Keohane: Good Tommy / Bad Tommy

1220468170The two sides of Tom Menino were very much on display last Friday, as Hizzoner steamrolled a city councilor and boldly proposed broad changes that will revolutionize the ailing Boston cab system, and then followed that up hours later by absolutely losing it over a cartoon penis.

Let’s start with the cabs. Boston has had its well-publicized troubles with the cab industry this year, as psuedo-unionized cabbies get increasingly squeezed by rising gas prices, and locals, who are already tired of paying considerably higher fares than most other cities, grit their teeth over the prospect of yet another hike.

City Council President Maureen Feeney had been out in front of this issue for a while, first pushing for a taxi driver’s bill of rights that didn’t get anywhere, and then following that up with a call to form a committee to take a broader look at all the cab industry’s moving parts, and come up with a practical solution aiming to…

WHAM! Here comes the mayor, illustrating the broad gap between mayoral clout and councilor clout.

While the council president is reduced to pleading for someone to consider forming a group to address a problem, the mayor bulldozes through with what on its face seems like a good solution, leaving said councilor safely pinned under the wheels.

Menino’s plan includes a requirement that all city cab owners switch to hybrids by 2015, and that cabs be equipped with credit card readers. Cabbies must also use their roof lights, not talk on cell phones during the ride, and dress neatly. In exchange, the cabbies get a “rate adjustment,” a euphemism for a fare hike.

This sucks, but it’s necessary, as the only way the other reforms were going to go through was if drivers got to charge more. Also, the use of hybrids will cushion cabbies against fuel increases in the future, meaning we won’t be fighting over fare hikes every two years like we are now.

But then, just after the mayor stepped up and brokered a pragmatic, forward-looking plan to deal with what looked like an intractable problem, he saw a cartoon penis and turned into James Dobson.
1220467736The Dig, my alma mater, ran a cover illustration depicting some nude cartoon characters lounging around a pool. Naturally, this being a slow news cycle, a news outlet, WBZ, hit the streets to find some jumpy prude to show it to in the hopes said prude would freak out and provide them with good copy about the world going to shit.

They found one. His name was Tom Menino.

“It’s totally irresponsible to have a photo like this in a paper that’s widely distributed around our city,” Menino told ‘BZ. “Young children can see it. It’s not what we should be showing our young people…. That’s part of the deterioration of our society to have things like this around.”

The deterioration of society indeed! We’ve deteriorated into a Bible Belt hamlet. Mind you, there’s nothing sexual about this cover, nor is it particularly true to life. But even under those circumstances, the image of a modest penis is seen as horrendously detrimental to children.

So, what’s next? A condemnation of the Bunker Hill Monument? That thing’s far more phallic than the penis on the Dig cover—even worse when it’s across from the Zakim, which is like two more penises. Think about the children who have to drive on 93, passing through a terrifying thicket of giant wangs puncturing their morals!

Clearly the answer is not just to remove the offending alt-weekly from city property, but to ram through (so to speak) a law prohibiting local children from looking at any penises, even their own, until they reach an age in which such a sight can be processed rationally. In most cases, this can be somewhere in the late teens—unless they happen to be mayor, in which case it’s likely to be somewhat older than 65.

Image of Tom Menino from the mayor’s website