It’s been a busy first term! Since being elected to serve the city of Boston as one of your four At-Large Councilors, I have been working with neighborhood groups, small businesses, and residents to make city government effective, transparent, and accessible for residents in every neighborhood. As Chair of the Committee on Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and Chair of the Committee on Arts and Culture, I have prioritized strengthening Boston’s innovation economy, creative economy, and neighborhood small businesses.
Helping Neighborhood Small Businesses Open Faster
My first official Council business was to file two orders on streamlining the laws and processes for small business permitting and licensing. I held a hearing in City Hall with representatives from city departments to discuss our internal city processes and how to make them more effective. Then, we took our hearings to the neighborhoods to hear from business owners directly. We launched a neighborhood listening tour with stops across the city. After hearing from business owners, neighbors, and community leaders, I wrote a comprehensive report of recommendations for action by Mayor Walsh.
Paid Parental Leave
I was proud to introduce an ordinance to provide six weeks of paid leave for City of Boston employees with my colleagues, Tim McCarthy and Tito Jackson, and the support of Mayor Walsh. As a new mom, I have experienced the difficulty of balancing work and family. Our ordinance will allow all parents–mothers, fathers, adoptive parents , and same-sex couples—to take time to bond with their babies without sacrificing their economic stability. Read the paid parental leave ordinance here.
Innovation through Open Data
I filed an ordinance on open data, mandating that city departments make all data available according to technical standards that also protect privacy and security. Government today should center on making data-driven decisions and inviting the public to collaborate around new ideas and solutions. The goal of the open data ordinance is greater transparency, access, and innovation. We need a proactive, not reactive, approach to information accessibility and open government. I wrote an op-ed for WGBH on the topic, which you can read here.
Transparency & Accessibility
I’ve been posting weekly updates on my facebook page and at michelleforboston.com/notes following each Council meeting to cover–concisely and in plain English–what happens at each meeting. I hope you’ll check them out to stay informed. If you don’t use Facebook and would like to have these updates emailed to you, sign up at michelleforboston.com/sendmenotes. We have also had Community Roundtable meetings at public libraries to hear directly from residents.
Health Care Equity for City Employees
I worked with Councilor Ayanna Pressley, MassEquality, GLAD and others to propose an ordinance ensuring health care equity for transgender city employees. Not only is inclusion the right thing to do, but it’s also the best economic policy for Boston to attract and retain the most talented and committed employees. The Boston Globe wrote about the ordinance here.
Fossil Fuel Divestment
I worked with Councilor O’Malley to co-sponsor a resolution (passed by the Council on Nov. 19th) calling on the State Legislature to take action toward fossil fuel divestment of state retirement funds. After sponsoring a committee hearing on November 17th (Read about the Council Hearing here), featuring four panels of experts and dozens of advocates and residents, our resolution called on the State Legislature to move on HB 4354 (a bill by Rep. Michlewitz that passed the house and is in the Senate Ways & Means Committee) to create a commission to analyze feasibility and implementation before year’s end, and to take action towards state divestment. It passed with an 11-1 vote. We hope to keep working on city divestment with the coalition over additional working sessions and collaboration.
Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights
I proposed a resolution, unanimously approved, in support of a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, which would provide protections to ensure safe and dignified working conditions for house cleaners, nannies, and personal care attendants. Domestic workers have historically been excluded from basic state and federal labor rights, so this bill would offer 24 hours off per 7-day calendar week, parental leave, protection from discrimination and sexual harassment, and termination rights for live-in nannies so they will not become immediately homeless. The Massachusetts House of Representatives has since approved the bill, and it will go before the Senate.
Eliminating Noncompete Agreements
I partnered with Councilor Tito Jackson to file a resolution in support of eliminating non-compete clauses, which discourage innovation and punish employees. The enforcement of non-compete clauses in Massachusetts is a barrier to realizing our full potential for innovation in Boston because employees are prohibited from leaving their jobs to develop startup companies within the same field, thus limiting our potential to build on talent and ideas. We can protect intellectual property and success of all companies while supporting full-scale development of the innovation economy.
LGBTQ Youth Homelessness
I called for a hearing to discuss the resources needed to support LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness in the city, including emergency shelter, transitional housing, community space, and targeted wraparound services. In my visits to shelters over the winter, each provider noted an increase in the number of youth experiencing homelessness, and advocates from the LGBTQ community estimated up to 40% of LGBTQ youth experience homelessness. We researched efforts in other cities and drafted the order after meeting with advocates across the city. We had active participation in putting together the hearing and brainstorming solutions.
I sponsored a hearing order to discuss city departments’ language access policies and resources.
Literary Cultural District
I was proud to work with Councilor Pressley and the Council’s Committee on Arts & Culture to establish a Literary Cultural District in Boston. The Massachusetts Cultural Council awards cultural district designation to specific geographic areas that are a walkable, compact home to a concentration of cultural facilities, activities, and assets. So far 25 cultural districts have been recognized, including the Fenway Cultural District in Boston. The Back Bay/Downtown/Beacon Hill-centered district would be the first literary-focused district in the Commonwealth and the country.
Arts and Culture Funding
I held a hearing on maximizing arts and culture funding, which was attended by artists, performers, advocates and organizations representatives full of insightful recommendations. The Arts and Culture committee, which I chair, will prepare a final report for the Administration based on the recommendations and conclusions.
Late Night MBTA Service
I cosponsored a resolution with Councilor Josh Zakim in support of continuation of Late Night MBTA Service, which passed the Council unanimously. Read the resolution here.