‘Slap in the face:’ Boston veterans still fuming at City Council over budget cut

Two city councilors are trying to repair the damage caused by their colleagues’ vote to cut nearly $1 million from the veterans’ services budget, a move that was vetoed by the mayor but still has Boston veterans fuming months later.

Council President Ed Flynn and Councilor-at-Large Erin Murphy filed a resolution ahead of the body’s Wednesday meeting, to commemorate Veterans Day. The measure “honoring all those who served our country” is aimed at helping to mend a relationship that remains strained by last June’s budget vote.

Flynn said residents, veterans and military families across the city and country were “shocked and extremely disappointed” at the “disrespect” shown by many members of the City Council, who voted to cut $900,000 from a budget that broadly supports low-income veterans and their families.

“The sacred oath that we have made to veterans has been negatively impacted by the vote of the City Council to cut $1 million,” Flynn, a U.S. Navy veteran, told the Herald. “But I am confident that we learned from this terrible mistake and we’re not going to make that mistake again.”

The cut was included as part of a 7-5 vote to approve a $4.2 billion operating budget for this fiscal year. Flynn and Murphy were among the five councilors who voted against the cut, which was quickly vetoed by Mayor Michelle Wu.

Ricardo Arroyo, Liz Breadon, Tania Fernandes Anderson, Kendra Lara, Ruthzee Louijeune, Julia Mejia and Brian Worrell voted to pass a budget with the $900,000 cut. Frank Baker, Gabriela Coletta and Michael Flaherty voted against it.

Tony Molina, president of the Puerto Rican Monument Square Association and a Purple Heart veteran, said he was “very upset” that city councilors who have never served the country were “trying to harm veterans” with their budget vote.

“I’m happy that it didn’t happen, but I’m still upset, and my relationship with some of the city councilors who voted against (the veterans) is no longer a relationship,” Molina told the Herald Monday.

“I viewed it as a slap in the face,” added Tom Lyons, who chairs the South Boston Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Lyons, a Marine veteran who served in Vietnam, said several months have gone by and veterans are moving on from the budget vote as they look forward to a “celebration of their service and sacrifice of the men and women who have worn the uniform for this country,” on the Nov. 11 holiday.

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“Hopefully, moving forward the City Council will take care of veterans versus going there for the first place to cut,” he said.

While Lyons said he would have been furious that a city official would have to put forward a resolution that celebrates veterans in his younger years, the “older, mature” version of himself appreciates the gesture made by the council president.

“At the same time, it’s kind of sad that he has to do that,” Lyons said.

Going forward, Molina said he thinks the relationship between the Council and city veterans is repairable, but urged councilors to contact veterans’ services before making “ignorant decisions” about cutting from their budget.

“The cuts never should have been made in the first place, and frankly, I think the city owes our veterans an apology,” Murphy told the Herald. “They stood up for us, and the least we can do as a community is support them.”

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