Joan Vennochi

Give both an ‘F’ for performance

By Joan Vennochi
Globe Columnist / October 20, 2009

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WHERE’S KEVIN McCrea when you need him?

The final debate between Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Councilor at Large Michael F. Flaherty Jr. never actually reached debate status.

If someone hooked up Flaherty to a pulse monitor during the hour-long event, a flat line would have flashed across the screen. Menino was just as uninspiring, but he had no reason to turn up the heat. As the mayor said gratefully at the end, “I thank you for this conversation.’’

It made a viewer long for the edgier showdowns that took place before the preliminary election. Back then, McCrea, a South End developer, tossed a series of rhetorical bombs. He demanded accountability from an administration that has been in office for 16 long years.

Flaherty, not McCrea, earned the right to challenge Menino in November. But last night, Flaherty missed his one moment to make the case for change. He seemed unprepared to press Menino on any subject. His toughest attack came when he gave Menino an F on his performance regarding the Boston public schools. In response, the mayor gave himself a B and that was that.

Menino was even less eloquent than usual. But it didn’t matter. He looked slightly peeved at times, but he never lost his temper.

Even the potentially explosive issue of the deleted City Hall e-mails was a dud. Menino said he is always responsive to public record requests. No one pressed him to explain why Secretary of State William F. Galvin went public with a contrary view, nor why Attorney General Martha Coakley is investigating the matter.

Menino never got mad. That’s because the mayor knows there will be plenty of time - specifically, four more years - to get even.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at

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