In book interview, Menino weighs in on Walsh's performance

With his patience gone, Mayor Thomas Menino let Gov. William Weld have it.

It was the 1990s and Menino wanted a convention center in South Boston. Weld, along with New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, wanted a stadium, and the governor had been publicly "needling" Menino that the Patriots would leave the state if the mayor didn't change his mind.

"So I unloaded on him in a phone call not for the ears of the nuns at St. Thomas Aquinas," Menino, who served as mayor from 1993 to 2014, writes in his new book, "Mayor for a New America."

In a dig at Weld's Boston Brahmin background, Menino adds, "But you can't insult a Weld. Maybe if my family once owned Readville I'd be unflappable too."

In Menino's telling, the proposal for a stadium fizzled out thanks Kraft talking like Mitt Romney in the 2012 GOP presidential primary, and it was the convention center that eventually got built. A convention center bond bill passed by a veto-proof margin, because "legislators from across the state were cut in on the action," with a site in Fall River receiving $3.5 million and a Worcester convention center receiving $17 million, among other items.

The 250-page book also chronicles his rise from the "lunch pail" neighborhood of Hyde Park to the City Council, and his efforts as mayor to turn around a struggling school system. Much like former Senate President William Bulger's 1996 book, "While the Music Lasts," "A Mayor for a New America" is a view of the political battles and clashes over policies through Menino's lenses.

Menino dispenses the lessons he's learned -- "Fear is power" and "Reporters are suckers for symbols" -- throughout the book. The book is out on Oct. 14, and Menino plans stops in New York and Washington D.C., along with several Boston area appearances.

He also writes about disagreeing with Gov. Deval Patrick's decision to ask Boston area residents to "shelter-in-place," or stay inside for the day, while law enforcement officials hunted for one of the two terrorists who bombed the Boston Marathon.

Patrick called him at 2 o'clock in the morning, Menino said in a News Service interview, about the "shelter-in-place." Menino, who hadn't heard the term before, did not think it was necessary since law enforcement agencies were working well together. But later in the morning, after more information came in from his staff and security officials about Patrick's reasoning, Menino said he then decided to support the governor's move.

"If we had run for reelection," Menino wrote, referring to himself and Patrick, "the lockdown would have been used against us."

In the News Service interview, Menino, who is undergoing treatments for cancer, said writing the book with co-author Jack Beatty was difficult because he largely did not keep notes during his time in office.

The book draws on news articles and other pieces that ran in the Boston Globe and elsewhere.

He wasn't seeking to write a personal history of himself, Menino added. "I was trying to talk about some of the issues I encountered in my twenty years."

His successor, former Rep. Marty Walsh, is encountering some of the same issues. Walsh, who served in the Legislature for 17 years before winning the 2013 mayoral election, gets a "B-plus," Menino said.

"Not looking for headlines, just looking to get the job done," he said.

"I think he's doing a fairly good job," Menino added, noting the "tremendous" change of going from a state lawmaker with a 40,000-person district to the head of a city that sometimes swells to a population of 1 million during the business day.

He declined to wade into this year's gubernatorial race, saying, "I'm out of the business of government now. I'm a citizen."

Menino added, referring to Republican nominee Charlie Baker and Democratic nominee Martha Coakley: "I know both candidates. I like both candidates."

Gubernatorial campaigns are "difficult," he said, because there isn't much time to build up public interest in issues during a campaign. "You're out there all the time working hard, trying to get the attention of the voter."

He was also coy about how he plans to vote on the four ballot questions in November. "I have one month to keep avoiding the answer to the question," he quipped.

A frequent supporter of expanding the bottle deposit law, Menino said he believes the initiative, known as Question 2, has "lost momentum in the last couple of weeks" due to the advertising by its opponents.

Menino said he also had originally believed that the 2011 casino law, which allows for up to three resort casinos in Massachusetts, would be in trouble. Question 3 would repeal the law.

But he pointed to the visuals in recent ads, one of which features the director of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield outlining the benefits of a MGM Springfield casino. "The guy from Springfield is pretty convincing," Menino said.

As for Question 1, which would repeal a law indexing gas tax increases to inflation, Menino said, "You have to do something to raise the revenue."

He is still mulling which way to vote on Question 4, which would guarantee earned sick time.

Menino, who strongly backed Suffolk Downs in its bid for the Boston area casino license, also expressed interest in the survival of live thoroughbred racing. The racetrack, which straddles East Boston and Revere, is in shut-down mode after the license went to Wynn Resorts' proposal for an Everett casino.

Asked what would be the best use of the Suffolk Downs land, Menino said, "I think you build a nice village there. Some retail attached."

It could also be a potential site for a Boston Olympics, he allowed.

Menino, who had initially expressed skepticism last year about the idea of the 2024 Summer Olympics in Boston, said he is now generally supportive. "Something good will come out of this," even if the bid falls short, he said.

Menino is currently a Boston University professor and co-director for the Initiative on Cities, which recently released its first major research project, a survey of U.S. mayors.

Asked if there was something he wished he'd gotten to during his tenure, Menino said, "I accomplished most of the things I wanted to."

Boston was "broken up" racially when he assumed office, he added. "As I left office it was a much more inclusive city. I was so proud of that."

Related: Reporter review of Menino memoir

Topics: 

Tags: