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Appointments: Mayor Walsh made the following appointments:
- Associate Commissioner of the Boston Parks and Recreation Commission: William Epperson until January 2021
- City of Boston Representative to the Metropolitan Area Planning Council: John Barros until May 2020
- Boston Employment Commission: John Redd until August 2018
Constables: We voted to suspend and confirm the appointments of 52 constables approved by the Boston Police Department. Constables have the authority to oversee evictions and serve civil process, including subpoenas, divorce papers, and modifications; the criminal background check and approval process is conducted by BPD, subject to City Council confirmation. Last fall, this process came under intense scrutiny after the shooting in East Boston that left two Boston Police officers wounded, in which the alleged shooter was a constable confirmed by the Council in April 2016 after having passed all the BPD background checks. It turned out that those background checks had been restricted to Massachusetts, so they did not uncover the suspect’s criminal record from another state. Following a Council hearing called by Councilor McCarthy, the Administration and Boston Police have changed their procedures so that today’s process requires fingerprinting and multistate background checks. Councilors Flaherty and McCarthy noted that this more intensive process resulted in eight applicants withdrawing and two being disqualified from this round of applicants.
Community Preservation Committee: Councilor Flaherty reported back on Monday’s working session on the creation of the Community Preservation Committee. 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 proposes a committee of 5 members appointed by the Mayor (heads of various agencies/commissions that oversee affordable housing, parks and open space, and historic preservation as statutorily defined) and 4 appointed by the City Council, serving staggered 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. At the working session, we reviewed a revised draft that included more specific language on transparency, committee member expertise, and the selection process. The Yes for a Better Boston (YBB) Coalition which had led the community mobilization efforts pushing for the ballot initiative had requested that all four Council appointments should come from a list of 12 people that YBB would provide. The Administration also drafted an ordinance that would have the Mayor appoint these seats – 1 from a list created by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, and 3 from a list of 9 from YBB. Councilors expressed concern about allocating seats to specific organizations, given that ordinances will be on the books for years to come and the composition and leadership of organizations can change. Our proposal is for the Council to create a subcommittee to oversee the selection process (through an open application portal on the City website that could include support letters from organizations) and hear recommendations from the CPA Committee on allocation. Councilor Flaherty also mentioned that there was some discussion on whether the Council needed to formalize the committee structure by June 1st in order for the City to begin collecting and potentially disbursing the funds in this fiscal year; if that is the case, we would have to vote on the ordinance at next week’s meeting. The matter remains in the Committee on Government Operations.
Temporary Protected Status for Haitian Nationals: We voted to adopt my resolution filed in partnership with Councilors Jackson, McCarthy, and Zakim to urge the extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian nationals. TPS is an emergency immigration status given when people are temporarily unable to safely return to their home country because of ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. The TPS designation allows eligible Haitian nationals to temporarily continue living and working in the United States, and it was granted to Haitian nationals who were in the US as of January 12, 2010, the date of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. The designation has been renewed multiple times, and the latest extension expires July 22, 2017, with a decision due by May 23rd to leave enough time for a 60-day notice period. Legally, the decision should only be based on current conditions in Haiti, and whether people could safely return. We know that Haiti has not yet recovered from the 2010 earthquake and the nation suffers from economic and political crises, rampant Zika and Chikungunya, the effects of a devastating cholera epidemic, and the destructive effects of Hurricane Matthew. However, there have been recent reports that the Trump administration has requested questionable data regarding TPS beneficiaries’ involvement with the criminal justice system and public benefits system, suggesting that they are looking to build a misleading narrative. Several Councilors rose to support extending TPS for Haitian nationals, citing the strong and thriving Haitian American community in the Greater Boston region, which makes up the country’s third-largest Haitian population; nearly 1 out of 10 Haitians living in this area have TPS. May is Haitian Heritage Month, and the City of Boston is proud to be the first city in the nation to formally celebrate Haitian Heritage Month.
Malcolm X: Councilors Pressley and Jackson rose to highlight their resolution designating May 19th as Malcolm X Day in Boston in perpetuity. Councilor Pressley honored Malcolm X (el-Hajj Malikel-Shabazz) for his numerous contributions to black history, humanity, Boston, and this country. She reminded us that Malcolm X has deep Boston roots, as he came to Boston in 1940 as a teenager and lived with his sister in Roxbury for twelve years. She also emphasized that Malcolm X was a product of Boston and a reminder of the strength of Boston’s black community. Tomorrow, May 18th at noon, there will be a flag-raising over City Hall Plaza in honor of Malcolm X. In addition, the 30th Annual Malcolm X Memorial and Awards Breakfast will take place this Saturday, May 20th at 8:00 AM at the Reggie Lewis Track & Athletic Center.
Haitian Breakfast and Flag Raising: Councilor McCarthy invited all members of the City Council and the public to attend this Friday’s breakfast and flag-raising in honor of May being Haitian Heritage Month. The breakfast will feature authentic Haitian cuisine and will begin at 10:30 AM in the City Council Curley Room. The flag-raising over City Hall Plaza will begin at noon.
Council Chamber Accessibility Project: I gave a brief update on the Council Chamber accessibility project, which is proceeding on schedule for renovations this summer beginning in early July and lasting until September. We are finalizing plans to use Faneuil Hall for those summer meetings during construction, except that the space is booked already for the dates of our last two meetings in September, so we may need to adjust those dates or find a different location. 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.
Upcoming Hearings/Working Sessions (Watch at www.cityofboston.gov/citycouncil/live.asp)
- Wednesday, 5/31 at 2:00PM, Fenway Cultural District (Arts & Culture)
Upcoming Budget Hearings (Ways & Means):
- Thursday, 5/18 at 11:00AM, Department of Inspectional Services Overview and Revolving Funds
- Monday, 5/22 at 2:00PM, Boston Public Library
- Monday, 5/22 at 6:00PM, BPS: Academics and Student Support Services Part 2
- Tuesday, 5/23 at 10:00AM, Boston Public Health Commission: Boston EMS and Office of Recovery
- Tuesday, 5/23 at 2:00PM, Boston Public Health Commission
- Thursday, 5/25 at 10:00AM, Department of Neighborhood Development: Overview and Office of Housing Stability
- Thursday, 5/25 at 1:00PM, Boston Planning and Development Association
- Monday, 6/5 at 11:00AM, BPS: Carryover
- Tuesday, 6/6 at 11:00AM, Departmental Carryover