Congratulations to Boston’s longest serving mayor. In the 1970’s, as a young aide to state Senator Joe Timilty, he told a few Beacon Hill colleagues his goal was to be mayor of Boston. They laughed at what seemed an unlikely prospect, but he did it, and he did it his way. With respect to the timing of his departure, he did it the right way. His approval ratings, after 20 years, are a staggering 75 percent, and he most likely would have been reelected. But a significant majority of the people of Boston, mindful of the Mayor’s health issues, didn’t think he should run for a sixth term. So he goes out on top (at the end of the year), with his head held high and the people loving him.
He leaves a remarkable legacy. No longer are we branded by our 1970’s anti-busing racism. Under Menino, the Big Dig was completed; development is booming; the Seaport District is becoming a reality; the South End and other areas have become highly desirable; the neighborhoods have gotten better housing and are safer to live in; the schools, while still needing more improvement, are significantly better, especially regarding test scores (minus third grade reading levels), dropout rates and graduation rates. He stood up to unreasonable unions and corporations alike.
He promised to be an urban mechanic, and he fixed potholes, though the city still has its dirty days. He promised to continue to be a man of the people, and the tributes pouring in suggest he has achieved that as well. He has been a national leader on gun control and has heightened the visibility of the fight against obesity. He has supported a variety of green building initiatives, and implemented a highly successful cycling program. He started the One-in-Three website to reflect that Boston is a youthful city and provide young professionals a way to network, advance their careers and stay in Boston.
Menino is also well known for his thin skin, quick temper and for often being a micro-manager. But he made it work for the city. While his administration has provided 20 years relatively clean of scandal, troubles may loom on the horizon. Former Boston Phoenix editor Peter Kadzis said, on both WGBH and WBUR today, that the Globe Spotlight Team is readying a negative story on the Boston Redevelopment Authority. But, for now, we think only in terms of an overwhelmingly positive legacy for both the Mayor and his wife and ever-present sidekick, Angela.
As a working person “of a certain age,” I wish for him a lovely retirement, an opportunity to spend time with his grandchildren, a recovery from his health issues, a time for new, less taxing opportunities, and the fond memories of a city that he leaves more dynamic, collegial, energetic, optimistic and less parochial than when he assumed office.
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