Unchained by Politics, Impervious to Pressure, Menino and Meade Will Get Some Big Things Done

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Put me down with the folks who believe Mayor Tom Menino hit one out of the park on Monday when he named Peter Meade director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA). Others have already enumerated Meade's accomplishments and extolled his strengths over the past two days; I don't have to do a replay.

Suffice it to say that the man has a five-star resume, with decades of experience in both the public and private sectors, and that he is one of the most respected public figures in Boston at this time. (Menino's no slouch in the esteem department either. Remember the 2008 Boston Globe-UNH poll that showed Bostonians were "smitten" with Hizzoner? His approval rating then was well over 70% and has remained steady ever since. There are probably fewer than half a dozen Bostonians who haven't met and talked with this mayor since he took office in the summer of 1993, when the Clinton presidency was in its infancy.)

What's really got me excited about Meade as BRA director is his age, 65. Meade, I mean to say, is at the point in life where he doesn't need this job. Not coincidental to this appointment, in my view, is the fact that Menino is in the same boat. He's 68 and in the second year of his fifth (!) term. It's highly unlikely he'll ever run for office again.

That means Meade and Menino do not have to curry anyone's favor, nor do they have to bow to pressure from any of the poohbahs and potentates of Massachusetts, no matter what fiefdom or interest they hold. Each has the freedom now to make decisions based solely on what's best for the people and the city. They can look at the big picture as long as they like. They can calibrate their actions for the long haul. And, after long and tumultuous lives in the public arena, they can stand above the petty political battles that younger men are so avid for.

There's another upside to their "seventh-decadeness." With all that each has accomplished, and with the security and serenity that the years have conferred upon them, there will be no ego-butting between the two. They know each other well. They trust one another.

But what's to prevent these banged-up veterans of Bay State politics from hopping on a sled-for-two and coasting gently to the end of Menino's term? If you're thinking that way, you don't know these guys. The long-serving mayor and the rookie redevelopment boss know they're shooting for the history books, not the front pages, now. They'll aim high. And with the economy of judgment and movement that comes with experience and years, they'll get some big projects done in Boston over the next few years.

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