Thursday, July 27, 2006

Menino Hall??????

Business as usual at city hall.
by Kevin John Sowyrda

Had Tommy Menino been on board the Titanic as the bow slipped slowly into the icy waters of the North Atlantic, I suspect he would have approached one of the frantic stewards dispensing life jackets and innocently inquired, with quite the straight face, "so what's for brunch tomorrow?"

If Matt Amorello is detached from the realities of the final days of the Massachusetts Empire, then His Honor the Mayor is absolutely politically catatonic, as exhibited by his deafening silence to the sycophantic proposal being bandied about by his praetorian guard at city hall that Boston's new convention center in Southie be named in honor of His Honor.

Let's ponder this together. At the exact moment in time when Pandora's Box, which is Bay State politics, is being exposed for every journalist's delight from here to Hong Kong, and just as an internal debate brews regarding the Tamney Hall-like politics which promulgated this political and engineering Chernobyl called the Big Dig, and just as Americans arrive at the logical conclusion that Boston politics is a sewer, the Menino clique considers it perfect timing to float an idea that millions in naming rights for the South Boston Convention Center be tossed like a salad so that instead we name the giant edifice - embroiled in it's own mountain of lawsuits - in Honor of the city's most powerful political chieftain.

Now I know we're not in Kansas anymore.

We clearly need to rush the city's czar back to Beth Israel, but on this occasion it won't be for gastrointestinal agony triggered by those nasty Red Sox cracker jack; but instead for desperately severe ear wax build up, which is keeping the lame duck mayor (God, that sound's sweet!) from hearing the clarion call for change in how we govern.

Talk about fiddling while Rome burns.

The Hub we love is facing a future more bleak than anything we could have imagined. Census data proves the population is declining. The middle class is bolting quicker than the Big Dig bolts are snapping. Most commuters say their rosary before attempting inner city travel of late; and only a CEO who was recently lobotomized would locate his company here given the recent headlines.

And amidst this locust of problems the big worry at that concrete bunker of a brain trust downtown is doing something nice for the Prince of the City.

I proudly disclose my bias, having been a media consultant to the convention center authority's past executive director, Fran Joyce. A Billy Bulger lieutenant, Joyce was gradually harassed away by a beefed-up Republican board of directors largely controlled by the Republican governor's office. One of Joyce's relentless critics was Menino. But were he still the man in charge, I can guarantee you that Joyce would be raising Holy Perdition at the thought of sacrificing millions in naming rights for the sake of glorifying a contemptible municipal ego.

Unfortunately, Menino has taken control of the convention center authority. His former chief of staff now fills Joyce's job as executive director and seems intent on violating his professional duty to seek out a corporate customer for the naming rights, in lieu of pleasing his master, Menino. As one convention center authority board member told me off the record, "We're kissing away millions here so that we can give a big kiss to the mayor. The idea stinks but I'm beginning to think they'll get away with it."

To steal a line from a favorite movie of mine, these are serious times, and we need serious leadership. You won't find that at City Hall Plaza unless there happens to be a visiting dignitary from out of town. The naming rights controversy only highlights what we already know - the city we love is sinking under the weight of corruption more quickly than those poorly engineered tunnels are also sinking.

I'll make a deal with the Prince of the City. If everyone is so insistent on denying the public coffers the money we can use from the naming rights, and, instead, committed to naming the new $800 million convention center after a person, I'll agree to the following - let's name it after all the people who've been gunned down since the Prince was reelected.

The are much more deserving the honor than His Honor.

Kevin John Sowyrda is a political writer and can be reached at

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