You can hardly turn a corner in Boston without coming across a building or bridge or park or roadway named for a politician or a politician's relatives. The Moakley courthouse. The Fitzgerald Expressway. The McCormack federal building. The Rose Kennedy Greenway. The Saltonstall state office building. The Tobin Bridge. The O'Neill Tunnel. The Menino Pavilion. The Hynes Convention Center. The statues of Kevin White and James Michael Curley. Some politicians have two, three, or even four of these "monuments to me," as they've been dubbed. Besides the federal courthouse named for former Congressman Joe Moakley, there is a Moakley park, a Moakley academic center, and a Moakley medical building. There's even an Evelyn Moakley bridge named for his wife.
And the "monuments to me" keep proliferating.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced last week that a historic building in Roxbury's Dudley Square is to be renamed for Bruce Bolling, the late City Council president. A commission is being created by Linehan and City Councilor Stephen Murphy to scout out locations for a statue or other shrineto "celebrate" former Mayor Ray Flynn. Massachusetts politicos may not be quite as far gone in this addiction to self-glorification as some public officials. (It takes five pages to print Wikipedia's list of places named after former US Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia.) But we're headed that way.
Can't we call a halt to this taxpayer-funded ego-stroking of people who are supposed to be public servants, not public deities?If an outright ban on naming buildings, projects, and highways after politicians isn't feasible, let's at least rein the practice in by not allowing it to be done with government funds. Let governors, mayors, and lawmakers who yearn to see their names chiseled in granite followSumner Redstone's example, and pay for it themselves. If the friends of Billy Bulger truly think South Boston's library should be renamed in his honor, let them negotiate the terms of a substantial naming gift and turn to private donors to collect it.
Once upon a time it was understood that public entities shouldn't be named for still-living politicians. Some admirable officials were even content to let their life's work be their monument. How quaint that seems in our age of fame junkies and self-idolatry, when for too many politicians it's all about the monument, and not nearly enough about the work. Reversing that trend would admittedly be a daunting task, but refusing to name things after politicians would be a good place to start.