Thursday, April 12, 2018

Boston City Council Looks At Seaport Police Jurisdiction, Parking Fines, Budget & More

City Councilor-At-Large Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. The Boston City Council considered the following items and more at their April 11, 2018 meeting:

City of Boston FY19 Budget: Mayor Walsh submitted his recommended Fiscal Year 2019 City of Boston operating budget, totaling $3.29 billion, an increase of $137 million or 4.3% over FY2018. That includes a recommended Boston Public Schools FY19 budget of $1.109 billion, a $48 million increase over FY18 to expand programs like Excellence For All and Becoming a Man to new schools and grades. BPS will also add new nurses, psychologists and social workers across the district. Read the full report. In addition, the general operating budget includes adding new public safety personnel, implementing police body-worn body cameras, programming for affordable housing, transportation investments, resources for the engagement center at Newmarket Square which serves many individuals struggling with substance use and addiction, and funding to rebuild the Long Island bridge. 70% of the overall operating budget is funded by property taxes, and state aid makes up 14%, having gone down each year. The current state budget’s Charter School Reimbursement line means that Boston would receive $27M less than owed under state law. See details on Boston’s full budget.

Appropriation Orders: Mayor Walsh filed several authorization orders for Council approval. All were was assigned to the Ways & Means Committee for a hearing:

  • $40M to the Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) Liability Trust Fund. This is an annual payment to address our unfunded post-employment benefits liability. The City is currently ahead of schedule in meeting this liability, which was initially scheduled to be current in 2040.
  • $53,802,817 from the Parking Meter Fund for various transportation and public realm improvements aligned with the goals of Go Boston 2030. The funds would come from the Parking Meter Fund.
  • $1.6M from the Surplus Property Disposition Fund to the Capital Fund for the development of master plans, architectural and engineering plans and designs, and for the implementation of such plans and designs for Boston Common, Franklin Park, and the completion of the Emerald Necklace.
  • $759,663 for the administrative and operating expenses of the City of Boston Community Preservation Committee, and a further appropriation of $21.2M from the Community Preservation Fund to be appropriated and reserved for future appropriation. The Fund was created upon the adoption of the Community Preservation Act in November 2016 and is funded by the 1% property tax surcharge on residential and business property tax bills that took effect in July 2017 and an annual state distribution from the MA community preservation trust fund.
  • $4.4M from the 21st Century Fund to the Public, Educational, or Governmental Access and Cable Related Grant for cable related purposes consistent with the franchise agreement between the cable operator and the city.
Parking Fines: The Mayor filed an order to amend the City’s Schedule of Parking Fines, increasing the amounts fined for specific categories of parking violations, and creating a new category of violation for overnight street sweeping, which will be designated as a no-tow violation. Residential parking violations would increase from $40 to $60, and all parking meter tickets would rise from $25 to $40. The City would also stop towing for overnight street cleaning, but increase that ticket from $40 to $90. This would improve safety, reduce congestion, ease resident parking burdens, help business districts, and increase cleanliness in Boston streets. The matter was assigned to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.

Seaport Police Jurisdiction: The Council voted to adopt the resolution sponsored by Councilors Flaherty and Flynn supporting the House Budget Amendment to create concurrent police jurisdiction for Boston Police in the South Boston Waterfront, also known as the Seaport. Currently, that is the only area within city limits where Boston Police have no jurisdiction at all; it is exclusively the realm of State Police because this is MassPort land. Every other parcel of state land in Boston is subject to concurrent jurisdiction between State and local police. With all the development in the area and greater risks of flooding with more frequent storms, and with a growing residential population, public safety depends on first responders who are closest to the area being able to reach residents and visitors.

Speculation in the Boston Housing Market: Councilor Edwards reported back on the hearing on Tuesday regarding speculation in the Boston housing market. She described the housing crisis and wealth gap in Boston as undermining people’s ability to stay in Boston. She suggested taxing the flipping of residential properties into luxury condos or apartments, foreign investment, and condo conversion to slow the forces that continue to reduce our supply of housing for working families and generate needed revenue for affordable housing creation. Sheila Dillon, Chief and Director of the Department of Neighborhood Development spoke about the Boston Housing Plan and shared her concerns on the Boston real estate market and displacement. The Boston Plan and Development Agency (BPDA) also spoke about affordable housing and growing housing prices. Residents testified about the pressures from the housing crisis, with properties being flipped and sold for profit. The matter remains in committee.

Tree Coverage: Councilors Pressley and O’Malley offered a hearing order to discuss and assess the amount and quality of tree overage in Boston. Across the country, about 30% of trees in cities have been lost to development. Councilor Pressley spoke how Boston has contributed to the decrease in the number of mature trees and green space overall during this building boom. Climate change continues to change our seasonal and temperature norms and the focus on development needs to include the importance of our City’s trees and recognize the link between healthy mature trees and creating healthy neighborhoods. Trees are a vital natural resource offering direct ecological, economic, and health benefits to the community. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Environment, Sustainability and Parks for a hearing.

Alcohol Advertisement-Free on the MBTA: The Council voted to adopt Councilor Essaibi-George’s resolution to support an alcohol advertisement-free policy for the MBTA. Alcohol ads had been banned on the T since 2012; however, the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board recently voted to reverse the ban on alcohol advertising, with some restrictions on where the ads can run: not near schools or community centers or in rail stations where more than 10 percent of passengers use student passes. Councilor Essaibi-George spoke about how early exposure to alcohol ads contributes to positive attitudes and perceptions about alcohol use in youth and predicts future intention to drink and the likelihood of underage drinking. The cost of underage drinking for Massachusetts residents was approximately $1.2 billion in 2013. The MBTA’s expected $2.5 million in revenue from alcohol advertising does not compare to the risks for our youth.

Upcoming Hearings/Working Sessions (Livestream
  • Thursday, 4/12 at 10:00AM: Hearing re: petition to establish the Greenway Business Improvement District (Planning, Development, & Transportation)
  • Friday, 4/13 at 1:30 PM: Conversation on housing with local officials from Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and Chelsea (Housing & Community Development)
For complete notes on Boston City Council meetings, visit MichelleForBoston.com or sign up to receive these notes automatically.

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