While Menino is overly reliant on some longtime loyalists, his top officials have usually been strong figures.
Yes, if by “strong figure” you mean “on a leave of absence until issues surrounding potentially criminal conduct are resolved.”
And while the mayor has grown accustomed to power, he isn’t closed-minded or dismissive of opportunities to improve the city. In some important ways, Menino has sought to reverse his mistakes and claim the mantle of reform, embracing charter schools and demanding long-overdue changes in the Fire Department.
Fair enough on the Fire Department. But as to charter schools, was there ever a clearer case of an election-year conversion? I mean, good grief — charter schools have been around for a long time, and have been a front-burner political issue for almost as long. Menino, after strenuously opposing charters for 15 of his 16 years in office, came around on charters only in June of this year — and only in a limited fashion. Backing “in-district charter schools” does not qualify as “embracing” charters.
Flaherty’s reluctance even to view the [firefighters] union’s lurid and misleading ads against Menino, let alone to publicly distance himself from them, bespeaks a stubborn loyalty that raises doubts about his ability to function as mayor of all the people.
That strikes me as a wild overstatement. First of all, Flaherty has publicly distanced himself from the ads in question — I heard it myself when Flaherty was on WBUR a few days ago. Maybe the Globe missed it. Second, Flaherty’s insistence on random drug and alcohol testing is (as the Globe acknowledges) reflective of significant independence from the union’s more unreasonable demands. And third, despite the drug and alcohol testing, Flaherty has a “stubborn loyalty” that “raises doubts about his ability to function as mayor of all the people”??? Please. There’s just no evidence of that. The haz-mat thing that the Globe cites as its only evidence strikes me as small-bore.
The Globe then undercuts its own point:
Those doubts may be unfair [indeed! -ed.], especially in light of some similar acts of stubbornness by Menino.
And then they go completely off the rails.
But unseating a successful mayor requires full confidence that the challenger will be an improvement. There are legitimate reasons to believe that Flaherty would be. And there are legitimate reasons to believe that he would not.
That’s one of the more absurd statements I’ve ever seen about how to decide whether one should vote for an incumbent or a challenger. In the law, there are different standards of proof for different situations, depending on how certain we think the decision has to be. Most civil cases are decided based on “a preponderance of the evidence,” which basically means if you’re 51% sure, that’s good enough. Certain issues in civil law require a higher standard of proof known as “clear and convincing evidence,” which is tough to quantify but is probably something like 75% sure. And, of course, criminal convictions must be “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is something like 98% certainty.
The Globe seems to be setting an even higher standard for unseating an incumbent: “full confidence” that the challenger will be a better mayor than the guy in there now. What does that mean — 100% sure? 99% sure? Is the same as “beyond a reasonable doubt”? Whatever it is, it’s of course an almost impossible standard to meet when you’re talking about events in the future, which is probably why you’ve never seen anyone mention it before. And, of course, that is not how anyone can — or should — decide anything in an election. You should vote for the candidate you think, based on what’s important to you and how the various pluses and minuses of each candidate weigh against each other, will do a better job. There is no heightened standard for incumbents. Nor is should you apply some ridiculous “full confidence” standard in any situation, whether or not there’s an incumbent.
And then they just start fantasizing.
In his fifth term, freed of a need to compete for votes and approaching his 70th birthday, Menino should rekindle the humility that marked his ascent to power.
What are the odds of that?? If there’s one thing that the last several years of the Menino administration have not featured, it’s humility. Why on earth would Menino suddenly change course on that?
And his final act of humility should be to relinquish power as gracefully as he took it, nurturing potential successors and opening the door to a generation of “New Bostonians.”
Huh?? What does that mean — that he shouldn’t run for a sixth term? Menino is already openly making noises that, if he wins, he might not be done in 2013. Like I said, humility doesn’t seem to be entering into the equation at this point, and there’s no reason to think it will suddenly happen in 2013, or 2017 for that matter. If the Globe wants “a generation of ‘New Bostonians'” to start running the show, it’s difficult to fathom why it’s backing Tom Menino for a fifth term.
Vote for Menino if you think he’ll do a better job than Flaherty. But don’t vote for him for the unconvincing reasons set out in the Globe’s endorsement.