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Prof. Ken Bode Profiles "Refreshing... Everyman Mayor"

May 13, 2005

ken bode crop.jpgMay 13, 2005, Greencastle, Ind. - In his op-ed piece in today's Indianapolis Star, Ken Bode, fresh from a trip to Boston, provides some insights into that city's mayor. "Tommy Menino, the first Italian American to hold the office, was wrongly considered to be a temporary fluke when he won the job in 1993. In the last election he was unopposed and is now running for a fourth term," writes Bode, Eugene S. Pulliam Distinguished Professor of Journalism at DePauw University.

Bode tells of how the mayor surprised Little Leaguers by bringing a surprise to their opening day -- the World Series trophy won by Boston's Red Sox last fall -- which each of the youngsters was photographed with. "Menino's commitment to neighborhoods comes from his own growing-up, the son of a factory worker, in blue-collar Hyde Park," Bode writes. "As a kid, he passed up college. 'I didn't get it,' he explains. He enrolled at U-Mass Boston in his 40s and graduated at 46. 'Lemme tell you, I get it now,' he told Boston Globe columnist David Nyan."

The professor continues, "Careening through the neighborhoods with his wheelman, a plainclothes cop, I got a street-level, staccato travelogue from the mayor on his philosophy and projects. We passed new schools, housing and community centers, a boarded theater he hopes to re-open. 'We'll start by replacing 150 light bulbs,' he says. Nyan once described Menino's basic appeal as his 'ordinariness'" He personally sees to it that flower boxes are planted and wading pools are full. There are white picket fences around vacant lots, which the parks department mows. This builds pride in the neighborhood, he says.

Bode, former senior political analyst for CNN, notes that Merino's 12 years in office have been corruption-free. "This also begins with little things. When an Italian chef who had just served the mayor a five-star dinner displayed a handful of parking tickets, hoping to get them fixed, Menino smiled and said, 'Pay 'em. We need the revenue.' Frankly, it's refreshing to cover a politician who seems to know what he's doing and does it with broad public approval. 'No whining' is his motto, and he is definitely not slick. 'I'm not a fancy talker,' he often says, winning him the nickname 'Mumbles Menino.' Everyman as mayor."

bowman pond ub.jpgIn conclusion, Dr. Bode notes, "The mayor will not be unopposed this time. His challengers include a longtime city councilwoman (the Irish entry), possibly an African-American, and maybe a Socialist Workers Party candidate. His aides will not admit that this election is a gimme. But if you're inclined to bet against Tommy Menino, you might be better off to leave your money in your other pants."

Read the complete essay at College News.org.

Other recent Star essays by Ken Bode, who was inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame last month, can be accessed here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Source: Indianapolis Star

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