State House News Service Weekly Roundup: Hizzoner’s Decision

 Mayor Thomas Menino.

He’s been omnipresent for 20 years from Roslindale to East Boston. His endorsement is coveted by city council hopefuls and U.S. senators alike. He occasionally mutilates the English language, mangles the names of sports stars, and commands loyalty unlike any public figure in Boston.

He was mayor-for-life. Now he’ll be mayor for only another nine months.

This week, as House Speaker Robert DeLeo continued to wait for the rescue helicopter to take him away from Gov. Deval Patrick’s “fantasy land” of higher taxes and trains, the Governor’s Council was up to its old tricks and the race for U.S. Senate kicked into a higher gear.

But little could compete with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and “The Decision” that held foes and allies alike breathless for months. Menino decided not to seek a sixth-term and will at the end of 2013 end on his own terms — his 20-year tenure as the city’s longest-serving and first Italian-American mayor.

At the first of what is sure to be many tributes to Menino over the coming months, a who’s-who of past and present power players from City Hall, the State House, and the business community crowded into Faneuil Hall on Thursday to hear Menino make it official.

“I could run. I could win,” he said to the delight of the audience.

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But slowed by illness, Menino can no longer do it his way, and so he said he won’t do it at all. Menino’s way required a tirelessness that few younger than his 70 years can muster. There were ribbon cuttings, school plays and block parties to attend, new business owners to meet and development plans to review.

Before Menino retires to Hyde Park to download the latest edition of SimCity, he has his lame duck period to look forward to. “Just think what I can do in nine months. I don’t have to worry about a thing. No voters or anything else. We’re going to have some real fun,” he said.

Trying to keep track of who gave thought to running for U.S. Senate in the days after John Kerry left to become secretary of state was hard enough. The mayoral sweepstakes promises to be on another level.

In addition to forcing an entire generation of Bostonians to contemplate what life will be like P.M., Menino’s exit creates an opportunity for dozens of public figures bubbling over with pent-up ambition. They’ll have little time to pull the trigger and fire up their campaigns.

There are probably no fewer than eight city councilors taking the Easter Weekend to weigh the leap into a race, while state Rep. Marty Walsh is as close to a surefire candidate as you can get. Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley is considering it, and Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, Sen. Sonia Chang Diaz and Public Safety Secretary Andrea Cabral will get asked until they say no.

That leaves lots of room for an outsider, someone with deep ties and deep pockets ready to jump into public life.

Until then, life on Beacon Hill continued to revolve around DeLeo – more specifically his indecision about taxes. House Democrats sojourned to a conclave at the Omni Parker House this week to discuss election business, a conversation that inevitably turned to tax increases, according to those in attendance.

DeLeo told the House members that Patrick’s request for $ 1.9 billion was “fantasy land,” according several lawmakers who attended, but did not get into detail about the transportation financing plan he will soon ask them to support, or when it might surface.

Though his word choice may have been more spicy than previous assertions that Patrick’s plan was “somewhat excessive,” DeLeo’s position on the governor’s budget hasn’t changed. Neither has his comfort level with any of the various revenue options on the table, complicated yet again by concerns raised by credit rating agencies.

“I honestly don’t know where we are on this,” DeLeo said.

Until he does, the MBTA decided to roll the dice with a $ 1.8 billion budget that includes a “placeholder” for $ 118 million to close a perennial budget gap without fare hikes or service cuts, assuming the Legislature will come through with enough cash to make either unnecessary.

Rep. William Straus and Sen. Thomas McGee’s Transportation Committee also moved to extricate $ 300 million from Patrick’s $ 19 billion transportation bond bill, polling a bill that would increase funding for local road and bridge repair separately from the larger financing package.

Presumably the House financing plan will include enough new revenue to cover the $ 100 million in additional local infrastructure aid, and municipalities are crossing their fingers that earmarking will not bog down the bill as it did last year until half the construction season was over.

As the news of Menino’s decision started to break on Twitter from ex-Phoenix writer David Bernstein Wednesday, much of Boston’s political press was trying to focus on debates between the Democrats and Republicans running for U.S. Senate, but were, as you’d expect, a little distracted.

Congressmen Edward Markey and Stephen Lynch quarreled over whether Lynch was right or wrong to oppose ObamaCare, while former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan and Rep. Dan Winslow – both Republicans – butted heads over gay marriage and abortion, Winslow to the left of Sullivan on both fronts.

The second Republican debate of the week in Springfield featured more of the same – once the moderator figured out Winslow’s name wasn’t Winthrop. Through it all, Cohasset businessman Gabriel Gomez adopted a curious posture of being largely unwilling to engage. Gomez has been more interested in attacking the Democrats than dividing the Republicans in the field, a debatable strategy for a candidate trailing both his GOP rivals in the polls.

STORY OF THE WEEK: An “accidental mayor” no more, Menino decides to call it quits after 20 years, opening the floodgates of mayoral aspiration.

South End Patch