Special-interest groups size up their prospects under Flynn leadership
Mayor-elect Raymond L. Flynn is busy molding and chiseling Boston's new city government, but no one can tell yet what the final design will look like. For all the support Mr. Flynn mustered in his bid for mayor, in some ways he remains an unknown quantity. Flynn is a self-admitted loner. By that, he says he means that he will not bow to special interests. At the same time, however, he must also prove he can work effectively with all elements in the city - the powerful, as well as the needy.
His election was seen as a victory for the neighborhoods, the schools, and the average citizen - many political observers are optimistic about a Flynn administration. But they also want to know what specific policies and programs Flynn intends to adopt as mayor.
How do these groups perceive Ray Flynn?
Speaking at a recent economic conference, five prominent businessmen speculated a bit on how well Flynn will work with the Boston business community.
Overall, their comments could be described as ''cautiously optimistic.'' Each businessman said he believed Flynn would realize the need to work with the business community, although his campaign was based on a platform of neighborhood restoration.
John G. McElwee, chairman of the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, said, ''the impression that the business community and Ray Flynn are strangers is erroneous.'' As a city councilor, Flynn attended meetings with the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce a dozen times over the past two years, Mr. McElwee said. And he added, ''there's not nearly the gap many people think'' between Flynn and business.
McElwee said that ''the vitality of downtown and the neighborhoods are intertwined.'' And he expects there will be a lot of communication between the Flynn administration and the business community.
On minority affairs, Flynn should move immediately to involve the ethnic communities in helping shape his administration, says Hubie Jones, dean of the school of social work at Boston University. Dr. Jones says Flynn is going to have to live up to the position he articulated in his campaign - that of ''uniting the entire city.''
Ricardo Millett, president of the Black Political Task Force, says the new mayor must create a more responsive government - responsive not just to some neighborhoods, but to each one of them. The Flynn administration must also provide access for minorities at all job levels in the city administration, he says.
In light of the voter strength exercised by Boston's minority community in the November election, Jones says Flynn will have to be more responsive to that group than any other Boston mayor in history.
Ian Foreman, spokesman for the Boston school department, says that because Flynn has ''placed the schools so high on his priority list,'' he thinks there will be a constructive relationship between the mayor and the schools. It is still too early to tell what specific input Flynn will have, he adds. During the campaign, Flynn stated that he would seek a role on the school committee as an ex officio member.
Michael McCormack, an incumbent city councilor, speaks optimistically about prospects for good relations between the new mayor and the new City Council. The council will be expanding in January from nine members (all elected at-large) to 13 members (four elected at-large, the other nine representing the city's nine new neighborhood voting districts.)
Councilor McCormack says concern for the neighborhoods will be the theme for the new mayor and the City Council. He expects both will be working toward similar goals. Any conflicts, he says, will be a result of setting different priorities as to how those goals should be reached.
These are rosy forecasts. But it would be wise to remember that Ray Flynn will be the first mayor in the last 40 years to have no previous administrative experience. Mayor Kevin H. White had been Massachusetts secretary of state. Former Mayor John Collins had been a registrar of probate. And before him, John B. Hynes had experience as city clerk.
In campaigning, Flynn often referred to his experience on the City Council, saying, in effect, ''I know how the city works.'' He does have experience as a legislator - six years on the City Council, and eight years in the state legislature before that. But Flynn comes to the job with no real administrative experience. With the mandate to manage the second-largest governmental body in the state, it is of utmost importance that Flynn staff his administration with qualified, dedicated people. He will need people with proven ability, not just dedicated campaign workers, to manage and administer the complex policies and programs that will shape Boston's growth over the next four years.
Rosemarie E. Sansone, a former city councilor and one of Flynn's top campaign advisers, says Flynn's biggest challenge will be to effectively delegate duties and responsibility to others. That's not something Flynn has ever had to do, she says.
Many individuals and groups in Boston appear to be optimistic about Ray Flynn. For the most part, however, many have taken a wait-and-see attitude. Flynn certainly deserves a reasonable amount of time to pick his staff, define policies, and set up his administration.
Mayor-elect Flynn cares about the city and has good intentions. The need, according to so many, is to express that care substantively - through effective policies and sound management.