At the beginning of today’s meeting, we joined Councilors Pressley and Jackson in honoring Reverend Miniard Culpepper of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church for 20 years of ministry and his many contributions to the City of Boston. Councilors Essaibi-George and LaMattina celebrated Cristian Figueroa and Kevin Turcios, students from East Boston High School who recently won one of the top honors of the 2017 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).
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Appointments: Mayor Walsh made the following appointments:
- City of Boston Cultural Scholarship Fund Committee: Wilnelia Rivera, Marty Martinez, Byron Beaman, Carol Lee, Marchelle Raynor until June 2020
- Fund for Boston Neighborhoods Board Members: Anabela Gomes and Julie Burns
- City of Boston’s Alternate Representative to the Metropolitan Area Planning Council: Andrew Grace, Director of Economic and Strategic Planning
Truck Side Guard Ordinance Report: Inspectional Services Department Commissioner William Christopher filed annual reports for the last two years in compliance with requirements from the Truck Side Guard Ordinance about costs and number of vehicles outfitted with safety features. Read the 2015/2016 report here: http://meetingrecords.cityofboston.gov/…. And the 2016/2017 report here: http://meetingrecords.cityofboston.gov/….
Constables: We voted to approve the constable’s bonds of 29 individuals under the usual terms and conditions as approved by the Collector-Treasurer.
City Council Meeting Summer Location: I filed public notice confirming the location change for our meetings on July 12th, August 2nd, August 23rd, and September 13th – which will be moved to Faneuil Hall while the Council Chamber is under renovations for accessibility improvements. As a reminder, the project will 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. 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. We are told that renovations are scheduled to be completed by mid-September, so the plan is to be back in City Hall for our Council meetings on September 20th and 27th. If construction runs long, Faneuil Hall is already booked for these dates, but we’ve reserved backup dates in Faneuil Hall on different days of the week for those two weeks. Committee hearings will take place in Room 801 of City Hall during construction. All hearings and meetings will continue to be live-streamed with closed captioning as usual. Thanks to Council Central Staff, Property Management, the City Cable Office, and Boston Neighborhood Network for all your coordination and efforts to plan for this transition.
Urban Renewal Extensions: I filed a letter attaching a communication from BPDA Director Brian Golden codifying the agency’s understanding of the City Council’s role in future urban renewal plan extensions within the City of Boston, as a follow up to our most recent City Council Urban Renewal Biannual Update meeting. The letter confirms that the BPDA will seek and obtain Council’s approval for any future extension of the urban renewal plans prior to seeking the MA Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) approval. Read the letter here: http://meetingrecords.cityofboston.gov/….
FY18 Capital Budget: The Capital Budget represents the loan orders and appropriations that make up the City’s investments in capital projects. Capital items require two affirmative votes by the Council, at least two weeks apart. Today we took the first of those votes on the capital items sponsored by the Mayor. Each of the five items received a unanimous first reading, except for the $45M Parking Meter fund allocation for transportation and public real improvements, which received a 12-1 vote (Councilor Jackson against). To read details about the Capital Budget, see the committee report: http://meetingrecords.cityofboston.gov/….
Medically Supervised Injection Facilities: Councilors Essaibi-George and Baker called for a hearing to determine the impacts of medically supervised injection facilities in Boston. The opioid epidemic has had a devastating effect on the Commonwealth of MA, with a 350% increase in overdose deaths since 2000 according to the MA Department of Public Health. Safe injection sites would be legally sanctioned, medically-supervised facilities, where opioid users could consume illicit recreational drugs intravenously under the care of medical experts. Safe injection sites are meant to reduce nuisance from public drug use and provide a hygienic and stress-free environment. The MA Medical Society has adopted a resolution urging the state to launch a pilot program allowing the creation of two safe injection sites, including one in Boston. Councilor Essaibi-George stated that she was undecided about whether safe injection sites should be allowed in Boston, but the Council needed to be part of the conversations that are already taking place. Councilor Baker expressed stronger skepticism about the effectiveness of these sites as well as their impact on surrounding communities, but agreed that we need to take the lead on the policy analysis. Councilor Jackson stood to say that the South End should not be asked to take on yet another services facility. Councilor Flaherty said that he was opposed to safe injection sites and hoped the conversation would lead to an outright ban on such facilities in Boston, because the opiate crisis is a regional issue that needs a regional solution. Safe injection sites would need not only state approval, but federal approval as well. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Homelessness, Mental Health and Recovery for a hearing.
National Black Women’s Justice Institute: Councilor Pressley called for a hearing to convene leading scholar Monique Morris and the National Black Women’s Justice Institute (NBWJI) on the topic of black girls’ experiences with school climate and policies. She detailed how school conduct policies may often be unfairly biased against girls of color and black girls in particular, as black girls are six times more likely to be suspended than any other race or ethnicity. In BPS, black girls make up 28% of all girls, but account for 61% of girls suspended and 63% of girls expelled. She proposed conducting focus groups with black girls and administrators from BPS and BCYF. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Healthy Women, Families, and Communities for a hearing.
Fenway Cultural District: We voted to adopt a resolution I filed in partnership with Councilors Pressley, Jackson, and Zakim to support the renewal of the Fenway Cultural District Designation. Last week, we held a hearing at the Museum of Fine Arts on the district’s reapplication for another 5-year period, where we heard from Chief of Arts and Culture Julie Burros, Fenway Alliance Executive Director Kelly Brilliant, leaders from the MFA, Simmons College, First Church of Christ Scientist, and Berklee College of Music, and many residents in support of renewal. As a reminder, on March 24, 2012, the Fenway Cultural District was officially designated as Boston’s first cultural district by the Massachusetts Cultural Council thanks to a resolution sponsored by Councilors Pressley and Jackson, along with then-Councilor Mike Ross. To maintain this designation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council requires all cultural districts to submit a reapplication every five years and to hold at least one community input meeting. The reapplication includes an expanded map to include Berklee College of Music. My cosponsors emphasized that the renewal would reinforce collaboration among the city’s now three cultural districts (the Literary Cultural District and Roxbury Cultural District in addition), that there are practical benefits to designation (including closer collaboration and cross-promotion), and real economic benefits too.
Boston City Hall Carbon Footprint: I filed a hearing order in partnership with Councilor Flaherty on reducing the carbon footprint of Boston City Hall and other municipal buildings. President Trump’s announcement last week that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord was perhaps the clearest marker that the federal government is completely abdicating leadership on fighting climate change. Only two other countries are not part of this historic global agreement to reduce emissions and hold the world accountable: Syria and Nicaragua (and Nigaragua because they believe it does not go far enough). I was proud to stand with Mayor Walsh on behalf of the Council at his press conference announcing that Boston would continue on an ambitious path to address climate change despite federal inaction. Many of our plans and goals require private sector collaboration and changing behavior across our neighborhoods, but one category of tangible, significant action that is entirely within city government control is the operations/maintenance of City Hall and other municipal buildings. This includes adjusting our heating and cooling systems, electricity sourcing, recycling practices, roof usage, water management, etc to capture energy efficiency savings and create a healthier environment for city workers. Councilor Flaherty had introduced a hearing order on greening City Hall back in 2008, with some important results, but he mentioned unfinished work such as the lights in some parts of the Council offices staying on 24 hours a day (the light switches do not work, and mechanically there has been no good explanation as to why they can’t be turned off!). Councilors O’Malley and Ciommo described the resolution they worked on to move all city employees to paperless pay stubs and seconded the need to take action within City Hall. Councilor Linehan spoke to add the possibility that the City should sell City Hall (as an old, energy inefficient building that is costing taxpayers money) and build a new, energy efficient building. I personally believe City Hall is beautiful as perhaps the most striking example of brutalist architecture, and we can balance historic preservation in Boston with fighting climate change by aggressively examining the practices described above. The matter was assigned jointly to the Committee on City, Neighborhood Services, and Veteran Affairs and to the Committee on Environment and Sustainability.
Upcoming Hearings/Working Sessions: none scheduled