Over the years, I've come to be impressed by Mayor Thomas Menino (although I will note that I do have friends who disagree with me). In my humble view, Menino presents himself as a caretaker mayor who wants to make sure that life is made as easy as possible for the residents of his city. He's not someone who has a grand political vision and wants to push it through; his vision for the city is to make it a place of simple livability.
It seems to be a common impression, and now I know why. It's because that really is how Menino does his job. And here are two pieces of proof.
Firstly, there's this column from today's Boston Globe: Mayor Menino, at your service by Yvonne Abraham. I highly recommend that people interested in local politics read the whole article.
(Aside: speaking as a writer and editor, I find Abraham's article a delight to read.)
Apparently, Menino holds regular receptions for new homeowners, during which he shows genuine interest in his citizens' lives and looks for ways to help them out. Abraham presents one specific case in which Menino connected a new homeowner who just lost his job with a city housing expert working to stop foreclosures. In another case, Menino actually knew one homeowner's father, a Boston cop, and details about her new neighborhood.
(Another aside: columns like these present most eloquently the reason why we need newspapers to stay in business.)
Menino may not be a great orator, Abraham points out, but he clearly cares about your problems.
Which leads me to the second thing.
Some of the members of our synagogue, Kadimah-Toras Moshe, have been dealing with the issue of Boston College's expansion plans into their neighborhood. Originally, a public hearing and presentation to the Zoning Commission had been scheduled for the evening of April 8, which this year is the night of the first Passover seder. Members of the community wrote to Mayor Menino and other politicians, pointing out this conflict and imploring them to take action. This resulted in a letter sent yesterday from Menino to Robert Fondren, the chairman of the Zoning Commission, in which Menino asks him to postpone the meeting to a later date. And that led to an announcement today that the hearing will in fact be postponed.
I grew up in New York City, and I understand that the mayor of New York has a much bigger job to do than the mayor of almost any other city in the United States. But I never got the feeling that any of New York's mayors had the same personal connection with his city's residents as does Mayor Menino of Boston.