Happy New Year! Today was the Council’s first meeting of 2017. Because we operate on one-year legislative cycles within a two-year term, proposals that aren’t voted on by the end of each year become inactive and need to be refiled in the next year if the sponsor wants to keep working on them. Today’s notes include many refiles highlight the Council’s focus on tackling some of the biggest issues facing our city, including combating violence in our neighborhoods and criminal justice reform, closing the income inequality gap, and dealing with the housing crisis. As always, please reach out with any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Appointments: Mayor Walsh made the following appointments:
- Zoning Commission: Annaise Fourneau until May 2018, Nelson Arroyo until May 2019, Michael Nichols until October 2018, and Michael DiMella until November 2017. All are subject to Council approval, and were assigned to the Planning & Development Committee for hearings
- Boston School Committee: Michael O’Neil was reappointed until January 2021
- Collector Treasurer: Michael DiPiano as Temporary First Assistant Collector-Treasurer and Anthony Dello Iacono as Temporary Second Assistant Collector-Treasurer for a period of 60 days effective January 4, 2017.
Boston Residents Jobs Policy: Mayor Walsh refiled an ordinance amending the Boston Residents Jobs Policy employment standards, from the current standards of requiring at least 50% Boston residents, 25% people of color, and 10% women on covered projects to 51%, 40%, and 12% respectively. The order also extends covered projects to include not just City-funded projects but also major development projects that require Zoning Board of Appeals approval and are at least 50,000 square feet. Finally, the ordinance amends the scope of the Boston Employment Commission to handle all compliance related issues and report to the City Council twice a year. The matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee.
Nomination Papers: Mayor Walsh refiled a home-rule petition to amend the rules around nomination papers to allow registered voters to sign as many candidates’ papers as they wish, rather than limit them to one valid signature for candidates for Mayor and District City Councilor and four candidates for City Council At-Large. The matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee.
Just Cause Eviction: Mayor Walsh refiled a home rule petition called the Jim Brooks Stabilization Act with a goal of preserving housing stability and maintaining diversity in Boston’s neighborhoods. The petition would apply to landlords who own seven or more units in Massachusetts and outlines nine causes that could justify an eviction, including nonpayment of rent, violation of terms of the lease, and damage to the apartment. The petition further requires that any eviction or nonrenewal of a lease must be sent to the City’s Office of Housing Stability within two days after such notice is sent to the tenant. The matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee.
Municipal Lobbying: Mayor Walsh refiled a home-rule petition to create regulations on disclosure and registration for lobbying at the city level, modeled after existing State-level regulations. The rules would apply to both executive and legislative lobbying, including communications with all city employees at all levels over government operation. The rules would also include procurement contracts in the regulatory framework. The matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee.
Community Preservation Committee: Councilors Flaherty and Campbell refiled an ordinance to create the Community Preservation Committee, following the successful Community Preservation Act ballot referendum in November. State law requires that after communities opt in to the CPA, the local legislative body passes an ordinance to define the composition and procedures of the committee that will make recommendations on how to allocate CPA funds. This ordinance’s proposed Committee would consist of 5 members appointed by the Mayor and 4 appointed by the City Council, serving 3 year terms. The group would be responsible for recommending allocations of expenditures from the Community Preservation Fund, which must be appropriated by vote of the City Council. CPA projects must be related to the acquisition, creation, and preservation of open space, historic preservation, and affordable housing. The matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee.
Snow Removal Exemption: Councilor Jackson refiled an ordinance that would create an exemption for residents over 60 years old and disabled residents from the City’s snow removal rules. Currently, the City requires all homeowners to shovel the sidewalk in front of their home within 3 hours of snowfall, with a $50/day fine for non-compliance. The proposed ordinance would allow seniors over 60 years old and persons with disabilities to apply for exemption through an “opt-in” process. The matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee.
Body Cameras: Councilor Campbell filed a hearing order to review the Boston Police Department’s body camera pilot program, which began in September of 2016 following several months of planning and community meetings. The hearing would serve as a mid-pilot check-in to understand data and findings of the program so far with the Boston Police Department and the Northeastern University researchers who are evaluating the pilot. The matter was sent to the Committee on Public Safety and Criminal Justice.
Transportation Policy Briefings: I refiled an order to create a legislative docket that would allow the Council’s Parks, Recreation & Transportation Committee to host a series of policy briefings about key topics in transportation policy. We have two more briefings focusing on Transit Priority (Feb. 2nd, RSVP on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/554672361389162/) and on Parking (March 2nd, https://www.facebook.com/events/971431599625503/). The previous discussions have included Low-Stress Bicycling Network (see video at http://www.cityofboston.gov/citycouncil/cc_video_library.asp?id=11126), Pedestrian Safety (http://www.cityofboston.gov/citycouncil/cc_video_library.asp?id=11138), and Systematic Safety (http://www.cityofboston.gov/citycouncil/cc_video_library.asp?id=11146).
Housing Innovations: Councilors Baker and Zakim refiled a hearing order to discuss cooperative owned housing, especially single room occupancy and micro units and other alternatives as a way to create more affordable housing options in Boston. Both emphasized the need to relieve the housing crunch in Boston, which is making our city unaffordable for too many families. The matter was sent to the Housing and Community Development Committee for a hearing.
Parking: Councilor Baker refiled a hearing order to discuss the current city resident and visitor parking programs as well as the potential to develop new revenue generating parking permit programs. At a hearing in October, city transportation officials discussed programs in place to achieve their three goals of making parking more convenient, better-managed, and less-needed. Residents testified about the need to accommodate all types of users on roads and charging a fee for residential parking permits. The matter was sent to the Parks, Recreation and Transportation Committee for another hearing.
Procurement & Purchasing: Councilor Pressley & I refiled our hearing order regarding the City’s procurement and purchasing processes. We look to continue exploring how the City’s spending on services (through procurement) and on products (through purchasing) can intentionally create pipelines for local residents and businesses owned by women and people of color. Our focus will include transparency—around the available bidding opportunities but also around which businesses win the contracts—and capacity-building to make sure Boston’s spending works to reduce income inequality. We are also hoping to address whether smaller contract sizes could empower new companies to gain footing and experience through Boston’s public contracts. The matter was sent to the Committee on Jobs, Wages & Workforce Development.
Reprecincting: I refiled a hearing order to discuss reprecincting in Boston before the 2017 municipal elections. Precincts are the smallest unit of building political districts, and theoretically they are supposed to be equal in size. However, because Boston is exempt from the state law requiring reprecincting every 10 years right before redistricting happens, Boston hasn’t adjusted our precinct boundaries in over 80 years, and since that time we have seen our population grow and shift across neighborhoods. Some of the largest precincts in the city have well over 2,000 voters in high-turnout elections, and some of the smallest have under 200. This results in unnecessary barriers to voting at some of the largest precincts, including long lines and wait times at some voting locations. The Council has previously advocated for removing the exemption so that Boston would be forced to reprecinct every 10 years, but the home rule petitions were not adopted at the state level. It turns out that there is another mechanism to reprecinct outside of those decennial statewide efforts: Boston can voluntarily alter precinct lines to get to more equal-sized precincts as long as we do not change ward boundaries or political district boundaries. In other words, we can split the largest precincts up into smaller precincts in time for the municipal elections, when we will not have early voting. This would make our eventual redistricting process easier as well, since we would build districts from smaller and more equally sized precincts. The matter was sent to the City, Neighborhood Services, and Veterans Affairs Committee for a hearing.
Curbside Composting: Following a hearing in October, Councilors O’Malley and Pressley refiled a hearing order to discuss a curbside composting program in Boston. Currently, Boston’s Public Works Department oversees trash pickup and single stream recycling. Cambridge launched a curbside composting pilot in one neighborhood two years ago, and it was so successful that they are expanding it citywide. The matter was sent to the Environment and Sustainability Committee.
Plastic Bag Ban: Councilor O’Malley and I refiled an ordinance to ban flimsy plastic bags from retail establishments in Boston. Many of the flimsy, single-use plastic bags end up tearing and littered on our streets or in our trees. The recycling company Casella has noted that thin plastic bags get twisted around their machinery and are not in condition to be recyclable after being mixed in with food products or other waste, so they spend hours every week untangling plastic bags from the gears. The ordinance would require retail establishments to offer plastic bags of at least 3 mils in thickness (think bookstore bags) that are more reusable and charge a 5-cent fee on these thicker plastic bags, recyclable paper bags, and compostable bags. That fee would go back to the retail establishment to cover the increased cost of thicker bags. I want to note that any conversation about increasing costs for families is difficult when so many are struggling to make ends meet in our city – the goal of the ordinance is to encourage residents to use reusable bags when shopping and reduce plastic bag waste in a way that is fair for small businesses and not prohibitive for residents. The urgency of climate change as a social and economic threat to our future grows more visible every day, and we need to take every step we can to move toward a greener economy. The matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.
Investing in Mental Health Supports: Councilors Pressley & Essaibi-George refiled a hearing order to explore additional investments in mental health resources for city departments. They specifically mentioned the need for additional clinicians to accompany Boston Police in ridealongs. Currently, there is one clinician funded by Boston Medical Center’s BEST program to accompany police officers, and there are eight social workers (five at district stations and one each assigned to the school police, gang unit, and domestic violence unit). The matter was assigned to the Committee on Homelessness, Mental Health & Recovery.
Special Education and Equitable Transitions: Councilor Pressley filed a hearing order to review the FY18 special education budget and ensure equitable transitions of BPS youth as they graduate or age out of BPS. Councilor Pressley has been holding hearings over the last three years on this topic to ensure all students receive the supports they need. This year’s order particularly notes the need to review changes made last year to the weighted student funding structure for students with autism or emotional impairments. The matter was sent to the Education Committee for a hearing.
Insurance Benefits for Surviving Spouses: Councilor Flaherty filed a home-rule petition to reinstate the ability of spouses of City of Boston employees who died in the line of duty who later remarried to receive City of Boston health insurance. In 2000, the legislature repealed part of the “remarriage penalty” allowing those spouses who remarried to receive pension benefits, but not insurance benefits. This home rule petition would once and for all do away with the “remarriage penalty.” The matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.
Violence in Boston: Councilor Jackson refiled a hearing order to discuss violence in the City of Boston. He stated that the rates of nonfatal shootings and sexual assaults increased in the last year and the city needs a holistic plan for violence. Councilor Ciommo was concerned that the language of the hearing order focused on the Boston Police Department when there are many other relevant agencies and departments, and we took a brief recess as Councilor Jackson amended the language to clarify his intention to include other agencies. The amended matter was sent to the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee for a hearing.
Upcoming Hearings/Working Sessions: Hearing schedules will be finalized and publicized in the next few days. Look for a finalized schedule in next week’s notes or check for updates at: https://www.boston.gov/public-notices