Today we joined Councilors Pressley and Janey in thanking Arthur “Sonny” Walker and his family for the many years that he ran Sonny Walker’s (formerly C & S Tavern), also known as the “Cheers” of Roxbury. Anyone can sign up to receive these notes by email at www.michelleforboston.com/sendmenotes or see the list of all previous notes at www.michelleforboston.com/notes.
Traffic Enforcement: We voted to approve the Mayor’s order for the Police Department to receive a Traffic Enforcement grant of $55,976.70 from the United States Department of Transportation. The grant would fund high-visibility traffic enforcement of motor vehicle laws, including but not limited to, speeding and aggressive driving, impaired driving and occupant protection.
Flooding: I reported back on Monday’s hearing where we discussed financing, governance, and legislative steps needed to address the immediate and long-term challenges Boston residents and businesses face from more frequent and intense flooding. We were joined by experts from UMass Boston Sustainable Solutions Lab, Boston Society of Architects, Boston Society of Civil Engineers, Boston Green Ribbon Commission, leaders from Boston Harbor Now, Conservation Law Foundation, and Harborkeepers, as well as city representatives from the Boston Planning and Development Agency and the Environment Department. Many panelists and residents spoke about the urgency of climate adaptation and mitigation, the need to dramatically increase the scale of our efforts and funding, and the foundational importance of community engagement to the success of our efforts. The matter remains in committee for further action -- most immediately, colleagues and I hope to have more focused conversations on 1) emergency response plans as roads and infrastructure floods with the Office of Emergency Management, 2) our stormwater and wastewater management through Boston Water and Sewer Commission, and 3) preventing further reliance on fossil fuels by carefully examining planned development and limiting or ending new fossil fuel infrastructure expansion.
Ordinance on Increasing Access to Voter Registration: Councilors Flaherty and Zakim reported back on Monday’s hearing on the proposed ordinance to increase access to voter registration in Boston. The ordinance would require the City to make voter registration forms available at libraries, community centers, and school registration, as well as pre-registration forms to eligible students. The ordinance would also allow students to start school a little later on election day if they return to school with an “I voted” sticker. The language would also require the Boston Transportation Department provide registration forms to residents seeking parking permits. Lastly, the ordinance would allow the transportation department and election department to share residents’ address information. The matter remains in committee for further action.
School Repairs: We voted to approve the $9,486,511 funding needed 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).
Medicare Savings Programs Eligibility: We voted to adopt Councilor Essaibi-George’s resolution to support Massachusetts House Bill H.615 “An Act Regarding Medicare Savings Programs Eligibility.” The bill will increase income eligibility for the Medicare Savings Program in MA from 135% federal poverty line ($15,889) to 300% federal poverty line ($35,010). Councilor Essaibi-George noted that healthcare is the second largest expense for seniors with limited opportunities for assistance. The last census counted over 88,000 residents aged 60 and above in Boston, and that number is expected to increase to approximately 125,000 by 2030. The City of Boston has a responsibility to support the stability and well-being of all seniors.
Stray Voltage in Boston: Councilor Flynn called for a hearing on issues related to stray voltage in the city, including the tragic incidents where pets are electrocuted due to stray voltage underneath the ground. Boston has older electrical utility cabinets and, during the winter months, the infrastructure is weakened due to the grounds being saturated with salt, which can corrode wiring and grounding lugs. Multiple pets have been injured or passed away due to this. This is also a risk for children who may touch the stray voltage. The matter was assigned to the Committee on City, Neighborhood Services and Veterans & Military Affairs for a hearing.
Short Term Rentals: Councilors Edwards and Ciommo called for hearing regarding a review of the city’s proposed developments containing corporate short stay, executive suite, and short term rentals. The councilors noted that the city is undergoing a building boom and surge in population, creating many new challenges, income inequality, displacement and a shortage of affordable and workforce housing. As the Mayor and City Council continue working on an ordinance to regulate short term rental housing, the Boston Planning & Development Agency should enforce transparency from new developments on whether they intend to master-lease housing units to short-term rental companies. This follows a similar hearing order that Councilor Zakim filed last term, and he expressed support for continuing these efforts. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Housing for a hearing.
Youth Jobs: We voted to adopt my resolution urging the state to increase funding for YouthWorks Youth Jobs. Last year, over 3,000 Boston youth were placed in jobs at community and nonprofit groups through the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program. The YouthWorks budget line has not increased proportionally with increases in the minimum wage since 2014, resulting in losses of several hundreds of summer and year-round jobs for teens. Year-round and summer youth employment provides early opportunities to build important traits and skills such as timeliness, responsibility, interpersonal relations, and personal worth that can be transferred to future positions, as well as the foundations of networking and resume building in a competitive job market. Investing in employment and training programs for youth acknowledges the significant benefits of teen employment in reinforcing long-term thinking about goals and educational prospects while reinforcing our commitment to developing a skilled pipeline of workers who have the experience and skill sets to meet the demands of top employers across the state. Councilor Pressley also stood to emphasize that many of these young people need access to paid employment not just for skills development, but for the income that their families depend on. The Boston City Council urges the Massachusetts Legislature to increase funding for YouthWorks to $14 million dollars and end level funding in favor of yearly increases to keep pace with the graduated increases in the state minimum wage.
2020 Census and Citizenship Status: We voted to adopt Councilor Zakim’s resolution calling on Congress to reject the Trump Administration’s proposal to add a question to the 2020 census survey specifically asking respondents about their citizenship status. The results of the next census will be used to determine Congressional representation, allocation of federal funds, and boundaries of legislative districts, so it’s extremely important that every resident be counted. Including a question on citizenship status could discourage participation of non-citizens and would likely lead to significant undercounting of population in communities like Boston with more residents who are immigrants, both citizens and non-citizens.
Upcoming Hearings (In the City Council Chamber unless otherwise noted. Watch at: https://www.boston.gov/departments/city-council/watch-boston-city-council-tv)
- Tuesday, 4/3 at 1:00PM: Hearing on speculation in the Boston Housing Market (Housing & Community Development)
- Tuesday, 4/3 at 6:00PM: Hearing to conduct a comprehensive review of re-entry resources for incarcerated populations in Boston (Public Safety and Criminal Justice) [off-site at Suffolk County House of Correction at 20 Bradston Street, Boston MA]
- Monday, 4/9 at 10:30AM: Hearing re: Autonomous Vehicles (Planning, Development & Transportation)
- Monday, 4/9 at 2:00PM: Hearing re: ordinance regarding the right of free petition (Government Operations)