At the start of today’s meeting, Councilor Essaibi-George presented the Home for Little Wanderers with gifts for their annual toy drive that Councilors had donated. Councilor Campbell also honored True Colors, a program of The Theater Offensive who recently became the first LGBTQ organization in history to receive the National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Award at the White House. Today’s meeting was the last of the calendar year, which means that any items not voted upon are now cleared from the docket and will need to be refiled in 2017. Our first meeting of 2017 will be on January 11th. As always, please reach out with any questions to email@example.com or 617-635-3115. Anyone can sign up to receive these notes by email at www.michelleforboston.com/sendmenotes or see the whole list of notes at www.michelleforboston.com/notes.
Gas Leaks Ordinance: We voted 12-1 (Councilor Baker against) to pass the ordinance regarding gas leaks filed by Councilor O’Malley in an amended version. The edited language requires coordination of infrastructure repair when roads are opened up, data collection, and protecting the city’s environment and green space. The reporting piece will fall under the Public Works Department’s permitting authority. The ordinance also gives Public Works the ability to withhold or revoke non-emergency work permits if a company has documented unrepaired gas leaks, and it requires the City to develop and publish procedures to obtain compensation for restoration or replacement of trees or shrubs that have been injured or killed by natural gas leaks.
Marijuana Licensing Equity: Following a hearing last week, Councilors Baker and Pressley submitted a report outlining recommendations to the Cannabis Control Commission to ensure equity in adult use marijuana licensing. The recommendations include appointing at least one person of color to the commission, developing clear and transparent procedures for collecting demographic data of applicants, and including diversity in a point system when awarding licenses. You can read the whole report here: http://meetingrecords.cityofboston.gov/sirepub/view.aspx?cabinet=published_meetings&fileid=193769. The matter was placed on file.
Scam Contractors Ordinance: We voted to pass Councilor Flaherty’s ordinance aimed at protecting residents from scam contractors who may collect partial payment and not finish a job before moving on to scam the next resident. The legislation requires contractors to list all open permits including address, date issued, status of project, and the expected completion date, when applying for a new building permit. It also requires the commissioner of ISD to consider the number of open permits and status of projects when approving permits and to automatically deny any applications that fail to list open permits. These provisions will only apply to residential projects.
Boston Unplugged / Acoustic Live Entertainment Ordinance: We voted to pass my ordinance to eliminate the license requirement, hearing, and fees for small businesses in business districts to host acoustic live entertainment acts of up to five performers between the hours of 10AM-10PM. This follows three successful time-limited pilots in Main Streets districts in May, August, and December 2015 that Mayor Walsh and the Council collaborated on. The goal is to give small business owners throughout the city another tool to increase foot traffic and create more opportunities for artists, musicians, improve performers, and standup comedians in Boston. The ordinance has a one-year sunset provision so that the Council and City can reevaluate the results at the end of 2017.
AirBnB: Councilors Zakim and Baker reported back on Monday’s hearing regarding for profit lodging in personal residences, stating that the goal was to prevent speculators from purchasing properties to use as short-term hotels year-round, while giving owner-occupant residents who could use the extra income from renting out a room from time to time the ability to benefit from the technology platform. Both Councilors said they anticipated further action, perhaps from state legislation, soon after the start of the new year. The matter was placed on file.
Supporting Small Businesses: Councilors Baker and Essaibi-George reported back on this week’s hearing regarding support for neighborhood businesses. They mentioned that the Economic Development office and Main Streets emphasized ongoing efforts to update zoning and administrative practices to recognize that certain businesses should be granted a package of licenses as of right, for example restaurants should automatically receive a takeout license without having to apply separately and attend a separate hearing. The matter was placed on file.
Plastic Bag Ban Ordinance: Councilor O’Malley reported back on a hearing held on Tuesday regarding an ordinance that he and I filed to require thicker plastic bags (more than 3mils) and place a 5-cent fee on other paper and plastic bags from retail establishments to encourage reusable bags. The fee would go back to the store to help recoup the cost of supplying thicker bags. Yesterday’s hearing featured a range of views from panelists from environmental activists to members of the retail and plastic industry. The City’s Commissioner of Environment stated that while they are generally supportive of reducing our city’s carbon footprint and litter, they do not support the ordinance at this time. Councilor O’Malley and I plan to refile the ordinance in 2017 and continue to work for passage.
Sandwich Board Sign Ordinance: We voted to pass the Mayor’s ordinance extending the provisional sandwich board sign program by six months to mid-2017. The original ordinance provided uniform regulations for the first time on sandwich board signs, giving small businesses the ability to have one free-standing sign of a certain size outside their building advertising products within. The Administration filed this provision to push back the sunset provision by six months in order to collect more data to evaluate the program and neighborhood impacts. Councilor Zakim stated that he was voting against the extension because his district includes Newbury Street, where buildings have multiple businesses inside and therefore allowing each business to have one sign ends up cluttering the sidewalks. He advocated for an eventual ordinance to treat different areas differently.
Contractor Safety Ordinance: We voted to pass Mayor Walsh’s ordinance that would give the Inspectional Services Department the authority to include a 5-year lookback at applicants’ safety records as part of the building permit approval process. Under the current process, the City does not include consideration of federal OSHA violations as part of issuing permits. The two workers who were killed in a trench under Dartmouth Street in the South End when their equipment hit a water main were working for Atlantic Drain Company, a business that had numerous OSHA violations and unpaid fines on record.
Alcohol Tax Ordinance: We voted 10-3 (Councilors Baker, Linehan, and myself in the minority) not to pass the home-rule petition sponsored by Councilors Linehan & Baker to add a 2% tax on alcoholic beverages at package stores and restaurants that would fund prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse. Councilor Linehan projected that such a levy would generate $20M annual to fund the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Services, including treatment on demand and outreach workers to get more residents struggling with substance abuse into recovery programs. Councilor Baker described the desperate need for the city to lead and provide resources as lives are lost to addiction. Other Councilors agreed with the importance of addressing the opioid crisis and substance use, but described the proposal as not prescriptive enough about how to close inequities or were concerned that the state needed to do more and not take advantage of the city’s resources when Boston is serving patients from across the state.