This week Future Boston Alliance got out of the office to take two trips to Boston City Hall. If we are to fully understand the way Boston works, it was necessary to stop solely researching it at a desk and go and experience it as well. FBA went to a City Council meeting this past Wednesday. Boston City Council meetings are open to the public every Wednesday at 12pm on the fifth floor of City Hall.
We walked into the Chamber to take our seats, immediately spotting Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson. Councilor Jackson covers District 7, otherwise known as the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury. We went over to introduce ourselves to him and tell him that we were from Future Boston Alliance. He was already familiar with us before this introduction because he was on a panel we hosted with Together back in the spring. This was the first time I was meeting Councilor Jackson. He was so friendly and interested in our organization that it really inspired me. He started discussing different things we could do or work together on. While talking to Tito, he introduced us to City Councilor At Large (Covering all Districts), Felix Arroyo as well as City Councilor At Large, Ayanna Pressley. They were both very friendly, charismatic and passionate people. We were able to take photos with Councilor Jackson and Councilor Pressley. I had been researching the City Council Members for weeks prior to this meeting, so it was exciting to meet these people in person. We then took our seats for the meeting to begin.
The meeting turned out to be very interesting. Not only did Tito stand up and recognize FBA in the meeting, but also City Councilor Maureen Feeney made a motion on a topic that interests Future Boston Alliance. Councilor Feeney began to speak about the cabs in Boston. She said there needs to be a commission or association to allow individuals, impacted by regulations, to own their own medallions. She made the statement that Boston doesn’t need more cabs; they need better service. One individual will own all the medallions and then lease them to cab drivers. This means that the cab drivers don’t own their own cab. They do not make the overall decisions, but are controlled by someone above them. If the laws were changed, cab drivers would be able to actually make a living. FBA is looking forward to this hearing.
Many of the City Councilors had their own cab stories they shared at the meeting. Tito Jackson stood up to tell us that his father was a cab driver; City Councilor Bill Linehan spoke about how he actually was a cab driver years ago. It was interesting to see how this cab issue had touched everyone differently. If you read my blog post from a few weeks ago, you will remember I had my own problems with the cabs here in Boston. It took me forever to find one to take me home with my friends in the rain after the bars closed.
Taxi laws in Boston haven’t changed since 1909. It is obvious, not only from this meeting but also from my own personal experiences, that it is the time for change. The owners of the medallions need to stop having ultimate power. Even City Council President Stephen J. Murphy stated, “I don’t think ultimate power in the hands of any individual is ever good”. Future Boston Alliance is looking forward to the committee hearing on this issue. We are in full support of this movement.
As if the City Council Meeting wasn’t an amazing experience in itself, we also visited the BRA. The BRA is also in City Hall on the ninth floor. BRA stands for Boston Redevelopment Authority. The BRA’s mission says they plan Boston’s future while respecting its past. The BRA guides physical, social, and economic change in Boston’s neighborhoods and its downtown to shape a more prosperous, sustainable, and beautiful city for all. They try to enhance neighborhoods within the city and deal with city planning. We were given the deluxe tour by Senior Planner Hugues Monestime, as well as a detailed history of different parts of Boston and how they’ve developed over the years. One of the most interesting things that we learned while at the BRA is that they don’t use any taxpayer money to fund their projects- they buy and lease properties and use the money they get from those ventures to fund their projects. When we took a tour of the BRA, we got a special treat. They have a room with a model of the city of Boston. This model features miniature buildings that make up the city of Boston but the model itself is anything but miniature- it takes up almost the entirety of a large room at the BRA. Before anything is built or changed, they plan it out on this miniature city- the buildings that are new or haven’t been built yet are a different color. You can see by the pictures how accurate it is. You can tell where they planned the big dig or the construction for the new buildings by the harbor. It was truly amazing to experience to take this tour. If you ever have the opportunity to visit the BRA- DO IT!
Written by Katie Kearns