Councilor at-Large pledges to connect Old and New Boston

Michael Flaherty took a turn calling out the numbers during a bingo game last weekend at the Amory Street Apartments.
Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Michael Flaherty took a turn calling out the numbers during a bingo game last weekend at the Amory Street Apartments.

The friendly argument inside the black Chevy Tahoe zipping along Blue Hill Avenue was not about who would make the top four in Tuesday’s at-large City Council contest, but who would be in charge of the music. Councilor Michael Flaherty and his driver, Steve Johnson, a retired police officer, were sparring over which tunes to play — dance (Flaherty) or jazz (Johnson).

It was going to be another long Saturday. And Flaherty was just getting started.

As the SUV drifted into Grove Hall, Flaherty asked about Minister Don Muhammad, the local Nation of Islam leader and a neighborhood fixture who had been ill. Soon, Flaherty was on the phone.


“Minister Don,’’ he said. “How are you feeling?”

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Flaherty, a gray-haired, 46-year-old lawyer and father of three, is on a quest to secure another stint on the council, saying he is staying focused on issues that matter to his constituents.

“I occupy an important space on the Boston City Council,’’ he said. “I’m the bridge between the old Boston and new Boston. I’m also a bridge between the newer and more senior councilors.”

The SUV next pulled up in front of a skating rink in Charlestown, where Flaherty’s daughter and her team were in the throes of a hockey game. “She hates it when I miss a game,’’ he said.

Later, he was on Hanover Street in the North End, where the song “Ghostbusters” blared and children dressed as Superman and Robin Hood waited as Flaherty handed out silver bags stuffed with apples and candy. Flaherty warmed up the crowd.


“My connection to the North End dates back to my very first haircut,’’ Flaherty said, giving a shout out to the barber, Johnny Cammarata. “Great to see everyone here and I hope to keep working for you for two more years.”

Afterward, Flaherty stopped by My Cousin’s Place cafe, where Cammarata, who was also barber to former mayor Thomas M. Menino, was sitting in his old spot. Flaherty planted a kiss on Cammarata’s cheek.

Flaherty served on the council for a decade, until 2009, when he launched a failed challenge to Menino. Two years ago, the former council president reentered the ring.

Since his return, Flaherty has been chairman of the council’s Government Operations Committee. He pushed a measure that toughens the city’s residency preference rule for applicants seeking fire and police jobs. And he successfully urged the use of retired officers for police details.

The councilor from South Boston has been a fund-raising powerhouse, with more than $200,000 in the bank, according to state campaign records. He attributes his fund-raising prowess to a network of family, friends, former classmates, and longtime supporters.


But Flaherty has come under scrutiny for working as a partner at a law firm while also serving on the City Council.

‘I’m the bridge between the old Boston and new Boston.’

He said a privacy agreement with the law firm prohibits him from discussing his work there. But he noted other practicing attorneys have served as councilors. He said he has been able to balance both jobs, adding that he has taken few vacations.

“I will stack my work ethic against anybody,’’ Flaherty said.

Flaherty is a talker. He said he averages more than 4,000 minutes a month on his cellphone, taking calls from constituents. They call late into the night.

“When something happens on your street, you don’t call the president of the United States or the governor,’’ he said. “More often than not, you call your . . . councilor.”

The SUV pulled up in front of the Amory Street Apartments in Roxbury, where more than three dozen elders waited for Flaherty to start bingo. As the councilor greeted guests, a volunteer sounded an important reminder: “Don’t forget to vote Nov. 3.”

At the head table, Flaherty called out the cards and seemed elated whenever someone screamed, “BINGO.”

Back near the car, a man showed the councilor a Christmas photograph Flaherty had sent during a much earlier campaign. Soon, Flaherty was off to a Dorchester block party. There, elated children tumbled, parents lounged on patio furniture hauled into the street, and a banner strung from a porch saluted a young man off to Army boot camp.

Flaherty doled out handshakes and hugs.

Maryann O’Brien and her husband, Paul, recalled when Flaherty first came knocking on their door, in 1995, full of promise.

“We thought he’d be the next mayor of Boston,’’ Paul O’Brien recalled.

As Flaherty returned to the car, he seemed pleased. On a sheet of paper, he had noted nearly a dozen people who wanted to plant campaign signs in their yard, or work on his campaign phone bank.

Flaherty was bound for Dudley Square, where the Belfast Community Gospel Choir was performing.

As the car made a second tour through Grove Hall, a mask-wearing man on an ATV-style vehicle wriggled past cars, driving along the crosswalk before jetting down the sidewalk. A group aboard similar vehicles soon followed in a roar.

The councilor shook his head, promising to take them on next term.

“We have to stop this,’’ he said.

Meghan E. Irons can be reached at