Boston City Council Notes

The Boston City Council held their second meeting of the year on Wednesday, January 31 at Boston City Hall.

Curbside Composting Program

Councilor Matt O’Malley and Ayanna Pressley refilled a hearing order on the feasibility of implementing a curbside composting program in Boston.

“This is the next logical step, which many other cities have done to great success, is to have curbside composting in the City of Boston,” said O’Malley.  “We are re-introducing this hearing order and this is their fourth or fifth time doing it. I am optimist that the fourth or fifth time will be the charm.”

Both councilors spoke on how such a program would save the City money by reducing waste sent to landfills, while also producing finished compost that could be used for landscaping in Boston’s parks and gardens or could be sold.

O’Malley pointed to Jamaica Plain as one neighborhood who could potentially run a pilot program this year.

“If we want to get to zero waste we have to embrace composting and we have to begin it soon,” said O’Malley.

The matter was assigned to the Committee on Environment, Sustainability & Parks for a hearing.

Annual Homeless Census

Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George called for a hearing on this year’s homeless census, the point of time count that occurs each year surveying individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Boston shelters and on the streets.

This data is used to identify policy priorities and measures to end homelessness. Having a hearing would give the Council an opportunity as in previous years to focus on how homelessness impacts individuals, children, young adults and families, as well as resources currently in place to support them.

“I believe we can end homelessness in City of Boston,” said Essaibi-George. “We have made great strides in chronic and veteran homeless but we can’t do this alone. We need to continue to increase upstream prevention and economic opportunity and pave way towards affordable housing. What we collect through the census to help us to do better.”

This matter was assigned to the Committee on Homelessness, Mental Health & Recovery.

Voting Rights for Immigrants with Legal Status

Council President Andrea Campbell called for a hearing to explore the possibility of allowing Legal Permanent Residents, visa holders, Temporary Protected Status recipients, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients to vote in municipal elections and to examine other inclusive practices.

“Immigrants who come to the city of Boston and who have come in the last few decades and are newcomers face many of the challenges as the Irish, Italians and Jews who came before them,” said Campbell. “But they also face additional barriers. Additional barriers when it comes to immigration and pathways to citizenship.”

“These pathways are harsher and they’re racists. These residents want to become citizens and are going through the process to become citizens but the pathways that exist decades ago do not currently exist or are no longer an option. So we are currently at a crossroads.”

Campbell noted that the policy coming out of Washington D.C. is uprooting thousands of families and abruptly ending their long-standing immigration polices. She asked what are we going to do at the local level?

“I recognize, it is crystal clear to me that we are not the federal government and that we do not have the authority to determine whether or not these communities get to stay here legally or grant a pathway to citizenship,” said Campbell. “But I do think we have a responsibility as municipal leaders of this city to explore concrete ways we can include and support these residents in the city they call home.”

Currently, non-U.S. Citizens are prohibited from voting by state law and thus limited in playing an active role in civic life.

Several councilors supported the need for the Council to have the discussion, given that federal laws and politics are preventing many of these people from becoming American citizens.

“I think it is very important to encourage all opportunities to encourage participates in a civic process, especially folks who are living here and are long-term residents – who in many cases have children in our Boston Public School (BPS) school system and who I can’t think have a more vested interest in voting in local elections and participating in our civic life,” said Councilor Josh Zakim.

Others, such as Councilor Tim McCarthy expressed that voting should remain a right for United States citizens only; stating voting is a U.S. citizen privilege.

“If we say we are a city and nation made of immigrants then lets find a way to recognize and amplify their value and contributions to our community,” said Campbell. “And lets at least at a minimum have a conversation – this isn’t an ordinance – this is a hearing order to have that – a conversation.”

The matter was assigned to the Government Operations Committee for a hearing.

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