A determined Mayor Thomas M. Menino described Boston on Monday as a city on the rise, with construction expected to triple this year, sky-high bond ratings, and more parents forsaking the suburbs to live downtown and choosing to send their children to Boston Public Schools.
In a major speech before 500 business and civic leaders, Menino announced that Wegmans Food Market will open its first Boston store, in the Landmark Center in the Fenway. The mayor unveiled plans to put 10,000 more tablet computers in the hands of public school students in the next two years. And he proposed creating 30,000 new housing units by 2020 to meet the surging demand to live in the city.
“I have never been more confident about Boston,” Menino said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks at the annual luncheon of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau. “Look around and you see that Boston’s many successes are only half the story. It’s the pace of our progress that sets us apart.”
In the advanced copy of his remarks, Menino made no mention of whether he will seek a sixth term, a decision he must make in the next eight weeks. He also avoided any reference to City Councilor John R. Connolly, who is running for mayor and during his kickoff rally last week took veiled aim at Menino, referring to the 20-year incumbent as the “comfortable status quo” that hampers progress.
Instead, Menino laid out a forward-looking agenda, some of which seemed to be a shot back at Connolly. He announced an $11 million overhaul to Millennium Park on Connolly’s home turf in West Roxbury. Menino dedicated a significant portion of the speech to schools, an issue Connolly has made the centerpiece of his campaign. The mayor also seemed to answer Connolly’s refrain from his kickoff rally about the status quo.
“I have always said that the status quo is moving backward,” Menino said. “Just moving forward isn’t enough. We have to move ahead aggressively and relentlessly.”
For some, the most significant news will be Wegmans, a family-run supermarket chain popular for its expansive selection and friendly atmosphere. The New York company has 81 stores in six states. Its first store in Massachusetts opened in 2011 in Northborough. A year ago, the Globe reported that Wegmans came to Boston to scout locations for a potential store.
Menino also said construction at the long dormant Filene’s site at Downtown Crossing would begin this spring. He described a new online program for permits that debuts next month that is designed to cut through red tape and reduce wait times.
Menino thanked the Research Bureau for its opposition to a plan pending in the City Council that created a hybrid school committee with some elected members. All members of the school committee are currently appointed by the mayor.
Menino said the Research Bureau advocates for good ideas and, “rightfully push[es] back against bad ones, like re-politicizing the Boston School Committee. This proposal would only put the special interests ahead of our kids’ interests.”