Boston Globe endorses Tom Menino for Mayor of Boston

Tom Menino for mayor TOM MENINO never thought he’d be mayor of Boston.

He reminds people of that when they suggest he’s become too powerful. At 66, and after more than 16 years in office, his strengths and weaknesses have become inverted. Once humble and collaborative, he is now sometimes overconfident, to the point of excluding some people outside his inner circle. But his ability to handle the core aspects of his job - assuring public safety, providing neighborhood services, and managing the city’s finances - is almost unmatched by his peers in comparable cities.

There have been other benefits to his unexpected mayorship: Coming from Hyde Park, not a traditional breeding ground for mayors, and lacking a stake in the system of neighborhood and ethnic spoils that often served to divide the city, Menino has been a force for unity. His efforts to welcome newcomers and respond equally to all communities of Boston are still refreshing. Critics insist he lacks an overarching vision. But the taming of the furies that so often raged in Boston, that caused anger in some neighborhoods and alienation in others, will be his essential legacy.

Menino could have retired with that legacy intact. Instead, he’s asking for an unprecedented fifth consecutive term, an act stemming from equal parts dedication to his job and hubris. It presents a difficult decision for many voters who respect Menino but yearn for new ideas, and a greater sense of Boston’s place in the world. Indeed, the time for new leadership is close at hand, as the invisible balance sheet tallying the benefits and detriments of a long-serving mayor starts to turn against an endless incumbency. But with a major financial challenge facing the city for at least the next two fiscal years, dramatizing the need for experience and minimizing the opportunity for new initiatives, that time is not yet here.

With faith that Menino can best guide Boston through those difficult straits and then cement his place in Boston history by inviting a real dialogue on the future of the city and how best to replace him, the Globe endorses Tom Menino for a fifth term.

Bostonians owe a debt of gratitude to Menino’s challenger, Michael Flaherty, whose aggressive campaign has sharpened their sense of the city’s strengths and weaknesses. There can be no doubt about Flaherty’s skills or his preparedness to govern Boston: He is a credible leader whose critique of Menino gained force as the campaign went on. While some of his proposals, such as his call for dismantling the Boston Redevelopment Authority, may be more symbolic than transformative, others, such as his pledge to implement 21st-century performance-based management, offer the hope for real improvements in city government.

In joining forces with Councilor Sam Yoon, his former rival, the 40-year-old Flaherty is emphasizing not only generational change but a return to a spirit of collaboration. With Yoon as his unofficial running mate, Flaherty promises to be open to new ideas. Both Flaherty and Yoon, who would serve in the somewhat undefined role of “deputy mayor,’’ insist that Menino’s administration is “all about one man.’’ This is the core of their critique, their reason for change.

Their depiction of a chief executive prone to petty piques and lordly in his dealings with developers contains some truth. But it is also overblown. While Menino may lose his temper with wealthy developers, he remains responsive to average citizens, traversing the neighborhoods daily and memorizing the smallest details of his job. While Menino is overly reliant on some longtime loyalists, his top officials have usually been strong figures. And while the mayor has grown accustomed to power, he isn’t closed-minded or dismissive of opportunities to improve the city.