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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College's student newspaper

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College's student newspaper

The Berkeley Beacon

Boston City Councilors demand urgent action from city administration

Boston+City+Councilors+demand+urgent+action+from+city+administration
Photo: Kellyn Taylor

Boston City Councilors demanded urgent action and accountability from city administration at last week’s city council meeting. 

City council resolutions that garnered the most attention included declaring a state of emergency at “Mass and Cass” and a request to receive more information about the wheelchair ramp at Boston English High School. 

Mass and Cass Homelessness Crisis

Councilor Erin Murphy presented to the council two proposals that were sent to a subcommittee. The proposals addressed the homelessness crisis at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard. The first proposal called for a resolution for a state of emergency to be declared for the Mass and Cass area, while the second requested a hearing to be ordered to discuss the said crisis.

“All of us will be judged for how we handle this tragedy,” said Murphy. “We need to do something, and we need to get it started.”

Before the council meeting, Murphy and other supporting councilors wrote two letters to the Public Health Commission regarding the crisis. The letters garnered little response. The Public Health Commission has since declined to issue a declaration of emergency, stating that their resistance is rooted in the rationalization that the scope of the issue outweighs short-term measures.

“I reject that reason as flawed, short-sighted, and frankly ridiculous,” Murphy said.

In response, a vote was planned to be called by Murphy at the meeting but was instead put to committee, as Murphy requested more time to get further information on the issue. This decision was taken after information was revealed to her that an emergency waiver was already approved in October 2021 and has been used to make decisions regarding low-threshold housing. 

Despite the Board of Health having previously declined to declare a state of emergency, it appears one is already in place and has been actively used by the administration.

“The public deserves answers and I think myself, who wrote a letter along with three of my colleagues to the public health commission, deserve an explanation on why they didn’t tell us when we asked for a state of emergency that we were already in a state of emergency,” said Murphy.

It will be decided whether a vote will be taken on both issues later this week.

Boston English High School Accessibility Concerns

Councilor Murphy spoke about accessibility concerns at Boston English High School. 

Murphy recounted her participation last October, in Civic Engagement Day hosted by the Boston Commission for Persons with Disabilities. Over 100 Boston Public School special education students came to the City Council chambers to ask their elected officials questions and to bring their concerns to light. 

One Boston English High School student asked for help in moving the location for the wheelchair bus drop-off, as it was located at the trash and delivery door at his school. Additionally, he mentioned that a dumpster was in the way of the wheelchair ramp itself, making it extremely difficult for teachers and school staff to assist these students. 

Following this student’s remarks at Civic Engagement Day, Murphy looked the student in the eye and said to him, “I will make sure we get this fixed.” 

After Civic Engagement last year, Murphy initiated conversations with city administration and said she was assured that the incident would be looked into. She was later told that the Commission for Persons with Disabilities drafted a sketch of improvements to the entrance in question and that they would be taken into consideration. 

Murphy visited Boston English High School on May 23 of this year, and was promised that the ramp and entrance would be fixed by the time school was back in session. 

In late August, Murphy drove by this entrance to English High School, and none of the changes were made. 

Tearing up on the council floor, Murphy said, “It’s just hard to imagine this is still an issue.” 

Due to continued inaction, Murphy requested that the council receive all calls and text messages between city departments and employees relating to this ongoing issue. Murphy also requests all meeting minutes, drawings, blueprints, and plans relating to these changes be handed over to the council to move the needle forward on the school’s accessibility issue. 

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DJ Mara, Staff Writer
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