Mayoral hopefuls sling barbs at RCC forum

Victor Kakulu | 9/9/2009, 4:56 a.m.

“The Boston Redevelopment Authority needs to be eliminated and we need to replace it with a real community development planning department,” said Yoon, noting that the BRA operates outside of the normal government strictures of democratic oversight in that a single individual — namely, Menino — controls it.

Furthermore, Yoon talked about a misuse of affordable housing funds on the part of the city Department of Neighborhood Development (DND), deeming it “unacceptable” and promising to follow the law in dealing with it. Menino downplayed the charge of misuse, saying he had spoken with U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan on the matter and was assured the federal inquiry into DND was more about a procedural concern than any real wrongdoing.

On the issue of education, Menino voiced a theme of progress and moving forward, highlighting the recent development of new libraries in both Mattapan and at the Jeremiah Burke High School in Dorchester.

However, Flaherty reminded the crowd of the need to be honest about the Boston Public Schools’ (BPS) inability to match the level of success of the city’s colleges and universities, citing the BPS as “the future of our city.”

“We’re failing our children. It’s time to bring new leadership and perspective to that discussion,” said Flaherty.

Employment diversity was another strong point for Flaherty, who called for an increased emphasis on the role of the community in the city’s community policing strategy, as well as greater diversity at the center of city leadership.

“Diversity is Boston’s strength,” he said. “Yet when we look at the upper echelons of the Boston Police Department, it’s not diverse. From the commissioner down to the chief to the superintendent to the deputy superintendent to the sergeant, it should [look] like the faces of the city, and will under my administration.”

While saluting the mayor for the accomplishments of his tenure in office, Yoon, McCrea and Flaherty all continued to assert that Menino’s time is up. They argued that Boston residents must not only have a more prominent role in the city’s decision-making process, but must also admit that, in Yoon’s words, the city’s system of government is “broken.”

“Change comes from the grassroots level. Our system is broken because it concentrates too much power into the hands of one person — the office of the mayor,” said Yoon. “And I want to work with you to change that.”

As the first of the three scheduled mayoral forums concluded, attendees seemed anxious to hear more from the candidates.

“It’s good they chose to start things off in Roxbury,” said Henry Romain, 30, a Roxbury native. “Menino’s done a good job for as long as he’s been in office. But it’s good to see we’ve got three guys willing to call him on where he’s slipped up. I hope to hear more concrete ideas from guys like Yoon and McCrea. But tonight was good.”