Friday, January 23, 2015

Notes From the First Boston 2024 Citizens Advisory Group Meeting

Boston 2024 hosted its first Citizens Advisory Group ("CAG") Meeting on January 21, 2015 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The purpose of this meeting was to reach a broader public audience and to go live with the materials presented to the United States Olympic Committee. The Executive Director of Boston 2024 said that her goals were to answer questions, demonstrate proof of concept, and explain how the Olympics fit into the future of the City of Boston.

Most people attended this meeting for one of three reasons: 1) to show support and enthusiasm for bringing the 2024 Summer Olympics to Boston, 2) to express serious opposition for a variety of reasons, and 3) to learn more. As a graduate of the UMass Sport Management program and a former professional athlete, I fell primarily into categories one and three. I must admit, however, that the lawyer in me had some questions about bringing the Games to Boston -- namely concerning a lack of public input, economic impact, public safety, congestion, transportation, and waste. The good news is that many of my questions were answered at the meeting and any unanswered questions will be addressed on the Boston 2024 website.

During the meeting, I took some furious notes because I wanted to be able to report some of the highlights from the meeting on this blog. For instance, it appears that there was a shift in attitude towards Boston 2024 from the beginning to the end of the meeting. I overheard a group of individuals say that the meeting was a complete "game changer" for them. The openness of the committee alleviated their concerns about transparency. Seeing the plans for the Games answered their questions about transportation, waste, public safety and so on.

The CAG meeting was expertly run and the outcome was seemingly positive. Most of the meeting focused on why the Olympics and Paralympic Games should come to Boston in 2024. The committee explained how the Games are a catalyst for economic growth in the areas of transportation, housing, and job creation. The presentation by the Chief Architect of the games, David Manfredi, was impressive. His plans for Boston 2024 focused on three important goals: 1) designing the Olympics with the shared vision for the future of the city in mind, 2) partnering with the terrific universities in and around Boston, and 3) providing an extraordinary experience. He creatively designed a "walkable Olympics" with 28 of the 33 venues located within a 6.2 mile radius. Manfredi broke Boston down into smaller cities or "neighborhoods" for the purpose of the games: the Waterfront City, Midtown, the University City, and the International Plaza. Each will be responsible for hosting a series of events. For instance, the opening and closing ceremonies will be located at Widett Circle in Midtown -- the current site of the Boston Tow lot. The Charles River will feature hospitality barges, and beach volleyball will be held on the Boston Common. There are plans to create residential dormitories at UMass Boston to house many of the athletes. Following the games, these same dorms will be used to house students -- so exciting for UMass Boston! Most of the venues will utilize existing structures or be built for temporary use. The olympic stadium itself will be removed following the games to allow for a brand new neighborhood to exist in Boston. I recognize that many of these plans may change, but I am excited about the possibilities.

One of my favorite parts of the meeting included a brief presentation by Reverend Brown. He talked about the power of sport in the Boston community as a firsthand witness. He explained how sport is a "cauldron that melts relationship barriers" and Boston 2024 is an opportunity to bring people together.

Boston Olympian, Ruben Sanca, explained how the Olympics are a tool that can be used to inspire young athletes. He said that Olympians share three commonalities: 1) a strong belief in self, 2) interesting stories and struggles, and 3) all were inspired by other athletes before and during their own athletic careers. Sanca claims that hosting the Olympics in Boston will create new athletes and bring the community to a place it has never been before.

The question and answer session after the presentation was surprisingly calm and organized. I found it interesting that all of the recent Games held in the United States had a net positive economic impact. I enjoyed learning about how the International Olympic Committee has recently redefined its goals to include sustainability. The committee hopes that the Games will create 70,000 new jobs and 100,000 volunteer opportunities within the City of Boston. Further, it insists that there will be no adverse impact on housing. The hope is that housing will be created rather than eliminated as there is already a housing shortage in Boston. There were several comments on the topic of transportation after attendees expressed concerns about congestion. Meeting participants were reminded of how the Olympics typically take place in July and August when Boston students are out of town and people are on vacation. This means that the roads are already less crowded. In addition, many people will change their behavior during the Olympics and stay away. Plans may also be implemented to manage transportation problems during the registration and ticketing processes. For instance, London athletes received parking passes and directions upon signing up for the 2012 Games in effort to prevent overcrowding and parking problems. The committee also confirmed that public funds will not be utilized to present the Games. Further, no private lands will be taken by eminent domain. Few private lands will be needed because most of the events will utilize existing venues on a temporary basis. In addition, the committee explained how any use of private property will be negotiated in good faith and fair market prices will be paid.

Another CAG meeting will be held on Monday, February 23rd in Roxbury. The next step in the planning process is to put together the bid for the International Olympic Committee. In the meantime, I look forward to reviewing the recently released Boston 2024 documents and hopefully getting more involved from a legal perspective.

Event Planning for Your Future

Event planning is not just for professionals. You probably manage events in your everyday life. Getting your toddler out the door in the morning is a special event in and of itself. Like lawyers and event planners, others need to demonstrate certain traits and skills when making life choices and preparing for the future -- namely flexibility, organization, time management, foresight, and so on. Unfortunately, life can be full of surprises and people need to be prepared to manage these situations in the same thoughtful manner as someone responsible for the Olympics or the Boston Marathon. By identifying some of the more common life events and planning for the various possibilities in advance, people can more easily escape life's major and minor challenges unscathed. So let's discuss. 

When anticipating future events, you should ask yourself: 
  • What events do you want to happen or avoid? 
  • What is the likelihood that an event will occur? 
  • When in life will an event possibly occur?
  • How will this event impact my life for the better or worse? 
  • What events may affect your parents, children and other loved ones (as these affect you too)?
While you are pondering these questions, you may want to review my short, non-comprehensive list of common and/or high impact life events below and take some of these into consideration in planning for your future. 
  • Illness / chronic pain / depression
  • Addiction
  • Bankruptcy
  • Adolescence / puberty
  • Education
  • Divorce / separation
  • Aging parent
  • Accidents / injury
  • Pregnancy / birth / adoption
  • Empty nest
  • Death (of loved one)
  • Career change
  • Love
  • Marriage
  • Relocation
  • Home purchase
  • Confrontation with authority 
  • Crime (perpetrator or victim)
  • Environmental shifts
  • Fame
  • Financial pressures
  • Menopause
  • Mid-life crisis
  • Natural and man-made disasters
  • Retirement
  • Inheritance
  • Starting or selling a business
Events occur throughout life, and some events pack a greater punch than others. It may be beneficial to connect with a knowledgeable attorney before one or more of these life events occur because there is a myriad of legal documents available to help you prepare for and deal with such events. 

The Law Office of Kathryn A. Kellett takes pride in drafting many of these documents (i.e., simple wills and trusts, health care proxy, durable power of attorney, etc.) for clients. It can be very rewarding when a client comes in with a concern about a potential life event and walks away with peace of mind. 

Event Planning: From a Legal Perspective

Despite all the planning and energy that goes into preparing for an event, event managers face a lot of surprises. What happens when the band doesn't show up to perform? What happens if the venue burns down? What happens if it rains on your wedding day? What happens if someone trips on the corner of the stage and falls face first onto their wine glass, breaking their glasses (true story)!? What if . . . . what if . . . what if!?

Good event planners take into consideration the potential for major disasters in addition to some of the common things that may go awry. If contingency strategies are in place, last minute decisions can be made more easily and problems are much more navigable. Attention to details up front can make a world of difference in managing potential curveballs.

Lawyers and event planners share similar goals in the sense that both must exhibit an ability to prevent and defuse explosive situations. Both jobs require analytical skills, creativity, interpersonal skills, logical thinking, flexibility, organization, passion, and time management among other traits. For many event managers, preparations begin with pre-planning, budgeting and booking, before focusing on food and beverage, audiovisual requirements, marketing and the like. From a legal perspective, however, successful event planning starts with identifying both the obvious and unforeseeable risks that may arise. This involves attention to basic contractual principles. Agreements must be negotiated and drafted, clearly defining the responsibilities of all parties in relation to the special event. A good contract will also address liability, insurance, and indemnity, and incorporate contingencies to address some of the potential crises mentioned above. Beyond contracting with staff, volunteers, performers, sponsors, venues, and contractors, event managers should obtain relevant licenses and permits, protect intellectual property, and comply with local, state and federal laws, etc. 

Now, this post has addressed some of the legal issues in the event industry, but it is important to note that the risks may vary depending on the type of event. For instance, there may be special considerations for those organizing a sport event, a nonprofit event, a promotional event, or a life event. Finding a lawyer who is familiar with the many nuances and intricacies of event planning is crucial to organizing a solid event and obtaining peace of mind throughout the event planning process.