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Boston Police School Traffic Supervisors Association: Mayor Walsh filed an order to approve a supplemental appropriation of $21,200 to provide funding to cover the recently settled collective bargaining agreement for September 2016 – August 2019 between the City of Boston and the Boston Police School Traffic Supervisors Association. The agreement includes annual base wage increases of 1%, 0.5%, and 1.5% and includes an increase in the uniform allowance. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Ways & Means for a hearing.
Housing Data: As required by city ordinance, the Department of Neighborhood Development filed two annual reports updating the Council on recent housing data:
- Report on Student Housing Trends for the 2016-2017 Academic Year: http://meetingrecords.cityofboston.gov/sirepub/view.aspx?cabinet=published_meetings&fileid=203683.
- 2016 Annual Report on Boston’s Affordable Housing: http://meetingrecords.cityofboston.gov/sirepub/view.aspx?cabinet=published_meetings&fileid=203685.
Parking Reserve Fund: We voted to pass Mayor Walsh’s order to accept the provisions of the 2016 Municipal Modernization Act that allows allow for municipalities to deposit parking meter receipts into a separate parking meter fund. This would continue the City’s practice of separating parking meter revenues for maintenance of parking meters and enforcement technology, regulation of parking, salaries of parking management personnel, improvements to the public realm, and transportation improvements.
Overcoming the Odds Program: Councilor Campbell reported back on Monday’s Public Safety & Criminal Justice committee hearing on the Overcoming the Odds program, which is a partnership between the Department of Corrections and the Boston Police Department to provide support to residents returning to the community from incarceration who may need support finding housing, employment, recovery services and mental health treatment and thereby reduce recidivism. Councilor Campbell stated that funding for the program has been cut substantially and recommended the City of Boston invest $250,000 to help the program get back on its feet. She also mentioned that while the program currently only serves men, an investment could help expand the program to support women as well. The matter remains in the Committee on Public Safety & Criminal Justice.
MSBA Facility Upgrade: We voted to follow the recommendation of Ways & Means Chair Councilor Ciommo and pass Mayor Walsh’s order to submit a statement of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for repairs at The Carter School. The Carter School provides services for our district’s most intensive special needs students. The funding is needed for repairs to provide a new therapy pool, gym space, art therapy facility, and family therapy room. If accepted by the MSBA, the project would begin scoping conversations in Fall 2017 with potential construction during Summer 2018. BPS would be eligible for 65% cost reimbursement.
Needle Disposal: Councilor Essaibi-George reported back on yesterday’s Homelessness, Mental Health & Recovery committee hearing to discuss safe and effective needle disposal practices. The opiate crisis has had a disproportionate effect on the City of Boston due to the centralization of recovery services, resulting in an increase in improperly discarded needles littering sidewalks and open spaces in every neighborhood. Councilor Essaibi-George cited the statistic that more than 20,000 improperly discarded needles have been picked up in Boston since the Mobile Sharps Team began their work in 2016. She recommended that the City expand voluntary needle disposal trainings and increase access to safe needle disposal kiosks. Councilor McCarthy also stood to thank BPS Chief of Staff and former City Councilor, Rob Consalvo, for moving forward with a program that Councilors had called for, to educate BPS students on how to handle safe disposal of needles in parks and playgrounds. The matter remains in the Committee on Homelessness, Mental Health & Recovery.
Violence in Boston: Councilor Campbell reported back on last night’s hearing on violence in Boston. The hearing was held in Roxbury, with a packed room of Councilors, panelists, and members of the public. Councilor Campbell spoke about incorporating public testimony before or throughout panel discussions at future hearings, as many members of the public expressed frustration at having to wait until the end of the hearing to share their stories. Councilor Jackson emphasized the need for improved coordination of trauma resources and a more extensive evaluation of existing programs. Several Councilors spoke about the importance of effective trauma response and support services across the city. The matter remains in the Committee on Public Safety & Criminal Justice.
Residential Property Exemptions: Councilor Ciommo filed a home rule petition to amend the current ownership and occupancy deadline for residential property exemptions in the City of Boston. Currently, homeowners must apply by January 1st in order to receive residential exemption for the following fiscal year. That means that homeowners who buy their homes between January 2nd and July 1st do not receive the benefit for potentially over a year after the purchase of their home. The residential property tax exemption was increased this year to 35% of assessed value up to certain amount, to a little over $2,400, up from around $1,900. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Government Operations for a hearing.
Massachusetts Safe Communities Act: We voted to adopt Councilor Zakim’s resolution in support of the Massachusetts Safe Communities Act (S.1305 and H.3269), which would create statewide protections like those in Boston’s Trust Act, and also prevent state resources from being used to assist the federal government in the creation of any federal “registry” based on religion, ethnicity, etc. The Boston Trust Act, passed unanimously in August 2014, prevents the Boston Police Department from detaining any individual based solely on their immigrations status. Councilor Zakim emphasized that legislation like the Trust Act and Safe Communities Act make communities safer by encouraging open communication and diminishing the culture of suspicion between local law enforcement and immigrant communities. Councilor Baker also stood and said as the son of an immigrant mother who never became a citizen, and as someone who has worked alongside hard-working immigrant neighbors, we need to recognize the economic benefit of immigrant residents and work toward a way for people who want to work hard and pay taxes to come out of the shadows.
Educator of the Year Award: Councilor Essaibi-George encouraged Councilors and community members to participate in her first annual Educator of the Year Awards, honoring Boston’s top educators in celebration of National Teacher Appreciation Month. Councilor Essaibi-George’s office will be accepting nominations until April 28th: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfCf5uVADp-vCuYw_zWXewaTmMI11eH-wj5ude2ZoahR15htw/viewform?c=0&w=1.
Council Chamber Accessibility Project: I gave an update on the Council Chamber accessibility project, which is proceeding on schedule for renovations this summer to lift the Council floor and make our space fully accessible for those with mobility challenges and/or using wheelchairs. Currently, the Council floor is three steps down from the main floor, and the only way down is from a ramp that requires someone in a wheelchair to go all the way around to the back entrance for access. During one of our hearings last year, a resident coming down the ramp fell out of her wheelchair and had to receive medical treatment. Her experience highlighted that our former ramp was badly out of compliance – too steep and also lacking the appropriate handrails. That ramp was replaced immediately with a compliant ramp, while we began conversations on how to provide accessibility overall. The new plans will mean that no one will have to go around to the back to access the Council floor, and that the Councilors’ entrance and President’s podium will be fully accessible. We will also change a row of public seating to provide wheelchair-accessible seating (currently nonexistent). The improvements will also include sound treatments on some of the walls to help attendees hear better, LED lights that will save energy and provide adequate lighting on one side of the Chamber that is currently dark, and new carpeting in the form of carpet tiles that are easier to clean and overall more cost-effective to maintain. Public testimony will likely occur from two sides near the public seating, so that constituents can line up on both sides and speak directly from podiums at the railing in front of the first row of public seating in the center. Construction will likely happen from July – September in the Chamber, so we are looking to accelerate equipment additions that would enable the Council to livestream off-site hearings and meetings.
Upcoming Hearings/Working Sessions (Watch at www.cityofboston.gov/citycouncil/live.asp)
- Thursday, 4/6 at 1:00PM, Public Works Department Parcels (Planning & Development)
- Monday, 4/10 at 10:30AM, City Council Biannual Urban Renewal Progress Update (Planning & Development)
- Monday, 4/10 at 12:00PM, Various Grants (Public Safety & Criminal Justice)
- Monday, 4/10 at 3:00PM, Tentative: Creation of an Immigrant Defense Fund (Healthy Women, Families & Communities)
- Tuesday, 4/11 at 10:00AM, Policy Briefing: Childcare Funding Mechanisms (Healthy Women, Families & Communities)
- Tuesday, 4/11 at 3:00PM, Tentative, Shelter Recovery Beds, (Homelessness, Mental Health & Recovery)
- Thursday, 4/13 at 2:00PM, Boston Police Cadet Program (Public Safety & Criminal Justice)
- Wednesday, 4/19 at 5:00PM, Free Petition Ordinance (Government Operations)