Irish Hold on Mayoralty Ends in Boston
ON a crisp fall afternoon, George Roper chats amiably with Jessie Stokes in front of the Codman Square library in the Dorchester neighborhood. Longtime friends, each campaigned for a different candidate in Tuesday's mayoral election.
Boston residents like Mr. Roper and Mr. Stokes are concerned about the city's future, including its schools, safety, and economic health.
Newly elected Mayor Thomas Menino (D), who garnered a landslide 64 percent of the vote, will be confronted by these issues as this city's first non-Irish mayor in 64 years. His opponent, Irish-American state Rep. James Brett (D), pulled in 36 percent.
Now, as attention turns toward the new mayor, Roper says he hopes that schools will be improved. ``The children need a brighter future,'' says Roper, who backed Mr. Brett.
Indeed, one of the first issues Mr. Menino will address is a stalled teachers' contract and strike planned for Nov. 12. While the election of an Italian-American signals a turning point in ethnic voting patterns, Menino is not expected to usher in a new political era, political analysts say.
And though Menino is expected to ask for the resignation of all city department heads, he is not expected to waver much from the general direction charted by predecessor Raymond Flynn. After his 9 1/2-year reign, the former mayor left office to become United States ambassador to the Vatican in July.
Nevertheless, Menino's style is different from Flynn's. As a hands-on, detail-oriented manager, Menino will be less likely than Flynn - known as ``mayor of the neighborhoods'' - to spend time outside City Hall, observers say. Menino is ``less likely to be out front,'' says Joseph Slavet, senior fellow at the McCormack Institute of Public Affairs at the Univerity of Massachusetts at Boston.
During the campaign, the plain-speaking Menino won support for his accomplishments as acting mayor. He froze rising water rates, put more police officers on the street, and put city bond issues out for competitive bid for the first time ever.
His success is due primarily to his stint as acting mayor, a post he was elevated to in July after serving as City Council president. Meanwhile, Brett, who served 12 years in the State House, campaigned as the agent of change. Calling attention to troubled schools and a lackluster economy, he said the city is headed toward decline as middle-class families flee to suburbs.