Boston City Council looks to increase city’s accessibility

By Chloe Els, Staff Writer

The Boston City Council dedicated the bulk of its agenda toward examining accessibility in Boston at its meeting on Wednesday afternoon in City Hall.

One of the main points of discussion at the meeting was the looming threat of several Walgreens storefronts closing in Roxbury, Mattapan, and Hyde Park—predominantly BIPOC and working-class Boston neighborhoods.

Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson (D) introduced the issue by posing a resolution to request that Walgreens be prevented from opening any new stores in other Boston neighborhoods until the company agreed to postpone these closures.

In the meeting, Anderson said the inhabitants of these neighborhoods will be heavily impacted by the Walgreens closures due to a lack of nearby alternative pharmacies. 

These closings are disturbing because of Walgreens’ financial success, she continued. Walgreens is “hiding behind financial loss” despite more than doubling its income from the previous year.

As of 2022, Walgreens earned $4.3 billion continuing operations in comparison to $2 billion net income from the previous year. However, fourth quarter sales from continuing operations have decreased in 2022.

Councilors Gabriela Coletta (D), Julia Mejia (D), Ricardo Arroyo (D), and Ruthzee Louijeune (D) voiced their support for the proposed resolution.

“I think it’s reprehensible that a major corporation is telling a group of people ‘too bad, so sad’ and is putting profits first,” Coletta said.

Following this, Councilor Kendra Lara (D) opposed the resolution to prevent Walgreens from closing storefronts and proposed shutting them down.

“If Walgreens doesn’t want to serve our communities, I say we let them go, and we help local businesses expand,” Lara said.

City Council President Ed Flynn (D) concluded the discussion by delegating the task to the small business and professional license committee.

The Council then moved on to address bridging language gaps within the city.

Anderson put forth Docket 1394—an order for a hearing to address whether Boston Public Schools are adequately supporting the communication needs of English language learner students and their parents.

“ELL students make up a third of students in BPS,” Anderson said. “Many parents of ELL students do not speak English. All parents of BPS have the right to access information in their preferred method of communication.”

Louijeune added ELL students are often unable to achieve their full potential without the support of BPS in helping foster connections with their parents. 

“With the increasing immigrant population coming into our city, this is the right moment for us,” Louijeune said.

Mejia also voiced her support and said that while the conversation around student success in BPS often centers around the students, there needs to be conversation around their parents. 

“It’s about understanding the importance of education and how important it is for them to be fierce advocates for their children,” Mejia said.

The BPS budget is still in early stages, and many of the councilors expressed hope that a portion of the budget will be allocated towards strengthening the communication between BPS and ELL parents.

To close the meeting, the Council addressed concerns making public-facing televisions—for example, those in bars and restaurants—more accessible for people with hearing impairments.

Flynn proposed an ordinance that would require closed captioning on all public-facing televisions in the city. The Council referred Flynn’s proposal to the committee of government operations.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Nov. 16 at noon and is open to the public.