And that is not the only ongoing federal investigation into city officials. The office is looking into the Boston fire department's handling of disability claims, in the wake of a scandal over "disabled" firefighter-cum-bodybuilder Albert Arroyo. That scandal has already brought down the Boston Retirement Board's top executive, Robert Tierney, who resigned in August. The city's elections commission and police department are also under federal scrutiny.
Although he has said nothing publicly about his intentions, Menino has continued his solid fundraising pace, taking in nearly $800,000 this year through November, after breaking the million-dollar mark in '07.
Even more telling, Menino reported a $30,000 payment in late November to a California firm known for political polling. Menino insiders would not confirm to the Phoenix that the mayor has begun polling for his re-election bid, but did not discourage that interpretation.
The assumption that Menino is running has kept the local political scene quiet at a critical time. Most political observers say that serious mayoral candidates would need to start raising money before the end of the year. That's because the very low annual-contribution limits under state law — $500 per calendar year — make it much harder to raise large sums in 2009 alone.
Looking ahead to potential competitors, if he stays in the race, Menino will likely face challenges from two at-large city councilors with similar profiles, Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon, who are both conspicuously considering taking on Menino.
They are the only two making noise so far about a possible run. But that could change quickly if Menino, like White, shocks the city and withdraws — assuming he did so before petitions are due next spring.
Yoon's flight of fancy
With his public testing of the mayoral waters, Yoon has drawn scrutiny to his every move. This past week, that meant a lot of head-scratching over his proposal for a resolution asking Massport and the US Department of Transportation to block any deal for Grand China Airlines to fly in and out of Logan Airport.
Yoon sent out a press release on the issue on December 2, and then introduced the resolution during the council's weekly meeting the next day.
Yoon says that Grand China — formerly Hainan Airlines — should be barred because the company is disobeying a bankruptcy-court order to pay some $14 million for aircraft parts and repairs. That issue is currently being addressed in US courts in Virginia and Washington State.
His opposition is potentially embarrassing, not only for Massport and US officials, but for Menino and Governor Deval Patrick, both of whom have worked hard to secure a deal for Grand China service to Boston.
Menino first announced a tentative deal in early 2006. Then in December 2007, Patrick made his meeting with Grand China Airlines — seeking a final agreement on direct service — a centerpiece of his trade mission to China. Massport CEO Tom Kinton joined Patrick on that trip.
Yoon, who agrees that direct flights from Beijing would be "a tremendous benefit to Boston," says his concern was sparked by a small news item in the November 4 Boston Globe about the airline's debts.