Man Versus Machine

Because Flaherty isn’t exactly a man of sweeping oratorical prowess, the hook is vision. Namely, offer a grand one, and try not to get too disheartened when the mayor starts cherry-picking your initiatives. So far, Menino has poached readily from the Flaherty campaign, raising the cap on charters after years of resistance, implementing single-stream recycling after years of resistance, and introducing e-mapping technology so residents can track crime in their neighborhoods in real time, after years of resistance.

Provided Flaherty’s platform hasn’t been completely stripped of planks come the election, his vision of post-Mumbles Boston goes like this: Federal stimulus money will be combined with the city’s summer jobs program to help at-risk kids develop green skills that they can use in the future economy. The hated City Hall Plaza will be ripped up and replaced with grass and trees. The city will arrange cheap trash pickup for local restaurants, whose food waste will be composted for use in city parks. The firefighters will agree to mandatory drug testing, and not in exchange for a pay raise (Flaherty says he’s already gotten them to agree to it in exchange for long-overdue equipment upgrades). The city’s principals will be empowered to tailor their approach to education to the needs of their individual schools, with the same going for police district captains. This decentralization of power will foster a thriving marketplace of ideas.

Moreover, the Internet—long viewed warily by the Menino administration—will be summoned to satisfy all manner of goo-goo fantasies, from tracking the progress on a pothole, to monitoring the performance of individual city departments, to accessing a comprehensive list of city vendors (Flaherty swears he’s learned his lesson from that open meetings business). All in real time. He even says he’ll agree to term limits if the city council so wills it. And did we mention finally installing a voice-mail system at City Hall, as if the year 1997 had finally arrived? It’s all downright utopian.

In consciously raising people’s expectations of government, a politician is usually asking for trouble (hi, Governor), particularly in this case, where good-to-better is considerably more difficult than dismal-to-good. But after 16 years of all power and ideas radiating from a single room in City Hall, it’s an undeniably compelling vision. And a surprisingly practical one: Many of these initiatives are already in place in more-progressive cities. “This administration has always masterfully lowered people’s expectations,” Flaherty says. “So as Bostonians you come to expect filthy streets and underperforming schools. You’re almost immune to it.” He thinks he can attract those younger voters, and pick off enough traditional voters in the neighborhoods fed up with the status quo to carry it.

Whether he will succeed remains to be seen: It’s a long way from here to November. But the mere attempt has single-handedly reinvigorated a local political scene that’s been half-dead for what seems like ages. That alone makes his run worthwhile. “Boston needs an infusion of new energy and passion,” Flaherty says. “I’ll give this city the race it hasn’t had in 16 years.”


  • Frank

    It's easy to tell that Boston magazine now has its roots in the mid-west. How is it that Flaherty will appeal to the young voters you talk about. He has ignored them for years. How about when he threw a couple hundred kids out of city hall? Sam Yoon is the only candidate who can – and is – appealing to these voters. Why not read an article by someone who lives in Boston – and know politics! Here's the link.

  • Brad

    Sorry Frank, I really like Sam and think he is a good person. However, he thought that his campaign was going to miraculously arise out of the progressive sand and its hasn't. Words about change are good, but one needs to really build a grassroots campaign and the only one I have seen do that is Michael Flaherty.

  • Will

    Brad is totally off the mark on this one…Flaherty has paid insiders in each community but not base of disaffected voters. Flaherty is more of an insider than he is an outsider. He's burned through a lot of his cash on trivial things. I can't walk 10 feet without stepping over a piece of Flaherty lit on the ground, unread. Sam Yoon is the real candidate for change in this race.

  • Anonymous

    Brad, have you really not seen the grassroots campaign that Yoon has been building? It seems far more prominent to me than Flaherty's grassroots base… in fact, Flaherty hardly seems to have that grassroots campaign going at all. Honestly, he seems like just another politician to me, whereas Yoon doesn't. I feel like Sam is so different from the Flaherty / Menino typical politician types, and it's that difference that makes him seem, at least to me, like the only candidate who can really bring change to Boston.

  • barbara

    Michael Flaherty is the reason this discussion is going on and if it weren't for his tireless efforts to bring forward change for the children and the community this debate wouldn't be going on. Sam Yoon may be a good person but has he put himself out there for public debate and ridicule? Has he opened up his life to ridicule or is he hoping to stay in the shadows and then jump in? Hat's off to Michael Flaherty!

  • Sadie

    Flaherty is running a campaign for thugs. Nothing fresh about that. Anyone miss him at the shark-slashing tournament last weekend? Guess he was too busy ripping down signs to keep up the olde tradition.

  • Zach

    In what bizarro universe is Flaherty the young and hip candidate? He's as much of an institutional figurehead as Mayor Menino, and a less successful politician at that. Stick to the thuggery and intimidation, and leave the actual campaigning to the respectable candidates.

  • Tom

    So the fact that Flaherty has volunteers going to neighbors house with literature is not proof of a grassroots campaign? Top vote getter in the city the last three city elections including getting over 50k votes in 2005? Interesting analysis. I love the Sam Yoon astroturf campaign being run. Every comment is the same. XXXXX sucks. Sam Yoon is change. Three people from Cambridge with 30 user names.

  • Griselda

    People are not bored with Menino, they are content. Many, in fact, are excited about what he has done and for his plans for the future! Flaherty's campaign is almost identical to the Mayor's – so why not let the experienced man take the lead and send the so-called "young" Flaherty packing. Menino's got things under control. He's the one who has made Boston the third greenest city in the USA…on a smaller scale, many Boston residents also praise the simple details that Menino pays attention like removing snow from their driveways.

  • Brian

    I really can't stand this good/better thing. Ready Flaherty's platform. It's every idea the Mayor has had…but whenever there's a number, he makes it bigger. I don't think an orignial thought has passed through Flaherty's head.

  • Brian

    I really can't stand this good/better thing. Ready Flaherty's platform. It's every idea the Mayor has had…but whenever there's a number, he makes it bigger. I don't think an original thought has passed through Flaherty's head.

  • Brian

    I really can't stand this good/better thing. Read Flaherty's platform. It's every idea the Mayor has had…but whenever there's a number, he makes it bigger. I don't think an original thought has passed through Flaherty's head.

  • Paul

    I've read all the anti Michael Flaherty comments. However, I'm not convinced that most of you know what you are talking about. As a volunteer worker for Michael I can personally tell you that Michael has been constantly telling us to "keep it clean" and "stay above the frey"! Although I don't care for being called a "thug" who supports Michael Flaherty I will take the high road and let you people be the "thugs" tossing all the bombs and insults. Sam Yoon has a long way to go before he'll be able to run a City like Boston. I would suggest that Sam start actually going to the Council Meetings and learn City Government. May the best Man win!

  • Ed

    Michael Flaherty is the right blend of Ray Flynn type, walking the neighborhoods campaigner, he's street smart, a solid family man and someone who is very much aware of the procedural disciplines necessary to run city government. This race is a little like comparing Wii to Atari Pong, the Mayor is going to be overturned before he realizes it's too late. Michael your time is now. Someone in the big office is hearing footsteps!

  • Ed

    I think Menino is underestimating Flaherty. Yoon is a good candidate but he is too young. I agree with the article and his supporters will go to Flaherty. McCrae is too much of an outsider and after Deval Patrick campaign of change, I don't think that is going to fly. When I drive thru the streets of Dorchester, I see Flahery signs and bumper stickers. I don't see Yoon signs or McCrae signs. I don't see Menino signs. I see Flaherty signs and I see bumper stickers everywhere. Some might claim that doesn't mean anything and it is only in one part of the city. I disagree. Menino owned this city for 16 yrears and now he doesn't.

  • Duncan

    I just love how Menino shows up to an event and leaves right after it begins or even before it officially starts. Flaherty and Yoon not only spend time meeting people at events but they actually listen. It would be nice to see a mayor in office that actually cares about the people instead of just themselves and their power.