Voters are heading to the polls Tuesday to decide if incumbent Mayor Thomas Menino deserves a fifth term, or if City Councilor-At-Large Michael Flaherty has made the case for change at Boston’s City Hall.
Menino has served as mayor since 1993, and many are saying this is his toughest reelection fight to date. Menino finished with more votes than his three challengers combined in the Sept. 22 primary at 51 percent. Flaherty ended up with 24 percent of the vote, three points ahead of City Councilor-At-Large Sam Yoon. South Boston businessman Kevin McCrea was a distant fourth with 4 percent of the vote.
In late September, Flaherty shook up the race between himself and the mayor by announcing that former challenger Yoon would be joining him on the ticket as future deputy mayor, a move that Menino characterized as ‘jobs for votes.’
McCrea endorsed the Flaherty-Yoon ticket, widely dubbed ‘Floon,’ on Oct. 30.
In the 2005 mayoral election, Menino debated his opponent, City Councilor-At-Large Maura Hennigan, just once on television. This year, Menino has debated his opponents four times in televised debates, in addition to several candidate forums.
The issue of transparency was thrust into the spotlight on Sept. 13 after a Boston Globe investigation revealed Menino’s Chief of Policy and Planning Michael Kineavy was potentially violating state public records law by deleting emails before they could be saved on the city’s backup servers.
In a press conference at City Hall, Flaherty, Yoon and McCrea demanded an investigation into the deleted emails and called for an end to the mayor’s ‘culture of corruption.’
Menino has called the charges of corruption from his challengers a ‘political move,’ and blamed the deleted emails on a ‘glitch in the system.’ Attorney General Martha Coakley, also a candidate for the United States Senate seat vacated by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, is investigating the email controversy, but has said the investigation will not be complete by the Nov. 3 election.
On education, Menino has boasted that 75 percent of Boston Public Schools students go on to college and that the dropout rate fell by 33 percent during his tenure. Flaherty gave the mayor a grade of ‘F’ on his education policies at an Oct. 19 debate, and has stated that 100 out of 143 Boston Public Schools are underperforming.
Menino wants to transform underperforming public schools into ‘in-district’ charter schools, but Flaherty opposes having new charter schools being controlled by the School Committee, whose members are appointed by Menino.
Menino’s support of the Biosafety Level-4 Laboratory has also drawn fire from Flaherty. Menino spokesman Nick Martin has said the mayor supports BSL-4 for its potential contributions toward Boston’s science-based economy, but Flaherty has said he is concerned about safety.
Though Flaherty originally supported BSL-4, saying he was told it would be as safe as a ‘submarine in a vault,’ he has reversed his position because Boston does not have a comprehensive evacuation plan.
Flaherty has promised to reform the Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes program, arguing that different universities are not necessarily paying their fair dues. Menino has formed a PILOT task force to investigate the fairness of the program, but has said in debates that institutions give back to the city in other ways, such as through scholarships.