Yvonne Abraham

Known as the mayor

By Yvonne Abraham
Globe Columnist / November 4, 2009

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

  • E-mail|
  • Print|
  • Reprints|
  • |
Text size +

Now Thomas M. Menino becomes the standard by whom other mayors are measured.

A fifth consecutive term. That’s more than the infamous, beloved James Michael Curley and his formidable machinery could engineer. And more than Kevin White’s vaunted vision could inspire.

An administration often called prosaic is now historic, straddling two centuries and immense transformations in the city since Menino first ascended to lead it more than 16 years ago.

Michael Flaherty said those 16 years were enough. “It’s time,’’ read the city councilor’s signs, plastered all over the neighborhoods yesterday.

Most voters rejected that argument, but not because they think the city is humming.

At polls, even ardent Menino supporters said there is plenty of work to do, especially in the schools.

Nor was this just a matter of organization: Menino’s army is big, but it can reach only so far.

No, for many who cast ballots, this was a vote for a man they feel they know.

The mayor should take this victory personally. He is the one who made it happen, voter by voter. His gift for retail politicking is breathtaking, and all the more amazing for his lack of polish.

He has this insatiable need to be among the city’s residents, to soak up their affection and to listen to their problems, to hear their praise and to lift them over this or that municipal hurdle.

Which only makes them like him more.

Election year, off-year, official event, unscheduled stop - it makes no difference. He crams campaign-style events into every spare corner of his day, stopping in at the Grove Hall Dunkin’ Donuts between official appearances on a Monday morning or having his driver take him all the way from Hyde Park to the North End for pastries at an ungodly hour on a Sunday morning.

And so Nadine Perry, who is very worried about crime in the neighborhoods, walked into a polling place in Jamaica Plain yesterday without a doubt in her mind.

Because seven years ago, she was driving by the mayor’s house in Readville, and she pulled over to say hello. Angela Menino, working in the garden, stopped to chat. The mayor joined them. They had a lovely conversation. How could the retired psychiatric assistant vote for anybody else?

“I’ve met him,’’ Perry said, proudly.

And Carey Bertrand, cradling 15-month-old Theodora, went to Holy Name in West Roxbury to support the mayor because, she said, “he’s definitely committed to the city, and he’s done a good job at improving the neighborhoods.’’

This, even though the 33-year-old lawyer can’t see herself ever sending her kids to the Boston public schools, because they’re not good enough.

Sure, some of the Menino voters I met yesterday were lukewarm.

“The devil we know is at least as good as the devil we don’t know,’’ said Mary McConnell, a retired nurse from Jamaica Plain.

But most I spoke to offered unequivocal endorsements, which are more remarkable in the face of the city’s shortcomings.

“I want him to keep doing what he’s been doing,’’ said Stella Moseley of West Roxbury. “He’s got a big job, and he’s always a presence. You sense he cares.’’

He really does care. So much, that it’s hard to see him being satisfied with even this unprecedented fifth term. So much, that you have to ask, how could he possibly survive without this job?

But that’s a question for another day, years away.

Between now and then, Menino has a huge amount of work to do. He must make Nadine Perry feel safer on the streets. He must convince Carey Bertrand to trust the city’s schools. He must fix the problems so many voters have been willing to overlook.

Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at