Tom Menino has been mayor of Boston for roughly 14 years now. During that time he has provided sturdy leadership and, whatever else can be said of him, he has at least wanted the job to which he was elected (more than can be said for a number of our ex-governors and even Mr. Menino’s two predecessors). Nevertheless, I need to express some dissatisfaction.
Sturdy just isn’t enough, not after 14 years. If the mayor chooses to maintain the sturdy course, his legacy will be very tepid indeed. He has twice been reelected by margins greater than 40 percentage points and, though there are a number of viable mayoral candidates waiting in the wings, the choice to remain mayor after 2009 is his and his alone. His potential rivals are just not yet strong enough to defeat him. And, still, despite this strength, I don’t here any bold proposals eminating from City Hall, other than to move it. Mr. Mayor, you don’t need to worry about electoral success. It is assured. Take your popular mandate out for a spin and see what it can do.
What brings on this mini-vent, you might ask? New York. Like many Bostonians I suffer from an inferiority complex when it comes to New York and I hate it when the Big Apple exceeds the Hub in any aspect of public life – artistic, athletic or political. Here is the crux. Mayor Michael Bloomberg consistently displays a political boldness that appears to be entirely lacking in Boston. First there was his Children First initiative to reform New York’s public schools. Then there was his call to increase the statewide cap on charter schools in New York and now his 127-point plan to reduce New York’s greenhouse gas emissions. Yes, just one of the 127 points – congestion pricing – is garnering most of the attention, but Mayor Bloomberg seems willing to court controversy to achieve his vision.
I write to neither support nor oppose congestion pricing, but only to ask two questions: 1) Does Mayor Menino have a vision for Boston – its infrastructure, its neighborhoods and, most importantly, its schools? and 2) Is he bold enough to implement it? Because, right now, all the action seems to be in New York.