Parking tickets, accessibility vetted at City Council meeting
Councilor Julia Mejia proposed a hearing order regarding cutting parking ticket costs for low-income families
At the Feb. 26 City Council meeting, Councilor Julia Mejia proposed a hearing order regarding cutting parking ticket costs for low-income families. She issued a hearing order to discuss possibilities for the tickets to be income-adjusted.
“We have an opportunity to really explore how we can make parking tickets a little more reflective of the financial situation of a lot of our residents,” she told the Council.
Mejia noted that when she first assumed office as a city councilor, she realized that she had a debt to the city: $159 worth of parking tickets. She said that she began to hear stories of people who struggled to make ends meet as they received more and more parking tickets.
“Some folks were debating whether or not they were going to pay for food on the table or a parking ticket,” she told reporters after the meeting. “And I think that, if we’re really serious about removing barriers for folks who are vulnerable [due to] financial disparities in Boston, then we need to explore how we can look at it from parking tickets.”
Growing up, Mejia’s family was on welfare, she said, and she had to show documentation to prove her family’s income. She noted that income-adjusted parking tickets could be looked at on a sliding scale, where poorer families pay less. She also suggested a layaway plan so that families don’t have to pay all at once.
“I’m not going to say that parking tickets are going to resolve the issues of poverty,” she said, “but I think it’s an opportunity for us to look at how we can lose some of these systemic barriers that keep people who are living in poverty, in poverty.”
Councilor Lydia Edwards noted other parking barriers that disproportionately impact low-income families, from towed cars to online transaction fees while paying a fine. She said that these things should be considered first and foremost.
Councilor Matt O’Malley expressed hesitation regarding Mejia’s order. He proposed alternative ways to help families avoid these fees, such as other forms of transportation.
“I think a better approach might be looking at some costs as it relates to free public transportation,” he said.
The topic turned to transit equity when Mejia and Councilor Michelle Wu offered an order for a hearing discussing the status of late-night MBTA service.
“Most of all, people need stability,” said Wu. “And they need whatever we put before them to be viable, affordable and accessible.”
Councilor Kenzie Bok said that the original decision to stop running the late-night T was a “rushed and non-consultative” process.
“Four years ago, I was one of only a handful of people who managed to actually attend the extremely hastily scheduled hearings that the T held, three in a 24-hour period, before cancelling the late-night service,” she said.
Many people were unable to attend the hearings, she said, and the only people who could make it out were people with more flexible schedules.
Edwards said that many people lose three hours of work pay when they take an Uber home. She noted that there are plans to include late-night ferry service in East Boston.
Councilor Frank Baker also acknowledged Boston’s transportation services by noting the daily struggles facing taxi drivers. Many of these taxi drivers are forced to compete with new ride-share industries like Uber or Lyft.
“I think we have an opportunity here to think differently about this industry, give them a little bit of support, give them a little bit of help and try to rebuild that taxi industry,” he said.
Councilor Ed Flynn added that many immigrants are cab drivers. “Especially for our immigrant community, cab drivers really help make our city, help strengthen our city,” he said, later adding “There should be a place in Boston for our cab drivers.”
Mejia and Edwards also introduced a hearing on public hearings, in order to ensure greater government accessibility and accountability. Mejia said that it was an opportunity for people to become more engaged with what’s going on daily at City Hall.
Edwards acknowledged data on which communities call the city the most. Phone calls can be traced back to certain zip codes, giving officials one way of deciphering which neighborhoods felt most comfortable calling the city. The greatest number of calls, she said, came from Bok’s district: Disctrict 8, which includes Beacon Hill.
“Very few were coming from East Boston, and fewer came from Mattapan,” she said.
Edwards later noted that the Council meetings themselves should be more accessible, as Wednesday morning is an inconvenient time for many to attend a meeting. She proposed online meetings so that people across the city could watch and submit questions.
Other council news included Edwards and Councilor Liz Breadon issuing a hearing regarding zoning variances, as well as orders focusing on land protection and environmental conservation.
Breadon, a self-proclaimed environmentalist, said that her Allston-Brighton district has the least amount of green space in the city. She said that the city needs to examine what restrictions exist for development projects.
“We are in the midst of an unfolding environmental disaster,” she said. “Therefore, it is imperative that we take all necessary measures to protect and preserve the integrity of these vital resources which are so essential to the quality of our life.” Wu later offered a resolution in support of the 100% renewable energy act.
Flynn wrapped up Black History Month by recognizing the lives of African American veterans and their stories of “sacrifice, hard work [and] service” with a resolution acknowledging these achievements.
Edwards added that her great-uncle served in North Korea, and he died on Heartbreak Ridge. She said that she only discovered this recently, after finding letters from a fellow soldier that served with him.
“My uncle could not enjoy the same liberties and freedoms that he was dying for,” she said.