Thursday, January 31, 2019

Boston City Council Looks At Climate Resilience & Wetlands Ordinance, Seaport Polling Location, Edison Power Plant & 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 January 30, 2019 meeting: 

Small Vehicle Sharing Businesses: Mayor Walsh filed an ordinance to establish licensing and regulations for shared mobility businesses, such as electric scooters. The language creates a license from the Boston Transportation Department in order to operate on City streets, with an application fee or renewal fee of $500. The ordinance would also set up a Small Vehicle Sharing Business Advisory Committee to advise the Commissioner of BTD on sustainability, safety, accessibility, regulatory changes and other related issues, comprised of representatives from Office of New Urban Mechanics, the Disability Commission,  and the Environment Department. The matter was assigned to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.
Local Wetlands Protection: I refiled an ordinance in partnership with Councilor O’Malley to protect local wetlands and strengthen the City’s ability to fight climate change through reasonable regulations on development. The Local Wetlands Protection Ordinance would empower the Boston Conservation Commission to require green infrastructure with new development, including protections for urban wetlands and natural resource areas, and explicitly adopt climate change adaptation as a resource area value. Wetlands are important not just for conservation of open space and wildlife habitats, but to manage rain, flooding and heat. Especially in light of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report last fall, with over 1,000 scientists from around the world concluding that we may have only twelve years left to keep greenhouse gas emissions below a threshold that keeps the planet livable, we must take every possible action to reduce energy demand, increase renewable energy supply, and transform our land use policies to align with climate change mitigation and adaptation. Boston is currently one of the only three coastal municipalities without such a municipal ordinance adding protections beyond the state baselines. The matter was assigned to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.
Sub-Precincts for Voting: They Mayor refiled a Home Rule Petition to establish sub-precincts in neighborhoods that experienced significant growth, in order to alleviate lines and waiting times for voting. The Council had passed this legislation in 2017 as a home-rule petition sponsored by Councilor Linehan and me, but it was not taken up at the State House. The Mayor is refiling this for another Council vote to begin a new push on Beacon Hill. The legislation would not change any of the existing boundaries for wards, and will not change representation for congressional, representative, senatorial, or councilor districts, instead establishing sub-precincts, and in some cases additional polling locations, in the following precincts:
  • Ward 3, Precinct 6 (Downtown, Financial District, and parts of Beacon Hill)
  • Ward 3, Precinct 7 (South End)
  • Ward 3, Precinct 8 (Chinatown and South End)
  • Ward 5, Precinct 1 (Bay Village)
  • Ward 6, Precinct 1 (South Boston to Broadway Station, Seaport)
  • Ward 9, Precinct 3 (South End)
The matter was assigned to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.
Early Voting: Councilors Flaherty & Zakim reported back on the hearing held Monday regarding Councilor Zakim’s Home Rule Petition for early voting in municipal elections. Because the statewide early voting law applies only to state elections, Boston cannot offer early voting in municipal elections without legislative amendment. The attendees and advocates at the hearing were overwhelmingly in support of the initiative, and the Elections Department stated that they would need 6 months of notice to prepare for early voting in the municipal election. However, Councilor Flaherty stated that the Administration would like to hold this matter and submit it later to Beacon Hill with an overall legislative package on voting. The matter remains in the Government Operations Committee.

776 Summer Street: Councilors Flynn & Flaherty called for a hearing on halting the Article 80 process as it applies to 776 Summer Street, a 15-acre site that was recently removed from South Boston’s Designated Port Area (DPA).  The removal reduces zoning protections necessary to accommodate nearby water-dependent industrial uses. The developer has proposed construction of 1.93M sf of mixed-use development, including 1.3M sf of residential uses. They named the Carmen’s Union, Longshoreman’s Union, and South Boston elected delegation as groups having expressed serious and ongoing concerns. The matter was assigned to the Planning, Development & Transportation Committee for a hearing.

Hypodermic Needles Safety around Schools and Playgrounds: Councilors Janey & Essaibi-George filed a hearing order regarding safety concerns from hypodermic needles near schools and playgrounds. The opioid crisis is a major public health crisis, and the intersections of Roxbury, South End, South Boston, and Newmarket Square have been hit especially hard. Even with the efforts of the City’s Mobile Sharps Team in picking up needles, residents and children still come into contact with needles, with one student at the Orchard Garden K-8 getting pricked by a needle in November of 2018.  The matter was assigned to the Homelessness, Mental Health, and Recovery Committee for a hearing.

Councilor Flaherty, as the Chair of the Community Preservation Act Committee, made the following appointment:
  • Matthew Kiefer reappointed to the Community Preservation Committee, for a term expiring January 1, 2022.

Upcoming Hearings (In the City Council Chamber unless otherwise noted. Watch online
  • Friday, February 8th, 11am: Working session re: issues related to stray voltage (City, Neighborhood Services and Veterans & Military Affairs)
  • Our next City Council meeting will be on Wednesday, February 6th, at 12pm.

For complete notes on Boston City Council meetings, visit or sign up to receive these notes automatically.          

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