Thursday, May 12, 2016

Boston City Council Looks At CPA, Urban Renewal, Hover Boards & More

City Council President Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. The Boston City Council considered these items and more at their May 4th and May 11th meetings:

Appointments & Confirmations
  • Michael Dennehy, appointed Commissioner of Public Works (had been Interim Commissioner before) by Mayor Walsh
  • Tim Sullivan, appointed Interim Director of Intergovernmental Relations by Mayor Walsh
  • Zoning Commission: Joanne Keith and Catherine McDonnell were confirmed by the Council as members until October 2018 and November 2018, respectively

Urban Renewal: Councilors Linehan and Wu sent a letter on behalf of the Council to Boston Redevelopment Authority Director Golden setting expectations for the first of the new Urban Renewal oversight meetings that will take place every six months. To recap, the Council approved a six-year extension of Urban Renewal authority for the BRA, subject to additional oversight mechanisms, including a biannual review. However, rather than wait until September to see what the BRA would present, the Council wanted to set expectations now, with enough time for the BRA to prepare to meet these goals. We laid out an agenda for the September meeting that will include reporting progress toward completing the inventory of Land Disposition Agreements, setting a process to review Urban Renewal map boundaries, giving an overview of Urban Renewal projects in the pipeline, and further updates on transparency reforms. See the full letter here.

Community Preservation Act: The Council voted 12-1 (Councilor Linehan in the minority) to put the Community Preservation Act on the November 2016 ballot for voters to decide whether or not to adopt a 1% surcharge on residential and business property earmarked for affordable housing, parks/open space, and historic preservation. The proposal would exempt the first $100,000 in assessed residential value, and, additionally, low-income home owners and low- and moderate-income seniors would be completely exempt. Early projections estimate that Boston’s average homeowner would pay $23 and the city would bring in $16M-20M per year. Because the process is defined by state law, this is not a standard ordinance and it does not have to go to the Mayor for approval. Should the binding referendum pass in November, the Council will then craft another ordinance to create a committee to make recommendations on allocation of the funds. The final allocation would need Council approval each year. Several Councilors expressed support for much-needed additional funding that would leverage state matching funds. Councilor Linehan noted that while he supported the three priorities that would receive funding, his No vote was to register strong concern with the City’s reliance on property taxes to fund city services (property taxes make up 68% of the City’s revenues) and that we should look to increase funding by creating other non-property tax revenue sources.

Street Performers: Councilor Flaherty reported back on yesterday’s (5/3) hearing on Councilor LaMattina’s and Councilor Linehan’s proposed ordinance to regulate street performers with a permit process. At the hearing, the City’s Chief of Arts, Julie Burros; Chief of Property Management, John Hanlon; and Chief of Security, Bill Joyce, testified to the Council that they receive numerous calls and complaints about performers in Sam Adams Park (in front of Quincy Market). They suggested that the volume is often above the City’s allowed level and that certain performers have reported feeling bullied when they try to perform in that space. According to the representatives, regulations and scheduling could help equalize performance opportunities among groups. Several Councilors expressed concerns that additional regulation would violate free speech protections, be burdensome for artists and chill performances. The matter will remain in the Government Operations Committee for further working sessions.

Hover Boards: Councilor McCarthy late-filed a hearing order to discuss regulating or banning hover boards in Boston. He noted safety concerns about their use and also that hover boards are fire hazards that can spontaneously catch fire, such as the recent incident in the North End. The matter was referred to the Parks, Recreation and Transportation Committee for a hearing.

South End Flower Exchange Zoning: Another of the new Urban Renewal agreement terms is that the BRA will defer to Councilors if we wish to call hearings on any proposed minor modifications to Urban Renewal zoning. Invoking that proviso, Councilors Baker and Linehan asked the BRA to postpone consideration of proposed zoning changes for the South End Flower Exchange site on Albany St, which was slated for tomorrow’s meeting. The Councilors late-filed a hearing order to discuss the proposed minor modification (technically parcel 48b in the South End Urban Renewal zone) so the BRA will wait until after that to take up any modification. The matter was referred to the Planning and Development Committee for a hearing.

Substance Use Disorders: Councilor Essaibi-George reported back on progress from her recent hearing on substance use, with Administration representatives and community organizations. Several Councilors spoke about the urgency of addressing the issue, and Councilor Baker expressed concern that the system is still modeled after alcohol use disorder treatment, with 5-7 days of treatment rather than 30 days, which would be more appropriate for treating opiate addiction. The item will remain in the Homelessness, Mental Health & Recovery Committee for further discussion.

Upcoming Hearings/Working Sessions (Watch at www.cityofboston.com/citycouncil/live.asp)
  • Friday, 5/13 at 9:30AMSaturday Construction Permits & Fire Department Permit Fees (Government Ops)
  • Monday, 5/16 at 3PM, Traffic calming measures and Vision Zero Boston program (Parks, Recreation, and Transportation)
  • Wednesday, 5/18 at 5PM, BPS Water Fountains (Education)

Upcoming Budget Hearings:
  • Thursday, 5/12 at 11AM, Boston Public Health Commission
  • Monday, 5/16 at 11AM, Inspectional Services Department
  • Monday, 5/16 at 12PM, Animal Care and Control Revolving Fund
  • Tuesday, 5/17 at 11AM, BPS: Transportation
  • Tuesday, 5/17 at 2PM, BPS: Academics, Social Emotional Learning and Wellness
  • Thursday, 5/19 at 11AM, Public Facilities Department and Property Management Department
  • Monday, 5/23 at 2PM, Boston Public Works Department
  • Monday, 5/23 at 6PM, BPS: Special Education and English Language Learners
  • Tuesday, 5/24 at 11AM, Boston Center for Youth and Families and Revolving Fund
  • Tuesday, 5/24 at 3PM, Youth Engagement and Employment
  • Monday, 6/6 at 11AM, Tentative hold for BPS Carryover Hearing
  • Tuesday, 6/7 at 11AM, Tentative hold for Departmental Carryover Hearing
  • Tuesday, 6/7 at 6PM, Parks and Recreation (Offsite: Mildred Ave. Community Center, 5 Mildred Ave., Mattapan)

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

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