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2018 Black History Month

2018 Black History Month

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The Chelsea Black Community’s 2018 Black History Month Celebration continued Tuesday with an art exhibit opening at the City Hall Gallery. Pictured are some of the guests at the event, from left, Councillor-at-Large Calvin Brown, Beverly Martin-Ross, Sharon Caulfield, Councillor Luis Tejada, Yahiya Noor and son, Khasim Noor, Henry Wilson, Lisa Santagate, Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson, CBC President Joan Cromwell, and Ronald Robinson. The next Black History Month event is a Taste of Culture Cook-Off Monday at 5 p.m. at La Luz de Cristo Church, 738 Broadway.

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The Rose Rush is On: Valentine’s Day at New Regional Flower Exchange in Chelsea is a Better Experience for Buyers

The Rose Rush is On: Valentine’s Day at New Regional Flower Exchange in Chelsea is a Better Experience for Buyers

Anyone in Greater Boston who got a rose yesterday on Valentine’s Day likely had that rose pass through the New England Flower Exchange in Chelsea.

Chelsea Florist Valerie LaCount of Washington Park Florists said having the New England Flower Exchange in Chelsea has made life much easier for her business, especially this week on Valentine’s Day. The Exchange moved to Chelsea last March from Boston’s South End after 50 years in that location. It was the first Valentine’s Day rush at the new facility for the wholesalers and their many customers from all over New England.

Chelsea Florist Valerie LaCount of Washington Park Florists said having the New England Flower Exchange in Chelsea has made life much easier for her business, especially this week on Valentine’s Day. The Exchange moved to Chelsea last March from Boston’s South End after 50 years in that location. It was the first Valentine’s Day rush at the new facility for the wholesalers and their many customers from all over New England.

In a formerly vacant warehouse on Second Street, the hub of Valentine’s Day – and every other flowery occasion – has been established.

The New England Flower Exchange on Second Street virtually handles about every rose that ended up in the hands of lovers on Valentine’s Day.

This past Monday, the Exchange was brimming with activity, as it was the last possible day for the nine wholesalers in the Exchange to get their product out the door to local florists, who in turn provide the necessary flowers, vases and accompaniments to customers for the big day.

It was the first Valentine’s Day holiday for the Exchange in its new location, after having moved from Boston’s South End (where it was next to I-93 and called the Boston Flower Exchange) after 50 years last March.

“Valentine’s Day is stressful,” said Jerry Cupp, of Cupp & Cupp Corp. – one of the long-time Exchange wholesalers. “I think that it’s one of the busiest times here at the Flower Exchange. So many things can go wrong. We’ve been going from 4 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. If they had eight days, it would be eight days a week. Today is the big day though.”

For local florists who have been long-time customers of the Exchange in its former South End location – such as Valerie LaCount of Washington Park Florist on Eastern Avenue – having the Exchange in Chelsea is a relief.

That was particularly true this week as it was the first Valentine’s Day where she didn’t have to wade through traffic on the Tobin Bridge and downtown Boston to get to her flowers and supplies.

“I absolutely love it being here now because it’s in Chelsea,” she said. “I love not having to go over the Bridge. I’m here two or three times a day. It’s so much easier. I came over here today and looked at the traffic backed up on the Tobin and said, ‘Thank God that’s not me anymore.’”

Paula Parziale, a long-time general manager of Berkeley Floral Supply – and an Everett native, said Valentine’s Day can be a challenge  for a wholesaler.

“We do call it hell week around here,” she joked. “It’s actually more clean and organized than it’s ever been. Valentine’s Day is all about roses. There are so many varieties of roses now, you have to get your orders in to the growers early so you don’t get bumped. For us, family and friends know not to call us or text us until Feb. 15 – unless it’s an emergency.”

The New England Flower Exchange is a wholesaler, much like many of the fruit and vegetable dealers in the neighboring New England Produce Center. That means the general public cannot waltz into the facility and buy directly from any of the business there. However, anyone with the proper floral credentials can establish an account, and most every florist in the area does their shopping at the new Exchange – which sources most of its flowers from Ecuador, the United States, Colombia and Holland.

Many of those growers begin growing to supply wholesalers at the Exchange right before Christmas – meaning that the flower’s journey begins long before February.

LaCount said many consumers think that the flower industry engages in price gouging at Valentine’s Day, but it’s not the case. Instead, she said the growers have to sacrifice two or three crops to provide the volume needed for the American Valentine’s Day. That special circumstance comes at a premium cost, she said, for the wholesalers.

“People don’t understand the growers have to forgo an entire harvest or two to get the kind of production needed for Valentine’s Day,” she said. “People think it’s gouging, but it isn’t. The volume is there, but the wholesale costs are so high that you don’t make a lot of money on Valentine’s Day. Normally, I would charge around $60 for a dozen roses, but that goes up to $90 on Valentine’s Day because the wholesale costs are twice as high. Believe me, I’d close the store on Valentine’s Day if I could, but I can’t because I haven’t won the lottery yet.”

Meanwhile, the major story besides Valentine’s Day at the new Exchange is the move that they made last year.

“It has been such a smooth transition; it was wonderful,” said Janina Cupp, market manager. “They actually did business in the South End up to closing on Feb. 28, and on March 1 came over here and opened the next day. It’s been really great. It’s been better for some florists than others. Those from the North Shore and Maine love it. Those on the South Shore aren’t so happy, but they’re making the transition. The Tobin Bridge is the issue, but everyone has grown accustomed to it. The last market was worn. This market has a lot more open energy to it. There’s one aisle and you can see everything, plus the new lighting is much better.”

The Exchange began its build out in mid-December 2016 after their old location in the South End sold to the Abbey Group to be developed into about 1.5 million sq. ft. of premium high-rise office space. The former Exchange had been in that location for 50 years, but the development push on what had become prime property was too strong.

On March 1, 2017, nine of the wholesalers made the move, with one staying in the South End area and another closing. Several, such as Carbone, moved over their operations, but also significantly expanded their offerings of vases and other accessories.

A new wholesaler of vases from New York has also been added.

But the major message is that they’ve found success, and stayed together.

“It’s worked out a lot better than anticipated,” said Jerry Cupp. “We anticipated something like a 10 or 15 percent reduction in sales when we moved. It has turned out just the opposite. The way this building is designed is a lot better. It’s more open and you get a great visual of everything. There are coolers and refrigerators. You can get the product from the cooler trailer to the floor and the coolers much quicker. That matters.”

Parziale said one of the best parts for her has been keeping the wholesalers together. The floral business, she said, is one that doesn’t change much, and many of those in the wholesale and retail markets tend to become like family over the years. There had been a threat that everyone would split up, but the new Exchange has prevented that, she said.

“I don’t think there are too many complaints at all,” she said. “We’re just really lucky we all got to stay together because it’s very unique to see a Flower Market stay together under one roof. We could have all split up. That would have been sad. Many of us have been working side by side and together for 30 or 40 years…For the customers, it’s important because you walk in and have everything you need all in one place. You only have to get out of your car one time.”

Bob Hall of Kelley Wholesale Florists said they were also concerned in leaving the South End, but as it turned out, the concerns weren’t warranted.

“We were concerned, extremely worried really, about what would happen if things went the wrong way,” he said. “We had a few bumps, but in all, it’s been positive.”

Janina Cupp added that the City of Chelsea has been wonderful in the transition and the build out. Had it not been for the cooperation, she said, it would have been much more difficult.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he was glad to have the Exchange in Chelsea.

“We always try to be accommodating,” he said. “We are certainly happy to have them there. We certainly didn’t want that building to remain vacant.”

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Chelsea Florist Valerie LaCount of Washington Park Florists said having the New England Flower Exchange in Chelsea has made life much easier for her business, especially this week on Valentine’s Day. The Exchange moved to Chelsea last March from Boston’s South End after 50 years in that location. It was the first Valentine’s Day rush at the new facility for the wholesalers and their many customers from all over New England.

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Chelsea Florist Valerie LaCount talks over her order while Chris Birch of Cupp & Cupp Corp. wraps up a Valentine order.

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On Valentine’s Day in the New England Flower Exchange, Everett native Paula Parziale of Berkeley Floral Supply said it’s one week of chaos and careful preparation. The new Exchange celebrated its first Valentine’s Day in its new location on Second Street. The Exchange moved last year from its long-time headquarters in Boston’s South End.

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At the New England Flower Exchange on Second Street, MaryEllen Crowley of Berkeley Floral Supply wraps up an order from a customer. The Exchange was operating seven days a week for the past several days to keep up with wholesale flower orders for Valentine’s Day.

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A wall of red roses lined just about every stall at the market on Monday. It was the last big wholesale buying day for florists all around New England.

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Some nine wholesalers at the New England Flower Exchange on the Chelsea/Everett line celebrated their first Valentine’s Day in the new location this week.

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Janina Cupp, market manager, said they move from Boston’s South End to the Chelsea/Everett line has been very positive, despite initial concerns from many wholesalers.

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Elgreen Orchids owner Jeff Kim said as a specialist, the move has been hard on his business, but things are starting to turnaround. The new facility is much easier for keeping his colorful orchids though.

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Appreciation:Donald Robinson Was a True Chelsea Sports Great

Appreciation:Donald Robinson Was a True Chelsea Sports Great

They would often discuss at family gatherings who was the better all-around athlete, the uncle, Donald Curtis Robinson, or the nephew, Reggie Wilkerson.

Donald Curtis Robinson

Donald Curtis Robinson

Donald was a three-sport standout and All-Star running back for the Red Devils in the 1960s. Reggie was an All-Scholastic quarterback and talented hoopster in the late 1980s.

Donald’s teams twice beat archrival Everett High on Thanksgiving. Reggie led Chelsea to within one victory of a berth in the Super Bowl.

The issue was never resolved but it made for good, healthy laughter among family members young and old. This week Reggie spoke about his beloved uncle Donald and the wonderful example he set for the entire family at the memorial observance.

Mr. Robinson died on Feb. 6 at the age of 68. He was a member of the Chelsea High School Class of 1967.

Donald was not only a star athlete who achieved on the field but a fine student who went on to earn his degree from Northeastern University and enjoy a successful career working for Digital and US West.

Teammates have great memories of the young, humble Donald Robinson who had a magnetic personality and let his actions speak for themselves on the playing field.  His talents at the Carter School were known throughout the city even before he first put on the CHS football uniform in 1964.

Dr. Howard Glazer, the quarterback of the 1966 Red Devil team that defeated Everett, 23-8, in the final game of their CHS football careers, remembered his teammate “as a truly wonderful human being.”

“I am terribly saddened by the passing of Donald Robinson, my classmate and sensational football teammate,” said Glazer. “Robbie,” as I affectionately called him, was a great two-way football player.”

Glazer said Robinson was a gifted defensive back and a speedy halfback who could both run and catch with the best.

“Donald was one of the best two-way football players that I had the privilege of playing with at CHS,” said Glazer. “Donald was a true star on the field, but more importantly, he was a great teammate and a truly wonderful human being.”

Glazer remembers Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 23, 1966, when Chelsea stunned heavily favored Everett.

“That was the highlight of both our careers,” said Glazer. “In the first we ran a play that we had perfected during the season. It was a screen pass to Donald in the right flank. With great blocking in front of him, Donald ran 70 yards for a touchdown, with the 12,000 fans at Chelsea Memorial Stadium all on their feet going crazy!

“To this day, I can visualize Donald running with his great speed and cutting ability to avoid defender the entire run after the catch,” added Glazer.

The Robinson brothers, Latimer Society Co-Director Ronald Robinson, and Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson, competed on CHS teams with Donald and on Williams School teams against Donald, who attended Carter School. Donald’s younger brother, Jimmy, would later star on the basketball court at Carter School.

“Before we got to Chelsea High, I remember Donald being a phenomenal athlete,” said Ronald. “It was so heartwarming to here Reggie talk about his uncle at the funeral service and his athletic prowess. Reggie said he used to tell his uncle he was better, but the reality was Reggie was a great athlete, but Donald was special.”

Donald was not a large man by football playing standards, but he had speed to burn and seemed to understand football, according to Ronald.

Donald went on to play at Northeastern University but what Ronald the most about the former Red Devil great was how he used athletics to gain an education and make a path toward a successful life.

“Donald used sports as a way to receive a great college education and make a life for himself and I think he did that,” said Donald. “Donald married a local woman and they had a daughter, who was a beautiful person and pursued higher education with the passion that he did.”

Ronald said many of his teammates paid tribute to Donald Robinson this week.

“So many of our teammates, like Kenny Lava and Dale Johnson, and others said farewell to a great man who set a terrific example for his family,” said Ronald.

Leo Robinson was also profuse in his praise and admiration for Donald Robinson.

“He was just a wonderful person who touched so many people in a positive way,” said Leo. “He had a close-knit family who took great pride in his accomplishments and his success.”

The councillor-at-large said he will call for a moment of silent tribute for Donald Robinson at the next meeting of the Chelsea City Council.

“Chelsea has lost a true sports legend,” said Leo Robinson.

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Almost Immoral:Supt Bourque, Urban Educators Disappointed with “Fix” to Funding Flaw

Almost Immoral:Supt Bourque, Urban Educators Disappointed with “Fix” to Funding Flaw

Chelsea Supt. Mary Bourque said just when urban educators plagued with a flawed funding formula thought they made some progress, the state yanked all that progress from under them recently.

Bourque, the past president of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents and the co-chair of the Urban Superintendents Network, has been working with the state for more than two years to fix a problem for Chelsea and many surrounding districts involving low income students – now called economically disadvantaged. The change has cost the Chelsea Schools millions of dollars per year in funding that they expected, but no longer qualified for.

“In the urban districts, we’re all on fragile ice right now,” she said. “Everything is coming at us at one time. It really begs the question about whether the allocation for education of students of poverty going to be the place where the state goes to make cuts and balance the budget every year. That’s not what the Foundation Formula budget is meant to do. It’s really almost immoral.”

Schools like Chelsea, Revere, Everett and Brockton – among others – have been hamstrung for the last two years due to major reductions in state funding due to the change in the formula. That change entailed making economically disadvantaged students qualify for that title only if their families were on some sort of public welfare benefit. Unfortunately, in communities like Chelsea, many families don’t qualify for those benefits due to their immigration status or because they haven’t been in the country legally for five years. Without that, the schools don’t receive nearly as much money to educate a very difficult and needy population.

This year, Bourque said, they added several new “qualifiers” for the economically disadvantaged tag – such as programs that students in Chelsea might qualify for despite immigration status.

However, as soon as that battle was won, Bourque said the state turned around and lowered the amount of money given for each student – making the gain a complete wash.

“We worked hard with the state to come up with solutions and they did add more students to qualify,” she said. “But as soon as we got more students, they reduced the amount of money given for each student.”

Bourque said the Chelsea Schools are likely going to be down another $1 million from where they feel they should be in the coming budget year. She said they will keep working on it, though.

It has been a real learning experience for the long-time administrator, though maybe not a positive one.

“To ignore systemic injustice and failure while children’s futures are compromised is morally and ethically, wrong,” she said. “It is not who we are as a Commonwealth nor is it who we want to be. The Grand Bargain of 1993 (for Education Reform) is not more and hasn’t been for many years. It is time for courage and time for action; our children and their futures are far too important.”

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Wynn Boston Harbor Still Moving Forward as Steve Wynn Steps Down

Wynn Boston Harbor Still Moving Forward as Steve Wynn Steps Down

Wynn Boston Harbor officials are moving forward without a pause this week despite the news that dynamic Wynn CEO Steve Wynn has stepped down from leading the company, and the fact that the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) investigation is digging deeper into the actions of other executives in the company.

Wynn Boston Harbor has referred all media requests on the project to Las Vegas, and Wynn Resorts spokesman Michael Weaver had no comment on whether Wynn’s departure would affect the project.

Workers on the site and project leaders have said that the project in Everett is moving forward. A statement from the Wynn Board of Directors said, among other things, they are focused on opening Wynn Boston Harbor.

“The company will continue to fully focus on its operations at Wynn Macau, Wynn Palace and Wynn Las Vegas; the development and opening of the first phase of Wynn Paradise Park, currently under construction on the former Wynn golf course; as well as the construction of Wynn Boston Harbor, which will open in June 2019,” read the Board statement.

Wynn was accused of a pattern of sexual misconduct, including a $7.5 million out of court settlement, last month that quickly altered the gaming executive’s status.

Late last week, he announced that he would step down as the leader of the company – a company that bears his name and has built its brand on the strength of his name. It was a shocking move in a project that has had numerous shocks throughout its short life.

The Board of Directors of Wynn Resorts announced Wynn’s departure.

Current President Matt Maddox has been appointed as the new CEO, and Boone Wayson as Non-Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors.

In a statement, Wynn said he had suddenly found himself the focus of an “avalanche” of negative publicity. As it has grown, he said it has now begun to hurt the company he loves.

“As I have reflected upon the environment this has created — one in which a rush to judgment takes precedence over everything else, including the facts — I have reached the conclusion I cannot continue to be effective in my current roles,” he said. “Therefore, effective immediately, I have decided to step down as CEO and Chairman of the Board of Wynn Resorts, a company I founded and that I love.

“The Wynn Resorts team and I have built houses of brick,” he continued. “Which is to say, the institution we created — a collection of the finest designers and architects ever assembled, as well as an operating philosophy now ingrained in the minds and hearts of our entire team — will remain standing for the long term. I am extremely proud of everything we have built at this company.”

Wynn said he endorsed the succession plan and fully supported Maddox as the new CEO.

“He and his team are well positioned to carry on the plans and vision for the company I created,” he said.

He added that he was most proud of the employees in the company. He said it was the employees of Wynn Resorts that made it the most admired company in the world.

The Board said they accepted the resignation with a heavy heart, and pointed out more than 40 percent of their employees are women.

 “Steve Wynn is an industry giant,” said Wayson. “He is a philanthropist and a beloved leader and visionary. He played the pivotal role in transforming Las Vegas into the entertainment destination it is today. He also assembled a world-class team of executives that will continue to meet the high standards of excellence that Steve Wynn created and the Wynn brand has come to represent. Steve Wynn created modern Las Vegas. He transformed the city into an economic powerhouse by making it a world-wide tourist destination.”

The MGC did meet last week, and addressed their investigation once again, noting that they are looking into what Maddox and Wynn Attorney Kim Sinatra knew during the background check of the company in 2013.

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Bicycle Laundry Looking to Locate on Willow Street

Bicycle Laundry Looking to Locate on Willow Street

A commercial laundry that uses bicycles to pick up and deliver linens is looking to locate in the commercial/industrial property on Willow and Congress Streets.

Wash Cycle Laundry, a company founded in Philadelphia that has delivered millions of pounds of laundry and pioneered the bicycle laundry, wants to locate its Boston area operations in Chelsea. They were before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) on Tuesday night, and will go before the Planning Board later in the month. In April, the City changed the zoning regulations in the Willow Street area to allow them to consider the property.

Gabriel Mandujano, the founder of the company, said they are coming right now to service the hotels exclusively in Chelsea, and would be using a new, advanced style of tricycle to pick up and deliver laundry throughout the city.

“We leased a portion of the building and are concentrating our efforts on the hotel market,” he said. “Colwen Hotels signed an agreement to bring us to Chelsea. We’re going to be their laundry contractor. The idea is they have a lot of properties in Chelsea, but they have a large portfolio all over Boston too. This will bring those jobs to Chelsea.”

He said they hope to run two shifts seven days a week, and would employ a total of 75 people.

“We are a sustainable company,” he said. “We do  a lot of environmental and energy savings in the plant. We are founded in Philadelphia and pioneered bicycle delivery laundry. We delivered millions and millions of pounds of laundry in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. We are though practically sustainable and not religiously sustainable, so the chiefly concerned about safety.”

He said that would mean that they would deliver by bike in the Chelsea area, but use vans and trucks to get to Boston and other far off areas.

He said after they get their feet under them, if approved to come, they hoped to begin doing work for other businesses in Chelsea that have a need for a commercial laundry.

He said they would be using a special tricycle cargo bike in Chelsea that has been piloted by the UPS delivery company in Portland. He said they took a trip recently to Portland to test it out and liked what they saw.

“We’re fairly confident that would be the vehicle we would use if we come to Chelsea,” he said. “Philadelphia is completely flat, so we need something here with a little more power.”

He added they are a second chance company, and hope to partner with non-profits in the area to employ at-risk and court-involved residents who need a break. Many of their current employees have a history of homelessness or incarceration, he said.

“That’s one of the main reasons I founded the company,” he said.

If allowed to locate on Willow Street, Mandujano said they could have the build out done in about 30 days.

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City Council, Quiet Man Spar Over Meeting to Discuss Community Center

City Council, Quiet Man Spar Over Meeting to Discuss Community Center

A proposal by former heavyweight boxing champ, and Chelsea native, John ‘The Quietman’ Ruiz has sparked major controversy over the past week in the follow-up to a preliminary meeting on the issue Feb. 6.

The meeting on Feb. 6 was a preliminary presentation to the City Council by Quietman Sports, which included Ruiz and his Business Manager Mark Giblin, in a Committee on Conference.

During the meeting, the presentation included a preliminary written proposal that called for using the CCC Club in Bellingham Square to create a new youth athletic and education center. The CCC Club folded last year and was sold to Chelsea’s Jim D’Amico – who is refurbishing apartments above the old club. The City had bid on the building as well to establish a youth center in the downtown, but did not win the bid. In the aftermath, the City and D’Amico agreed that they could possibly partner with a non-profit to establish the center in the D’Amico building.

Since that verbal agreement, no one had really come along, until Ruiz floated the initial idea of putting a center there using his name. He has opened similar boxing clubs in Medford in the past. The effort, he indicated, was a move to give back to the City he grew up in and to help many youth who are straying from the right path.

“Mr. Ruiz and his team…know what it takes to overcome the same obstacles Chelsea youth face,” read the proposal. “Maybe by sharing their personal success stories, providing scientific and historic educational programs, and athletic programs, it can make a difference. In the least, Quietman Sports hopes their influence can prevent tragedies such as the March 2016 incident in Chelsea where a 19-year old was gunned down and several other teenagers injured by another 16 year old at an empty apartment. Stories such as this are unnecessary and preventable. The community must act soon or by failing to do so will affect Chelsea for generations to come.”

One of the other stipulations was that the City would provide a $475,000 grant to Quietman Sports over three years to help launch the programming. Quietman Sports would put up $195,171 and would fundraise $75,000.

City Councilors were lukewarm to the idea, though, asking many questions about the expenditure and if the venture had coordinated with existing programs like the Explorers Post 109 and other activities.

Council President Damali Vidot, Judith Garcia and others asked a lot of questions.

In all, the welcome wasn’t as warm as Ruiz seemed to expect.

After the meeting, he attacked Vidot in a post on Instagram, and she said she was highly offended by it.

“In my thoughts I assumed they would welcome my intension to give back to my hometown that I love, but it became a backlash from Council President Damali Vidot,” Ruiz posted. “Council President Damali Vidot comments ‘why do we need your help; you don’t liver here’ and her resistance threw me back. It’s a sad moment when a City representative especially the Council President who should lead by example is taking a stance against anyone trying to extend a hand and who has it slapped away…Call Council President Damali Vidot to leave her power hungry attitude at home and embrace anyone who is willing to help my city that I love.”

Vidot, in an op-ed in today’s paper, said the matter needed clarity. She said Ruiz misrepresented what she said.

“Let’s be clear that the City Council does not decide whether we grant Mr. Ruiz funds for his proposal,” she wrote. “That decision-making process rests solely with the City Manager. The City Council as a body then votes on the appropriation of requested funds in which I am 1/11th of the vote. Unfortunately, following the meeting, Mr. Ruiz chose to turn to social media and misrepresent my comments. At that moment it became clear to me that residents deserved more clarity around the facts as to how things transpired.”

She said anyone who is proposing to work with children should be a better example – not taking to social media to complain when they don’t get their way.

“As a longtime boxing fan of Puerto Rican roots, I was ecstatic to meet the first Latino heavyweight boxer of the world,” she wrote. “However, my fandom doesn’t equate to disregarding my role as a public servant…As a longtime youth worker, I am appalled that someone who is proposing to manage a youth center would not look for better ways to demonstrate leadership. I cannot take responsibility for the ill-advice given to Mr. Ruiz prior to the meeting; I did however encourage dialogue and identified ways in which Mr. Ruiz could seek out community input.”

Giblin did not return an e-mail immediately to the Record asking for comment.

Councillor Leo Robinson, who helped Ruiz in bringing the proposal by filing an order to have the meeting, said he wasn’t happy with the champ’s reception.

“It wasn’t professional,” he said of his fellow councillors. “You don’t treat people like that.”

Councillor Giovanni Recupero said he isn’t opposed to the center, but he would like to see it be for everyone, not just the youth.

Meanwhile, City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the proposal was extremely preliminary. He said the City would have to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) before anyone could even begin talking seriously. Any proposal would have to officially apply to an RFP.

“We’re a long way from anything being there yet,” he said. “I actually have an interest in having youth programming in the downtown and the CCC is a great facility for that. I’m interested in the idea. I would first need direction from the Council for putting out an RFP. I don’t have that. I would say we’re very early in the process.”

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Brazilian National Sentenced for Scheme to Launder $20 Million in Proceeds from the Telexfree Fraud

Brazilian National Sentenced for Scheme to Launder $20 Million in Proceeds from the Telexfree Fraud

A Brazilian national was sentenced Feb. 8 in federal court in Boston for conspiring to launder approximately $20 million in proceeds from the TelexFree pyramid scheme – a scheme that affected hundreds of Chelsea residents.

Authorities reported finding the money hidden in a mattress.

Cleber Rene Rizerio Rocha, 28, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin to 33 months in prison and one year of supervised release. In October 2017, Rocha pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit money laundering and one count of money laundering.

In April 2014, a search warrant was executed at the headquarters of TelexFree Inc., a massive pyramid scheme based in Marlborough that caused billions of dollars in losses to nearly two million victims worldwide. Later that same day, Carlos Wanzeler, one of the founders of the company, fled first to Canada and then to Brazil, his native country. In his haste to flee the United States, however, Wanzeler left millions of dollars hidden in the greater Boston area.

In mid-2015, an intermediary working on Wanzeler’s behalf contacted an associate for help transferring the money from the United States to Brazil. The associate, who later cooperated with federal authorities, arranged with Wanzeler’s representative in Brazil to launder cash through Hong Kong, convert it to Brazilian Reals, and then transfer it to Brazilian accounts. In January 2017, Rocha, working as a courier for Wanzeler’s representative in Brazil, flew from Brazil to New York City. Rocha later met the cooperating witness in Hudson, Mass., where Rocha gave him a suitcase containing $2.2 million of Wanzeler’s hidden TelexFree money, intending that the cooperating witness help launder the cash out of the United States. After the meeting, agents followed Rocha to an apartment in Westborough, Mass., and he was later arrested. A search of the apartment resulted in the seizure of approximately $20 million in cash found hidden in a mattress box spring.

Wanzeler and TelexFree co-founder James Merrill were indicted in July 2014 on charges that they operated TelexFree as a massive pyramid scheme. Merrill pleaded guilty to those charges and was sentenced in  HYPERLINK “https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/pr/former-president-telexfree-sentenced-billion-dollar-pyramid-scheme” March 2017 to six years in prison. Wanzeler remains a fugitive.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and Michael Shea, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston, made the announcement today. U.S. Attorney Lelling and Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil J. Gallagher Jr. of the Economic Crimes Unit prosecuted the case.

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North Suffolk Mental Health Association Partnering With CHA to Fight Opioid Epidemic in Local Cities

North Suffolk Mental Health Association Partnering With CHA to Fight Opioid Epidemic in Local Cities

Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), an academic community health-system serving Everett and Boston’s metro-north region, is teaming up with the North Suffolk Mental Health Association (NSMHA) to help get individuals struggling with addiction connected to treatment by piloting a new recovery-coach program at CHA Everett Hospital. Two coaches from NSMHA are now available to patients who struggle with addiction or present with mental health issues in the Emergency Department, inpatient psychiatry and CHA’s med-surg units.

The total number of estimated and confirmed opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts, through the first nine months of 2017, was over 1,400 – a 10-percent reduction from the same period in 2016. At the same time, from 2012 – 2016, over 70 people in Everett died from opioid misuse.

The pilot program places recovery coaches in direct contact with patients, on a voluntary basis, following an overdose reversal with naloxone, the lifesaving anti-opioid medication. The aim is to link individuals to treatment and recovery services locally. Other patients may present with medical conditions related to substance use and the recovery coach can use this opportunity to engage the patient in treatment.

“A recovery coach is a person who helps remove personal and environmental obstacles to recovery, noted Kim Hanton, director of addiction services at the North Suffolk Mental Health Association.”

“Coaches serve as personal guides and mentors supporting individual and family recovery where support networks are limited.  NSMHA has incorporated this model throughout the addiction division since 2013.  We are thrilled to partner with CHA sharing each of our expertise to build a continuum of support which begins at the most vulnerable time – entrance into the emergency department”

CHA’s chief of emergency medicine, Benjamin Milligan, MD, and a group of providers in the Emergency Department, including Josh Mularella, DO, Emily Adams, PA, and Christine Trotta, PA, ran the Boston Marathon last year and dollars raised through their efforts helped to fund the pilot initiative.

NSMHA’s recovery coaches are trained and certified professionals who guide or mentor patients seeking recovery support from alcohol and other drug addictions. Recovery coaches do not provide clinical services, instead they offer the critical support or link to the services and resources that a person needs to achieve and sustain recovery.

“We are excited to have recovery coaches embedded at CHA Everett Hospital and believe they will strengthen the hospital’s role as a link in patient’s long-term ‘chain of recovery,’” commented Melisa Lai- Becker, MD, site chief of emergency medicine at CHA Everett Hospital. “The ability to partner a patient immediately with a peer who is able to help them navigate to the next link in the chain is invaluable. We are optimistic that the program will have a lasting impact and we may expand the initiative in the future providing a model for a potential statewide network of peer recovery coaches.”

Immediate support when a crisis occurs is vital for effective engagement in recovery and treatment. When a patient arrives at the CHA Everett Hospital Emergency Department he/she is offered a NSMHA recovery coach during peak hours (Friday, Saturday and Sunday).

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Officials Attend Local Symposium on Ways to Fight Opioid Crisis in the Workplace

Officials Attend Local Symposium on Ways to Fight Opioid Crisis in the Workplace

Forty-year-old Lily was a vibrant, loving mother who was an organist at her church, and known for her delicious baked goods. Privately, she suffered from serious depression, self- medicating herself with alcohol. Lily’s daughter, Secretary of Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, vividly remembers caring for her as a teenager, watching her mother withdraw from life before her passing.

“I’m not ashamed that the illness runs in my family. My job is to channel that adolescent anger into a professional commitment to treat addiction and mental illnesses, and not stigmatize people with chronic conditions,” said Sudders, “So often the way into treatment for people with addictions and mental illnesses is through the criminal justice system.”

Sudders shared her personal experiences with city leaders and business owners during “The Opioid Epidemic: Our Businesses & Workplaces,” on Feb. 7 at the Comfort Inn & Suites, Revere. Presented by the Revere, Chelsea, and Winthrop Chambers of Commerce, and the North Suffolk Public Health Collaborative, the breakfast raised awareness about substance abuse in the workplace.

“Addiction is a disease. It is not a lack of will power. Addictions are very powerful,” explained Sudders. “We are in the middle of an epidemic in Massachusetts.  This is very important to us. We are in this with you.”

Sudders recommended that employees be aware of which workers have addictions, are on the way to addiction, or have family members with addictions. These employees may often call in sick or use vacation time, but could be caring for a sick loved one.

“We want to make sure that people we work with have access to treatment and support,” Sudders said. “We are trying to expand access to treatment.”

Over the next five years, the Commonwealth and Gov.  Charlie Baker’s administration will invest more than $200 million into Medicaid to increase access to residential recovery homes, treatment medications, and recovery coaches.

“I’m grateful for the connection between these three, very-close communities,” said Sudders. “They have strong legislative leaderships and great community partnerships.”

According to a December 2017 Center for Disease Control report, the opioid crises has been linked to a two-year drop in life expectancy for the second consecutive year; with opioids being the largest contributor of unintentional injuries due to overdose.

“There is a glimmer of hope,” Sudders said. “But there is still a lot of suffering and work that we need to do together.”

Although six lives are lost each day in Massachusetts from overdoses, there has been a decrease in opioid-related deaths as compared to last year. The Commonwealth has noticed a significant decline in opioid prescriptions, and a 200-percent increase in non-fatal overdoses.

“Businesses are also on the front line, just like first responders and health care workers,” said Alexander Walley, MD, Boston Medical Center. “Throughout Massachusetts people are faced with this in their own families, employees, customers, and public spaces.”

Employers were encouraged to foster a supportive atmosphere and offer resources and benefits to employees. Business owners were recommended to implement clear policies regarding leaves of absence and time off, and to seek professional advice when confronted with substance abuse-related issues.

“People in recovery can be great employees, and employers can help,” said Dr. Walley, director of the Addiction Medicine Fellowship Program. “Opioid use disorder is a chronic condition of the brain. Treatment works and people recover. That’s an important message.”

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