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Interview and Transcript


Interview Transcript 

Interviewee: Mayor Raymond Flynn

Interview Setting: Interview conducted in the 10th floor conference room of 73 Tremont Street at 12:30 pm on April 9th, 2015.


Flynn: When I ran for mayor of Boston, now this had the highest voter turnout in Boston in I don’t know 50, 60, 70 years I don’t know what up until that time. The two candidates in the final elections, one was, he was a friend of mine, we played basketball against each other as kids. He spent $200,000, I spent $220,000. Now you need about $4,000,000 to run for mayor of Boston. He was a black fellow state representative; I was white from South Boston. Nobody white from South Boston had ever won for mayor of Boston; no black had ever been nominated to run for mayor of Boston. And we did this without the special interest, we didn’t have any newspapers, we didn’t have any powerful business groups, or unions, or special groups with us, we just we appealed on the basis of what we believed in. And as a result, not only did we both become finalists for mayor; it was the biggest voter turnout in the history of the city.


Flynn on the topic of fighting poverty while mayor: (Speaking about an article read aloud, not filmed) It’s a story that appears in the Boston Globe, April 2nd, 2015, about the rate of poverty in Boston. Okay those are two references, why did I want to mention that to you? Well, because it doesn’t get any attention. And people say, really, there’s not a lot the government can do about it. Well, let me prove them all wrong. How did the poverty rate in Boston drop dramatically in the period of time that I was mayor? Well I brought in people to the city government that aren’t household names to people. They’re very knowledgeable, very respected people, but not big famous politicians. One of them wrote this report here for university college, but one of them is now a dean at college, professor for President Obama, teacher. One of them runs the AFL-CIO, investment fund, nationally, one of the largest investment funds, Stephen Coyle. He was the director of the Boston redevelopment authority. Another one was the O’Sullivan who runs the private industry council here in Boston, Massachusetts. Harry Grower, who I was just talking to the other day is a labor organizer, a national labor organizer across the country for unions. Now these are all lawyers or professors or whatever they are but they came into city hall, committed to the concept of economic justice, that’s what they were, they were community organizers. And they weren’t political people per say, I was the politician among them. But I brought them together and the policies that were implemented has a profound impact on the rate of poverty in our city, more so than any city in America.


Flynn on the topic of busing: The racial imbalance law it set the table for this, for the busing, that was passed in 1965, long before I got involved in politics. I was at Harvard or some place, wherever I was, playing professional basketball I guess, at this particular time. But anyway, there were challenges to the racial imbalance law, back and forth, back and forth, state courts, federal courts. So finally, this was taken out of the hands of most of the politicians in the city, except the five member elected school board, and they had their own political agenda, and they decided educational policy for the city. Anyway, the racial imbalance law was challenged, went all the way to the federal district court, Judge W. Arthur Garrity. And Judge Garrity had to come up with a plan that met the requirements of the United States Constitution. He said that the schools in Boston, public schools in Boston were racially segregated, which they were. He was right in that particular case, Judge Garrity. However, the plan that he came up with was a flawed plan, it was not a good plan. It didn’t address the issue of education in the city of Boston. Kevin White was the mayor, he had nothing to say about public education at all in the city of Boston. So now this mish mash of overlappingjurisdiction. The case goes all the way to the federal court. Now the reason why I know so much about the inside of this federal court and the decision is because when I went to Harvard, my professor, my academic advisor at the master’s school of education, was one of the three court appointed masters, Professor Charles Willy, a black fellow. He was the person that devised the whole plan for the integration of Boston public schools. He was not from here and he and the other two fellows didn’t have the foggiest idea of the geography or the history or the culture or the demographics of the city of Boston whatsoever. So they were laboring under a great disadvantage trying to come up with a plan whatever and it was very very flawed, flawed and everybody admits it. Matter of fact an interesting story, never been public, but years later, after when I was mayor now, the publisher of the Boston Globe and the editor of the Boston Globe came into my office one day, unannounced but they waited to see me, and they said it would only take a couple of minutes and they walked in and they said, “we just want you to know that we’re the advocates for busing in the city of Boston, the Boston Globe. We made a mistake, we should not have done this, we should have waited for a better system, a better process, but we didn’t do it we supported the cause, we supported the masters, we supported the judge, and we know that it was a mistake.”


Flynn on the topic of “linkage”:Now the linkage idea that we came up with, five dollars would go into this neighborhood investment fund for building specifically affordable housing. Now it wasn’t city hall that made the decisions, I would appoint people like you from the neighborhood to sit on this board to make the decision on where the housing would go, how many units and all this other stuff; the parks and the playgrounds. There would be a sizable amount of money, 40 million bucks, pretty good money for building, housing at that time wasn’t very expensive, a lot of good units of affordable housing. Another component of this linkage that would be for job training. So in other words, we’re building the Boston Garden, for example, Bank, TD Bank, whatever you call it, it would have to be built by people from Boston. They were all kinds of construction going on in Boston, but they weren’t Boston residents who were participating in it, no minorities, and no women were involved in the constructions jobs. So now we change all that, so we have thousands of people getting affordable housing, we have thousands of people getting jobs training, and we have thousands of people that are working on the jobs, there were no women in the construction industry then. And there were very very few minorities working in the construction industry and there were a small number of Boston residents were working in the construction industry. So we’re having all of this economic boom but it’s not benefiting people living in the community, so they were hesitant about all the development and they were protesting and demonstrating and all that. So now all of a sudden we changed the rules, everybody’s benefiting from it, so what are they going to do? They’re advocating for it, they’re in favor of this.

Flynn’s closing remarks: You learn a lot from this linkage, and the issue of economic inequality, I think it’s a big issue. It’s an issue that it’s a challenge for folks like yourself because the old timers haven’t done a good job. The old timers like me haven’t done a very good job on it. For some reason, the status quo has been intimidated talking about economic inequality. Even  the universities and the colleges don’t want to touch it, the business community doesn’t want to touch it, the media doesn’t want to touch it. But recently two of these articles, one in the Globe, one in the Herald, and this survey, this study that has been done will paint some very important lessons. And I will end with this: for anybody that says “policies don’t matter” don’t believe it. Policies do matter, and you can make a difference. Everybody can make a difference if they try hard enough. You can be a low representative like I was, you can be the mayor of Boston, like I was, but if you don’t have the determination, and you don’t have the courage, and you don’t have the fight, then nothing will get done. We proved that implementing policies in the 1980s had a positive effect on the economic inequality in Boston. 

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Interview and Transcript