Monday, June 08, 2020

Boston City Council Looks At CPA Funds, Budget Surpluses, Safe Streets, COVID & More

City Councilor-At-Large Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. Below are a few highlights from May through June 3, 2020. For complete notes of Boston City Council meetings, visit or sign up to receive these notes automatically.


Occupational Presumption of exposure to COVID-19: We voted to adopt the resolution filed by Councilors Breadon and Flynn in support of state bills regarding the occupational presumption of exposure to COVID-19. Essential workers are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, and occupational presumption legislation would ensure that any essential worker reporting to work outside their home who contracts the coronavirus is presumed to have gotten it from exposure at work--ensuring that infected essential workers do not have to use their own paid time off or sick time to quarantine, treat, or recover from the coronavirus; and that they and their families get the workers compensation and death benefits they deserve should their illness become severe. 

Federal Action Condemning Police Brutality: We voted (12-0, Councilor Baker absent) to adopt the resolution introduced by Councilors Mejia, Arroyo & Janey in Support of the federal resolution filed by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley for Federal Action Condemning Police Brutality, Racial Profiling, and the Use of Excessive and Militarized Force. Many Councilors spoke in support of the resolution, and you can see the video starting at 1hr and 56min, linked directly here.

FY 2021 BUDGET: Because the City Charter requires a vote on the budget by the 2nd Wednesday in June but the City has until the end of the month to approve a budget before the fiscal year ends, today we took a customary vote to reject the proposed budget without prejudice and prepare for the Mayor’s resubmittal. The Council also voted unanimously to advance the capital budget--the first of two required votes to approve appropriations for the City’s 5-year Capital Plan.

FY20 Budget Surpluses: Councilor Flaherty & I reported back on the hearing to look back on City department FY20 budget surpluses as the City is approaching the end of the fourth quarter. We reviewed potential deficits (police and fire overtime, trash/recycling removal), potential surpluses (unneeded snow removal funds, utilities rates citywide, employee health insurance, parking tickets/meters processing), and revenue reductions due to the pandemic (excise taxes, parking fines and meter fees, interest on investments, and licensing and permitting fees). You can see the full presentation from that meeting here or watch the video here. The matter will remain in the committee on Post Audit & Oversight.

COVID-19 Hotline: We voted to adopt Councilor Essaibi-George’s resolution for the creation of a hotline for workers and consumers to report businesses not adhering to the recommended protective measures. She noted that the Governor’s reopening plan relies on self-reporting and self-enforcement about physical distancing rules.  

Community Preservation Act: We voted to pass the proposed allocation of $24.3M in funds from the Community Preservation Act Fund to support housing, open space and recreation, and historic preservation. Read more about the approval process here, and see the full list of projects funded here.

Safe Streets: Councilor Breadon & I reported back on our productive hearing last night to discuss implementing changes for safe streets during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing began with three comprehensive presentations from author and national urban planning expert Jeff Speck on the urgency for spatial redesign to promote safety and health during the pandemic; Director of Transit Matters Jarred Johnson on improvements and recommendations for public transit; and Boston Transportation Department Director of Planning Vineet Gupta and Public Realm Director Jacob Wessel on the City of Boston’s plans. We also heard from many advocates, community leaders, and members of the public who echoed the need for urgency to keep residents and commuters safe during COVID-19. You can watch the full video here. This matter will remain in committee for further follow-up and discussion.

College and University Reopening COVID-19 Plans: Councilors Breadon & Janey called for a hearing regarding the status of college and university plans to reopen for Fall 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Boston is home to over 170,000 graduate and undergraduate students enrolled at more than 30 degree-granting higher education institutions, including four public universities, two for-profit institutions, and 26 private non-profit institutions. The sponsors discussed the need to ensure the health and safety of all members of the public, including educators, students, dining and cleaning staff on campuses. This matter was referred to the Committee on Public Health.

Senior Property Taxes: The Mayor filed requests for authorization to increase the Elderly Property Tax Exemption from $750 to $1000 and also to lower the interest rate on property taxes deferred for eligible seniors from 4% to 1% for Fiscal Year 2021. These matters were sent to the Committee on Ways and Means for a hearing. 

  • Boston Public Health Commission Board of Health: Rebecca Gutman, Manny Lopes and Guale Valdez appointed as members, subject to confirmation (Committee on Public Health)
  • Zoning Commission: Nelson Arroyo, Jane Cooper Brayton and Drew Leff appointee as members of the Zoning Commission, pending confirmation (Committee on Planning, Development and Transportation)
  • Beacon Hill Architectural Commission: Joel Pierce and P.T. Vineburgh, as members, pending confirmation (Committee on Planning, Development and Transportation)
  • Boston Landmarks Commission: Justine Orlando as a member until June 30, 2022, pending confirmation (Committee on Planning, Development and Transportation)
  • Boston Water and Sewer Commission: Michael Woodall as chair until January 1, 2024 (Committee on City and Neighborhood Services)

UPCOMING HEARINGS (Streaming online):
  • Monday, June 8th at 12PM: Hearing to explore preparation for youth employment opportunities amid and post the COVID-19 pandemic (Strong Women, Families & Communities)
  • Tuesday, June 9th at 3PM: Hearing on Ordinance to Ban Face Surveillance (Government Operations)

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