Saturday, December 7, 2013
The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
Boston Mayor Tom Menino says he won't seek re-election for a sixth term amid ongoing health problems.
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 was the city's first Italian-American mayor, breaking a nearly century-long domination of city politics by Irish-Americans that began with John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, the grandfather of President John F. Kennedy and Sens. Robert and Edward Kennedy, and included the legendary James Michael Curley.
Menino grew up in Hyde Park, far from the city's traditional political power bases.
"He grew up an Italian kid in an Irish city and he grew up in a neighborhood that no one came from," said DiCara.
Menino's departure will create only the second open mayoral election in the last half century and the first since 1983, when Kevin White chose not to seek re-election.
Boston City Councilor John Connolly had already indicated his intention to run. Other potential candidates include state Rep. Martin Walsh, city councilors Tito Jackson and Rob Consalvo, state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, and Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley.
Menino became acting mayor when his predecessor, Raymond Flynn, left office in 1993 after being named ambassador to the Vatican. Menino, then president of the City Council, was automatically elevated to the mayor's job.
The circumstances prompted some critics to label him the "accidental mayor." But he was elected mayor in his own right in November 1993 and won re-election by wide margins in 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2009.
James Brett, a former state lawmaker who was the Menino's first mayoral opponent in 1993, said he immediately recognized Menino's tenacity as a campaigner.
"Anyone who would underestimate him would be foolish to say the least," said Brett, who now runs the business-backed New England Council. "He was grounded and focused as a candidate."
Peter Meade, director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said Menino had an "unbelievable" work ethic, often making two or three more stops around the city after most of his staff had gone home.
While a demanding boss, Meade said Menino "never asked anyone to do anything he wasn't willing or anxious to do himself."
Menino earned the nickname "Urban Mechanic" by focusing on the nuts and bolts of city management — fixing potholes, cleaning streets, and even discouraging the practice of saving a shoveled-out parking space by putting folding chairs or trash cans along the curb.
More recently, Menino became a prominent voice for stricter gun control measures, joining New York Mayor and Boston-area native Michael Bloomberg as co-chairs of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
"He will be remembered as one of the most influential and important mayors in Boston's long history, and — it is my fervent hope — someone who began to turn the tide against the scourge of gun violence in this country," Bloomberg said in a statement.
Menino also built an impressive political machine that handily defeated challengers and propelled allies into office.
Despite his political savvy, Menino was also known for his sometimes tortured phrases and malapropisms, which earned him the nickname "Mumbles" from detractors but endeared him even more to the populace.
He once confused former New England Patriots placekicker and Super Bowl hero Adam Vinatieri with former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek and referred to Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo as "Hondo," which was the nickname of former Celtics great John Havlicek.