Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Meet the Mayor: Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino: From Beantown to Greentown

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Meet the Mayor: Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino: From Beantown to Greentown

Article excerpt

Boston's longest-serving mayor, Thomas Menino, was appointed to the office in 1993 when his predecessor, Ray Flynn, became the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. Since then, he has handily won re-election five times and enjoys a high approval rating, due in part to his affable, down-to-earth manner and his dedication to neighborhood livability issues. As a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Boston with a degree in community planning, Menino is extremely well versed in local issues and known for his interest in the smallest details of planning and zoning. He has been a champion for turning "Beantown" into "Greentown" by adding hundreds of acres of new green space, thousands of new trees, miles of new bike lanes, and a number of green building standards. His leadership was recognized recently when Boston was named as the third-greenest city in the nation.

How did you become such a strong proponent of parks and open space?

When I think back to my childhood in Boston, the local parks stand out in my memories. Something fun was always happening--baseball was played, friends were made, and many a summer evening was spent whiling away the hours in games and talk. As a youngster, I was outside as much as possible. My brother and I would be very active, often enjoying fishing in the summer and sledding in the winter. Frequently, there'd be spontaneous fun at a park like pickup basketball. I'll always be grateful that I learned to play tennis, since my wife and I met each other while playing tennis with friends on adjacent courts in a neighborhood park in Roslindale.

You are called the "Urban Mechanic." How did you come to pursue such a nuts-and-bolts approach to community improvement?

My goal is to make the city work for all the people. Making things work starts with the "nuts and bolts." If sidewalks are in good shape, roads get plowed in the winter, trash is picked up on time, streetlights are working, and flowers and trees are planted to make the neighborhoods beautiful, then all else follows. If you pay attention to basic city services, then you are on the way to having a great quality of life for residents of the city. Neighborhood pride results from paying attention to these "urban mechanic" issues. Pay attention to basic city services and all else will follow: high-quality cultural institutions, thriving business districts, and citizens who feel lucky to be living in one of the best cities in America.

You emphasize social justice in your administration. How do you apply these values to parks, recreation, and open space?

My goal is to have a Boston that works for all its residents. This means parks must work for all, no matter what street a person lives on, and no matter a person's income or ethnicity. With some of our park renovation projects, we have gone the extra mile to incorporate features that are appropriate to people in that park's particular neighborhood. For example, a park in Roxbury now has ornate fencing medallions which show symbols from African cultures for such concepts as hope and love. In other parks, we have added features that appeal to people of certain backgrounds who live nearby, such as a cricket field in Jamaica Plain and a bocce court in the North End. As mayor, I am committed to providing residents with a nearby park that meets their needs and reflects the cultural diversity of our city. …

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