For 20 years, Boston has been lucky to have Tom Menino in the mayor’s office. The city has improved in almost every respect. Menino wasn’t personally responsible for every positive development — many cities enjoyed the benefits of lower crime rates and a return to urban living — but he guided the changes with impressive political skills and finesse. Through the inevitable ups and downs, his heart was almost always in the right place: A city that had suffered greatly from divisions — between races, classes, and neighborhoods — came closer during his tenure, through his ability to find common ground. He was, in many important ways, the glue that kept Boston together as it moved forward.
But every political era must come to an end. Those who were hoping that Menino would put himself forward for a sixth term understandably feared the uncertainty of the scramble to replace him. But there was never any reason to believe that the transition would be any easier in 2017, or that a Menino-like successor would magically rise from the packed earth of City Hall Plaza if only there were four more years of cultivation. Meanwhile, as the 70-year-old Menino’s health problems became more evident, the dangers of a city government left rudderless by the illness or incapacity of the mayor became more real.