Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino stopped short of saying today that he will run for a sixth term, but acknowledged that he had spoken to the only significant challenger so far and called for a campaign focused on issues.
But he also said he had spoken to City Councilor John Connolly over the phone and told him, “Let’s have a nice, good campaign. Let’s discuss the issues.’’
Asked about Connolly’s campaign, an upbeat Menino jauntily said, “Young man. Wants to be mayor. Good luck to him.’’
Menino also said, “It’s about what he has done as a city councilor and what I have done as mayor.’’
Menino’s comments were his first on Connolly since the councilor announced his candidacy Tuesday. Connolly declared that he offered voters a “bold desire to change the status quo, particularly when it comes to schools.’’
Connolly said Menino, the 20-year incumbent, was a “good man’’ who loved Boston. But he said that a school system top-heavy with administrators had fallen short.
He said the system could be transformed and it was “eminently doable to make this the best school system in the United States.’’
Menino defended the state of the schools today. “Everybody from the outside wants to take on the schools. It’s a good target. But look at the improvements we’ve made. More kids are going to college in Boston. Higher graduation rates. Lower dropout rates. We’re doing OK,’’ he said.
Asked about Connolly’s criticism that Menino didn’t push hard enough during contract negotiations with the teachers’ union for a longer school day, Menino said, “I’ve pushed hard from day one. I filed legislation at the State House for education reform. I didn’t see anybody else from the city up there except myself and a couple other business types. You know, when the education reform bill passed, we led the fight.’’
Menino, who had a tough battle with a variety of ailments this fall and is still recuperating, also spoke about the joys of campaigning.
“I enjoy campaigning. I enjoy people. That’s why I do this job. It’s about people. It’s about helping people, making a difference in people’s lives. That’s what I do. If he doesn’t think it’s fun, then too bad for him.’’