Local officials reflect on Menino, ponder running

March 29, 2013
By

Mayor Thomas Menino’s decision not to run for reelection after 20 years has some local officials reflecting on his legacy while considering the possibility of running in election that suddenly looks like a free-for-all. City Councilors Felix Arroyo and Mike Ross, state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez and Suffolk County criminal courts clerk Maura Hennigan are among those who did not rule out a mayoral campaign in Gazette interviews today. State Rep. Russell Holmes told the Gazette he will not run.

“Today is really about our mayor,” said Ross, who represents part of Hyde Square, deflecting questions about whether he will run. “There is plenty of time to talk about my plans and other people’s plans.”

“Today’s about the mayor,” said Sánchez, who lives in Jamaica Plain and represents about half of the neighborhood, repeatedly declining to comment on whether he is considering a run.

Arroyo, a JP resident, also declined to comment on the record about the possibility of running for mayor, similarly adding that today is about honoring Menino. “He deserves that,” Arroyo said.

“I’m humbled to be considered [as a potential candidate],” said Chang-Díaz, who is a JP resident. “I see why anyone who cares about good government would take a look at the seat.” Like other officials, Chang-Díaz echoed the idea of this being Menino’s day and said everyone should take time to “pause and reflect” about the change.

A run is “not something I’m planning on, but you never want to rule anything out,” said Hennigan, a JP resident and former city councilor who ran unsuccessfully against Menino in 2005.

“I am not interested in running,” said Holmes, who represents part of JP.

City Councilor Tito Jackson, who represents Egleston Square and Parkside, was not immediately available for an interview. But his office released a written statement reading, “Today is Tom Menino’s day.  After serving the City for more than 20 years, the mayor has earned all the love and gratitude we can give him. His staff, who helped Mayor Menino change Boston for the better, are in our hearts as well.”

At-large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley also was not immediately available for an interview, but released a written statement saying in part, “I am grateful for his tenacious fight for youth jobs, for his focus on public health, for creating Main Streets—the list goes on. Mayor Menino has made an immeasurable impact on this City and there’s no doubt he will continue to do so for many more years.”

Most of those officials shared their thoughts about Menino’s impact on the city.

“This is like a meteor hit Boston politics,” Arroyo said of Menino’s surprise decision, adding he had no prior warning of it. “He got sworn in as mayor when I was 14 years old,” Arroyo said. “I believe our city’s in a better place than we were 20 years ago. He deserves tremendous credit.”

While avoiding mention of his own possible candidacy, Arroyo did express excitement about the upcoming mayoral race in general. “The city’s going to have a conversation about how we move forward and what kind of leader we want… We haven’t had a conversation like that in a long time,” Arroyo said. “I’m looking forward to being part of it, and I hope everybody in the city is going to engage [in it].”

Ross called Menino “the political equivalent of [Boston sports legends] Ted Williams, Larry Bird and Bill Russell rolled into one.”

“Mission Hill and Jamaica Plain achieved a renaissance under the mayor,” said Ross. “He managed to take care of the neighborhoods while downtown thrived.”

“He’s laid the foundation for the future of this city,” Sánchez said. “The city was in a completely different place back in the early ’90s. He turned the city around.”

Sánchez pointed to such projects as the demolition and reconstruction of the Mission Main public housing development in Mission Hill, where he grew up, and the massive redevelopment of Jackson Square on the JP/Roxbury border that once dismissed as a “pipe dream.”

Chang-Díaz had added surprise about Menino’s decision because she is traveling, visiting Washington, D.C. on a largely personal trip, she said. She asked the Gazette for details of Menino’s speech announcing he will not run.

Noting a recent poll that showed that more than half of Boston residents have met the mayor personally, as well as his high approval rating, Chang-Díaz said, “That sets an extremely high bar for the accessibility of a big-city mayor.” She added that Menino loves the city and “I’m really glad to hear that love is reciprocated” in today’s outpouring of fond memories about the mayor.

Hennigan said she was “very surprised” by Menino’s decision not to run. “I don’t think he would give it up easily,” she said, adding she hopes he will enjoy the chance to spend more time with his family.

Hennigan, who also served alongside Menino when he was a city councilor, recalled working with him on such projects as building JP’s police station and rehabbing Jamaica Pond Park.

“We agreed and disagreed on a number of issues, but he gave his service. My hat’s off to him,” said Hennigan. “He’s done a lot for the city and a lot for the people of Jamaica Plain.”

Hennigan added that she hopes the campaign resembles the 1983 campaign, the last time there was a race for an open Mayor’s Office. That race was famous for hundreds of forums around the city, a bevy of candidates, and meaningful debates between winner Raymond Flynn and respected activist Mel King. Recalling the “excitement and community engagement” of that race, Hennigan said, “The city deserves that.”

“It was great, because he thought of the city before himself,” Holmes said of Menino’s decision, explaining how his move now leaves time for new leaders to emerge and a smooth transition to happen.

“He’s probably the greatest mayor in the history of the city,” Holmes said. “I can’t think of a greater mayor when you think of the entire country.”

Other local elected officials could not immediately be reached for comment.