Monday, June 01, 2009

Endorsement: Mayor Tom Menino

Sometimes change is good, and sometimes change is not necessary. In Boston right now, we don't need radical change; we need leadership. That's why I am supporting Mayor Tom Menino's reelection this year in the Boston Mayoral race.

One cannot find a more trendy word in politics than change, and Barack Obama defines it. Based on his success, change is not scary; it's preferred. Except change can be a slippery slope. Ironically enough, Obama's election only reinforces my belief in Mayor Menino's candidacy. With a President now carrying an urban agenda, I want my Mayor to provide a seasoned voice at the table.

I am supporting the Mayor because I really do not have much to complain about. I have done what I can to contribute to my neighborhood over the past several years to clean the streets, provide my input on an agreement with a local university, and to debate the merits of additional liquor licenses. I played a minor role with my neighbors creating a new program to replace and prune trees, I assisted with the transition to new trash pick-up schedules, and I participated in neighborhood "welcome wagons" to greet new neighbors in September. Each and every step of the way, I felt as though Mayor Menino acted in concert with the interests of the city and supported my efforts.

Boston is a safe, liveable, attractive city. I travel around the country for my job; I have visited many airport bars in my time. Without exception, when I tell a new friend and fellow airport bar patron that I am flying home to Boston, they smile broadly. Those that have been to Boston deluge me with praise for the city; those that have not visited want to go.

Sure I have complaints. I think the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) program needs to be changed. I don't understand the full role of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA). I think the City could be doing more to encourage cross-neighborhood cooperation (Believe it or not, Beacon Hill shares similar problems with other Boston neighborhoods). But the sum of all these and any other concerns does not come close to outweighing the great things that are going on in Boston. It certainly does not justify a "grassroots campaign for change."

I like the fact the Mayor is a morning person (I am, too). I think he works incredibly hard for the people of Boston. I remember watching him calm fears at a televised press conference during a snow storm while I was squatting in a friend's apartment at Boston University in January 1996. He seemed to me to be the type of guy that would finish up the press conference and then hop into the driver's seat of the snow plow. I like that in a Mayor.

Plus, I know very well many people who work for the Mayor, and I can say unequivocally that they are among the hardest working individuals I have ever known. They are Boston residents who are committed to this city, love it, and are passionate about it. They take calls at every hour of the day and every day of the week. They care about every constituent, even those that call quite often. They understand and trust the vision of their boss. In many ways my pledge to support the Mayor is a vote of confidence for the many members of his team who I have stood alongside for the past ten-plus years.

Now, there are a couple of things I see as broad challenges for the city. I know the Mayor shares my thoughts, and I am eager to work with him and his team. Among the challenges, which I hope to detail more on this blog in the coming months, are:

o New energy for the focus on education. The number one reason why young families leave Boston, in my opinion, is for reasons related to education. I certainly don't have the answers, but I am willing to support creative ideas.

o Highlighting vibrant neighborhoods. In a city of neighborhoods, Boston doesn't do a good job introducing its recent college graduates to them. Its initiatives to reach younger residents are admirable, and I think they should be expanded so that a steady stream of graduates receive renewed incentives to rent or buy properties in the varied Boston neighborhoods.

o Truly planning for Boston's future. While I don't think the BRA should go away, we should certainly discuss what it needs to fully fill its role safeguarding the long-term interests of the city and its residents.

Given the economic reality of today, and the unsettling future we all face, it's important to appreciate what one has. Boston should appreciate the good state it's in right now and the many things that are going right. We should understand the need for leadership, and we must resist the impulsive desire to press for change for the sake of change. Certainly we have challenges to overcome, and Mayor Menino shows the vision and energy to get us there. He deserves four more years.

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