Over the past 16 years, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has been a mayor on the move, spending more time in the city's neighborhoods than at City Hall. But a knee injury sustained in November has temporarily confined him to hospitals and his home.
Though physically limited, Menino said the injury has given him time to think about his agenda for the next four years. “It’s an exciting time for me and I hope for the city of Boston,” the mayor told WBUR’s Bob Oakes in an interview the morning of his inauguration to an historic fifth term.
Menino stressed specific goals for his administration and the city, beginning with a transformation of the educational system in conjunction with legislation pending in the State House. He also advocated municipal innovation to transform the delivery of basic city services and continuing to develop certain neighborhoods, including the Albany St. Corridor and the waterfront.
While recuperating, the mayor has been actively seeking input from and trading ideas with industry leaders. “What they’ve told me is that we have a good city,” Menino said. “But [we've talked about] how we can take it to the next level.”
Acknowledging that health care and higher education provide a foundation for Boston's economy, Menino said, “We need to make sure that they continue to grow and provide jobs. And how can we get them to train individuals in our city? Job training and jobs are the most important things we can do over the next couple of years.”
With the Christmas shopping season now complete, many holiday visitors to Boston no doubt noticed the space previously occupied by Filene’s Basement at Downtown Crossing.
Menino spoke broadly about the issue, and indicated that the city is open to creative options.
“We have some ideas of what that [space] could be,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll ever see a Filene’s Basement there again, but we have some new ideas for that area. It’s close to the financial center of our city — what about a financial center there?”
Menino also proposed a city-owned parking garage with leasing options for a private developer as another example of what could fill the property.
Using the Downtown Crossing discussion as a springboard, Menino expounded on an overarching strategy for his team this term.
“We’ll experiment and take a lot of risks. We’ll form unexpected partnerships. We’ll welcome ideas, reach out and empower participation. We’ll revisit the old ‘no’s;’ it’s so easy to say ‘no,’ let’s get to 'yes.'”
Menino also dismissed the notion that his injury, and subsequent recovery, will change his hands-on style going forward.
“Oh no, I can’t change,” Menino said. “That’s how you learn, by people who live in the neighborhoods. It’s a learning process for me and my administration. When you say you know everything, you might as well get out of the business. I want a city that’s energized with new ideas, creative ideas.”
Click "Listen Now" to hear the interview with Mayor Menino.
This program aired on January 4, 2010.