Thursday, February 26, 2015

Boston City Council Looks At Alcohol Tax, MBTA, Snow, Olympics & Senior Housing

Councillor-At-Large Michelle Wu provides notes from Boston City Council meetings. The Boston City Council considered the items below and more at their February 25, 2015 meeting:

Alcohol Tax: Councilors Linehan and Baker filed an expanded version of their home rule petition from last calendar year to impose a tax on alcohol sales that would fund addiction treatment and recovery programs. They said that at the hearing on the previous item (which had been focused solely on off-premises alcohol sales), liquor stores said they were being singled out at the 6.5% tax was too high. The new version includes off-premises and on-premises sales (e.g. at restaurants) and would be a 1% tax. Councilor Linehan estimated that this would provide ~$10M annually for programs to address the urgent issue of addiction treatment and recovery. Councilor Baker said that although his preference would not be to burden small businesses, he believed we need a statewide tax to provide funding streams for the important policies that our Governor and Mayor support. The matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.
Senior Public Housing: We voted to pass the resolution offered by Councilors Pressley & Baker in support of the Boston Housing Authority's Designated Housing Plan submitted to HUD, which increases the percentage of public housing units dedicated to seniors. The plan changes the ratio of seniors vs. non-senior disabled residents to 80%-20%. The Councilors noted that having these two populations living side by side is far from ideal, as seniors keep very different hours and struggle to live comfortably when younger neighbors are facing addiction or mental health issues.  Councilors emphasized that we need support services for each population in the right environment, and this is just about recognizing the challenges of combining these populations in the same buildings.

2024 Olympics: Councilor Linehan filed a hearing order on the 2024 Olympics, to hear from all parties on the impact of Boston's potential bid to host the Games. The matter was sent to the Special Committee on the 2024 Olympics for a Hearing.

Snow's Business Impact: Councilor Jackson filed a hearing order to discuss the impact of the 2015 snowstorms on businesses in Boston. Small businesses have suffered from lack of foot traffic, employees not being able to get to work, and transportation difficulties. Especially given that many retail businesses have tight margins, the weeks of snow have been disastrous for business. The matter was sent to the Economic Development Committee for a hearing.

MBTA Infrastructure: Councilor Jackson called for a hearing to discuss needed infrastructure investments in the MBTA, as the age of the fleet has been sorely revealed this winter. Having solid transportation infrastructure is critical to a flourishing economy, and we need to seize on the moment to put solutions in place. The matter was referred to the Special Committee on Transportation Infrastructure, Investment & Planning for a hearing.

For complete notes from the February 11th meeting, visit or sign up to receive these notes automatically each week by email at, Next Wednesday's meeting will start at 2PM rather than 12PM due to the annual Boston Municipal Research Bureau meeting.

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