Boston Mayor Blogs His Way Out of Office

Outgoing Mayor Tom Menino, who was in office for 20 years, has launched what may be the first-ever transition blog to help his successor succeed.

Menino spends most of his time out in the neighborhoods of Boston. According to a 2009 Boston Globe poll, 57 percent of city residents say they have personally met the mayor.
Anytime an outgoing governor or mayor turns over operations to an incoming administration, there’s usually a transition binder packed full of documents on policies, budgets, procedures and best practices. But when you’re a mayor who’s held the same office for 20 years, well, you’re going to need a bigger binder. That’s one reason why Boston Mayor Tom Menino launched what may be the first-ever transition blog. 

On Jan. 6, state Rep. Martin Walsh, who was elected last month, will take office as Boston’s first new mayor since 1993. But back on Sept. 28, 100 days before that transfer of power, Menino launched and has been posting a daily stream of detailed offerings about successful operational plans, policy briefs and other minutiae that cover the city’s myriad functions

Recent postings include details on state relations, summer jobs and the “City Hall to Go” mobile government program. Other information includes a finance calendar (departmental budget requests begin in January), details on recycling contracts, and a video explaining the city’s 311 hotline and how it works.

Lawrence Harmon, a columnist with The Boston Globe, praised Menino’s efforts, calling the blog “a nicely packaged gift” to his successor. More than that, Harmon said, the mayor’s blog “offers some relief for those who despair about the intentions and competence of elected officials.”

Certainly, the degree of detail about the mayor’s policies and how a big city operates is unique. That’s what caught the eye of Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project. He says the blog adds a degree of transparency that takes the mystery out of municipal governance. “It really shows what government is all about.”

Menino, now 70, served as Boston’s mayor an unprecedented five terms and during that time oversaw a city that has experienced an urban renaissance, becoming the economic and cultural engine for the region. Never known as a tech-savvy pol, he nonetheless embraced technology by creating the office of New Urban Mechanics, which has helped put the city at the forefront of government innovation. Now, as the mayor winds down the final days of his term, he has given his successor—and the general public—a panoramic view of how government works. 

Daniel Luzer is GOVERNING's news editor.