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.