Menino: Challengers are ‘misleading voters’
In their first joint interview with a Boston newspaper, mayoral candidate Michael Flaherty and his would-be “deputy mayor,” Sam Yoon, met today exclusively with the Gazette. Touting their unusual joint campaign, they took shots at incumbent Thomas Menino and pledged a more open, collaborative City Hall.
“I’m giving folks a snapshot of what a Flaherty administration will look like,” Flaherty said of his team-up with Yoon, his former competitor for the Mayor’s Office.
Yoon said Flaherty’s collaborative approach convinced him to join Flaherty’s campaign. “The first thing Michael said is, ‘Together, we can change Boston,’” Yoon said. “It was interesting how he framed it. It wasn’t, ‘I need your help.’”
Yoon said that is different from normal Boston politics, which are “always about taking credit…Tom Menino is primo example Number One.”
Menino spokesperson Nick Martin blasted Flaherty and Yoon’s particular brand of collaboration, saying their campaign is “absolutely misleading to voters of Boston” because Yoon would be an employee, not a candidate on the ballot. There currently is no “deputy mayor” position.
“Furthermore, Councilor Flaherty is brokering deals before even winning anything,” Martin said. “It’s not enough to talk about change when this seems to be such a clear example of political patronage.”
Jamaica Plain, where Flaherty and Yoon combined beat Menino in the preliminary vote totals, is a key battleground neighborhood. “It’s huge,” Flaherty said, predicting a bigger turnout of young, professional and progressive voters in the final.
Flaherty and Yoon appeared comfortable in their joint appearance at the Gazette office, frequently joking together and nodding at each other’s comments. Flaherty took the lead in speaking, but let Yoon have the floor for long periods, and Yoon appeared comfortable jumping in with his own comments.
Tossing aside his more polite persona from the preliminary race, Flaherty slung some hardballs at Menino. “I think our ‘urban mechanic’ needs a tune-up,” he cracked, referring to one of Menino’s favorite self-descriptions.
Flaherty hammered several of his key complaints about Menino’s administration: underperforming schools, outdated technology, backroom deal-making, rising youth violence and lack of resident employment on local construction projects.
“Sam’s name can be on the signs,” Flaherty joked at another point, referring to Menino’s name appearing on virtually every city building or sign.
“He doesn’t have an agenda other than making sure he stays in power forever,” Yoon said of Menino, saying the lack of attention has harmed Boston Public Schools, among other aspects of government.
It remains unclear exactly what Yoon would do as “deputy mayor.” It cannot be a vice-president type of position, because the city charter does not allow that. Flaherty suggested that Menino’s effective deputy mayor is his current right-hand man, Michael Kineavy, who is chief of policy and planning, a position that Yoon said sounds good. Kineavy is embroiled in a scandal for deleting e-mails that were public records.
Flaherty and Yoon both noted that Yoon’s resume includes community planning and housing development. Yoon noted one of Flaherty’s key goals is eliminating the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which would take someone with planning expertise.
Both men denied any pre-election discussion about the idea of a joint campaign, even though local City Councilor John Tobin predicted it weeks ago in the press, inventing the term “Floon.”
Kevin McCrea, the third challenger to Menino in the preliminary, has yet to endorse anyone. Tobin suggested to the Gazette this week that “McFloon” is coming soon.
But McCrea told the Gazette he will not endorse anyone until he meets with Flaherty, possibly next week. A government transparency advocate who successfully sued Flaherty and the rest of the Boston City Council for Open Meeting Law violations, he presumably will seek promises about open government.
Flaherty has apologized for the Open Meeting Law violations and credited the lawsuit with inspiring his own open government positions. During the campaign, McCrea accused Flaherty and Yoon, who are both Boston city councilors, of continuing to make back-room deals, and at one point made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for their City Hall e-mails.
Flaherty told the Gazette that he and Yoon will meet with McCrea. “I think we’re on the same side” on transparency issues, Flaherty said.
But Yoon leaped in with negative comments about the value of a McCrea endorsement.
“Campaign [and] political experts will tell you, you can put the name Donald Duck on the ballot and you’d get the same number of votes as McCrea…It’s sort of the ‘screw you’ vote,” Yoon said. “But there are tons of people out there who believe the same things Kevin does, but are willing to work with government to make that happen.”
Flaherty spokesperson Natasha Perez jumped in quickly to note how open Flaherty is to hearing different viewpoints, suggesting McCrea would be heard out.
Still, Flaherty and Yoon continued joking. “We’ll create a position called the Division of Kevin McCrea Information Requests,” Yoon joked. Flaherty quickly added that a better name would be “McFOIA.”
For more from the interview with Flaherty and Yoon, see the Oct. 9 issue of the Gazette.