City Council notes

June 1, 2018
By

By Beth Treffeisen

Special to the Gazette

The City Council met on Wednesday, May 23 at City Hall. Due to the Memorial Day weekend they won’t meet again until June 6.
Affordable Housing Funding

Mayor Martin Walsh filed an authorization order for the Department of Neighborhood Development to accept and expend $30 million to the Inclusionary Development Policy Fund for the purpose of producing and preserving affordable housing in Boston. The matter was assigned to the Committee Housing and Community Development for a hearing.

Fentanyl Protection Kits

The City Council voted to approve the mayor’s order to accept a donation of 30 fentanyl protective gear cruiser kits from 24 Trauma. Each kit includes a protective over garment, protective gloves, mask, goggle and other protective gear that will be kept in police cruisers and utilized during police responses to fentanyl involved incidents.

Short-Term Rentals Ordinance Put On Hold

Councilor Michael Flaherty reported back to the City Council that Monday’s working session on May 21 on the proposed short-term rentals ordinance led to differing perspectives between Council members on the subject.

As a review, this revised proposal eliminates investor units from the ordinance and restricts short-term rentals (defined as fewer than 28-night stays) to owner-occupied properties, except that owner-occupants of two and three family homes may list an additional owner-adjacent unit for up to 120 days per year.

The previous proposed exemption for medical stays is still included, as well as an exemption for corporate or institutional furnished stays of 10 or more consecutive nights.

Property owners that want to use residential units for short-term rentals outside the bounds of this ordinance will still have the option of applying for and securing a change of use and occupancy for those units.

“It is a complex matter,” said Flaherty. “The proposal is still a work in progress.”

The matter remains in committee for potential amendments. The next opportunity for a vote would be at the next hearing on June 6.

Land Disposition and Stewardship

City Councilor Lydia Edwards filed a hearing order regarding public land disposition and stewardship in the City of Boston.

During the hearing she stated that public land is a public good whose protection and use or disposition should further a greater purpose, such as promoting open space, enhancing cultural activity, creating recreational opportunities or expanding and preserving affordable housing.

Currently, Boston lacks a uniform policy for land disposition that would further these community-defined priorities.

In 2017, the Department of Neighborhood Development reported 186 land parcels and buildings sold or transferred for development or open space.

Boston may have additional tools at is disposal to optimize the stewardship of land or promote long-term affordability.

“There are tools in our tool kit,” said Edwards. “When we talk about that disposition we should be making sure we are favoring Bostonians.”

The matter was assigned to the Planning, Development, & Transportation Committee for a hearing.

The City Council met on Wednesday, May 9 for a public hearing at City Hall.

Liquor Licenses

Government Operations Committee Chair Mike Flaherty and City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, sponsor of the bill, reported back to the City Council regarding a home-rule petition for a special law to authorize additional non-transferable liquor licenses in Boston.

The Home Rule petition includes: five citywide all-alcohol licenses, five citywide beer and wine licenses, three all-alcohol and two beer and wine for each of Dorchester, East Boston, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Mission Hill, and Roxbury, three all-alcohol and two beer and wine for Main Streets Districts, and one all-alcohol license each for the Lawn on D at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Boston Center for the Arts and the Bolling Building.

Several councilors voiced urgency on this matter, as many neighborhoods lacking licenses are struggling from inequality.

“We’ve all seen the transformative power of sit-down restaurants in neighborhoods,” said Presley. “They lay the foundation for more equitable growth in the district. At the same time, we need to keep in mind the longer we wait our small business owners are kept in limbo and forced to guess at the viability of certain neighborhoods.”

Councilor Flaherty noted that there was a question remaining on whether the proposal should be split in two, because there is additional concern about granting blanket umbrella licenses for a large development, and whether that results in progress for equity.

“Umbrella licenses cut us right out of large negotiations of these large developers,” said Councilor Frank Baker. “We want them to sit with us more often than less often.”

At the hearing, Flaherty said his colleagues also wanted consideration for the Greenway, Roslindale, Charlestown, and West Roxbury.

There is also a deadline to get this Home Rule Petition to the State House to make sure they have enough time to debate this issue as well.

The matter remains in committee.

The City Council held a hearing on Wednesday, May 2 at City Hall.

Grants

  • The Boston Police Department will accept and expend $850,000 from the Boston Regional Intelligence Center Allocation. The grant will fund upgrading, expanding, and integrating technology and protocols related to anti-terrorism, anti-crime, anti-gang and emergency response. (Assigned to the Committee on Public Safety and Criminal Justice)
  • The City Council voted to approve $99,314 from U.S. Department of Justice to fund Address Verification Program activities mandated by the MA Sex Offender Registry Board.
  • The City Council also approved to accept and expend $130,253 from the Retired Senior Volunteer Program grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service to fund 356 RSVP volunteers who will provide social support to homebound or older adults and individuals with disabilities.
  • The Mayors Office of Arts and Culture will accept and expand $5,000 from the MA Cultural Council to fund programming in the Roxbury Cultural District and $5,000 from the Boston Foundation to fund the original creation of contemporary artwork by emerging artists.

Supporting Human Rights in Honduras

The City Council voted to adopt the resolution Councilor Lydia Edwards filed to urge the U.S. Congress to pass H.R. 1299, the Berta Caceres HumanRights in Honduras Act.

Honduras has been experiencing an unprecedented level of insecurity and violence. In the aftermath of the election, there were 192 repressed demonstrations, resulting in over 1,250 arrests, 38 people killed, 393 people injured, 76 victims of torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, 15 journalists assaulted, and more.

The Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Hank Johnson, would prohibit funds from being made available to Honduras for the police and military (including equipment and training), and direct the Department of the Treasury to vote against multilateral loans to Honduras for its police and military, until the Department of State certifies that the government of Honduras has taken certain steps to promote accountability, dignity, freedom of speech and human rights.

“Our U.S. government will soon take away TPS (temporary protected status) for current Hondurans who live here,” said Edwards. “It will only further eliminate the foundation and their futures here in this country, potentially departing thousands of people – some of who live in my neighborhood.”

The City Council met on Wednesday, April 25.

Summer Violence and Community Engagement

Councilors Matt O’Malley and Kim Janey filed a hearing order to discuss summer violence and explore ways to strengthen community empowerment.

The councilors spoke about how violence is an ongoing issue that creates traumatic impact on families and communities.

“Summer is coming and we know that we are going to see some increase in violence and crime,” said O’Malley. “What can we do to prevent them? What can we do to make this city safer? Let’s look at the trends and figure out concrete strategies. Community policing was born here and, in. my opinion, done better here than any other city in the planet.”

The City of Boston encourages a public health approach to youth violence prevention and focuses on using City resources to connect youth with social services and jobs in the summer.

“There is a fear of what happens when the warm weather comes and that’s a shame,” said Janey. “I don’t think it is sounding the alarm at all and I do think it is important to be proactive not only with police groups but community groups as well.”

The matter has been assigned to the Committee on Public Safety and Criminal Justice for a hearing.

Flexible payment plans for late property tax payments

Councilor Lydia Edwards filed a hearing order for the adoption of flexible payment plans for property tax arrears.

Edwards spoke on the significant number of low-income, elderly and disabled homeowners that have property tax arrears owed to the City.

Boston already works with homeowners in tax arrears but currently is only able to offer on-year payment plans that require a 25 percent down payment to address the owed taxes. The interest rate of tax arrears cam be as high as 16 percent and the City can adopt more flexible payment plans and the ability to forgive up to 50 percent of accrued interest pursuant to state law.

“We shouldn’t have people running away running away from obligations,” said Edwards. “We need to provide mechanisms to allow people to pay their taxes.”

The matter was assigned to the Committee on Ways and Means for hearing.