Thursday, December 08, 2016

Boston City Council Looks At Walkability, Residential Displacement, Jobs, Boston Unplugged & More

City Council President Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. The Boston City Council considered these items and more at their November 30th and December 7, 2016 meetings:

Appointments: Mayor Walsh made the following appointments
  • Beacon Hill Architectural Commission: Miguel Rosales as chair
  • Boston Cultural Council: Priscilla Rojas and Abigail Norman as members until October 2019
Roxbury Cultural District: The Council voted 12-0 (Councilor Campbell absent) to support advancing the Roxbury Cultural District’s application to the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The district would include Dudley Square and John Elliot Square and highlight the many arts and cultural assets in the neighborhood, as well as Roxbury’s significance as the heart of black culture for the region. At the hearing last month, the Council heard overwhelming support from neighbors and other stakeholders as well as ideas about the boundaries of the district. This would be Boston’s third cultural district, after the Fenway Cultural District and the Boston Literary Cultural District.

Boston Residents Jobs Policy: Mayor Walsh filed an ordinance amending the Boston Residents Jobs Policy employment standards, from the current standards of requiring at least 50% Boston residents, 25% people of color, and 10% women on covered projects to 51%, 40%, and 12% respectively. The order also extends covered projects to include not just City-funded projects but also major development projects that require Zoning Board of Appeals approval and are at least 50,000 square feet. Finally, the ordinance amends the scope of the Boston Employment Commission to handle all compliance related issues and report to the City Council twice a year. The matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.

University Accountability: The 2016-2017 University Accountability Report was filed, showing 148,148 college students enrolled in Boston. Of those, 37,324 live on campus and 42,498 live off campus. Combined, the 29 institutions own 379 properties in the city.

Plastic Bag Ban: Following recommendations from the 90-day plastic bag working group, Councilors O’Malley and Wu filed an ordinance to reduce plastic bag waste in Boston. Many of the flimsy, single-use plastic bags end up tearing and littered on our streets or in our trees. The recycling company Casella also noted that thin plastic bags get twisted around their machinery and are not in condition to be recyclable after being mixed in with food products or other waste, so they spend hours every week untangling plastic bags from the gears. The ordinance would require retail establishments to offer plastic bags of at least 3 mils in thickness (think bookstore bags) that are more reusable and charge a 5-cent fee on these thicker plastic bags, recyclable paper bags, and compostable bags. That fee would go back to the retail establishment to cover the increased cost of thicker bags. City Council President Wu emphasized that any conversation about increasing costs for families is difficult when so many are struggling to make ends meet in our city – the goal of the ordinance is to encourage residents to use reusable bags when shopping and reduce plastic bag waste in a way that is fair for small businesses and not prohibitive for residents. The urgency of climate change as a social and economic threat to our future grows more visible every day, and we need to take every step we can to move toward a greener economy. The matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.

Transportation Policy Briefing—Pedestrian Service & Safety: Councilor LaMattina reported back on the second of our monthly transportation policy briefings, which took place yesterday. The Council heard from WalkBoston’s Wendy Landman on pedestrian-friendly street design, Madison Park Development Corporation’s Marah Holland on the public health impacts of walkable neighborhoods, and Northeastern University’s Professor Peter Furth on recommendations for the City’s transportation department. Watch the video here.

Public Safety Grant: The Council voted to follow the recommendation of Councilor Campbell as Chair of the Committee on Public Safety & Criminal Justice to authorize the Office of Emergency Management to accept a grant from the Department of Homeland Security passed through the State Executive Office of Public Safety totaling $14.2 million for counterterrorism response and preparedness. The grant goes toward funding a number of specific goals and programs, including: bolstering regional communication, planning and response capabilities, first responders’ equipment, special operations training, and the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC). $300K of this grant could be put toward technology to monitor social media, and that was the subject of most of the discussion at the grant hearing, with many Councilors concerned about civil liberties and potential for racial profiling. Councilor Campbell stated that she did not want to hold up the entirety of the grant for these concerns, because the Police Department committed to coming back to the Council before moving further in the process for this technology. She also mentioned that the body camera conversation had followed a similar timeline, with BPD releasing a Request for Proposals first, then working with the Council’s Public Safety & Criminal Justice Committee to host a public process and develop policy. Councilor Pressley noted that she would look to file a hearing order on this policy in the new year.

Acoustic Live Entertainment / Boston Unplugged: City President Wu filed an ordinance to eliminate the permit requirement, hearing, and fees for small businesses in business districts to host acoustic live entertainment acts of up to five performers between the hours of 10AM-10PM. This follows three successful time-limited pilots in Main Streets districts in May, August, and December 2015 that Mayor Walsh and the Council collaborated on. The goal is to formally extend a tool to small business owners throughout the city to increase foot traffic and create more opportunities for artists in Boston. The ordinance has a one-year sunset provision so that the Council and City can reevaluate the results at the end of 2017. The matter was assigned to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.

Residential Displacement: Councilor Jackson filed a hearing order to discuss resident displacement in rapidly developing neighborhoods. The order particularly notes approximately $152 million worth of development is planned for Roxbury, but the projects and affordability requirements may not match the income levels of residents. Several Councilors spoke about similar pressures throughout their districts and the entire city. The matter was sent to the Housing and Community Development Committee for a hearing.

Upcoming Hearings/Working Sessions (Watch at www.cityofboston.gov/citycouncil/live.asp)
  • Thursday, 12/8 at 2:00PM, Boston Residents Jobs Policy (Government Operations)
  • Monday, 12/12 at 11:00AM, Co-Ops, Single Room Occupancy & Micro units (Housing & Community Development)
  • Monday, 12/12 at 2:00PM, Tentative: Boston Unplugged Ordinance (Government Operations)
  • Monday, 12/12 at 4:00PM, For-Profit Lodging in Personal Residences (Housing & Community Development)
  • Tuesday, 12/13 at 11:00AM, Tools to Help Small Businesses (Jobs, Wages & Workforce Development)
  • Tuesday, 12/13 at 1:00PM, Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance (Government Operations)
For complete notes on Boston City Council meetings, visit MichelleForBoston.com or sign up to receive these notes automatically each week by email. 

No comments:

Post a Comment