Racial healing

By ADAM REILLY  |  November 10, 2008

You could do that in almost all parts of the city: whether it was Washington Street, Columbus Avenue, Blue Hill Avenue, Dorchester Avenue, you could see everything heading toward downtown. Everybody could see clearly the impact of the policies that the prior administrations had put in place. And you could make the case for turning it in the other direction.

Mel, you backed the change to a district-based city-council system in 1983, and Ray, you're the mayor who changed the school-committee structure from elected to an appointed structure in 1993. In retrospect — since those changes might have sucked some life out of city politics — were they good ideas?
KING: I think the council change was absolutely the correct thing. For me, the urban-renewal situation was the crucial piece. None of the places that had a city-council member were subject to urban renewal. And all we said was, if urban renewal was good for the South End, why wasn't it good for South Boston or the Back Bay? The way to change a handful of folks making decisions for the rest of the community was to go for a combination of district and at-large. That's what motivated us to make that kind of change, and I might say it's a mark we made on the city.

FLYNN: The five-member, at-large school committee was a disaster for Boston: too much patronage, too much politics, too much bureaucracy. It just wasn't serving the children of Boston. I did it not on the basis of polls, or what was politically expedient, but what I felt was best for the kids.

KING: One of the things that bothered me about the change to an appointed school committee was that you had people who voted for it in the legislature who wouldn't have stood for it in their own community. And that level of hypocrisy. . . . The irony of it was, the black clergy supported it! It happened under you . . .

FLYNN: Right. In retrospect, I wish the school committee reflected my intention more. My intention was to put more parents on it, more community activists, not just people answerable to the mayor. Somebody who then would have an independent vote, and vote for the superintendent that would be best representative of the city. That was the idea I had; I don't think it actually happened, because politics got involved in it again.

Mel and I were both extremely interested in education, and Mel was on the education committee [as a state representative]. You brought in those people, Mel, from New York, who were very active in the community-control program — remember that? You were the big advocate for community control of schools at the time. A lot of people woke up to that one. Mel was ahead of his time on community control. People, parents understand what is best for their children. The legislature at the time didn't go along with it, but now that I look back at it, that was very reasonable. That might have been best for education in this city. . . .

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