Councilors outline priorities as committees are assigned
Vaccine protestors interrupt, but don’t stop meeting
As the Boston City Council returned to City Hall’s Iannella Chamber last week, the body was treated to an outburst from anti-mask and anti-vaccine protestors, while attempting to carve out some initial impactful legislation.
The councilors also staked out their committee assignments for the term. The Banner was able to catch up with a few, who shared some of their upcoming policy goals.
Council President Ed Flynn was the subject of much of last Wednesday’s outburst, with maskless protestors telling him, “Do your job” and demanding he pay attention to their demands of repealing Mayor Wu’s vaccine mandate for city employees. Flynn made the decision to move proceedings online and the rest of the agenda was discussed via Zoom.
When asked about the incident, Flynn, who represents District 2, recalled to the Banner that protestors have been outside of his home on many days, as they’ve been in front of Mayor Michelle Wu’s.
“Unfortunately, it’s a very difficult environment, but it’s also important to continue the work of the people at City Hall and to work for the residents, and that means being engaged, using Zoom to conduct meetings as well,” he said.
“We’re in a pandemic and it’s important that the city’s business continue, and residents are heard during this very difficult period in our country,” Flynn said, “but I have said when they were protesting out in front of Mayor Wu’s house that it’s inappropriate to protest out in front of someone’s residence. That should be done at City Hall or at the State House.”
In terms of his role as president, he said that he feels the committee assignments went smoothly and that good things are ahead.
“What’s important to me as the Council president is to provide positive leadership to the city councilors and to work closely with the mayor and the administration and to solve problems and address challenges that we face, including and especially the ongoing pandemic,” he said.
Chairing the Civil Rights and Immigrant Advancement Committee, at-large Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune said she’s looking forward to incorporating her own experiences into the role and working in conjunction with the city departments under the committee’s umbrella to advance issues of equity.
“As the daughter of immigrants, [I know] there’s a lot we can do to bring our immigrants into the fold,” Louijeune said, while working one of what is sure to be many late nights in her new office.
She said the city could be more supportive of English language learning classes, help migrants navigate government bureaucracy and coordinate with nonprofits and organizations doing immigration work and provide them with funding.
She added, “We are a resource-rich city. We just have to be more intentional about using our resources to attack some of the more pernicious problems that we have here in the city.”
Louijeune is also vice-chair of the Housing and Community Development Committee and the Government Operations Committee.
District 6 Councilor Kendra Lara also spoke with the Banner this week to discuss some of her goals as chair of the Environmental Justice, Resiliency, and Parks Committee and chair of the Housing and Community Development Committee.
Lara has progressive policies in mind for her committees. She said in a brief phone call that she wants to focus on advancing rent control and staving off gentrification in the city.
“We’re going to be looking at lifting the ban on rent control at the local level. We’re going to be looking at increasing support for renters, increasing protection for renters, increasing city subsidies for community land trusts and implementing anti-displacement zones,” she said, “in addition to continuing all of the work on housing that has been happening on the City Council, led by Senator [and former City Councilor Lydia] Edwards and Councilor [Kenzie] Bok.”
In terms of climate, Lara said she would like to make progress towards making Boston a Green New Deal city.
“What I’m excited about is thinking on a really granular level what that looks like policywise. What are the policies that we can put in place to help us get to our goal of carbon neutral by 2050 — which I think should be a little more aggressive goal of maybe by 2030 — and doing the work to really speed up the work we’re already doing?” she said.
Before the Council meeting was interrupted by protestors, District 5 Councilor Ricardo Arroyo told his colleagues that he hopes his resolution advancing an elected School Committee can be a priority in the first few months of the new session. A ballot question in November showed overwhelming support from voters for either a completely elected or hybrid elected/appointed model.
The Council’s Government Operations committee, headed by Arroyo, will hold a hearing to discuss controversial surveillance technology obtained by the Boston Police Department without approval by the Council or mayor. Arroyo and at-large Councilor Julia Mejia have been following surveillance technology and attempting to regulate it for over a year.