Absences from recent city events have prompted questions about whether Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is healthy enough to run for an unprecedented sixth term.
But the mayor was his old self at the recent swearing in of a Boston School Committee member. Aside from having trouble standing, he looked good and joked about what his physical therapist has to put up with.
"If you lay in a bed for seven weeks you will lose some of your muscle mass, so I’m dealing with that issue ... I’m having a lot of fun with that too," Menino said to a crowded room that laughed with him.
Menino has fought a viral infection, a blood clot and a compression fracture in his back. He was also recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. He’s been running city government from the hospital, then rehab and now the Parkman House, the official city residence. But he was feisty when asked if he’s going to run for re-election.
"I’m in my fifth term now. The only term I ever announced for re-election was my first term," Menino said.
When asked whether that means people should assume he's running for re-election, he said, "You don’t assume anything, you just go about and do your business. "
But, he added: "I love this city. I love my job. I still have a lot of energy, but I want to make sure that I’m still accepted by the people of Boston."
The mayor does seem to have the support of the Boston City Council, even though at least three members have expressed an interest in running for mayor at some point. No one is stepping up to say they'll challenge him.
"He’s someone who I think has been a great mayor for the city of Boston and I look forward to working with him this year," said newly re-elected council President Stephen Murphy.
"I expect we’ll have a decision probably March or April, I would think," about whether Menino will run again, Murphy said. "That seems to be what the mayor, when he operates on his own timeline, that’s about the timeline he’ll do it."
But some Bostonians wish the mayor would not run again. Charles Clements is among them. He is a DJ with Touch-FM, a radio station targeted toward Boston’s black community. He pointed out that Boston is a majority-minority city, with 53 percent non-white and Hispanic residents.
"The makeup of the city and those key positions should look like the landscape of the city," Clements said.
"So should there be change? Yes, there should be change," he said. "To say if Mayor Menino is going to make that change, I think we need new blood. I think we need someone young."
Outside City Hall, Alicia Patterson, of East Boston, agreed.
"He’s been sick recently and I just think he should, you know, take a rest from it, enjoy his retirement," Patterson said. "He should retire. He’s a good guy but, you know, just take time for himself and his family now."
But in a sampling of Boston residents from across the city, it's clear Menino is still popular.
"I think he does still connect, but his health is still in bad shape, so then you got to weigh that option too, so it depends on him, but I think he’s a great mayor," said Roxbury's Adrian Kendall.
Alexandra Kolesov, of Brighton, said she thinks "he is good and he’s a very good mayor."
Delores Sanchez, of East Boston, said he helps a lot of people, a lot of children.
Only one person has so far announced he is challenging the mayor: Will Dorcena had a failed bid for city council and has never held public office.
Larry DiCara, a former Boston City councilor and former candidate for mayor, says the lack of other challengers speaks to the power of incumbency.
"The likelihood of anyone toppling a city mayor is very slim," DiCara said. "The last time a sitting mayor was defeated in Boston was James Michael Curley in 1949 and Curley had spent part of his term in jail and it was still close."
Despite his prolonged illness, Mayor Menino sounds like he’s ready to fight for re-election this year, should it be a fight.
"I’m one of those guys who never sits still, keep on battling, keep on going for what you want," he said. "To me my job as mayor is try to make this a better city for the kids of Boston, for my grandkids, everyone."
At 70, Menino has six grandchildren. He says there are important issues he wants to tackle in another term, including stricter gun control and changes to Boston's school assignment plan.
This program aired on January 8, 2013.