2018: A Year in Review

Committee on Government Operations

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 hearings and working sessions to discuss a wide range of issues. Below I have highlighted some of our most notable discussions from this past year.

  • Ordinance allowing short-term residential rentals in the City of Boston (Sponsored by Mayor Walsh)

The Committee on Government Operations held a hearing and two working sessions on a proposal from the Walsh Administration to regulate short-term rentals in the City of Boston. During a thorough Committee process, there was a consensus that - while short-term rentals allow people to set up businesses or make supplemental income , that concerns about the short term rental industry’s destabilizing impact on our neighborhoods and the lack of affordable housing across the City warranted further regulation. The final version of regulations removed the allowance of investor units; implemented fees and number of days allowed for Limited Share Units, Home Share Units and Owner-Adjacent Units, and called for data collection/sharing by the City.

  • An Ordinance Increasing Access to Voter Registration (Sponsored by Councilor Josh Zakim)

This ordinance provides residents with  more opportunities to submit voter registration forms when routinely interacting with the following City departments and agencies: Boston Public Library, Boston Transportation Department, Boston Public Schools and Boston Centers for Youth & Family. The ordinance’s final version includes the following provisions: a) BPS will have to implement protocol to allow students, who are eligible to vote, have sufficient accommodations to vote (i.e: starting the school day a little later with an “I voted” sticker as proof). b) The ordinance also requires the Boston Transportation Department provide voter registration forms to residents seeking parking permits.   

  • Ordinance regarding Right to Free Petition (Sponsored by Councilor Michelle Wu)

The Committee on Government Operations held a hearing and working session on this proposal to increase resident engagement through the City Council by allowing any resident to submit a petition to the City Clerk, which the Council may act on at its discretion; and (2) a petition signed by at least 500 certified residents must be given a hearing within three months. The petition option would be bound by certain Council Rules, including that petitions must be action and/or content that could be passed or ordered by the City Council, would exclude certain matters, and would not require action if the Council had a substantially similar proceeding within the previous calendar year. The proposal remains in the Committee on Government Operations.

  • Proposed 13 hospital merger of Caregroup, INC. (Parent Company of Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center) and Lahey Health System and its impact on health care in the City of Boston (sponsored by Councilor Tim McCarthy and Councilor Ed Flynn)

In response to the BI-Lahey merger, which has since gone through state approval procedurals, this hearing sought to provide a public platform for  both proponents and opponents of the merger. The hearing allowed the City Council and other stakeholders to hear concerns about the implications of the merger, such as the creation of a “mega-hospital” system, which opponents argued would negatively impact the cost and access to healthcare - especially for low-income residents and communities of color, many of whom depend of community health centers.  

  • Ordinance amending the Solar Renewable Energy Certificates Revolving Fund (Sponsored by Mayor Walsh)\

This ordinance will allow the City to include revenue from the sale of alternative energy certificates and demand response program revenues produced by combined heat and power units located at Boston Public Schools sites in addition to the solar renewable energy certificates produced by the City’s photovoltaic arrays. Further, the Environment Department will be able to expand revenue by allowing the use of alternative energy certificate revenue and demand response program revenue produced by Boston Public Schools’ combined heat and power units. The revenues from the fund will be used to purchase offsets of greenhouse gas emissions which shall be associated with a portion of the electricity consumed by the City annually; to monitor, operate, and maintain existing solar arrays belonging to the City and the Boston Public School Department; and, to monitor, operate, and maintain Boston Public Schools’ combined heat and power facilities. Note: The proposal would also change the name of the fund to the Distributed Energy Resource Revenue Revolving Fund.

  • Ordinance amending the City of Boston Code re: Schedule of Parking Fines

The Council voted to pass an ordinance that was sponsored by Mayor Walsh amending the City of Boston Code to update the fine schedule for specific categories of parking violations and violations for overnight street sweeping. The ordinance was passed in a new draft which amended the original proposal by lowering the fees for double-parking. The revenue generated from the fees will be used to to improve road safety, reduce congestion, ease resident parking burdens, help small business districts, and increase cleanliness on Boston's streets. 

  • Order for a hearing to explore voting rights for immigrants with legal status and other inclusive practices (Sponsored by Councilor Andrea Campbell)

We held a public discussion about the possibility of allowing immigrants with legal status to vote in municipal elections and to examine other inclusive practices conducted by the City of Boston. An immigrant with legal status refers to a number of populations, including Legal Permanent Residents, visa holders, Temporary Protected Status recipients, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients. While the Committee heard valuable testimony from various interest groups and individuals who expressed either their support or concerns on the matter, a memorable and key piece of testimony from Veronica Serrato, Executive Director Of Project Citizenship. Ms. Serrato testified that allowing immigrants to vote in municipal elections may have unintended consequences, explaining that  any non-citizen who mistakenly registered to vote or votes in a non-municipal election, seriously jeopardizes their opportunity to become a legal citizen.  There is no proposed legislation being considered by the City Council.

  • Ordinance re: Parkway or Street Occupancy Permit for Delivery Vehicles (Sponsored by Mayor Walsh)

This ordinance created a new, optional permit for delivery vehicles. The permit has a four hour window, is intended to service residents with a one-off need for deliveries and is not required for residential or commercial deliveries. During the public hearing, Daniel Lesser, Director of Strategic Initiatives from the Boston Transportation and Public Works Department, explained that the permit arose feedback from residents requesting permits for delivery vehicles. The ordinance amends the City of Boston Code to add a new subsection under Chapter VIII, Section 1.16 “’P’ Fees and Charges” for the creation of a parkway or street occupancy permit for delivery vehicles, and amends Chapter XI, Section 6.16 to clarify that the new delivery vehicle permit will not require a bond.

  • Ordinance regarding fair work week employment standards for City contractors (Sponsored by Michelle Wu)

The Committee held a productive and robust public hearing on a proposed ordinance for fair work week employment standards for City contractors. The proposed ordinance seeks to provide ‘covered employer’, defined as the City of Boston and any firm, vendor, contractor or supplier of goods and/or services to the City of Boston, and of its subcontractors, with predictable and advance notice of work schedules. Employees would also be compensated for any employer initiated change to the posted schedule, includes right to rest provisions and requires employers to offer work to existing employees before hiring new employees or using an external pool of applicants. The Committee heard testimony from the Office of Workforce Development and panels of representatives from the restaurant industry, retailers, and staffing agencies. The matter remains in Committee.

  • Ordinance for the establishment of a commission for economic justice in the City of Boston construction industry (Sponsored by Councilors Lydia Edwards, Kim Janey, and Ayanna Pressley)  

The ordinance seeks to establish a commission to have biannual reviews which would assess union and nonunion contractors’ performance in meeting the standards set by the Boston Residents Jobs Policy; and would require the Commission to also report biannually to the Council in a public hearing to discuss its findings. The Commission would be comprised of thirteen members, nine district appointees and four appointees appointed by the Mayor. Of the Mayor’s appointees, one should have a history of advocating for the rights of Boston workers and involvement with education, one with a history of advocacy for workers of color and one with a history of advocacy for women in the construction field. The hearing began with public support of the ordinance and included testimony from members of the administration, Union Labor and Non-Union Labor, Education and Community advocates.

  • Ordinance Good Food Purchasing Standards in the City of Boston (Sponsored by Michelle Wu)

This ordinance seeks to help the City of Boston leverage its purchasing and procurement power to support local economies, nutrition, a valued workforce, environmental sustainability, and animal welfare. It is modeled after the Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP) developed in 2012 by the Center for Good Food Purchasing. During the public hearing we heard from Director of Food and Nutrition Services, Laura Benavidez who shared her experiences implementing the program in the Los Angeles Unified School District and highlighted some of the great work being done across BPS currently. Director Benavidez expressed her general support of the ordinance and noted that the Department is currently preparing to put out a “grocery list” RFP through which the Food and Nutrition Services Department plans to use as a baseline for the financial implications of implementing the GFFP. There was additional testimony from a variety of stakeholders that underscored the importance of the GFFP, the positive implications it could have for the local food market and our students access to healthy food, and the need for ongoing stakeholder engagement to ensure the ordinance is effective. The ordinance remains in Committee.

Community Preservation Act

The Committee on the Community Preservation Act was created to continue the discussion following November 2016, when voters in Boston approved the implementation of the CPA for our city. Alongside with the appointments of an 9-member Community Preservation Commission, the City Council’s Committee on the Community Preservation Act approves budgetary requests for community-based projects seeking funding from the City’s CPA revenue.

  • $$8,035,055.00 from the Fiscal Year 2018 Community Preservation Fund for projects from Community Preservation Committee (Sponsored by Mayor Walsh)

The Committee held its first hearing on hearing from Administration officials (CFO Emme Handy and CPA Director Christine Poff) along with the 35 applicants for the pilot round of CPA funding approval. To iterate: the hearing was held on the appropriation order to fund 35 projects recommended by the Community Preservation Committee (“CPC”) from community preservation fund revenues. The revenues are authorized in the areas of historic preservation, open space/recreational use, and affordable housing. 12 projects are for historic preservation; 3 projects are for affordable housing; 13 are for recreational use and open space; and 7 are blended projects of historic preservation and recreational use and open space. The second round of funding-request approvals are expected to take place in early 2019.

  • Resolution to support Community Preservation Act Matching Funds (Sponsored by Councilor Edwards, Councilor Campbell, and myself)

This resolution, addressed to the state legislature, sought to restore and increase state matching funds available through the Community Preservation Act Trust Fund. One of the key aspects of the Community Preservation Act legislation is that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts provides matching funds to local CPA projects via the Community Preservation Trust, a fund created by the $20 Registry of Deeds filing fee. Given that the Department of Revenue has recently estimated a record-low state match from the Community Preservation Act Trust Fund, a substantial increase in matching funds would better allow many municipalities’ ability to address the topic areas of the CPA, particularly the housing crisis.

Matters Sponsored by Councilor Flaherty

  • Order for a hearing regarding Health Care Provider Permits (Co-sponsored with Councilor Josh Zakim):

I cosponsored a hearing order to bring attention to the fact that the City does not have a straightforward way to provide parking permits to health care providers, instead relying on the Home Care Alliance of MA to decide which providers have access to these permits. Many other cities, including Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco, and Austin have administered parking permit programs for health care providers that allow them to serve residents of each city’s neighborhoods without the worry of amassing parking fines.

The City website currently includes a way to apply for a Personal Care Attendant parking permit to use residential parking spaces, for Boston residents with severe disabilities. We held a hearing on this matter, and are continuing our research to come up with a policy and program that works for the people of Boston.

  • Order for hearing to discuss services for persons with disabilities (Co-sponsored with Councilor Ed Flynn):

I co-sponsored a hearing order to examine new ways to support the agency's mission by improving access, removing any potential barriers in our city and providing equal opportunity to access. As we respond to the City’s aging population and updated infrastructure, it is absolutely vital to have a legislative response that ensures that these changes are facilitating full and equal participation in all aspects of life within the City for people with disabilities.

  • Order for a hearing regarding the South Boston Seaport Waterfront and the South Boston Seaport Transit Strategic Plan (Co-sponsored with Councilor Ed Flynn):

Councilor Flynn and I sponsored a hearing regarding the South Boston Waterfront and the South Boston Seaport Transit Strategic Plan. A primary goal of the hearing was to discuss the status of the South Boston Seaport Transit Strategic Plan that was authorized during a June BPDA Board meeting. Councilor Flynn and I wanted to learn about the expected project timelines and deliverables, opportunities for community input and the necessary transportation improvements to the neighboring areas. Commissioner Gina Fiandaca, from Boston Transportation Department, Chris Osgood, Chief of Streets for the Boston Transportation Department, James Fitzgerald, Transportation Planner, Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), representatives from MassPort, MassDOT, Massachusetts Convention Center Authority and A Better City all attended the hearing and provided valuable insight about the next steps in creating a better transportation plan for the growing South Boston Waterfront.

  • Order for a hearing regarding the South Boston Interim Planning Overlay District and Neighborhood-Wide Zoning (Co-sponsored with Councilor Ed Flynn)

Councilor Flynn and I sponsored a hearing to discuss the zoning deficiencies in South Boston. The South Boston Interim Planning Overlay District and the expansion of Article 68 was intended to advance the City’s housing-creation goals within a zoning code framework respectful of the day-to-day living conditions who have been significantly impacted by intense neighborhood growth. However, there are existing deficiencies, such as minimum lot size, in the new zoning scheme that need to be addressed. This hearing will be held in the community in the first few weeks of the New Year. We acknowledge that the residents, business owners and other stakeholders of South Boston are calling for a zoning blueprint that allows for reasonable and responsible growth and preserves what makes South Boston such a special and unique place to live.

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