The Boston Globe finally spoke out on an issue that has always bothered me: signs emblazoned with “Thomas M. Menino” on practically every bridge, neighborhood boundary, tourist attraction, park, and body of water in Boston. I pay enough for public works. I’d rather not fund free political advertising for incumbent politicians. If Mayor-elect Marty Walsh spends millions to slap his own namesake on our stuff, let’s make sure the local papers slap him upside the head. Democracy is not about temporary individual leadership. Democracy is about the permanent bedrock of collective leadership. It is not about the Honorable Mayor. It is about honoring ourselves.
If our state lawmakers want to craft a bill to ban this practice, they can borrow language from the Illinois statute that passed in 2011 to ban displaying the name of any state-level executive or legislative official on any publicly-funded sign. Let’s do the same and add in local politicians for maximum impact.
It’s time to take back our neighborhoods.
Enjoy the re-printed editorial below, or, visit the original.
Ancient Romans marked their public monuments with an emblem of civic ownership — “SPQR,” the “Senate and people of Rome.” During his 20 years in office, former Mayor Tom Menino made sure every Bostonian would regularly see a different marking: his own name.
On Monday, thousands of street signs, garbage bins, murals, and city vehicles became outdated. All those signs will eventually need to be replaced or altered, at a completely avoidable cost to the taxpayers. The new mayor, Marty Walsh, has said he won’t rush to emblazon his own name in Menino’s place, but during the campaign he didn’t rule out continuing the practice, either.
Politicians plastering their names on signs is a self-serving tradition that serves no useful purpose, and only fuels public cynicism. Nor is it universal; after a scandal felled former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, a politician known for festooning his name on highway signs, the state banned officials from putting their names on billboards and signs. In Massachusetts, former governor Mitt Romney voluntarily kept his name off highway signs at the state border when he took office in 2003.
It shouldn’t take a scandal for Boston to follow suit. As the Menino signs come down, Walsh should leave his own name off the replacements. Or, he could borrow a page from the Romans, and credit the public works of Boston to those who paid for them: the people of Boston.