Michael F. Flaherty

http://www.michaelflaherty.com/

Michael was born and raised in Boston, and his father served as Massachusetts State Representative. He attended Boston College for a B.A. in Sociology before matriculating to Boston University for his J.D. Michael worked as an Assistant District Attorney for Suffolk County before serving on Boston City Council from 2000-2008. During this time, he also served as Council President. He pushed for marriage equality and the Community Preservation Act, both of which were eventually enacted. After an unsuccessful mayoral campaign, Michael worked as a law counselor for Adler, Pollock, and Sheehan before being re-elected to the City Council in 2013, where he continues to serve. Michael is the Vice Chair of the Committee on Government Operations.


Boston Candidate Science Survey Response

Below are the survey responses from the candidate. To ensure the candidate’s voice comes through to the voters, the content of the answers are unedited.

Technology + Society

As the City uses more advanced technology to monitor city services and communicate with residents, how will you ensure citizens’ privacy rights as increasing numbers of monitoring devices are installed around the city? What will you do to make sure that the data collected will be used for the benefit of all Bostonians?


Balancing the benefits of new technology with its potential negative impacts on our privacy has always been a priority of mine. While I know that security cameras were critical in apprehending the suspects of the Boston Marathon Bombing and countless other, less publicized criminals, we need to ensure that law abiding citizens are not unfairly targeted by this technology. For this reason, I supported a city ordinance to ban facial recognition technology in Boston and supported an ordinance that requires City Council approval before city agencies use or acquire surveillance technologies. In order to ensure that the data collected will be used for the benefit of all Bostonians, we should make government data and information more easily accessible and easier for residents to understand, whether through existing data sources at Analyze Boston or through the creation of transparent data tracking dashboards.

Environment

What are your policy priorities to address the ongoing climate crisis? How will you ensure climate resiliency projects are distributed equitably among communities, especially in low-income neighborhoods? What are your policy priorities to protect areas of the city that are vulnerable to sea level rise (i.e. South Boston, Back Bay, Downtown, East Boston, Charlestown, Dorchester, Seaport)?


During my time in office, I’ve led on a variety of environmental and climate change initiatives. Boston’s buildings account for approximately 70% of the city’s carbon emissions and represent one of our greatest opportunities to reduce greenhouse emissions. Accordingly, the City of Boston should implement aggressive targets to meet our climate action plan with our own municipal buildings and with private development through the BPDA review and zoning process, permitting code requirements and other legal processes. All development should be approached through a climate change and resiliency lens–as such, I support the City utilizing all the tools available to it in these efforts. This includes but is not limited to: full compliance with our tiered net-zero carbon standard for all municipal buildings; the adoption of a zero net carbon standard for City funded affordable housing; deeper investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy; and creating a carbon emissions performance standard. In addition to creating a carbon emissions performance standard for large buildings, the City should develop a strategy to retrofit and electrify buildings that won’t be covered by this standard with an emphasis on equity. I’ve also helped pass an ordinance protecting local wetlands and promoting climate change adaptation in the City of Boston. This ordinance expands protections for our most vulnerable areas– our wetlands, water resources, flood-prone areas and adjoining upland areas, and allows our City to protect its resources consistent with its climate planning efforts and objectives. I have also been supportive of legislation that explored requiring all new municipal buildings to comply with Net-Zero Carbon Requirements, text amendments to change the zoning code for gross floor area (FAR), the implementation of solar panels on municipal buildings, and other initiatives.

Achieving our climate resiliency goals presents us with opportunities for new economic development and jobs for our residents. I fought to secure additional funding for green jobs training in our FY 22 budget, securing a total of $4 million this year, and will continue to fight for expanded job training and workforce development opportunities for Boston residents. It’s critical that residents from across our neighborhoods have opportunities to train and gain from the growth of green jobs. Two avenues where the City can lead on this is through job programming funded through our Office of Workforce Development and creating curriculum and internship opportunities in this sector in our Boston Public Schools.


What are your policy priorities to protect areas that are vulnerable to increased temperatures during the summer months due to the urban heat island effect? Given that trees and an urban canopy have been shown to mitigate excess heat, how would you support the implementation of the Urban Forest Plan for Boston?


Climate change is one of the most urgent issues facing our City and I feel strongly that federal funds should be used to create climate resilient infrastructure, not just on our harbors, but our inland areas as well. I have long advocated for our City to embark upon a citywide audit of our existing tree canopy and for additional funding for the maintenance of our urban forestry, urban wilds and open space. I fought and secured additional funding in our City’s budget for investments in our City’s urban wilds and urban forestry the past two budget cycles. The hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding the City anticipates receiving could be leveraged to fund more transformational investments in climate resiliency efforts. The City should take a leadership role on this in preserving city owned or vacant land as permanently accessible open space.

Science

What should the role of science and scientists be in government, policy, and decision-making? How does science fit into your agenda for Boston?


Any policy instituted in the City of Boston should be vetted and supported by scientists or other industry experts. We have some of the best and brightest minds in the world here in Boston thanks to our world-class colleges and universities here, and we ought to put those minds to good use in our public policy discussions.


Misinformation has been cited as one of the reasons for vaccine hesitancy against the COVID-19 virus. How do you propose the City improve messaging in order to promote science-based actions and combat misinformation, not just for COVID-19, but also broadly?


Now that we have completed the first, ‘low-hanging fruit’ wave of Covid-19 vaccinations for those who sought out vaccines on their own, we need to change our formula to reach and convince those who may be more hesitant about receiving the vaccine. We need to engage community leaders, engage in door-to-door education on the vaccine, and continue to offer easily accessible vaccine locations in each of our neighborhoods. We should also encourage primary care providers and community health centers, who have pre-existing, long-standing relationships with their patients, to discuss the vaccine and encourage patients to receive it if they have not already.

Healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted disparities in healthcare access for different neighborhoods in Boston. As of June 29, 2021, we know that only 38% of residents in Mattapan were fully vaccinated compared to over 70% of South End residents. How can ideas about distributing vaccines, challenging misinformation related to healthcare, and tackling language barriers be applied more broadly to form a more equitable healthcare system? What policy changes should be made to both prevent and respond to future pandemics or health crises in a more effective way?


We know that healthcare works better when we meet people where they are at–whether that’s physically, emotionally or culturally. This was especially true during COVID-19. Taking some of the more successful aspects of our COVID-19 public health strategy, such as our grassroots approach to disseminating information in various languages, partnering with trusted community partners to host vaccination clinics and providing testing and vaccination clinics at easily accessible locations and times for residents, are all strategies we should consider applying at our community health centers for more proactive, routine care. I’ve spent my career being an ally to our community health centers, increasing their funding and working to amplify their role in a competitive healthcare market. Moving forward, our City should fully engage our community health centers as the leaders and anchor institutions they are so that we can effectively navigate future pandemic or health crises in the future.

Education

How, if at all, has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your positions on education policies? What should the City’s role be in ensuring public schools are equitably funded and serve the needs of our children?


We often discuss on the Council that the pandemic has not revealed new inequities but has shone a light on the existing inequities and issues within our City. During the course of my career, I’ve worked to close the opportunity and achievement gap and make our Boston Public Schools a system that provides a high quality education and opportunities that every student deserves.

My vision for how our City can properly fund our schools has always been about reducing our spending on centrally budgeted administration costs and empowering our school leaders to use thes cost savings to be spent with greater autonomy on direct student-based investments. Over the last seven years, and in the face of declining enrollment, the City’s allocation to fund our schools has increased by $358 million. When COVID-19 hit and closed our Boston Public Schools, it drove home how important it is for the state to fully implement the funding promises in the Student Opportunity Act so that we can provide each student with the resources they need to be successful. I have been a vocal leader on changing our school funding formula, providing testimony to our state’s legislative leaderships and sponsoring resolution in support of the Student Opportunity Act. I will continue to advocate for fully funding the commitments made in the Student Opportunity Act, despite any pandemic budget shortfalls, and will continue to support revisiting the outdated formula posed in Chapter 70.

At the most basic level COVID-19 exposed just how inadequate our school building infrastructures are. Our City missed out on opportunities to modernize our school building portfolio, largely in part to the Menino Administration’s failure to take advantage of MSBA funding opportunities. While we are playing catch up, we must do all we can to expedite capital improvements to our buildings, particularly to address insufficient ventilation and outdated HVAC systems, to make them safe learning environments. We also need to do more to ensure all of our schools have the wireless capacity and digital tools that students need to thrive in the 21st century learning environment. I plan to demand that a significant chunk of our federal assistance funds go towards replacing those systems and ensuring our children have safe, healthy learning environments.

Immigration

Boston’s technology, innovation, and scientific research ecosystem has long made it a hub that attracts a diverse group of people and talent from around the world. How can the city maintain and foster its international status as a technological hub and attract immigrant scientists to strengthen the diversity, culture, and economic activity of Boston?


I’ve always felt that our City’s natural strengths, our world-class higher education and healthcare institutions, make us a desirable place to live, work and play. It’s critical that as our innovation and life science economy grows, that we remain a place that is affordable and accessible for everyone–not just earners at the top of the market. In order to remain an economically viable technological hub that attracts scientists from across the world, we need to create a connected, reliable public transit system that workers can rely on to get to and from work, and secondly, we need to grow our stock of workforce housing so that we can continue to attract new talent to our City without displacing lower-earning residents from our existing housing stock.

Economy

What is your plan to strengthen the Boston scientific research and technology enterprise to benefit our economy? How can you ensure that the economic benefits of investing in science and technology reach all Bostonians?


I am deeply invested in making our innovation economy work for all of our neighborhoods and have a record to prove it. I’ve called for the Boston Public Schools to implement an optional “Year 13” in light of our opportunity and achievement gap in our Boston Public Schools. This “Year 13” would allow for students to have a one year, intensive program that helps prepare them to transition into post-secondary education, vocational-technical schools and career. Given that Boston is home to some of the best colleges and universities in the country and the growing life sciences and STEM sectors, our students should have access to high paying opportunities happening in their own backyard. This past year, I helped launch a highly successful Boston Year 13 that gives Boston Public School students a head start to college and pathways to high earning jobs in Boston’s innovation economy.

Outside of my Boston Year 13 proposal, I feel strongly that our Boston Public Schools curriculum, and our workforce development and job training programs, should be aligned with our labor market needs so that our students graduate ready for the jobs that are waiting for them in their own backyards.

Lastly, as our City sees the growth of life science labs closer to our residential neighborhoods, I’ve called for a hearing order to discuss how our City is planning for the growth of this industry. It’s important that our communities have a voice in how this industry grows and opportunities to share in this growth.

Food + Agriculture

What policies do you propose for the City to maximize land use in the city for green spaces and community access to gardens or farms? How can your administration bring more transparency to this process and connect community groups to the resources they need to support sustainable urban farming?


I’ve demonstrated that I know how important the preservation of open space is in our City as the first city elected official to support the Community Preservation Act, which has increased funding for open space to the tune of over $21 million. This funding has gone to multiple urban farms and gardens around the city, and funding continues to come in. We can also use federal funding to complement existing initiatives, such as the Acquisition Open Space Program recently funded by the CPA. This program was modeled after the Acquisition Opportunity Program used to create affordable housing, and helps neighborhood organizations acquire open space in their communities to preserve and enliven it for their communities. Boston has a rich network of nonprofits, such as Project Bread, that do work in the urban farming and food access space. We should continue to grow and share available resources for sustainable urban farming through our Office of Food Access.

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