Second Boston Mayoral debate occurs

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino this afternoon defended the sale of hundreds of city-owned lots at a fraction of their assessed value, saying the transactions put properties back on the tax rolls.

Menino's comments came in a televised debate on WFXT-TV (Channel 25) as he jousted with the three challengers who are trying to unseat him.

South End businessman Kevin McCrea, who brought up the land deals during the first debate on Sept. 2, said they were an example of corruption at City Hall.

"That's what I call corruption – wasting money. They're public officials that are there to protect our interests," he said

Menino bristled, saying, "That's ridiculous what you said. It's not corruption. We're taking parcels, putting them back on the tax rolls."

In debate, foes blast Menino’s tight grip
Opponents say it’s time for new ideas

By Michael Levenson and Donovan Slack, Globe Staff | September 11, 2009

Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s famously firm grip on Boston came under withering and sustained assault during the final mayoral debate before the Sept. 22 primary last night, as his opponents blamed the mayor’s concentration of power for lingering problems in the schools, uneven development, and even their own inability to get things done on the City Council.

In an hourlong debate that was at once hard-hitting but cordial, it became clear that there was only one overriding issue in the race: Menino and his tight control over the city he has governed for 16 years. Even in areas where there was little disagreement, the mayor’s opponents repeatedly assailed him for what they called a sense of inertia, which they said flows from having one man in charge too long.

“There is a problem, Mr. Mayor,’’ said Councilor Sam Yoon. “And I think this comes down to a system that allows a single person to win reelection after reelection and control all the power and information and resources, and that system has to change.’’

Menino deflected the attacks on his power by pointing to successes he said he has achieved during his four-term tenure, including the lowest crime rate in decades and a sterling bond rating from Wall Street he said was proof of his good budget management. If his record weren’t so good, he said, he would not still be mayor.

“I have term limits every four years,’’ Menino said at one point. “I face the voters of Boston. They’re the ones I rely on, the people in the neighborhoods. I ask them every four years: Do I deserve reelection?’’

In the debate, which was sponsored by WFXT (Fox 25) and The Boston Herald, Menino, Yoon, Councilor Michael F. Flaherty Jr., and South End developer Kevin McCrea jousted over issues such as the chronic lack of parking in Boston, the FBI’s recommendation that more Boston police officers be armed with assault rifles to prevent a terrorist attack, and even the mayor’s sometimes tortured speaking style.

But time and again, they returned to the mayor’s strong style of governing, asserting that little will change over the next four years without a new mayor armed with new ideas for the city. “What you’re hearing from us - and I think what we’re hearing as we go out and campaign - is a sense of urgency, not that we can rest on our laurels, but we have work to do,’’ Yoon said.

The candidates clashed again over the quality of Boston schools, with Flaherty saying, “Nothing bothers me more than another young family leaving the city for an education.’’