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Boston City Council Supports Symbols on License Plates

Highlights from the Boston City Council's weekly meeting.

At the City Council meeting on Wednesday, councilors unanimously supported a new license plate design that uses symbols and less characters for easier identification, as well as plans to expand a Puerto Rican war memorial in the South End, a $19.1 million renovation to Charlestown High School and the Charlestown Community Center, and plans for a hearing to discuss NStar's response to the blackout in Back Bay.

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Adding Shapes to License Plates

The City Council was in full support of an effort to to make them easier to remember.

Senate Bill 1798 is dubbed Molly's Bill after 16-year-old Molly Bish, who was abducted and murdered in 2002 while working as a lifeguard in Warren. Her mother has said she saw a suspicious vehicle when she dropped her daughter off, but couldn't recall the plate.

The numbers "do not format cognitively for us to remember plates," said Jay Gardner, executive director of the Molly Bish Foundation.

Using universally recognized symbols would also shorten the number of characters on a plate, creating a simplified version that even a child remember. The proposal has received support from major police departments, youth groups, Triple A, and other associations. Rhode Island and Connecticut are also interested, Gardner said.

"There's going to be a regional initiative here," he said. "And that's important."

Puerto Rican Memorial in the South End

City Councilor Felix Arroyo presentedd a resolution to "restore and expand" the existing monument at Washington and West Dedham streets to honor the Puerto Rican men and women who served our country.

"We are indeed, as some of the stereotypes say, a proud people," Arroyo told his fellow councilors. The statue will include two people, a man and a women, and Arroyo said he'd love to attend the groundbreaking, and bring his nieces, nephews and future children to see the memorial. Boston is the first city outside Puerto Rico to build a monument in honor of these sacrifices. On the island there is a large Puerto Rico National Cemetery that honors the war dead.

Other councilors added their name to the resolution, calling it a "wonderful and fitting tribute."'

Charlestown Building Renovations

Councilors passed $19.1 million for renovations to Charlestown High School and the Charlestown Community Center. Highlights include renovations to the heating and cooling systems, lighting upgrades, ADA compliance, sprinkler repairs, equipment improvements and more. The 28-month-long project would be done during the night, on weekends, and in the summer.

NStar Transformer Maintenance Hearing

City Council President Stephen Murphy filed an order for a hearing on NStar's maintenance of transformers after a "catastrophic failure" in Back Bay that left 100,000 people without power for days.

"I, for one, have a difficult time believing that we can't do better than allow NStar to inspect their own equipment and just tell us wink, nod, everything is okay," Murphy said.

There should be an independent body looking over the work to ensure that what NStar says is accurate, he said.

Councilor Charles Yancey also said he was "surprised and shocked" by NStar's "somewhat dismissive" reaction to the Mayor's request that the electric company reimburse businesses and the city for lost wages and overtime costs.

Other councilors added their name to the order, and said they were looking forward to attending the hearing.

Other News

  • City Councilors approved $730,000 in public safety grants for police, fire and EMT services. Highlights include funds for security equipment in two zones identified by Homeland Security, training for harbor patrol, crime labs, mental health support in the police department upgrades to three port boats, and more. 
  • Councilors supported a resolution for Earth Hour 2012, started by the World Wildlife Foundation to turn off all nonessential lights to raise awareness about climate change and reduce energy consumption. It will take place on March 31, and this is the fourth year Boston has participated.
  • Councilor Murphy reopened an issue of emergency dispatch protocol, calling for a hearing to determine who responds and who is notified in a medical emergency. Although addressed before, the policy still seems to lack common sense. Murphy referred to a specific recent incidence involving a shooting at a nightclub in Dorchester. Police responded in seven minutes - but the fully staffed fire station located 200 yards away could have been there in one, he said.

    "We need to reopen this conversation," he said. "It ain't going away, boys and girls."

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