State Senator John Keenan was the guest at our Fall Neighborhood Association Meeting. Senator Keenan was asked to address the association’s interests in a housing court resource for the Quincy area. A housing court resource is believed to be important in addressing issues in the neighborhood.
Housing Court Access for Quincy
There are 5 divisions of this specialized court, a total of 20 locations managed by 10 justices. The Housing Court does not have statewide jurisdiction. In areas that do not have a dedicated Housing Court, these matters are processed through the District Court.
By way of comparison, the Housing Court’s 5 divisions processed over 27,000 eviction cases in fiscal year 2013 – while Quincy District Court processed about 1,400 of the same type.
Quincy District does have some special resources to assist in the types of cases that might be handled by a Housing Court, for instance the Greater Boston Legal Services runs a pilot program that provides full representation to qualifying cases.
There have been efforts to expand the jurisdiction and access to Housing Court. In last year’s budget debate, the Senate considered such an amendment by Senator Brownsberger, which would have granted statewide jurisdiction.
Court officials have been very supportive and forward-looking in establishing specialized courts, for example Housing Court, Drug Court, Veterans’ Court. A proposal was put forward to expand the Housing Court currently located in Brockton, and allow that expanded Court to receive cases from Quincy. The cost was estimated at about $2.5-million annually.
Senator Keenan told the association that he will work with his colleagues in the senate to establish housing court resource for the Quincy area, but acknowledged this need will be balanced among other specialize court priorities and will not be an easy task.
Senator Keenan, as he has done in the past, also addressed a number of legislative issues before the senate in this past year.
The Legislature passed a major Transportation Finance package that brings new investment to an aging infrastructure. Quincy is among the cities that benefits most from our transportation assets – with 4 Red Line stops, Commuter Rail, bus lines, major throughways, and several critical bridges that need repair. Investment in transportation is an investment in the city’s economy.
Why do we need this? The train cars we ride are 40 years old, Quincy Center garage has been closed for over 2 years, Wollaston Station still has no disabled access, and some of our stations are prone to flooding in the rain. Our facilities very clearly need this investment. It affects business, and it affects the middle class as they rely on these for their daily commute.
District Project Authorizations
A full list of Quincy projects that are now authorized were discussed at the meeting. Some highlights include investment in seawall repair and dredging, and redevelopment of Quincy Center station.
Projects that require capital investment on a long-term basis are very unlikely to happen without a pre-approved authorization, so this list is not a guarantee but it is very important.
Having a project on this list is the first step, which allows us to continue talks with the administration to secure the bonds and the funding.
Domestic Violence Bill
The Legislature passed reforms for the rights and safety of Domestic Violence victims. Three particular provisions of the bill are most important:
A new crime was created for the act of strangulation. This is a violent act that correlates highly with domestic violence, with the intent to kill, and that has a very distinct psychological effect on victims. Previously it could only be charged as assault and battery, without reflecting the unique nature of the crime.
Domestic violence victims, upon providing reasonable documentation, will now be guaranteed up to 15 days of paid or unpaid leave from their employment. The purpose of this is to provide job stability while allowing victims enough time to seek counseling, and to arrange their legal matters.
The law also eliminates some common out of court settlements, when domestic violence is involved. This will help prevent abusive or intimidating terms, which allow offenders to effectually make a case disappear without any enduring legal protection for the victims.