Friday, March 24, 2017

Boston City Council Looks At Needles, Sanctuary Schools, Liquor Licenses & More

City Council President Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. The Boston City Council considered the following items and more during their March 8, March 15 and March 22, 2017 meetings:

Nomination Papers: The Council voted to pass Mayor Walsh’s home-rule petition to amend the rules around nomination papers. The home-rule petition would allow registered voters to sign as many candidates’ papers as they wish, rather than limit them to one valid signature for candidates for Mayor and District City Councilor and up to four candidates for City Council At-Large. Councilor Essaibi George opposed the ordinance, citing the large number of candidates that successfully collected enough signatures to make the ballot in 2013 as evidence that the current system is not too burdensome, and stating that having some requirements for potential candidates is a good thing.

Liquor Licenses: Councilor Pressley filed a home rule petition to add up to 152 new non-transferable liquor licenses within the City of Boston. The proposal would grant 105 alcohol licenses to seven neighborhoods—Dorchester, East Boston, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Mission Hill, and Roxbury—with each neighborhood receiving five licenses over the next three years. It would also create 15 licenses for Main Streets districts and 30 citywide licenses over the next three years, along with licenses specifically for the Lawn on D and the Boston Center for the Arts. The non-transferable licenses cannot be resold on the open market and must revert back to the City, and the designated neighborhood, if a restaurant goes out of business. Councilor Pressley emphasized the importance of reducing competition between neighborhoods for licenses and reducing the barrier to entry for new restaurants to open in all neighborhoods. The legislation would also create umbrella licenses, which would cover large developments with a single liquor license. Many Councilors rose to express their support and to commend Councilor Pressley for her hard work on this matter. There were a few calls for additional neighborhoods or subneighborhoods to be added in the legislation, which do not have formalized Main Streets programs but do have the potential to benefit from sit-down restaurants. The matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.

Needle Disposal: Councilors Essaibi-George, McCarthy, and Baker filed for a hearing to discuss safe and effective needle disposal practices. The opiate crisis has had a disproportionate effect on the City of Boston due to the centralization of recovery services, resulting in an increase in sharps litter affecting every neighborhood in the city. Councilor Essaibi-George cited that Boston 311 has received approximately 3,000 calls flagging needles in city neighborhoods within the past year. Currently, the City has many tools to manage sharps litter, including disposal kiosks and sharps collection teams coordinated by AHOPE and 311. Councilor McCarthy spoke about the need to educate and train students, residents, and city employees in how to handle safe disposal of needles. The matter was sent to the Homeless, Mental Health & Recovery Committee for a hearing.

Sanctuary Schools: The Council voted unanimously to pass Councilor Jackson’s resolution to affirm Boston Public Schools as sanctuary schools, where Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents must not be allowed to enter BPS sites without the explicit permission of the Superintendent and District Attorney. Councilor Jackson reported back on last night’s well-attended offsite hearing held at St. Stephen’s Church in the South End. He spoke about the powerful testimonies students shared expressing their fear and anxiety given recent federal Executive Orders. Many colleagues strongly emphasized how important it is for government and the Council to stand up for students and families in this uncertain environment, and along those lines, several Councilors expressed disappointment in BPS’s hesitancy at the hearing to support the use of the term “sanctuary schools.”

Recruiting & Retaining Educators of Color: Councilor Jackson refiled his hearing order to continue the conversation on strategies for recruiting and retaining educators of color in Boston Public Schools. He noted that as of 2016, BPS students of color represented 86% of the total student population while only 36% of BPS teachers were people of color. Moreover, African American and Asian American teachers leave the district in proportionally higher numbers at earlier points in their careers. Finally, Councilor Jackson noted that BPS has spending $8M-$14M per year for the last few years on new hiring methods to recruit teachers of color, but the overall number of teachers of color has declined in that time due to issues of retaining teachers of color. The matter was assigned to the Education Committee for a hearing.

Childcare Assistance to Homeless Families: The Council voted to pass a resolution filed by Councilors Essaibi-George, Pressley, Campbell, and myself in support of S257/HD3564, a bill proposed by Sen. Linda Dorcena-Forry and Rep. Marjorie Decker at the State House, which would provide immediate child care assistance to homeless families. The bill would reinstate a previous policy from 2007 allowing families living in any and all types of homeless shelters to access subsidized full-time childcare for a minimum of 6 months. The need for this type of legislation came out at the first of our Early Education & Childcare Policy Briefings last month, as we heard from families experiencing homelessness about how much of a barrier it was to need to secure childcare while also pursuing job applications, housing search, and education.

Upcoming Hearings/Working Sessions (Watch Live)
  • )Monday, 3/27 at 11:00AM, Tentative: College & University Engagement Office (City, Neighborhood Services & Veteran Affairs)
  • Monday, 3/27 at 3:00PM, Working Session: Plastic Bag Ordinance (Government Operations)
  • Monday, 3/27 at 6:00PM, Special Education and Equitable Transitions (Education)
  • Tuesday, 3/28 at 6:30PM, Tentative: Policy Briefing: Community-Based Providers (Healthy Women, Families & Communities) [Offsite at Catholic Charities Laboure Center)
  • Monday, 4/3 at 1:00PM, Overcoming the Odds Program (Public Safety & Criminal Justice)
  • Tuesday, 4/4 at 6:30PM, Violence in Boston (Public Safety & Criminal Justice) [Offsite at Thelma Burns Building in Roxbury]
  • Thursday, 4/13 at 2PM, Boston Police Cadet Program (Public Safety & Criminal Justice)
  • Wednesday, 4/19 at 5PM, Free Petition 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. 

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