Prince: Please introduce yourself and tell us why you’re running for City Council At-Large?
MF: My name is Michael Flaherty and I was born and raised in South Boston—born at the Old Harbor Housing Project. I went to Boston High School, Boston College and Boston University of Law. I then served as a District Attorney in Suffolk County prosecuting cases throughout Boston. I was then elected to the Boston City Council and sworn-in in 2000. I served on the City Council for 10 years, and I got married. My wife and I are raising four children here in the city of Boston; and they attend the Boston Public Schools.
The reason why I am running is because I want to make Boston the best city to live; to work; and to raise a family in. I am committed to working on behalf of all of our neighborhoods, and I know this city very well. I know all of our neighborhoods very well, and I also know the issues that “dog our city.”
Prince: What are your issues that you’re advocating for as a Boston City Council At-Large candidate?
MF: One is the need to improve our Boston Public School system. We [Boston] boast about having the best colleges and universities in the world, but when it comes to our Boston Public schools we are not as boastful. Clearly we have made some strides, and there are some success stories, but that it is not enough—and we need to do better.
The second is the need to reduce crime and violence, particularly youth violent crimes. We need to give kids more opportunities both economically (in terms of creating year round jobs) and improving after school programs—giving them after school activities to keep them off the streets. One of the roots of crime and violence is drug and alcohol abuse. So getting to the roots of what causes these horrendous crimes, and providing treatment on demand, will go a long way in reducing crime and violence; and clearly creating economic opportunity for everyone.
And the last one is getting people back to work again. This will be the focus of my campaign, again. Looking at the financial district; pharmaceutical; life-sciences; and innovation district, a lot of great things are happening in our city. Lots of folks are coming and investing here, but there is a huge disconnect between the hope and potential in Downtown Boston versus the hope and potential in our neighborhoods.
So these are the issues that I’m working on—it is why I am running—and I am excited to hopefully get back on the City Council to make a difference again.
Prince: What makes you qualified to be City Councilor At-Large?
MF: Well the fact that I have served on the Boston City Council for 10 years and have served as president on the Council for five of those 10 years, makes it indicative that I know how to do the job; and I have a track record of doing it. Also as someone who is an At-Large City Councilor, I truly represent the entire city of Boston. [I traveled all across the city and worked on behalf of all of our neighborhoods and all of our constituency groups] People across the city know me and they recognize my face—I am not a fresh face. I have been out to the community; I have been at that event; I have been in front of those civic associations; and I have been to those ward committee meetings many times before. So again I am not a fresh face, but I am a dependable face.
People recognize and know my work ethic. And they know how passionate I am about the city of Boston and its people—and that is what this business is all about. This is about helping people. I am running because I want to be in a position to help people. I want to help families; and I want to help neighborhoods. So that is why I believe I’m qualified to be a City Councilor At-Large—along with my previous experience as a member on the Boston City Council. My life experience as a husband; a father; a youth sports coach; and as someone who has been actively involved at the community and civic association level, are the qualifications that I have to be a City Councilor At Large. I have paid my dues in terms of being a life-long resident [being actively involved] and I am looking to renew my commitment to the city of Boston through one of the four At-Large council seats.
I am looking forward to working with new and old colleagues on the Council, but also with the new mayor of Boston. This is an exciting time for Boston because it is the first time in 20 years that we will have the opportunity to elect a new mayor. So ushering in a new mayoral administration and working with experienced council members—that know how to get the job done—will hopefully lead to a smooth transition, while keeping focus on the people’s business. It is another reason why I am excited to be in this race.
Prince: Tell me a personal story that has inspired you to run for office.
MF: A personal story that has inspired me goes back to my childhood. The neighborhood that I grew up in was very political and in this political neighborhood was a political icon by the name of Congressman Joe Moakley. Joe has pretty much served at every level in government: he served on the City Council; the State Legislature; and has gone on to be a very successful and powerful congressman.
By virtue of the fact that he had both served on the Rules Committee and the Ways And Means [also being very close to the Speaker of the House and several other congressmen] he was able to bring a lot of resources to Massachusetts. So growing up and watching him—and how he did his job in terms of being connected to his community and to his District—has really inspired me. So when I look up to people who were ahead of their time, or have made courageous political decisions, I look up to people like Joe Moakley. Those are folks that have inspired me to be the elected official that I am today.
Prince: What promises do you hope to keep as City Councilor At-Large?
MF: One promise, with respects to the school department and budgeting, is to take those decisions out of Court St and create “School Site Budgeting.”
“School Site Budgeting” is when we bring the school principals in to talk with the teachers and find out what resources they need for that particular school year. We will give them the resources that they need to make: staffing decisions; budget allocation decisions; and create programming around the issues that they are seeing in that particular school or classroom. But most importantly we will hold that school principal accountable for the successes and failures of that school. These are the only ways that I feel will truly help us address the achievement gap. If we continue to make decisions on Court St. and have it be a “one-size-fits-all” solution then we are not going to make the improvements we need for our schools. We do have certain success stories, but we also have a significant number [close to 40%] of our schools that are under-performing—this requires drastic measures and reforms. I think we need to lean on the people who know our children the best which are the teachers; and we have the résumés that are consistent with that.
We do have some phenomenal teachers and principals within the Boston Public school system, but we need to give them the tools and the resources that they need to do what they are capable of doing which is educating our children and turning around our under-performing schools. Until we get to that point—until we get to that school site budgeting—we will never get to have extended school days or before and after school programs like art, music, sports or any other activities that make a well-rounded student. Because we have so many under-performing schools, we are finding ourselves with no text books or extracurricular activities that are so vital to keeping our kids off the streets. Whether it is domestic violence; sexual abuse; hunger; homelessness; asthma; or teen pregnancy, there are a number of factors that force kids out of academic settings—but the ones I mentioned are real issues.
We need to solve these issues in order to close the achievement gap (particularly for English language learners) and solve the dropout crisis; so we can have our kids continue their education in school and make the right decisions—to hopefully go to college. Understanding that college is not for everyone, I will also fight to make sure that we have a bona fide trade school in Boston like we had in the old days
Prince: As City Councilor At-Large, what will you do to attract people from all over the world to come to Boston and invest in their American Dream?
MF: So that is a great question because a lot of that is already happening. Like I mentioned before, we have great academic institutions; we have great medical institutions; and Boston is home to a lot of our nation’s financial services, but every year students and young professionals leave our city.
We have tens and thousands of students that come to Boston for a great education, but the challenge is “how do we keep that brain power in Boston?” If you look at the recent studies of why people leave Boston, it is because of the cost-of-living and the job market. So every year as we head towards the fall, all of our schools are starting to fill up with students, not just from across the country but from around the globe—all coming to Boston. But as they take advantage of these great academic institutions—spending their four years here and following in love with our city and its splendor (Fenway park, TD Gardens, the Water Front, etc.)—they will take their degree and go to other destinations; because the cost-of-living or the job market is more attractive.
So the challenge is not how do we get people to come here, it is how do we get people to stay here. My role as a City Councilor is to try to bridge that gap because that is the brainpower; that is the future of our city. If we invite people in; educate them; and let them leave, then we are doing a disservice to ourselves. Finding ways to keep that bright talent in our city is a challenge versus “how do we get people to come here?” People are already coming to Boston because it is attractive, but we need to make sure that we can keep the cost of living down and the job market viable; so the economy can benefit people who want to stay in Boston.
Prince: Tell me an embarrassing story that you have done–on or off the campaign–that has reminded you that you are still human?
MF: Well just the other night, I had an event where I was introducing certain people on the microphone—these people were dignitaries and elected officials. One particular individual [who I will remain nameless] was introduced by the wrong name—I introduced him by his brother’s name. Somehow I would always think of his brother for every time I see him. However, as soon as I realized my error I went up to him and apologized; and everything was good after that.
Prince: Lastly in your own words what makes Michael Flaherty so interesting?
MF: It is probably my passion for helping people.
In this day and age, people will drift off into the private sector. They do not want to get involved in the minutia of small or local community disputes; a neighborhood development issue; or pick up the phone to navigate the bureaucracy of our municipal city services. So that arguably is what makes me unique. I remember that I received a letter from a lady, through no fault of her own, had to get her leg amputated because she was hit by a car while she was crossing the street in a wheel chair; she wrote to me to help her find a handicap accessible apartment. Those are the types of issues, [and experiences that I have had] that makes you want to do this job. I want to be in a position where I can help people who either can’t help themselves or don’t know how to help themselves. So that really motivates me to run for Boston City Council At-Large and keeps me wanting to help people.
While other people prefer to not get involved with community issues, or have other things to do, I like to stay focus on this city. This is the city where I was born and raised in; and this is the city that I am raising my children in.
The focal point of my life has been the motto, “meant for others.” I always felt that running for public office and putting yourself out there—early mornings, late nights, holidays, weekends; working on behalf of your constituents—is what makes me proud to carry on that tradition.
To follow him and his platforms go to www.michaelflaherty.com