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Globe Editorial

Menino makes history, but more challenges await

November 4, 2009

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WHEN TOM MENINO was elected mayor in 1993, he outstripped his mentor, former state Senator Joe Timilty, whose multiple mayoral runs always ended in defeat. With his fifth election yesterday, Menino outstripped even Timilty’s nemesis, Kevin White, who served four terms, and cemented his place as one of the city’s foremost political figures.

And yet Menino should seek a legacy that extends beyond his endurance in office, and much depends on what he accomplishes now. Menino won re-election because of his prudent financial management, strong record on public safety, and close attention to neighborhood concerns. Yet despite a solid 57-42 tally over challenger Michael Flaherty, this was Menino’s closest race. Many other Massachusetts incumbents fared worse. But even in Boston, voters’ desire for changes was evident.

The public schools still struggle along. The Seaport District, Downtown Crossing, and Allston all present serious development challenges in poor economic times. As Flaherty rightly pointed out, Boston lacks the innovative management systems that other cities boast. And then there are more existential challenges: The nation’s educational mecca has vast reserves of pent-up creative energy, and any mayor should be working to unleash it. The race for City Council at large, for instance, showcased a young, diverse field of candidates, and Boston should make use of all their talents.

Menino’s gracious election-night speech was a step forward, signaling his awareness of the need for innovation. Yesterday’s results proved his staying power, while the speech demonstrated all the shrewdness and self-awareness behind it.

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