Copy

Friends,

Summer is around the corner and we are well into budget proceedings here in the Boston City Council. In last month's newsletter, I presented just some of my priorities for district one and now I'm excited to share with you what we've discovered in each hearing. 

I had the opportunity to fight for capital projects in our neighborhoods from trash hokies in the North End, to increased police detail in City Square during North Washington Street bridge reconstruction, to a new senior center in East Boston. I've put together a breakdown of questioning from just some of the hearings which you can find below.

 
Now that we're heading into second round of hearings, we still want to hear from you and what your top priorities for the FY 2019 budget are. Drop a line to lydia.edwards@boston.gov or call our office at (617) 635-3200 to let us know.

If you'd like more information on upcoming hearings, to watch hearings online, or for general information on the budget, please utilize the Boston City Council website as well as the City of Boston's budget page. Don't forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter for updates!

All the best,


Lydia Edwards
Boston City Councilor
BUDGET OVERVIEW AND SUMMARY


Watch all of my questioning to just some of the City Departments who testified before the City Council during budget hearings by clicking each link. Overview of topics discussed is included. 

 

  • BPS overview 4/24/18: Decreasing student population effect on schools like EBHS, school discretionary budgets, and bilingual ed programs.
  • DND on 4/30/18: Eviction data collection, section three hiring (and the audit that showed over-reported numbers on both dollars and jobs created), how many of the properties they plan on selling are from tax foreclosures, and what happens to tax foreclosure properties after the city takes them over.
  • ISD on 5/7/18: Possibility of citywide dry ice program to reduce rodent population, if/how pop-up restaurants and food trucks are involved in inspections, whether goal of 4800 unit goal for rental inspection was met, if ISD enforces accessibility law and which buildings that applies to, how many inspectors are assigned to each district, the building collapse on Maverick Square and the results of the ensuing investigation and what the impacts of the collapse were on the developer and its other projects, call response rates.
  • BCYF on 5/14/18: Thanked them for working towards ensuring equal access to centers. Asked questions about when MOU's will be signed, percentage of BCYF funds that are privately funded, preventing street violence and addiction, relationships they have with non-profits to prevent duplication of services, and the future of the tennis bubble in Charlestown.
  • Public Works on 5/15/18: Alford St bridge, time frame for the reconstruction of the bridge into Chelsea, left turn on N. Washington St bridge, North End trash hokies, the possibility of snow melters, need for more trash cans in East Boston, the sidewalk outside of Bova's, antenna boxes in the North End, the Prado and Revere parks in the North End, the paving on Hanover, Rutherford Ave and contractor diversity.
  • EMS on 5/21/18: Second ambulance in East Boston, reduction in ambulance response times as a result, what resources are available to staff for PTSD and second hand PTSD, future of second ambulance in Charlestown
  • BFD on 5/21/18: Barriers for women in the department, how to go about getting more women in the department, whether the department is partnering with outside organizations to increase the number of women in the department, what the goals are and what accountability measures will be in place if they're not met, and what happens with implicit bias data.
  • BPD on 5/22/18: New station in East Boston, mutual response program/procedure in place with neighboring municipalities,  future surveillance technologies (drones) and the impacts they would have on the community, regional intelligence sharing and whether immigration status could be shared and then misused, and what the plans are for the gun buy-back program.
  • BPDA on 5/22/18: Current staffing numbers, the racial diversity of the staff, the racial and gender makeup of top 10% of wage earners, residency requirement for BPDA employees, the plan is to make sure the agency looks more like the population of the city, goals are in terms of recruitment or numbers for the next year to increase diversity, how much of the land owned came from agency mergers and/or eminent domain, PILOT payments.
  • BTD on 5/22/18:  Parking tickets for teachers during the school day, BTD's overall plans for district one moving forward, additional East Boston mobility without relying on cars, overall enforcement, and what the plan is to reduce traffic on Sullivan Square.
  • Parks and Recreation on 5/24/18: CPA funds, equity in park funding, Noyes Park upgrade, Langone Park (turf vs. grass), shade on the field at Charlestown High School, timeline for capital improvements at Ryan Playground, Paul Revere Mall renovations, urged support for urban wilds, and expressed hope for the future of the East Boston Greenway
Councilor Lydia Edwards to Introduce an Order for New East Boston Master Plan
From the East Boston Times:

MAY 11, 2018 - In response to the development boom in the neighborhood, District 1 City Councilor Lydia Edwards plans to introduce an order at the City Council calling for a hearing regarding an East Boston Master Plan.

An East Boston Master Plan will provide a framework for new growth and development in the community’s commercial districts and waterfront area, while preserving and enhancing the quality of life in the community’s residential neighborhoods.

“When we are dealing with the amount of new development we experiencing now, and every project seems to be a new idea, a height or a new density, variances tend to become the rule and not the exception,” said Edwards.

“What people say we are developing is ‘spot zoning’ and it is not a cohesive vision for our community.

But a Master Plan provides that cohesive vision and allows us to drive the bus and not be driven by it.”

The last Master Plan for the neighborhood was finished almost two decades ago in 2000 and while many of the recommendations like the creation of new open space, waterfront development and mixed-use development the neighborhood has been clamoring for an updated Master Plan in order to keep up with the fast growth of development.

“The Master Plan is 18 years old and does not reflect the actual modern needs of the community and many “Eastie” residents feel that development is happening to them, not for them or their children,” said Edwards. “East Boston’s last Master Plan was completed 18 years ago and since that time, East Boston has changed immensely and for too many without a common clear goal or vision.” Read more here.

Councilors Annissa Essaibi-George, Michelle Wu, and Lydia Edwards during a recent hearing in the City Council. Photo: Angela Rowlings, Boston Herald.

An order regarding PILOT Payments in the City of Boston

Earlier this month, I was pleased to file a hearing order regarding PILOT payments, or payments in lieu of taxes, with my colleague Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George because we believe the city needs to hold higher education institutions accountable.

Boston universities and colleges haven't followed through on a commitment to compensate the city for what they can't collect in property taxes from the tax-exempt institutions.

"Under a program called PILOT, which stands for payment in lieu of taxes, the schools would pay 25 percent of what would be their property tax. Half of the sum would be paid for through proven community impact, while the other portion would be a dollar amount. However, in fiscal year 2017, the schools had contributed approximately $13 million of its promised $27 million". See full reporting by NBC Boston. 

You can get more information on medical and educational institutions PILOT payments here. With this hearing we'd like to get more information of possible PILOT payments from quasi-governmental agencies like BPDA, Massport, as well as private entities that don't pay their full tax assessment. 

 

Check out my interview on BNN with Chris Lovett where I explain my call with Councilor At-Large Annissa Essaibi-George for a closer look at payments to the city by owners of tax-exempt property such as hospitals,
universities and cultural institutions.
Officials Seek Higher and Better Use Of Leased Land on Mystic River

From the Charlestown Bridge:

MAY 25, 2018 - Details from a sublease between MassPort and its Charlestown tenant, Boston AutoPort, show that the Authority earned approximately $562,151 in rent on waterfront, City-owned land in Charlestown over a period of six years.

It is the same City-owned land that MassPort leased from the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) for $1 over a 40-year period, making its rent to the City about 2.5 cents per year. The 94,199 sq. ft. parcel’s lease is up July 2019, and that fact has stirred controversy between the Town, the City and MassPort over what will become of it in the future – whether MassPort would continue to collect rent from other companies or whether the community could come together to discuss other uses for the waterfront parcel.

City Councilor Lydia Edwards and several in the community have focused on the land as a key parcel for potential green space or development or both and are calling for a community process to discuss what the community wants.

“The goal is to make sure that community has full transparency and to assure that we are working on the best deal for Charlestown,” she said. “For me that means looking at the numbers and making sure we are getting our fair share.” Read the full story

Boston Wants Amazon, but Is There Room?
Some in East Boston are already worried about rising costs, tight housing market

BOSTON—The possible arrival of Amazon’s second headquarters here is triggering both hopes and apprehension in a neighborhood already dealing with fallout from surging costs in a growing city.

Lydia Edwards, East Boston’s current city councilor, believes Boston needs stronger pro-tenant policies and to ask for more affordable-housing units when approving large developments. She also wants to make sure the city remains cautious while chasing an economic-development prize.

“We’re not desperate for Amazon,” she said. “This is the time to be discerning for our future.” Full story in the Wall Street Journal.

Councilor Edwards Pushes Tax Relief for Bostonians
City can forgive interest and extend payment plans for seniors & low-income homeowners

BOSTON, MA (May 31st, 2018) - Today, the Boston City Council held a hearing on a petition sponsored by Councilor Lydia Edwards to ease financial burden on residents who fall behind on property taxes. Specifically, the Councilor is urging the city to opt in to a state law that would lengthen the period of repayment for back taxes and allow the city to forgive a portion of accrued interest. Communities such as Springfield, Randolph and New Bedford have opted in to the state law.

“This simple change would offer modest financial relief to low-income homeowners, keeping Bostonians who have fallen behind on property taxes housed and giving them a chance to get back on their feet,” said Councilor Edwards. “Boston can move to enact a more equitable tax collection policy.”  

Although the city offers a tax deferral program for some residents of at least 65 years of age, all other residents who have fallen behind on taxes must make a 25% down payment of the amount owed and pay all of the remaining taxes within one year. Additionally, the tax deferral program only covers future tax liability, such that if a resident reaches the age of 65 with tax debt, they must still pay existing back taxes with a high down payment and within a year.

“I applaud the hard work of city employees, including many former colleagues, to assist taxpayers and prevent foreclosure, but the city can do more to coordinate resources and reduce burden on homeowners,” added Edwards. “It doesn’t hurt the city to give residents who are struggling a little flexibility--it shows we’re paying attention to what our communities need.”

In testimony submitted to the council, Greater Boston Legal Services urged the council to opt in to create more flexible payment plans and also recommended the City file a Home Rule Petition to allow flexibility on initial down payments for tax arrears. Currently, the state requires Boston to collect a 25% down payment on back taxes, creating significant hurdles for residents who are already struggling financially.

“Many elders and those with disabilities may be house-rich but cash poor,” said Nadine Cohen,

Managing Attorney of the Consumer Rights Unit at Greater Boston Legal Services. “On limited fixed incomes, they often do not have the money to pay their taxes and are not aware of their eligibility for certain tax abatements or deferral of taxes.”

Councilor Edwards expressed support for the home rule idea. “Look, the fact is we have about 10,000 defaults a year and 1600 liens placed on our properties. Where there is relief, many Bostonians don’t know about it, and often times find out too late. We need a comprehensive approach to helping taxpayers, from state level reform such as reducing the 25% downpayment, to making sure city agencies and the city council are working together to help struggling taxpayers before there is a lien, to providing Bostonians with longer payment plans and lower interest by opting to use the tools the Commonwealth has given us.”      

Following the hearing, the issue will likely move to a series of working sessions that will help to inform a proposed ordinance while also addressing coordination of city resources for taxpayers.

###

Other News and Updates
  • In light of recent events in East Boston between historic advocates and developers, I filed a hearing order in regards to Historic Preservation in the City of Boston. I hope this will start a conversation around developing resources to identify historic landmarks and getting developers to invest in preserving our communities. Watch here.
  • I recently filed a hearing order regarding public Land Disposition and Stewardship in the City of Boston. 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 in perpetuity.
  • City Council Won’t Vote Yet on Short-Term Rental Rules - from The Boston Globe: "The Boston City Council will probably spend at least two more weeks hammering out new rules governing short-term rentals in Boston, according to the measure’s leading advocate on the council.
  • Walk with me in the Bunker Hill Day Parade on Sunday, June 10th! We'll meet at 12:00 PM behind the Harvard-Kent School school yard. Sign-up to let us know you'll be there and grab a free t-shirt!
  • Team #EdwardsExpress was thrilled to participate in the city's Love Your Block initiative and helped clean up a local green space in the neighborhood! Thank you to all organizers and volunteer's for their hard work.
Upcoming Council Hearings and Meetings
Find details and all City Council public notices here


Friday, June 1st at 10:00 AM
Hearing re: parking fines in the City of Boston

Monday, June 4th at 11:00 AM

Committee on Ways and Means - FY19 Budget: Carryover

Tuesday, June 5th at 2:00 PM
Committee on Ways and Means - FY19 Budget: Public Testimony

Wednesday, June 6th at 12:00 PM - Regular Council Meeting

Tuesday, June 12th at 2:00 PM
Hearing re: vacant properties in the City of Boston

Wednesday, June 13th at 12:00 PM - Regular City Council Meeting


Thursday, June 14th at 10:00 AM
Order for policy briefing to explore and recommend diversity initiatives for City of Boston public safety agencies

Thursday, June 14th at 1:00 PM
Hearing re: summer violence and community engagement in the City of Boston

Wednesday, June 20th at 12:00 PM - Regular City Council Meeting

Friday, June 22nd at 1:00PM
Order for a hearing re: equitable access to public transportation with a cashless fare collection system

Thursday, June 28th at 2:00PM
Order for a hearing re: Boston's resident parking permit program



 

June Community Meetings in District One

East Boston:
  • Harbor View Neighborhood Association - First Monday of every month 6:30 p.m.at the Edward Brooke Charter School, 145 Byron St.
  • Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association - Second Monday of every month. 6:30 p.m. at the Jeffries Point Yacht Club, 565 Sumner St.
  • Orient Heights Neighborhood Association - Third Monday of every month. 6:30 p.m. at Ashley Street YMCA, 54 Ashley St.
  • Central Square Flats Civic Association - Third Wednesday of every month 7 p.m. at Paris Street Community Center, 112 Paris St.
  • Friends of the East Boston Greenway - Fourth Thursday of every month. 6:30 p.m. at the Anna DeFronzo Center, 395 Maverick St
  • Gove Street Citizens Association - Fourth Monday of every month 6:30 p.m. at the Noddle Island Community Room, Logan Rental Car Center
  • Eagle Hill Civic Association - Last Wednesday of every month 7 p.m. at East Boston High School Cafeteria, 86 White St.
Charlestown:
  • Charlestown Neighborhood Council - First Tuesday of Every Month 7:00pm, Knights of Columbus, 595 Medford Street
  • Friends of the Charlestown Navy Yard - *Next meeting in September* 7:00PM, 300 1st Ave, Charlestown, MA 2129 Spaulding in the first floor Conference Room
  • Public Safety Meeting - Last Wednesday of Every Month, 6:00pm, Boston Police, 2nd floor mtg room, 20 Vine St. 02129
North End:
  • Public Safety Meeting - First Thursday of Every Month @ 6:00PM, Nazzaro Community Center, 30 N. Bennet Street.
  • NEWRA Monthly Meeting - Second Thursday of Every Month @ 7:00PM, Nazzaro Community Center, 30 N. Bennet Street.
  • NEWNC Monthly Meeting - Second Monday of Every Month @ 7:00PM, Nazarro Community Center, 30 N. Bennet Street 
Photo from bostonplans.org
SUGGESTION BOX
Copyright © 2018 Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.