Sunday, former city councilor Michael F. Flaherty announced that he will run for Boston City Council at Large. After being unsuccessful in dethroning Mayor Menino in 2009, we asked him why he’s returning to the ring.
What brought you to this decision? Who did you consult with? When were you like let’s do it?
It was really a process for me. It’s been the last several months going across the city talking to the city residents and to community leaders whether it was in their respective neighborhoods, at skating rinks, ball fields and out and around the community, just gauging what they thought. What I heard across the city is that there needs to be a strong independent voice on the council to challenge this administration on the big picture issues.
What I heard consistently across the city is that they did not feel there was an alternative voice or alternative message. They feel all too often the Boston City Counsel is concerned with playing small ball and no one is projecting the big issues. The strength of the council, particularly in a strong mayor form of government is its advocacy. Its strength is driven by the ability to raise important issues and to propose policy alternatives.
I would argue that’s not happening as much as I would like as a resident and as a father raising children, and also as a taxpayer.
That’s really the consistent theme that I was hearing across the city, they appreciated my efforts. I left a very comfortable and safe seat on the city council. I felt it was important to raise a level of discussion and debate in our city to tackle the critical issues.
The need for more quality educational opportunities, violent crime, particularly youth violent crime, the substance abuse epidemic that is scarring every neighborhood in Boston, and also the opaque and shadowy development process, where it really depends on who you know and who you hire as to whether or not you get fast tracked to get a permit. Or if you don’t hire the right people your project is stalled.
At the end of the day that’s unacceptable.
Often times when people go to a community meeting and they raise an objection or have a question, they are ostracized and vilified, quite frankly, by administration officials. This is unacceptable, particularly in Boston in 2011.
This is not Yemen.
People are entitled to their opinions, they are residents, they are taxpayers, they are Boston’s greatest asset. When someone shows up at a community meeting or a city hall and raises an objection or has a question they should be welcomed and invited. You don’t necessarily need to agree all the time. If you just give them the opportunity, you may learn something, and it may be a diamond in the rough, if you will, to find a creative solution.
We boast of having the best colleges and universities and hospitals in the world, where we’re home to a lot of bright, talented people, yet often times that talent is stifled in our city. They leave.
They’re leaving because there is not enough quality schools.
Think about our public schools, the fact that we don’t have enough quality schools. We boast of having the best colleges and universities. Not only will our kids not be able to compete in those schools, they won’t even be able to get into the schools.
That’s a driving factor, how do we improve the quality of education? Just look at my race for mayor, the fact that I ran for mayor and put pressure on this administration, for the first time in the mayor’s 18 years he’s embracing charter schools. Charter schools is not a new phenomenon, charter schools have been in the city for many, many years, with absolutely no dialogue whatsoever from the administration. I put a lot of pressure on the fact that we need more quality educational opportunities. Young families are leaving the city because there are not enough quality schools, or because they didn’t get the school of their choice, or they didn’t get the school that’s closest to their home.
All of these things that have happened during this administration.
If not for my run for mayor, I would argue and suggest that the dialogue that currently exists with this administration and the charter school folks wouldn’t be happening.
There was a number of factors that went into my decision to run for the city council. I know I can be an effective leader on the city counsel, I know I can make a difference for people of Boston, I have the experience obviously as a former member, but also having run for mayor and realizing that there is an important role for an independent voice. It’s not to be contrarian, clearly there will be times when I would be willing to work closely with the administration and with colleagues.
At the end of the day the council all too often is marginalized. If you don’t vote the way that the mayor votes, you’re not going to get any constituent services service, you’re not going to get summer jobs, you’re not going to have a department head or commissioner call you back.
You need to do what the people of Boston elected you to do, and the council is the legislative branch of city government.
It’s the last stop, it’s the checks and balance on the CEO of the city. Going along to get along is not acceptable, that was really driven by the folks that I talked to across the city over the last several months.
I finalized my decision this weekend and we notified everybody yesterday and went to city hall yesterday and signed for papers.
You’ve had a decade or more experience on the council. What have you done or what did the council do that maybe people don’t know as much about?
Some of the things we proposed in terms of the council: creating more schools for kindergarten, creating more advanced work programs in the Boston public schools. I filed some very important and strict public safety measures particularly around the gun violence, assault weapon ban here in the city. There are a number of things that I know I have done personally and as well as other councilors, you have a lot of bright spots there.
Councilor Mike Ross has been creative over the years, councilor Rob Consalvo, just to name a couple off the top of my head that have done some very important things for the residents of the city of Boston. I’m looking forward to a spirited debate in this upcoming election, I’m going to raise those very important issues that people are talking about at their kitchen tables in their homes on a daily basis, and get focused on projecting those big issues as we talk about how do we make Boston a better place for everyone.
Have you talked to Sam Yoon lately? Do you stay in touch with him?
His birthday was not too long ago, my birthday was not too long ago, we sort of exchanged phone calls around our birthdays. We drop each other lines on occasion. He’s down in D.C. he seems to like what he’s doing in terms of the job. I can speak for him, he definitely misses Boston, and quite frankly wishes that he never had to move, but after having run for mayor I think that there was a tremendous amount of pressure, and he was having difficulty finding a job because the administration seemed to be going out of their way to prevent that from happening.
Unfortunately, once again we lose a young, bright, talented individual from our city.
With that said, that location is a lot closer to his wife’s family, his kids are good, they matriculated back in school, they definitely miss Boston as well. I will tell him you were asking for him when I talk to him again.
What role should the press take? Is it all about endorsements?
It’s less about the endorsements as it is the coverage. The fact that The Weekly Dig is at least covering the race for city council, your readers will be informed, one that there is an election, two, who the candidates are, three, what they stand for, what are their positions, which is all great for democracy. At the end of the day the readers are going to make the decision on their own, clearly they are going to read your editorial and it may or may not influence them, but the most important thing for the Weekly Dig at least in my perspective is that you cover this race, that you continue to write about the important issues that face our city, and the people know where the candidates stand on those particular issues.
As a candidate there is nothing more, that you can ask for from a media outlet, particularly a newspaper. People are reading it on their way to work, or on their coffee break, or after work, or on weekends. It’s an important thing and you are giving people food for thought, and that helps drive turn-out up, and at the end of the day turn-out’s good, when people come out and exercise their right to vote, everyone wins.
When is the actual election day?
The final election is November the eighth, we’re not sure whether there will be a preliminary. In order to have a preliminary you need to have at least nine candidates qualified for the ballot. Qualifying for the ballot means you need to go out and get fifteen good signatures from registered voters. For some that may be easier for others. In the very near future the election (something?) will make a decision as to who’s qualified. If more than nine have qualified that will trigger what is called a preliminary, and there will obviously be a date in September.
But the final election is etched in stone as Tuesday, November 8th.
Are you going to watch the Celtics and the Heat tonight?
Always. The Celtics, and obviously Bruins, and I’m a Red Sox fan. We need to at least tie the series up tonight for sure. If we can tie the series up tonight, maybe get some momentum coming our way, and if we can pluck a game, particularly the next game down in Miami we might actually be able to wrap it up in game six. I have a hunch that this thing could potentially go seven. I worry about game seven, obviously we have an aging fleet if you will, and game seven didn’t treat us well last year, with the Lakers, and you could really start to see the fatigue factor for the Celtics. If we can get these guys off our tail by game six I think we will be able to benefit from a couple days rest for the next opponent.
Do you have an opinion as to where the Bill Russell statue should go?
I think it’s long overdue for sure, and I think it makes the most sense to have it down where a lot of Boston basketball aficionados will be, so somewhere down near the Garden, would probably make the most sense. I know there are some other statues down around there as well.
If you go to other major cities like Montreal is the home of hockey if you will, there is almost a shrine that is right at the Bell Centre. They have a museum that’s basically attached to the arena. Those are sort of fitting locations where you have sports fans, people who are going to the game who came into to the game early, they take their kids there. It wouldn’t make sense to not have it down there there, if you put it in another location it’s like, “Oh we’re going to the Celtics game, but first let’s travel all the way to the other part of the city, let’s see the Bill Russell shrine, or statue, and then let’s come back to the game.”
It makes sense to have it where a lot of Celtics aficionados come to go to the game.
I would hope somewhere down there at the Garden off of Causeway would be an acceptable location for it. Obviously the team has to have some input as well as Bill Russell and his family.
[For the latest information about Michael Flaherty, visit michaelflaherty.com]