Thursday, January 14, 2016

Boston City Council Committee Assignments, Commuter Rail Fares, Alcohol Tax, Pilot City Website & More

City Council President Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. The Boston City Council considered these items and more on January 13, 2016:

Council Rules: The Council voted to pass the new Council rules for the term, officially launching our new committee structure. You can see the Committee Descriptions in Rule 36 of the Rules.  Here are the Committee Assignments by Committee Name, Chair, Vice Chair
  • Arts, Culture, Special Events: Wu, Campbell
  • City, Neighborhood Services & Veterans’ Affairs: McCarthy, O’Malley
  • Education: Jackson, Essaibi George
  • Environment & Sustainability: O’Malley, Baker
  • Government Operations: Flaherty, Zakim
  • Healthy Women, Families & Communities: Pressley, Jackson
  • Homelessness, Mental Health & Recovery: Essaibi George, McCarthy
  • Housing & Community Development:  Zakim, Ciommo
  • Jobs, Wages & Workforce Development: Baker, Pressley
  • Parks, Recreation & Transportation: LaMattina, Linehan
  • Planning & Development: Linehan, Flaherty
  • Public Safety & Criminal Justice: Campbell, McCarthy
  • Rules & Administration: Wu, Flaherty
  • Ways & Means: Ciommo, LaMattina
  • Special Committee on Charter Reform: Baker, Zakim
  • Special Committee on the Status of Black & Latino Men & Boys: Jackson, Pressley
  • Committee of the Whole: Wu, Baker*
*The Vice Chair of the Committee of the Whole serves as president pro tempore in the absence of the City Council President

Appointments: Mayor Walsh filed notice of two Boston School Committee appointments, Alexandra Oliver-Davila (new appointee) and Miren Uriarte (reappointment) until January 2020.

FY15 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report: The Council received notice from the City Auditor Sally Glora that the City’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report & Basic Financial Statements for Fiscal 2015 have been filed. You can see these online

Unfair Commuter Rail Fares: Councilors McCarthy & Wu refiled our order for a hearing on inconsistencies in Commuter Rail fares across Boston. The MBTA draws a line between Zone 1A and Zone 1 stops, with a significant fare increase from $2.10 to $5.75 across that arbitrary border. Roslindale is just outside Zone 1A, so residents pay significantly more than residents in some towns outside Boston that fall in Zone 1A. Councilor McCarthy had noted the impacts on parking, with residents driving across these zone lines, parking their cars in overcrowded MBTA lots and spilling over into the surrounding neighborhood. Several colleagues noted that this is an issue of fairness, and all of Boston should have access to the lower commuter rail fare. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Parks, Recreation & Transportation for a hearing.

Snow Removal Exemptions: Councilor Jackson filed an ordinance that would create an exemption for residents over 60 years old and disabled residents from the City’s snow removal rules. Currently, the City requires all homeowners to shovel the sidewalk in front of their home within 3 hours of snowfall, with a $50/day fine for non-compliance. Councilor Jackson noted that the City’s website specifically encourages senior citizens to avoid shoveling, but the rules force elderly and disabled residents to choose between health risks and monetary fines. The proposed ordinance would allow seniors over 60 years old and persons with disabilities to apply for exemption through an “opt-in” process. Several Councilors noted that while we do need to protect the health and well-being of residents, the City must have a fail-safe way to ensure accessibility in winter with cleared sidewalks. The matter was sent to the Committee on Government Operations for a hearing.

Alcohol Tax: Councilors Linehan & Baker refiled their home rule petition from last term to impose a tax on alcohol sales that would fund addiction treatment and recovery programs. The proposed law would cover alcohol sales at both off-premises and on-premises businesses (e.g. at restaurants) and would be a 2% tax. Councilor Linehan estimated that this would provide ~$10M annually for programs to address the urgent issue of addiction treatment and recovery. Councilor Baker said that although his preference would not be to burden small businesses, he believed we need a statewide tax to provide funding streams for the important policies that our Governor and Mayor support. The matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.



Boston.gov Redesign: This morning, City Councilors & staff met with members of the Department of Innovation & Technology to give feedback on the City’s website redesign. The new site, which is expected to roll out this summer, will organize information by Topics rather than by City Department, aiming for a more intuitive match with residents’ needs. To see the mockup and give feedback, visit https://pilot.boston.gov.

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

You may also sign up to receive the Boston City Council newsletter.

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