Monday, October 01, 2018

Boston City Council Looks At Lobbyist Regulation, Delivery Permits, Tree Coverage, Municipal IDs & 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 September 26, 2018 meeting:

Lobbyist Registration and Regulation: The Council voted once again to pass a lobbyist registration ordinance and home-rule petition based on the version that the Council passed in July and that Mayor Walsh vetoed, following a working session on Monday chaired by Councilor Flaherty. The goal of this legislation is to promote good governance and to ensure transparency in government by requiring registration and disclosure of lobbying activities, to create fairness and consistency by applying the same rules to all persons engaged in lobbying activities, and to reinforce the community’s trust in the integrity of its government by guaranteeing convenient, timely access to information about attempts to influence the government’s decisions. This has been a lengthy process, as the Mayor had originally filed an Home Rule Petition on regulating lobbyists several years ago based on state lobbyist regulations. Along with Councilors Flaherty and Campbell, I authored a city ordinance to better tailor lobbyist regulations and disclosure requirements to the content and pace of municipal decision-making, and that could be immediately implemented rather than waiting for state approval for a home-rule petition. Our ordinance removed the exemption in the Mayor’s original Home Rule Petition that allows lobbyists not to register and disclose their activities if they make under $2500 or engage in less than 25 hours of lobbying in a reporting period, instead focusing on which activities count as lobbying, whether paid or unpaid, regardless of how many hours per month. As he filed a veto, the Mayor also proposed a revised version of his original home-rule petition in ordinance form that would add back in the thresholds to exempt lobbyists from registration if paid under a certain amount or lobbying for less than a certain number of hours; to create an independent City commission to oversee enforcement; to remove a provision specifying that attorneys taking no other action besides representing clients before a board or commission at a publicly noticed meeting need not register; and specifying that PACs must register. Today we voted to pass a revised version of our Council ordinance which adopts the independent City commission for enforcement and retains our other provisions. The ordinance will go into effect 180 days after the Mayor signs.

Delivery Vehicle Permits: The Council voted to pass the ordinance proposed by the Mayor that creates a new street occupancy permit for delivery vehicles over a four-hour window, following a working session on Monday. A general occupancy street permit requires a surety bond, and this permit would not, as it is intended to service residents with a one-off need for a delivery. The fee will be $50, plus administrative fees for signage, to total $69 plus meter fees for metered parking spots.

Tree Preservation: Councilors McCarthy and O’Malley filed a hearing order to look at ways in which the City can expand development requirements for tree preservation and total tree capacity. The current building boom has been responsible for a large number of trees being removed. The City had a goal of planting 100,000 trees by 2020, but currently it has only planted 10,000 and removed 6,000, not including the number of trees removed from development sites. Boston is in the process of developing a Climate Ready Boston plan to combat climate change, and with trees being an important part of the solution against climate change, this is a good opportunity to discuss the ways that the City can protect, preserve, and expand tree coverage. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Planning, Development and Transportation for a hearing.

Municipal ID: I filed a hearing order on the implementation process for a Boston Municipal ID program, which would provide access to formal identification for all residents regardless of gender identity, housing status, or immigration status. These residents often experience great difficulty in obtaining a photo ID, which prevents them from accessing critical services, and the estimate is that 140,000 people would be helped with this program. Other cities have successfully implemented municipal ID programs, which offer a variety of civic opportunities, such as discounts to museums or reduced bike sharing memberships. Boston’s program would aim to streamline city services, list medical information to assist first responders, and expand cultural opportunities to make it a program that all residents would want to join. The Council convened a hearing in October of 2016 following my first hearing order on the topic, and the Mayor announced the launch of a  feasibility study in 2017. This order is meant to understand the results of the analysis and next steps. The matter was assigned to the Committee on City and Neighborhood Services, Military Families and Veterans Affairs for a hearing.

Boston Freedom Rally: Councilors Zakim and Flynn filed a hearing order on the annual Freedom Rally, also known as Hempfest, which was most recently held on September 15-17 of this year on the Boston Common. The Councilors cite that there have been many complaints from residents about the rally, alleging permit violations with parked cars on the green, used needles and trash around. Councilors Zakim and Flynn plan to discuss the wear and tear of Boston Common and this event. The matter was assigned to Environment, Sustainability and Parks Committee for a hearing.

Upcoming hearings (In the City Council Chamber unless otherwise noted.) Watch:
  • Monday, 10/1, 3pm: Hearing to review the Boston Public School's strategies to serve off-track youth (Education).
  • Tuesday, 10/2, 1pm: Hearing re: plans regarding reconstruction of the Long Island Bridge and the reopening of service facilities (Planning, Development, and Transportation; Homelessness, Mental Health and Recovery)
  • Our next City Council meeting will be on October 3, 2018 at 12pm
For complete notes on Boston City Council meetings, visit MichelleForBoston.com or sign up to receive these notes automatically. 

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