No 'Flynn-flamming' on Boston city services, as mayor fills key jobs
Boston is a proud city, and no Bostonian is prouder than Raymond L. Flynn. But the new mayor's pride - indeed that of every caring citizen - has to pause in view of some poor report cards recently handed out by the dozen task forces he appointed to review the quality of municipal services.
While Mayor Flynn can hardly be faulted for any of the shortcomings spotlighted in the various critiques, it is his responsibility to bring about changes that will earn passing grades from neighborhoods and the business community.
Obviously there is a lot to be done, including some unfinished business from the previous city administration. It is unrealistic to expect that Mayor Flynn, as well-intentioned as he may be, can within a period of months successfully come to grips with the broad range of challenges facing the city and his administration. Yet reasonable progress can be made in several directions - and without the expenditure of additional hard-to-come-by municipal dollars.
There is no shortage of recommendations for both short-term and long-range improvements in the operation of city government and its response to various needs, including public safety, social services, and human rights.
Although Mayor Flynn, quite understandably, may go slowly in committing himself to follow various task force suggestions, there is little doubt that each will be given more-than-casual consideration. And within the next few weeks it should become increasingly apparent to what extent Flynn is committed to implementing some of the more significant recommendations, especially in the area of municipal personnel practices.
It might be noted that some of the suggestions embraced in the reports by the panels of specialists and just plain citizens are in a direction the mayor had already been moving from the outset of his administration. On Jan. 2, for example, as his first act upon taking the oath of office, he issued an executive order providing for equal job opportunities and pay for women doing the same job as men on the city payroll.
With the roster of Flynn appointees still perhaps far from complete, particularly evident has been the mayor's ongoing determination to bring not only more women but more members of minority groups onto his team than in past administrations.
Rosemarie Sansone, a former city councilor and one of Flynn's top campaign advisers, is director of economic development and cultural affairs. Carmen Pola, a highly respected activist in the Hispanic community, heads his office of constituent services.
While it is uncertain to what extent blacks and other minorities will increase their ranks overall on the municipal payroll in the coming months, it appears they will be more plentiful in top-level posts.
Two of the four key posts on the administration's fiscal-management hierarchy are George A. Russell Jr., the new collector-treasurer, and city auditor Leon P. Stamps, the first blacks to hold these posts. Like many other high-ranking Flynn appointees, they came from positions of responsibility in business or industry. Mr. Russell, for instance, was vice-president of a major Boston bank. They were chosen from dozens interviewed by a screening committee and the mayor.
As might be expected with any new administration, especially one so different in style and approach from its predecessor, the number of holdovers in major municipal posts is small. Most of the department heads under former Mayor Kevin H. White had long since packed their bags or are now on their way out. A few, however, like Robert McCoy, commissioner of the Parks and Recreation Department, and Paul S. Grogan, director of the city's Neighborhood Development and Employment Agency, are being kept on.
The arrival of new department heads, particularly ones who got their jobs on the basis of what they know rather than who they know, could go a long way toward raising the level of municipal employee morale, which the task forces found generally low. But more action may be needed, including increased promotional opportunities, again based on merit instead of political connections.
The politicizing of municipal civil-service niches by the White administration was decried by the Flynn task forces, which made a strong pitch for ridding the Boston payroll of patronage.
Mayor Flynn appears to have made some strong moves in that direction, including hiring some upper-echelon aides who supported other mayoral contenders in last fall's election. This is not to suggest, however, that doors have been closed to Flynn loyalists and friends. His campaign manager, Raymond Dooley, is the city's director of administrative services, a post second only to the mayor in rank and responsibility.
For now, at least, those hired by the Flynn administration are being paid less - sometimes quite a bit less - than their predecessors under Mayor White. Flynn press secretary Frank Costello gets $40,000 a year, in contrast with the $ 54,000 paid George Regan, who preceded him.
If Mayor Flynn is to retain a high measure of credibility, he may have little choice but to keep a check on municipal personnel costs, especially the compensation of various aides.
The tighter a fiscal ship he runs, the more dollars available for improving, perhaps even expanding, various city services such as public safety, street cleaning, programs for the elderly, and municipal equipment and facilities.