Menino, Yoon staying mum on what they plan for 2009

City Councillor Michael Flaherty is quickly positioning himself as a mayoral candidate of change with a campaign launch on YouTube and now an online invitation to 18,000 city employees and all city residents to share ideas with him. But his expected opponents in the race, outside of the South End's candidate Kevin McCrea, have kept it fairly quiet.

Incumbent Thomas Menino, caught in an off moment at a Columbia Savin Hill Civic Association meeting Monday, said he is focused on balancing the city's budget and putting off his decision on a possible fifth term.

"There's no timetable on it," he said. "My issue right now is trying to make the budget work for the City of Boston and minimize any jobs that are lost. I'm the mayor. It all comes back to me. And everybody will take potshots after we're all done. They don't understand it."

Asked about his potential foes, Menino commented, "They're all good people," with a smile.

One of those good people, at-Large City Councillor Sam Yoon, is also stalling reporters eager to discover his intentions this week, and it seems some potential candidates for his spot on the council are holding their own announcements until they see him throw his hat in the ring. John Kerry staffer Ayanna Pressley said she still hasn't made a decision on a run for council this week, but she didn't say no.

But the evidence is mounting for a second opening on the council. Yoon's mayoral candidacy seems imminent.

"With my wife we are going to talk about what that would mean for our two kids," said Yoon in a phone interview Friday, his 4-year-old daughter taking a piano lesson in the background. "I've been calling community leaders and asking what they think, including folks in Dorchester, but there's a lot to weigh. The pro would be a vigorous campaign. That would be healthy for our city, and we should have a serious debate about the future of our city. But the cons are obvious, there's a personal toll - it would be different than a City Council race."

Yoon added that a decision is on the horizon, however. He told a reporter from the Boston Phoenix that he would be discussing the possibilities with his family this weekend. Asked if he'd go public with the results on Monday, he said that would be in the "right range."

"It's not March," he said.

Much like Flaherty was just before announcing, Yoon has been hiring highly qualified political consultants from out of state. His expenditures at the state's Office of Campaign and Political Finance website show a $1,900 payment to Hewitt Campaign Inc. on Jan. 15. The company is owned by Jeffrey Hewitt, one of the youngest paid staff members of the first Clinton-Gore campaign. Hewitt is a fundraising specialist who has served on a number of winning campaigns in Texas, including that of the first Vietnamese-American state legislator elected in that state, Hubert Vo.

Yoon also spent $3,030 that same day with NGP Software Inc., a company that designs sophisticated political campaign fundraising websites.

Finally, late last month Yoon's spokesperson Curtis Ellis left City Hall staff, a sign that Ellis may be crossing over to Yoon's campaign staff - particularly after Yoon confirmed that Ellis would still be around in some capacity, saying the Reporter would still have a chance at "getting to know him."

Ellis, who was hired by Yoon's office only last year, has extensive political experience helping pols into higher offices than Yoon now occupies, having worked on Wisconsin Democrat Congressman Steve Fagen's staff and on a failed bid by Jack Davis to take New York Republican Congressman Tom Reynolds's vacated seat last year.

Mayor Menino meanwhile, has not paid out funds to technology gurus or consulting firms in recent months, so far eschewing even the creation of a new campaign website.