100 days ago, we started a blog with the goal of sharing information about how the City of Boston is run. Our audience - though we didn’t know exactly who it would be at the time - was the incoming Administration.
We knew that a change of leadership after 20 years would be daunting for everyone, and the City of Boston as a whole could benefit from a fuller understanding of who does what, and how, inside the walls of City Hall. We wanted to share information in ways that would be innovative and attractive to readers – we filmed videos, compiled one-pagers, interviewed key departmental leaders and created charts and graphics. We even recorded a song. This process affirmed what we already knew - there is a tremendous amount of work done throughout our City departments by employees who are committed to a common goal of making Boston a better place to live, to work and to be part of a community.
When tasked with putting it all down on paper – or in this case, the computer screen –we began to learn ourselves how much goes on in the City of Boston, and how difficult it is to run out of things to learn.
Had you thought about the fact that the number of building permits has a direct impact on our budget projections for any given fiscal year?
Did you know that EMS responded to 111,074 calls last year? And that the Boston Public Library’s website received 7.8 million visits last year? Or that the neighborhood coordinators in the Office of Neighborhood Services attended 6,670 community meetings?
Or that the Boston Public Health Commission has programs that range from substance abuse to violence prevention to teen pregnancy – all with the goal of creating a Healthy Boston for all its residents
Or even that the BRA, BTD, DPW and many other departments have partnered together to advance the Boston Bikes agenda and take Boston from one of the worst biking cities in the US to one of the best?
That new companies are moving into the Innovation District by the week, and together, they are changing the dynamic of how entrepreneurs do business in Boston?
A lot of it, even we didn’t know.
We hope this blog will serve as a template for the Walsh Administration, whether it is as a framework for how to get programs started or as a reference guide for programs that already exist. The blog will continue to live on at next.cityofboston.gov and is fully searchable by through general search terms filed for each post.
Mayor Menino has always said that government is about the people. From the people who have been bringing you posts for the last 100 days, thanks for reading along.
Boston has nearly 165,000 real estate parcels with property types that include apartment buildings, single-family homes, office towers, dormitories, hospitals, parks, and many more. When it comes to providing a valuation for these properties, the City’s Assessing Department is responsible for generating property assessments on which real estate tax bills are based. For residential property, this process incorporates sale data from properties that are comparable in location, style, age, size, and condition to form the basis of the assessment. As a result, assessments reflect trends in the real estate market on a neighborhood basis.
The Assessing Department offers a number of tax relief options to homeowners in order to help reduce their tax burden. The Department also administers the Payment in Lieu of Tax (PILOT) Program, which helps to reduce the strain on taxpayers to fund City services provided to nonprofit property owners that may be exempt from property taxation. These two important aspects of the Assessing Department are profiled below.
The City has consistently provided the maximum amount of tax relief allowed under the state classification formula as well as with the residential and personal exemption programs. The following list outlines the tremendous effort the City has undertaken to provide the greatest relief to Boston homeowners:
Last year, residential taxes in Boston remained extremely competitive, with the average residential tax bill in Boston being 26% below the prior year statewide average of $4,711.
In FY 2013, Boston ranked among the lowest average single-family tax bill amounts when compared to other area cities and towns.
The residential exemption, available to taxpayers who occupy their home as their principal residence, saved each qualifying taxpayer $1,724.47 off their tax bill last year.
The City offers a wide range of exemption programs for homeowners elderly, blind, surviving spouses or minor children of deceased parents, veterans, or members of the National Guard serving overseas during the tax year.
The City also offers a tax deferral program for those elderly taxpayers who are having difficulty paying their tax bills.
In 2010, Mayor Menino and the City Council approved a 50% increase in the exemption amount for elderly taxpayers from $500 to $750.
In Fiscal Year 2014, the deadline to file for both the residential exemption and personal exemptions is March 31, 2014. The National Guard exemption is the lone exception, with applications due by February 3, 2014.
Compared to surrounding Cities and Towns, Boston’s tax rate is much lower than its neighbors
Boston has one of the oldest PILOT programs in the United States, with PILOT agreements that reach back as far as the 1960’s. Today, the program generates over $50 million in voluntary cash contributions and community benefits from the City’s educational, medical, and cultural sectors, and stands as a national model for municipal-nonprofit partnership. Nonprofit property owners that use their property in a manner that is consistent with their nonprofit mission are entitled to an exemption from real estate taxes. While these organizations perform an important function in the City, the cost of providing essential City services – police protection, fire protection, and snow removal – is borne by the taxpayers. Accordingly, PILOT contributions help to reduce the strain on taxpayers to fund essential City services for the nonprofit sector.
Every nonprofit organization owning tax-exempt real estate valued in excess of $15 million is asked to contribute a PILOT at 25% of what the organization would pay if subject to the real estate tax. The PILOT participant may deduct up to 50% of that amount for offering community services to the unique benefit of Boston residents. Examples include certain scholarships for Boston Public School students and support for important healthcare initiatives in Boston schools and neighborhoods. The City and its PILOT partners continue to identify opportunities for collaboration to the benefit of the local populace.
Increasing Opportunities & Improving Experiences for Constituents
Though investment in talent & strengthening infrastructure directly and in partnership with other City agencies, the City of Boston’s Department of Innovation & Technology (DoIT) uses technology to increase opportunities and improve experience for Boston’s residents and businesses. Building on the strength of its highly recognized operation, DoIT – over the next four years – looks forward to taking important steps with its policies, its investments, its workforce and its infrastructure to build an even better Boston.
Increase Opportunities for Constituents
On-Line (Broadband) Current Status: DoIT has implemented a citywide fiber optic network - connecting more than 200 city buildings and launching WiFi hotspots neighborhoods across the city. Next: Bring fiber and building-wide WiFi to all of Boston’s public schools, extend citywide high speed broadband to every public building, to ensure residents have fast access to the world wide web.
In Hand (Mobile) Current Status: DoIT has received international awards for the mobile apps that it has developed for residents and the workforce. Next: DoIT will relaunch the City’s mobile website and deliver a high quality mobile apps for field inspectors across key city agencies.
Informed (Tech Goes Home) Current Status: Through the innovative leadership of the city’s Tech Goes Home (TGH) team, DoIT has trained 10,000 families to get on-line. Next: TGH will double the number of families reached within four years.
Improve Experience for Constituents
Communication: Current Status: Over the past two years, DoIT has built a best-in-the nation social media presence to support departments and constituents across the city. Next: DoIT will integrate the design, content and messaging across web, cable and social media through innovative organizational design.
Design: Current Status: DoIT has used design-thinking processes to deliver tools that help neighbors report issues such as potholes and graffiti. Next: DoIT will use design-thinking processes to deliver tools that help businesses apply for permits and licenses.
Analytics: Current Status: DoIT has created a robust open data platform and award-winning analytics tools & products. Next: DoIT will build a business decision support team to give high quality analytical support to all departments.
Invest in Talent
Workforce (Recruit & Train) Current Status: DoIT has become an attractive destination for innovative tech talent interested in public service, launching internship and innovation fellowship programs. Next: DoIT will take a mission-focused approach to recruiting and invest in all of its staff to keep skills current.
Vendors (Procurement) Current Status: DoIT has taken procurement on-line and streamlined RFPs to broaden the bidding base. Next: DoIT will actively and widely promote RFPs and go further on improving the language so as to get even better partners in the building.
Partners: Current Status: DoIT has built research partnerships with universities and tech collaborations with 57 municipalities across the Commonwealth. Next: DoIT will formalize a partnership with major and regional cities to share code, product and standards.
Efficient (Cloud) Current Status: DoIT has taken some of its core offerings to the Cloud. Next: DoIT will take a “cloud-first” approach and take offerings to the Cloud where we can minimize costs and maximize uptime.
Streamlined (IT Governance) Current Status: DoIT has centralized some systems across departments. Next: DoIT will manage all IT spend so that no redundant systems are purchased and so that all systems are interoperable.
Resilient (IT Security) Current Status: DoIT invested in effective security systems and launched an enterprise-wide cyber-security awareness training program. Next: DoIT will reduce the risk of cyber-terrorism, rolling out intrusion prevention and detection software and strengthening the role of the IT Security Director.
The City of Boston maintains a variety of reserves and accounts that are required either by general accounting practices or by laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The most important of these reserves is what is known as “Free Cash” – though it is neither free, nor cash. Free Cash represents the total amount of the City’s reserves that are available for appropriation. Free Cash must be certified by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue prior to appropriation, as the DOR provides the definitive amount of reserves that are available to be spent. At any given time, the City may not appropriate (or spend) more than is certified by the DOR.
Typically, the City requests that DOR certify Free Cash in the winter if the City is seeking to appropriate a portion in the following fiscal year’s budget. Because Free Cash is not a recurring source of revenue, it should never be used to support recurring expenses. However, in times of fiscal decline or economic distress, a prudent level of Free Cash may be appropriated as the City adjusts to lower levels of recurring revenue. Since Fiscal Year 2010 (the first budget adopted after the onset of the Great Recession), the City has appropriated Free Cash in all but one year.
While the DOR-certified Free Cash reserve is the most important reserve for budgeting purposes, there are many other reserves that the City must or should set aside for future expenses or as a result of State law. Some of the most important and well-known reserves are:
Tregor Reserve. This reserve, established in Massachusetts General Law, requires that the City reserve not less than 2 ½ % of the preceding year’s appropriation. In FY14 that amounts to approximately $29 million
Overlay reserve. State law requires that the City base its budget on the assumption that 100% of property taxes will be collected each fiscal year. Of course, this does not happen in reality – many taxpayers are delinquent or legally dispute their assessments through the abatement process. Thus, the City sets aside a prudent overlay reserve to accommodate both delinquencies and abatements.
Reserves for commitments for goods and services. At the conclusion of the fiscal year, many vendors have not yet billed for goods or services that have been received by the City in that year. Thus, the City must reserve for the payment of those yet-to-come bills so that the cost may be assigned to the year in which it was incurred.
Risk Retention Reserve. The City maintains a combination of commercial insurance and risk reserves to ensure that resources are available in the event of large-scale loss of City-owned property – such as major storm damage or fire damage. While insurance is an annual operating expense, reserves may be carried over fiscal years to be spent when a large-scale loss occurs.
Collective Bargaining Reserve. In years when the City has expired labor union contracts, the City centrally reserves for the anticipated salary increases. If the contracts are not renegotiated by the conclusion of that fiscal year, the reserve is maintained in that fiscal year until such time as the contract is settled. At that time, the portion of the agreement that applies to each of the prior fiscal years is paid out of that reserve.
After all of these reserves, and other minor ones, are taken into consideration, the resulting calculation of Free Cash ensures that resources are available to pay out all of these obligations.
The Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics is the City’s in-house innovation lab. It’s a small core team that develops, tests, and implements new ideas to make local government more effective and engaging. It’s a team that cultivates deep relationships within City Hall and with universities, community organizations, and entrepreneurs. Over the past five years, the mechanics and their partners have conducted a series of experiments to improve people’s experience on the street, in the classroom, and at City Hall.
Our work is about strengthening neighborhoods, reaching new audiences, and bringing the planning to the people. Since 2009, we’ve launched a series of projects focused on empowering residents to be the eyes & ears of the City. That started with Citizens Connect – a 311-like service for your smartphone. We launched the companion app for City employees in 2011 called CityWorker. Last year, we launched a similar app, which scales this idea across 57 cities and towns in the state, each reporting to their own local government.
In partnership with Emerson College’s Engagement Game Lab, we’ve supported a series of online and in-person “games” that have helped us design a park in Allston (Hub2), plan Chinatown (Participatory Chinatown), and give policy feedback to Boston Public Schools (Community PlanIt.). We’ve experimented with changes to the built environment and events in the street to try to reach a new audience in community conversations. This ranges from interactive narrative signs in Fields Corner (My Dot Tour), to a brainstorming board that has been used with pedestrians in Uphams Corner and Dudley, to a touch screen information kiosk at DSNI, to a hands-on planning event that incorporated maker tools in East Boston, to City Hall to Go – delivering government fresh daily, direct to the neighborhoods.
CLICKS AND BRICKS
We work to design friendlier streets, smooth our roads, tackle traffic congestion, and improve the city’s infrastructure. Through the City’s Streetscape Innovation Fund, an initiative MONUM began in 2012, we’ve experimented with a range of techniques that make our streets more pedestrian-friendly, beautiful, and fun. This includes LED-lit street name signs in Downtown Crossing, parklets in Mission Hill and Jamaica Plain, the lighting of Fort Point Channel’s Northern Avenue Bridge, the installation of seats that allow you to charge your mobile phone on the greenway, and sculptures throughout the city that play music in rhythm to your heart beat. We are modernizing our infrastructure through programs like Project Oscar, a forthcoming prototype for a new style of trash and recycling collector, and vehicle side guards to protect urban cyclists.
We’re striving to make traveling on the roads smoother, both the surface and your experience. Through a series of research and development collaborations, this took the form of Street Bump, a first-of-its-kind mobile app that helps us identify rough spots in Boston’s streets and feeds the data back to Public Works crews. Sparked by this work, we’re now trying new materials and designs to fill our potholes and fix manhole covers. In 2011, we worked with IBM to rethink how we could better use transportation data. That, in part, led to two recently launched initiatives: a smart parking program informing drivers of available spaces, and time to destination signs to help people find the best way home.
EDUCATION & COMMUNICATION
We seek to empower students and to improve parents’ experience. Knowing that a parent is their child’s best teacher, we’ve piloted a range of tools that are geared towards helping parents better advocate for their kids and better engage with the district. This includes a new tool for comparing school options (Discover BPS), a school bus tracker (Where’s My School Bus), and two interactive visualizations used during the school choice process. We continue to seek to develop Darwin, a platform to unlock student data and put it in the hands of parents. We’ve also experimented with new tools for students that can engage them and unlock all the opportunities that Boston has to offer. This started with the One Card, a student ID card for high schoolers that also serves as a T pass, library card and community center card. We piloted (and then shut down) Class Talk, an application to help teachers and students connect on academic questions outside of the classroom. We’ve supported the development of Task Buddy, the first product of a local startup, geared at helping to teach autistic youth. And, through the mobile FabLab and Girls Make the City, we’ve helped youth use the latest tech equipment to design and build their own gadgets.
We seek to engage citizens and the support civic habits. We want to put civic acts (from attending a meeting to reporting a pothole) in a broader context so that residents can see how their actions shape their city. That work includes Break the Bubble (focused on students), Habit@ (focused on Dudley) and StreetCred (a citywide civic reputation system.) Sometimes government is perceived as bureaucratic and impersonal. We think this makes people engage less and becomes a barrier to a better future. We’ve experimented with a few ways to put a slightly more human face on City Hall (be it funny, reflective or joyous) to help make a tighter connection with our residents through an initiative to celebrate weddings in City Hall that we call Married in Boston, the One Boston Tumblr, and efforts to highlight the people who take care of the nuts and bolts in the neighborhoods everyday.
In the year ahead we will continue to tackle important problems and develop creative solutions. Early 2014 brings a new version of Citizens Connect, that will actually show you the city team who is fulfilling your request, a first-of-its-kind civic reputation system called Street Cred, and the next generation of Street Bump.
From City Hall Plaza to Faneuil Hall – this department makes sure they keep functioning day in and day out. But while you might be familiar with Property Management’s responsibility for managing, maintaining, and securing the City’s municipal buildings, there are three lesser-known programs also under the Department’s control.
THE STREET FURNITURE PROGRAM
Ever walk by one of the self-cleaning toilets on the street and ask how it got there? In 1999, Mayor Menino attended a National Mayor’s conference in San Francisco, while at this conference he noticed on the street of SF phone pillars, newsstands, automatic public toilets and bus shelters. Mayor Menino formed a working group to research and create a request for proposal to bring the Coordinated Street Furniture concept to the City of Boston. The Wall family from Germany won the bid. Since the first installation of a city informational map panel on City Hall Plaza, 470 street furniture items have been installed in the sidewalks of Boston.
This may come as a surprise, but all the street furniture elements are designed, manufactured, installed, and maintained at no cost to the taxpayer. Additionally, the revenue generated from the advertisements on the street furniture is split between the parent company and the City. In 2001, the first year of ad sales brought in $3,957. In 2012, the program generated $2.6 million. Over the course of the 12-year program a total of $16.7 million was generated for the City. It’s revenue for the city, but it’s also an amenity to visitors and residents that would be difficult to provide otherwise.
As part of this partnership, each year hundreds of public service advertisements are posted at the value of between $2-4 million, all at no cost to the City. The Street Furniture contract with the City of Boston runs until 2026. It’s one of only a few City contracts that will continue past the next few election cycles.
ANIMAL CONTROL, SHELTER, AND ADOPTION
24 hours - 7 day a week, the Animal Control officers travel over 100,000 miles and respond to over 3,500 complaints each year in Boston. Officers enforce legal ordinances, respond to incidents, and investigate cases of abuse. Not just responsible for wild turkeys flying into porch windows or a possum stuck in a waste bin, but they also license 10,000 dogs each year in Boston, a service which can preclude an unnecessary treatment for rabies after one of the 300 dog bites that occurs annually.
The City of Boston operates its own Animal Shelter & Adoption Center in Roslindale with a full time contracted veterinarian, four staff, and large number of volunteers. All stray dogs that are found within the City of Boston are housed at this Shelter. Around 1,500 stray dogs and cats come through the shelter each year. Every pet placed for adoption is vaccinated and spay/neutered. These aren’t the only animals in the custody of the City, the swans in the Public Garden are also cared for by Animal Control.
In the past two years, there have been updates on the animal control software and the construction of a new surgery suite. This year we began licensing dogs at the City Hall To Go Truck and distributing emergency Pet Go-Packs.
The graffiti removal program began in the fall of 1995, and has evolved into a comprehensive year-long approach to identifying and removing graffiti on public and private property throughout the city. Requests for removal are fielded through the Mayor’s hotline or the Citizens Connect App, then Property Management field staff inspects the property, mail a waiver form to private owners, and place properties on a list for action. Currently there is a four-person crew and a field supervisor who tackle removing profanity and tags from all types of surfaces.
Over the years, the graffiti team learned to expect some decline in repeat activity, especially if it is addressed in a rapid manner. The graffiti tag artists work in specific areas and thrive on the fact the recognition of their signature. Without the signature visible, their status declines in the graffiti community and they either move on or drop out altogether. Allston, Back Bay, Brighton, and Jamaica Plain see the most responses by Graffiti Busters, but they do work in every neighborhood of the city. With an annual budget of $400,000, the Graffiti Busters have removed tags from over 22,000 locations throughout the City since it began.
The Mayor’s Youth Council (MYC) is a group of high school students hailing from every neighborhood in the city. All representatives are appointed by the Mayor and are charged with representing their peers, community members and youth across the city. Representatives scour their communities conducting outreach to identify issues and concerns and band together to address them by collaborating with the Mayor, community leaders and city officials to identify and implement positive solutions. Northeastern University has sponsored the MYC to allow for trips to Washington, D.C. to participate in youth advocacy on the federal level, youth events and programming. The Boston Bar Association has supported the group by connecting the council to amazing mentors throughout the years.
The Mayor’s Youth Council model has been used to include youth in government across the nation and even internationally. Through partnerships with the National League of Cities, Forum on Youth Investment and GLOCAL, council members have had a national impact on youth advocacy and have traveled to international youth conferences in Rome, Italy and Ankara, Turkey.
Each council year is different since the representatives themselves identify projects and community issues that they would like to target. Through mayoral support, the Mayor’s Youth Council has become a revered group that works with many city departments and has been a beacon and model for promoting youth voice.
Over the years, the MYC has worked closely with Boston Centers for Youth & Families to connect teens with computers, jobs, streetworkers, tutoring, and life skills. Our projects have included “Finding the Time – encouraging Parent and Teen Communication,” and the Annual Youth Summits. Youth council reps have worked with almost every City department on a wide range of issues:
MYC reps worked with the School Department by hosting various meetings and youth forums on topics including school assignment plan, guidance issues, extending the student bus passes past 6pm, MCAS, High School Curriculum Reform, and healthy school lunch options.
The Boston Police Department and the Boston Transportation Department have collaborated with the MYC to address youth and police partnerships, youth violence, and safety and access issues including: lighting, signage, pedestrian crossings & bus stops.
The Parks Department, Mayor’s Hotline, and the Environment Department have lent the council their expertise when we have needed information and resources.
Reps coordinated with Intergovernmental Relations on the State IDs and youth state and federal issues.
The Public Health Department worked with the MYC on destigmatizing mental health and access to health care. This summer, MYC reps engaged teens in the Boston Moves for Health movement and hosted several MYC youth fitness challenges to get young people excited about being healthy and learning about healthy lifestyle options.
DoIt has collaborated with the MYC on the web site, the Youthline, the Boston Guide to College Planning, and our various other teen resources available online and through social media.
Now the MYC plays a huge part in tackling a youth participatory budgeting process that will engage youth across the city and empower them with the ability to decide how $1 million of the capital budget will be spent.
Mayor’s Youth Council Representatives are certainly the key to the youth council’s success, but this program has also seen young people emerge as leaders, begin their careers, and become examples for future council members to follow. Former reps are lawyers, community activists, teachers, and parents that understand the importance of giving back to the community as well as empowering future leaders. Young leaders over the past 20 years have been able to leave their marks on Boston in a positive way.
The Mayor’s Youthline is a peer listening and resource office with the goal of connecting youth and families to affordable resources and opportunities in Boston. This was one of the FIRST projects of the MYC and today the Youthline assists constituents with finding everything from after school enrichment programs to teen jobs, and from college scholarships to free fun family things to do. Whatever one is looking for in youth development, the Mayor’s Youthline helps Boston’s residents find and get connected to it.
Our ability to successfully connect teens with opportunities is due to the fact that the majority of our staff is made up of high school students. Our teen staff always know what’s going on and are the ones that our constituents want to talk to. Our high school staff is made up of:
Peer Listeners: These teens are responsible for answering phone calls, emails, and in-person inquiries from constituents, both in the office and out in the field at community events. They research programs and events all over the city and add them to our in-house databases. They can refer people to a day camp for a child, an after-school program, or a drama class, among anything else a young person may be looking for. They then make the information available to constituents via our website, social media, and our monthly newsletter that reaches nearly 30,000 Bostonians.
Career Peers: These teens are trained to facilitate career development workshops for their peers. Currently, our three workshop offerings include Resume Writing, Interview Skills, and Professionalism on the Job. The Career Peers travel to Boston Youth Fund and other after school job sites to present these workshops for a site’s teen employees. After every workshop, Career Peers give feedback to each other to help improve their communication and public speaking skills.
No matter which role our teen employees are in, they certainly run the show. As they grow at the Youthline, they have the ability to work on projects that fit their personal and professional goals. Our social media manager is a 16-year-old, our Scholarship Guide is managed by a college junior, and our Professionalism workshop was created and designed by a 17-year-old. With the young talent all over the Youthline, it’s no wonder so many of our teens go on to become leaders in their chosen careers throughout Boston and beyond.
The mission of the Office of Labor Relations is to create and promote a productive work environment that fosters an efficient and effective relationship between labor and management. The Office of Labor Relations represents the Mayor and City departments in all labor relations matters before state and federal courts, state agencies, and in various other forums. The Office is responsible for negotiating and administering collective bargaining agreements with approximately 19 unions covering 7,200 employees. Additionally, the Office advises City managers and supervisors on labor matters regarding policy issues.
The City of Boston’s workforce is comprised of 19,652 employees. This number includes employees who work directly for the City, including employees of the Boston Public Schools (BPS), as well as employees at the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC). Just under 18,000 of these employees, or 91% percent of the City workforce, are unionized. The City’s unionized employees are enrolled in 40 different unions. Thirty-two of these unions have reached agreement on successor contracts which will remain in effect until 2016. All of these contracts were based on a 6-year pattern of 0-1-2-3-3-3%.
The City and the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association (BPPA) recently concluded the interest arbitration process. The parties had twenty-four negotiation sessions but were unable to reach an agreement and thus proceeded to arbitration. In June, after sixteen days of hearings, the parties concluded the hearing portion of the arbitration. The arbitration panel met twelve times before the panel released its decision on September 27, 2013. The City’s panel representative dissented. The award was submitted to the City Council to determine whether to fund the award. The City Council held three dates of hearings before voting to fund the award on December 4, 2013.
The names of these unions and enrollment numbers for the settled contracts are listed below. The enrollment numbers are based on actual enrollment on January 1, 2013.
1) Boston Teachers Union (7,669) 2) American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) - Citywide (1,128) 3) Service Employees International Union (SEIU) - Citywide (1,036) 4) Salaried Employees of North America – Citywide (663) 5) Salaried Employees of North America- BPHC (41) 6) Painters and Allied Trades – BPS Custodians (478) 7) United Steelworkers - School Bus Monitors (459) 8) AFSCME – BPS Cafeteria Workers (380) 9) Lunch Monitors - BPS (372) 10) Boston Association of School Administrators and Supervisors (267) 11) AFSCME – Boston Public Library (218) 12) Police School Traffic Supervisors Association (197) 13) SEIU – BPHC Programs (173) 14) SEIU – BPHC Counselors (77) 15) SEIU - BPHC Coordinators (65) 16) New England Police Benevolent Association – BPS School Police (55) 17) AFSCME - BPHC (54) 18) Boston Police Patrolman’s Association (1,447) 19) Municipal Police Patrolmen’s Association - Security Officers (52) 20) SEIU - BPHC Nurses (41) 21) SEIU – BPHC Clerical and Technical (38) 22) Professional Employees of the Planning & Engineering Department – BPS (32) 23) Police Detectives Criminalist Unit (23) 24) Office Professional Employees International Union - Inspectional Services (22) 25) Boston Police Superior Officers Federation– BPS School Police (20) 26) Plant Administrators Association – BPS (12) 27) Boston Park Rangers Association (10) 28) AFSCME – BPS Storekeepers (10) 29) National Conference of Firemen and Oilers - Property Management (7) 30) Municipal Police Supervisors Association – Security Officers Supervisors (7) 31) National Conference of Fireman and Oilers – BPHC (5) 32) Boston Typographical Unit (3)
Listed below are the names and enrollment numbers of the unions with whom the City has not reached a new agreement:
1) International Association of Firefighters (1,478) 2) Emergency Medical Technicians – BPHC (334) 3) SEIU – BPS Administrative Guild (277) 4) Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society (280) 5) Boston Police Superior Officers Federation (247) 6) Boston Police Detectives Superior Officers Unit (126) 7) Professional Staff Association – Boston Public Library (144) 8) International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – Inspectional Services (9)
Status of Unsettled Contracts
The City negotiates jointly with the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society (BPDBS) and the BPDBS Superior Officers Unit. The parties had fifteen negotiation sessions but were unable to reach an agreement. Prior to proceeding to arbitration the parties are attempting to resolve this contract dispute through mediation. The BPDBS represents rank and file detectives in the Boston Police Department. The BPDBS Superior Officers Unit represents detectives who have earned the rank of sergeant, lieutenant or captain.
The City and the Boston Police Superior Officers Federation (BPSOF) had eight negotiation sessions but were unable to reach an agreement. The union filed for arbitration. The parties are scheduled to begin interest arbitration on January 29, 2014. The parties are attempting to schedule a negotiation session prior to arbitration. This union represents sergeants, lieutenants and captains in the Boston Police Department.
The City and the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) have had nine negotiation sessions and have exchanged proposals. The parties are working to reach a voluntary settlement. Unlike most contracts which expired in 2010, this contract expired on June 30, 2011.
The Boston Public Health Commission met with Boston Emergency Medical Service – BPPA Union fourteen times but the parties were unable to reach an agreement. The Commission filed for mediation regarding this contract dispute in June. The parties have had one mediation session and are working to schedule a second. This union represents Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics at Boston EMS.
The Boston Public Schools and the SEIU Administrative Guild participated in thirty-one negotiation sessions and two mediation sessions. The parties have reached an agreement that requires ratification by the union before the Boston School Committee votes on the proposal. This union represents administrative support staff in the Boston Public Schools.
The City and the Professional Staff Association (PSA) participated in twenty-five negotiation sessions and seven mediation sessions but were unable to reach an agreement. The parties had two days of hearings before a Fact-finder in September and October, 2013. Both parties have submitted briefs and the Fact-finder’s recommendation is expected on December 26, 2013. The parties have scheduled three additional negotiation dates for December 9, 2013, December 13, 2013, and December 20, 2013. This Union represents Librarians at the Boston Public Library.
The City and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) participated in fourteen negotiation session and three mediation sessions but were unable to reach an agreement. The parties concluded Fact-finding on October 17, 2013. Post-hearing briefs must be submitted to the Fact-finder by December 16, 2013. This union represents electrical inspectors at the City’s Inspectional Services Department.
The most current available labor contracts are posted on the City’s website.
Information about the City’s current agreement with the Public Employee Committee regarding health insurance coverage can be found at here.
The Inspectional Services Department (ISD) is a regulatory agency comprised of five field divisions whose aim is to protect and improve the quality of life for all Boston residents by effectively administering and enforcing building, housing, health, sanitary and safety regulations mandated by City and State governments. ISD is housed at 1010 Massachusetts Ave. along with the Parks Department and the Boston Public Health Commission offices.
The Inspector of Buildings oversees all building permit and inspection activities, zoning reviews and the Board of Appeal hearings, as well as the Board of Examiner’s licenses. This division employs 22 building inspectors, 10 electrical inspectors, and 8 plumbing inspectors, all of which are responsible for inspecting all construction or renovation work to ensure that proper safety standards are followed.
The Housing Inspection Division is charged with enforcing the State Sanitary Code and the City Ordinances, all of which regulate the quality of Boston’s public and private housing stock. From September 15 through June 15, Housing Inspectors respond to inadequate or no heat complaints from tenants. Residential landlords must provide functioning heating systems capable of heating habitable spaces to a minimum temperature of 68° during the daytime (7:00a.m to 11:00 p.m.) and 64° at night.
The Division of Health Inspections regulates food establishments such as: retail food stores, restaurants, caterers, commissaries, day care facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, mobile and Haymarket vendors as well as recreational camps for children, swimming pools, baths and funeral homes. All licensed establishments are inspected at least once per year. Establishments found to be at higher risk will receive multiple inspections throughout the year. At present the ISD employs 18 health certified inspectors.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
The Weights & Measures Division enforces Massachusetts General Law (MGL) relating to the inspection of commercial weighing and measuring devices. Inspectors ensure that consumers are getting what they pay for in the marketplace. The devices inspected for accuracy include: taxi meters, gasoline dispensers, home heating oil truck meters, and scales of all types. The Division also enforces various MGLs relating to insufficient weight or measure, scanner price accuracy, unit pricing, item pricing, motor fuel quality and pricing, delivery of home heating oil, method of sale and firewood deliveries.
During the months of November and December, the Weights and Measures Division will conduct random “spot checks” of home heating oil delivery trucks throughout the city. These spot checks are to ensure oil companies are delivering fuel from meters that are properly sealed and the correct amount of fuel is being delivered.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL SANITATION DIVISION
Environmental Sanitation inspectors are required to monitor and treat rodent activity on city property and inspect and monitor all permitted construction sites in the city of Boston for rodent activity. The Environmental Sanitation Division employs 15 licensed pesticide inspectors who work to educate the public and rapidly respond to rodent and trash complaints.
In 2012, ISD redesigned the BOSTON CLEAN PROGRAM (BCLEAN). The program addresses code violations associated with privately owned neglected and overgrown vacant lots. ISD also responds to vacant lot complaints in the city. This entails the coordination of boarding and securing abandoned buildings. The Code Enforcement Police’s (CEP), a subdivision of Environmental Services, primary function is to maintain and enhance the quality of life for Boston’s residents by enforcing the State and sanitary codes related to illegal dumping, improper storage of trash, illegal vending and posting, and uncovered sidewalks. CEP maintains a strong presence in the City by patrolling the streets of Boston on foot, bike, and car. In the winter, you likely see them issuing violations for sidewalks that have not been shoveled after snowstorms. The Auto Shop Division also falls within the Environmental Sanitation Division. The Auto Shop division is responsible for inspecting auto body shops, auto repair shops, and automotive sales establishments.
As the economy has rebounded, ISD is receiving an increased number of building permit applications. With that increase, ISD is evaluating new ways to expedite plan review and ensure that building inspectors are available so that projects can stay on schedule. One of those efforts under consideration is to start allowing the electronic submission of building plans. This saves project proponents time and the cost of printing plans when applying for permits. It also allows ISD to share them quickly with the Fire Department and the Boston Water and Sewer Commission.
In the fall of 2013, ISD concluded a large campaign to register all rental housing in the City of Boston. In the past, rental housing was only inspected when new tenants were moving in. Going forward, ISD will be inspecting 20 percent of rentals each year. Over the course of five years, they will have inspected over 140,000 units of rental housing to ensure safe living conditions and prevent problems by catching them early-on (like water leaks or electrical issues) before they become catastrophic.
If there’s one place for a person to learn about everything happening in the City of Boston, it’s Room 603 in City Hall: The Mayor’s Press Office. Here, a constant stream of information flows between City Hall, the media, external city partners, constituents and the general public. The issue of the day can range from tracking the carcass of a dead whale in Boston Harbor, to planning another championship parade, to implementation of a new City ordinance or the declaration of a snow emergency. The mayor’s press office acts a gatekeeper of information, and also of the mayor himself. Very rarely does the combination of these responsibilities result in a dull moment.
Media Relations: The phone lines at 617-635-4461 ring constantly throughout the day with inquiries from reporters, producers, photographers, and members of the public. The press office acts as a central depository for requests, and makes its best effort to connect callers with the information, sources, or resources they are seeking.
Proactive Communications: The Press Office is responsible for the drafting and distribution of all written communications on behalf of the Mayor and his office. This includes, but is not limited to: press releases, media advisories, official statements, columns, editorials, letters to the editor, etc.
Mayor’s Press: The Press Office coordinates and staffs all of the Mayor’s media-related activities. This includes, but is not limited to: Responding to media inquiries on the Mayor’s behalf; Staffing all of the Mayor’s public events; Scheduling and staffing media interviews; Preparing briefing materials for media interviews; and Managing the Mayor’s Twitter account.
Crisis Management: Winter Storm Nemo, the Boston Marathon and the events that followed are a few examples of the major crises the City has experienced in just the past year. During times of emergency, the press office plays a crucial role in communicating the City’s message to the public and counts on the media to share critical information.
Event Planning and Execution: The press office is responsible for working with the Mayor’s scheduling and advance team and specific city departments to plan and execute mayoral and City events that will be open to media. This ranges from details like where media will be located, how media are credentialed for large-scale events, and how information from the event will be shared.
Coordination with PIOs: A monthly meeting of PIOs brings spokespeople together to unify messaging and communicate upcoming events and important issues on the horizon.
Coordination with City Departments: The press office also manages media on behalf of City departments that do not have their own spokespeople or a communications team – a few examples of departments without public information officers that are subject to frequent media requests include: Department of Public Works; Administration & Finance; Department of Information and Technology; and Property Management.
Social Media: The Press Office is responsible for the management of @mayortommenino, and works closely with social media director Lindsay Crudele on citywide social communications and campaigns.
Structure and staff
Currently, the press office consists of a staff of three: the Mayor’s Press Secretary and the City’s Chief Communications Officer, the Mayor’s Deputy Press Secretary, and the Mayor’s Press Assistant. Generally, one or two interns will join the office over the summer and during the fall and spring semesters.
The press office coordinates with a large network of public information officers (PIOs) from various city agencies and departments to ensure consistent messaging and collaborate on outreach efforts. Departments with their own public information officer or communications staff include:
Boston Centers for Youth & Families
Boston Fire Department
Boston Housing Authority
Boston Police Department
Boston Public Health Commission
Boston Public Library
Boston Public Schools
Boston Redevelopment Authority
Boston Transportation Department
Commission on Affairs of the Elderly
Department of Environment & Energy
Department of Neighborhood Development
Inspectional Services Department
Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management
Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians
Parks & Recreation
Additionally, the press office regularly coordinates with the Mayor’s photographers, the City’s cable office, constituent services, neighborhood services, the web team and the City’s social media director on communications activities.
Templates and Lists:
The next staff of the Mayor’s press office will inherit a media list of more than 500 contacts in the Greater Boston area, New England, and across the country. The master press list is organized geographically and by outlet type.
Additionally, the press office manages a set of templates for regular communications, including a template media advisory, press release and daily public schedule. Cityofboston.gov/news contains all past news releases and will be a useful tool for the next team.
“The List” – to keep track of all the inquiries received on any given day, the office manages a list of calls that includes the status of inquiries, associated deadlines, and contact information.
A typical call list includes:
[who the call is for]: [caller’s name] [outlet or organization of the caller] [caller’s request] [caller’s contact information] [caller’s deadline, if applicable]