Monday, December 07, 2015

Boston City Council Looks At Appointments, Budget, Reform & More

Councillor-At-Large Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. The Boston City Council considered the items below and more at recent meetings over the past month. 


Confirmations & Appointments:
City Council voted to confirm the following appointments that Mayor Walsh filed at the Oct. 28th meeting:
  • Boston Landmarks Commission: David Berarducci (reappointed as Boston Society of Landscape Architects nominee) until June 2017, Kirsten Hoffman (reappointed as Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce nominee) until June 2016, Lynn Smiledge (reappointed as Historic New England nominee) until June 2017, Richard Yeager (appointed as Boston Society of Architects nominee) until June 2018, Susan Goganian (reappointed as Mayor's nominee) until June 2018, Christopher Hart (appointed as alternate member, Mayor's nominee) until June 2018
  • Fort Point Channel Landmark District: John Karoff was reappointed until May 2017
Mayor Walsh also filed to reappoint Christine Araujo to the Zoning Board of Appeals until July 2018 and appoint Roxann Cooke to the Boston Industrial Development Finance Authority (http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthority.org/work-with-the-bra/financing/bidfa) Board until April 2019, both pending Council confirmation.

MassPort Logan Airport Terminal E Modernization: City Council received notification from MassPort about the planned Logan Airport Terminal E Modernization Project's public review process, which includes a 30-day public comment period that runs 11/9/2015 - 12/9/2015. The project form is available for viewing at several Boston Public Library branch libraries as well as online: www.massport.com/environment/environmental-reporting.

Public Safety Grants: The Council voted to follow Councilor Murphy's recommendation as Chair of the Public Safety Committee to authorize the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management to accept three grants from the US Dept. of Homeland Security. The grants include ~$14M from the Urban Area Security Initiative to build capacity to prevent, respond to, and recover from threats or acts of terrorism; ~$140,000 to enhance shelter capacity (purchasing 2 shelter trailers, 25 cell phone chargers, 40 computers, 16 field carts for cot transport, and 4 rapid deployment shelters) in case of emergency; and ~$70,000 to purchase an emergency management vehicle. 

FY15 Budget Review: Councilor Yancey reported back on his analysis through the Post-Audit & Oversight Committee, having conducted a thorough review of revenue, expenditures, and personnel compared to the budgeted numbers. He stated that overall, the City is in very good financial condition, with a surplus of $7.4M after FY15. The revenue categories that came in as less than expected included state aid ($5M less than anticipated) and interest on investments. The expenditure categories that came in higher than expected included the Police Department ($17M over), the Fire Department ($6.6M over), Public Works ($20M over from last winter's snow removal expenses), and Execution of Courts ($3.5M appropriated but $10M used to settle legal claims). He also mentioned that as of June 30th, employees of color earned on average less than white employees, and 1/3 of salary expenditures go to non-Boston residents. Councilor Yancey promised a comprehensive written report by year's end.

FAA Flight Patterns Meeting: Councilor McCarthy reported back on work following the Council hearing on Logan Airport flight patterns that have concentrated low-flying planes and much noise over many Boston neighborhoods. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had declined to attend the Council hearing, but through advocacy from our federal representatives, there will be a meeting in Milton about this issue. The meeting was held on December 3, 2015, at 7PM at Milton High School. 

Charter Reform: Councilor Baker filed three home rule petitions, all referred to the Government Operations Committee. Councilor Baker noted that he hoped to have one hearing on all the matters--with more to come--and separate votes on each one.
1) City Council term: To change the City Council term to 4 years instead of 2 years, coinciding with the Mayoral election - since voter turnout in these off-year elections is low and is burdensome on city resources
2) At-Large Vacancy: To change the rule in case of a vacancy for City Councilor At-Large that the 5th place At-Large finisher from the last election becomes City Councilor to instead have a special election - because a 4-year term means the vacancy could occur several years after the last election.
3) Simultaneous Candidacy: To prohibit candidates from running for two municipal offices at the same time.

Sandwich Board Signs: City Council voted to pass a Sandwich Board Sign Ordinance, proposed by Mayor Walsh in September and amended through the Council's Government Operations Committee and Small Business, Entrepreneurship & Innovation Committee. Amended to be a 1-year pilot program expiring December 31, 2016, the regulations aim to provide consistent rules across all neighborhoods that would lighten the permitting load on small businesses by eliminating the free-standing sign permit, but include rules to guarantee accessibility and accountability. The signs can be up to a maximum size of 24"x36", must be weather resistant material, can be outside only during the business' hours of operation, must identify the name/address/phone of the business & sign owner for liability purposes, display content limited to the business' goods for sale, and must not display alcohol or tobacco advertisement.

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

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