guessing that Mayor Tom Menino doesn't carry around a giant foam
“Fuck You” finger. Because if he was looking at the same wild horde that I saw last night – that rabid pack of back-slappers and
hand-clappers – then he must have noticed how many political
animals out there either want his job, want somebody else to have his
job, or hope to make money helping someone take his job. And with
that kind of salivating posse filling Faneuil Hall, on the day of
your big return to glory no less, it would have been a righteous time
to flick off the entire Hub.
course, that's not the kind of politician that Menino is. He's an ace
mover and shaker, capable of hovering leagues above the scrum, where
reps, councilors, and hangers-on jumped over one another to
congratulate outgoing State Senator Jack Hart on his tenure. Even
with a cane in his palm, Hizzoner was the most agile guy in the room
last night, maneuvering through the crush of cronies and constituents
like a gladiator in the Colosseum. From the moment he emerged,
stepping out to Kelly Clarkson, it was all A-game, all the time.
only appropriate for Menino's 20th State of the City
address, the hall was set for even more of a grand spectacle than in
past years. The podium was decked with flowers; men in uniform filled
row after row; in addition to the usual players, there was a Kennedy
in the house – a young, newly elected Kennedy, but a Kennedy no
less. And as is tradition at these things, the opening acts set the
stage properly, with the director of the Mayor's Youth Council
reminding all: “As long as I've been in Boston, the man at the helm
has been Mayor Menino.”
then there was the most clever stunt of all, involving the kind of
wooden adult high-chair that you'd find in someone's Cape Cod
backyard. Only when he finally stepped to the podium, Menino didn't
sit in it, as so many of us thought he would. The message of his
merely standing was so powerful that he might as well have kicked the
damn chair over, or hollered at it like Eastwood. But once again –
he's way too poised for that. You don't stay in power for two decades
by berating furniture in public.
after two minutes of applause and a perfectly placed plea for “FOUR
MORE YEARS” from the audience, Menino leaned into his speech, and
let it be known whose house we were all in. Off the jump, he joked
about the close proximity of rival congressmen Stephen Lynch and Ed
Markey, then went on to thank his doctors before inviting another
ovation with a line right out of the James Michael Curley or Sarah
Palin playbook: “I'm just Tom Menino from Hyde Park . . . Thank you
– you pulled me through!”
substance, the mayor ran through a list of hopeful development and
business projects – Converse, the East Boston waterfront, PayPal,
Downtown Crossing. And he didn't leave out the forgotten places,
summoning exuberant roars by pointing out that “There's a crane
over Dudley Square!” Boston Public Schools came up next, and
despite everybody in the room having different opinions on how BPS
should be handled, they all agreed for the sake of the moment, and
cheered on nearly every note.
then came the fireworks and crowd pleasers. Rather than knee-capping
municipal rivals and delinquent developers – as he has in past
annual addresses – Menino went national, uniting Bostonians in
their mutual contempt for conservative idiocy. In announcing plans to
become the “first city in the country to achieve pay equity for
women,” he gave Mitt Romney a good ribbing; the great female public
servants who Menino has hired, he quipped, weren't found in binders.
But that was just a warm-up.
his half-hour comeback speech, the mayor needed a clock-cleaning
closer, and he got one in an issue he's been hammering for years.
With utter respect for those who have lost friends and family members
in recent suburban shootouts, Menino acknowledged that there's a
Newtown in this city many times over every year, and asked his
followers to stand with him against gun violence. If that wasn't
enough, he called out chief NRA sleaze Wayne LaPierre by name, and
more or less said that the guy is absolutely crazy.
the raucous to the rhetoric, the State of the City was a throwback
political moment right down to a ragtime number from the Boston City
Singers. All grand events at the 18th Century Faneuil Hall
feel somewhat authentic, but on this occasion, there was substance
powering the old school vibe – an iconic mayor, back from illness,
returning to his throne amidst pleasant pandemonium. It's hard to
imagine a more graceful way to greet so many friends while telling
naysayers and enemies to go fuck themselves.