Special-interest groups, those all-too-potent forces in government, may be facing tough times in Boston. Newly inaugurated Mayor Raymond L. Flynn is promising an administration free of favoritism, dedicated to serving even-handedly all people of the city where patronage has been anything but scarce.
Over the next four years it may be unrealistic to expect that Mr. Flynn will appoint the very best-qualified applicant to every municipal post. But the new chief executive may bring to City Hall a regime that believes competence is more important than political connections.
To suggest that progress was not made toward a better Boston during the 16 -year tenure of former Mayor Kevin H. White would be to ignore major changes in the city's skyline.
Still unsolved, however, are some of the most critical problems that any incoming city administration could face, including a substantial budget shortfall in fiscal 1985 (the 12 months beginning July 1). The Boston Municipal Research Bureau, an impartial watchdog group, has warned the budget deficit may be in excess of $40 million.
Flynn is counting on much more financial help from the state than ever before , and he intends to lean hard on Massachusetts lawmakers and Gov. Michael S. Dukakis for assistance. But it is questionable whether state senators and representatives, soon up for reelection, would be willing to pour more dollars into the coffers of the capital city.
As indicated in his inaugural address, Flynn also wants to go after the private colleges and other tax-exempt institutions around the city to help shoulder some of the fiscal burden for municipal services. However, this route has been traveled, with little or no success, by each of Mayor Flynn's three immediate predecessors.
Even if state lawmakers and various private institutions both deliver more dollars for Boston, neither the city's short-term nor its long-term fiscal problems will be solved. A carefully pruned bureaucracy
What is needed, with or without help from Beacon Hill, is a slimmer municipal overhead, including a substantial but careful pruning of the City Hall bureaucracy that has grown up over the past 16 years.
Mayor Flynn and many critics of the White administration have long since concluded that there is too much overlapping of functions, if not duplication of effort, within the city government.
A carefully crafted and long-overdue reorganization of Boston's executive hierarchy can be expected, but perhaps not as soon as the new mayor would like. Changes may be delayed, since some of them will require approval of state lawmakers and the City Council under the home-rule legislation.
Some of the bureaucratic cuts, as well intentioned as they may be, could run into political foot-dragging - especially if city employees whose jobs are in jeopardy have influential friends on Beacon Hill.
There may be convincing arguments for retaining a few of the dozens of municipal agencies that Mayor Flynn might want to dissolve. But in the interest of increased efficiency or economy, there is no doubt Boston does not need the 80 departments, boards, commissions, and agencies that exist even as Flynn takes office.
For months Flynn has made it clear he wants to wipe out the Boston Redevelopment Authority, although what might be proposed in its place is under wraps. The BRA - whose five-member board is comprised largely of appointees of former Mayor White - and two dozen other agencies involved in planning, community development, zoning, and housing would be brought together in a single department. This would likely eliminate some administrative overlapping and, in the process, speed approval and implementation of various projects.
Many of the city's most-expendable operations may have been justified in the past, but they have outlived their usefulness. Some agencies have become repositories for political loyalists of the previous mayor.
In some instances, the money spent to continue these agencies would be small, but every penny that can be saved by their elimination could help the new administration balance the fiscal 1985 budget. Maintaining morale of city personnel
The estimated $40 million budget shortfall does not take into account any pay raises that municipal employee unions may gain through collective bargaining with the city.
Mayor Flynn would like to start off on a good foot in negotiations with unions representing the city's policemen, firefight-ers, and clerical and hospital workers.
But with the cupboard practically bare, and with no help in sight for additional money for pay raises, contract agreements could be slow, challenging the fiscal-management mettle of the new administration.
Flynn, who agreed to support the three-year pay raise recently reached between the Boston School Department and the teachers union, could find it difficult to deny other city employees a raise of comparable proportions.
The long-term success of the new city administration could hinge on maintaining a strong morale among all workers, not just ones who yell loudest or have the most potential clout.
If the Flynn regime is to improve the level and quality of services to all city neighborhoods, as promised, a lot of cooperation from employee unions may be essential.
In some instances, a giant step to improve morale among city employees could probably be taken by increasing the emphasis on merit promotions in all agencies and by structuring the ladders of advancement so they are free of political cronyism.
This is not to suggest that Flynn's departmental leaders should not be chosen at least partially on the basis of their support for his policies and objectives. At the same time, however, no city employee should be expected to put in time raising funds, organizing, or contributing to the buildup of a political machine to perpetuate the tenure of the mayor. A pledge to work for racial harmony
To his credit, Mayor Flynn, in his inaugural address, served notice that he intends to provide Boston with a government dedicated to serving all the people of the city without regard for race.
Particularly impressive was his strong statement that the ''full weight of city government will be brought down on those who seek, because of race or color , to deny anyone from any street, any school, any park, any home, any job, in any neighborhood of Boston.'' The new mayor who went on to urge ''this is a time for hating the violence and discord of the past'' and ''a time for loving the city and all of its people.''
The Flynn pledge must be reassuring to skeptics who have doubted the depth of his commitment to improving the plight of minorities, including blacks, most of whom supported Melvin H. King in November.
Although it could be several months before the new mayor has built his team at City Hall, and even longer before all administration jobs are filled, it appears Flynn is making every effort to bring on board more than just a token number of minority aides.
And Flynn's determination to increase the opportunities for women in the city regime - including high-ranking positions - is also increasingly apparent.
As his first official act upon taking the oath of office, Mayor Flynn signed an executive order guaranteeing equal job opportunity and pay for women on city payrolls.
Former City Councilor Rosemarie Sansone already has been named to a top-level post in charge of promoting tourism and jobs. Her current duties also include helping to shape the bureaucratic reorganization.
Part of that reorganization might include a modest reduction in the number of city employees. This has to be a major goal of the new administration, which could not do more to impress the humble taxpayer than to leave vacant some of the city's 1,000 positions, including department heads and other posts.
Already dismantled is the 13-member public information corps, which Mayor White had amassed during his long reign. That image-building operation has been replaced with a small staff like the one which so ably served the city and former Mayor John F. Collins during his eight years in the executive seat. How accessible to the public?
The first few days doth not a four-year term make, but it appears that Mayor Flynn, as he promised in his campaign, will be more personally involved in the day-to-day operations of the city than was his predecessor.
It remains to be seen, however, whether the new mayor will make himself available to the public, as he has pledged. Certainly, he was accessible during his six years on the City Council and four terms in the state House of Representatives.
While Flynn's desire to keep a finger in every municipal pie is laudable, he could spread himself too thin. He may need to devote much of his time to getting a grip on the more critical challenges facing Boston, such as the need to shape long-range city policy.
Another time-consuming activity could be that of ex-officio member of the Boston School Committee, a role Flynn will seek probably in the next few weeks. On the surface, mayoral participation in the decisionmaking for the city's school system seems to make good sense; by far, the largest single portion of the municipal budget goes to the schools.
If the mayor sits regularly with the 13 members of the school board, he would be in a better position to assess what reductions could be made in the school department budget (which goes to City Council for approval).
However, school committee members are not likely to welcome Flynn with open arms. Some panel members seem certian to make their opposition known in the City Council and state legislature, both of which would have to approve any ex-officio arrangement. Police commissioner controversy
While most department leaders serve coterminously with the mayor, the police commissioner does not. Mayor Flynn would like to replace incumbent Joseph Jordan with a man of his choosing, but the commissioner has been unwilling to step down. Appointed by Mayor White last year to serve a five-year term, Mr. Jordan could be around for Flynn's entire mayoral term.
Thus, unless Jordan relents within the next few months, Flynn may move to change legislation to make the job of police commissioner coterminous with the mayor's. But the commissioner is not without friends on the City Council and the legislature, so Flynn's prospects for unseating him are uncertain.
Mayor Flynn cannot be faulted for wanting to have the city police force under the leadership of someone who is apt to be responsive to the policies of his administration - rather than those of the previous mayor.
Former Mayor White had a man of his choosing at the police department's helm throughout most of his tenure. It seems only fair, if Mayor Flynn is to have a free hand in running the city, he should also be free to name his own leader of the city police force.
Mayor Flynn might not be able to accomplish all that he wants to during the coming four years, but if he stays on course, Boston will have a less frills-oriented city administration. And that should save hard-to-come-by dollars for important programs and bring greater efficiency to municipal operations.