Council Holds Hearings Regarding New Trust Fund, Funding for Infrastructure

The City Council Committee on Ways and Means held a series of hearings on Monday afternoon, including one regarding the Make Boston Shine Trust Fund and one regarding the appropriation of funds for transportation infrastructure in the city.

According to the docket, the Make Boston Shine Trust Fund “will further promote the public health, safety, convenience and welfare by encouraging civic engagement, unity, and a sense of neighborhood pride and ownership by supporting residents and community group in service projects to beautify.”

Drew Smith, head of treasury for the City of Boston, said that they’re “not breaking new ground here” as far as the structure of the trust. He said the trust looks similar to trusts that are already established in the city.

Jerome Smith, Mayor Walsh’s chief of civic engagement, said that the creation of this trust would allow for the continuation of the work of the Love Your Block program, which provides mini-grants and neighborhood cleanups to encourage residents to take care of their neighborhoods.

Jerome said that with this trust, they are looking to set up community tool sheds where residents can call his office and get access to the tools. This would cut the cost on tools for the neighborhoods so they can use money for other things such as seeds or plants. Any resident can apply for funds for beautification projects; Jerome said that everything is on the City of Boston website. There are also paper applications available.

“We don’t have requirements as to what the projects have to be,” Jerome said. He added that it is important for the city to look at what projects can cost so they can get the most bang for their buck. He also said he would like more city-councilor involvement in this process so the word can be spread to every neighborhood.

Jerome also said that they are working on getting groups who use these spaces (such as kids who play soccer on a field) to participate in community service projects to beautify the spaces so they have a sense of pride and ownership in the spaces they use.

City Councilor Ed Flynn said that people across the city think “very highly” of the Love Your Block program, and said that it is “great for the city to build this type of confidence in their neighborhoods.”

“You’re bringing people together and that’s what this city is all about,” he said.

Funds for Impact of Transportation Network Services on Transportation Infrastructure

A second hearing was held regarding the appropriation of $6.5 million from the City’s Capital Grant Fund to address the impact transportation network services (such as Uber and Lyft) one municipal roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure.

City Budget Director Justin Sterritt said that the $6.5 million appropriation represents both the Fiscal Year 2018 payment and an estimated FY19 payment from the state’s 10 cent ride assessment for rides originating in Boston.

Since 2017, state law regulates the ride share industry and assessed a 20 cent fee per ride, with the state keeping 10 cents, and the other 10 going back to the originating municipality.

“Fudning for this assessment was collected and deposited into the city as a special revenue and needs to be appropriated in order to spend on critical transportation projects throughput the city,” Sterritt said.

According to the state law, the money must be used to address impacts of these services on city assets and infrastructure, he added. The city will begin using these funds in FY19, and will be incorporated into a larger public works and transportation department capital discussion that is forthcoming, if passed by the City Council.

“There is a sunset on this funding, so we really targeted the resources towards either one time uses to capital—particularly go Boston 2030 projects,” he said. “We want to make sure that we’re mindful that we don’t use this funding in perpetuity because in five years it will go away.”

Chief of Streets Chris Osgood said that in 2017, 64 million rides from ride-share services originated in Massachusetts. About 34.9 million of those rides originated within the City of Boston, which means that the City of Boston received $3.4 million in 2017 from the assessment.

Osgood said the money will be spent in several ways. “Our plan is to invest into those things that our residents told us were high priorities,” he said. $2 million will be invested in sidewalk repair, and $1.6 million for bike infrastructure improvement to expand the bike program and improve biking in the city. They are also looking to spend a million dollars on improving such things as roadway markings and crosswalks.

A small portion of the funding would also be used for grant funded positions, including a traffic signal engineer, some civil engineers who could help projects move faster, and planning positions that would help focus on some of the major corridors in the city,” Osgood said.

“It’s crazy the amount of vehicles that are on the streets,” said City Councilor Frank Baker. “We have major infrastructure improvements that we need to do.

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