Thursday, September 24, 2015

Boston City Council Looks at Gas Leaks, Sandwich Board Permitting & More

Councillor-At-Large Michelle Wu provides notes from Boston City Council meetings. The Boston City Council considered the items below and more at their September 23, 2015 meeting:

Sandwich Board Signs: Mayor Walsh submitted a draft ordinance on sandwich board signs on public sidewalks, following a hearing order by Councilor Flaherty on June 17th that has since had a hearing and working session in my Committee on Small Business, Entrepreneurship & Innovation. The new regulations would lighten the permitting load on small businesses by eliminating the free-standing sign permit, but include rules to guarantee accessibility and accountability: maximum size of 24"x36", weather resistant material, can be outside only during the business' hours of operation, must identify the name/address/phone of the business & sign owner for liability purposes, displays content limited to the business' goods for sale, and does not display alcohol or tobacco advertisement. Now as proposed legislation, the matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.

Gas Leaks: Councilor O'Malley reported back on Monday afternoon's 3.5 hour-long hearing with City officials, state legislators, and activists on gas leaks in Boston, citing the importance of dealing with this safety, environmental issue and financial issue. He noted that while there is coordination between the City and utilities when roads are opened up for construction or resurfacing, there are no requirements to mandate the utility companies to actually fix the leaks when streets are opened. Councilor Murphy added that currently there is no independent inspection to check whether the leaks have been repaired and to certify their safety, and the City should have a role in this. The matter will remain in the Environment & Parks Committee for further working sessions.

Resolution Supporting State Reprecincting: Councilors Pressley & O'Malley submitted a resolution to support Rep. Aaron Michlewitz's state legislation to remove Boston's exemption from the statewide requirements of redrawing precinct lines every 10 years for equal numbers of people in each precinct. They cited the residential shift in Boston toward northern neighborhoods, making some precincts very large and causing long voting lines, and leaving some very small precincts that waste public money on staffing and election administration. For example, Ward 5, Precinct 1 has 6010 registered voters while Ward 8 Precinct 6 has 805 registered voters. Councilor Murphy offered a successful amendment to reference the City Council's previous work on this, as the state legislation comes out of Councilor Mike Ross' home rule petition in 2011, which the Council passed and led to the state legislation. The matter was sent to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.

For complete minutes of September 23rd meeting and prior Boston City Council meetings, visit or sign up to receive these notes automatically each week by email at

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