Thursday, October 29, 2015

Boston City Council Looks At FIOS, South 2 North Station Transit, Pay & More

REMINDER: Tuesday, November 3, 2015 is the local municipal election day in Boston. Don't forget to vote. Polls are open from 7 am - 8 pm.  Fort Point's local polling location is the Condon School at 200 D Street. For a review of the Boston City Council, meetings notes are provided via Boston City Council Looks At posts. 

Councillor-At-Large Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. The Boston City Council considered the items below and more at their October 2015 meetings:

FiOS: The Council voted unanimously to pass Councilor O'Malley's resolution urging utility regulators to give Boston residents access to FIOS fiber optic internet service. Although Verizon declared at the hearing that they would not be pursuing additional FiOS expansion, Councilor O'Malley stated that he hoped we could pursue other avenues for high-speed fiber, such as Google Fiber or a municipal broadband network like other cities have established. Councilor Baker noted that this could be seen as an issue of union busting, as Verizon has been squeezing IBEW Local 2222 for some time, and adding fiber in Boston would increase jobs.

Solar Personal Rapid Transit: Councilors O'Malley and Murphy reported back on the recent hearing called for by Councilor Murphy on creating a pilot program for solar-powered monorail service between North Station and South Station, funded by private partners. The Council voted to pass Councilor Murphy's resolution urging the state legislature to approve Senate Bill 1837, which would grant personal rapid transit providers with the authority to access rights-of-way in the state. 

Liquor Licenses: The Council voted to suspend and pass a home-rule petition submitted by Mayor Walsh that would correct a technicality in the State Legislation that prevented the City from accessing the 15 transferable alcohol licenses granted over 3 years. The state legislation had also granted 60 non-transferable licenses restricted to Main Streets businesses. However, the overall cap number in the state legislation didn't reflect the additional transferable licenses, and so the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission is holding to the stricter language until the State Senate takes up this home rule petition. Councilor Pressley, who championed liquor license reform and passed a similar home-rule petition through the Council in 2014, clarified that this was merely to correct a drafting error and does not represent any additional liquor licenses above what was granted by the Legislature last year

Medical Marijuana Zoning: Councilor Flaherty reported back on the hearing about establishing a zoning prohibition that would bar any additional medical or recreational marijuana sales within 2500 ft of an existing medical marijuana dispensary. He and Councilor Baker noted that the Council should get in front of marijuana legalization and set these zoning rules so that no single neighborhood would have to bear the burden of marijuana sales. Councilor Jackson pointed to New Market as a neighborhood that is an epicenter of health care services, including methadone clinics, and the detrimental impact on the neighborhood overall. The matter remains in the Committee on Economic Development, Planning & Labor

Safe Needle Disposal: Councilors Flaherty, Murphy & McCarthy reported back on the hearing with the Boston Public Health Commission, Boston Police, and EMS discussing procedures for safe disposal of needles, syringes, and lancets. Councilor McCarthy explained that pharmacies are permitted to sell needles, and this was an effort to prevent substance users from transmitting illnesses through shared needles, but this has led to a proliferation of needles in public spaces as we struggle to meet the need for recovery services. Since the City established the safe needle pickup team to respond to reports of needles in parks and other spaces, 5,000 needles have been picked up. The Councilors emphasized using 311 to report any needles and plan to hold further working sessions on establishing an education campaign around safe needle disposal, increasing safe needle drop-off locations, and more. The matter remains in the Government Operations committee.

Parking Restrictions: Councilor LaMattina called for a hearing about existing parking notification procedures and the feasibility of expanding alerts. He noted that the resident parking program, which allows neighborhood residents to park on the street, can be affected by street cleaning, special events, and moving truck restrictions. He suggested that residents who do not use their cars everyday may not be aware of temporary no-parking restrictions that are posted after their car was parked, and the City's No-Tow alerts could be expanded to include this as well. The matter was referred to the Committee on City & Neighborhood Services and Veterans Affairs for a hearing.
 
Street Performers: Councilors LaMattina & Linehan proposed an ordinance to regulate street performers in Boston. The draft language would require a $40 permit to perform in a public area, giving the City the ability to prohibit performances in certain public areas and emphasizing accessibility on sidewalks. Councilor LaMattina noted that he had been working on a policy like this for several years in response to complaints about certain street performers' behavior and language. Several Councilors expressed concern about adding potential fees and punishments for street performers, as well as protecting free speech. As Chair of the Arts & Culture Committee, I (Councilor Wu) stated that we should be doing all we can to encourage public art and public performances, and there is a way to maintain accessibility without increasing red tape for arts and culture. The matter was referred to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.

City Council Pay Raise: The Council voted 9-4 to pass Mayor Walsh's pay raise proposal, setting Councilors' salary at $99,500 and the Mayor's salary at $199,000 starting in the 2016 term. Councilor O'Malley noted that he would be voting yes because he had a commitment from Government Operations Chair Michael Flaherty to have a hearing about tying future salary changes to Boston Area Median Income this calendar year. There was no other discussion on the floor. Councilors Pressley, Yancey, Zakim and Wu voted against it.

Replica Firearms: The Council voted to pass Mayor Walsh's ordinance banning the possession, sale, display, and use of any toy or imitation firearm that substantially duplicates or can reasonably be perceived to be an actual firearm from public spaces in Boston. The ordinance imposes a $50 fine for violations, and the replica firearms will be confiscated by Boston police. Parents will be notified if youth under 18 years of age are found with a firearm, and individuals over 18 years old will be allowed to pick up their replica firearms at the district station after 24 hours. At the hearing, Police Commissioner Evans testified that this ordinance will be a tool for officers to discourage the sale and use of these replica weapons, which are used in robberies and other crimes throughout the city and are difficult to distinguish from actual firearms. There is no right of arrest for a violation in the ordinance.

For prior and complete Boston City Council meeting notes, visit www.michelleforboston.com/notes or sign up to receive these notes automatically each week by email at www.michelleforboston.com/sendmenotes.

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