Today we were back in the newly renovated accessible City Council Chamber for the first time! Thanks so much to the Mayor, Public Facilities team, Central Staff, and all Councilors for the ideas and execution of a beautiful project. While we’re waiting on some final finishes so we won’t celebrate the final space for a few more weeks, it was exciting to enjoy the accessible floor, wheelchair-friendly seating, LED energy-efficient lights, and improved sound.
To start the meeting, we joined Councilor Zakim in honoring the Boston Renegades women’s professional football team, who recently played in the Women’s Football Alliance National Conference Championship game and whose Coach John Johnson was recognized as coach of the year in league. Congrats to the Renegades on another successful season, and thank you for all you do to inspire women and girls across our City!
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East Boston Community Funding: We voted unanimously to accept additional funding from MassPort for the East Boston Foundation and senior programming at the Orient Heights library. This funding comes out of the PILOT agreement reached in 1995 between Massport and the City of Boston. This order is to receive $6.7M dollars, which covers ten annual payments of $500,000 to the East Boston Foundation, and ten annual payments of $170,800 for the City to spend on senior programing in Orient Heights.
BPD Police Officers Contract: The Mayor filed two orders to fund the Boston Police Department Detectives following the collective bargaining agreement reached by the City of Boston and the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society. The agreement calls for an additional $3,256,331 in spending, all of which would come from the Collective Bargaining Reserve. 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. These orders were assigned to the Committee on Ways and Means for a hearing.
Community Preservation Act: Councilor Flaherty filed a communication with the Council announcing the members of the CPA Working Group, whose purpose is to assist the City Council's Special Committee on the Community Preservation Act in recruiting and evaluating candidates for selection to the Community Preservation Committee. The members are Boston residents Curtis R. Kemeny, Beverly Johnson, Cortina Vann, Shelly Goehring, and Jeffrey Gonyeau. The group will meet soon to approve the application materials and kick off the process.
Jim Brooks Stabilization Act (Just Cause Eviction): We voted to pass the Jim Brooks Stabilization Act as a home-rule petition, with recommended changes from Councilor Flaherty as Chair of the Committee on Government Operations. The primary substantive amendments include:
- Removing the identification of conditions in order to evict because of protections in place under state law and procedures available in housing court;
- Requiring a landlord or foreclosing owner to provide tenants information on their basic housing rights and available resources when serving a notice to quit or other notice of lease nonrenewal or expiration. This notice of rights will be prepared by the Office of Housing Stability (OHS);
- The notice to quit or other notice of lease nonrenewal or expiration must be served on forms prepared by the OHS at least 30 days in advance of commencing any process against the tenant or former homeowner;
- The landlord or foreclosing honor must also provide a copy or copies of these termination notices to the OHS; and
- Failure to provide either of these OHS forms to a tenant or former homeowner would prevent the landlord from recovering possession.
Several Councilors noted that this result is a compromise piece of legislation, a first step to obtaining full data and finding tools to address the displacement crisis taking place in the City of Boston. Later in the meeting, Councilors Baker and Zakim filed a specific ordinance to address the need for more data and information on where displacements are occurring and for what reasons.
Community Choice Energy: We voted unanimously to authorize the City of Boston to adopt the Community Choice Energy that I was proud to file in partnership with Councilor O’Malley. The order charges the Administration with beginning due diligence on a municipal electricity aggregation to increase clean energy for Boston residents and small businesses. At yesterday’s packed hearing, advocates, residents, and experts spoke about the environmental and economic benefits of increasing our renewable energy supply. We learned that dozens of municipalities in Massachusetts have instituted a CCE program with a 5% increase in renewable energy, and in all but one the rates have been cheaper than the Eversource basic plan rate. Boston’s 5% renewables increase would reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to removing 6,400 cars from the city’s roads.
At today’s meeting, Councilors rose to speak about the urgency of committing to a clean energy future as we face the impacts of destructive climate change in weather disasters and the environmental refugees that we will welcome after each incident. Adopting a green municipal aggregation is the single largest action that Boston can take to immediately and dramatically increase our clean energy consumption. Moreover, the process has numerous safeguards, including the ability for anyone to opt out back onto the utility’s default basic plan. The utility company will continue to deliver the electricity and administer billing, so the transition would be seamless for the ~125,000 accounts that would chip in a little towards a big result. As mentioned at the hearing, not everyone can afford to install solar panels on their homes. CCE allows all residents to pool together and share in the transition to a green economy.
With the Council now having voted to authorize CCE, the Administration will begin the process of researching and requesting proposals from energy procurement companies, and vetting them in consultation with state agencies and public process. There are still months of process ahead before any draft plan would be presented and approved.
Resolution Supporting Automatic Voter Registration: We voted to adopt Councilor Zakim’s resolution calling on the Massachusetts Legislature to pass H.B. 2091 / S. 373, An Act Automatically Registering Eligible Voters and Enhancing Safeguards Against Fraud. Automatic voter registration – with an opt-out system instead of opt-in – has been shown to increase the accuracy and efficiency of the voter registration process and increase registration rates among young adults, low-income communities, and people of color.
Resolution in Support of Dining Hall Workers at Northeastern University: We also voted to adopt Councilor Zakim’s resolution calling on the administration of Northeastern University to do everything in its power to reach a fair and equitable agreement with its dining hall workers, and expressing our support for the workers should they be forced to strike.
Eviction Data Collection Ordinance: Councilors Baker and Zakim filed an ordinance that would codify at the city level some of the data collection provisions that the Jim Brooks Stabilization Act discussion revealed as necessary and urgent. Separate from the home rule petition process, this ordinance would requires landlords and foreclosing owners to notify the Office of Housing Stability (OHS) within five days of serving notice to a tenant or former homeowner or face a fine. It would also require OHS to produce a yearly report on the state of evictions in the City of Boston including the number of termination notices filed in the City, the location by neighborhood, and the number of notices that lead to the eviction of the tenants, if known. Because this is an ordinance, it would be immediately implemented at the city level, unlike the home rule petition that would need state approval. The matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.
South Boston Waterfront/Seaport Public Facilities: I filed a hearing order to discuss plans for access to public facilities, civic space, and city services in the South Boston Waterfront and Seaport / Fort Point area given the continued residential transformation of the neighborhood. The area has seen population double in the last ten years, some projections estimate that the population will grow from about 4,000 current residents to upwards of 26,000 residents in 10-15 years. Currently there is no civic space in the area (e.g. no library, school, community center, fire station or police station), and we should be looking ahead to plan for how we will deliver city services and civic spaces to current and future residents. The matter was assigned to the Planning & Development Committee for a hearing.
Funding for MicroHUBS: We voted to accept a $447,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to fund a pilot project for microHUBS, which are information kiosks that provide real-time information on transit schedules and shared vehicle availability. These hubs would make it easier for residents to know about and connect between bus, train, HUB bike share, ride share, and electric vehicle charging stations.
Flight Paths: Councilor McCarthy rose to give an update on his trip to Washington DC to meet with Congressmen Capuano and Lynch about the concentration of flight paths over a narrow band of households in recent years after the FAA instituted changes to GPS navigation systems. This has significantly increased noise and pollution over certain neighborhoods in Boston, including South End, Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, West Roxbury and Hyde Park. Councilor McCarthy will make available the in-depth report from MIT commissioned by the Congressmen.
Upcoming Hearings (Watch at www.cityofboston.gov/citycouncil/live.asp)
- Tuesday, 10/10 at 4:30PM, hearing on project with the National Black Women's Justice Institute (NBWJI) (Healthy Women, Families, and Children) [Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building, 2300 Washington St, Roxbury]
- Tuesday, 10/10 at 2:30PM, working session on parking permits for home health professions (City, Neighborhood Services, and Veterans Affairs) [Piemonte Room, 5th Floor City Hall]
- Thursday, 10/12 at 10:00AM, hearing on the right to charge (Government Operations) [Piemonte Room, 5th Floor City Hall]
- TENTATIVE, 10/16 at 11:00AM, hearing on the BPD Detectives Benevolent Association collective bargaining agreement (Ways and Means) [location TBD]