It was billed as a forum, but both candidates for Boston mayor got to debate the issues — education, the economy and public safety — for the first time since advancing to the general election. Incumbent Mayor Thomas Menino and City Council President Michael Flaherty appeared before voters Thursday night on WCVB-TV.
Menino defended his protracted negotiations with the Boston firefighters, who have been working without a contract since 2006. The union is seeking a 20 percent raise.
“We can’t get to ‘yes’ on it because they want to continue to add other issues to the discussion. Firefighters do a good job everyday, but you can’t spend money you don’t have,” Menino said.
The firefighters have been working without a contract since 2006, and negotiations have stalled numerous times since then. The Menino administration wants the union to agree to random drug and alcohol testing and other concessions.
“Under a Flaherty administration … there will be mandatory random drug and alcohol testing not only for the firefighters, but also for the police and EMS and anyone in the city that operates heavy equipment,” Flaherty said.
The firefighters union has already endorsed Flaherty in the campaign.
Later, Flaherty was asked why he tapped his former rival, City Councilor Sam Yoon, to be his “deputy mayor,” a position that does not yet exist
“I’m reaching out to someone that has tremendous value to add to our city in a number of different areas. He’s got a number of different strengths,” Flaherty said.
Flaherty blasted Menino about recent revelations that one of the mayor’s top aides may have broken state public records law by deleting city e-mails without first backing them up.
“When we found out they weren’t backed up — I always had the impression you never erase an e-mail — well, we got an e-discovery system at City Hall that cost us a million dollars so this will not happen ever again,” Menino said.
Flaherty said the e-mail debacle further drives home his call for change.
“I think this is really indicative of the need to move city government into the 21st century,” Flaherty said.
While Menino and Flaherty have only one formal debate scheduled, for Oct. 19, they are negotiating more discussion forums before the Nov. 3 election.