City, News

Candidates divided on finance, technology at forum

Just hours before the Ward 4 and 5 Democratic Committee’s forum, Mayor Thomas Menino’s challengers stood outside City Hall calling for criminal investigation into allegations of improperly deleted mayoral emails.

But in the forum at Boston Architectural College, Boston Phoenix moderator David Bernstein did not ask about the controversy, leaving the issue largely unaddressed by the candidates.

This came as a surprise to City Councilor-At-Large Sam Yoon.

‘This is something that should concern all of us,’ Yoon told The Daily Free Press after the forum.

But he said the format of the forum may have prohibited debate. No rebuttals were allowed, so Yoon, City Councilor-At-Large Michael Flaherty, businessman Kevin McCrea and Menino went one-by-one to a podium to respond to Bernstein’s questions.

Boston’s financial situation was again on the forefront, but for the first time candidates were asked to consider casino gambling as a solution to the city’s fiscal problems.

Though he did not address the issue during the forum, Menino told The Free Press in an interview afterwards that he supports casino gambling and wants an ‘entertainment destination’ at Suffolk Downs in East Boston.

His opponents, however, were united against casinos in Boston.

‘When you exploit under-sourced communities to generate revenue, that’s not real economic development,’ Yoon said.

McCrea said a casino in Boston would increase the rates of gambling addiction.

‘We’d fill up Boston Garden with 15,000 gambling addicts,’ he said.

McCrea also broke with the mayor and the other candidates on the issue of private donors helping to fund public parks.

‘Public parks are public parks,’ McCrea said. ‘It’s not time to throw away public control over public parks.’

Yoon, Flaherty and Menino were all in favor of using private money to fund public parks in some cases.

‘That’s what you have to do today when you don’t have the finances you had in the past,’ Menino said.

A question about using new technology to increase efficiency led to attacks on the mayor from his challengers about the lack of such technology at City Hall. It also provided a chance to bring up the email controversy.

‘We don’t have voicemail at City Hall. We heard today emails get deleted,’ Yoon said. ‘There’s confusion about the basic technology of email in the city.’

‘Judging from the last 24 hours, I’d make the case that [Boston Management and Information Services] should go,’ Flaherty said.

The candidates will meet two more times before the Sept. 22 primary. A Sept. 16 forum will be held at East Boston Social Centers, and on Sept. 17 the second MassVOTE forum is set to take place at English High School in Jamaica Plain.

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