At a packed house in the GreenRoots office
Tuesday night, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said she would use her legislative
power to help improve issues of transportation inequity for her constituents.
The Chelsea Transit Equity Roundtable was one of a series of meetings Pressley is holding throughout the 7th Congressional District to gather input about the issues affecting the region, she said.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley was on hand at GreenRoots Tuesday night to discuss Transit Equity in Chelsea and throughout the district.
While the evening focused on issues
surrounding public transportation and pedestrian and bicycling access, the
Congresswoman did also touch on her thanks for local support from Chelsea, her
first 100 days in office, and her gratitude for the activism of GreenRoots and
other local organizations.
“I appreciate that when I come to Chelsea,
they always put me to work,” said Pressley. “I think GreenRoots is at the
center of community building. GreenRoots is such an inclusive movement.”
Pressley said the idea behind the equity
roundtables for transportation and other issues is to create an intimate space
to actively listen to residents about their needs and concerns.
“Developing the best and most sustainable
legislative solutions is what we are after,” said Pressley. “Inequities and
disparity did not just happen, they were made by policy, and that’s why the
mitigation has to be through lawmaking.”
Some of the highlights of the roundtable
included discussions of transit challenges for the disabled, for cyclists, and
for young people.
Disability rights activist Colleen Flanagan
pointed out that Boston and the surrounding area have taken steps to make
transportation more accessible to disabled people, but that there is still a
long way to go. She said price increases and attacks on non-emergency medical
transportation are having a negative impact on disabled public transportation
“We need to continue to show that access to
transportation is a civil right,” said Flanagan.
Pressley also talked about the public
transportation issues facing young people, especially low income youth who rely
on MBTA buses and the subway.
One youth leader Pressley spoke with said
she feels like she is punished because she is a low-income person who has no
other options for transportation.
Cycling educator and activist Gamal Smith
made his way to the Chelsea roundtable from Chelsea on two wheels.
“It’s faster and more reliable to be on two
wheels for almost any distance” in the Boston area, Smith said.
But while cycling can be faster than other
modes of transportation, Smith said there are still many challenges for
cyclists, including safety, with a multitude of roads that have no safe
crossings for cyclists or pedestrians.
Smith said the speed of getting around on
two wheels also highlights the at-times substandard service of buses and other
public transportation options. He said his son takes the MBTA bus to school,
and it can wreak havoc on keeping track of schedules.
“I shouldn’t have to wonder if it’s going to
take my kid a half-hour or an hour when he comes home on the bus,” said Smith.
Pressley encouraged anyone who wants to continue
the discussion on transit equity, or equity on other issues, to use the hashtag
#APequityagenda on social media.
Workers across the Greater Boston region
took to the picket lines on Friday, April 12, to fight a continued contract
battle against Stop & Shop – and workers were out in force at the
Everett/Chelsea location as well.
Most workers at the local store asked
shoppers to consider using another store, standing with strike signs to the
side of the doors to the store.
Some 31,000 unionized grocery store employees were included in the strike, with many from the local store being Everett and Chelsea residents.
Long time Stop & Shop employee Mike Bruce strikes outside of his workplace in Everett.
The main contention of the demands by
workers includes a fair wage, affordable/accessible health care and a reliable
The United Food and Commercial Workers
International Union said on Tuesday afternoon that they are still negotiating
with the company but might have some news by the end of the week.
The struggle began earlier this year when
the union contract was about to expire in February, with the Union threatening
a strike. On Feb. 23, the contract did expire, and the Union authorized a
strike. The union local representing Everett’s store is UFCW 1445.
“Stop & Shop has known for the past
three years that our contract was set to expire on February 23,” read a
statement from the union presidents in February. “But because of their
continued corporate greed throughout these negotiations, Stop & Shop
employees and customers now find themselves in a position where job actions may
While federal mediation was taking place in
the time from that strike authorization to now, talks did break down recently –
prompting the strike action.
Local officials made visits to the front
lines over the weekend.
State Sen. Sal DiDomenico said Stop &
Shop, and its parent company Royal Ahold, should treat the workers with dignity
“Once again, we have another corporate giant
who refuses to treat it’s employees with dignity and respect,” said
DiDomenico. “I have been a frequent shopper at Stop & Shop and I will
no longer step foot in any of their stores until they come to a resolution with
the union workers and provide them a fair contract. I am proud to support
Stop & Shop workers in their fight for fair wages, affordable health care,
and a dependable retirement, and I will continue to stand with them in this fight
and urge everyone to respect their picket line.”
Stop & Shop officials said that
negotiations are continuing with the UFCW union locals, again with the support
of federal mediators.
The company has said they have been very
generous in their contract offer to the UFCW union.
On health care, they indicated they have
agreed to pay 92 percent of heath premiums for family coverage and 88 percent
for individuals. Th company said that is much more than other large retailers –
citing that the federal government pays 72 percent and other employers average
between 70 and 80 percent. Additionally, the offer includes no changes to the
deductibles, and small increases to co-pays.
The company said it is also offering a
defined benefit pension plan that pays between $1,926 and $2,644 annually per
associate. In the new contract, the company said it has agreed to increase
contributions to pension funds.
Also, they added
that the paid time off has not changed and continues to be 10 to 12 paid
holidays per year.
Soon Chelsea – like other cities – can
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he hopes to
proceed with introducing a 311 constituent services reporting platform to the
City in the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1.
Already, Everett, Revere, Boston and others
feature a telephone and online/app 311 system that residents can use to report
anything from a pothole to graffiti to a rabid skunk.
“The goal is to provide better and more
prompt responsiveness to constituent complaints,” read a letter from Ambrosino
to the Council.
Ambrosino said the system he has in mind
would operate with two employees working out of the DPW building. They would
field complaints from 311 by telephone, email, text message and web-based
reporting. They would fall under the supervision of Public Works Commissioner
Once having taken the complaint, the
employees would then assign the complaint to the appropriate department.
That would open up a series of
accountability measures on each complaint, he said.
“These employees will be responsible for
assigning the issue to the appropriate department representative or directly
accessing the relevant information in a City database, tracking progress on the
issue providing information on the resolution of the issue to the individual
who reported it,” he wrote. “We believe this will be a much more effective way
of addressing constituent complaints and hopefully it will be well-received by
Start-up costs would look to be $162,000 for
employees and the computer software. He said there is already $27,000 set aside
for the program, and $50,000 from a state grant received last year. The
remainder of the first-year costs would have to come from a budget request.
“I hope the Council will see the benefits of
this improved constituent services effort and approve the requested FY20
appropriations,” he wrote.
The new system
would replace the old SeeClickFix reporting system, which never worked as
City Manager Tom Ambrosino and members of the Chelsea Collaborative held a lottery on April 4 to pick the names of scores of young residents who will secure a summer youth employment job.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino picks names for the summer jobs lottery.
Director Gladys Vega said that while it was
a time to celebrate the employment of more than 100 youth in the community, the
need was far greater than the jobs.
“This year we received more than 300
applications, with more that came after the deadline,” she said. “Due to our
funding, we are able to offer only 150 spots this year. We are excited to pair
youth with more than 40 of our longstanding partners, including City of
Chelsea, Chelsea Police, Intergenerational Literacy Program, Jordan Boys &
Girls Club, North Suffolk Mental Health and others.”
At the lottery, 185 names in several
different age groups were selected.
Some were put on a waiting list, and a vast
majority of those applying were of a younger age.
Youth that were picked in the lottery are
now going through several interviews this week, during School Spring Break. If
they successfully pass those interviews, they will meet their employers in June
and receive more training.
The Summer Youth
Employment Initiative (SYEI) begins on July 1.
After viewing multiple surveillance videos
of patrons falling off stools, being overserved, urinating in public, getting
groped, and laid out on the sidewalk by the front door after closing time, the
Licensing Commission last week suspended the Chelsea Walk Pub’s liquor license
for 10 weeks.
The attorney for the Pub argued that the
Broadway bar has avoided violations in the past. But for Commission members,
the multiple incidents brought before it at its April 3 meeting were serious
enough to warrant the harsh judgment.
The Licensing Commission found the Chelsea
Walk Pub violated City ordinances by overserving patrons, selling liquor to an
intoxicated person, creating a noise or disorderly disturbance, and failing to
provide video surveillance. The majority of the violations resulted from
incidents responded to by the Police Department late last November.
In a letter to the Licensing Commission,
City Manager Thomas Ambrosino urged the commission not to take the reported
“A liquor license is a privilege and not a
right,” the City Manager stated.
The majority of the April 3 hearing revolved
around the showing of video surveillance footage from a number of the
Police highlighted one patron at the end of
the bar who had three drinks in front of him before stashing an unopened beer
in his jacket while the bartender wasn’t looking.
Meanwhile, police pointed out that at the
other end of the bar, a woman sat with two pitchers of beer in front of her
with no one else drinking from the mugs. In addition, the video showed the
woman encouraging another patron to put his hand down her shirt and grope her
Police Captain Keith Houghton said both
incidents violated the city alcohol serving ordinances.
Attorney Jeffrey Rosario Turco, representing
the Pub, put up a defense to the evidence, noting several times that the
patrons who were alleged to have been overserved seemed steady on their feet
and not intoxicated.
“With all due respect, that woman allowed a
man to go down her shirt with two pitchers of beer in front of her,” said City
Solicitor Cheryl Watson Fisher. “There are implications all over the place.”
Additional video and evidence showed a
patron leaving the bar and urinating outside on the sidewalk and a patron
weaving into the street before being spotted by a police officer.
Licensing Commission member Roseann
Bongiovanni was unmoved by Turco’s “not swaying” defense when it came to video
of one patron who left the bar then went back in after being allegedly
“He’s leaning up against the way, that’s why
he’s not swaying,” said Bongiovanni. “That’s some good evidence you have
Most damning was an incident that showed
several patrons and a bartender struggling for nearly 10 minutes to carry an
alleged intoxicated patron out the door after closing time. Once the man was
laid on the sidewalk, the bartender went back inside and locked the front door
of the bar.
“The bartender quickly closed the door and leaves
him out flat, leaving him pretty much to us,” said Houghton.
Turco did not dispute the evidence in that
incident, but said that the bartender in the video had been fired.
Chelsea Walk Pub owner Angela Palmieri said
the main problem has been that her staff has not stepped up.
“They don’t listen to what I tell them to
do,” she said.
While the Pub hasn’t come before the
Licensing Commission in recent memory for violation, Bongiovanni said it has
largely been because there weren’t City resources to police the establishment
before. She said the Chelsea Walk Pub has a long history of shenanigans.
“There have been so many instances at the
Chelsea Walk Pub,” she said. “These are just the ones you got caught for; it is
a disgrace to the city.”
In addition to the
10-week liquor license suspension, the Licensing Commission also voted to
reduce the bar’s operating hours from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. to noon to 10 p.m.
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
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
“You need to be very conscious of the
environment you are stepping into,” said Licensing Commission Chair Mark Rossi.
“Please don’t disappoint us.”
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
•In other business at Monday night’s City
Council meeting, Ambrosino asked the Council to consider a plan for municipal
“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
“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.”
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
• 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.
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
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.”
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
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
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
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
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