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School Repairs: The Mayor filed an order seeking Council authorization to fund $9,486,511 for boiler and roof projects at the following schools: East Boston High School, the Sumner School K-5, the O’Donnell School K-5, the Russell School K-5, and the Tobin K-8. The funds would be executed under the Public Facilities Department on behalf of Boston Public Schools and are eligible for partial reimbursement from the Mass. School Building Authority (MSBA). The matters were assigned to the Committee on Ways & Means for a hearing.
Appointments: Mayor Walsh appointed Ann Marie Noonan as the Director of Labor Relations.
Net-zero Carbon Requirements: Councilor O’Malley reported back on the recent working session to discuss how Boston might set policy to encourage net-zero carbon standards for future development as we continue to see increasing harm from climate change. He spoke on the City’s robust construction boom and the significant demand for innovative and modern designs that would be energy independent and not reliant on carbon, especially with the City of Boston’s commitment to making its buildings carbon neutral by 2050. Over half of emissions come from free-standing buildings. We can protect all residents from the impacts of climate change while also saving on costs by improving energy efficiency and increasing access to good jobs. The matter remains in the Committee on Environment, Sustainability & Parks, and Councilor O’Malley plans to reconvene another working session in two months or so.
Short-term Residential Rentals: Mayor Walsh filed a letter withdrawing his proposed ordinance on short-term rentals.Whenever the Mayor files an ordinance, the Council has 60 days to amend, reject, or reject without prejudice, or the language automatically takes effect; that 60 days ran out today. On Monday the Council’s Committee on Government Operations held a working session following our hearing earlier in the month. At that working session, Councilor Edwards and I proposed an amendment to the ordinance that would eliminate the Investor Unit category, create an Owner-Adjacent Unit category that would allow owner-occupants of a 2-family or 3-family home to use one of their extra units for short-term rentals, and an exemption for furnished corporate or institutional stays of ten consecutive nights or more. This would close the loophole on unlimited corporate units, which even with a 90-day cap, could result in tenants being pushed out for short-term rentals. Here’s a summary of the short-term rentals legislative action at the City and the State: https://commonwealthmagazine.org/economy/walsh-pulls-airbnb-proposal. We will work quickly to finalize legislation in the next few weeks.
Collective Bargaining: We voted to authorize the appropriation orders to fund the recently settled collective bargaining contracts with the 250-member Boston Police Superior Officers Federation ($4,824,768.00) and the 27-member Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society - Forensic Group ($82,323.00). Councilor Ciommo stated that the contracts include paid parental leave benefits, a cap on sick leave redemption upon retirement, gradual increases to the Quinn Bill/Education Incentive Plan so that the City will cover more of what the state has underfunded, and base wage increases of 2% consistent with other previously funded agreements this cycle.
Community Obligations for As-of-Right Projects: Councilor Campbell called for a hearing to discuss the review process for as-of-right zoning projects, particularly with regards to previously rejected applicants. She would also like to explore the tools and ordinances the City and Council may adopt to ensure these projects align with a community’s vision for its residents. Councilor Campbell brought an example of the Popeyes restaurant on Washington Street in Codman Square. The Popeyes restaurant was denied a Conditional Use permit in October 2016 due to community disapproval, but then the applicant re-filed for and was granted an Allowed Use Restaurant permit. Members of the Codman Square community were not informed of the subsequent application and its approval. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Planning, Development & Transportation for a hearing.
English Language Learner Program and Adult Basic Education: Councilor Pressley called for a hearing to discuss access to English Language Learner (ELL) Programs and Adult Basic Education in Boston. She spoke about immigrant communities grappling with language barriers that prevent them from fully contributing their talents and skills to our economy and perpetuates systems that take advantage of both their immigration status and their inability to communicate in the dominant language. Particularly after the recent report highlighting that Latinos in Massachusetts face the greater inequality than Latino residents in any other state. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Education for a hearing.
Home Rule Petition for Additional Licenses for the Sale of Alcoholic Beverages: Councilor Pressley refiled a home-rule petition for a Special Law to authorize additional non-transferable liquor licenses in Boston: 5 citywide all-alcohol licenses, 5 citywide beer & wine licenses, 3 all-alcohol and 2 beer & wine for each of Dorchester, East Boston, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Mission Hill, and Roxbury, 3 all-alcohol and 2 beer & wine licenses for Main Streets Districts, and 1 all-alcohol license each for the Lawn on D at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Boston Center for the Arts, and the Bruce C. Bolling Building. The matter was assigned to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.
Reentry: Councilor Campbell called for a hearing to conduct a comprehensive review of reentry resources for incarcerated populations in Boston. She noted that according to the MA Department of Correction, 32% of offenders are reincarcerated within three years, and a disproportionate number of individuals caught in the cycles of recidivism are men and women of color. She plans to pick up on the work that former Councilor Tito Jackson had started on the Council of helping review and coordinate resources for reentry. She plans to host the hearing at the South Bay House of Correction. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Public Safety & Criminal Justice for a hearing.
Upcoming Hearings/Working Sessions (In the City Council Chamber unless otherwise noted. Watch at: https://www.boston.gov/departments/city-council/watch-boston-city-council-tv)
- Monday, 3/26 at 11:00AM: Hearing re: flooding in the City of Boston (Planning, Development, & Transportation) [Iannella Chamber, 5th Floor City Hall]
- Monday, 3/26 at 2:00PM: Hearing re: Ordinance increasing access to voter registration (Government Operations) [Iannella Chamber, 5th Floor City Hall]