe not always. Like the time the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a criminal statute prohibiting the secret photographing of a nude or partially nude person was not broad enough to encompass the modern invasion of privacy known as “upskirting.” The Legislature put a law broadening the statute on the Governor’s desk the next day. When asked why that bill had not gone through the usual committee process, the Speaker replied that “special circumstances” may justify a departure from the committee process: “What I have heard generally from the public on this particular matter, the outrage that I have heard, I feel very comfortable in having the legislation pass without the so-called committee hearing process.”

Looks like we’ll be seeing some “special circumstances” again at Wednesday’s House session. You might have noticed that the owners of Suffolk Downs racetrack in Revere (which as we know is in Speaker DeLeo’s district) reached an agreement recently to bring horse racing back for a two-year period starting this summer. That would be the first good news for Suffolk Downs, whose bid for a casino license lost out last year, in quite a while. In order for horseracing to come back, though, the Legislature needs to approve. And guess what? The bill that the House is planning to pass on Wednesday (a supplementary funding bill that Governor Baker filed for some accounts running deficits, notably snow removal) was amended by the House Ways and Means Committee today to include the statutory green light that Suffolk Downs needs.

So good luck to the Senate — and to all of us — in figuring out when the House means “the committee process” and when it just means “the so-called committee process.”

Boston 2024: Dispatch From High Up Mount Olympus

I’m up here on Mount Olympus to check in on the gods who are behind the effort to bring the 2024 Olympic games to Boston. The air is a little thin for those of us who are oxygen breathers, but the ambrosia is quite fine.

From up here, you can spot Massachusetts in the distance as an “international beacon for drawing the best and brightest around the globe each year and as a cradle of innovation where you assemble to dream of, and plan for, a better future for all of us.”  Each day, these gods busy themselves  working “closely and collaboratively to better understand the intersection of our city and its citizens in planning a better tomorrow.” The gods say this job starts with “our greatest asset — our people,” so I thought it would be interesting to see the esteem with which some of them have held “our people” of late.

First up, Joseph “Jay” Hooley of State Street Corporation, who is the co-chair of the Boston 2024 Innovation and Technology Committee.

State Street Corporation, a large financial services company with headquarters in Boston, might be familiar to you from the Congressional debate on the Dodd-Frank financial services reform bill in 2010. State Street and other banks persuaded Senator Scott Brown, whose vote was critical to the bill’s passage, to champion a successful effort to loosen the so-called Volcker Rule, which prohibited banks from gambling in the market for their own profit (where the winnings might come, say, from the pockets of their own clients). Senator Brown said at the time that his advocacy on behalf of State Street and other banks would “protect Mass. jobs.” In the years since that statement, State Street has eliminated 2,960 jobs, including many from its Boston headquarters. Meanwhile, the compensation package for CEO Hooley has risen to $15.5 million.

Lest you think that Mr. Hooley’s company has not been responsible for creating any jobs, remember that the city of Boston granted State Street a tax break of $11.5 million, which led to Mr. Hooley’s decision to construct a new waterfront office building in South Boston. That construction project gave temporary employment to about 800 construction workers. Those workers were the employees of Suffolk Construction, whose president, John Fish, also happens to be the Chairman of Boston 2024.

Please pass the ambrosia back.