Menino Takes a Page From Belichick’s Playbook

1197908534We thought we’d heard the last of Boston Public Library president Bernie Margolis. After complaining to the Globe about his unceremonious dumping at the hands of Tom Menino, we thought he’d given up.

But no, the blast of war has sounded in his ears and Margolis heads into the breach once more, dear friends. This time, he dials up the Jamaica Plain Gazette to talk about a fight he and Hizzoner had about the dismal JP branch of the library.

We don’t go to JP’s library very often, and judging by the Gazette’s coverage that’s probably a good thing.

The Jamaica Plain Branch Library was forced to close briefly this month when its heating system failed—just one case of conditions that patrons say leave them freezing, boiling or wet in the aging building.

“It is unacceptable that librarians should be expected to go into a facility so cold that your teeth chatter or so hot you’re going to pass out,” said Sam Sherwood, a JP resident and frequent library patron.

Clearly, the branch needs some work. After soliciting library patrons for ideas on what they’d like to see in their library, Margolis halted the project. The reasoning behind that decision depends on whom you ask.

Margolis claimed the Mayor’s Office ordered him to kill the JP Branch planning against his will, saying in a written statement it made him “sick to be directed to derail the process.”

“This is not a story I have publicly told,” he said in a Gazette interview. “I probably do this at great risk personally.”

The BPL and city officials led a community planning process for years about the library renovation/expansion. In 2006, at a meeting that was supposed to unveil draft designs for the project, Margolis showed up in person and dramatically called off the process moments before the audience could look at the drawings.

“That was a horrible meeting,” Margolis said. “I made it very clear [to the Mayor’s Office] I did not think this was the right path to go.”

The mayor’s office is uncharacteristically willing to take issue with Margolis’s specific claims.

Dot Joyce, Menino’s spokesperson, told the Gazette that Margolis was indeed directed to halt the planning, but not so abruptly, and only because Margolis had “wildly” inflated residents’ expectations for the size of the expansion.

“The mayor had to come in and be the bad guy because of the lack of Mr. Margolis’s leadership,” Joyce said.

Joyce agreed with the basic facts of Margolis’s story, but with a strongly different perspective.

The brainstorming indeed raised expectations—to the point of “grandeur,” Joyce said.

“We knew we had to do an expansion, but it was never at that scale,” she said. “I think this is an example, or this project is an example, of how Mr. Margolis misled the expectations of the neighborhood.”

And while Margolis was indeed told to sober residents up, it was supposed to be through dialogue, not an execution, Joyce said.

The real loser here, aside from library users who are stuck with an unheated library and moldy books, is City Councilor John Tobin.

One thing both sides agreed on was that local City Councilor John Tobin did a good job of getting the library plan back on track.

“It’s nice to be Switzerland,” Tobin said with a laugh when told of the feud.

Oh John. Switzerland could never come up with this great a description of the Belichickian (sorry, Gonz) rule of Mayor Menino.

“. . .The mayor’s like Coach Belichick. . . He’s the coach. You’re the player. You’re the assistant coach.

When’s the last time you saw [a Patriots] assistant coach talk in an interview? [Belichick] doesn’t let them. That’s the way the mayor has chosen to run his administration. It obviously works for him.”

Brilliant. We hope Margolis keeps talking for the last few months of his presidency, if only to inspire gems like that.