Sunday, November 02, 2014

Twilight of the Ghods in Hyde Park....

Boston's longest serving Mayor, Tom Menino is Dead. The very Heavens Do Shake. He prospered for over twenty years in office because like those reptiles on the Galapagos Island observed by Darwin all those years ago, he was nigh perfectly adapted to his environment. And that was, a Mayoralty that is a strong executive (at least in comparison to the City Council) presiding over a city with an expectation of clientism which was in turn fueled by the needs of coalition building withing and without a Baronial milieu of neighborhoods and ethnic islands. The general model of governance in Boston as such is very 19th century, indeed as Menino demonstrated time and again a successful Mayor need not be an eloquent visionary of any type. If said Mayor has insight into those above cited "pillars of power" in Boston then he or she will prosper...Menino prospered for twenty years and likely would still hold the office today if Cancer hadn't laid him low. Mayors are not like Governors, or Presidents for that matter. The expectations the public has of them are different, a Governor runs thru his or her bag of tricks in eight years or less, a good Mayor with sound lungs can cruise thru an entire decade on nothing but a low opinion of pot holes and rigorous snow plowing. The job is about insight, two fold, insight into the nature of power from within city government as opposed to the demands on resources from without city government. What Menino understood was, his job was to redistribute boons and rewards, patronage if you will. But the boons & perks I'm thinking are entirely intangible in nature, prestige, access or the sheer weight of advocacy are the sorts of things Menino redistributed and like a mensch, he did it on behalf of groups and ethnicities much ignored & derided until his Apotheosis in City Hall. That is a Key Power of the office. And this is a man equally revered in the Black Community and in the Gay Enclaves of the South End, he "called in one and all" & acted as a broker of good faith...That and Tom Menino routinely hit every Wake from the Dedham Line to the Tobin Bridge. That much of his legacy is admirable...and all that coalition building & redistribution of intangible benefits allowed Tom Menino to built himself a beautiful urban political machine something that could make or break em' down to the ward & block level. In terms of political organization it was an amazing achievement, but boy howdy Menino could be vindictive with his organization, statewide democrats crossed The Mayor at their peril, just ask Scott Harshbarger if you don't believe me. But if this is a 19th century political model with some 21st century enhancements then it persists because it is reasonably economic and rational in terms of what it redistributes and it is again reasonable comprehensible & perceived to be legitimate by the polity. It is not that we will never have another Mayor who governs in that hybrid 19th Century style, we just won't have one who does it quite so well. Indeed Tom Menino was so adept at being Mayor of Boston he probably could never have aspired to any other political office, the skills required just do not transplant at all. That is his epitaph Tom Menino was Boston, neighborhoods, coalitions, boons perks and all and he could never be anything else.

No comments :