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MSBA Facilities Upgrades: Mayor Walsh filed an order to submit statements of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for their Accelerated Repair Program for the following schools: Chittick Elementary School, East Boston High School, James Curley K-8, Joyce Kilmer K-8, Marshall/Up-Academy K-8, O’Donnell School K-5, Oliver Perry K-8, Russell School K-5, Sumner School K-5, Timilty Middle School, and Tobin School K-8. The matter was assigned to the Ways & Means Committee for a hearing.
Raymond Flynn Marine Park Energy Saving Services: Mayor Walsh filed a home rule petition to allow the procurement of an energy service company to provide energy project services to all public and private property owners and tenants within the Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park. The matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.
Boston Patrolmen’s Association Contract: Mayor Walsh filed an order for the Council to approve and appropriate the FY17 cost items contained within the collective bargaining agreements recently settled between the City of Boston and the Boston Patrolmen’s Association for July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2020. The provisions include base wage increases of 2% each year, increases to existing Quinn Bill/Education benefits, modified steps, and increase to hazardous duty pay. The matter was sent to the Ways & Means Committee for a hearing.
Affordable Housing Projects: We voted to pass Mayor Walsh’s home rule petitions to exempt the Boston Housing Authority from having to meet certain contracting and procurement requirements at the state for the Clippership Wharf development in East Boston and the West Newton development in the South End. The exemption would streamline the sub-bid process, and the BHA has been granted this exemption on ten other redevelopment projects.
Reprecincting: We voted to pass the home rule petition that Councilor Linehan & I co-authored to add additional polling locations in the six largest precincts in Boston. The recommendations came out of two public hearings with the Elections Department and community members, pointing out that these largest precincts create significant voter access challenges. In the decades since Boston last made major adjustments to equalize precinct sizes, the city’s population has shifted such that today our biggest precinct (Ward 3, Precinct 8 in Chinatown) has over 6,000 registered voters, while the smallest (Ward 8, Precinct 6 near South Bay) has just under 500 voters. That means very long lines at certain polling locations and difficulty with voter access. For my detailed summary of the first hearing on reprecincting, see https://www.facebook.com/michelleforboston/posts/1288342527925669. The home rule petition would allow the City to subdivide these largest precincts in time for the upcoming municipal elections, without changing political district lines or ward lines. The affected precincts are: Ward 3, Precinct 6 (Downtown); Ward 3, Precinct 7 (South End); Ward 3, Precinct 8 (Chinatown); Ward 5, Precinct 1 (Bay Village, Chinatown); Ward 6, Precinct 1 (Seaport, Fort Point, South Boston); Ward 9, Precinct 3 (South End/Lower Roxbury). The changes would need to be approved by the state legislature by June at the latest to implement in time for the September 2017 Preliminary election. If approved, the home rule petition would allow for voter registration locations to be changed in the statewide system.
Boston Art Commission: We voted to pass Mayor Walsh’s home rule petition to give the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) one seat on the Boston Art Commission. With this petition, the ICA would join the Museum of Fine Arts, Isabella Stuart Gardener Museum, Boston Public Library, Boston Society of Architects and Mass College of Art in having a seat on the commission.
Universal Pre-K Funding: We voted to pass Mayor Walsh’s home rule petition to redirect revenue generated in Boston by surcharges on sightseeing tours and rental car transactions from the Boston Convention Center and Exhibition Fund to the City’s general fund to pay for Universal Pre-K for all four year olds in the City of Boston. Currently, the revenue coming in is earmarked toward paying off the Convention Center costs, but often generates a surplus. With the Convention Center expansion on hold, the Mayor is proposing that the revenue generated in Boston come back to the City for this targeted purpose.
Boston Garden Development: We voted to approve the application of Podium Developer to participate in the “I-Cubed” (Infrastructure Investment Incentive) program. I-Cubed allows certified economic development projects that would not otherwise be economically feasible and that will create jobs to participate in a cost and risk sharing arrangement with the Commonwealth. In this arrangement, specified public infrastructure improvements are funded by MassDevelopment bonds. During construction and until a commercial component of the development comes online with a tenant, the developer pays the debt service on bonds funding the public infrastructure. Once the development is occupied and generating new state tax revenue, the debt service on the bonds are payable by the Commonwealth. If the new state tax revenues are insufficient to cover the related debt service, the City must reimburse the Commonwealth for the shortfall, but cities are allowed to sign agreements with developers that the City may assess the property for reimbursement of these shortfall payments to the Commonwealth, which is the case here. The infrastructure improvements include major renovations to North Station to connect the commuter rail and subway entrances, covered walkways for pedestrians, and more. Councilor Zakim also pointed out that the project itself carries tremendous additional benefit for neighbors too, because it will include a supermarket that the neighborhood has been waiting a very long time to see open. Learn more about I-Cubed here: http://www.mass.gov/anf/budget-taxe….
Early Education and Childcare Policy Briefing—Childcare for Homeless Families: Councilor Pressley reported back on the first of our early education and childcare policy briefing series, starting with the topic of access to childcare for homeless families and hosted by Councilor Essaibi-George. Monday’s briefing took place at Horizons for Homeless Children’s Early Education Center in Roxbury, where we heard from policy experts, advocates, and moms who credited having a stable, affordable childcare option as being critical to getting a job and moving from shelter to home. Modeled after our very successful transportation briefings, the goal of the series is to bring in policy experts to share thoughts and policy recommendations separate from any specific votes. Future sessions will focus on topics including community-based providers, childcare funding mechanisms, and more. You can watch the full presentation and panel discussion here: http://www.cityofboston.gov/citycouncil/cc_video_library.asp?id=11167.
Boston Fire Department Cadet Program: Councilors Campbell & Linehan filed a hearing order to discuss the feasibility and implementation of a Boston Fire Department cadet training program. In an effort to recruit firefighters who reflect the racial and socioeconomic diversity of the City of Boston, the Boston Fire Department has made recent investments including hiring a Diversity Officer and launching a Teen Academy aimed at providing summer job training for high school students interested in careers as firefighters. The Councilors spoke about modeling the Boston Fire Department cadet program after the recently reinstated Boston Police cadet program, an on-the-job training program for Boston residents ages 18-24 seeking a career in law enforcement, which would give the same level of preference to cadet program graduates as veterans receive. Several Councilors emphasized that this is not a conversation about pitting veterans against communities of color or Boston residents, but should be a data-driven approach about how best to strengthen our law enforcement agencies while creating economic opportunity for the city. The matter was sent to the Public Safety & Criminal Justice Committee for a hearing.
Biosafety Level 4 Research: Councilor Jackson filed an ordinance to prohibit research designated as Biosafety Level 4 (BSL 4) in the City of Boston. Biosafety Level 4 is a level of security designed for research on the most dangerous and exotic categories of disease-causing organisms. Boston University Medical Center has built a biological research facility known as the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory (the “NEIDL”) on Albany Street in the South End/Roxbury, which recently received its federal approval to house research at BSL 4. Councilor Jackson emphasized the risk of exposing a very dense residential area to these pathogens, as well as many of our most vulnerable residents in the area receiving treatment at Boston Medical Center across the street. The matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.
Free Petition: I filed an ordinance to codify the right of free petition at the municipal level in Boston. The right of free petition is unique to Massachusetts, found in Article XIX of the state constitution and dating back to colonial times. At the Massachusetts State House, the right of free petition guarantees that any citizen may file a bill through his or her state legislator. Several cities and towns have laws codifying free petition at the municipal level in place already, including Chelsea, Lawrence, Winthrop and Newton. The free petition ordinance would require the Boston City Council to hold a public hearing on the subject of any group petition signed by 250 or more residents, within three months of filing the petition. The goal is to provide another outlet for residents to get involved in influencing policy and public discourse in Boston, regardless of voter registration and immigration status. The proposal received a mixed reaction on the floor: some colleagues spoke about the importance of civic engagement and the need to continually strengthen democracy, but others stated that the Council is already accessible and responsive, expressing concern that this mechanism would give voice to opportunists or strain Councilors’ schedules by pulling time away from constituent services in having to chair required hearings. The matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.
White Ribbon Day: After we wrapped up our legislative business, we joined Councilor Pressley in taking a pledge to be part of the solution against violence against women, in solidarity with the worldwide White Ribbon Day movement.
Upcoming Hearings (Watch at www.cityofboston.gov/citycouncil/live.asp)
- Thursday, 3/2 at 4:00PM, Policy Briefing on Parking Management (Parks, Recreation & Transportation). Join us after at 5:30PM for a Boston T(ransit) Party to thank all our presenters and to network with other transit aficionados (City Hall Curley Room)
- Monday, 3/6 at 10:00AM, Jim Brooks Stabilization Act (Government Operations)
- Tuesday, 3/7 at 5:30PM, Resolution to Affirm Sanctuary Schools in the Boston Public School System (Education) [Offsite at St. Stephen’s Church]
- Thursday, 3/9 at 2:00PM: Procurement & Purchasing (Jobs, Wages & Workforce Development)