Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Boston City Council takes a stance on issues ranging from voting rights to income equality

Boston+City+Council
Kellyn Taylor

The Boston City Council took up consequential items at its meeting on Nov. 15. Discussion topics included expanding voting rights, welcoming a guaranteed income program, instituting an anti-bullying policy within the city council, and requesting a report on illegal firearms trafficking in Boston. 

Councilor Kendra Lara proposed an order to extend voting rights to all legal residents of Boston, allowing non-citizens who live in Boston the ability to vote in municipal elections. 

Lara shared words from her maiden speech to the council, which she said ring truer today than they did two years ago.

“In the United States, we believe in a government of the people by the people and for the people,” said Lara. “We the people have been narrowly defined, used to further the ruling class interest and deny civil rights to historically marginalized communities.”

Lara presented a study to the council, revealing that 68,000 immigrants in Boston possess legal status, indicating that they pay taxes and have spending power but cannot participate in the eligible vote process. Lara said this is “a violation of one of our foundational American principles.” 

“It’s important to give voice to folks locally who are providing and are subject to all manner of municipal decisions…they deserve a right to be heard on a local level,” said Councilor Ricardo Arroyo.

Councilor Michael Flaherty expressed that while he recognizes the importance of supporting the immigrant community in Boston, there are “strong and legitimate legal concerns that we need to be mindful of.” 

Flaherty cited past testimony on the issue by Veronica Serrato, an immigration lawyer, who expressed concern over certain unintended consequences. In particular, the risk individuals face when accidentally voting in federal elections, which would permanently bar them from receiving citizenship. 

“I just want to throw caution on the floor,” Flaherty said. “There is a slippery slope here.” 

In response, Lara stated that concerns similar to Flaherty’s will remain a focal point of her conversations moving forward. She highlighted that there are measures taken in other areas to address such concern, such as the implementation of separate ballots for noncitizens that do not include other elections.

The order was referred to the Committee on Government Operations, where a hearing will be scheduled to discuss the order before bringing it back to the full council. 

Councilor Lara offered an additional order for a hearing to discuss implementing a basic income program for families living below the poverty line in Boston. 

Lara invoked the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who referred to basic income programs as the ideal solution for alleviating poverty. 

“Almost sixty years later, guaranteed income programs have taken hold on every continent and in 50 cities across the United States,” said Lara. 

Lara continued by pointing out that in Boston, the child poverty rate is nearly 30 percent, and that the bottom 20 percent of households have an average annual income of $14,000. 

“We are failing children, and it is death by a thousand cuts,” said Lara. “We are making it hard for our most vulnerable constituents to thrive. “

Last year, Lara’s office, in collaboration with the city’s Economic Opportunity and Inclusion Department, established a Guaranteed Basic Income Coalition and initiated a pilot program designed to benefit at least 1,000 families in the city. 

“This is not just a conversation about money,” said Lara. “This is a conversation about economic security, public health, and defending those who have continued to struggle due to our inability to enact substantial, long-lasting change.” 

Councilors Ricardo Arroyo, Liz Breadon, Gabriela Coletta, Ruthzee Louijeune, and Brian Worrell signed onto the order. It was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, where a hearing will likely be held in the coming weeks. 

“When I took this office, I swore to stand for those who have not had the opportunity to stand for themselves,” said Lara. “This is just another step towards that goal.” 

Council President Ed Flynn proposed an order to establish an anti-bullying policy for the Boston City Council and council staffers. This order seeks to affirm that the City Council does not condone bullying in any form and aims to implement a set of workplace standards for councilors and staffers to abide by. 

“In order for the City Council to be effective, the council environment must be safe,” said Flynn. 

The City Council Committee on Rules and Administration conducted three distinct working sessions on this order before presenting to the full council for a vote. These sessions clarified that the city’s HR department does not have the same jurisdiction over elected officials as it does over city staff. Additionally, councilors would need to “buy in” to any rules and procedures put forward through this new policy. 

Ultimately, Flynn said this order “serves as a first step in addressing bullying in our workplace.” 

The order passed unanimously in an 11-0 vote. 

The council approved an amendment to the code of ordinances requiring the Boston Police Department to create a report on the trafficking of illegal firearms in Boston. 

The amendment is designed to help law enforcement and policymakers determine the most productive path forward to end illegal firearm trafficking. 

Councilor Brian Worrell stated that the ordinance would be a step towards addressing gun violence in Boston by educating the community on how firearms are entering the city. Specifically, Worrell noted that in Boston, reports show that the leading cause of death of kids aged one to seventeen is homicide.

“There are too many kids in our city who are dying from gun violence,” Worrell said. “There are too many parents worrying every time their kid leaves the house.” 

In the past, the council declared gun violence a public health emergency. Worrell stated that in his district, the city’s current approach is not providing relief to communities. He noted that this ordinance will help “find out exactly how the guns get into our neighborhoods and how the cycle will begin.”

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