What you need to know about Boston’s voting initiatives – Boston University News Service
By Jack Thornton
Boston University Press Service
BOSTON – November 2 marks the election of Boston mayor in 2021, but the choice between city councilors Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George won’t be the only decision on the ballot. In addition to the concurrent city council elections, the ballot will contain three questions that were approved by Acting Mayor Kim Janey for voters to decide.
While only Question 1 is binding (meaning that if passed, the city charter amendment mentioned in the question will be enshrined in law), non-binding initiatives have historically had a major impact on Boston.
Question 1: Does this city have to approve the modification of the charter proposed by the city council summarized below?
Is this question binding: Yes
What does that mean: Currently, only the mayor has the power to draft a municipal budget in accordance with Section 48 of the Boston City Charter. While city councilors can reject a budget the mayor submits to them – or reduce funds allocated to a specific department – they cannot reallocate funds to different budget items and cannot write a budget themselves.
If the “yes” wins on November 2, the city’s charter would be amended to allow city council to adjust the distribution of funds in the mayor’s budget. The mayor could veto a budget submitted by city council, which could then be overturned by a two-thirds majority vote of councilors.
The amendment would also require the mayor and city council to establish an independent participatory budget office with an external supervisory board, with the explicit aim of “”[furthering] engaging the public with public spending, ”and creating“ a fair and binding decision-making process open to all Boston residents, ”according to the city.
The proposed amendment is supported by Councilors Lydia Edwards and Kenzie Bok as well as Acting Mayor Kim Janey, who said in a statement after approving the issue that the amendment “creates a way forward for the budgeting of the city that is more democratic, inclusive and transparent. ”
Among those opposed to the amendment is Pam Kocher, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, who argues that its passage could threaten “fiscal stability and Boston’s ability to provide basic services.”
Question 2: If a high voltage electrical substation were to be built at 400 Condor Street in East Boston, along Chelsea Creek, close to homes, parks, playgrounds, jet fuel storage and in a hazardous area. flood rather than another safe and secure location nearby, such as the non-residential Massport land at Logan Airport?
Is this question binding: No
What does that mean: In February of this year, the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Sitting Board unanimously approved energy company Eversource’s plan to build an electrical substation in East Boston. A substation is part of the electrical network that can transform energy from high voltage to low voltage or vice versa.
Chelsea Creek contains 66% of the heating oil used in New England, 79% of the gasoline used in Massachusetts and 100% of the gasoline used at Logan International Airport, according to Chelsea GreenRoots, a community environmental justice organization .
The proximity to the substation has led environmental groups such as GreenRoots to oppose its construction due to the pollution burden the community already faces from other industries.
Wu and Essaibi George both opposed plans to build the substation along Chelsea Creek. An Eversource communications representative did not respond to a request for comment.
Question 3: Should the current structure of the appointed school committee be changed to a school committee elected by the residents of Boston?
Is this question binding: No
What it meanss: In 1989, then-mayor Raymond Flynn proposed a city-wide referendum to change the Boston school committee from an elected body to all of its mayor-appointed members. That same year, the referendum was passed, and after a vote by state legislators in 1991, Boston’s first school committee appointed by the mayor took office in 1992.
Thirty years later, Boston will vote again in the popular election for members of its school committee.
Wu expressed support for committee members to be widely elected by Bostonians, while allowing the mayor to appoint members regarding a specific area of education, such as early childhood or vocational education.
Essaibi George does not support the return of the school committee to an elected body, but believes that the power of appointment should be shared between the mayor and members of the city council.