Mike and I had City Councilor - and candidate for Mayor - Mike Flaherty on LeftAhead today for a full podcast. As I did with the Sam Yoon segment, I let Mike do most of the talking - as he's lived in the city for almost as long as I've been alive and clearly has a better grasp of all things Boston.
I will admit, I knew very little about Flaherty before the segment, viewing him as the stereotypical machine union guy. Assumptions are a dangerous thing. Despite the city and state temperature at the time, he was the first person on the city council to come out for marriage equality over domestic unions or more overt forms of bigotry. Like Yoon, Flaherty makes the clear case that Menino's had 16 years to do something about the city's problems in education and violent crime, with no real improvement.
I was particularly impressed with Flaherty's handle on violence - he was very specific there and explained just why and how the violence rate spiked and how he could actually go in and fix it. I don't know if I've heard a better explanation. It should have been an incredibly wonky conversation, but he's certainly not the mumbling type and explained things in such a way that anyone would get it. As he made his case, it quickly became clear that his prosecutorial background was an asset. His most damaging line on the Mayor -- the fact that during Menino's tenure, approximately a thousand people have been murdered in the streets of Boston.
Flaherty quickly referenced what I harped on a few days ago, the absurdity that the Boston Police Department was more worried about Mumbai-styled attacks than the murderers currently running rampant in the streets. Whereas I was unsure of whether or not Menino deserved to stay, speaking to his two city council rivals has convinced me that it's time for a fundamental change.
Another impressive area for Flaherty was revenue and funding -- which was surprising, since he's a 'reform before revenue' guy. Normally, that's a lame slogan meant to block change and cut, cut, cut rather than deal with uncomfortable realities. However, Flaherty was one of the first people who have harped on finding efficiencies and actually brought examples and ideas showing how he'd do it. For example, he's not willing to go and ask citizens and small businesses for more taxes now, while the city's universities and colleges are acting the part of deadbeat dads - clearly not paying their fair share, as they gobble more and more of Boston's real estate (Non-property-taxpaying nonprofits now own over 50% of the city's property). Another idea: shift money spent on empty buses to more tutoring or other real school needs -- these empty buses represent at least 5% of Boston's education budget, perhaps more. No chump change.
He's probably not a 'movement progressive' as I like to identify, but he's good on the issues and his detailed knowledge, ideas on crime as well as commitment to empowering Boston through bringing it to the 21st Century were impressive (Voicemail? Statistical analysis? Boston?!). If I could add Yoon's depth on education to Flaherty's commitment to ending youth violence, there'd be a perfect candidate. As it stands, there's at least two people in this race who are ready to bring much-needed change to Boston, with more to come on LeftAhead.
Note: there's a special podcast this Thursday featuring BMG's Sabutai on the convention platform. It'll be live at 3:30, or on the website and itunes thereafter.