Menino and business leaders in love fest

Can you say “Mayor for life?” That was the unspoken message of the love-in Wednesday when Mayor Tom Menino spoke to the Boston College CEO’s Club. He has been at the helm in the Hub for an unprecedented 18 years, and still, according to Weber Shandwick executive Micho Spring, who introduced him, has a 74 percent approval rating. Of Boston’s 600,000+ residents, fully half say they have met him personally. Clearly he loves his job, and the city seems to love him. Or so it seemed in the Wharf Room at the Boston Harbor Hotel, where the luncheon was held.

The metrics of Menino’s success seem are compelling : AAA bond rating. Population growth outpacing that of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco; third among cities in job growth; greatest expansion in housing stock since 1960; violent crime down by 20 percent; homicide down 50 percent over last year; 3rd in Monster.com’s job markets index; $70 million in savings expected from new employee health insurance contract; extra payments paid to employee pension fund; significant reduction in high school drop-out rate; dead last in Wall Street Journal & Down Jones’s “misery index,” making Boston the least miserable city – and on and on and on, with Boston continuing to outperform its peers in many ways.

Especially celebratory were Menino’s remarks about the growth of his Innovation District  in the Seaport area, and its concomitant creation of companies and jobs, patents issued to Boston inventors, FDA approval of Vertex’ hepatitis drug and the Vertex move to the Innovation District. As captured by Tom Grillo in The Boston Herald,  he’s looking to bring venture capitalists into the district and expand opportunities for solar energy there.

With all the celebration, Menino remains 2400 jobs short of his program of summer jobs for youth, and he made a pitch for that. At the end, not only did he get a standing ovation, but the usually inquisitive CEO’s Club crowd didn’t bother to ask the Mayor any questions in the narrow Q & A window allowed. In the midst of such good cheer, might it have been unseemly?

It would have been helpful to hear Menino’s assessment of Memorial Day weekend’s holiday violence, especially in the Carson Beach area. What does it augur for the summer ahead, and what strategies does he have to deter and contain such incidents? How does he seek to resolve the conflicting jurisdictions of the Boston police and the staties? What about filling in the hole that used to be Filene’s basement, and what does he expect to achieve on “voluntary” expansion of PILOTs (Payments in lieu of taxes)?  Also, what about the litter that mars the city’s public gathering places?

The Boston Municipal Research Bureau’s Sam Tyler would have liked to hear how hard Menino will push for fundamental reform in the teachers’ contract now being negotiated. The bargaining teams have been at the table for more than a year. Tyler wonders if the union starts to play hardball and talk strike, will the Mayor stand up for the Superintendent and demand significant contract change in the contract or settle for less?

There are many challenges to talk about. I don’t blame the Mayor for not going there. From his perspective, the event has to be considered a huge public relations success. For would-be questioners in the audience, who also care about the city’s future, it was a lost opportunity.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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