Large turnout at the forum, sponsored by the Wards 4 and 5 Democratic committees at the BAC on Newbury Street. Here's the blow by blow:
Public safety - do Beacon Hill, Back Bay residents feel safe?
Relatively low crime, they feel safe. How do we do that? Real community policing. Beat cops, officers to community neighborhoods. Also the technology we have in Boston. Text tips to police. We do blogging when there's crime in the neighborhood. We don't have fancy names, we just get the job done.
Yoon: Yes, generally people in Wards 4 and 5 feel safe, but I think they care about other neighborhoods. What really needs to be done to address problems, especially rising tide of youth violence, a top-to-bottom review of BPD and a civilian review board, a real civilian review board. Also, increase miniorities in ranks of senior officers.
Flaherty: I will bring the Mounted Unit back. Upper echelon needs to reflect the face of the city. I will never allow another situation where that woman in the garage was raped and police told her to keep quiet to see if a trend would occur.
McCrea: My wife feels safe walking home to the South End from the Vendome. But we can do better. Incredible low rate of crimes solved in Boston. We need to have the police force that reflects the 50% minority majority city we have. Especially Hispanic supervisors.
New programs and programs to cut
McCrea: I was the first one to support term limits. Sam supported mayor four years ago. One of the things I proposed: Change mayoral election coincide with presidential election. Would at least double voter turn out. All job postings, everything be available online. I would cut overhead at Boston School Department. In last ten years, we've lost 7,000 students, lost teachers, but more janitors and bus monitors? What sense does that make? CitiStat, police mapping. Much like Bloomberg in New York.
Menino: This city under my administration has made the right decisions in good times and bad times. We cut residential property taxes last two years. Cut $30 million in debt financing. $8.6 million cuts in overtime. Highest bond rating in city's history. With smart budget management. Embrace new urban mechanics. New iPhone problem-reporting system. Health care. Random alcohol and drug testing for firefighters. Continue to recruit top talent: Ed Davis, Carol Johnson. Phase out printing department. We're not closing libraries, in fact, we just opened two new libraries.
Yoon: The mayor talked about technology. Let's talk about technology. We don't have voice mail at City Hall. Computers in my office crash so often we have to keep a log. E-mails get deleted. We don't have 311. What we have is the Mayor's Hotline. There is no performance-based management component to that call. This is how we operated in the city. It's the 21st century. It's not efficient. It's not even contemporary. Fire-alarm boxes cost $2 million to $3 million. They get pulled once every few years.
Flaherty: Over last 24 hours, I would actually make the case that MIS has to go. Performance review needed. Eliminate all the overpaid consultants at BPS, BPD and City Hall, at a time we can least afford consultants. Snow-melting machines, new pothole repair technology, 311, e-policing (e-mail alerts). Expand the ShotSpotter program to detect gunshots.
Flaherty: Plan your work and work your plan, and fact of matter is we don't have a citywide plan or neighborhood plans. BRA known for steamrolling neighborhoods. Time for a standalone planning department. Hotel rooms - convention center alone will need 5,000 more hotel rooms.
McCrea: I've been calling for elimination of the BRA for the last five years. I'm happy to hear councilors Yoon and Flaherty, now that they're running for mayor, want to join me. But a difference: I want two departments - planning and economic development, and give control of them to the city council. After I eliminate the BRA, I'm going to visit every single neighborhood and work with them to come up with 25-year plans. We need that master plan so builders can see where they can build, so we don't have spot zoning and pay to play that we do now.
Menino: A master plan for the city doesn't work at this time. We're implementing a plan for our neighborhoods, neighborhood by neighborhood. Suffolk University did not build dorms on Beacon Hill. Roslindale was re-zoned. Boston is a very unique city. Next four years, new housing laws to make Boston more affordable. Co-housing like they have in JP, get hospitals to build it for their researchers. Transit-oriented housing, like you have in Codman Square. Also think about the Indigo Line in Hyde Park and Dorchester (new Fairmount Line). New downtown: South Boston waterfront. We are making process. Science-based economic development: BU biolab. We have to build off higher education and also academia. Health care industry.
Yoon: Mr. Mayor, with all due respect, you don't support community driven planning. You don't. You're dismissive of community planning. The community stands in the way of your master plan. As someone in community planning for ten years, a planning process is not something that's nice and neat. It's participatory. And what I envision is series of charettes. I want other candidates to sign my term limit pledge.
Yoon: This was an issue this year, in terms of the mounted police. The mayor's budget eliminated that. The city of Boston while among top cities in country among open space, actually tenth in resources for such parks. In a city where Olmstead is almost synonymous with parks, it's a travety, it's a travesty. Enormous amount of waste in City Hall. $74 million worth of waste.
Flaherty: Yes, I will support parks and open space. As a father, I recognize the important. One thing frustrates me is the programming. Performance reviews to eliminate wasteful spending. Also talk about partnerships, like Post Office Square. Sets the tone for the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Reducing the carbon footprint, providing open space and recreation, some of whom are in very tight quarters in very densely populated neighborhoods.
McCrea: My mom is telling me to smile more. I disagree with Michael. Public parks are public parks, they should be considered by our citizens. It's not time to throw away public control of public parks. One Post Office Square has been a boondoggle - we were supposed to get money for parks, the Greenway was supposed to be like that to, but now the state uses our tax money and is run by a woman who gets paid a lot more than the mayor. The parks department budget is about $14 million. Menino gave away Hayward Place to his buddies at Millennium Partners. $23 million piece of property. What did the citizens receive? Nothing. They're earning $2 million to $3 million in parking-lot fees. $20,000 to Menino's campaign fund. That has to stop.
Menino: First of all, I'd like to correct Mr. McCrea. We've received $10 million so far from Hayward Place. They are paying payment in lieu of taxes. Parks have been one of my top priority. Public Garden, Commonwealth Ave. mall. Our ballfields are better than most suburban fields. Better trash pickup. I am very proud of myself of how we've maintained the parks and planted flowers. Handicap accessible park. That's what it's all about. I think this city has gotten many awards for the way we maintain our parks. I'm very proud of what we're doing.
Job creation, gambling venue in city?
Menino: Boston's economy is a strong economy. $170 million in stimulus funds, we will go after every dollar we can. Our economy is driven by four sectors: health care, academia, financial services and tourism. Health care and higher eduction are really a foundation of Boston. Been talking to some financial services companies that want to move back to Boston. They don't have the brainpower we have in Boston. Best new convention center in America.
Sam Yoon. I do not support casino gambling in Boston. It's not real economic development. It's not real economic development when you exploit addiction. Especially with slot machines. Instead, green economy. Can't be exported overseas. Weatherization. But absolute best way is to eliminate the BRA. It's a hindrance to economic development.
Flaherty: How to get hundreds, thousands of jobs: Enforce the Boston residence guidelines for city construction projects in Boston. We underutilize the creative economy. Also the green economy. Green Corp, Green vo-tech school. Casinos are hurting now, not the answer for our economic woes.
McCrea: Gee, they took all my best stuff. Opposed to gambling. Problem gambling would go up. We'd basically fill up Boston Garden with 15,000 gambling addicts. I agree with Michael, jobs policy needs to be enforced. Gone from 43 to 34%. Jobs I did as developer had more than 50% city residents. Excuses. Union jobs also need to be more diverse. I want to eliminate police details and hire people from the city to take those jobs. Boston's not going to take in a lot of Fortune 500 companies, we need to make city livable for people getting out of college.
NOTE: Later on, Menino said he supports the idea of a "resort casino."
Yoon: I came into politics to be a change agent, not a politician. Judge me by my record. I voted to eliminate the BRA. I voted against the Columbus Center and JP Morgan tax breaks. I've voted against all four mayor's budget. Strong mayor system is broken, it doesn't work. Stifles creativity and conversations. Breeds complacency. Level of comfort when we can't afford to be comfortable. Abuse of power. We need term limits. Otherwise, you could have the same mayor for the next 16 years.
Flaherty: This is a great race. It's healthy for our city to have a frank discussion. Our mayor has been mayor for 16 years and he's asking for four more and I ask why? He's had 16 years to fix our schools and put people back to work. The status quo is not working. Lifelong resident, I know the city very well, I've learned a great deal visiting people in their homes and talking at their kitchen tables.
McCrea: The library right downtown closed, right off School Street. If everybody whose taxes went up the past two years votes for me, I'll win. I'm only candidate against expanding charter schools. Won't cut school budgets. Visit every single school. Eliminate busing, build great schools like Stuyvestant or Bronx School of Science. I've been fighting for transparency for four years. Will you allow videotaping of every single BRA meeting, Mr. Mayor?
Menino: Kevin, we didn't close the Kirstein, we moved it to the main branch because the building was not handicap accessible and needed a lot of repairs. Working with groups across the city. That's what I do as mayor, improving the quality of life in Boston. I supported the meals taxes. Why don't we have those people who live outside our city help pay some of our expenses. That's what I do as mayor - stand up and make the tough decisions.