Hard-Working Mayor Heads For Third Term in Boston
TWO-TERM Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn (D) is riding high at a time when this city is facing yearly budget cuts, shrinking state local-aid money, and a long-term regional recession.Last month, Mayor Flynn won 67 percent of the vote in the city's preliminary mayoral election, beating out both of his opponents in their own home precincts. And as the November mayoral election approaches, Flynn is enjoying widespread popular support both as a local leader and national urban spokesman. "Massachusetts finds itself in the most serious recession it's endured since the 1930s," says Tom Kiley, a Boston-based political consultant. "All around us are signs of economic collapse, and here is a long-term [mayor] winning overwhelmingly in spite of those conditions. That's very unusual." In the September preliminary election, Flynn won a landslide victory against Boston Teacher's Union president Edward Doherty and a black community activist, the Rev. Graylan Ellis-Hagler. He will face off with Mr. Doherty in November, who came in second with 19 percent of the vote. Flynn has a strong base of support, which has helped him gain prominence as the new president of the US Conference of Mayors. He has also emerged as a vocal critic of federal policymakers who he says have neglected urban America. Though there has been talk here lately of him as a possible vice-presidential candidate, Flynn plays down the idea. He says he would rather focus his efforts on drawing attention to America's troubled cities during the presidential election campaign season. "I'm attempting to organize all the cities across the country in a bipartisan way and let the debate begin: Is there a commitment to American cities, toward working families in our cities, or are we going to see the same kind of retreat... head-in-the-sand approach that is coming out of Washington that we've seen for the last 10 1/2 years?" asked Flynn in a Monitor interview. Flynn is hoping to get the country's mayors to support one presidential candidate early next year. This will be the first time that mayors will collectively support a presidential candidate, he says. Back at home, Flynn has to contend with criticism over the city's controversial police department. Minority community members, in particular, have accused police of harassing or shooting at innocent people in their neighborhoods. Some have blamed Flynn for refusing to fire his police commissioner and close friend, Francis Roache. Mr. Ellis-Hagler proposed a nine-member civilian review board earlier this summer, to be appointed by the City Council, to investigate allegations of police misconduct. But Flynn has been trying to create his own office of municipal investigation which will review allegations of misconduct of all city employees. His opponent, Mr. Doherty, says education, public safety, and economic development are crucial campaign issues. The former Boston schoolteacher also says the city needs a strong comprehensive early- childhood education program that starts with increased services for poor, unmarried women with children. Education is indeed an important issue this election. In January, the 13-member elected school committee will be dissolved and Boston schools will be run by a new seven-member mayorally appointed committee. Some question whether the new committee, pushed forward by Flynn, will bring about needed reform and proper city representation. "I think the [people] of Boston now are deprived of a right that every other citizen in this state has - [to vote for school committee candidates]," says Doherty. Observers say Flynn is nevertheless performing extraordinarily well as a two-term political candidate. While voters historically tire of a candidate by the third term, Flynn has not become a victim of the so-called "third-termitis" phenomenon. Political analysts point to three-term New York Gov. Mario Cuomo (D), for example, who barely won 50 percent of the vote in last year's general election. Much of Flynn's popularity may simply be due to hard work and his own love of the job. The native of working-class South Boston labors hard and keeps up a high profile; he works long hours, jogs five to seven miles daily, and makes frequent appearances at neighborhood meetings and late-night city crime scenes. "I love the job. I love being mayor," he says, seated in his spacious office overlooking Boston's Faneuil Hall. "I come in here at 6 in the morning and I'm out into the neighborhoods every single night, every single day, seven days a week. One Saturday two weeks ago, I went to 17 neighborhood events and I love it."