2015: A Year in Review

Committee Work

The Government Operations Committee reviews all proposed city ordinances and home rule petitions and makes recommendations to the Council on their passage. As Chairman, I work with colleagues, the Mayor’s office, and various groups and individuals to hold public meetings on these matters. This year, the Committee held over 25 hearings and working sessions to discuss a wide range of issues. Below I have highlighted some of our most notable accomplishments from this year.

  • Paid Parental Leave (Docket 0567, Sponsored by Councilors Wu and McCarthy Passed April 29) The passage of this ordinance was a testament to the City’s commitment to make Boston a better place to live, work, and raise a family. I was truly honored to be part of this monumental legislation that expands paid parental leave to apply equally to male and female employees, as well as same-sex couples, and in the event of natural birth, adoption, surrogacy, and stillbirth. The implementation of this new policy provides several benefits related to health and cognitive development for infants, economic stability for families, and employee retention, and the Council is proud to set a leading precedent on all of these fronts.

  • Reducing Diesel Fuel Emissions (Docket 0700, Sponsored by Councilor Murphy, Passed May 13): This ordinance will reduce diesel fuel emissions and improve air quality by requiring trucks contracted by the city to be retrofitted with equipment that meets national air quality standards. Working together with Councilor Murphy, the Mayor’s office, environmental advocacy groups, and representatives from the trucking industries, we crafted regulations that reflect a collaborative effort and a key achievement in the City’s commitment to sustainability.

  • Streamlining Permits for Special Events (Docket 0114, Sponsored by Mayor Walsh, Passed July 15) Proposed by Mayor Walsh, this ordinance amends the requirements for obtaining street closure permits for special events such as parades, road races, and block parties. The amendment removes the need for authorization from the Commissioner of Parks, eliminating an unnecessary administrative step in the process while maintaining appropriate oversight from Boston Police and the Transportation Department. These small operational changes help our government run smoother and result in a more efficient delivery of services to our constituents.

  • Retirement classification for School Police Officers (Docket 0830, Sponsored by Councilor Baker, Passed June 10) . This administrative change places our School Police Officers into a retirement group with other public safety personnel, rather than their current classification, which primarily consists of administrative workers. This allows School Police Officers to retire at an age that is more appropriate to the physical nature of their jobs. These unarmed officers are typically the first responders on scene for incidents occurring both during school and at extracurricular and athletic events. Cost impact of this change is minimal because there are less than 75 School Police officers in the city who vary in age. It was important for us to pass this legislation and acknowledge our School Police Officers who are crucial to community policing and maintaining a safe environment for our schoolchildren.

  • Banning Tobacco in Ballparks and Public Recreational Areas (Docket 1273, Sponsored by Mayor Walsh, Passed September 2) This ordinance prohibits tobacco products at athletic events including youth, high school, and college sports, as well as professional venues, such as Fenway Park. I was proud to be part of this effort to discourage the use of highly addictive cancer-causing products, especially among our young people.

  • Replica Firearms (Docket 1415, Sponsored by Mayor Walsh, Passed October 28) Boston Police Commissioner Evans spoke on behalf of this ordinance, which addresses the threat of replica firearms that so closely resemble real guns. These imitation firearms are commonly used in robberies and other crimes throughout the city, exacerbating the fear of an officer having to use lethal force in these instances. Replica firearms pose a dangerous threat to public safety, and this ordinance offers remedies to help remove them from our streets and clearly distinguish them from real weapons.  

  • Banning Synthetic Cannabinoids (Docket 1175, Sponsored by Councilor Baker, Passed August 12) In light of the sudden uptick of incidents involving dangerous synthetic cannabinoids, the Council expedited hearings on this ordinance that allows Boston Police to enforce a prohibition on the sale and use of these potent substances. By altering the compounds of these drugs, known by street names “K2” or “Spice,” distributors are able to skirt federal regulations and sell them at our local convenience stores and smoke shops. Boston Police and members of the community described chilling accounts of witnessing individuals under the influence of these drugs, displaying side effects such as hallucinations and outrageous behavior. With passage of this ordinance, Boston Police were given the tools they need to crack down on synthetic drugs and keep our communities safe.

  • Recreational/All Terrain Vehicles on City Streets (Docket 1274, Sponsored by Mayor Walsh, Passed September 2) This ordinance addresses concerns about recreational vehicles (including dirt bikes, motorized scooters, and all-terrain vehicles), which have been known to cause noise complaints and safety hazards when operating on city streets. With this new regulation in place, Boston Police now have the authority to monitor vehicle owners by enforcing rules related to registration and storage. The new law also prohibits the vehicle operators from performing dangerous stunts or driving in a way that seeks to intimidate other drivers.

  • BYOB (Docket 0353, Sponsored by Councilors Wu and Murphy, Passed December 16) The concept of BYOB (“Bring Your Own Bottle”) has been proposed in other cities as a means for smaller restaurants without liquor licenses to attain more profits as well as provide customers with an option to enjoy alcoholic beverages. As cost and demand for liquor licenses in Boston have become notoriously inflated, this ordinance would allow restaurants to apply for BYOB as an alternative. This program will be overseen by the Boston Licensing Board.

Matters I've Sponsored 

  • Residency Policy Commission: It’s no secret that the residency requirements for City of Boston employees are confusing, inconsistent, and in some cases, unfair. Employees in unionized positions follow different rules than non-union employees, which can complicate promotions and departmental decisions. I filed an order to create a commission tasked with analyzing all residency rules and providing policy recommendations that will clarify the rules for all of us who abide by them. The Commission meets at least once a month and will offer recommendations to the City Council by December 31st.

  • Marijuana Dispensary Buffer Zone: Massachusetts state guidelines for registered marijuana dispensaries (RMDs) allow municipalities to exercise local control over placement of dispensaries in their community, with the only current requirement being that RMDs are not located within 500 feet of a school or other area where children congregate. With the impending likelihood of recreational marijuana becoming legal in Massachusetts, I filed an amendment to the zoning code that would create a ½ mile buffer zone around existing dispensaries. I believe this zoning change would protect Boston’s neighborhoods from feeling inundated by the emergence of this new industry.

  • Free-Standing Sidewalk Signs aka Sandwich Board Signs: Sidewalk signs, often described as A-Frame signs or “sandwich boards,” are effective marketing tools for many of the small businesses that make up the fabric of our community. So I was surprised to learn at one of my coffee hours in West Roxbury that businesses were being cited for using these seemingly benign forms of advertising. We soon found that archaic laws forbade sidewalk signs on our streets assuming they violated ADA regulations for handicap accessibility. With this in mind, we held hearings and working sessions with the Inspectional Services Department (ISD), Disabilities Commission, and Boston Transportation Department to come up with a solution that would allow businesses to utilize effective advertising without obstructing pathways. We came up with a set of regulations for a 1 year pilot program in the city, which was voted on favorably by the Council and will be re-evaluated at the end of the year.

  • Linkage Fees: Linkage fees are payments by large-scale commercial developers that directly fund affordable housing and job training programs. Over the years, they have contributed over $50 million to affordable housing projects in the city. In light of the current development boom our city is experiencing, I called for a hearing to discuss whether it would make sense to adjust the fees to help offset displacement caused by new development. If changes to linkage fees are not made by home rule petition (requiring favorable votes by the City and Commonwealth), the Mayor can set increases by executive order in 2016.

If you have questions or comments about any of these matters, I would love to discuss them with you! Please feel free to contact my office at 617-635-4205 or email me at Michael.Flaherty@boston.gov.

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