So Linde and his architect returned to City Hall, armed with the miniature tops. When Menino came into the Eagle Room, a wood-paneled hall near his office, they placed each top on the model, until they reached one that resembled a king’s crown.
“He said, ‘I think this one would be great,’” Linde recalled.
And so it was built.
Menino also proved a deft manager of the city’s finances, avoiding the massive layoffs that plagued other cities during the economic downturn of the late 2000s. City Hall was free of serious corruption.
He made spottier progress in other areas. City schools struggled with flat graduation rates and racial achievement gaps, despite Menino’s declaration in 1996 that voters should “judge me harshly” if he failed to improve the education system.
Crime has fallen overall, but gangs continue to bring violence and fear to pockets of the city.
Menino was also given to making grand promises that he never fulfilled.
In an attempt to seal his legacy with a project on par with White’s construction of Quincy Market, Menino floated but never realized plans for a 100-story skyscraper in 2006, calling it “a stunning statement of our belief in Boston’s bright future.” In perennial attempts to enliven the barren plaza around City Hall, he suggested everything from misting fountains to a 150-foot wind turbine.
His devotion to local concerns meant he cut less of a profile on the national stage than some other big-city mayors.
His biggest moments nationally came when he brought the Democratic National Convention to Boston in 2004. He also worked with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York to push for tougher federal gun laws.
But he will be remembered for smaller things that, altogether, made a bigger imprint.
On his morning car rides from Hyde Park to City Hall, he would call his city services director every time he spotted torn pavement, graffiti, or an overflowing dumpster. “When the mayor leaves his house in the morning, he’ll call 10 times from 10 different corners,” Michael Galvin, the chief of basic services, said in 1994. “‘This is out; this needs fixing.’ You can actually map him from Hyde Park to the office.”
He traveled to 11 playgrounds in 2001, vowing to improve sandboxes and seesaws. “It’s tough on mothers to do goo-goo ga-ga all day,” he said during one such visit, to a South Boston park. “We need to get a play fund started here. Get these women — I don’t know — crayons, stuff like that.”
When he leaves City Hall next year, he will depart as one of the last of a handful of mayoral titans, men who towered over their cities for years, their names synonymous with urban power. He was part of a cohort that included Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago, who was in office from 1989 to 2011.
But unlike some of those larger-than-life leaders, Menino only rarely dwelled on his place in history.
“If, 100 years from now, they look back at my election, I hope what they see is the beginning of a century of inclusive politics,” Menino said in 1994. “Throughout my whole career I have tried to be an open door to people left out of the mainstream.”