Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mayor Appoints Dan McCole & City Council Reviews Long Island Impacts, Marijuana & More

The Boston City Council in celebration of Women's History Month honored all the women who have previously served on the Council this past Wednesday.  Including Councilors Pressley and Wu, eleven women have served on the Council.  Former Councilors Maura Hennigan, Diane Modica, and Maureen Feeney were able to attend and offered beautiful remarks. 

Appointments

  • Living Wage Advisory Committee: Mayor Walsh appointed Darlene Lombos, Father James Flavin, Jr, and Katherine Belgard for terms until March 2018
  • Boston Cultural Council: Mayor Walsh appointed Daniel McCole and Matt McArthur for terms expiring October 2018
  • Assistant City Clerk: The Council unanimously reelected Alex Geourntas to the position after his contract lapsed

Fire Hydrant Flags: Councilor McCarthy reported back on a hearing this past Monday on installing identifying markers on fire hydrants in Boston, which would help firefighters and others locate fire hydrants under snow. At the hearing, the Fire Department and Boston Water & Sewer testified about the prohibitive cost of ~12,000 hydrant flags (the city has about 13,000 hydrants, including 1,000 that are privately maintained) given limited City funds. Councilor McCarthy noted that we should focus on outreach and encouraging residents and organizations to adopt a hydrant.  The matter will stay in Committee for further working sessions.

Student Vote on School Committee: Councilor Jackson reported back on Monday's hearing on allowing two student representatives full voting rights on the School Committee. Currently there is one student representative, and he does not have voting privileges. The Boston Student Advisory Council came out in full force to advocate for the change. This would require state legislative action and ballot initiative to change. 

Social Impact Bonds & State Procurement: Councilor Jackson called for a hearing to review how the Commonwealth's $27M social impact bond targeting recidivism will affect service delivery at the city level, especially around chronic homelessness, court-involved youth, and basic adult education. Social impact bonds are also known as "pay for success bonds", where private investors contract to pay for improved social outcomes that result in government savings. More info on the State's social impact bond.The matter was referred to the Committee on Healthy Women, Families, and Communities for a hearing.

Long Island Impacts: Councilor Yancey filed two hearing orders to examine the emergency impact of closing Long Island related to 1) the displaced substance abuse programs, and 2) Boston's homeless community. Several Councilors questioned the wisdom of putting $90M toward reconstructing the bridge when those dollars could be used for other priorities, such as affordable housing. Councilor Murphy suggested that a ferry would be $4M and allow the City to continue accessing the island while saving money for other programs. Councilor Pressley noted that the goal should be to end homelessness and not to focus on a singular shelter model, but a variety of shelter models e.g. for veterans, women, the working poor.

Parks Development & Redevelopment: Councilors LaMattina and Linehan refiled a hearing order from March 5, 2014, on identifying funding sources for the City's parks system.  He had noted that of the Parks Dept's $17M budget, $11M is for staff salaries, so very little actual funding remains for maintenance and redevelopment of our parks, which support health, community development, social and environmental well-being.  The order was assigned to the Environment & Parks Committee for a hearing.

 LGBT-Friendly Affordable Senior Housing: Councilor Zakim called for a hearing to examine how better to protect the right to fair and safe housing for Boston's LGBT seniors. He noted that many LGBT seniors, after facing discrimination over their lives, then face extreme difficulty in finding safe and affordable housing. City departments and community advocacy organizations can help with training for staff at senior housing developments and other protections to ensure senior housing developments are LGBT-friendly. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Human and Civil Rights for a hearing.

Paid Parental Leave: Councilor Wu was thrilled and proud to introduce an ordinance developed in collaboration with Mayor Walsh and co-sponsored by Councilors McCarthy & Jackson that would offer 6 weeks of paid leave for city employees who become new parents - 100% of salary for the first two weeks, then 75% for the next two, and 50% for the following two. This would apply to employees who have worked at least one year for the City, both women and men, childbirth (including stillbirth) or adoption. As a new mom, I know how drastically life changes with the arrival of a child.  Although we would ideally offer more than six weeks and at full pay, the budgetary impact is hard to predict, so we worked with the Administration to craft something that would be substantive and affordable for the City in Year 1. Councilor McCarthy noted the importance of including dads too. Councilor Jackson described how he reviewed the policies after learning that one of his staff members was pregnant, and described the benefits for employers of offering paid parental leave, including lower turnover, increased productivity, etc. Councilor Murphy described it as a human rights issue that the Council should help Boston take the lead on. Councilor Yancey noted that he had filed what could be a companion piece of legislation offering paid leave for parents to participate in their children's schools. As Councilor Pressley said, good family policy is good economic policy. Read the details of the ordinance here: http://michelleforboston.com/paid-parental-leave. Our hope is that all employers in Boston will follow suit in offering some version of paid parental leave for employees. The matter was assigned to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.

Medical Marijuana Zoning: Councilor Flaherty filed an order that would amend the Boston Zoning Code to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries from being sited within 2,500 feet of an existing dispensary. The goal, he said, was to prevent any single neighborhood from bearing all the burden of medical marijuana implementation in Boston. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Economic Development, Planning, and Tourism.

Recycling Styrofoam: Councilor Murphy called for a hearing on recycling #6 Plastics (polystyrene, commonly known by the trademarked name, Styrofoam). He described previously having been part of efforts to ban this as other cities and towns have done, because it was not possible to recycle. New technology now makes it possible to recycle styrofoam, and implementing this could help the City save money by reducing the tonnage sent to landfills. The matter was referred the Committee on Environment & Parks for a hearing.

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