By John Lynds
Some people fight to win and some people fight to lose, so the saying goes. Well, it seems with the Democratic primary just around the corner on Tuesday, September 22, Michael Flaherty, Sam Yoon and Kevin McCrea are fighting to lose.
The triumvirate that have all tried to unseat entrenched Boston Mayor Thomas Menino this election season and this week have resorted to a new tactic–try and capitalize on a new scandal involving alleged deleted e-mails at City Hall.
The three mayoral candidates held a press conference Monday at City Hall Plaza, calling for a criminal investigation of reported violations of public records laws by a top Menino staffer, Michael Kineavy. They said they merely want to shed light on reports in Sunday’s Boston Globe about the deletion of potentially thousands of public e-mails by Kineavy and other top officials in the Mayor’s office. Flaherty and Yoon said they are sending a joint letter to the Massachusetts attorney general and secretary of state and the Suffolk County district attorney to request a formal investigation into the violations of state law.
As city councilors, both Flaherty and Yoon will use that power to file a hearing order with the City Council to investigate the matter.
The three men also released statements with Flaherty saying, “It has become painfully evident that City Hall, under Mayor Menino, has no safeguards in place to protect important public records. This is even more troubling in the context of the current federal criminal investigation into corruption in Boston City Hall. The deletion by top Menino operatives of e-mails which might shed light on multiple criminal prosecutions at the very least rises to the level of spoliation – if not intentional destruction – of potential evidence.”
Yoon added, “This is what happens when power goes unchecked and unopposed. And it speaks to the need to reform a system where power is concentrated with one individual. The old ways of doing business are not serving our modern city. If ever there were a case in point for eliminating Boston’s unworkable strong mayor system and establishing term limits and greater checks and balances, this is it. Boston residents deserve a City Hall that is open, transparent, and focused on policy instead of politics.”
McCrea said “I have been fighting corruption and back room deals at Tom Menino’s City Hall for years. I am pleased that my issue of transparency is becoming important in this campaign, and that Bostonians can begin to imagine a future with an open, honest, totally transparent administration.”
In East Boston, an historic Menino stronghold, voters said the alleged deleted e-mails may hurt Menino among some population of voters here, but Menino’s work on behalf of the elderly, schoolchildren, and low income residents far outweighs what one resident called a “pathetic attempt” to create a scandal one week before the election.
“Look, I never see the others here unless it’s an election year, but it seems Mayor Menino at the very least attempts to be in the community on a regular business, talking to residents and launching new programs,” said Bryan Teixeira. “I think that really resonates with voters. He has visibility, and many people here in Eastie are on a first-name basis. How do you run against and beat that?”
Whether or not the “scandal” will stick so close to the election remains to be seen, and there are only perhaps five Boston mayors that can be instantly identified solely on a last-name basis in East Boston: Fitzgerald, Curley, White, Flynn and Menino.
Menino enjoys one of the highest approval ratings of any previous Boston mayors. A Boston Globe poll indicated that the city was “smitten” with the mayor, who has a 72 percent approval rating. Over half of Boston’s residents have reported having personally met the mayor. And despite his malapropism, battles with the firefighters union or how his opponents perceive his refusal to give up the seat as “unfair,” Menino will most likely hold the seat until he’s ready to leave, despite what mud may be slung his way.
This, above anything else, has frustrated his challengers, and while they all may be good, intelligent men with a great love of Boston and the desire to make it a better place to live for all, they may have just sunk to a new low this week and ultimately sealed their political coffins in three doomed bids for mayor.