Michael Flaherty on Downtown Crossing as a war zone, the police commissioner and speaking up

In a get-together with a group of local political bloggers (and me), mayoral candidate Michael Flaherty compared Downtown Crossing to a wartorn Iraqi city, would not rule out replacing Police Commissioner Ed Davis and said a hidebound, vindictive City Hall is stalling vital development and driving young people out of the city (David Kravitz has a live-blog summary of the discussion; I have some more here).

Flaherty pointed to Downtown Crossing as a prime example of how the Menino administration mishandled things, by failing to push for performance bonds on the Filene's hole or doing more to pressure the developer to do something about it.

"Downtown Crossing actually looks like Fallujah, like a surface-to-air missile came in from one of the Harbor Islands," he said. At the same time, there are too many kids loitering there in the morning. The result: Bostonians are now increasingly going to suburban locations, such as the CambridgeSide Galleria or the South Shore Plaza for their shopping excursions. And hotel concierges send guests to Cambridge or Newbury Street, not Downtown Crossing.

Flaherrty ould require performance bonds for developers - build by a certain date or the city gets millions of dollars in forfeit. He would work to bring "marquee" tenant in, rather than a petting zoo, as Menino once proposed. He added the same would apply to the Harvard hole in Allston, "one of the largest holes in New England," and the end result of years of Harvard misleading the community under Menino and the BRA. "It's a gaping hole and rats, probably the size of small dogs, are literally taking over Allston."

He also cited the waterfront as an area where he said favoritism and pettiness at City Hall has led to stagnation, rather than creation of the new city-within-a-city we were promised.

Like Sam Yoon and Kevin McCrea, Flaherty would replace the BRA with two new agencies - one for city planning, one for economic development. Too often now, he said, the economic-development arm takes precedence, even at the expense of neighborhoods. The city also needs a master plan, so that developers can't get away with things such as getting permits for residential construction and then flipping them to commercial.

Flaherty, a former Suffolk County assisstant district attorney, said far more needs to be done to involve communities with crime problems in fighting crime. He said the leaderrship of the police department "needs to look like the face of the city" and that while he would want to sit down with Davis to talk about the future of the department, the department has a number of "high-caliber (minority) individuals who would make great commissioners."

Throughout the discussion, Flaherty brought up examples of staleness at City Hall and Menino's genius at deflecting blame for everything (from blaming the BPS athletic director for the sorry state of high-school sports to the governor for that mid-day snowstorm that crippled the city a couple years back), and said this has led to a "brain drain" of high-caliber talent at City Hall and an increasing feeling among residents that "the cake has already been baked" when they show up at hearings on projects that might affect them.

Flaherty acknowledged that, as a city councilor, he might have done more to speak up before he ran for mayor, but said he was hamstrung in part by the structure of city government (strong mayor/weak city council), which he said meant anything he wanted done would ultimately have to to through the mayor.

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    Comments

    Wouldn't it be a

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    Wouldn't it be a Surface-to-Surface missile if it launched from one surface and hit another?

    What's his beef with Davis?

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    What's his beef with Davis? He seems to be doing an okay job, given the circumstances.

    Fallujah anyone?

    Starting off with a little hyperbole doesn't do much for one's reputation as a reasoned and balanced judgment-maker but it's his campaign...

    Mayoral candidate Michael Flaherty compared Downtown Crossing to a wartorn Iraqi city.

    Probably? and Literally?

    "It's a gaping hole and rats, probably the size of small dogs, are literally taking over Allston."

    Better rats than Harvard people

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    At least the rats are interesting, and they don't drive the rents up.

    I am _so_ glad I got into a good school and didn't have to fall back on going to Harvard.

    one reason I'm not supporting him or the mayor

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    "Flaherty acknowledged that, as a city councilor, he might have done more to speak up before he ran for mayor, but said he was hamstrung in part by the structure of city government (strong mayor/weak city council), which he said meant anything he wanted done would ultimately have to to through the mayor."

    We have to move past this kind of politics if this city is going to move forward. Yoon has some good ideas, but not the guts to get things done (he holds lots of meetings and hasn't exactly bucked the mayor on anything either) - that's why I'm backing McCrea - he's the only one that I've seen follow through to get things done.

    Stevil, Can you come back to

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    Stevil,

    Can you come back to reality? What do you think Devual and Obama are dealing with? Its bullcrap...I am sick and tired or this fake posers telling us that things are going to be different, the sun is going to shine forever, bla bla bla.....

    in bosont its a weak council strong mayor form of gov't. i don't care what mccrea says... what i do know is he was not elected as a councillor. he will not even get through the primary... i think he is a great guy with strong ideals, but he is naive!

    as a councillor, flaherty had to go along to ensure he was able to use city servicecs. your getting a sample of menino's vindictiveness now....the same happens if you cross him on the council... translation, you cannot get anything done for your constituents....

    i am sorry, i am idealistic too... but i am sick of the change for change bull*&^%! The institutions are set up a sort of way to produce exactly what we see. change can only happen by those at the top of power that have the strength and money in the bank to make the best decisions for the people. but there are a lot of competing interests....

    i say hire a city manager or give candidates free TV, radio and print...

    That's the point

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    Obama and Deval have recalcitrant legislatures they have to deal with. You answer the question why someone like Kevin could effect change in your comment. In a strong mayor system you CAN actually effect change.

    I realize that McCrea needs to catch lightning in a bottle - TWICE. But I think if enough people pay attention to the debates - they may be surprised at what they hear has been going on in this city (most of this stuff never makes it to the Globe or the Herald so it's even worse than most think) - and it of course depends on how the media covers it - if they ignore him - forget it. But if they say - hey this guy has a point and it can help us sell papers - you could see a surprise.

    Check out the posts on the BMRB report and you will see that McCrea is the one guy that has been right all along - higher taxes, imploding budget - he listened to the research and concluded this would happen years ago. My problem is I am dealing in reality - not the fantasy and lies that keeps coming out of City Hall and as a property owner the financial reality of this city scares the living hell out of me.

    thanks for your report

    I feel like I have a better sense of Flaherty thanks to these write ups. I'm glad he took the time to do this, and it sounds like he engaged in real discussion with you guys.

    Let me get this....

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    ....straight: 2 hour interview and NO questions about the fact Local 718 is basically running his campaign???? Also, 4 bloggers who work the INTERNET do not ask him about his relationship with a WEBSITE that looks to be created to character assasinate both the mayor and anyone associated with him (Herald has already linked Flaherty to the site). He must have really put out a good spread for you boys!

    Yes, bloggers are bought cheap

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    Yep, two hours and not a one of us thought to ask about the BFD. Possibly because there were other issues to ask about (we also didn't get into the issue of public schools), we could have gone on for even more than two hours, everybody knows whom the firefighters are backing this fall - or we simply forgot.

    So, yeah, we were obviously seduced by the sandwiches from a local deli. For the record, I had some sort of spicy chicken on a sesame bun. It was delicious. Also: a bag of chips and a Sprite Zero.

    what's next, hot food?

    Adam, yup, you guys really sold your souls in return for that gourmet meal! :)

    But seriously, I hope that more candidates have these kinds of sit downs with area bloggers. Even if certain issues weren't raised, they can be in the future. And a couple of hours of give & take is quality time....much less controlled than the typical candidate event.

    did you follow the conversation?

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    it was pretty obvious they got into 3-4 topics in detail and none of that came up - was well done but would have loved to see it last longer and cover more ground - maybe next time

    let's be realistic

    Two hours of open back and forth with a legit, major city mayoral candidate is actually quite generous. That's why I'll give Flaherty credit for this. One mess up on his part and it would've been blogged, twittered (twitted? whatever?) across Hub cyberspace.

    But yes, more would be better.

    Adam, try to see if you can

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    Adam, try to see if you can any of the candidates, or mayor, to give us their opinion on doing away with the winter parking space savers [finally], and doing what every other freaking city that gets snow does; institute a even day-one, odd day-two parking ban to plow to the curb.

    If we can do it with street sweepers, why not during snow storms.

    If one of them promises that, they get my vote.

    Seconded

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    Seconded. Anyone who has the guts to take on garbage-can-wielding Southies gets my vote.

    great write up

    I have mine brewing. Took a few different things away from it, though. I thought he was specifically pushing for more planning, be it at the BRA or otherwise. I don't think he actually said that he would be completely opposed to closing it, more that he thought the planning arm did a decent job... but was constantly overruled and ignored by the economic development arm.

    Schools

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    Ask them if they plan on ending busing. The experiment has failed. The schools are why people are moving out of Boston. Low taxes are great but not when you have to pay to send your kids to private school.

    Also by adding to the BRA's planning side, does that mean bigger government filled with Flaherty buddies

    Thanks

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    And yep, he was talking about creating planning and economic-development agencies, which could then replace the BRA.

    Thank You

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    First of all I would just like to say thank you, Adam, for coming to meet with us yesterday. We really enjoyed fielding your questions and giving you and your readers a closer look at Michael and what he plans on doing for our city. Michael does not have a username here just yet, or he would be doing this himself. He'll be sitting down to sign up shortly.

    Second, I'd like to take this opportunity to answer a few questions that have been brought up by your readers following our meeting.

    With regards to firefighters, Michael has said from the beginning of his campaign that mandatory random drug testing will happen, and nothing will be given in return. He made that clear to the union before they gave him their endorsement.

    Also, Michael's campaign is in no way responsible for the content on changeforboston.org.

    Thanks again.

    Natasha Perez, Communications Director, Flaherty for Mayor Committee

    Replies?

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    Natasha - would greatly appreciate replies to the individual questions not covered in the meeting as time permits.

    thanks