City Council Candidate Chat: Tim McCarthy

This is the 34th in a series of conversations with candidates for Boston City Council. Tim McCarthy, a Boston Public Works manager, is running in District 5.

David S. Bernstein: This became an open seat when Rob Consalvo jumped into the race for mayor; why did you decide to run for it?

Tim McCarthy: I’ve lived in the community for 43 years. I’ve always had a great desire to help out the community. I’ve worked with three phenomenal district councilors: I was hired under Ray Flynn by the recommendation of then-councilor [Tom] Menino, so I worked with councilor Menino; then I worked with Dan Conley for seven or eight years, and then I worked with Robbie Consalvo ever since. I worked with three really good guys, and I think I have a really good grasp of what the job entails, and I really do believe that I’m the best candidate to take that spot.

You’ve essentially had your paychecks signed by Mayor Menino for the past 20 years. Is it fair if people look at you as the Menino guy, the establishment guy in the race?

Anybody who labels me as the Menino guy is not far from the truth. That’s the reality. He’s been a friend of mine for 21 years. Do I have different thoughts of what this council seat needs to do, and where the city needs to be pushed forward? Sure. I think it’s imperative that this next city councilor have a great relationship with the next mayor, but it’s also important that the next mayor realizes that the city council needs to hold him or her accountable for the triple-A bond rating and rainy-day fund that other cities would die for. There needs to be some fiscal discipline.

You talk about the importance of fiscal discipline, and you emphasize constituent services—it seems like a sort of small-bore vision of government. Are you open at all to big new programs, new spending on behalf of schools or other types of investments?

A good investment is certainly worthwhile. I was there at the Boston Youth Fund—you’re hiring thousands of kids, you’re keeping them off the street. That was part of the Boston Miracle. I would say that I would support big initiatives, but the proof is in the pudding. I don’t like reactionary politics—if there is a shooting in an area, all of a sudden there are 50 cops there around the clock; that’s a reactionary thing. By sinking more money into community policing, you might not have to have those 50 cops in that area. Maybe that gun never gets fired. Where money can be spent well, I’m going to be all for it. But I’m going to be very closely looking at where the money is going, that’s for sure.

I was a little surprised to learn that you attended Harvard Business School.

I have a certificate from Harvard Business School. I participated in the program for management development. It was a 10-week intense-study program. When I got out of high school I went to Tufts University—and I know you’re a Jumbo as well—but I only could go for a year.

What year were you there?

I was there the year of ’88-’89.

That’s right around the time that I was making my escape from Tufts.

I played football and baseball there, and I think I had a little too good a time, and not enough studying. It was very enjoyable but I couldn’t swing it. So I bounced around a couple of schools. I was a bartender. After we got married I got a job in the mayor’s office, and my wife was the one who said you’ve got to get your tail end back in school. I went to Curry College continuing ed, and graduated. Then I went to Harvard Business School. And I’m presently at Suffolk University, getting my masters in public administration.

Was there anything from that certificate program that you can apply to development of businesses in the neighborhoods there in your district?

Absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt. We were doing three case studies a day, and two case studies on Saturday, with Sunday off. There are plenty of case studies that certainly are relevant to a lot of things that we’re doing in the city. I was the Youth Fund director at the time, and I was there [at Harvard] with presidents of banks, and owners of companies. The sharing of information was amazing. People were impressed with my resume, working with the Boston Police and gang intervention and things like that – they wanted to know more about me, and I wanted to know more about them.

It’s arguable that the Youth Fund you ran, and the Hopeline program you helped create, haven’t had a great effect – the people who were youths during that period of intervention are now in their 20s and early 30s, and we’re still seeing high levels of violence and unemployment. Has it been less effective that you would like?

I do know this: a lot of the kids that I talk to, that I know personally, that have called me up in the past, that I bump into in the streets – they’ve been better off because of that program. I always use the Boys & Girls Club in Dorchester as the epitome of what the summer jobs program is all about. They have 500 kids coming in and out of that center a day during the summer time; they have three shifts of youths that work over there. Not only do the kids get the job, but the parents then are able to work, because they get to drop their kids off in a safe and happy environment. Ultimately, they don’t have to look for government subsidies, because they’re working; there’s a pride thing because they’re working; and they get out of that rut of families with generation after generation on subsidies or needing government help. You can break free out of that, and I think we have done that successfully.

There’s a sense that there has always been a certain amount of pressure on people who work for the city, who owe their jobs to Mayor Menino, to contribute to him politically. Do you think there is a problem with that? Would there be a problem with it continuing under the next mayor?

I can only speak for me: I have never had any pressure. I have helped out willingly. I’ve never been pressured. We have our block party every year, I always go – and a lot of that is just to see friends that I haven’t seen around the neighborhood for a long time, or around the city. So I wouldn’t say I’ve been pressured. I’m not a fool, I’ve heard that people feel pressured, but I don’t happen to be one of those people.

You have coached Parkway Little League; what is the deal, why does it seem like everybody I know from that part of the city raves about how great Parkway Little League is?

That community is clearly a fantastic community. The baseball is good quality, the families are good quality, it’s a lot of fun. They maintain their own fields, so the fields are immaculate in the complex. It’s a safe place to play, and the boys have a great time. It’s Little League-affiliated, which is important, because the Little League rules are followed closely. I know my kids absolutely loved it. There’s a lot of people who want to do things for kids, and it’s a great place, it really is.

You obviously can’t just recreate something like that in another neighborhood just by wishing it, but are there other parts of the district, where you think the city could help do something to bring some of the same community benefits?

Sure – look at Hyde Park Pop Warner, or Mattapan Patriots. I was down at Almont Park last week—beautiful, safe place, the kids are very involved, the coaches are incredibly dedicated. There are a lot of Boston police officers who are coaching teams over there. It’s the commitment of the parents – there’s got to be that core of parents that care. It saddens me that some parents aren’t involved. Maybe some literally cannot be involved, but I think some are not involved because they just don’t want to be, and that’s a shame. That’s when volunteers have to pick up that slack. That’s when the YMCAs, and the Boys & Girls Clubs, and our own community centers have to increase their production, and reach out to the kids who need it the most.

Last question: who, up to now, has been the best city councilor in that district?

Oh, wow—you did that to me, huh? I am going to be a complete and utter coward and say Tom Menino.

Well, if you win now you might have some trouble working across the fifth floor with future mayor Conley or Consalvo.

I think I can take them both, I’ll be all right.


Read more Boston City Council Candidate Chats. This interview has been edited for length.