Yesterday was Councilor Bill Linehan’s final Council meeting, as he submitted a letter of resignation and we thanked him for his combined 43 years of service to the city. Mayor Walsh joined us to present Councilor Linehan with a silver Revere Bowl, and in line with Council tradition I presented him with a crystal gavel given to outgoing Councilors who have served as Council President.
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Appointments: Mayor Walsh appointed Justin Sterritt as Budget Director.
Boston Retirement Board Trustees: We received notice that Michael W. McLaughlin and Michael D. O’Reilly were elected as Trustees of the Boston Retirement Board, with a term until September 30, 2020.
South Boston Community Funding: We voted to pass Mayor Walsh’s order to accept additional funding from Massport for the South Boston Foundation. This $1.5 million is pursuant to the Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILOT) agreement, and will be paid in ten annual payments of up to $150,000. Councilor Linehan urged support of this as his final item he wanted to accomplish for his district.
Right to Charge: We voted unanimously to advance the right-to-charge legislation that I introduced which would codify the right of condominium and homeowners to install personal electric vehicle charging stations in or near their dedicated parking spots. In Boston, we have many multi-family homes that have been converted to condos, sometimes with just 2 or 3 condos in the association, and the governing documents require unanimous consent for any changes to the property. That means one owner could prevent another from switching to an electric vehicle by blocking installation of charging infrastructure for any reason. Given that 30% of greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, we want residents in any living situation to be able to switch from gasoline-powered vehicles to electric vehicles, and we want to set the stage for charging infrastructure now since the costs of electric vehicles are quickly becoming more affordable. Other states and jurisdictions have passed similar right-to-charge laws that prevent condo associations from being able to block homeowners from installing charging infrastructure at the owner’s expense; associations may still add reasonable conditions or restrictions on the location and other features. At last week’s hearing, representatives from the Environment department and Transportation department expressed support for the content but passed along concerns from the law department that the City would be more vulnerable to litigation by passing this in the form of an ordinance rather than a home-rule petition. Although I am generally skeptical of filing home-rule petitions since we have no control over the pace and likelihood of state approvals, I have already spoken with state colleagues who are optimistic about passage on a reasonable timeline. With passage of the home-rule petition at the Council, we begin the process of advocating on Beacon Hill. More to come!
BPD Police Officers Contract: We voted to follow Councilor Ciommo’s recommendation as Ways & Means Chair to pass the appropriation of $3,256,331 from the Collective Bargaining Reserve for the Boston Police Department FY18 budget to fund the newly settled contract between the City and the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society. The agreement includes a base wage increase of 2% effective the first pay period of July of each fiscal year, increases in education benefits, modified cumulative risk benefits beginning in July 2016, and increases to hazardous duty pay beginning in July 2017.
Tenant’s Right to Purchase: We voted to adopt Councilor Pressley’s resolution urging the State Legislature to pass H.3017, An Act to Preserve Affordable Housing Through A Local Option Tenant’s Right to Purchase. This bill would allow tenants, or a non-profit on their behalf, the opportunity to match the fair market value offered by a prospective buyer for a building with three or more units. This would provide an important tool for Boston to fight the displacement and affordable housing crises.
Procurement Reform: I was proud to introduce an ordinance in partnership with Councilor Pressley to amend the City of Boston’s procurement processes for contracting with private businesses for goods and services in order to encourage greater meaningful engagement with women- and minority-owned business enterprises (WMBEs). The goal is to align our spending with our goals of addressing income inequality by giving WMBEs a fairer shot at winning City of Boston contracts. The ordinance codifies the City’s responsibility to create a supplier diversity program, conduct active outreach to WMBEs regarding City needs and contracting processes, and requires solicitation of bids from at least one WBE and at least one MBE for contracts under $25,000. It also directs any and all requests for proposal (RFPs) that the City releases, as well as the evaluation process for such RFPs, to include WMBE participation among key criteria, and creates a quarterly reporting obligation. The ordinance was assigned to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.
Private Corporation Street Closures: Councilor Zakim filed a hearing order to examine the use of public ways by private corporations. Particularly in Back Bay, private corporations (e.g. movie and television production companies) have been closing down public streets, taking both metered and resident parking spots without public process or community notification. This matter was assigned to the Committee on City & Neighborhood Services and Veterans Affairs for a hearing.
Elder Scamming: Councilor Essaibi-George filed a hearing order to investigate the ways in which senior citizens have been targeted by predatory sales techniques and to determine methods of how to better protect our senior residents from being victims of fraud. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Healthy Women, Families & Communities for a hearing.
Back Bay Gas Pipeline: We voted to adopt the resolution filed by Councilors Zakim & O’Malley urging more deliberation and public process from the Public Improvement Commission (PIC) before finalizing approvals of a natural gas distribution pipeline that will run from Back Bay into Fenway. The sponsors echoed community concerns that building more fossil fuel infrastructure is counterproductive to our efforts to support renewable energy. The PIC meets on this issue Thursday 10/19 at 10AM in City Hall.
NOTE on Community Preservation Act: The CPA committee and working group met last week to develop the application for the CPC and the guidelines for evaluation. The approved application should be up on the City website soon. We also discussed the fact that since passing the relevant orders and ordinances, we discovered a mismatch in timeline. The original order required that nominations be finalized within 90 days of passage, instead of within 90 days of the relevant committee being formed. In order to line up those timelines and give the City Council’s CPA committee 90 days to complete their work, we will be filing an amendment to the law at next week’s meeting.
Upcoming Hearings/Working Sessions: None scheduled at this time.