License Commission Approves License for Carnival at Chelsea Commons

The carnival is coming to Chelsea.

On Wednesday, April 3, the Licensing Commission approved a four-day license for New Hampshire-based Fiesta Shows to hold a four-day carnival on the Chelsea Commons this spring.

During the short public hearing to approve the license, Chelsea Police Captain Keith Houghton said the City’s public safety agencies have never had an issue with Fiesta Shows. The company also runs events nearby in Revere and Lynn, among other communities.

At-Large City Councillor Roy Avellaneda said he’s had experience with Fiesta Shows owner John Flynn in the past, and that Flynn has always run a tight and secure ship with his shows. In addition, Avellaneda noted that Fiesta Shows will make a donation to the City’s summer jobs program.

Licensing Commissioner Roseann Bongiovanni said she did have some concerns about the carnival operating until 11 p.m., especially on Thursday night.

Flynn said while the license has the closing time at 11 p.m., festivities and rides typically wind down around 10 p.m., giving police time to sweep the area by 11 p.m. Music and amplification is usually shut down at 9 p.m., he added.

•In other business, the Commission denied a permit that would have allowed for Friday night social events at the Rincon Hondureno Function Hall at 194 Broadway. Commission members and City officials expressed concern that the social night would effectively turn the function hall into a nightclub.

•The Licensing Commission also approved a liquor license transfer for La Esquina Mariachi Restaurant at 170 Washington Ave., the former site of the Plaza Mexico restaurant.

The pastor and parishioners from the neighboring church expressed concerns about the new restaurant, given their experience in the past.

While the Commission approved the license, members asked that the owners are mindful of the past history at 170 Washington Ave.

“You need to be very conscious of the environment you are stepping into,” said Licensing Commission Chair Mark Rossi. “Please don’t disappoint us.”

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Finalists Superintendent Search Committee Forwards Three Names for Consideration

The Chelsea School Committee announced this week the Superintendent Search Screening Committee (Screening Committee) has forwarded the names of three finalists for the Superintendent of Schools vacancy for consideration.

After the application deadline of March 15, 2019, eighteen applications were forwarded to the Screening Committee and on March 25, after a thorough review of the written application materials, the Screening Committee met and engaged in an extended discussion of each candidate, ultimately reaching consensus to invite seven candidates in for an interview. All candidates accepted the invitation and were interviewed during the evenings of April 1, 2 and 3.

The 13 members of the Screening Committee reached unanimous agreement and forwarded the following three educators for consideration as the next superintendent of the Chelsea Public Schools (in last name alphabetical order).

•Almudena (Almi) G. Abeyta

Dr. Almi Abeyta is currently the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for the Somerville Public Schools. She was a kindergarten teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico for seven years and was the Principal of the Donald McKay K-8 School in East Boston for four years prior to assuming a role as the Assistant Academic Superintendent for Middle and K-8 schools in the Boston Public Schools for two and a half years. Dr. Abeyta then served as the Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning in the Santa Fe New Mexico Public Schools for five years and in July 2017 she began her role as the Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Somerville. Dr. Abeyta has a Bachelor of Arts, Communication, and Journalism from the University of New Mexico, two Master’s degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) in School Leadership and Education Policy and Management, and a Doctor of Education from HGSE in the Urban Superintendents Program.

•Ligia B. Noriega-Murphy

Ligia Noriega-Murphy is currently the Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools in the Boston Public Schools. Ms. Noriega-Murphy was a Spanish teacher for three years at the Donald McKay Middle School in Boston. She then was a founding faculty member and chair of the world languages department at the Boston Arts Academy for five years. In 2004 she became the Headmaster at Excel High School in South Boston and served in in that role for six years before becoming the Assistant Academic Superintendent for High Schools. In 2012 she was an Assistant Superintendent on Assignment as the Headmaster of The English High School in Boston, where she served for five years. Ms. Noriega-Murphy has a Bachelor of Arts in Art History from UMass Boston, a Master’s degree in Management from Cambridge College, and a Certificate of Graduate Study in Education Leadership from UMass Boston.

•Anthony A. Parker

Anthony Parker is currently the Principal at Weston High School, where he has served in that role for the past thirteen years. After several years as a journalist, Mr. Parker was a high school history teacher in the Newton Public Schools for 13 years (at Newton South and Newton North High Schools). From 2000-2006 he served as a Housemaster at Newton North High School, prior to his move to Weston. He also has been a Massachusetts Education Policy Fellow at the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy in Boston. Mr. Parker has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology-Anthropology from Earlham College, a Master’s degree in Teaching and Curriculum from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and has additional graduate studies at Boston College.

The school community will have the opportunity to meet these finalists when they visit Chelsea during the week of April 29 and to attend the School Committee interviews with the finalists during the week of May 6. The schedule of these district visits and School Committee interviews will be communicated when it is finalized.

The Chelsea School Committee said they would like to especially thank the members of the Screening Committee for their dedication and commitment to this search process.

The Screening Committee met on five different evenings to prepare, review,

interview, debate, deliberate and decide on the finalists presented to the Chelsea School Committee. Each member played a key role in ensuring that all individual members were listened to and their perspective considered. Those members were Jeanette Velez, Priti Johari, Monica Lamboy, Peter Pappavaselio, Margo DiBiasio, Anibal Santiago, Lisa Lineweaver, Tom Ambrosino, Louise Campanella, Kathryn Anderson, Ilana Ascher, Angelica Bachour, and Marisol Santiago.

The Screening Committee was assisted in this process by search consultants from the Edward J. Collins, Jr. Center for Public Management at UMass Boston.

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Council, School Committee Seeks to Fill Vacancies Quickly

The Chelsea City Council and School Committee held a joint meeting on Tuesday night, April 9, to get a quick step forward on filling two vacancies on the School Committee.

Members Present included City Councilors Roy Avellaneda, Damali Vidot, Bob Bishop, Luis Tejada, Enio Lopez, Judith Garcia, and Yamir Rodriguez.

School Committee members present were Frank DePatto, Rosemarie Carlisle, Jeannette Velez, Rich Maronski, Lucia Henriquez, Ana Hernandez, Kelly Garcia, and Yessenia Alfaro.

Due to the recent resignations of School Committee Chairman Richard Maronski and Vice Chairman Julio Hernandez, the Chelsea City Council and Chelsea School Committee are looking to fill their seats.

“This is a job that should be taken seriously and hopefully we get someone that’s responsible and will show up,” said Maronski.

“It’s unfortunate that we have these two sudden resignations, but I’m hopeful as it has allowed for significant dialogue around expectations and the representation our families deserve,” said Council President Damali Vidot. “I am looking forward to working with the School Committee to fill the vacancies.”

Any residents of District 3 or District 5 that are interested in serving the remaining unexpired terms through December 2019, are asked to submit their resumes and letters of interest to City Council and Chelsea School Committee at: LKoco@Chelseama.gov or mail to City Council at 500 Broadway, Chelsea, MA 02150.

Candidates must be registered voters in their respective districts and must be able to pass a CORI. The Chelsea City Council and School Committee will be accepting resumes until Friday April 26, and will conduct interviews on Monday April 29. Anyone that lives in either District 3 or District 5 is encouraged to apply. If you aren’t sure of your district, please visit HYPERLINK “http://chelseama.gov” t “_blank” chelseama.gov under the City Clerk’s department for a map or call the City Clerks office at (617) 466-4050.

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City Looking to Take Water & Sewer Work In-house, Save $350k Annually

The City could soon be running its own Water and Sewer Department as part of the Department of Public Works.

Currently, Chelsea outsources those water, sewer, and drainage services to R.H. White Construction Company as part of a 10-year contract set to expire on July 21, 2022.

City Manager Thomas Ambrosino is asking the City Council to consider an early termination of that contract, allowing the City to get a jump on establishing its own Water and Sewer Division under the DPW. While there will be initial start-up costs and ongoing personnel costs, Ambrosino said Chelsea will ultimately save about $350,000 per year.

Ambrosino is requesting the City pay an early termination fee for the contract with R.H. White in order to get the City Water and Sewer division operable by July of 2020.

“The DPW leadership and I recommend that we meet in subcommittee to go over (an informational spreadsheet) and work plan in detail,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the City Council. “This will allow the Council to understand fully why we believe we can perform these services not only cheaper, but at a higher quality, and with more resources, than we currently achieve with the RH White annual contract.”

The upfront costs of the water and sewer transition prior to July of 2020 include the purchase of new vehicles and equipment and the hiring of seven employees to make sure the department is prepared to take full control of the water and sewer system on the date.

The total additional Fiscal Year 2020 costs are just over $1.5 million, according to the City Manager.

“The capital costs are obvious one-time expenditures,” said Ambrosino. “But the added personnel costs in FY20 are also one-time expenses. All of these personnel costs will be covered by the $1.784 million saved on the annual RH White contract starting in FY21 when the contract is terminated.”

Ambrosino recommended that all the one-time costs be paid for through the retained earnings in the City’s Water and Sewer Enterprise System, the equivalent of free cash in the general government budget.

•In other business at Monday night’s City Council meeting, Ambrosino asked the Council to consider a plan for municipal electric aggregation.

“Because municipal electric aggregation has the potential of providing more stable and lower prices and utilizing more renewable energy sources, over 140 municipalities in Massachusetts have taken advantage of this program,” Ambrosino said.

•The City Manager also told the council that the City will seek competitive bids for Chelsea towing work beginning in Fiscal Year 2020, which begins on July 1.

Although Ambrosino said towing work is exempt from state bidding laws, the City will seek bids for the work in response to a recent City Council order by District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero. “There is some work required to prepare a (request for proposals) and evaluate responses,” said Ambrosino. “For this reason, the Purchasing Agent believes he will have a new contract for towing services in place no later than September 1, 2019.”

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Councilor Luis Tejada Joins Latino Policymakers In Los Angeles for Naleo Discussions

Councilor Luis Tejada joined the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund and 50 community college trustees, municipal level officials, and state legislators from throughout the country for the NALEO National Policy Institute on Workforce Development in Los Angeles from March 29-30, 2019.

Councilor Luis Tejada.

The convening provided Luis Tejada and Latino policymakers from across the nation with the opportunity to deepen their knowledge around current workforce issues and discuss various approaches to strengthen their jurisdictions’ workforce development. Over two-days, Luis Tejada addressed ways to strengthen innovative and successful workforce development policies and best practices that drive economic success in the labor market for their constituents, communities, and regions.

Tejada, Chelsea District 2 City Councilor, said, “My need to be here was to learn how we can help ALL of our constituents have a more fruitful life and provide for our families in spite of the forces, like technology and other created future challenges, that are threatening to hold us back.”

During the Institute, Tejada networked with other Latino leaders, strengthened their governance skills, and exchanged policies and ideas around effective ways to address pressing workforce development issues. Topics addressed during the convening included:

• Preparing Latinos for the Workforce of Tomorrow: National Workforce Landscape and Projections;

• The Engine of Change and Economic Growth: Embracing Transformative Technology;

• Supporting the Current and Future Latino Workforce: Turning Skills into Careers; and

• Industry Sector Strategies: Healthcare, Advanced Manufacturing and Service.

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Boulder Rededication Ceremony

Boulder Rededication Ceremony

Vietnam veterans unveiling the boulder and a plaque during the Vietnam Veterans boulder rededication ceremony. The boulder has been moved from Malone Park to a new location between the Williams House and Vinnie’s Place due to construction on the campus. During the ceremony, Vietnam veteran Larry Clarke salutes as the names of those from Chelsea who died in Vietnam were read aloud.

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School Committee Chair Rich Maronski Resigns from His Seat Cites Frustrations with Committee Attendance

School Committee Chair Rich Maronski Resigns from His Seat Cites Frustrations with Committee Attendance

School Committee Chair Rich Maronski announced on Tuesday that he will be resigning from the Committee as of May 3 – citing that the frustrations with attendance at the meetings was getting in the way of his family life.

Maronski has been on the Committee for four years, and was appointed at the time. He previously served on the City Council, but said his experience on the School Committee was much more frustrating – leading him to decide it was time to move on.

“I believe the taxpayers aren’t getting their money’s worth and the kids are paying the penalty,” he said. “It needs to change. Our School Committee needs to go back the old way or they need to be appointed. It’s the only job I know where you don’t have to show up, don’t have to call in and don’t get fired. I hope our City leaders take a deep look at this and make some changes.”

Maronski was elected chair this year in his fourth year, and he was accompanied as vice chair by Julio Hernandez, who also resigned last week.

While Hernandez cited family and school complications, he also said he left frustrated by the sparse attendance of some members of the Committee.

“I loved working in the School Committee, but it also made me angry to see some members not show up to meetings, not ask questions, and not have thorough discussions regarding our students’ education,” he said in a statement last week. “…I now believe School Committee Members should be appointed, because our students’ education is no joke.”

Maronski said things started off bad from day one, when he showed up to take his appointed seat but not enough School Committee members showed up to form a quorum and have an official meeting.

“I had to come back another night when there were enough members there to have a meeting,” he said.

He also said he became severely frustrated two years ago when the Committee was faced with voting on a $1.1 million grant that would help save jobs for teachers that had been cut.

The Committee only had to show up in enough numbers for a formality vote that accepted the grant.

“We didn’t have enough members for a quorum and we couldn’t vote on a measure that was going to save teacher jobs,” he said. “There are no phone calls and people just don’t show up…It’s been going on for years.”

More recently, he said the Committee wasn’t able to get enough people to vote on the Superintendent’s Job Description, so the Search Committee had to work for a month with only an unapproved draft until they could get enough members at a meeting to vote.

“My well-being and my family’s well-being come first,” he said. “I was taking this home with me. I’m getting married soon and it wasn’t fair. The reason why I chose to resign is because maybe I could bring light to our City leaders that this situation has to change…We do have some very good School Committee members that give their time, but a lot don’t.”

He said the Committee also plays an important role for supporting the kids in the schools. He said he would love to see a Committee where members are active and involved, supporting the kids at reading events, sporting events and concerts.

“We live in a City where there are a lot of single parent homes and so it’s even more important the School Committee members show up to these kids’ events to support them,” he added.

Maronski said he had all the respect in the world for the Central Office, the principals, the teachers and the buildings/grounds crews.

He also said Supt. Mary Bourque has done a great job in a hard job.

“Mary Bourque has the toughest job in the city,” he said. “We had our differences, but 90 percent of the time we agreed and only 10 percent we didn’t.”

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New Broadway Sign and Design Guidelines Head to City Council for Review

New Broadway Sign and Design Guidelines Head to City Council for Review

Dr. Deborah Wayne’s optometry shop has been on Broadway in one way or another since 1936, but in 2019 she’s hoping that new City guidelines and a store improvement program will help her shop – and others around it – catapult into the new century.

“You want to see quality businesses and you want them to look like quality businesses,” she said. “I think it’s a fabulous idea. It’s an old storefront. I have a storefront that doesn’t have any grates. We’ve been operating in one location or another on Broadway since 1936 and we’ve never had a grate. I’d do anything to get the grates off the businesses on Broadway. I think they’re ugly. I’m hoping that these regulations go through so I can take advantage of the program. I don’t want to take action and build something that isn’t in compliance. I’m ready to rip the front off my store. I can’t wait.”

She shares the enthusiasm of most of the business community on Broadway, who wholeheartedly support a set of design guidelines for the corridor, as well as a storefront improvement assistance program.

Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney has proposed the regulations this spring to the Planning Board, and had a hearing on April 1. They will have a stop at the City Council again with a ruling promised in May.

“The goal is to be attractive and be maintained and lit well,” she said. “It’s also transparency of the windows. We’re telling folks not to have the big frosted glass and we would like the business to take down the big metal grates. In a lot of cases, they aren’t necessary because it can done other ways. We can meet the goal of safety and meet the goal of feeling safe and having an attractive façade.”

One of the problems, she said, is that the regulations for signage and façade improvements are woefully outdated – in some cases not allowing simple things like a blade sign. A blade sign is a suspended sign that faces those walking on the sidewalk. Because of the outdated regulations, she said, many store owners are hesitant to make upgrades that could be a code violation.

“The downtown has always been a bunch of things, but the rules never changed so it means the businesses can’t update or maintain their facades,” she added.

Alberto Calvo of Stop & Compare Supermarket said they improved their façade and sign a few years ago, and it made a huge difference. He’s excited to see that happen throughout the business district.

“We’re absolutely excited to see movement toward the revamping of sign ordinances,” offered Calvo, also executive vice president of the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. “A few years ago, we at Stop & Compare in Chelsea invested significantly to improve our building’s façade and to install updated, modern signage. It has made a marked, positive difference in our foot traffic and sales at that location, and I very much want to see other businesses in the Downtown corridor benefit from these kinds of improvements.”

Chelsea Chamber President Joseph W. Mahoney added, “We do get member businesses, and non-members, too, asking whether there are programs to assist business owners to fund signage and façade improvements. For façades, we know that there is a small program to be made available, but the roll-out of the façade program has been at least a couple of years in the making. Our understanding is that there may also be a cost-sharing program for signage as well. The new signage ordinances still need to be passed by the City Council, so we’ve been telling businesses to sit tight, but be ready. We’ve been saying the same thing to our member and non-member businesses in the signage business. We suggested to Craig Murphy, owner of our member Cambridge Reprographics, start talking to people now.”

“I think businesses are most excited about the potential return of blade signs,” Mahoney elaborated, “those that are perpendicular to the building.” Newburyport’s shopping district is full of those signs.

When one drives down its streets, one can see the businesses’ signs before accidentally passing them. Pedestrians also can spot their destination from a half-block away.

•Another piece of the regulations addresses outdoor or sidewalk dining – which was pioneered by the Ciao! Market on Broadway two summers ago. It was a success, by most accounts, and Graney said they would like to encourage others to try it.

First, however, they wanted to put some standards in place.

The regulations would only allow such dining on sidewalks and they would have to be immediately in front of the business. The furniture would have to be matching and of a high quality. There would have to be a safety plan, and businesses would be responsible for the area. No alcohol service would be allowed for the time being.

Seasonal heaters for outdoor dining are also being considered.

“Realistically, there’s not a lot of space,” she said. “Downtown, where this works, it’s two or three tables or six people. It’s similar to what Ciao! Did on their pilot.”

Addressing the proposed sidewalk dining ordinance, Chamber Executive Director Rich Cuthie was slightly more cautious.

“Edson and Marvin from Ciao Pizza definitely have been the market movers on this and need to be applauded,” he said. “They put in the work and time with the City to test it out. But let’s say it’s a nice summer evening and you and I wanted to have a beer and split a plate of nachos al fresco at a local restaurant on Broadway; maybe an after work meeting or just something social. We sit down at the table and chairs on the sidewalk and then are told, ‘No, sorry. No alcohol is allowed outside.’ Like many people, we’re just going to get up, apologize, and either go to the inside of that restaurant, or another restaurant, or worse, decide to move our meeting or dinner to another town.”

Cuthie said there is no compelling argument for a business owner to make the investment in tables, chairs, and staffing while also having to insure against additional outdoor liabilities if the potential revenues to offset those costs are not there.

“No mistake,” Cuthie continued, “we’re happy and appreciative that the City is moving to try to formally create a path to outdoor dining, but without beer, wine, and cocktails—which by the way are a restaurant’s highest margin offerings and offset food costs, we’re missing the mark and I have to reserve judgment on the initiative’s ultimate success. I don’t want Chelsea to always be 10 years behind other communities. We need proper updating now so that people will say, ‘It’s a beautiful evening, let’s have some margaritas and good Latin food in Chelsea tonight. We’ll decide where we want to eat when we get there, because there are so many outdoor dining choices.’”

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Pupusa Fiesta Highlights Latino Cuisine; Ready to Roll Out on April 7

Pupusa Fiesta Highlights  Latino Cuisine; Ready to Roll  Out on April 7

Several local restaurants and the City’s Chelsea Prospers program is stepping up to celebrate all things about the pupusa this Sunday, April 7, at Emiliana Fiesta as part of the first annual Pupusa Fiesta.

As a precursor to the coming Night Market events, and a nod to the City’s Latino and Central American heritage, the City and local business owners have combined efforts to put on a free festival to highlight the stuffed corn tortilla delicacy – as well as all the trimmings that go with it.

Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney said that five businesses have signed up to participate in the free event, where they will have pupusa samples, forchata drinks, pupusa-making demos, curtido and mariachi music.

“It’s kind of flexing our muscles to see how well we get people together and I also wanted to have a celebration of a particular food that we have in Chelsea,” said Graney.

Julio Flores of El Santaneco Restaurant said they are very excited to participate and feel it is very important that a dish like the pupusa is being highlighted.

“We’re very excited because we opened the restaurant in 2000, and since then we’ve participated in different events like Taste of Chelsea and others,” he said. “However, this is the first time it’s going to be just about the Latino cuisine – particularly the pupusa. That’s a very huge thing.”

A pupusa is a thick corn tortilla stuffed with cheese and beans – sometimes meats as well. Curtido is a common side dish with the pupusa and it is a vinegar-based slaw made of cabbage and carrots – and a touch of spiciness.

“I think the city manager and Mimi and Chelsea Prospers are doing a great job because I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think it’s the first time there is an event just about Latino food. It also opens up the opportunity for this to happen again. I would love to see this as an opportunity to start a tradition and that it won’t be a one-time event.”

He also said it gives homage to the culture in Chelsea, but a culture that is changing.

“The City is changing,” he said. “The Latino community has been in Chelsea many years.”

The Pupusa Fiesta will take place on Sunday, April 7, from 2-5 p.m. at Emiliana Fiesta, 35 Fourth St. It is a free event.

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