What a month at Boston City Hall. New Councilors Ed Flynn and Lydia Edwards were sworn in. Mayor Walsh began his second term as mayor. Andrea Campbell replaced Michelle Wu as President of the City Council, and then all heck broke loose.
First Michelle Wu proposes a series of hearings to explore the addition of a parking permit fee, a citywide permit program and visitor passes, as means of paying for transportation and related improvements, as well as attempting to manage the current parking crunch facing every neighborhood. Most cities and towns charge permit fees, but as one resident mentioned, “The city has a parking enforcement army that could ramp up their efforts to fine scofflaws already.” The notion of additional fees, while based on a practical approach to addressing a chronic problem, is being viewed as another policy that burdens the taxpayer.
Taken by itself, the permit issue, while causing a mixed reaction, is at least a reasonable proposition to consider and take public comment on. However, along comes the idea being proposed by Council President Andrea Campbell of allowing non-citizens to vote in Boston’s municipal elections — possibly including illegal immigrants — and she’s planning to hold a hearing on the issue.
As reported in the Boston Herald, Campbell said, “I want to have conversations about how noncitizens can fully participate and come out of the shadows to do so. These residents generate millions in taxes coming from folks who are identified as undocumented, DACA, legal permanent residents as well as having green cards. We should be open-minded and keep it open as to how they could participate.”
Only U.S. citizens can vote in federal elections, but that restriction can be waived in state and municipal election laws, according to Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. Several towns in Maryland already allow noncitizen voting, including Takoma Park.
“It’s an effort to deliberately blur the difference between citizens and legal immigrants and illegal immigrants. … The possibility of including people here illegally is going to be seen as even more outrageous,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy for the Center of Immigration Studies, which supports enforcement of immigration laws. “It’s devaluing citizenship.”
Not only is this proposal being viewed as radical on its face, but it will also test the influence of the progressive left movement citywide. As Democrats, City Councilors will likely have another progressive wing of the party litmus test to contend with. During the 2017 Mayoral election, Mayor Walsh had been challenged by former city councilor Tito Jackson on his efforts to improve race relations in Boston. Many are now concerned that the debate that will ensue from Campbell’s proposition will create another trigger point on this unpredictable and misheard issue.