Someone call Howie Carr

City Councillor At-Large Michael Flaherty's mayoral campaign ratcheted up the rhetoric on Monday, ripping into Mayor Thomas Menino over his proposal to raise the city's meals and lodging taxes.

Campaign manager Jon Romano sent a fundraising appeal to supporters titled "Tommy Tax Too Much." ("Tommy Taxes" is the name Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr attached to former House Speaker Thomas Finneran, a Mattapan Democrat. Among other names.)

"As our city faces the biggest recession since the Great Depression, a 7.6% unemployment rate and a series of layoffs that are undermining the delivery of critical city services, Boston needs responsible leadership," Romano wrote, saying Menino has a "spending problem" and is on a "dangerous spending spree."

Romano wrote that the city should be focused on collecting $66 million in unpaid parking tickets and force college and universities to pay more than they currently do via PILOTS - voluntary payments in lieu of taxes.

The Menino camp said in a statement that the email contained "baseless charges."

"We will put the Mayor’s record of fiscal responsibility against any Mayor’s in the country," campaign manager Emily Nowlin said. "The City’s unemployment rate is less than the State’s and the Nation’s. The revenues that are being added will further broaden the tax base and provide assistance to the residential property owners in the City. The City’s bond rating is a AA plus which is the best indicator of the fiscal well being of the City. He saved the taxpayers over $30 million in refinancing the City’s debt. These are baseless charges, and we’re not going to engage in any negative campaigning."

The other candidates for mayor, Councillor At-Large Sam Yoon and South End businessman Kevin McCrea, have both expressed some opposition to the tax increases, with both saying savings at City Hall must be pursued first. Yoon is more nuanced in his stance.

The Flaherty email is reprinted in full below:

Tommy Tax Too Much

Dear Friend,

Last week our campaign unveiled a new initiative called “Dollars and $ense”, along with a new website, to highlight Mayor Menino’s dangerous spending spree. As our city faces the biggest recession since the Great Depression, a 7.6% unemployment rate and a series of layoffs that are undermining the delivery of critical city services, Boston needs responsible leadership.

Donate Now

As you know, the Mayor is fiercely fighting to raise the meals tax and hotel tax. He believes that the only way to get our city back on track is to increase taxes. At a time when neighborhood restaurants and Boston hotels are struggling the most, the Mayor wants to tax them more. At a time when our city needs more tourists, the Mayor wants to welcome them with more taxes. After 16 years in office, Mayor Menino is resorting to the easiest strategy: raise taxes.

Mayor Menino likes to justify his proposal to raise taxes by saying we have a revenue problem. But truthfully, Mayor Menino has a spending problem. Despite all the warnings to stop spending, Mayor Menino has added 1,200 more workers to the city’s payroll since 2004, costing the city another $413 million!

These daunting economic times shouldn’t require a bailout from taxpayers. What they DO require are sweeping changes in the way Boston spends its money. At the base of these sweeping changes must be a performance review of all city departments that allows us to determine where we can save and where we can improve efficiencies. Instead of collecting more taxes from residents, we should be collecting the $66 million in uncollected parking tickets. At the same time, we should muster some political courage and collect a more reliable source of revenue from colleges and universities that can only be achieved through property taxes, not PILOTs (voluntary payments in lieu of taxes).

Simply put, Boston residents can’t afford four more years of unchecked spending like we’ve seen over the last sixteen years. Fiscal mismanagement and more taxes will never get our city on stronger financial ground, but common sense solutions and fiscal responsibility will.

Best Regards,

Jon Romano

Campaign Manager, Flaherty for Mayor Committee

PS Check out yesterday's article about Michael in The Globe