Thursday, December 17, 2015

Boston City Council Approves BYOB, Fenway Parking & More

The final Boston City Council meeting of 2015 started with heartfelt tributes to our two departing members, Councilors Steve Murphy & Charles Yancey, who have served over half a century combined on the Council and also each served as Council President. Mayor Walsh presented each with a Paul Revere bowl, and Councilor Linehan presented them with crystal gavels engraved with their dates of service.

Councillor-At-Large Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. The Boston City Council considered the items below at on December 16th:

Confirmations & Appointments
• Voted to confirm Christine Araujo’s reappointment to the Zoning Board of Appeals until July 2018
• Voted to confirm Roxann Cooke’s appointment to the Boston Industrial Development Finance Authority until Apr. 2019
• Alexis Tkackuk was appointed as Director of Labor Relations
• Anne Galvin was appointed to the Boston Fair Housing Commission until Dec. 2018
• Timothy Sieber was appointed to the Living Wage Advisory Committee until Dec. 2018

BYOB: City Council voted to pass the ordinance that Councilors Murphy & Wu filed to end Boston’s ban on BYOB dining. Most other major cities across the country and several other cities/towns in Massachusetts have BYOB, and the goal in bringing it to Boston is to create opportunities for more small neighborhood restaurants. Our committee report included draft regulations for the Boston Licensing Board that would limit BYOB to sit-down restaurants with wait staff, 30 seats or under, only in neighborhoods outside downtown, with a requirement of liquor liability insurance, alcohol safety training for staff, and a limit on the amount of alcohol that diners can bring in. The next step is for the Boston Licensing Board to formalize regulations for a BYOB license through their public process.

Furniture Flammability Standards: Councilors Murphy & Zakim reported back on the recent hearing on their draft ordinance to adopt the TB 117-2013 flammability standard for public spaces with automatic sprinklers. Currently, the fire code calls for the TB-133 flammability standard for furniture in all public spaces, which requires flame retardant chemicals. These flame retardant chemicals include known carcinogens and are unnecessary where automatic sprinklers are installed, leading to public health concerns as well as increased costs for schools and public buildings that need to purchase more expensive materials. Boston is one of the only cities in the state and the country that requires this standard for flammability protection. The matter remains in the Public Safety Committee for further work.

Charter School Students Returning to BPS: Councilor Jackson reported back on his recent hearing with students and parents returning to BPS from charter schools. The many panels featuring students, advocates, and BPS representatives highlighted the fact that charter schools see a significant attrition rate, and the students who return to BPS partway through the year do not bring the education funding back with them, so public schools face a financial burden from this. Students and advocates described harsh disciplinary regimes at charter schools that push out students. Councilor Jackson noted the need for BPS to track the missing dollars from students returning from charter schools as well as the need for oversight in disciplinary issues. The matter was placed on file.

Special Education Transitions: Councilors Jackson & Pressley reported back on the recent hearing to identify solutions to ensure equitable transitions of BPS students receiving special education services after they “age-out” of the district at age 22. Councilor Pressley noted that there would be a group visit to Newton North High School, which is regarded as a premier example of supporting student transitions, and there will be topic-specific sessions next year. The matter remains in the Education Committee.

Fenway Parking: We voted to suspend and pass Councilor Zakim’s amendment to remove the sunset clause in the Fenway Parking ordinance that increased the fines for parking in residential spots without a resident parking sticker 2 hours before, during, and after a Red Sox game and also during other events as designated by the City. The penalty was increased from $40 (which is comparable or even cheaper than Game Day parking in the area) to $100, and there was a sunset clause so the ordinance would expire at the end of 2015. At the hearing a few weeks ago, residents, representatives from the Red Sox, and other stakeholders were universally positive about the enforcement and results, citing much less congestion and open resident parking spaces on Game Days. Because there will be concerts and other events in the coming weeks and months, we voted to keep the ordinance in effect beyond 2015.

State of Emergency re HIV/AIDS in Communities of Color: Councilors Pressley & Yancey reported back on the recent hearing that Councilor Yancey had called for regarding the State of Emergency regarding the HIV/AIDS epidemic in communities of color, which had generated funding for awareness, treatment & prevention. At the hearing, public health experts noted that most new infections are seen in men of color under age 30. The Boston Public Health Commission and advocates are working to end new infections. The matter was placed on file.

Mattapan High School: Councilor Yancey moved to get a 2nd vote on his $120M loan order to build a new high school in Mattapan at the site of the former Boston State Hospital. Loan orders and appropriations require two votes at least two weeks apart with 2/3 to pass (9 votes). Councilor Yancey had gotten a first successful vote on Oct. 22, 2014. The matter was since tabled and survived several attempts to pull it out for a vote. Today Councilor Yancey pulled it for a vote, but it failed 8-5 (Councilors Baker, Ciommo, LaMattina, Linehan & Zakim voting against).

If you have any questions, please contact Councilor Wu. For prior Boston City Council meeting notes, visit or sign up to receive these notes automatically each week by email.

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