Responding to the 2020 Census

U.S. Census 2020

The last day to participate in the U.S. 2020 Census (regardless of response method) is quickly approaching and will be September 30. Please see below for instructions:

Instructions to Fill Out the Census

You should fill out the Census for the address where you spend most nights during the year.

Everyone at your address should be included on your Census form, including children (even newborns!), roommates that aren’t related to you, and those without official immigration status. 

All Census data is confidential and protected by federal law. Your personal information cannot be used against you by any government agency or court.

In the event you misplaced or never received your census ID, this guide will explain how you can still respond online without it.

You can also respond over the phone. For live phone assistance in 13 languages visit here

Due to changes by the Trump administration, the last day to participate in the U.S. 2020 Census (regardless of response method) will be September 30, for more on this news story see: NPR.

  • View District 8’s response by Census Tract on this map. 
  • If you’ve filled out your Census form and would like to do more, you can help remind your neighbors and volunteer to census phonebank with the City of Boston.

Voting Early in Person or by Mail for the 2020 State Primary (September 1, 2020)

VOTING EARLY

For the upcoming state primaries on Tuesday, September 1, the early voting period starts Saturday, August 22, through Friday, August 28. The deadline to register to vote is August 22, 2020.

To Vote Early you may do so in person or by mail. Please find instructions for each below:

VOTING EARLY IN PERSON

1. To vote early, you must be a registered Boston voter. Any registered Boston voter can vote at any early voting location. You don’t need an excuse or reason to vote early. Not sure if you’re registered? Find out your voter registration status.

2. Unlike traditional polling, you don’t have to vote at your assigned polling location. You may vote at the location that is most convenient for you. All ballot styles will be available at every early voting location. Find locations here.

VOTING EARLY BY MAIL

1. To vote early, you must be a registered Boston voter. Any registered Boston voter can vote at any early voting location. You don’t need an excuse or reason to vote early. Not sure if you’re registered? Find out your voter registration status.

2. If you want to cast your early ballot by mail for the state primary, you must submit an application before 12 p.m. (noon) on Wednesday, August 26.

You should receive an Early Voting Ballot in the mail with a set of return envelopes. You can mail the ballot or bring it in person to the address on the envelope.

If you haven’t received a vote by mail application please download, print out, and complete the early voting request application. You can scan your signed application and email it back to us at election@boston.gov, or fax it to us at 617-635-4483. You can also mail your completed application to:

Elections Department
1 City Hall Square, Room 241
Boston, MA 02201

You may also drop off your mail in ballot at a designated drop box at an early voting location.

PLEASE NOTE:

If you miss the early voting period, you must turn your ballot in to City Hall, Room 241, by 8 p.m. on Primary Day, September 1, 2020.

August 3, 2020: Letter to NU & BU Urging All-Virtual Reopening

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Dear President Brown and President Aoun,

In light of the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in MA, I urge you to switch to entirely virtual models for the fall semester at Boston University and Northeastern University, respectively. While the focus of university reopening plans has been on methods of controlling transmission once students are here, the greatest public health risk to Boston at the moment is the sheer influx of individuals from out of state. Each of your institutions draws nearly three-quarters of your undergraduate students from out of state; for the safety of the city, as many of them as possible should stay home.

No large city in America has the same scale of population swing as Boston in late August and early September. In this season of pandemic, that pattern poses a unique risk. We treasure our universities and all that your institutions contribute to our great city, from research to arts to the local economy. Your plans for the fall – in terms of testing capacity, dorm de-densification, cleaning protocols, and public health messaging – reflect a great deal of thought. Yet the best “harm reduction” strategy at this juncture is simply not to encourage your far-flung student bodies to return to Boston this month. Furthermore, your institutional plans for off-campus student communities are concerningly weaker; the seniors and other vulnerable populations who live in these neighborhoods must not be put at such elevated risk.

Therefore, in addition to a virtual teaching model, the safety of our neighborhoods requires the following measures for all students who do return:

  • Isolation housing. Isolation units must be provided to all off-campus students who test positive for COVID-19, not only to students living on-campus.
  • Quarantine Monitoring. All students should be required to register with the university their date of return to Boston, not just to campus, and confirm their plans to comply with the Governor’s quarantine requirements with the university. They should be required by the university to take a test upon initial arrival in the city – not simply prior to classes. Students returning to Boston who have not completed the requirements of quarantine or provided the requisite information should have their campus access deactivated and be unable to register for classes.
  • Off-Campus Monitoring. Violations of public health guidelines off-campus – especially the holding of large gatherings – should be directly linked to serious university discipline, including suspension and the inability to complete the semester. University personnel should be on call for rapid incident response, and equipped with address and contact information to quickly identify offending students.

I am writing to you as the leaders of the two institutions of higher education in my district that intend to bring the largest numbers of out-of-state and off-campus students back to the city. Again, I urge you to modify your plans for the safety of our entire shared community.

Sincerely,

Kenzie Bok, Boston City Councilor

District 8 (Mission Hill, Fenway, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, West End)

July 21, 2020: Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing

Dear Friends, 

I want to write to you today about a policy initiative I’m excited about: over the past few months, I’ve been working closely with Councilor Lydia Edwards and the BPDA, as well as researchers at MIT, to determine the best ways to incorporate the principle of “affirmatively furthering fair housing” into Boston’s zoning code. To affirmatively further fair housing, as defined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, means to take “meaningful actions to overcome historic patterns of segregation, promote fair housing choice, and foster inclusive communities that are free from discrimination”. Although the Fair Housing Act became federal law in 1968, its call to counter the history of segregation has remained mainly an empty promise. Councilor Edwards and I are interested in how we could incorporate a fair housing lens into all our city’s planning processes, so that we plan and develop a city that welcomes people from all backgrounds to every neighborhood.

As I learned while working on a project about Baltimore in my other life as a historian, the origins of zoning in the United States a century ago was a deliberate effort to construct a legal means of racial exclusion. By geographically separating types of housing stock, the architects of zoning sought to achieve what the Supreme Court in 1917 had banned them from doing explicitly: cordoning off areas of the city by race. This strategy took deliberate advantage of the centuries-long economic oppression of Black Americans and the poverty of recent immigrants, who were in no position to afford a single-family house and whose home workshops and businesses would be stymied by residential-only zones. 

Since then, although zoning has become a useful tool to preserve treasured historic resources, protect shared public goods, and balance the competing needs of all those living close together in any urban environment, its legacy of exclusion persists. In a city like Boston, its cumulative effects continue to segregate our neighborhoods. Because these injustices were a deliberate function of zoning, not an unhappy accident, they must also be undone deliberately. An amendment to the Boston Zoning Code that codifies the City’s moral and legal responsibility to affirmatively further fair housing is therefore overdue for both practical and symbolic reasons.

In order to affirmatively further fair housing, a zoning code amendment must not only prevent displacement of protected classes — low-income individuals, people of color, families, people with disabilities, etc. — from gentrifying neighborhoods, but it must also provide greater access for those who wish to move into “areas of high opportunity” from which they have been historically excluded through mechanisms of governmental and economic segregation. In partnership with Councilor Edwards and the AFFH Community Advisory Committee, I have drawn on my housing policy background to propose amendment language, formal policy documents, and additional staffing that would enable the BPDA to practically implement a fair housing zoning amendment within the processes of the agency.

Last week, the Council had a working session to discuss our zoning amendment. I also co-sponsored a hearing order to establish a municipal fair housing testing program in Boston. A recent study by Suffolk Law School confirmed the lived experience of many: black renters and voucher holders face an enormous amount of discrimination in the rental market. Getting housing vouchers to low-income families is only half of a solution, because often there still aren’t enough landlords willing to rent to voucher holders, or families, or people of color. We need to set up a testing program to determine where landlords and brokers are discriminating against renters in order to discourage that behavior. 

I’m excited to continue the process of shaping both this enforcement work and the zoning amendment to ensure that Boston can indeed affirmatively further fair housing.

Sincerely,

Kenzie

E Branch Closure Virtual Public Meeting

Join us for a virtual public meeting on Thursday, July 23 at 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM to learn about the upcoming E Branch closure and accelerated work to replace track and intersections from August 2 – August 29. For the safety of meeting attendees and the project team, this meeting will be hosted online.
 
Link to Join: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89092721072
Call-in: (312) 626-6799
Webinar ID: 890 9272 1072

Copley Square Farmers Market

The Copley Square Farmer’s Market is open Tuesdays and Fridays from 11AM to 6PM (11-11:30AM is reserved for seniors and vulnerable individuals).


The folks at Mass Farmers Markets have done a great deal to make the outdoor market socially-distant and safe; you can read more about the protocols, and optionally register your plan to visit, here.

Fenway Fair Foods

  • Come get a free bag of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Residents in need may arrange a no-contact home delivery.
  • Every other Wednesday, 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm July 15, July 29, August 12, August 26
  • 165 Park Dr, Boston, MA 02215
  • Fenway CDC thanks Fair Foods and Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral for collaborating in this project. For inquiries, please contact Jasmine Vargas at jvargas@fenwaycdc.org or call (617) 267-4637 x 13.

Summer Youth Jobs

  • Summer Youth Jobs, Boston residents ages 15-18, Get paid, have fun, and learn about the environment and the Emerald Necklace Parks!
    • ​The Green Team Summer Program combines, nature connection, environmental education, and fun. The program runs from July 13-August 14, 2020.
    • Crew members work during the week for a total of 15-20 hours. You must register on SuccessLink with Boston’s Department of Youth Engagement and Employment at youth.boston.gov.
    • Once registered, select the Emerald Necklace Conservancy under the Job Search tab. For more information or help with registering, contact Kent Jackson at kjackson@emeraldnecklace.org or 617-285-1671.
  • District 8 Youth Summer Interns, Boston residents aged 15 – 18,
    • Our Office is seeking energetic, positive, hard-working, organized, and creative individuals who share their commitment to serving our district, engaging the public, and fostering a sense of community.
    • District 8 Youth Interns will work on two group projects throughout the summer: Arts in District 8 and Mission Hill Senior Support. Interns will also work with community groups including the Muddy Water Initiative.
    • Register on SuccessLink with Boston’s Department of Youth Engagement and Employment at youth.boston.gov.
    • For more information or help with registering, contact Henry.Santana@boston.gov

Other Announcements

The Building Pathways Building Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Program is now recruiting for the fall training cycle which begins in September. For more information visit: http://www.buildingpathwaysboston.org

If you have a District 8 announcement you’d like to share, please email Emily.Brown2@boston.gov

Historian’s Corner: Kelleher Rose Garden

Musicians play outside the Kelleher Rose Garden at last year’s annual picnic

The Kelleher Rose Garden is located in the Fens and is home to over 200 varieties of roses. In 1910, when the Charles Bridge was dammed, the ecology of the Fens changed dramatically, from a salt-water marsh to a freshwater lagoon. Arthur Shurcliff, a student of Fredrick Law Olmsted, began making changes to the Fens in 1920 due to this ecological change. In 1930, he designed the Rose Garden. The Rose Garden was named after James P. Kelleher, the Boston Parks and Recreation Department’s Superintendent of Horticulture, in 1975. A prominent statue in the garden, is a replica of El Desconsol (Spanish, “Sorrow”) by Josep Llimona and was a gift from Barcelona, Spain to Boston in 1986. You can find it at the south end of the rectangular part of the garden.

The Kelleher Rose Garden is open 7AM to 5PM May through October.

Contact Our Office

Main number: 617-635-4225

For my staff’s emails and direct lines, click here

July 14, 2020: Public Health Hearing & Virtual Office Hours!

Dear Friends,

Last week, the Committee on Public Health hosted a hearing regarding the reopening of colleges and universities amid the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of the hearing order I filed with Councilors Breadon and Janey. If you’d like to watch the hearing, which was attended by the Mayor’s administration, local union leaders, and several university administrations, you can do so at the City Council Youtube page. We heard from Northeastern, Harvard, and Boston University about their plans to de-densify classrooms, housing, and other campus areas, as well as policies for physical distancing, cleaning, and testing.

I emphasized my concerns about the need for extreme public health readiness to handle the influx of students from all parts of the country at the end of the summer, especially given the concerning rise of COVID cases nationwide. I also stressed that we need our universities to take responsibility for all their off-campus students, not just the ones living in campus facilities; we can’t allow institutional priorities to endanger the health and safety of our neighborhoods. The universities have made a range of plans when it comes to in-person teaching and residential life; I urged them to remain flexible as the public health situation continues to shift, and to work in close partnership with City Hall, the Boston Public Health Commission, their workers and students, and their local neighbors to ensure that we keep our whole community safe.

We also discussed the universities’ efforts to push back against recent ICE guidance from the Trump Administration designed to make it difficult for international students to stay in the country if their coursework becomes remote. I regard this guidance as a cruel expression of federal hostility to immigrants, and a threat to Boston’s rich academic ecosystem; I am glad that MIT, Harvard, and Northeastern have filed a suit against it and Mayor Walsh has sent a letter of protest.

If you’d like to chat about these topics or anything else, I’m hosting virtual office hours with constituents! If you have questions, concerns, or issues you’d like to discuss, you can sign up using this form for a 15-minute slot. I look forward to meeting with you!

Once you complete the form, a staff member will reach out to you to confirm your time. I’ll be conducting office hours through phone and through Zoom, whichever you prefer. If none of the times listed work for you, note that on the form and a member of my staff will get back to you to set up a time.

Sincerely,

Kenzie

In the News 

Summer Youth Jobs

  • Summer Youth Jobs, Boston residents ages 15-18, Get paid, have fun, and learn about the environment and the Emerald Necklace Parks!
    • The Green Team Summer Program combines, nature connection, environmental education, and fun. The program runs from July 13-August 14, 2020.
    • Crew members work during the week for a total of 15-20 hours. You must register on SuccessLink with Boston’s Department of Youth Engagement and Employment at youth.boston.gov
    • Once registered, select the Emerald Necklace Conservancy under the Job Search tab. For more information or help with registering, contact Kent Jackson at kjackson@emeraldnecklace.org or 617-285-1671.
  • District 8 Youth Summer Interns, Boston residents aged 15 – 18,
    • Our Office is seeking energetic, positive, hard-working, organized, and creative individuals who share their commitment to serving our district, engaging the public, and fostering a sense of community.
    • District 8 Youth Interns will work on two group projects throughout the summer: Arts in District 8 and Mission Hill Senior Support. Interns will also work with community groups including the Muddy Water Initiative.
    • Register on SuccessLink with Boston’s Department of Youth Engagement and Employment at youth.boston.gov
    • For more information or help with registering, contact Henry.Santana@boston.gov

Other Announcements

  • With the support of the Mission Hill/Fenway Neighborhood Trust, Operation P.E.A.C.E. is offering FREE weekly activity kits and virtual programming for youth 4+ in the Fenway and Mission Hill neighborhoods! Anyone interested can email mallory@operationpeaceboston.org for more information.
  • Kaji Aso Studio 2020 Haiku ContestDue Date July 15, 2020
    • FIRST PRIZE is $300 from Kaji Aso Studio and a complimentary Certificate of Commendation from the Consulate General of Japan in Boston, SECOND PRIZE: $150, THIRD PRIZE: $75, SENRYU PRIZE: $75.
    • Entry Fee: $3 per haiku or per senryu
  • Count All Kids launched their National Art Competition, where children, with the help and permission of a guardian, can submit an artistic creation of their choosing that is inspired by the theme “Count All Kids in the 2020 Census.” Submissions are open until July 15.
  • The Building Pathways Building Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Program is now recruiting for the fall training cycle which begins in September. For more information visit:www.buildingpathwaysboston.org

If you have a District 8 announcement you’d like to share, please email Emily.Brown2@boston.gov

Historian’s Corner

The Parker Hill Library, in Mission Hill, was initially opened in 1907 as a small reading room in a rented space at 1518 Tremont Street. The Parker Hill Library became a Boston Public Library branch in 1924. Its current location, the Gothic building designed by Ralph Adams Cram at 1497 Tremont Street, was opened in 1931 by Mayor James Michael Curley. Cram designed many buildings in Boston, including All Saints’ Church in Dorchester and the John W. McCormack U.S. Post Office and Courthouse downtown. The “Parker Hill” name refers to the hill on which most of Mission Hill sits. The neighborhood was known as “Parker Hill” until the 20th century, when it became known as Mission Hill due to the association with Mission church. Today, the library’s front yard is known as Dolly’s Garden, in honor of Dolly DeSimone, the Parker Hill Children’s Librarian for over 20 years.

Contact Our Office

Main number: 617-635-4225

For my staff’s emails and direct lines, click here

July 7, 2020: Press Releases on Ways and Means Hearing Orders

Councilors Bok, Mejia, Arroyo, and Breadon file hearing orders to discuss more inclusive and imaginative approaches to city budgeting

Exactly six months into their first term on the Boston City Council, new Councilors Kenzie Bok, Julia Mejia, Ricardo Arroyo, and Liz Breadon filed two hearing orders this week to explore more inclusive and imaginative approaches to Boston’s budgeting process. 

“As a new Ways and Means Chair for the Council, I made numerous changes this year to increase the quality of participation in the City’s budget process, including by adding staff clinics and working sessions, posting responses to information requests online, and scheduling dedicated public testimony hearings. Over our first six months on the job, however, we first-year Councilors have learned that we need a deeper shift,” said Councilor Bok. “We need space for earlier budget conversations that can move from shifting marginal dollars to envisioning whole new programs, and we need a more robust role for the public beyond offering testimony on a mayoral proposal.” 

The “Order for a hearing regarding participatory budgeting in Boston”, introduced by Councilors Bok, Mejia, and Breadon, will explore models of participatory budgeting that could enable members of the public to take a more active and decisive role earlier in Boston’s budgeting process. 

“I am proud to be working with my colleagues to make the budget process more accessible to everyone — because this isn’t the mayor’s budget, this is the people’s budget. The budget is the Council’s most important responsibility, and it is our job to bring the people to the table,” Councilor Mejia said. “Because if we’re not at the table, we’re on the menu. We ran on a campaign of government accountability and civic engagement, and even filed a hearing on public hearings. We have always said that in order to realize community-driven goals, we need to involve the community. During the last few weeks of the budget process, we saw passion and activism that motivated and uplifted us, and we want to continue that through to next year’s budget.”

Breadon agreed, adding, “So many people feel excluded from the budget making process. Participatory budgeting is a positive way to directly engage with residents in order to bring more voices to the table when deciding how resources are allocated.”

Accompanying this will be an “Order for a hearing regarding zero-based budget visions for alternative community investment”, sponsored by Councilors Bok, Mejia, and Arroyo, which will adopt a “zero-based budgeting” approach and invite community visions of new programs and departments to tackle issues like racial equity, shared prosperity, public health, and public safety.

“Our budget is a reflection of our values,” said Councilor Arroyo. “‘Zero-based budgeting’ allows Boston to create a budget in partnership with our communities, ensuring our budgets better reflect our shared values and that addressing racial and socioeconomic inequities are at the forefront of our budgeting process and the allocation of our tax dollars.” 

Added Bok, “Creating space for community creativity and wisdom to feed into budget creation is the only way to enable a real transformation of how the City does its business and whom it serves. I’m very proud to have entered the Council alongside Councilors Mejia, Arroyo, and Breadon, and I’m excited about how we can shake up the budget process going forward.”

Councilors Bok, Campbell, Edwards and O’Malley file hearing orders to monitor effective reduction of police overtime and launch community discussion of Boston’s police contracts as policy documents 

Councilor Kenzie Bok, chair of the Ways & Means Committee, and Councilor Andrea Campbell, chair of the Public Safety & Criminal Justice Committee, filed two hearing orders this week to focus Council oversight on two areas with major impacts on Boston’s police budget: making planned cuts in police overtime spending a reality, and negotiating new police contracts consistent with good public policy. Councilor Lydia Edwards co-sponsored the hearing order on the police contracts, and Councilor Matt O’Malley co-sponsored the hearing order on controlling overtime spending.

“Police accountability includes budget accountability — which means the Council’s Ways & Means Committee needs to see these overtime cuts be made real. In this first hearing we will demand a plan, and then we will institute quarterly hearings to hold the Administration to that plan,” said Councilor Bok. “Yet to win the broader accountability our community is demanding, in terms of both disciplinary procedures and a reduction in the share of city funds dedicated to policing, we know we need change in the police contract. This is a contract that shapes the conditions for the use of deadly force, which makes it a public policy issue of the highest order. We are calling for this hearing to underscore that neither the Council nor the community can accept an extension of the status quo.”

“Transforming our policing system requires many reforms and the budget including our exorbitant overtime costs is one area in need of immediate reform,” said Councilor Andrea Campbell. “Many of the reforms residents, activists, and I have been pushing for must be initiated in collective bargaining discussions including disciplinary practices for officers, overtime minimums and regulations, and training requirements for officers within the police department. With thousands of Bostonians calling for change to our police union contracts the discussions cannot be done completely in private with no sense of the administration’s positions at the bargaining table. I am proud to sponsor these hearing orders to ensure actual police overtime savings and increase the level of understanding and transparency with respect to our police union contracts.”

The “Order for a hearing regarding police overtime” will ask the Walsh Administration and the Boston Police Department to present an active management plan for achieving the $12 million reduction in police overtime promised in the FY21 budget. The Council will also look at the history of how police overtime was reduced in past administrations, and will investigate what procedural or programmatic changes could lead to less need for overtime overall — including reducing or eliminating military exercises, halting the over-policing of black and brown men through disproportionate stops, and taking other steps to respond to public distrust, especially in communities of color.

“Across the country and in Boston, we are calling for transparency, accountability, and justice in our public safety and criminal justice system,” said Councilor Matt O’Malley. “Addressing the overtime budget is among the many systematic changes we must address, considering that its spending has drastically increased by 84 percent over the past decade. I look forward to taking a deeper review at the hearing including discussing removing any policies that encourage the use of overtime as a normal rather than an unusual practice, addressing the four-hour minimum for court details, and implementing an accountability mechanism for reviewing payroll data.”

The “Order for a hearing regarding police contracts as policy documents” will focus on the public policy issues at stake in Boston’s police contracts, which are all up for renegotiation this year. To secure police accountability and transparency will require changes to these contracts, as will efforts to achieve an overall shift in departmental resource allocations. From disciplinary procedures to overtime rates, many of the issues discussed in the press in recent weeks are dictated by provisions of these police contracts, so Councilors will bring them under public scrutiny. 

“I am so excited to help lead this conversation with Chairwoman Bok,” said Councilor Lydia Edwards.  “This is really the first time the City Council is approaching the police contract with a policy and best practices approach. When people talk about reforming and reimagining the police, we must start with the contracts.”

Councilor Bok agreed that this is an important and appropriate way for the Council to weigh in on the new police contracts. “While the Council cannot sit at the negotiating table, we can inform the negotiation by hosting a public hearing to discuss and hear from advocates about the many critical issues at stake, and by broadcasting the Council’s policy expectations about these contracts before they are agreed and sent to the Ways & Means Committee for funding. The demands for police accountability that we are hearing from black and brown activists are urgent but long-standing; we cannot and will not approach these contracts as business-as-usual.”


Councilors will provide further remarks on this important effort at this week’s Boston City Council meeting on Wednesday July 8, 2020 which begins at 12PM. Watch: https://www.boston.gov/departments/city-council

June 25, 2020: The Budget and The Work Ahead

Dear Friends,

Yesterday the City Council voted to pass the City’s revised FY21 budget. As you know, I’m serving as the Council’s Ways & Means Chair; I wanted to write about that decision and what comes next. 

This year’s budget process has come in the cauldron of COVID-19, collective fury about police brutality, and the obvious role of systemic racism in every aspect of our collective life. Over the past weeks, the City Council has heard many calls to reduce and reallocate the City’s police budget in order to create alternative institutions of community care and invest more in communities of color. In mid-June, the Mayor reallocated $12M from police overtime to other purposes, but advocates have called for $40M, and a real participatory leadership role in building the alternatives. 

The difficult question that came before the Council yesterday was whether to accept the Mayor’s revised budget, or to go into a 1/12th budget, where this year’s departmental allocations extend into the new fiscal year. Because both personnel contracts and other costs are scheduled to go up on July 1, under a 1/12th budget many departments would begin the process of laying off some staff or cutting services in order to close their budget gap. We also would not lock in any of the new allocations in this year’s budget, including the $12M reallocated away from police.

To me, risking the loss of those new allocations was unacceptable. This year’s operating budget has by far the highest allocations ever for affordable housing and public health. It includes new money for food access, immigrant advancement, and language access that will help the City build programs that are actually adequate to our huge needs on those fronts. We are also finally getting funding for an urban forestry plan, which will allow accelerated tree planting in areas of the city with greatest need.

The affordable housing funds in particular are personal for me. Since 2015, I have been fighting – first as an activist myself with GBIO and MAHA – for the One Plus Boston mortgage program, to help first-time homebuyers get a foothold in Boston, especially homebuyers of color. I was there when that program started as a glimmer in our eyes in church basements; it becomes millions of dollars for the first time in this budget. Then in my years at the Boston Housing Authority, I pushed hard on the idea that the City should help financially support the renovation of public housing, and the construction of new deeply-affordable housing. I got money in the budget for the first time for those purposes last year, and this year’s budget contains more. I have also been an outspoken proponent of the Acquisition Opportunity Program (AOP), through which the city can enable affordable operators or even tenant cooperatives to buy whole apartment buildings at risk of being sold – a program which expands in this budget. And I’m excited about how a major initiative of my predecessor Josh Zakim, a city-level housing voucher program that becomes real for the first time in this budget, can best help families left behind by the state and federal voucher programs. 

Some of my Council colleagues felt that we could temporarily shift to a 1/12th budget in order to pressure the Mayor, reach a budget with even more money for these priorities in a couple of weeks, and contain the fallout for key city departments. As I talked with colleagues, I did not find that we had a collective counterproposal or feasible timeline to make that plausible. My analysis was that if we went to a 1/12th budget we were instead very likely to end up there permanently for the year. I am expecting the State to lower the amount of money it sends to us. As soon as it does that officially, we would have to decrease our budget forecasts. If that happens after we pass a budget with new community-focused investments, we can make collective decisions about which departments to trim or when to pull money out of reserves to cover the gaps. If it happens beforehand, we don’t have those options; we just have to reduce. I am not willing to end up with a budget that is lower on every front I have been pushing to expand and higher on policing. I am also not willing to precipitously lay off city workers in the middle of a pandemic when it can be avoided.

One further factor complicates the picture: police budget cuts can by law be overridden by the Administration in the interest of public safety. So without a structural change to the police contract, deeper cuts to that department are likely to be illusory. If we make them in theory but not in practice, we will take them out of reserves, which will further reduce funds for everything else we’re trying to pay for. That would be a false victory, which isn’t something I’d accept.

For that reason, I laid out a plan for how I’m going to use the Ways & Means Committee to drive a real 10% reduction in the police budget over the next year. This will start with a hearing on how the $12M cut in police overtime will actually be achieved, to be followed by quarterly hearings to closely track it all year. Since we seem to have overspent our overtime budget by about $8M this past year, we’re really probably trying to achieve $20M in savings on that front.

But the real cost drivers of overtime and the police budget overall are locked up in the police contract, which is up for renegotiation this year. The bargaining has to happen between the Administration and the unions, but the public policy conditions and expectations for what will be acceptable can be set by the Council, which has to approve any final agreement. We will hold a Ways & Means hearing on that contract as a policy document in the coming weeks, and follow it up with further work to set those expectations.

We will then also hold a hearing on alternative visions for reallocating police funding, and another on how we can build more real participatory budgeting into our process. I heard from advocates a deep frustration with the limitations on public testimony at the end of a hearing as a method for public engagement, and I’d like to assess what mechanisms would be more meaningful—even within the limiting constraints of our current City Charter. 

I am outlining this path because I intend for us to achieve a reduction in the police budget in a way that is structural and permanent. Over my time in office, I also intend for us to shift the whole city budget towards more funding for affordable housing and public health. Voting to pass yesterday’s new high-water marks for those areas was part of achieving that shift. 

I know that some of you will disagree, and I look forward to talking further. As a new City Councilor, I am deeply conscious of my obligation to weigh all aspects of hard decisions like this one about the budget, to use my best judgment, and then to give my constituents as thorough an explanation as can. Most of all, I’m cognizant of all the work that lies ahead.

Sincerely,

Kenzie

See my full remarks from yesterday here.

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Title: Boston City Council – Committee on Ways and Means: Planned Hearings for July, August, & September 2020 

#1 Police overtime (quarterly hearing in FY21) – How do we reduce it and keep it down?

#2 Police contracts as policy documents – Strategies for accountability and transparency 

#3 Alternative budgets for community care – Reallocating police funds

#4 Participatory budgeting for Boston – Going beyond testimony

Footer: Councilor Kenzie Bok – District 8  

Councilor Bok’s District 8 Newsletter: June 8, 2020

A Note from Kenzie

Dear friends, 

Firstly, thank you for your continued civic and community engagement. I’m grateful, as always, for our community in District 8 and beyond. A longer newsletter update will be sent out next week, but here are some timely and important items:

  • On Friday, we announced an additional meeting of the Ways and Means Committee which will take place tomorrow, June 9 starting at 10AM. You can watch here. For more information on where we are in the FY21 Boston City Council budget process and how to get involved, please see below. 
  • We will be distributing boxes of food to Mission Main residents on Thursday, June 11th, from 12:30 to 2:30pm. Masks and gloves will be provided for all volunteers. Please sign up here if you are interested in volunteering. The deadline to sign-up is Wednesday, June 10th at 1:00pm.  
  • Community PSA: We’re asking everyone to spread the word and ask friends and neighbors to refrain from setting off fireworks. The noise is traumatic and disruptive for residents, and has been a significant issue across the city over the past few weeks. 

With thanks,
Kenzie

Boston City Council’s FY21 Budget Process

Some info for folks on the Boston City Council FY21 budget process and where we are:

  •  April 8: Mayor Walsh proposed FY21 Budget.
  • April 13 – May 28: The Ways and Means committee hosted 27 hearings on proposed FY21 budget with public testimony, including 3 hearings dedicated to public testimony.
  • June 3: Council took 1st positive vote (out of 2 required) on FY21 capital budget, passed limits on several revolving funds, rejected operating budget without prejudice.
  • Currently, Mayor Walsh’s Administration is reviewing the Council and public’s input.
  • TOMORROW June 9: The Ways and Means Committee is hosting a meeting for Councilors to discuss the budget and hear public testimony. Please see below on how to share your thoughts and learn more. A text description follows.
  • Questions and comments about Boston’s FY21 Budget?
    • You can testify via Zoom during the meeting (Tuesday 6/9 at 10AM). If you would like to do so please email Shane Pac at shane.pac@boston.gov
    • The deadline to submit a two minute video has passed.
    • You can also submit written testimony by emailing ccc.wm@boston.gov
      • Written testimony received prior to the meeting will be shared with all Councilors in advance of the meeting. Written testimony received after will also be made a part of the meeting record.
    • Click here to learn more about the City Council budget process.
    • Testimony is accepted in all languages and will be translated after for the Council.
  • During the week of June 15: Mayor Walsh resubmits operating budget for City Council review and the City Council begins reviewing the resubmission.
  • On June 24: the Council decides whether to approve the FY21 operating budget and takes the second vote on the FY21 capital budget.

Some budget vocab:

  • Revolving funds are used for programs that take in & expend money for a particular purpose.
  • The capital budget covers funding for infrastructure investments, including schools, comm centers, parks, streets, and bridges. It involves borrowing and requires two 2/3 votes.
  • The operating budget covers day-to-day expenses for City departments including staff, equipment, contractual services, supplies, and materials. 
  • The BPS budget is a separate operating budget docket from the rest of the City departments; the Council must vote on both.

Justice for George Floyd, and for all

Dear Friends, 

The Boston Common is in my district, and I was at the protest Sunday night in memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others. I saw firsthand our inspiring young people of color leading a powerful peaceful demonstration, calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism. I’m so grateful for them, their bravery and clarity.

Last night I heard from several of their mothers, who serve on the board of the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance (MAHA) with me, working to close the racial wealth gap. (Donate here or below). I heard the pride and fear and fury mingled in their voices, at what their children risk to cry out truth, and what they risk to let them go downtown in a season of pandemic. 

Their witness underscored my own anger at the MBTA for closing Park Street Station on Sunday night, trapping too many young people on the Common just as they were trying to head home. Between 9 and 10:30pm I had to give countless groups directions to North & South Station, long walks that didn’t feel safe. We cannot order people to disperse and give them no secure way to do so. 

Meanwhile, with such a sizable crowd stranded on the Common, it seemed we weren’t able to speedily and effectively redeploy police resources to where opportunistic bad actors were looting in a premeditated, semi-professional way. This led to significantly delayed responses at Copley Mall, Newbury Street, and elsewhere. 

Yesterday morning in District 8 was sad, angry, and hard; I was out by 6AM sweeping up glass off the sidewalk, discussing how to safely remove graffiti from our beloved historic monuments, and tallying broken shop windows alongside my count of vacant storefronts on Boylston, Newbury, and Charles St. Our small businesses are already reeling so badly from the closures caused by COVID-19; they need our help, now and in the weeks and months ahead, to keep from being swallowed up by this rolling disaster.

But I have no patience for the framing of a tradeoff here between justice and order, from President Trump or anyone. What our young people are calling for – an end to police brutality & systemic racism – is urgent, an emergency even mid-emergency, and cannot be discredited. 

“I tell you, if they were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Kenzie