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Putting new face on library tops Menino’s agenda

At the Boston Harbor Hotel, Mayor Thomas M. Menino outlined an ambitious plan for his last months in office.

PAT GREENHOUSE/GLOBE STAFF

At the Boston Harbor Hotel, Mayor Thomas M. Menino outlined an ambitious plan for his last months in office.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino vowed Wednesday to begin the transformation of the main ­library in Copley Square before he leaves City Hall, saying the granite facade of the Johnson Building will be replaced with glass to open it to the street.

Pledging to start construction by early next year, Menino used a speech before hundreds of business executives to link the project to the campaign to heal the damage wrought by the Boston Marathon bombs, which exploded not far from the library.

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“What better way to reject fear and hate on Boylston Street than with a new lobby that welcomes everyone,” Menino said.

In the speech to the Boston College Chief Executives’ Club of Boston, the mayor outlined several issues he wants to tackle before his fifth and final term concludes in January. Menino promised a vote on a proposed casino at Suffolk Downs in East Boston before year’s end. And he pledged to begin the search to replace School Superintendent Carol R. Johnson, who said last week she is retiring.

Menino said he would solve the dispute between state and city police regarding which agency has jurisdiction over the waterfront, and he highlighted a plan to curb homelessness.

“There are 250 days remaining in my final term,” Menino said. “And I will use every single one of them to rally people to these causes. In 20 years, we have transformed our city step by step, and we won’t stop now.”

The plan for the main branch of the Boston Public ­Library involves the newer portion of that Back Bay landmark, which has a prominent ­entrance on Boylston Street. The library hired an architect to explore design options, and several concepts were displayed at a recent meeting of the library’s board of trustees.

Menino’s administration included $14.6 million for the Johnson Building in its next budget, which is pending before the City Council. That figure will not cover the entire cost of the project.

The speech at the Boston Harbor Hotel was Menino’s first since he announced in March that he would not seek a sixth term. He made several jokes about applying for nomination papers, which would be the first step in running for a sixth term.

Menino seemed especially wistful, teasing former governor William F. Weld, who sat in the audience. He ribbed Weld about their disagreement years ago over building a football stadium in South Boston.

When asked by a member of the audience, Menino offered a candid look back at his two decades in office. He recalled when he first refused to join the St. Patrick’s Day parade in South Boston because gays and lesbians were not allowed to march. Menino said his advisers told him the stand would hurt him politically.

“I said, ‘Who cares,’ ” he recalled. “I don’t like parades anyway.”

The room roared with laughter. Menino then pointed to a priest and told him not to listen for a moment.

“On the same-sex marriage issue,” Menino said, “close your ears, Father, [but] I was way out in front.”

His remarks were laced with references to the Boston Marathon bombings, which he said brought out Boston’s best.

“I have never been prouder of our city,” Menino said. “When the world turned their eyes to Boston over the last two weeks, they saw greatness everywhere. They saw it in our people and their strength. They saw it in the skills of our police. They saw it in the speed of our first responders. They saw miracle after miracle of greatness in our ambulances and hospitals.”

Menino said he heard echoes of the Marathon explosions in the sporadic gun violence that haunts some Boston neighborhoods, evoking Martin Richard, the youngest victim of the bombings. A photograph that circulated in news reports after Martin’s death showed the 8-year-old holding a sign that read, “No more hurting people.”

“We must heed young Martin Richard’s call: ‘No more hurting people,’ ” Menino said. “We have to put an end to violence in our neighborhoods and the senseless scourge of guns.”

Andrew Ryan can be reached at acryan@globe.com Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan.
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