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Flaherty, Menino face off in first mayoral debate with Yoon on sidelines

Incumbent Mayor Thomas Menino called his challengers’ combined mayoral ticket ‘jobs for votes’ at Thursday’s first mayoral debate for the Nov. 3 election.

‘You don’t make appointments and deals during a campaign,’ Menino said about City Councilor-At-Large Michael Flaherty’s announcement Tuesday to run on a ‘joint ticket’ with fellow councilor Sam Yoon. If elected, Yoon would serve as deputy mayor to Flaherty.

Although Yoon did not appear on the informal televised WCVB debate, he tweeted from inside the studio, where Flaherty and Menino discussed Boston’s education system, safety and deleted emails within City Hall.

Yoon tweeted back to Menino’s comment on the combined campaign, saying he was the ‘worst offender’ at ‘trading jobs for votes.’

‘The mayor will say anything to stand in the way of progress,’ Flaherty said, adding that Menino’s comments were ‘distasteful and a little mean-spirited.’

Menino was forced to address the deleted email controversy for the first time in a debate and insisted the emails weren’t deleted to hide anything.

‘We always thought they were backed up at City Hall,’ Menino said. ‘This will not happen ever again.’

In regard to the email content, Menino denied he was being ‘autocratic’ despite one email that claimed he ‘blew up’ at environmental activist Valerie Burns and another that said he kept Greater Boston Labor Council official Rich Rogers on his ‘naughty list.’

‘I won’t be keeping a naughty list, that’s for sure,’ Flaherty said.

Moderator Janet Wu addressed more personal matters when asking Flaherty about a piece of land his father was developing and allegedly failed to maintain.

‘My father is not running for mayor of Boston, I am,’ Flaherty said. Menino said he would not get into Flaherty’s family issues.

Public safety was again an issue, but this time on the college level. The Daily Beast recently ranked Emerson College, in downtown Boston, as the most dangerous college in America and the candidates were asked how to convince parents that Boston is safe for college students.

Menino disputed the ranking, but admitted ‘we have some problems down there.’

Flaherty blamed a rise in youth violence on drug use.

‘We have a substance abuse epidemic happening in Boston,’ he said.

Both candidates said education was one way to combat the drug problem, but agreed on little else concerning education.

Flaherty proposed cutting overpaid consultants and transportation costs to save money in the school system and also said that of those students who manage to graduate high school, ‘most of them drop out after the first year [of college].’

Menino defended the public school system.

‘We have 10 percent more kids applying this year,’ he said. ‘That must tell you something about the Boston Public School System, we’re improving.’

Wu said 8,000 students are on a wait list for Boston’s 14 charter schools, which Flaherty called embarrassing, and said he’d argue that 100 of Boston’s 144 public schools are underperforming.

‘There has not been leadership in Boston for over 16 years on the charter issue,’ he said.

Flaherty supports eliminating the cap on charter schools.

‘We don’t need more schools, just better schools,’ Menino said in opposition.

A large portion of the debate focused on the Boston Firefighters Union and its call for a dedicated Hazmat team.

Menino argued Boston already had five trained Hazmat units and the union is just trying to avoid discussing random drug and alcohol testing in contract negotiations.

Flaherty said he would ‘never play politics with public safety,’ and criticized the mayor for opposing a dedicated Hazmat unit while supporting the Boston University Medical School’s Biosafety Level-4 Lab.

‘You just never know when someone is hell-bent on wreaking havoc on a neighborhood or city,’ Flaherty said.

The next debate between Flaherty and Menino will be Oct. 19 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.?

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