Boston Mayor to Announce He Won’t Seek Re-Election
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino wasn’t the smoothest of political figures, but during his nearly two decades in office he earned a reputation as one of the hardest working, from filling potholes to shaping the city’s skyline.
Menino - beset with health problems - decided against seeking an unprecedented sixth term. He planned to make a formal announcement late Thursday afternoon at Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall.
Menino said the decision was "very difficult" during an emotional, early morning news conference outside his home. He said he’s lived the job "24-7" since becoming mayor in 1993.
"It’s a changed city, and I’m glad to be a small part of this changed city," said the Democrat, crediting his staff and cabinet. He said the city is more tolerant, vital and with a younger population than when he took office.
A recent Boston Globe poll showed the 70-year-old Menino was viewed favorably by a wide margin of city residents, although less than half said they wanted him to run again.
Most political watchers assumed Menino could have cruised to another victory, however, despite health woes that had him hospitalized for nearly six weeks last year.
Menino was treated for a respiratory infection that developed during a vacation in Italy. While at the hospital he suffered complications including a compression fracture in a vertebra in his spine. Menino also was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
After being discharged, Menino spent three months recuperating at the Parkman House, a city-owned mansion on Beacon Hill. He just recently moved back to his home.
Menino’s long stewardship of the city came a critical moment in Boston’s history when traditional urban ethnic enclaves began to give way to waves of new immigrants and younger professionals who began to stake their own claim on the urban landscape.
Lawrence DiCara, a former city councilor, said Menino’s success stemmed from his attention to detail and - unlike many of his predecessors - his lack of interest in higher office.
"He kept his eye on the ball," DiCara said. "He was not interested in running for governor. He was not interested in running for Congress. He had one thing he wanted to do and that was being mayor of Boston."
Menino also worked to make Boston more fun and livable. Despite its famously narrow, twisting streets, Menino helped usher in a bicycle-sharing program and named a "bicycle czar" to negotiate conflicts between bicyclists and Boston drivers.
He also struggled to try to improve the Boston school system and wasn’t shy about wearing his sympathies on his sleeve.
Last year Menino, a strong gay rights supporter, vowed to block Chick-fil-A from opening a restaurant in the city after the company’s president spoke out publicly against gay marriage.
Menino was the city’s first Italian-American mayor, breaking a nearly century-long domination of city politics by Irish-American mayors that began with John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, the grandfather of President John F. Kennedy and Sens. Robert and Edward Kennedy, and would include the legendary James Michael Curley.
Menino also grew up in Hyde Park, far from the city’s traditional political power bases. This, said DiCara - a onetime mayoral candidate himself - gave Menino empathy with residents who often felt ignored by City Hall.
"He grew up an Italian kid in an Irish city and he grew up in a neighborhood that no one came from," said DiCara.
Along with a drop in crime and strong city finances, Menino also could boast that in 20 years, no one in his administration was indicted or convicted, an "extraordinary" accomplishment, DiCara said, in a city with a sordid history of political corruption.
Menino’s departure will create only the second open mayoral election in the last half century and the first since 1983, when White chose not to seek re-election.