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Yoon, Menino aides clash at Mattapan forum

Campaign trail tensions erupted when top officials from Mayor Thomas Menino’s administration crashed a Tuesday night Mattapan forum hosted by mayoral hopeful and City Councillor At-Large Sam Yoon.

During the 90-minute forum held at Foley Senior Residences, Yoon criticized the city’s Elderly Commission, calling it a political arm of the Menino administration. Yoon pointed to literature and handbags the commission hands out that prominently bear Menino’s name, along with the city seal.

“It almost exists to serve the mayor,” Yoon said in front of a small crowd of 60 people, many of them seniors. “Elders deserve better than that.”

The comments outraged Judith Kurland, Menino’s chief of staff, who attended the forum, along with Larry Mayes, the city’s chief of human services, and James Hills, special assistant to the mayor.

“I take personal offense,” Kurland cut in, calling the remarks “disingenuous.”

Kurland, who at one point was shouted down by the Yoon-friendly crowd, pointed to Menino’s high approval ratings among seniors. “It’s because he’s done so much,” she said. “It’s not because of electioneering.”

As she spoke, Jim Spencer, a top Yoon strategist who was standing next to Kurland, asked where the mayor was. (Menino, at the time of the Tuesday night forum, was at Tia’s, a Boston waterfront restaurant that was hosting an “evening of conversation” with Young Professionals for Menino.)

“He’s in Mattapan often,” Kurland snapped back.

The Mattapan forum, organized by the Yoon campaign, was the first in a series of planned “town hall” meetings.

Tempers flared again later in the forum when Larry Ellison, president of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, said Menino had “not considered” a person of color for the job of police commissioner. He added that Menino did not include people of color in his administration. Ellison was echoing a criticism that has also come from the Bay State Banner, a local weekly that focuses on the black community.

Mayes, who was seated in the audience, broke in: “I’m in the mayor’s cabinet. I’m a person of color.”

Speaking to the Reporter after the forum, Mayes also pointed to Sandra Henriquez, whom the Obama administration recently poached for a slot in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She had served as head of the Boston Housing Authority since 1996.

“Boston is not just black and white,” Mayes said, adding that diversity extends to Hispanics, Asians, and sexual orientation. “The bench has to be open to everybody.”

Mayes added that Menino had done a “fair job” when it comes to appointing people of color. “Could there be more? Absolutely,” he said. “And the mayor is not satisfied. He wants to see more.”

At the end of the forum, Kurland offered to meet with attendees to counter “a little bit of misinformation.” She was shouted down by the crowd’s cries of “where’s the mayor?” then yelled back: “How often have you seen Councilor Yoon in Mattapan?”

During the forum, Yoon kept up his criticisms of the longtime incumbent who is also facing challenges from City Councillor At-Large Michael Flaherty and South End businessman Kevin McCrea.

Fifty-five of the city’s schools – a third – are labeled underperforming, Yoon said, arguing that the city’s school committee needs to move back to being elected, in part, instead of appointed and under control of the mayor. Yoon proposes a hybrid model of appointed and elected members.

Yoon has also said the city’s school drop-out rate has remained high throughout Menino’s tenure.

Kurland pointed to a front page story in the Boston Globe on Tuesday that said 78 percent of the city’s 3,300 high school graduates in 2007 had enrolled at two- and four-year colleges.

Yoon also slammed the mayor’s budget process, saying that there was a lack of transparency while Yoon, a Fields Corner resident, was holding community forums. Yoon has charged that there were savings available through the removal of the city's antiquated fire boxes and the elimination of the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

Kurland said the $2.4 billion budget is available on the city’s website and three months of public hearings are held. “It’s all public,” she said.

“Some councillors attended the budget hearings and some don’t,” she said in a shot at Yoon’s attendance record. “That’s all I’ll say on that.”

CORRECTION: A correction has been upended to this article. Councillor At-Large Yoon supports moving the school committee, whose members are appointed by the mayor, to a hybrid model where some are elected and some are appointed.

Comments

Many of Yoon's complaints seem ludicrous to me. Yoon's criticism that the Mayor does not include minorities in his administration is both unfounded and offensive. In fact, the Mayor has sought to make Boston one of the most tolerant and accepting cities in the country, and he has done this specifically by including minorities on his staff. Maybe Yoon should stop creating issues where there are none and actually talk about what he'll do.

speak freely about what's on their minds? Isn't it really about what their concerns are and what their questions are instead of Mayor Menino's people trying to snipe and play politics with Councilor Yoon's people? Mayor Menino's representatives tried to take the right to dialogue away from the seniors and THAT IS WRONG. It's true if Mayor Menino REALLY wanted an open dialogue, then he SHOULD have been there.

It bothers me when candidates like Yoon try to dig up problems that just don't exist. This is a real election, and there are things that should be openly discussed. But, to say that the Mayor hasn't done enough for seniors, or for Mattapan simply makes new sense. Maybe Yoon should have spent more time as a councilor fixing these so-called "problems" instead of attending all of those out-of-state fundraisers.

That's what the Mayor has become - satisfied with 'things are ok'. That's what happens when someone wants to stay in office for more than two decades. His turn is over.

Wow, seems like the Menino aides were there to quietly research their competition, but became so incensed by Yoon's comments that they couldn't hold their silence. What if you dedicated your career to policy making, and then some upstart who doesn't understand what you've been doing gets up and misrepresents your work? I'm glad Menino's staff was there to set the record straight...

It seems to me that Sam Yoon is trying too hard to look for problems where there aren't any. The fact is, Mayor Menino has an immaculate track record. Instead of focusing on imaginary problems with the Mayor's accomplishments, Yoon should be focusing on a campaign for himself saying what he will do instead.

Oh Yoon, the more you cry wolf at these so-called open forums, the more you reveal yourself to be a shameless opportunist. It's one thing to run your mouth, but don't go all prima donna on us when someone has the gall to challenge your claims.

I don't think that Sam Yoon would mind if Menino's various mouthpieces went to all of his town hall meetings. Sounds like it was the cogs from the Menino machine who were up in arms - not Sam. What's the matter - The Emperor got no clothes?

...if I would give Yoons organization that much attention or credibility, but to say that it was an open meeting for voters is a bit much. Looked like a staged campaign meeting what with all the Yoon sign holders in attendence. Just not billed as such.

That is not true. Nobody at that meeting was holding a sign. It is simply a lie. This was an open meeting and that much must be obvious since Menino stacked it with his lackies.

Wow...the mayor was at Tia's huh? That's funny because I saw him on the Red Sox telecast last night: http://tiny.cc/mayorreallyatthesoxgame

He'd have to be pretty fast to pull that off. He was very kind to Jim (or as he called him "Jimmy") Rice about his work in the community. Maybe Jim Rice can serve as an example for the Mayor spending more time there. Judging from the comments that were made last night, people don't see enough of him in Mattapan.

Yeah - you won't see Menino in the neighborhoods actually answering voter's questions ... only cutting ribbons. That's why he sends his rude staff to disrupt things when the problems of the community are actually discussed. What a disgrace the whole machine is.

It was typical Boston politics last night.
MeniNO's cronies/minions were there to stir the pot and try to intimidate Sam Yoon and the people there and it didn't work!

For the Chief of Staff to cast aspersion on Sam Yoon like that wasn't cool in fact it made MeniNO's administration and campaign for re-election look even more sad and like they are running scared!

All the more reason to vote him out of office. He can take all of the folks that were there to protect their cushy city hall jobs with him too!

Wow, this shows just how anti-Democracy Menino is. He doesn't want anyone running against him, doesn't want issues being brought up, is not interested in debates, and keeps everyone in the dark. This is scary, why doesn't he talk about his platform- what exactly ARE his plans for the rest of us?!

And if he's going to send people to interrupt a meeting, why not come yourself? You really want your staff to look bad? For what- another ribbon cutting? A fundraiser? He's never focused on the issues or solving problems- just political gain.

Enough is enough. Menino, if you get reelected, I'm moving.

Despite the interruptions, Sam kept the focus on standing in front of voters, hearing their concerns. Many in the crowd agreed that it was extremely disrespectful of the Mayor's staff to try to derail the conversation. But Sam is still working to engage more people in the political process and that's inspiring.

WTF? The Chief of Staff for the City of Boston, Head of Human Services and others have nothing better to do than follow Sam Yoon around and blow up meetings? Proof that the Mayor's staff is all about politics not governing.

Where is the Mayor? First of all it's Dot Joyce he rolls out to speak for him, now another lap-dog - Judith Kurland. Who will be the next hack he feeds to the lions?

Why won't the mayor attend forums himself and defend his record, instead of sending coat-holders to disrupt a meeting for voters?

I guess Menino must be pretty scared of Sam Yoon. Imagine crashing your opponents' meetings, shouting down voters and behaving like a spoiled child ! This kind of nonsense is what you get from a tired, 16-year administration. We need new leadership in Boston.

Why waste the public's time grandstanding about forums? Yoon didn't want a forum, he wanted a fundraiser. Sorry his whiny crowd couldn't enjoy running their mouths unchecked and didn't expect to face the city services they were ragging on. Yoon's worst enemy is a little fact checking. So embarrassing. Man up and do a little research next time.

Is this the Mayor - he wouldn't waste the public's time talking about issues or appearing at forums! Were you one of the clowns who made a fool of yourself there last night. I bet that Menino won't send you to the next town hall meeting. Everyone was laughing at you!! HA HA!!