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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

The Boston City Council: A (School) Year in Review

Boston+City+Clerk+Alex+Geourntas+reads+aloud+a+docket+at+the+councils+weekly+meeting+held+on+Wednesday%2C+April+10+in+the+Christopher+Iannella+Chamber+at+Boston+City+Hall.+%28DJ+Mara%2FBeacon+Staff%29
DJ Mara
Boston City Clerk Alex Geourntas reads aloud a docket at the council’s weekly meeting held on Wednesday, April 10 in the Christopher Iannella Chamber at Boston City Hall. (DJ Mara/Beacon Staff)

Over the course of the 2023-24 academic year, the Boston City Council met for a total of 22 weekly meetings held each Wednesday at noon at City Hall. 

Some meetings covered more routine business, whereas others contained more spirited debates. Additionally, an election cycle changed the council’s makeup four months into the school year.  

Each of the following previously reported Beacon stories is essential to reviewing Boston politics—including funding, resolutions for the city’s response to conflicts, recognizing significant holidays, and more.

Strife between councilors and city administration: Sept. 27, 2023

Councilor at-large Erin Murphy expressed her dissatisfaction with the city administration’s response to the Mass and Cass crisis. 

Murphy proposed two resolutions. The first was a declaration of a state of emergency at the Mass and Cass site, and the second was a hearing to unpack the crisis further.  

In response to the crisis, Murphy demanded action from her colleagues on the council and in the administration. 

Councilor at-large Erin Murphy speaks to the council floor at the City Council meeting held on Wednesday, March 6. (DJ Mara/Beacon Staff)

“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.”

While there have not been specific updates on these resolutions, a recent city ordinance allows police officers to remove tents and other temporary structures from public property. 

Division over BRIC funding: Oct. 4, 2023 

Councilors were divided on whether to allocate more than $850,000 in grant funding to the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC). 

Established in 2005, BRIC is tasked with reducing crime and terrorism in the region by sharing intelligence with local, state, and federal law enforcement partners. In recent years, the system has come under increased scrutiny and criticism, some of which were aired on the council floor. 

Votes on the various BRIC grants fell along racial lines, as the additional funding passed with seven white councilors voting in favor and five councilors of color voting against. Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson was absent at the time of the vote. 

“We are moving backward on police reform,” former District 6 City Councilor Kendra Lara said.

“The [BRIC] database has been proven to be discriminatory toward the black and brown community, which makes up a majority of my district,” District 4 City Councilor Brian Worrell said.  

Tensions over Israel-Hamas conflict: Oct. 18, 2023 

In response to the Israel-Hamas conflict, councilors Michael Flaherty and Fernandes Anderson proposed resolutions taking starkly different stances on the conflict. 

Flaherty offered a resolution in support of Israel and its people, in addition to “those innocent Palestinians suffering as a result of the terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas.” 

In response to Flaherty’s resolution, Fernandes Anderson proposed a resolution to call for an immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Israel and occupied Palestine.

Both resolutions were objected to, which terminated the discussion on the matter, and the resolutions were sent to the committee of the whole.

After Fernandes Anderson gave final remarks, a group of protesters left the chamber while chanting “Stop the Genocide.” 

Councilors consider renaming Faneuil Hall: Oct. 25, 2023 

The City Council passed a resolution 10-3 to rename Faneuil Hall, one of Boston’s most famous landmarks, Beacon staff writer Iselin Bratz reported. 

The resolution, proposed by Fernandes Anderson, seeks to address anti-Black symbols. Faneuil Hall is currently named after Peter Faneuil, an 18th-century slave owner and trader. 

Boston City Counselor Tania Fernandes Anderson poses with #CHANGETHENAME supporters after a successful 10-3 vote on the proposed resolution at Boston City Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023.

Councilors Frank Baker, Flaherty, and Ed Flynn voted against the measure, largely citing historical concerns and that this mechanism was not under the council’s purview. 

Fernandes Anderson, however, noted that symbols and representation matter. 

“Symbols are extremely important because as we look at them, we are told that we are less than because racist, slave traders, rapists, looters, disgusting savages actually get to be honored with a name,” Fernandes Anderson continued. “Changing the name Faneuil Hall would not erase history, but enhance our sense of history and place history in its proper perspective.”

Need for collaboration and cultural shift in upcoming term: Jan. 31, 2024

The City Council welcomed four new members this January after Councilors John FitzGerald, Enrique Pepén, Benjamin Weber, and Henry Santana prevailed in their elections last November. 

In separate interviews with the Beacon, Pepén, Weber, and Santana all emphasized the need for collaboration, cordiality, and a cultural shift in the current term to achieve their policy goals and objectives as a legislative body. 

“I really want us to get to know each other and be able to collaborate,” said Santana. “We have a great group that really gets along … and I think we’re already changing the culture.”

Weber echoed similar sentiments, stating, “I have a good feeling about the work that we’re going to be doing on the council.” 

“It’s our job to make sure that we are reminding residents of what we’re working on,” said Pepén. “It’s so important to keep up with councilors.”

Resolution passed to combat human trafficking: Feb. 21, 2024

The council passed a resolution at its meeting on Feb. 21 to increase funding and mechanisms to combat human trafficking throughout the city. The resolution came to the floor after a brothel in Boston was busted last November, leading to widespread calls for more concrete action surrounding the issue. 

Council President Ruthzee Louijeune sponsored the resolution that aimed to increase public awareness around the issue of human trafficking through education, victim support, law enforcement training, and legislative actions. 

“There is work that we still need to do to combat human trafficking, which oftentimes isn’t talked about,” said Louijeune. “It’s a lot of people who are suffering in silence as a result of human trafficking, especially our women and our young girls.”

Council commemorates Transgender Day of Visibility: March 27, 2024

The City Council recognized March 31 as Transgender Day of Visibility in the city of Boston for the first time in the body’s history. 

Louijeune sponsored the resolution, issuing the declaration alongside Councilors Sharon Durkan and Gabriela Coletta. 

LGBTQIA+ community leaders, City Councilors, and members of the Mayor’s Office on LGBTQ+ Advancement pose for a group photo in commemorating Transgender Day of Visibility at the City Council meeting held on Wednesday, March 27, 2024. (DJ Mara/Beacon Staff)

Advocates from across the city gathered in the council chamber to commemorate this historic moment, and many echoed the sentiment that visibility and representation matter for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, especially for members of the trans community. 

“My visibility matters because I want [my children] to know that they can be themselves in this world,” said Jack Imbergamo, a member of the Queer Neighborhood Council. “We exist, we’re here, and we’re real.”

Boston City Council honors high school state champions: April 10, 2024

The council honored high school sports teams who won state championships at its meeting on April 10. 

Among those recognized were the Charlestown High School boys basketball team, the New Mission High School boys basketball team, the Josiah Quincy Upper School girls wrestling team, and the Boston Latin School boys hockey team.

District 5 City Councilor Enrique Pepén introducing the New Mission High School Boys Basketball Team as the Division 5 State Champions at the City Council meeting held on Wednesday, April 10 in the Christopher Iannella Chamber at Boston City Hall. (DJ Mara/Beacon Staff)

Councilors, coaches, and players gave remarks, and each team was presented with a resolution recognizing their accomplishments. 

District 5 City Councilor Enrique Pepén noted that high school athletes bring the city great pride. 

“Boston is known as a city of champions,” said Pepén. “But it’s not just the Red Sox, the Celtics, the Bruins, and the Patriots. It’s also [Boston Public Schools].”

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DJ Mara
DJ Mara, Kasteel Well Bureau Co-Editor

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