Boston voters approve two ballot initiatives while voicing opposition to substation proposal

Boston City Hall
Boston City Hall. Oct. 9, 2021. (Photo by Mild Laohapoonrungsee/BU News Service)

Jack Thornton
Boston University News Service

BOSTON – Voting on three ballot initiatives, residents chose to amend the city’s charter to grant the City Council more power when it comes to the mayor’s municipal budget, and a nonbinding proposal regarding the city’s School Committee and how its roles are appointed.

Voters also overwhelmingly rejected moving an electrical substation development from its planned Chelsea Creek location.

On Question 1, the only binding question on the ballot, over 67% of voters chose to pass the proposed charter amendment to increase city councilors’ involvement in the budget drafting process. 

This amendment grants councilors the ability to reallocate funds on the budget the mayor submits to them, as well as the ability to override a mayor’s veto on their budget proposal by a two-thirds majority. 

“Boston residents should be able to see what their local elected officials are advocating for, especially when it comes to their tax dollars,” said City Councilor Lydia Edwards in an op-ed in The Boston Globe, supporting the amendment’s passage.

Edwards, who spearheaded the effort to get the question on the ballot, said it gives residents a chance to make the city a “more inclusive, accountable, and transparent place by allowing for greater participation and democracy in (the) budget process.”

The amendment also stipulates the creation of an independent Office of Participatory Budgeting, which Edwards says will “create a process through which Boston residents will direct some of their tax dollars toward their priorities, like better schools, local business, and youth jobs.”

The city has until 2024 to create this office, according to the text of the amendment.

On the nonbinding Question 2, over 83% of voters opposed the energy company Eversource’s plans to create an electrical substation along Chelsea Creek in East Boston.

Though the development was approved unanimously by the state’s Energy Facilities Sitting Board in February of this year, the plan has received strong opposition from local residents and environmental groups. 

The plan would place a substation, which is part of the electrical grid and transforms energy from high to low voltage or vice versa, directly next to a local playground, and near jet fuel tanks and residential buildings.

On the other nonbinding question on the ballot, Question 3, nearly 79 percent of voters supported a return to Boston School Committee members being popularly elected by city voters.

Members of the Boston School Committee were elected by voters until 1991, when state legislators voted to allow the mayor to appoint committee members. This came after a nonbinding ballot question in 1989, which saw Boston voters support moving away from the elected body model.

Mayor-elect Michelle Wu has expressed support for a hybrid model for the school committee, where the mayor could appoint members with a focus on a specific educational focus but the committee would be “majority-elected.”

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