The first City Council meeting of the year was mostly a by-the-numbers affair, with a light agenda of actual decisions to be made.
The 2012 City Council, having been sworn-in earlier Monday at Faneuil Hall, did make one decision — they kept City Councilor Stephen Murphy on as president. The vote, which was expected to go Murphy's way, was unanimous.
Murphy outlined a few items he'd like the council to go after in 2012. Among them would be using the council to pressure the owner of the giant hole in Downtown Crossing to get it fixed if they expect the city to play ball with them over another property in which they have a 20 percent interest — Suffolk Downs, which could become a lucrative casino.
"There are people who want to put a casino here in Boston and one of the minority members is the same entity whose work is on display a few hundred yards south of here at the hole that we used to all know as Filene’s," Murphy said. "I think we as a City Council should say, 'We want to work with you. But we also want you to fix that damn hole in the ground.'"
Vornado Realty Trust owns the eyesore crater. According to the Boston Globe, it recently started publicly marketing the Filene's property, but that the offers are coming in around $50 million. That's far short of Vornado's $200 million investment.
Another effort Murphy said he would champion in 2012 is creating a program by which tax-exempt universities and medical institutions can work off some of their "debt" to the city. The term of art is "Payment in Lieu of Taxes" or PILOT, since by law these institutions don't pay property taxes. Cities can't force nonprofits to pay these but they can twist arms. Under the plan, students would mentor Boston middle schoolers and the insitutions would get credit against their PILOT goals.
In other news from the meeting, it was announced that Mayor Thomas Menino reappointed School Committee member Claudio Martinez of Jamaica Plain. He also appointed Meg Campbell of Dorchester. Martinez is executive director of JP's Hyde Square Task Force. Campbell is founder and executive director of the Codman Academy Charter School. The appointment marks a warming relationship between the city and charter schools. These are four-year terms. Campbell takes the seat formerly held by Marchelle Raynor of Roxbury.
[Editor's note — This item appears on the following Boston Patches: Charlestown, Back Bay, South End, West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain.]