Boston under Raymond Flynn
Boston was ready for change when 16-year incumbent mayor Kevin White stepped down in 1983. South Boston populist Ray Flynn and African American “rainbow coalition” advocate Mel King reached a dead heat in the preliminary mayoral election. Flynn prevailed in the general election, ushering in more than a decade of effort to implement redistributive programs, notably around affordable housing, by taxing and otherwise extracting surplus from the city’s booming office and upscale housing development. The key innovation was “linkage” that assessed a square-foot development exaction on large projects and created a fund for affordable housing. General acceptance of that led to a series of other programs and policies that gave Flynn momentum and a national platform to argue for similar policies in the face of conservative national governments.
King’s “rainbow coalition” had remained in opposition to Flynn, pushing for community control. Later it seemed to decline under successor mayor Thomas Menino, but waves of immigration had made Boston a “majority-minority city” after 2000, and a set of ethnically diverse new political faces gave the rainbow coalition new currency.
The collection reflects research and interviews done by Pierre Clavel and Ken Reardon between 1986 and 2004 and a substantial number of interview transcripts, documents, press clippings, and articles that were projected for indexing in 2006.
There is a dearth of book-length accounts of Flynn’s mayoralty. “Who Rules Boston” (1984), produced by the local chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, gives an interesting perspective on the hopes of a segment of activists, some of whom later became active in the Flynn administration. There is an extensive series of articles by Peter Dreier, who was Flynn’s Director of Housing. The best critical piece is Marie Kennedy, Chris Tilly, and Mauricio Gaston, “Transformative Populism and the Development of a Community of Color” in Dilemmas in Activism: Class, Community and the Politics of Local Mobilization, edited by Joseph Kling and Prudence Posner. Philadelphia: Temple University Press (1990).
Documents, Links, and Images
- Ray Flynn’s Legacy: American Cities and the Progressive Agenda, Peter Dreier, 1993 (PDF: 1.3 MB)
- Transformative Populism and the Development of Community of Color, Marie Kennedy and Chris Tilly, with Mauricio Gaston, 1990 (PDF: 1.1 MB)