City Council Anticipates Effects of Ballot Questions

Boston City Hall. Photo by Zoe Mitchell, BU News Service.
Written by Zoë Mitchell

By Zoë Mitchell
BU News Service

The Boston City Council brought up concerns about financing future charter schools and the economic opportunities that marijuana legalization will bring to the city at Wednesday’s council meeting. The relevance of the council’s concerns hinge upon what Massachusetts voters decide on Nov. 8, when they will vote on four state ballot questions.

Ballot Question 2 proposes raising the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state while Question 4 would legalize marijuana for recreational use for adults age 21 and older.

Councillor Tito Jackson recapped the hearing the council held Monday that considered the potential financial impacts of Question 2 on the city’s budget.

Jackson, who came out in opposition to raising the cap, was concerned about the high cost of the initiative and the effect it would have on the ability of the city to operate as the council would want.

He said the most important thing he learned at the hearing was that if three new charters were started in Boston within three years, it would cost the city $800 million after 10 years.

“It was very sobering to understand what the potential for this blunt instrument that is being put forth could actually do,” Jackson said.

City Councillor Ayanna Pressley brought up Question 4, relaying the results of a hearing about the economic impacts or marijuana legalization, also held on Monday.

The hearing focused on concerns of the emerging cannabis industry leaving people out, specifically people of color. Pressley said that less than ten percent of marijuana businesses are operated by a person of color.

The process of entering the industry is extremely pricey: Massachusetts requires a total of $500,000 in up front liquid assets to open a dispensary, after over $30,000 in application costs.

“We have got do a better job of strengthening the equity of opportunity of enterprise,” Pressley said.

While marijuana will be legislated by the state government, Pressley wants the council to have an impact on the appointment of the three members of the Cannabis Control Commision. Pressley will lead a working session on Dec. 6, if the ballot question passes on election day.

Other Items Raised by the Council:  

  • Jackson announced plans for a hearing on the need to diversify employment at Boston Public Schools, saying the hearing is to come up with “the best ideas in terms of how to recruit and retain talent in Boston Public Schools.”
  • Councillors Charles Baker and Josh Zakim will hold a hearing to discuss increasing the number of cooperative business in Boston and the development of alternative housing options, specifically having more single occupancy residencies. The councillors say that these actions could help create good jobs and alleviate the effects of the housing crisis.
  • Jackson and Pressley held a hearing Tuesday night to further the initiative to establish Roxbury as a cultural district. Jackson saying he hopes to complete the initiative before the year ends.

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