Monday, March 25, 2019

Boston City Council Looks At Wetlands Ordinance, Civic Engagement, Cannabis, Property Fees & 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 20, 2019 meeting:

Good Food Purchasing Ordinance: The Council voted to pass the ordinance on Good Food Purchasing Standards that I proposed that would align City spending on food procurement with five values to support locally grown foods, environmental sustainability, fair labor practices, animal welfare, and nutrition. Our food system is dominated by industries that are ripe with abuses, from the largely immigrant farm laborers workforce, to animal welfare abuses, to industrial practices that have polluted soil and water and corporations that have weakened federal nutrition standards. The good news is that we have so much opportunity for local benefit if we take steps to reclaim our food system locally, from good jobs to healthier nourishment and less emissions from cutting down on delivery distances. Boston spends $18M per year on school lunches, which represents tremendous potential to support good jobs locally and spark change along the entire food supply chain. Thank you to the coalition behind the ordinance for many months of advocacy, revisions and working collaboratively with the BPS Office of Food & Nutrition Services, including Corporate Accountability, United Food & Commercial Workers, MA Farm to School, MSPCA and ASPCA, Food Chain Workers Alliance, Health Care Without Harm, and the Boston Public Market. You can read the committee report and language here, or learn more about Good Food Purchasing standards here.  

Local Wetlands Ordinance: Councilor Flaherty reported back on Monday’s hearing on the ordinance protecting local wetlands and promoting climate change adaptation sponsored by Councilor O’Malley and me. All stakeholders at the hearing expressed support for a wetlands ordinance but diverged on the urgency, with advocates pushing for timely action and those representing developers and business stating concerns about slowing this down to integrate well with the City’s potential flooding zoning overlay district. The item remains in committee.
BPS Civic Engagement: Councilors Essaibi-George and Garrison reported back on their hearing to discuss the need for more civics education in Boston Public Schools beyond the current half-year requirement. At the hearing Boston Public Schools representatives discussed the new state legislation for action civics and current BPS practices. The item remains in committee.
Equity in Cannabis Industry: Councilors Flaherty and Janey reported back regarding Councilor Janey’s ordinance establishing equitable regulation of the Cannabis Industry in the City of Boston. Several panels of experts testified comparing Boston’s proposed rules with other cities’, discussing the opportunities for local business owners with the emerging industry, and the need for intentional actions to promote equity to address past injustices from the war on drugs for communities who have been disproportionately harmed. The item remains in committee. 
Investor and Commercial Properties Transfer Fee: Councilors Flaherty, Edwards & Janey reported back on the hearing to impose a transfer fee on investor and commercial property sales within certain periods of time. The item remains in committee.

Voter Registration for Tenants: Councilor Zakim and I introduced an ordinance to require landlords to provide voter registration to tenants. Massachusetts allows eligible citizens to register to vote in person at a number of public facilities including city and town halls; via mail in registration form; or online if the Registry of Motor Vehicles has their signature on file. Nearly 64% of Bostonians are renters and we hope to boost civic engagement across every demographic. The matter was assigned to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.
Historic Preservation: Councilor Edwards refiled her hearing order on preservation of historic Boston. She noted that preservation of the Boston’s history is a priority of neighborhood residents and city government, and requires comprehensive strategic planning to coordinate efforts. The matter was assigned to the Planning, Development & Transportation Committee.

UPCOMING HEARINGS (In the City Council Chamber unless otherwise noted.) Watch

  • Our next City Council meeting will be on Wednesday, March 27th
  • Tuesday, March 26th at 3:00pm: School Safety and Security measures (Education)

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