Tag Archives: Tom Menino

Best wishes to Mayor Menino

Tom Menino retirement 2

He’s in his 70s now, and has suffered from serious illness for years. Even so, we were all stunned on Saturday night when The Boston Globe reported that former Boston mayor Tom Menino, just a few months into his working retirement, has advanced inoperable cancer.

It sounds hollow to indulge in clichés like “he’s a fighter” and “he can beat this.” Of course, everyone hopes he responds well to treatment and is able to enjoy a high quality of life for as long as possible.  But I think it makes the most sense to wish the mayor and his family our best and keep them in our thoughts — and prayers, if you’re so inclined — as he begins this final chapter of his life.

Photo (cc) by Eric Haynes for the Office of Gov. Deval Patrick and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Tom Menino’s days of future past

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My one extended interview with Boston Mayor Tom Menino came in the summer of 1997 as part of a package I was doing for the Boston Phoenix on “The future of Boston.” (Check out Kristen Goodfriend’s enhancement of John Singleton Copley’s Paul Revere portrait.)

I remember showing up in Menino’s brightly lit City Hall office overlooking Faneuil Hall on a warm afternoon. Given his famed struggles with the English language, I found myself surprised and relieved at how articulate he was. Why, I asked myself, do people say this guy can’t talk?

Later, when I started to transcribe the tape, I realized I had a mess on my hands: without the mayor’s facial expressions and hand gestures, at least half the meaning was gone. Menino is a master of non-verbal communication, and here I was trying to cobble together a Q&A for print.

I did the best I could. As you’ll see, he said nothing particularly startling that day. He put forth some fairly bold ideas, and not all of them came to pass — expanding Copley Square to the edge of the Boston Public Library and remaking the Stalinesque City Hall Plaza, to name two.

“People get mad when I say this, but visionaries don’t accomplish anything,” Menino told me that day. “You have to have an idea of how you want to move the city forward.” Hmmm … isn’t that the definition of a visionary? Never mind.

Ex-Phoenician David Bernstein’s big Menino win

Tom Menino in 2008

My former Boston Phoenix colleague David Bernstein, now looking for work, scored a big win on Wednesday, reporting before anyone that Mayor Tom Menino would not seek re-election. With the Phoenix now history, Bernstein posted the news on his blog — first as rumor, later as confirmed fact.

Given that Menino gave major interviews Wednesday to the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, it strikes me as exceedingly likely that a media embargo was in place — and I received additional, direct confirmation of that this morning. Which just goes to show the futility of embargoes in the Internet age. Good for Bernstein for operating outside the system, even if it’s not by his own choice. News organizations might consider rethinking their participation in such attempts at media manipulation.

Both the Globe and the Herald offer excellent coverage of the Menino era today. And how about Globe editor Brian McGrory jumping back into the fray by interviewing Menino and writing a column? McGrory was the Globe’s signature voice for years. Returning to the trenches for one day was a smart move.

More: Andrew Beaujon of Poynter has a nice Storify on how Bernstein’s scoop played out on Twitter.

Photo (cc) by Dan4th Nicholas and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Mayor Menino versus Chick-fil-A, Round 2

I think it’s very difficult for the city’s top elected official to go after a person, a company or some other organization without making it sound like a governmental threat.

Nevertheless, Mayor Tom Menino’s letter imploring Chick-fil-A to stay out of Boston (via Universal Hub) does a reasonably good job of getting his point across while acknowledging that he’s only expressing his personal views.

If you read between the lines, he seems to back off a bit from what he told the Boston Herald: “Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion.”

Meanwhile, Gizmodo reports that Chick-fil-A’s homophobia-induced meltdown continues.

Earlier coverage.

Mayor Menino, Chick-fil-A and the First Amendment

There may be more to say later, but I want to offer a few quick thoughts on Mayor Tom Menino’s declaration that he intends to keep Chick-fil-A out of Boston because of the company president’s opposition to same-sex marriage, as reported by Greg Turner of the Boston Herald.

Chick-fil-A has long been at odds with the LGBT community. But things got a lot worse this week, when company president Dan Cathy said, according to the Washington Post, that “we’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.”

That brought this response from Menino: “Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion.”

My gut reaction is that Menino is wrong. It seems to me that there wouldn’t be any end to this if government officials decided to approve or reject business licenses on the basis of their executives’ religious or political beliefs. There are First Amendment issues at stake as well. Can’t the head of a company say what he thinks without risking the wrath of the government?

Starbucks, as you no doubt know, has earned a lot of praise for its support of gay civil rights. There are plenty of municipalities out there whose officials might be tempted to deny Starbucks the right to operate inside their borders. And they could point to Menino for support.

Earlier this year my employer, Northeastern University, disinvited Chick-fil-A from opening in the student center after a number of people protested. I was among those who signed an online petition asking to keep Chick-fil-A off campus. But I see a huge difference between voluntarily inviting a business to operate on your private property, as would have been the case at Northeastern, and acting to keep a business off someone else’s private property, as Menino proposes to do.

Chick-fil-A has a serious issue on its hands, and it may well have to do some damage control that goes beyond the cosmetic. The San Jose Mercury News reports that residents in Mountain View, Calif., want to keep the chain out of their community. And we can expect to see a lot more of that.

Menino actually missed his best argument for keeping Chick-fil-A out. Restaurant executives apparently want to open in a tourist-heavy area along the Freedom Trail. If I were doling out food licenses in Boston, I would be very reluctant to hand over such a prime location to a business that is closed on Sundays.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Neighbors reject Taunton casino plan by 2-1 margin

As you may have heard, Taunton voters overwhelmingly approved a tribal casino in a nonbinding referendum on Saturday. But that’s not even close to the whole story.

Residents who live closest to the proposed casino voted even more overwhelmingly against it. According to Cape Cod Times reporter George Brennan, the city voted  7,693 in favor and 4,571 opposed — but “in the two East Taunton precincts where the Mashpee Wampanoag casino is planned, voters rejected it by nearly a 2-1 margin.”

In the Taunton Gazette, reporter Christopher Nichols posts the numbers:

Ward 4 — which contains most of East Taunton — voted against the casino proposal with 755 in favor and 1,332 opposed. Voters closest to the proposed casino site in Ward 4 Precinct B voted against the proposal, 678-350.

Yet, with regard to Boston’s two daily newspapers, we’re already seeing a repeat of 2007. That’s when the big news was that Middleborough had voted in favor of a deal the selectmen had cut with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to build a casino in that town (big news!), and then turned around and took a decisive but nonbinding vote against the casino itself (shhhh … pay no attention).

The proposed Middleborough casino eventually fell apart, but town officials are still hoping there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Alice Elwell of the Brockton Enterprise has the latest.

So what happened with the Taunton vote? On Sunday, the Globe’s Mark Arsenault reported on Taunton’s vote in favor of the casino — but made no mention of the results in East Taunton. The Herald did better, publishing Brennan’s Cape Cod Times story (Herald publisher Pat Purcell runs several of Rupert Murdoch’s regional papers, including the Times). But today, the Herald offers a follow-up by Chris Cassidy and Laurel Sweet that omits the vote of the opposition in East Taunton.

Arsenault, in his Globe story, closes by noting that Taunton is a long way from actually hosting a tribal casino. Because of a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Carcieri v. Salazar, the Mashpee won’t be able to build a tribal casino in Taunton without an act of Congress. Good luck with that.

The Taunton vote demonstrates, once again, that no one wants to live next to a casino. Nor should they have to.

A final casino note: Former Boston mayor Ray Flynn turned out on Saturday to lend his support to East Boston residents opposed to a casino that’s been proposed for Suffolk Downs.

Given that the East Boston plan is already being portrayed as a done deal, it will be pretty interesting to see how a battle between Boston’s former and current mayors (Tom Menino supports the proposal) will play out.

Photo (cc) by s_falkow and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

For the Herald, a long-term lease and lots of space

We already knew that the Boston Herald, having shut down its printing presses, was getting ready to leave its hulking South End plant. Now the other shoe has dropped, as Herald owner Pat Purcell announced yesterday that the paper will move to the Seaport District in early 2012.

Two pieces of information seem significant. First, the Herald signed a 10-year lease, which, if nothing else, ought to give pause to those who perpetually predict the tabloid’s demise. Second, the paper will commandeer 51,000 square feet of space.

I’m not good at visualizing what that means, but it sounds like a lot for what has become a small operation. Is Purcell planning to expand? Or does he have additional ventures in mind? Don’t forget that he moonlights as head of Rupert Murdoch’s South Coast papers.

Memo to Tom Menino: Boston is not “a two-newspaper town” — it’s a multiple-newspaper town, with excellent papers ranging from neighborhood outlets such as the Dorchester Reporter and the South End News to specialty publications like the Boston Phoenix and Bay Windows.

Boston is a two-daily town, and it looks like Purcell intends to keep it that way for as long as he can.

The Boston Globe covers the Herald’s move as well.

Presenting the 14th annual Phoenix Muzzle Awards

The 14th annual Boston Phoenix (and Portland Phoenix and Providence Phoenix) Muzzle Awards are now online and in print, pillorying New England enemies of free speech in Greater Boston, Maine and Rhode Island, from Max Kennedy to Tom Menino. But we begin with some tough words about President Obama.

My friend Harvey Silverglate has written a companion piece on free speech on college campuses.

Sadly, since I first began writing this Fourth of July feature in 1998, finding suitable recipients has only gotten easier.

Scott Brown’s very bad — no, very good — day

Scott Brown

Monday started out looking like a very bad day for U.S. Sen. Scott Brown. But it turned out to be quite the opposite, as two media outlets backed away from reports that were embarrassing to Brown, and Brown himself smartly broke with the Republican Party over Medicare after seeming to have dithered. Let’s take them one at a time.

The handshake. On Sunday night, WBZ-TV (Channel 4) aired video that appeared to show Brown declining to shake hands with one of his Democratic rivals, Newton Mayor Setti Warren, at Newton’s Memorial Day parade earlier in the day. That’s how the report itself described it, and it appeared to be a small but classless moment for the senator. Brown’s supposed snub was the talk of local political blogs (including Media Nation) and Twitter feeds.

By midday, though, the Warren campaign was spreading the word that the mayor and the senator had already shaken hands before the video was shot. In an email to Media Nation late Monday afternoon, Channel 4 spokeswoman Ro Dooley-Webster acknowledged that “both campaigns confirm that Senator Brown and Mayor Warren greeted one another and shook hands earlier in the day.” Oops.

The incoherent quote. Late Sunday afternoon, the Boston Globe passed along an entertainingly incoherent Brown quote that he supposedly uttered in front of a business group:

“When I said last week that I was going to vote for the House GOP’s plan to abolish Medicare what I really meant was I was going to vote on it — and I have no idea yet which way I’m going to vote,” the Massachusetts Republican said in comments reported by Talking Points Memo.

Unfortunately for the Globe, that quote was a TPM parody of Brown’s position, not an actual quote. Though the faux quote does not appear in quotation marks, I can see where it would be a little confusing to a blogger in a hurry. On Monday afternoon, the Globe posted a correction and removed the Sunday post from its Political Intelligence blog. You can still read the cached version here.

According to the Boston Herald’s Jessica Heslam, the incident prompted Brown to write to Globe editor Marty Baron complaining about the use of “a manufactured quote” and saying the matter “could have been cleared up with a simple phone call to my office.” (Note: She tweaks Media Nation as well.)

The party pooper. Until Monday, Brown had been unclear on whether he would vote for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to eliminate Medicare and replace it with a voucher system that would be called — voilà! — Medicare. The Ryan plan has proved to be a poisonous issue for Republicans. In western New York, for instance, a Democrat may win a congressional seat for the first time in many years because of the issue.

Then, on Monday morning, in an op-ed piece for Politico (very interesting that Brown chose neither Boston daily), Brown declared he would vote against the Ryan plan because “as health inflation rises, the cost of private plans will outgrow the government premium support — and the elderly will be forced to pay ever higher deductibles and co-pays.”

Brown’s commentary includes the requisite amount of Obama-bashing and praise for Ryan. The bottom line for Massachusetts voters, though, is that they don’t have to worry that Brown will support dismantling a key part of the social safety net.

As Channel 4 political analyst Jon Keller observes, “Scott Brown understands the politics of survival in a staunchly Democratic state.”

It’s too soon to proclaim Brown the winner of his 2012 re-election bid, as Boston Mayor Tom Menino sort of did the other day. But state Democratic leaders know they’ve got their work cut out for them. The New York Times reports today that the party is stepping up its efforts to talk financial-reform crusader Elizabeth Warren into running.

Elizabeth Warren would be a formidable candidate, at least in theory, but it’s by no means certain that she’ll run. And it’s clear that top Democrats have real doubts about Setti Warren, Alan Khazei, Bob Massie and Marisa DeFranco, the Democrats who’ve gotten into the race already.