Mayoral Candidates Forum

Menino fires back at challengers
Exchanges get heated at forum for candidates

Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s three challengers hammered him last night over a lack of minority workers on Boston construction sites, possible misspending of federal housing grants, and the uneven quality of the city’s public schools in a rollicking forum that exposed far more raw emotions than Wednesday’s televised debate.

Menino defended himself against accusation after accusation, citing programs and statistics that he said show the city is making progress on a variety of longstanding problems. But unlike in Wednesday’s debate, he grew more flustered at the constant attacks, rolling his eyes at points, sighing, and snapping at his opponents when they leveled charges.

“I can’t get involved in these personality issues,’’ the mayor said at one point, before returning to his stock message. “It’s about moving Boston forward.’’

The presence of a live audience of several hundred mostly minority voters added a human element to the forum. It also made the candidates focus for long stretches on the city’s inability to uphold the Boston Jobs Policy, which requires that city job sites employ at least 50 percent Boston residents, 25 percent minorities, and 10 percent women.

“If I go by one more construction site with trucks with license plates from Rhode Island and New Hampshire, I’m going to lose it,’’ Councilor Michael F. Flaherty declared. “It’s time we had a mayor who’s going to enforce the Boston Jobs Policy.’’

Councilor Sam Yoon vowed that, as mayor, he would launch a website to publicize the names of contractors who do not hire the requisite number of residents, minorities, and women.

“We need to shame contractors who aren’t compliant,’’ Yoon said. “And you can check for yourselves, do the math. Put that information out there.’’

Businessman Kevin McCrea said he would force contractors who do not comply to “put money in Madison Park High School for job training or they won’t get the next city contract.’’