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State ballot brings Community Preservation Act and legal pot

Jule Pattison-Gordon

City officials, community development corporation representatives and others gathered outside the Owen Nawn Factory in Roxbury last Thursday to celebrate one of the few bright spots to emerge from this divisive campaign season: local passage of the Community Preservation Act.

With the prospect of Donald Trump’s White House posing an unknown and troubling image to many, Mayor Martin Walsh called upon residents to focus on one area where they can make a difference: local politics.

“Regardless of what’s going on nationally and around the globe, we in Boston have the power to shape our own destiny,” he told the gathering.

Along with ushering in the CPA in Boston, voters acted to shape their futures by approving recreational marijuana legalization statewide, preventing greater charter school expansion, prohibiting sale of meat and eggs from tightly confined farm animals and rejecting an additional slots parlor.

On the web

For more information on Community Preservation Act implementation, go to the Community Preservation Coalition’s website:

See also Yes for a Better Boston:

Information on CPA Trust Fund distribution can be viewed at:

Community Preservation Act comes to Boston

The CPA is one way Boston is taking action to improve its future, Walsh said. It aims to help sustain and grow communities through new funding for affordable housing, historic preservation and greenspace. The funding is generated via a 1 percent surcharge on property tax, supplemented by an annual grant from the statewide Community Preservation Act Trust Fund.

“We can make our city more inclusive, more beautiful and a better place to live and work,” the mayor said.

Joe Kriesberg, president of Yes For a Better Boston, the ballot committee that advocated for the CPA, said this local funding mechanism may prove especially valuable should Trump slash federal housing funding.

The state established the Community Preservation Act mechanism in 2000, and with last week’s vote, Boston became one of 172 municipalities opting to implement it in their communities. The city expects to generate $16 million in additional revenue via the property tax surcharge, with additional revenue from state matching funds.

A to-be-established committee will recommend initiatives advancing local priorities within the three categories and direct CPA monies to support them. A minimum of ten percent of funds will go to each category.

Walsh promised that the city will use this new revenue to supplement — not replace — affordable housing, greenspace and historic preservation support in the overall city budget, while seeking to coordinate both CPA and non-CPA forms of investment.

Low-income homeowners, low- and moderate-income senior homeowners, along with the first $100,000 of assessed property value will be exempted from the CPA surcharge. The average homeowner is expected to pay an additional $24 per year.

Broad support

Many praised the broad coalition of volunteers and organizations that rallied behind the CPA. Its members included representatives of affected policy areas, as well as labor organizations, religious groups, large and small businesses and cultural and arts communities, Kriesberg said. On Election Day, more than 400 volunteers turned out to educate voters en route to the ballot box.

“The people of Boston are willing to give time and some of their hard-earned money to make a better city,” Kriesberg said.

Seventy-four percent of Boston voters supported implementing the CPA.

Among supporters were Yes for A Better Boston treasurer Thadian Brown, who said that when she was a 29-year-old single mother, she had the rare good fortune to purchase a home and wished to extend that opportunity to others. City Councilor Michael Flaherty, for whom the a Boston CPA has been 15 years in the making, also spoke. His original ballot proposal was defeated in 2001.

Ten other municipalities adopted the CPA last week, extending its coverage to 49 percent of cities and towns statewide, according to the Community Preservation Act Coalition. They include Billerica; Chelsea; Holyoke; Hull; Norwood; Pittsfield; Rockland; Springfield; Watertown and Wrentham.

Meanwhile, voters rejected it in five municipalities, including Amesbury; Danvers; East Bridgewater; Palmer and South Hadley.

Next steps

The surcharge can be collected effective July 1, 2017. Municipalities adopting CPA will set up both a Community Preservation Fund and a Community Preservation Committee. The municipalities’ Community Preservation Funds will receive revenues flowing from both their local surcharge as well as the statewide Community Preservation Trust Fund, established by the 2000 law and managed by the Department of Revenue.

In Boston, a Community Preservation Committee comprising nine members will help guide equitable, transparent and accountable implementation. Five members will be appointed by the mayor and the city council will establish a process for nominating and selecting the remaining four, Yes for a Better Boston members said.

The Yes for a Better Boston Coalition will continue to work to educate the public on the benefits and best practices learned by other cities, and to ensure the public is able to advocate for projects they wish to see funded, Brown and Kriesberg said. Another interest: seeking greater levels of matching funds from the state.

Prepping for pot

November 8 also ushered in a new legalized recreational marijuana, with the passage of Question 4 in a narrow 53-46 percent vote.

Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley said now is the time to intervene to ensure licenses for the sale of recreational marijuana are issued equitably. Liquor and medical marijuana licensing have demonstrated that some policy barriers exist for people of color. It is better to learn from those examples and act now, rather than try to enact racial equity reforms later, Pressley told the Banner.

While responsibility for implementation lies with the state, the city can make clear what it wants to see.

On December 6, Pressley will convene a working session with national experts, then develop and submit policy recommendations to the state. At the moment, she has some preliminary suggestions.

One hurdle in securing medical marijuana licensing: the eligibility requirement that applicants have a high degree of liquid financial capital, thus demonstrating an ability to stay afloat and keep the license. But this liquid asset provision also blocks many less-moneyed business owners from one path to wealth generation.

Massachusetts medical marijuana dispensary applicants must hold $500,000 in liquid assets, Matt Allen, field director with the ACLU-Massachusetts and former executive director of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance, said at an October hearing. Application costs are hefty, including a $1,500 filing fee, followed by a $30,000 fee for those making it into second-round consideration. And that does not include legal fees that also may be incurred.

Another idea Pressley advanced: Ensure least one person of color is among the three-member Cannabis Control Commission appointed by the state and charged with marijuana regulation. Pressley also offered for consideration raising the sales tax on pot and directing revenue toward specific policy priorities.

The rest of the ballot

On Question 2, Massachusetts voters also settled the highly controversial and emotional ballot battle over charter school enrollment, with a 62-38 percent vote in favor of maintaining the cap, according to Thursday afternoon’s numbers.

Residents sweepingly supported Question 3, with a 78 to 22 percent vote in favor of prohibiting tight physical confinement of certain farm animals as well as sale of meat or eggs from animals so constrained.

The proposal to allow an additional slot parlor — largely seen as targeted at Revere, where local opposition was strong — was defeated in a 61 to 39 percent vote.