Thomas Menino

Thomas Michael Menino (December 27, 1942 – October 30, 2014) was an American politician who served as the 53rd mayor of Boston, Massachusetts from 1993 to 2014. He was the city's longest-serving mayor. Before becoming mayor, the Boston native was a member and President of the Boston City Council.

Thomas Menino
53rd Mayor of Boston
In office
July 12, 1993  January 6, 2014
Acting: July 12, 1993 – November 16, 1993[1]
Preceded byRaymond Flynn
Succeeded byMarty Walsh
President of the Boston City Council
In office
January 1993  March 1993
Preceded byDapper O'Neil
Succeeded byJames Kelly
Member of the Boston City Council
for the 5th district
In office
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byDaniel F. Conley
Personal details
Thomas Michael Menino

(1942-12-27)December 27, 1942
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedOctober 30, 2014(2014-10-30) (aged 71)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Resting placeFairview Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Angela Faletra (1966–2014)
EducationBoston College
Mount Ida College (AA)
University of Massachusetts Boston (BA)

Menino was President of the United States Conference of Mayors (2002–2003) and co-chair and co-founder with Michael Bloomberg of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. In January 2014, he was appointed Professor of the Practice of Political Science at Boston University.[2] He also served as Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Initiative on Cities, an urban leadership research center based at Boston University.[3]

Early life

Menino was born on December 27, 1942, in Readville, a part of Boston's Hyde Park neighborhood. He was the son of Susan and Carl Menino, both of Italian descent. Menino's father was a factory foreman at Westinghouse Electric,[4] and his grandparents lived on the first floor of his parents' Hyde Park home.[5]

After graduating from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Jamaica Plain in 1960, Menino enrolled in three night classes at Boston College and began working at Metropolitan Life Insurance.[6] Much to his father's dismay, Menino decided that college was not for him.[7] Carl Menino once recalled his son's reasons for opting out of higher education: "Truman didn't go to college," the younger Menino would tell his father (President Harry S. Truman was Menino's favorite president and was his personal hero).[7]

Menino eventually went on to receive an Associate degree in Business Management in 1963 at the now-defunct Mount Ida College. During his terms as Boston City Councilor, Menino also received a Bachelor of Arts in Community Planning at the University of Massachusetts Boston in 1988.

Prior to running for office, Menino worked as a housing relocation specialist for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, was a research assistant for the state legislative committee on housing and urban development, and served as an aide to state senator Joseph F. Timilty.[8][9]

Political career

City Councilor

Menino with Mayor Raymond Flynn during Menino's tenure as a City Councilor

Menino was elected Boston City Councilor for the newly created District 5 in November 1983, capturing 75 percent of the vote against Richard E. Kenney.[10] He served the Hyde Park district for nine years. In 1984, he was named chairman of the council's Planning and Development Committee. Menino ran unopposed for re-election in November 1985.[11]

In 1986, then-mayor Raymond Flynn offered Menino the position of Parks and Recreation Commissioner. In response to Flynn's proposal, Menino said it "surprised" him, but that he does "think about all opportunities that come before [him]."[12] Ultimately, Menino did not assume the position. [why?] He was re-elected in November 1987, with 87 percent of the vote.[13]

In 1988, Menino became chairman of the City Council's Finance Committee. This committee was renamed the City Council Ways and Means Committee in 1990, a name that it continues to hold today. Menino remained chairman of the Ways and Means Committee for the entirety of his tenure as City Councilor. Menino was known to be a "vigilant watchdog of the city budget," as hailed by The Boston Globe.[14] He was again re-elected in November 1989 (running unopposed) and November 1991 (capturing 82 percent of the vote).[15] He was a founding member of the City Council's Tourists and Tourism Committee, which was created in 1991.[16]

In 1992, Menino planned to run for the United States Congress seat that Rep. Brian J. Donnelly (D-Dorchester) was vacating.[17] This 11th Congressional seat served a district that stretched from the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester through communities on the South Shore and into Plymouth County. After federal courts decided to allot Massachusetts only 10 congressional seats, Donnelly's district disappeared, and Menino chose to not challenge Representatives from the other districts.[18]

In March 1993, President Clinton appointed Mayor Flynn to be the United States Ambassador to the Holy See. Mayor Flynn accepted the position, effectively making Menino, who was President of the Boston City Council at the time, acting mayor. On July 12, 1993, Menino became acting Mayor of Boston until the upcoming November 1993 election.[1]

Mayoral career

Mayor Thomas Menino in 2013
1993 election

Menino ran against James Brett, Member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Assistant Secretary of Energy, to secure his first mayoral bid after serving as acting mayor.[19] He would subsequently be sworn-in for his first term as mayor on November 16, 1993.[20]

Candidates Preliminary Election[21] General Election[21]
Votes % Votes %
Thomas Menino 30,060 26.89 74,448 64.45
James T. Brett 25,052 22.41 41,052 35.54
Robert Rufo 22,517 20.14
Rosaria Salerno 19,605 17.54
Bruce Bolling 6,564 5.87
Christopher Lydon 3,630 3.25
Francis Roache 3,362 3.01
Diane Moriarty 991 0.89
1997 election

Menino ran unopposed and won 71 percent of the vote.[22]

2001 election

Menino ran against Peggy Davis-Mullen, Boston City Councilor since 1994, and won 76 percent of the vote.

Candidates Preliminary election[21] General election[21]
Votes % Votes %
Thomas Menino 31,715 73.37 68,011 76.06
Peggy Davis-Mullen 9,958 23.04 21,393 23.93
Althea Garrison 1,552 3.59
2005 election

Menino ran against Maura Hennigan, Boston City Councilor since 1982,[23] and won 68% of the vote.

Candidates General Election[24]
Votes %
Thomas Menino 64,001 67.52
Maura Hennigan 30,468 32.14
2009 election and retirement

Menino ran against Michael Flaherty, Boston City Councilor and former City Council President, and won 57% of the vote. On July 13, 2009, Menino became the longest-serving mayor in Boston history, securing an unprecedented fifth term.[25]

Candidates Preliminary Election[26] General Election[26]
Votes % Votes %
Tom Menino 41,026 50.52 63,123 57.27
Michael Flaherty 19,459 23.96 46,768 42.43
Sam Yoon 17,179 21.16
Kevin McCrea 3,340 4.11

According to Menino's official biography, "Among his main priorities, are: providing every child with a quality education; creating affordable housing; lowering the crime rate; revitalizing Boston's neighborhoods; and promoting a healthy lifestyle for all city residents."

On March 28, 2013, Menino announced that he would not seek a sixth term.[27]

Social issues

Mayors Against Illegal Guns

On April 25, 2006, Menino and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg hosted a summit at Gracie Mansion in New York City, during which the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition was formed. The coalition, of which Menino remained co-chair until he left office, stated its goal of "making the public safer by getting illegal guns off the streets." The initial group consisted of 15 mayors; the 15 drafted and signed a statement of principles[28] and set a goal to expand their membership to 50 mayors by the end of 2006. That goal was met six months ahead of schedule, and led to its current membership of more than 900 mayors, with members from both major political parties and 40 states.[29]

Chick-fil-A opposition
Mayor Menino at the Pride Parade in 2008

On July 19, 2012, Mayor Menino stated that he would work to prevent Chick-fil-A from opening restaurants within Boston, especially near the Freedom Trail, citing their opposition to same-sex marriage and what he called Boston's status as "a leader when it comes to social justice and opportunities for all."[30] The next day, Menino sent a letter to Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy. Menino urged the company to "back out of your plans to locate in Boston" because of his stance on gay marriage. Gay rights supporters applauded the mayor's support of gay marriage rights, while First Amendment advocates decried the potential for abuse of office to infringe on free speech rights.[31] Menino later stated that he knew there was little he could do as mayor to prevent them from opening restaurants and that he was stating his personal opinion. He maintained, however, that they were not welcome in the city.[32]

Economic issues


In 2006, Menino proposed two major construction projects that would significantly impact the city. Trans National Place is a proposed 1,000-foot (300 m) tower to be built on the site of a city-owned parking garage in Boston's Financial District. The second proposal calls for the city to sell Boston's City Hall, a 1960s example of Brutalist architecture. Menino would then have the city use the proceeds from the sale to fund construction of a new seat of government on the South Boston waterfront, on the site of the current Bank of America Pavilion (Drydock 4). As of early 2011, neither project had moved forward.

In March 2011, Menino proposed renovating the abandoned Ferdinand's Furniture building in the Roxbury neighborhood and relocating 400 Boston Public School employees from the School Department's headquarters at 26 Court Street, a block from Boston's City Hall. The "Ferdinand" building is a circa-1895, Baroque Revival structure located in the Dudley Square area of Roxbury. The renovation is estimated to cost $100–115 million, an amount raised by issuing municipal bonds that would be paid back by selling or leasing five of the city's municipal buildings.[33]

Innovation District

In 2010, Mayor Menino launched an initiative to create an urban environment fostering innovation, collaboration, and entrepreneurship on 1,000 acres of the South Boston waterfront.[34] The so-called Innovation District includes the Fort Point neighborhood, Seaport Square, Fan Pier, and Marine Industrial Park.[34] The Innovation District is home to many start-ups and other companies. In 2013, it was announced that Goodwin Procter, State Street Corporation, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and Zipcar would be moving their offices to the District.[34] Overall, the Innovation District has added 4,000 new jobs and more than 200 new companies since its launch.[34] Of the initiative, Mayor Menino said: "A new approach is called for on the waterfront—one that is both more deliberate and more experimental. The massive expanse of the South Boston waterfront—with its existing knowledge base, opportunity for growth, and world-class infrastructure—is ripe to produce world-class products and services."[35]

Cities Are Neighborhoods

Menino was also known for focusing on neighborhood development in Boston, organizing services by neighborhood and appointing neighborhood coordinators who serve as ambassadors from the city in their areas, believing that development should happen in every neighborhood. In 2001, Governing magazine named Mayor Menino Public "Official of the Year" for effective neighborhood development in Boston. This model has spread to other cities as a result of its effectiveness.[36]

In 2003, Menino served on the selection committee for the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence.[37]

DNC 2004
Menino welcomes delegates to the 2004 DNC

Menino brought the Democratic National Convention to Boston in 2004. Although the convention was controversial in the beginning—due to fundraising difficulties, security concerns, protests by unions, and inconvenience to residents—Menino estimated that the convention generated $150 million in business for the city; meanwhile, other estimates suggest that the convention generated $14.8 million for the city.[38]

Environmental issues

"Beantown" to "Greentown"
Menino with State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz

In 2008, the City of Boston was ranked as the third-greenest city in the United States by Popular Science.[39] In the last decade, there have been new initiatives around planting more trees in the city, single-stream recycling, increasing the solar power capacity of the city, investing in alternative energy, and biking. One of the most innovative ideas has been green building zoning, which requires large-scale private construction to be "green" by LEED standards. Boston is the first city to revise its building code to ensure green construction.[40] The documentary The Greening of Southie by Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis tells the story of the first green residential building in Boston.[41]

The city has partnered with other government agencies and local businesses to accomplish its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 7% below 1990 levels by 2012, and to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Menino released an updated Climate Action Plan for the City of Boston on Earth Day 2011. The major goals of the Climate Plan include reducing community greenhouse emissions 25% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, including projected climate change into all formal planning and project review processes, encouraging community climate action and leadership, and creating green jobs.[42]

Greenovate Boston

Greenovate is the community-driven movement working to achieve Menino's goal of an 80% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, as outlined in his Climate Action Plan.[43] The initiative engages community members to make Boston greener and healthier by laying out the steps to reduce the causes of—and to prepare for—climate change.

Boston Bikes

Menino established Boston Bikes in Fall 2007 to transform the city into a "world-class bicycling city."[44] By hosting events and creating a bike-friendly landscape throughout the city, the initiative encourages residents and tourists to explore the city by bicycle. Nicole Freedman heads the program.

Other initiatives

Started in 1994,[45] the Mayor's Youth Council met with Menino twice a month to discuss youth issues in the city of Boston. In April 2011, in an effort to battle obesity, Menino banned the sale and advertising of sugar-loaded drinks from city-owned buildings and city-sponsored events.

Public opinion

Menino enjoyed high approval ratings among Boston residents. An April 2008 Boston GlobeUNH poll indicated that the city was "smitten" with the mayor, with a 72% approval rating; 54% reported having personally met the mayor.[46] Menino's perennial popularity garnered him the tongue-in-cheek epithet "Mayor for Life."[47][48][49][50][51][52] In July 2012, it was reported that Menino had an 82% approval rating.[53]


Menino met with controversy several times during his political career.

In 1993 when running for mayor, Menino pledged to serve "only two terms, and that's it for me."[54] In 2001, when Menino ran for a third term, he clarified, "I promised I'd serve two terms – in every century."[55] Menino was elected to a fifth term in 2009.

In 2001, Menino intervened to help stop a chain drugstore from opening a few blocks from a pharmacy owned by a close friend and political supporter. The case raised the question of favoritism and cronyism in the city's zoning and licensing practices.[56]

Menino was highly supportive of a project by the Islamic Society of Boston to build a mosque in Roxbury, including selling city land to the mosque at a significantly below-market rate and participating in a groundbreaking ceremony for the mosque in 2002.[57] The project became increasingly controversial due to the ISB's alleged ties to various individual terrorists and terrorist organizations; and by 2008, when the initial building was completed, the Boston Phoenix reported that "Menino and other city representatives have vanished from public association with the project."[57]

In 2008, the Friends of Mary Cummings Park delivered a complaint to the Massachusetts Attorney General alleging breach of charitable trust by the Menino administration, which had sought to sell more than 200 acres of public parkland for development. The Menino administration had used hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Mary P.C. Cummings care and maintenance trust fund, substantially depleting the fund, to pay for legal services working toward breaking the trust and to hire a real estate agency to prepare an extensive plan on how to develop the public parkland as either commercial or residential real estate.[58]

According to the Boston Business Journal, Joe Timilty, "the former Boston city councilor and developer who spent time in prison for his part in a 1980s real estate deal gone bad," was among those interested in acquiring the land from the City. "Timilty at one point looked closely at the Route 128 land owned by Boston, hoping to build an upscale golf community featuring a green surrounded by luxury homes".[59] Attorney General Martha Coakley, a fellow Democrat, declined to investigate. The issue was seen as another case of misuse of public office to reward a political ally.

In 2009, the Boston Globe printed an article alleging dirty tricks against political opponents and their supporters in Menino's mayoral campaign race.[60] The article reported several instances of questionable behavior, including more than one case of Menino's associates monitoring mayoral opponent Michael F. Flaherty's Facebook affiliations. According to the article, the Menino campaign sent out a campaign memo containing the name of at least one small-business owner who supported Flaherty. In 2011, Flaherty alleged that his former running mate Sam Yoon had to leave Boston after running against Menino because the mayor's allies made it difficult for Yoon to find a job locally.[61]

In 2011, controversy arose surrounding Menino's decision to evict members of the Occupy Boston protest on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Menino later commented that "I sympathize with their issues, some of those issues we really have to look at in America, but when it comes to civil disobedience I will not tolerate civil disobedience in the city of Boston."[62][63]

On July 19, 2012, Menino stated that he would work to prevent Chick-fil-A from opening restaurants within Boston, especially near the Freedom Trail, citing Chick-fil-A's opposition to same-sex marriage and what he called Boston's status as "a leader when it comes to social justice and opportunities for all."[30] The next day, Menino sent a letter to Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy. Menino urged the company to "back out of your plans to locate in Boston" because of Cathy's stance on gay marriage. Gay rights supporters applauded the mayor's support of gay marriage rights, but 1st-amendment advocates decried the potential for abuse of office to infringe on free speech rights.[31] Menino later stated that he knew there was little he could do as mayor to prevent them from opening restaurants and that he was stating his personal opinion. He maintained, however, that they were not welcome in the city.[32] Boston Herald columnist Michael Graham called Menino's stance nonsensical, in light of Menino's previous friendly relations with the Islamic Society of Boston, which at one point listed among its "spiritual guides" Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has called for homosexuals to be put to death.[64]

In an interview for the August 28, 2013, issue of the New York Times Magazine, Menino was quoted as saying that he would blow up Detroit and start all over.[65] In response, Detroit mayor (and one-time member of the Boston Celtics) Dave Bing questioned his choice of words: "I would think the mayor of a city that recently experienced a deadly bombing attack would be more sensitive and not use the phrase 'blow up.'" The comments came just over four months after the Boston Marathon bombing.[66] Menino apologized on September 4.[67]

Initiative on Cities

After leaving office as mayor in January 2014, Mayor Menino was appointed as Professor of the Practice in the Department of Political Science at Boston University;[68] and he co-founded the Initiative on Cities (IOC),[69] an urban leadership research center based at the University, alongside Professor of Political Science Graham Wilson. As a co-founder and co-director of the IOC, Mayor Menino helped develop the office's mission to bridge the gap between the academic study of cities and the real-world practice of urban governance. This was accomplished by hosting conferences,[70][71][72] seminars, and a speaker series; by providing research funding to BU faculty and students; and by providing fellowship opportunities for students interested in local government.

Under Mayor Menino, the IOC also created its flagship research project, the recently rededicated Menino Survey of Mayors,[73] the only nationally representative survey of American mayors. The Survey stands as an annual examination of the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing America's urban leaders.[74]

Speech errors

Mayor Menino was known for his distinctive voice, thick Boston accent, and speech errors, some of which are malapropisms. The examples here also include substitution; deletion; and addition, or epenthesis—which mean that, respectively, whole words are used in place of the intended word; portions of a word are eliminated; and portions of a word are added into the intended word. As a result of these various errors, some commentators (such as conservative radio show host and author Howie Carr) refer to the mayor as "Mumbles Menino"[75][76] or "Mayor Mumbles." A typical example of one of his speech errors involves a reference to Boston's parking shortage as "an Alcatraz around my neck" (meaning, instead, an albatross around his neck), which is a substitution error.

Personal life

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino cuts the cake during the opening ceremony of Boston Harborfest 2009.

Tom Menino met Angela Faletra in 1963 when the two were playing tennis in Roslindale on adjacent courts.[77] The two were married three years later and moved to Hyde Park, where they resided until Tom's death. Tom and Angela had two children—Susan and Tom Jr. And, they had six grandchildren—Olivia Fenton, Giulia Fenton, Will Fenton, Taylor Menino, Samantha Menino, and Thomas Menino.[78]

Menino was hospitalized several times while mayor. He was admitted for abdominal pain and intestinal inflammation and was treated for kidney stones in 1995 and 1997. In 2003, Menino underwent surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital to remove a rare sarcoma (DFSP) on his back. The tumor had not spread, and the mayor was able to return to work several days later. In 2004, he was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, helping to explain his recurring intestinal problems. The condition required lifelong treatment with anti-inflammatory medication and careful monitoring of his diet.[79]

Illness and death

Menino on his last day in office, leaving a letter and keys for the incoming mayor.

In March 2014, Menino announced that he had been diagnosed with an advanced form of cancer of unknown primary origin that had spread to his liver and lymph nodes and that he was beginning intensive chemotherapy treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.[80] On October 23, 2014, he made the announcement that he would be halting cancer treatments, as well as his book tour, to spend more time with family.[81] However, only seven days later, on October 30, 2014, Menino died just after 9:00 a.m. He was 71 years old.[82]

His body lay in state at Faneuil Hall in Boston on November 2, and his funeral was held at the Most Precious Blood Parish in Hyde Park the following day.[83] The funeral services were pre-planned by Menino himself, including the list of invitees for the private funeral mass.[84] His funeral services were presided over by Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley, the Archbishop of Boston; attendees included Menino's successor, Martin Walsh; Governor Deval Patrick; former Governor William Weld; Vice President (and later President) Joe Biden; former President Bill Clinton; Secretary of State and former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts John Kerry; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell; and David Ortiz and Pedro Martínez of the Boston Red Sox.[85][86] He was buried at Fairview Cemetery in Hyde Park, around the corner from his home.[84]


Various facilities in the Boston area have been named after Menino, including:

See also

Published works

  • Menino, Thomas; Beatty, Jack (2014). Mayor for a New America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0544302495.


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