By Lauren Bennett
Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz came to the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council monthly meeting on April 23, where she talked about her year in review as well as what’s coming up on her legislative plate.
Chang-Diaz said that the biggest thing that happened during the last legislative session was the criminal justice reform bill. She also fought for an increase in funding for charter schools, as well as paid family medical leave, for which she said the “buildout is happening right now in terms of strategy,” and called it a “huge deal.” She also said that this is in a bundle with raising the minimum wage to $15 over the next couple of years.
Coming into this legislative term, Chang-Diaz said she is still very much involved in education legislation, despite no longer being the chair of the Education Committee. She said this “was not a requested change,” but “committee assignments don’t restrict you from working on things.” She is committed to working on the Education Promise Act.
Chang-Diaz is also working on carbon pricing and solar equity legislation, as well as a new rule to require online publication of committee level votes for greater transparency. Currently, committees can choose whether or not they want to make that a rule within their committees, but Chang-Diaz has made it one in hers, she said. Other legislation includes the Higher Education Equity Act, as well as a gun trafficking bill that would prevent anyone from purchasing more than 15 guns per year.
She is the new chair of the committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities, and she said she plans on overriding the governor’s veto on the policy that limits families on welfare from receiving additional welfare for kids conceived while the family is on welfare.
She’s also dong a lot of work around adoption and foster care, as well as chairing the committee on Cannabis Policy—she said she wants to make sure that interests of people from low income communities and people of color are heard.
Housing and Development Committee
JPNC member Carolyn Royce gave an update on the Housing and Development Committee meeting, at which she said they heard from the Boston Clean Energy Coalition. “We have an initiative to think of guidelines for sustainable housing construction,” Royce said. She said the presentation was about net zero carbon and how all electric buildings can increase energy efficiency as well. Boston has a goal to be carbon neutral by 2050, which means that all new buildings now have to be built for net zero carbon, and then older buildings would have to be retrofitted, Royce said.
Also on their agenda was the Shattuck Campus planning, as the committee hopes to “serve as a venue for ideas that we can communicate to the state,” Royce said. There was a suggestion for an easement through the park that the city would maintain that would create a pathway close to Forest Hills to reinstitute a connection that used to be there, connecting two parts of the park.
“We’re not hearing a lot of specifics,” Royce said. She said there are a lot of people who want to see the land returned to Franklin Park, but in the meantime as the state solidifies a plan, “there should be suggestions about how the park could be integrated into whatever is built there,” she said. The next Housing and Development Committee meeting is May 21.
JPNC member David Baron reported that the Zoning Committee met on April 3 and April 17. A large topic of discussion was 1 Rockwood Terrace, which is a single family house proposed for a vacant lot. Baron said that the JHA Zoning Committee “had a number of suggestions for the design and size of the house,” and this house would be the “biggest and widest house on the street,” which concerns a number of residents. Baron said that this project has an assigned Zoning Board of Appeal date of April 30, and he believes that the developer “needs to get the message” that the building needs to be less wide, but it could be deeper.
The JPNC Zoning Committee voted to deny this application with the proviso that if the developers notify them before the April 30 ZBA date that they are going to defer, the committee will hear another proposal. Baron said they want to put in a letter urging them to deny, but it would have to be filed by the end of the week.
The next Zoning Committee meeting has a packed agenda, and will be held on May 1.
Public Service Committee
JPNC member Michael Reiskind reported that the Public Service Committee met on April 2, where they developed the annual list of streets needing repair, as well as crosswalks and bike lanes that need repainting. They also had another discussion about bike safety, and in May, someone from the Boston Transportation Department will be at the meeting to discuss protected bike lanes. Along with this issue, there will be a licensing hearing on the agenda for the May 7 meeting.
Education Ad-Hoc Committee
JPNC member Trevor Wissink-Adams reported that the Education Ad-Hoc Committee met on April 16 with “a light agenda and light attendance.” He said they are still focusing on working with Boston Public Schools on local registration for this fall, and hope to approve a program for this fall’s incoming students. He said that they are also working on getting an update on BuildBPS for next winter about where the initiative stands after a year of implementation. “The committee will try to build momentum on this,” he said. The next meeting is May 21.