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In seeking a fifth term in 2009, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is facing the most crowded field of challengers since he first won the job in 1993. Three other candidates are vying for the post: City Councilors Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon, and South End businessman Kevin McCrea.
Early in the race, WBUR invited each of the candidates into our studios to discuss their campaigns and the issues they care about.
Why after all this time in office do you want to run again?
MAYOR THOMAS MENINO: I believe that, you know, over the last several years we've worked hard to make this a better city. I just think as the mayor going into another term, the new energy that we've generated and the new people we've attracted to government, and getting the younger folks involved in what we do in city government.
So that's why I'm running for a fifth term, is because I still have the energy to do the job and to continue to make improvements in our city and to work with people.
It's all about the people, it's not about Tom Menino. I could have walked away from this and said that I had a great four terms, and not face the challenges I face. I mean, I face great challenges in the next term. The financial crisis we have --
Well, before we get to that. Your opponents say the city's ready for fresh ideas and new energy. After all, you've been in the job for more than 15 years. One of your challengers, City Councilor Michael Flaherty, says he's running for the future and that you represent the status quo. Respond to that.
MENINO: I don't know how I represent the status quo. Well, when it comes to technology in the city of Boston, we're putting new technology programs for our young people — we have some of the most innovative programs.
You know, it's about — we'll discuss our issues as we go through this campaign, and what we've done for Boston as we're in office. And I think I have a record of accomplishments, I have a record of working with people on public health issues that other folks haven't dealt with.
Success in colleges, you know. Most people look at the issue of kids in school, 'Well, we get them to college, that's good.' Now I'm dealing with the issue of how to make them a success while they're in college, and how they stay in college. That's about the future, that's not about the past.
Respond to someone who might say, 'If Tom Menino hasn't been able to accomplish these things after a decade and a half, maybe it is time for new blood.'
MENINO: New issues come up all the time. It's not the same issues every year. Things are different in our city than they were a year ago. Several years ago, we had to deal with different issues than we have to deal with today.
And I'm going to change with those issues that face us every year, and that's what this is all about: is how we can have our own change, our own way we operate city government. We're more responsive when it comes to people making complaints to City Hall. GPS systems in all our trucks and public works during the snow storm.
All those things, that technology in paying your bills, your dues online now. We're doing a lot in city government — created a very innovative camp out in Long Island for kids in the city who need the help the most.
We're there. I just will put my record up against any elected official, because I think we have a record of progress and continuing to improve the quality of life in Boston.
Looking forward. What is on top of your priority list for another term, should you be re-elected? What's No. 1?
MENINO: Well my No. 1 is continuing the progress made in public education. The other thing is, how do we stabilize the financial situation in Boston? We have a good foundation. The rating agencies just reaffirmed our rating of AA1. That's a good rating for a city that doesn't have the ability to raise its own revenues.
But how do we stabilize what we're doing in government when it comes to the finances? We don't have opportunities to raise our own revenue. I've been up at the State House fighting for that for the last couple years — trying to get the legislatures to understand those issues.
And I've been a very lonely fight. I haven't had anybody else from city government up there fighting for those tax increases. I mean — the meals tax, telecommunications tax — those are things I'm looking to get new revenues for Boston. Because this is the 21st-century. We can't run government the way we did 25 years ago.
In previous elections, you've been criticized for refusing to debate challengers, or debating them only once. Will you debate your opponents, this time around, more than once?
MENINO: I'll debate my opponents during this campaign. But you know, is debating the way to get to understand a candidate? Don't you have to look at their record when they're in office, or what they have done?
Well, it is...
MENINO: Or what they haven't done. This gives the media opportunity. I'd rather have the people have an opportunity to discuss the issues. When I go to those community meetings at night, to discuss them with people every night. You know, when they come into my office, they ask me about questions about their community.
That's the real people of Boston --
But as you know...
MENINO: --who come into your office, who go to those community meetings. [Inaudible] 'We have to debate.' I'll debate. No question about it. I said that in my opening statement at the start of the campaign.
The other candidates never talked about those issues.
More than once? Will you debate more than once?
MENINO: As time allows, we'll do it. And you know that's what we're gonna do. We're gonna talk about the issues. And I'm having an issue-oriented campaign. Talking about the issues and how they affect the people of Boston.
NOTE: WBUR will be inviting all the other mayoral candidates to speak on Morning Edition in the coming days.
This program aired on April 23, 2009.
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