Menino: Ye Olde Bowl of Chowda

Menino: Ye Olde Bowl of Chowda

Menino: Ye Olde Bowl of Chowda

Dillon Zhou

After witnessing Mayor Menino’s historic election victory, I was severely disappointed. This native son of Hyde Park, MA and UMB alumni has been the face of our fair city’s government for a grand total of 16 years with no outstanding achievement to show for all the time he’s had in the seat of power – other than maintaining a lamentable status quo through his four terms. Yet, the Bostonian voters of today are still willing to give him another four years in office.

The only explanation I can muster for this quandary is that Mayor Menino and his staff are the masters of Boston political machine. As many old time Bostonians know, our current mayor has survived many scandals and trying times before he faced Flaherty in this year’s mayoral race.

For instance, he was implicated in a case of quid pro quo, in the summer of 2001, when he intervened in the Brook’s Pharmacy chain’s plans to build a branch near one of his political patrons’ pharmacy in Roslindale. According to an article written by Brian C. Mooney and Stephanie Ebbert, of the Boston Globe, Mayor Menino state that “his friend, Sullivan’s Pharmacy owner Gregory Laham, complained to him about the proposal by the Brooks Pharmacy chain, and he then urged his inspectional services commissioner, Kevin J. Joyce, to ‘take a very serious look’ at zoning issues affecting the plan.”

Joyce ended up rejecting Brooks Pharmacy’s proposal. However, Joyce denied that there had been any form of impropriety in this zoning decision – after learning of the mayor’s statement on the matter. He told the Boston Globe that “He’s [Menino] mistaken … I never talked to him about it. … He could have talked to someone on my staff, but I never talked to him about it.” The mayor’s office quickly backed up his commissioner not long after.

When asked to justify his position in this messy affair, Menino responded by saying “Not just Sullivan’s, the little grocery stores in the neighborhood too. What happens to them? These corporate people come into the small-business district – after these small-businessmen over the years invested a lot of their money in the improvement of Roslindale Square – you’re going to have a corporate guy come in and just sap all the money out of the community, and they don’t give anything back. I don’t like the idea of chains coming to neighborhoods like Brooks and Osco and Costco, because they don’t care about the neighborhoods, and they don’t do anything for the neighborhoods.”

These fine sounding words belied some critical facts of the problem. First, the mayor received more than $9,000 in campaign contributions from his friend, Mr. Laham, and his employees since 1993.Second, the mayor wasn’t so critical of chain stores during the previous December – as he was quoted saying “that Woonsocket, R.I.-based drugstore chain [Brooks Pharmacy] for injecting life into an area that has struggled for years to turn the economic corner” – before his friend raised his complaint. Third, Sullivan’s Pharmacy was billing itself as one of the largest independent drugstores in the US at that time – and not the mom and pop store that Menino tried to pass it off as. In the end, the mayor avoided any serious consequences in spite of all the ire he spurned from critics.

During that same year, Mayor Menino went back on his campaign promise of 1993 to serve two terms as mayor. He, according to the Boston Phoenix, clarified the terms of this promise by telling the media, “I promised I’d serve two terms – in every century.” This was clearly a masterful move by a seasoned Boston politician.

Year after year, there were troubles abound for the mayor. Yet the Bostonian voters did not recall Mayor Menino. The 2009 Mayoral Election was no different. Like years past, we the voting public were willing to eat the mayor’s thick & creamy malapropisms during the debate and all of the media coverage given to his candidacy. To me it seems quite astounding to have a mayor in a college town that cannot speak proper English.

What is it about Menino that is so addictive? He has become like the post-nuclear Twinkie- everything around him is rotting and yet he is still pumping out the cream.Boston needs a hero, this is a city and cities as they grow have problems. There is no way Boston is so perfect that it couldn’t benefit from some fresh wind in city hall. Why dost thou fear change Boston?