Monday, February 03, 2020

Boston City Council Looks At Committees, South Boston Traffic, Census, Parking, Recycling & More

City Councilor-At-Large Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. Here are some highlights from Wednesday, January 29, 2020:


Rules: The Council voted 11-2 (Councilors Baker & Essaibi-George opposed) to approve the City Council rules for the 2020-2021 term that Council President Janey introduced, including the new committee structure. Councilor Essaibi-George stood to oppose the dissolution of the committee that she had previously chaired, on Homelessness, Mental Health & Recovery. Council President Janey stated that the new Committee on Public Health would include responsibility for issues related to Mental Health and Recovery, and the Committee on Housing & Community Development would include oversight over issues related to Homelessness. 
See the full committee assignments here, and a summary listed below as Committee Name (Chair, Vice Chair):

  • Arts, Culture & Tourism (Baker, Breadon)
  • Census & Redistricting (Arroyo, Wu)
  • City & Neighborhood Services (Flynn, O’Malley)
  • Civil Rights (Mejia, Flynn)
  • Community Preservation Act (Flaherty, Bok)
  • Education (Essaibi-George, Campbell)
  • Environment, Resiliency & Parks (O’Malley, Wu)
  • Government Operations (Edwards, Flaherty)
  • Housing & Community Development (Edwards, Bok)
  • PILOT Reform (Bok, Flaherty)
  • Planning, Development & Transportation (Wu, Baker)
  • Post Audit (Wu, Baker)
  • Public Health (Arroyo, Essaibi-George)
  • Public Safety & Criminal Justice (Campbell, Flaherty)
  • Rules & Administration (Janey, Flaherty)
  • Small Business & Workforce Development (Mejia, Baker)
  • Strong Women, Families & Communities (Breadon, O’Malley)
  • Veteran & Military Affairs (Flynn, Edwards)
  • Ways & Means (Bok, Essaibi-George)
  • Whole (Janey, O’Malley) 


Boston School Committee Governance Structure: Councilor Essaibi-George called for a hearing on the governance structure of the Boston School Committee. Following a home-rule petition and 1989 citywide referendum, in 1991 the City of Boston transitioned from a 13-member elected School Committee to a Committee with seven members, appointed by the Mayor. In a 1996 referendum, Boston residents voted to maintain the appointed School Committee. The Mayor appoints members from a list of candidates recommended by a 13-member Citizens Nominating Panel composed of parents, teachers, principals, and representatives of higher education. The process to become a member of the Citizens Nominating Panel as well as the process and criteria by which the panel evaluates School Committee candidates is currently not transparent nor accessible. The School Committee also currently has a non-voting, uncompensated student member, and many advocates have recommended giving the student representative formal voting authority. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Education for a hearing.

South Boston Traffic Master Plan: Councilors Flynn & Flaherty called for a hearing to discuss establishing a Traffic Master Plan for South Boston. They noted that the neighborhood has absorbed much of Boston’s development boom and housing production, with large scale developments either already approved or proposed along every major corridor that connects the neighborhood to the rest of the city. The ongoing South Boston Waterfront Strategic Transit Plan accounts for the impact of growth within the study area and the respective impacts on various modes of transportation in and out of the South Boston Waterfront, but does not account for the impact of other large scale developments on other major transportation corridors of the neighborhood. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Planning, Development & Transportation for a hearing.

2020 Census: Councilor Flynn & I filed a hearing order to discuss ways to promote a complete and accurate count for the 2020 Census in the City of Boston. The 2020 Census will begin on April 1st of this year, and it will be an important undertaking to provide an accurate population count to determine the number of Congressional seats in our state, the boundaries of local, state, and federal legislative districts, and how federal funds are distributed in our community; it also provides important data that can help lawmakers craft policies that accurately reflect the needs of constituents. Boston also ranks among the hardest cities to count, as we are home to many traditionally undercounted populations, such as immigrants, residents who speak a language other than English, students, and renters. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Census & Redistricting for a hearing

Additional Liquor Licenses: Councilor Baker filed a home-rule petition for additional liquor licenses in various neighborhoods of the city. Because of the cap on liquor licenses in Boston established in state law, many of the City’s neighborhood restaurants have difficulty or are unable to obtain a liquor license, making it difficult for smaller neighborhood restaurants to open and be successful and exacerbating income inequality and racial disparities as neighborhoods that are predominantly residents of color have far fewer establishments with liquor license. Councilor Baker stated that he hoped each District Councilor would give feedback and help set a number of requested licenses that was appropriate for the neighborhoods in her or his area. This matter was assigned to the committee on Government Operations.
Transportation Benefits: Councilor Edwards & I called for a hearing regarding creating a Transportation Benefit Ordinance that would require employers to offer pre-tax payroll deductions for public transit passes. The City of Boston already offers this for municipal employees, but there is no requirement for private employers to provide similar access. Modest efforts to reduce congestion could significantly improve commuting times, combat vehicle pollution and reduce time lost at work due to traffic delays. I also noted that this was a step for necessary, low-hanging fruit to improve our congestion situation, but that the ultimate goal is still to move toward fare-free public transit. The matter was assigned to the Committee onPlanning, Development & Transportation for a hearing.

Parking Reform: Councilors Edwards, Essaibi-George & Campbell called for a hearing on Parking Reform to address unprecedented traffic congestion and transportation issues that impact quality of life, Boston’s local economy and the environment. They stated that the City of Boston can simultaneously move towards a transportation system with fewer cars on the road and less congested streets while maintaining and improving parking and driving conditions for residents and workers who depend on their vehicles for personal and professional obligations, educational advancement, and other needs. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Planning, Development & Transportation for a hearing.

Recycling, Composting, and Reducing Trash: Councilor O'Malley called for a hearing regarding recycling, composting, and reducing trash in the City of Boston. Boston's current recycling rate is 25% and at least 75% of what is disposed as trash is potentially recyclable or compostable, including paper, plastic, metals, glass, textiles, food, food-soiled paper, plant debris, wood and soils. The cost of recycling has increased significantly due to China's stricter standards on the quality of the products they will buy. Resolving this recycling crisis will require implementing innovative strategies that addresses producer responsibility and building a sustainable infrastructure that promotes zero waste. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Environment, Resiliency & Parks for a hearing.

  • Zoning Board of Appeals: Konstantinos Ligris, Eric Robinson and Kerry Walsh as members until March 2022 (Assigned to Planning, Development & Transportation for confirmation hearing)
  • Make Boston Shine Trust Fund: Manar Swaby, Kaira Fox, Jerome Smith, Inez Foster & Jacob Wessel as Trustees until January 2022
  • Boston Common Maintenance Trust Fund: Emme Handy reappointed as Trustee until January 2022
  • Franklin Park Maintenance Trust Fund: Emme Handy reappointed as Trustee until January 2022
  • Boston Housing Authority: Kathryn Bennett appointed as Administrator effective January 6, 2020.

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

Our next City Council meeting will be on Wednesday, February 5th at Noon

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

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