Boston Mayor's Switch

THE mayor who focused his attention on Boston's neighborhoods is leaving before the end of his third four-year term to serve as United States ambassador to the Vatican.

Raymond Flynn, a lifelong resident of Irish Catholic South Boston, sees his city as a collection of neighborhoods and has tried to serve all of them the way he served "Southie" as a legislator and on the City Council.

Mayor Flynn succeeded a trio of mayors - John Hynes, John Collins, and Kevin White - who presided over a physical and economic transformation of Boston.

Flynn inherited from them a city divided along ethnic, race, and wealth lines. While new buildings went up, Boston's latent bigotry was bared to the nation. He won the mayor's post in a bitter campaign, defeating black community leader Melvin King - who is one of many possible successors to the mayor. But whoever takes over at City Hall will begin with a community of neighborhoods determined to surmount their shortcomings. Flynn has done much to set the tone.

Foremost among Boston's battles not won is the public school situation. After years of trying to work with an elected Boston School Committee, Flynn convinced the Legislature to put the school system in his hands. Some say that the apparent failure of this reform attempt has led to his decision to accept the Vatican assignment. He told the local press that he had turned down a previously proffered appointment, but declined to divulge its nature.

Flynn had thoughts of running for governor of Massachusetts, and his acceptance of the Vatican post is seen as evidence that he feels present Republican Gov. William Weld is likely to win a second term.

While the Monitor is among those who do not endorse the post of ambassador to the Vatican, on grounds of separation of church and state, it does recognize the service Mr. Flynn has given his home city. As a "man of the people," he has shown that "neighborhood" need not be a code word for racism.

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