DiDomenico Supports and Promotes Civics Education Curriculum

DiDomenico Supports and Promotes Civics Education Curriculum

Last week, Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) and his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate voted to pass, S.2355, An Act to Promote and Enhance Civic Engagement.  The legislation enacts a hands-on and experiential approach to fostering civic engagement by incorporating project-based learning components, encouraging the instruction of civic competencies – including news and media literacy – and providing extracurricular civic-participation opportunities.

 The curriculum is made possible by the Civics Project Trust Fund, which will provide funding for professional development and for the further development of curriculum frameworks.

 “Now more than ever, civics education is of the highest importance to teach and prepare our next generation of leaders,” said Sen. DiDomenico, Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate. “I am confident that this legislation will empower youth with the tools and knowledge they need to be well-versed in our electoral system and legislative process, and will ensure that they are ready to be active participants in our democracy.”

 “I am incredibly proud of the bill that we passed today,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “This civics curriculum is a long-term investment in the future of our Commonwealth. When we begin to educate our children about civic responsibility at a young age, we foster the growth and development of our nation’s future leaders.”

 “One of the primary purposes of our education system is to have an informed and engaged citizenry; this bill will aid in students understanding of rights, our laws and electoral system, and the value of their participation in our democracy,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester).

 “Civics education is crucial to mending the perilous state of our country’s politics and governance. Equally important, it will increase access to governance and civic learning for students from communities that have been historically disenfranchised. This bill is an important step toward fulfilling our responsibility to pass the torch of democracy to the next generation of voters and problem-solvers,” said Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education.

  The bill has been referred to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Police Briefs 03-29-2018

Police Briefs 03-29-2018

PHONE FEUD

On March 16, at 12:10 p.m., officers responded to Bellingham Square and spoke to the victim who is employed by Assurance Wireless, a company that provides free cell phones for low-income individuals.

The victim stated the male in question applied for a phone, but was denied.  He said that the subject was upset and later approached him while in the area of the Rainbow Apparel, located at 428 Broadway. He stated that the subject snatched a cardboard box containing one cellular phone out of his hand and went across the street to the laundromat. The subject was identified and placed into custody.

Fidel Hernandez, 50, of Quincy, was charged with unarmed robbery and violating the knife ordinance.

MARCH MADNESS

On March 16, at 4:02 p.m., officers were dispatched to  207 Shurtleff St, the Chelsea Community Center for a report of an unwanted party. Upon arrival, officers spoke with the reporting party, who works at the front desk. She advised officers that a male party known to her had walked into the building and onto the basketball court without paying the required fee. She stated that she told him she would be calling the Chelsea Police if he didn’t leave and his reply was something to the effect of, “I want to see them come in here and get me.” Officers were able to place the male into custody after he refused to leave, and began arguing with employees at the front desk. He additionally was trespassed from the property.

Elyas Abdi, 19, of 180 Central Ave., was charged with trespassing, resisting arrest, threatening to commit a crime, and disorderly conduct.

TWO MS-13 PLEAD GUILTY

Two MS-13 members have pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston to charges of racketeering conspiracy involving murder.

Oscar Recinos Garcia, a/k/a “Psycho,” 24, a Salvadoran national, pleaded guilty March 21 to RICO conspiracy and being an alien in possession of a firearm and ammunition. U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV scheduled Recinos Garcia’s sentencing for June 13, 2018.

On March 20, Jose Andrade a/k/a “Inocente,” 27, a Salvadoran national, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO, and conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Judge Saylor scheduled Andrade’s sentencing for June 12, 2018.

Andrade and Recinos Garcia were both members of the Everett Locos Salvatrucha, or ELS clique, of MS-13. The defendants admitted that their racketeering activity, on behalf of MS-13, included their involvement in the murder of a teenager who was associated with MS-13 and wrongly suspected by the gang of cooperating with law enforcement. On July 5, 2015, the victim was murdered in Lawrence by Josue de Paz a/k/a “Gato” and another MS-13 member. Evidence showed that Andrade and Recinos Garcia were both involved in planning the murder and shared the intent to have the victim killed. The evidence also showed that Andrade was part of the original plan to kill the victim, but was unable to participate in the murder because he was arrested in June 2015. The gang then recruited De Paz to commit the murder, and Recinos Garcia passed along the message to De Paz to kill the victim.

De Paz and Recinos Garcia were arrested on July 8, 2015, in Somerville in a raid that resulted in the recovery of a firearm, several large knives, photographs of MS-13 members flashing gang signs, and a large volume of MS-13 paraphernalia, including blue and white hats, bandanas and rosary beads. Recinos Garcia was also charged with possession of the firearm seized on that day. Andrade was also charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana after evidence revealed that he and other MS-13 members distributed marijuana on behalf of the gang.  De Paz pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy involving murder and is awaiting sentencing.

Police Log

Monday, 3/12

Jennifer Khudari, 31, 41 South Ave., Revere, was arrested for operating motor vehicle with revoked license and possessing Class B drug.

Thursday, 3/15

Leonides Bones, 60, 4 Fernboro St., Dorchester, was arrested for possessing alcoholic beverage.

Friday, 3/16

Fidel Hernandez, 50, 36 Elm St., Quincy, was arrested for unarmed robbery and dangerous weapon.

Elyas Abdi, 19, 180 Central Ave., Chelsea, was arrested for trespassing, resisting arrest, threat to commit crime, disorderly conduct.

Saturday, 3/17

Jose Coronado-Hercules, 21, 101 Park St., Chelsea, was arrested for receiving stolen motor vehicle.

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Greeters Ready to Welcome and Assist at City Hall

Greeters Ready to Welcome and Assist at City Hall

The newest initiative of City Manager Tom Ambrosino has everything to do with being hospitable and nice.

Fatima Melara and Tania Ceja have recently been hired to serve as greeters at City Hall, helping residents to find the right place to go and to get things done faster. The new initiative is one that City Manager Tom Ambrosino proposed in mid-year budget requests last December.

Fatima Melara and Tania Ceja have recently been hired to serve as greeters at City Hall, helping residents to find the right place to go and to get things done faster. The new initiative is one that City Manager Tom Ambrosino proposed in mid-year budget requests last December.

Kind of an oxymoron in New England, but that’s just what is happening at Chelsea City Hall where two new greeters have been hired to welcome those coming in to conduct business with the City.

“I have long stressed to Department Heads and Employees the critical goal of providing customer service to our residents and the need to make City Hall more ‘user-friendly,’” he said. “It is still the case that many visitors to City Hall wander our corridors searching for their desired destination. They often end up asking for directions or assistance in other offices unrelated to their needs, creating frustration for both visitors and our staff. We have installed an information desk in the foyer area and have staffed it with personable, bi-lingual employees.”

Walk into City Hall now, and a new desk sits right at the main entrance.

Behind the desk will sit either Fatima Melara or Tania Ceja – both who have lived in Chelsea more than 10 years and are familiar with the community.

Melara, 20, is a student at UMass-Boston and has lived in Chelsea for 11 years. She attended high school in Chelsea and has been very involved in the community. She speaks both English and Spanish.

Ceja, 24, has lived in Chelsea since she was 4 years old. She speaks both English and Spanish and said she wants everyone to have a great experience at City Hall.

“As a greeter at City Hall, I’m hoping to make everyone’s visit with us pleasant, faster, and easier,” she said. “My goal every day is to ensure you leave with a smile on your face.”

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To Cut Drug Prices, Start with the Facts

To Cut Drug Prices, Start with the Facts

Americans are paying too much for prescription medicines. State lawmakers are fed up with Washington’s apathy towards high pharmacy bills. So they’re taking matters into their own hands and pushing forward with several bills

Their proposals are well-intentioned — but they’re doomed to backfire and hurt patients. Why? The bills are based on false assumptions.

Many lawmakers believe that prescription drug prices are skyrocketing. They’re not. In fact, after accounting for all the rebates and discounts manufacturers offer, drug prices have barely budged in recent years. Drug spending grew just 1.3 percent in 2016, according to the latest federal data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Overall health spending increased by 4.3 percent.

In other words, drug spending is growing slower than hospital and nursing home expenditures. In fact, it’s growing even slower than the general inflation rate, which has averaged just under 2 percent.

Legislators also blame drug prices for rising costs in Medicaid, the entitlement program for low-income Americans that is managed and partly funded by the states. Once again, they’re mistaken.

Drug companies provide generous discounts and rebates back to Medicaid to curb its overall prescription drug spending. Medicaid’s statistics rarely reflect these discounts. In 2014, the program reported that its gross spending on drugs reached $21 billion. But after factoring in discounts, the program actually spent only $8 billion on medicines.

Federal law guarantees Medicaid the lowest drug prices on the market.

Nevertheless, state lawmakers insist that drug companies are charging too much. So they’re calling for a variety of price controls.

One measure floated in Utah would allow patients to import medicines from Canada. That’s a bad idea.

The policy wouldn’t lower healthcare costs. Ninety percent of all drugs sold in the United States are generic, and generics generally cost less in the United States than in Canada. a patient’s co-pay — what he actually pays at the pharmacy — is often lower than the price paid at a Canadian pharmacy, even if the list price of the medicine is higher in the United States.

Another proposal in Louisiana, would allow the state to infringe on manufacturers’ patents. State legislators want to give generic drug companies the right to make cheap knockoff copies of hepatitis C medicines, which are heavily utilized by the state’s Medicaid and prison populations.

This move simply isn’t necessary. In 2017, Medicaid spending on hepatitis C drugs fell by 28 percent — the biggest drop for any class of medicines.

If states start weakening patent protections, it will have a chilling effect on scientific research. Drug companies won’t plow billions in to developing new medicines if the government can break their patents on a whim. Patients would miss out on future treatments and cures as a result of this drop in research.

This isn’t to say that patients aren’t paying high prices for drugs. They are. But drug makers aren’t at fault.

Middlemen, like pharmacy benefit managers and insurers, are the ones raising prices on consumers.

PBMs negotiate drug prices on behalf of health plans. They secure big discounts and rebates from manufacturers. But PBMs and insurers routinely fail to pass these savings along to consumers. Instead, they hike consumers’ out-of-pocket expenses by forcing them to pay ever-higher co-pays and co-insurance.

If lawmakers want to reduce peoples’ pharmacy bills, they should demand more transparency from insurers and PBMs.

Peter J. Pitts, a former FDA Associate Commissioner, is President of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.

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Congratulations, Pope John Hoop Team

Congratulations, Pope John Hoop Team

We join the local sports community and the Catholic Central League in congratulating Pope John XXIII High School of Everett on winning its first basketball state championship in its history.

Coach Leo Boucher and his team that included Chelsea standouts Luis Velasquez and Mehkhi Collins, brought much excitement to their fans this season and many students, alumni, and supporters traveled to Springfield Saturday to watch their Pope John Tigers defeat the defending state champion Maynard High Tigers for the Division 4 title.

It was a great day for the small school who rose up and defeated much larger schools and teams from powerful conferences in the MIAA Tournament. The team’s spectacular guard, Angel Price-Espada, submitted a performance for the ages with 49 points, including 10 three-pointers.

Mr. Boucher, a resident of Charlestown and a former basketball standout himself, previously showed his tremendous coaching skills at the St. Clement School, winning a state title there. When the school closed its doors, Pope John officials made a wise decision to bring him on board as its basketball coach.

It was also inspiring to see school administrators, Head of School Carl DiMaiti, Principal Thomas Mahoney, and Director of Athletics Ryan Murphy being a part of the fan delegation at the game and holding the championship so proudly following the Tigers’ 89-57 victory.

Mr. DiMaiti has presided over athletic successes before as the head of school at St. Mary’s High School in Lynn. A former track coach, Mr. DiMaiti understands the importance of interscholastic sports competition and how it can help build a positive foundation for student-athletes and pave the way to a college education. Mr. DiMaiti’s children, Drew and Carole, were both outstanding high school athletes, with Drew winning an individual state hurdles title before moving on to nearby Tufts University.

Mr. Mahoney is in the Chelsea High School Hall of Fame as the founder and head coach of the CHS soccer program that produced GBL titles and All-Scholastic players when he was leading the program. He is an alumnus of Pope John (and Boston College) as a member of the Everett school’s first graduating class, so this championship is doubly meaningful to him.

Mr. Murphy was an excellent choice to lead the school’s athletic program. He is always accessible to those who call upon him. He has helped student-athletes proceed through the college application process and been an exceptional representative for the school at AD meetings. A school’s athletic success begins at the top, and Mr. Murphy has the entire program heading in the right direction. And now he has a state championship team in his program.

To Coach Leo Boucher, associate head coach Larry Washington, freshman coach Paul Williams, and the Pope John basketball players – thanks for the memories and congratulations on an historic championship season.

We’ll see you all in the Pope John XXIII High School Hall of Fame one day.

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Irish Club Sold to Tibetan Social Club, Council Looking for Answers

Irish Club Sold to Tibetan Social Club, Council Looking for Answers

A Tibetan social organization has purchased the former Irish Club on Clinton Street, and several City officials would like to know more about what the new club would like to do with the property.

The matter was first breeched by Councillor Leo Robinson last month at a Council meeting, when he said he had heard there was a new owner and they had an extensive membership.

Robinson was worried, in particular, about the nature of the Club’s activities and their parking plan – as the former Irish Club hadn’t seen a large membership in many years.

On Monday night, City Manager Tom Ambrosino reported that the Tibetan Association of Boston had recently purchased the Irish Club property. He said the club has a permit for the use of the first floor only as a social club.

“That use will be allowed as a matter of right by the new owner,” he said. “I understand the new owner is currently working with ISD to secure the required occupancy permit for that permitted use.”

He said ISD recently conducted an inspection of the property and identified some violations that need to be corrected.

That said, the new owner has expressed to the City a desire to permit the basement for a social club as well. That could only be done by a Special Permit, requiring the new club to make a date with the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) for expanding a non-conforming use.

It might also require some parking relief too, Ambrosino said.

“Thus far, the owner has started the Special Permit application process, but it has not yet supplied ISD with all the necessary documentation for a full review,” he said.

Ambrosino told the Record that his understanding is the new club has a membership of around 200.

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MBTA to Implement New Software System to Avert Chelsea Street Bridge

MBTA to Implement New Software System to Avert Chelsea Street Bridge

the potential to be spoiled – like many Chelsea commutes – by the often untimely lifting of the Chelsea Street Bridge.

The Bridge is a key pinch point on the new SL-3 route as it heads to and from Chelsea to East Boston and the Seaport. As great as the projected 30-minute ride to South Station sounds, it could easily be thwarted by the Bridge being in the “up” position.

The Chelsea Street Bridge goes up multiple times a day, and from start to finish lasts more than 20 minutes. Such delays could drastically impair the service of the Silver Line.

That was identified as early as last summer as a looming problem for operations of the SL-3 by the MBTA Board.

On Monday, in a presentation to the Board, the MBTA revealed a new software system that will help in trying to mitigate what could totally ruin the reliability of the new service.

The new software will be used by the Chelsea Street Bridge operator, who will notify the MBTA bus dispatch center when the bridge is going up.

The software will provide bus dispatch with estimated duration and projected travel time for each of two possible detours around the Bridge. The dispatch will then use that information to determine the best response for each bus.

MBTA officials said that the Bus Operations Division is in the process of developing a Standard Operating Procedure to divert the SL-3 service in response to the Bridge going up. An alternative roué has been identified and will be tested during various times of the day to project run times and reliability.

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Councillor Punts on Residency Ordinance, Sent to Committee

Councillor Punts on Residency Ordinance, Sent to Committee

Just when it appeared that Councillor Giovanni Recupero might finally get a version of his long-sought-after residency ordinance passed on Monday, the votes quickly disappeared – causing him to have to pull the measure before the vote and send it to a Committee on Conference.

“Why are these councillors so opposed to it?” he asked. “Everett has it. Boston has it. Revere has it. Everyone has it, but we don’t because some councilors say we’re wasting our energy and wasting our money. In the end, the people want this. Everett is 2.4 sq. miles and they have it. That’s only a little bigger than we are. If it’s good enough for me to live here, it should be good enough for the police…It’s good enough for these councilors to ask for the people’s vote and say they will represent the people, but then they do this and don’t represent the people right. I speak to my constituents all the time. This is what the constituents want.”

Recupero had ordered two weeks ago that the City Solicitor’s Office draft a residency ordinance that would go into effect on April 1 and would be for only new hires of the Police and Fire Departments. Any new hire would have to live in Chelsea for five years after being hired. Currently, any new police officer or firefighter gets preference in hiring if they’ve lived in Chelsea one year before applying.

There is, however, no residency requirement.

Recupero has been pushing some form of a residency requirement for about four or five years. On Monday, he seemed to be at the brink of getting something passed.

With only eight councilors in attendance, the votes seemed like they might line up. However, as discussion went on, he lost some key votes and was going to only end up with three or four in the affirmative.

That’s when he decided to pull his request for a roll call and send the matter to a Committee on Conference.

Part of the problem was that many were confused by what the new ordinance would cost – as it would require the City Manager to collective bargain the new provision with the Police and Fire Unions. That would mean to get the new work condition – meaning the residency requirement for new hires – exisiting police and fire would have to be paid more money contractually.

“I think the situation deserves a little more attention and discussion,” said Councillor Luis Tejada, who has supported the idea in the past.

Councillor Calvin Brown, who filled in as Council president on Monday due to President Damali Vidot being ill, spoke on the matter and said he couldn’t support it.

“I don’t think I’m ready to vote on this or have enough information from the unions,” he said.

Councillor Judith Garcia said she believed that focusing energy and money on residency was a waste of time.

“If our main focus is to have some of our own in the Police Department and Fire Department, the we should focus our attention on recruitment,” she said.

The matter was sent to a Committee on Conference.

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Let’s Not Even Think about Spring

Let’s Not Even Think about Spring

Spring has sprung,

The grass is riz.

I wonder where,

The flowers is? 

Springtime in eastern New England — now that’s an oxymoron if ever there was one.

This Tuesday, March 20, will mark the official start of the 2018 spring season. In view of the trio of nor’easters that have pummeled us in the past two weeks, thoughts of spring no doubt are dancing in all of our heads as we look to put the recent rough patch of late winter storms behind us.

But being the longtime (and long-suffering) New Englanders that we are, we know that spring is merely an illusion in our sliver of the world.

The weather can be sunny with temperatures in the 60s in the vicinity of Route 128, but for those of us closer to the ocean, we may as well be in another climatic zone altogether. Onshore breezes that blow off the ocean waters, where temperatures still are near-freezing, offset the warm air by at least 10 degrees and the wind itself makes us feel even chillier.

To be sure, there may be a day here or there when the ocean-effect will be of no consequence because the wind will be blowing offshore. On those glorious occasions, we will bask in the warmth of a sunny, 70-degree day. But days such as those, always too few and far between, will be only a tease.

The editor in one of our former sister publications, The Winthrop Visitor, put it succinctly when he wrote these words in 1888: “The season has arrived when Winter and Spring appear to strive for mastery. A day almost like June in its mildness is succeeded by weather that smacks of the Arctic regions, and poor human again assumes his furs and his warmest garments.”

Yes, we can hope for the arrival of an early spring season. But we know from experience that spring truly will not arrive for us for  weeks to come.

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Flooding Issues Must Be Solved with Regional Efforts

Flooding Issues Must Be Solved with Regional Efforts

Two of the highest tides ever recorded on Boston Harbor have happened in the last three  months, with one of those being last Friday, March 2, around 11:15 a.m.

Last Friday’s storm caused some severe flooding in Chelsea, particularly on Marginal Street where the Chelsea Creek breached its banks. However, the storm also packed a punch with heavy winds, which blew Chelsea’s official Christmas tree Down.

Last Friday’s storm caused some severe flooding in Chelsea, particularly
on Marginal Street where the Chelsea Creek breached its banks. However, the storm also packed a punch with heavy winds, which blew Chelsea’s official Christmas tree Down.

And on Friday, and on Jan. 4 before that, the tides and coastal storm surge combined to inundate areas of Chelsea that normally stay dry – particularly on Marginal Street and its tributaries up the hill.

This past Friday, City Manager Tom Ambrosino said floodwaters breached the banks of the Chelsea Creek once again – just as they did during the blizzard and coastal surge on Jan. 4.

He said there isn’t much the City can do short-term to alleviate that kind of powerful force.

“There just wasn’t a whole lot we could do about that situation when the Creek comes over its banks, onto the roadway and floods the entire road,” he said. “We may have to be thinking about – like other cities and towns – very long, long-term solutions because I think these types of storms are going to continue more and more. I think like everyone else we’re going to have to start thinking about Coastal Climate Resiliency. I don’t know what that would mean for Marginal Street, but it would have to mean something because we can’t keep having this kind of flooding.”

Ambrosino said the tidal action on Marginal Street is also what caused the closure of several streets on the hill, including Congress, Willow, Highland and others. Fixing that would mean years of planning and millions and millions of dollars, but perhaps that is something, he said, that needs to happen.

Beyond that, flooding issues on Eastern Avenue on Friday near the Burke School Complex may have a solution. He said there is some infrastructure work they intend to do in the coming years that should make a difference in that flooding situation.

On Friday, high tides inundated the area near the Burke and caused some disruptions in school activities.

The same is true for flooding on the Island End River, which exceeded its banks on Friday too. That type of flooding issue threatens the food supply at the New England Produce Center, but like Eastern Avenue, Ambrosino said there are solutions that have been planned.

“There are long-term solutions there, but they are expensive,” he said. “However, there are ideas that can make a difference with that situation.”

Beyond the flooding, the storm packed a punch with wind gusts that often went above 80 mph. That wreaked havoc with many trees in the city, and particularly with the City’s official Christmas tree in Chelsea Square.

That tree was knocked down in the winds, and had to be removed from its long-time home.

“The Christmas tree did get  knocked over,” said Ambrosino. “As I understand, it was transplanted some years ago and didn’t have very deep roots. The Tree Board will look at that and try to figure out what we’ll do about a new Christmas tree. Luckily, we have plenty of time to think about it.”

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