Friday, March 30, 2018

Boston City Council Looks At Flooding, Traffic, Short Term Rentals, Voter Registration, Stray Voltage & 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 March 28, 2018 meeting:
Flooding: I reported back on Monday’s hearing where we discussed financing, governance, and legislative steps needed to address the immediate and long-term challenges Boston residents and businesses face from more frequent and intense flooding. We were joined by experts from UMass Boston Sustainable Solutions Lab, Boston Society of Architects, Boston Society of Civil Engineers, Boston Green Ribbon Commission, leaders from Boston Harbor Now, Conservation Law Foundation, and Harborkeepers, as well as city representatives from the Boston Planning and Development Agency and the Environment Department. Many panelists and residents spoke about the urgency of climate adaptation and mitigation, the need to dramatically increase the scale of our efforts and funding, and the foundational importance of community engagement to the success of our efforts. The matter remains in committee for further action -- most immediately, colleagues and I hope to have more focused conversations on 1) emergency response plans as roads and infrastructure floods with the Office of Emergency Management, 2) our stormwater and wastewater management through Boston Water and Sewer Commission, and 3) preventing further reliance on fossil fuels by carefully examining planned development and limiting or ending new fossil fuel infrastructure expansion. Traffic Enforcement: We voted to approve the Mayor’s order for the Police Department to receive a Traffic Enforcement grant of $55,976.70 from the United States Department of Transportation. The grant would fund high-visibility traffic enforcement of motor vehicle laws, including but not limited to, speeding and aggressive driving, impaired driving and occupant protection. Ordinance on Increasing Access to Voter Registration: Councilors Flaherty and Zakim reported back on Monday’s hearing on the proposed ordinance to increase access to voter registration in Boston. The ordinance would require the City to make voter registration forms available at libraries, community centers, and school registration, as well as pre-registration forms to eligible students. The ordinance would also allow students to start school a little later on election day if they return to school with an “I voted” sticker. The language would also require the Boston Transportation Department provide registration forms to residents seeking parking permits. Lastly, the ordinance would allow the transportation department and election department to share residents’ address information. The matter remains in committee for further action. Short Term Rentals: Councilors Edwards and Ciommo called for hearing regarding a review of the city’s proposed developments containing corporate short stay, executive suite, and short term rentals. The councilors noted that the city is undergoing a building boom and surge in population, creating many new challenges, income inequality, displacement and a shortage of affordable and workforce housing. As the Mayor and City Council continue working on an ordinance to regulate short term rental housing, the Boston Planning & Development Agency should enforce transparency from new developments on whether they intend to master-lease housing units to short-term rental companies. This follows a similar hearing order that Councilor Zakim filed last term, and he expressed support for continuing these efforts. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Housing for a hearing. Stray Voltage in Boston: Councilor Flynn called for a hearing on issues related to stray voltage in the city, including the tragic incidents where pets are electrocuted due to stray voltage underneath the ground. Boston has older electrical utility cabinets and, during the winter months, the infrastructure is weakened due to the grounds being saturated with salt, which can corrode wiring and grounding lugs. Multiple pets have been injured or passed away due to this. This is also a risk for children who may touch the stray voltage. The matter was assigned to the Committee on City, Neighborhood Services and Veterans & Military Affairs for a hearing. Upcoming Hearings (In the City Council Chamber unless otherwise noted.) Watch Live --Tuesday, 4/3 at 1:00PM: Hearing on speculation in the Boston Housing Market (Housing & Community Development) --Tuesday, 4/3 at 6:00PM: Hearing to conduct a comprehensive review of re-entry resources for incarcerated populations in Boston (Public Safety and Criminal Justice) [off-site at Suffolk County House of Correction at 20 Bradston Street, Boston MA] --Monday, 4/9 at 10:30AM: Hearing re: Autonomous Vehicles (Planning, Development & Transportation --Monday, 4/9 at 2:00PM: Hearing re: ordinance regarding the right of free petition (Government Operations)
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