Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Boston City Council Ends Year With Preservation, Acoustic Music, Marijuana Tax, Schools & More

City Council President Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. The Boston City Council considered the following items and more at their December 6, 2017 meeting and at the final meeting of the year on December 13, 2017:

Community Preservation Committee: The Council voted to confirm the Council’s four nominees to the Community Preservation Committee. As previously reported the four individuals are Matthew Kiefer for a term of 1 year, Kannan Thiruvengadam for a term of 2 years, Madeligne Tena for a term of 3 years, and Ying Wang for a term of 3 years. They will join Mayor Walsh’s appointees: Chris Cook (Boston Conservation Commission), William Epperson (Parks and Recreation Commission), Felicia Jacques (Boston Landmarks Commission), Carol Downs (Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) Board), and Kate Bennett (Boston Housing Authority).

Acoustic Live Entertainment:  The Council voted to remove the sunset clause from the ordinance passed last year that eliminated the permit requirement, hearing, and fees for small businesses in business districts to host acoustic live entertainment acts with up to five performers between the hours of 10AM-10PM. The goal was to formally extend a tool to small business owners throughout the city to increase foot traffic and create more opportunities for artists in Boston, and the ordinance included a provision that it would expire at the end of 2017, in order to require review and discussion. At our hearing last week, small businesses and residents reported overwhelming support for the program, citing that it has helped bring in more customers and community members to their businesses.

Recreational Marijuana Tax: The Council voted to approve an order submitted by the Mayor to opt into a local recreational marijuana sales tax at the maximum 3%. At the hearing the Committee discussed ways to allocate the funds collected under this ordinance to a specific purpose at a future time, but which at this time will be allocated to general funds. Councilors Pressley and Jackson urged that the funds should be directed to restorative justice, workforce development, and other areas to help those that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

Community Preservation Committee Funding: The Council voted to approve an appropriations order for just over $285,000 for the administrative and operating expenses of the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) for FY 2018 (July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018). The Council also voted to appropriate $17.9M from the Community Preservation Fund annual revenues for further appropriation upon the recommendations of the Committee. By statute, the administrative and operating expenses cannot exceed 5% of the CPA funds. This appropriation makes up approximately 1.6% of the current fiscal year funds.

BPS Start Times: Councilors McCarthy, Flaherty, Campbell, and Ciommo introduced a hearing order to discuss the proposed start time changes for the 2018-2019 schoolyear. Several Councilors noted that the lottery begins in January and at the very least, the plan should be pushed back. Councilors noted that the goal of later start times for high schoolers is laudable, and we understand the complexity of the BPS system as a whole, but 7:15am-1:15pm schedules do not work for working families. Many Councilors also emphasized the need for communication with much to be improved. Councilors O’Malley and Essaibi-George noted that they will present a letter to the School Committee at their meeting tonight. Councilor Jackson also introduced a resolution expressing disapproval of the new start times and calling for a special meeting of the School Committee to reconsider. Because there was not unanimous consent to act on this matter (Council rules require unanimous consent to act on a matter on the same day on which it was introduced),the Council did not take a vote.

Funding Orders from the Mayor: The Council voted to approve the Mayor’s orders authorizing the City to accept and expend the following grants:
  • $17,000 grant from various donors for the Climate Ready Boston Leaders Program. This grant, to be administered by the Environment Department, will fund increased community education, translation of educational materials, and awareness of climate impacts and possible solutions.
  • Nearly $4,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to reimburse four police officers on the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force who are traveling to the 2017 ICAC Conference in December.
  • $2,000 grant from the MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs for the Sustainable Materials Recovery Program. This grant, to be administered by the Environment Department, will fund existing waste reduction program or facilitate new low cost initiatives including purchasing items such as backyard composting bins which are sold to Boston residents at a discounted price.
  • $45,000 grant from Harvard Business School for the Office of Neighborhood Development to shape housing policies and real estate projects that will improve the lives of Bostonians.
  • A $151,100 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to be administered by the Fair Housing and Equity Commission in order to fund the processing of housing discrimination complaints.
  • $170,000 grant from MassDOT, to be administered by Elderly Commission, to fund mobility management software and hardware to improve efficiency of Boston’s Senior Shuttle operations.
  • $440,000 grant from MassDOT, to be administered by the Boston Fire Department, which would reimburse the BFD for maintenance and upkeep of foam capability for firefighting equipment in the highway tunnels throughout the City.
  • $50,193 grant from the Friends of Puddingstone Park, Inc. (Kevin W. Fitzgerald Park) to be administered by the Boston Police Department to fund an electronic security project to enhance public safety in Mission Hill.
Next meeting: The next scheduled Council meeting will be January 1, 2018, right after the inauguration!

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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