May 19, 2024

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Boston City Hall


Proposal would require action in response to petitions signed by 250 or more residents

BOSTON – February 27, 2017 – Today Boston City Council President Michelle Wu filed an ordinance to codify the right of free petition at the municipal level in Boston. The proposed legislation would require the Council to hold a public hearing on the subject of any group petition signed by 250 or more residents.

“Good government thrives on civic engagement,” said Wu. “This ordinance will provide another outlet for residents to get involved in influencing policy and public discourse in Boston. One of the Council’s most important duties is to provide a platform for community voice. Codifying the right of free petition will ensure that the City Council is as responsive as possible to the issues facing families across the city.”

Council President Wu also gave special thanks to Boston activist and civic leader Jamarhl Crawford for sparking the idea of exploring free petition at the local level in Boston. “This proposal itself is an example of how conversation and partnership with community leads to new ideas,” said Wu.

Jamarhl Crawford said, “The Right of Free Petition Ordinance is a simple and logical step to encourage civic participation in all neighborhoods and will provide residents with a voice on issues that affect their quality of life in the City of Boston. My hope is that the residents of Boston will use this new ordinance as a tool to bring their long neglected issues and innovative ideas to the forefront.”

The right of free petition is unique to Massachusetts, found in Article XIX of the state constitution and dating back to colonial times. At the Massachusetts State House, the right of free petition guarantees that any citizen may file a bill through his or her state legislator. Several cities and towns have laws codifying free petition at the municipal level in place already, including Chelsea, Lawrence, Winthrop, and Newton.

Councilor Wu will formally introduce the proposed ordinance at this week’s City Council meeting on Wednesday, March 1st, and it will be assigned to the Council’s Government Operations Committee to schedule a public hearing.

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