Proposed ‘T’ Hikes Meet with Outcry from Commuters, Elected Officials

Proposed ‘T’ Hikes Meet with Outcry from Commuters, Elected Officials

A roomful of commuters and elected officials roundly rejected proposed MBTA fare hikes during a public meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the State Transportation Building in Boston.

Steve Poftak, general manager of the MBTA, outlined the increases, which would go into effect July 1 and raise fares an average of 6.3 percent system-wide.

Under the proposal, the cost of a local bus Charlie Card would increase to $1.80 from $1.70 while a subway Charlie Card would rise to $2.40 from the current $2.25. The monthly LinkPass, which provides unlimited bus and subway travel for one customer, would jump to $90 from $84.50, and a seven-day LinkPass would rise to $22.50 from $21.25.

The proposed fare increase would bring in $32 million in additional revenue to help recoup losses against the budget shortfall of $111 million projected for the next fiscal year.

The last hike came in July of 2016, which raised fares an average of 9.3 percent across the system, but since that time, the Legislature has passed a law limiting fare hikes to a maximum of 7 percent every two years.

After Poftak’s opening remarks, City Councilor Michelle Wu presented T officials with a petition she circulated calling for unlimited year-round passes for seniors and children, as well as a lower fare for the city’s poorest residents, which had already garnered 2,700 signatures by the time the meeting commenced.

“This moment in history demands aggressive action against the threats of income inequality and climate change,” Wu said. “Sustainable, affordable, reliable public transit is fundamental to providing Boston residents with the greatest access to jobs, schools, and opportunities beyond their home neighborhoods.”

State Rep. Adrian Madaro, who represents East Boston, read from a letter on behalf of the Boston Legislative Delegation urging the MBTA board of directors to hold off on fare hikes at this time.

“Public transportation is a vital resource for residents of Boston, and especially for low-income individuals, seniors and students who rely on MBTA service as their primary means of transportation,” the letter read in part. “We realize fares bring needed revenue to the operations of our public transportation system, but understanding how higher fares affect these vulnerable populations is essential to striking the right balance between funding and public accessibility to transportation services. We believe that there needs to be a more in-depth discussion with the MBTA about the background and reasoning for this proposal prior to the imposition of any fare increase.”

James White, chairman of MBTA Accessibility Advisory Committee for the past 18 years, advised against raising fare until after planned improvements are made to the Red and Orange lines, including the replacement of both fleets by 2023.

In response to the MBTA’s own projection that a fare hike would amount to a 1.3-percent loss in ridership, State Rep. Andy Vargas, who represents Haverhill, said, “At a time when we have increased ridership on the T, we should be doing everything we can to encourage that.”

State Rep. Tommy Vitolo, who represents Brookline, took to the podium with a can of Arizona Iced Tea in hand.

“It costs 99 cents, says it right on the can,” he said. “It has cost 99 cents for 18 years. What the good people of Arizona Iced Tea figured out is if you don’t improve the quality of the tea, you don’t raise the prices,” Vitolo said before drinking from the can as the audience applauded him.

The fare increase would put an even bigger burden on commuters living outside the city as illustrated by statements from Egan Millard, a 27-year-old Weymouth resident who works in Cambridge and currently pays $217.75 for his monthly commuter rail and subway pass.

“I, and I’m sure most T riders, already feel we’re paying too much for such abysmal service,” Millard said “Commuter rail service is so infrequent I have to plan my entire day and sometimes week around it. I have lost, at this point, days of my life on the T that I can’t get back.”

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Act on Your Dream Julio Henriquez’s Dugout Baseball Facility Celebrates Its First Anniversary

Act on Your Dream Julio Henriquez’s Dugout Baseball Facility Celebrates Its First Anniversary

Julio Henriquez was a youth baseball phenom growing up in Chelsea. His skills were so advanced that he became a starting varsity player at Chelsea High as an eighth grader. He played one more year of varsity baseball before he chose not to continue his career.

Julio and Gina Henriquez, with their son, Jordan, at the first anniversary celebration of The Dugout baseball training facility in Lynn.

Every day I regret that decision,” said Henriquez. “I’m not looking for excuses, but I didn’t have anybody driving me to continue playing the game.”

Henriquez tells that story of a dream unfulfilled to the many baseball players who train at The Dugout, his baseball facility located at 71 Linden St., Suite 202B, in Lynn. The Dugout is celebrating its first anniversary this month. Committed to helping players improve and grow as baseball players and student-athletes, the Dugout’s mission is: Act On Your Dream.

“We’re here to help players take their game to the next level,” said Henriquez. “It’s been a great first year. I feel I’ve grown as a businessman, a trainer, and a mentor. I’m inspired by what we’ve accomplished here, and I can’t wait to see what the future brings.”

Henriquez and his coaching staff offer individualized and group instruction to youth baseball players. They give hitting lessons in the batting cages, along with pitching, fielding, and catching clinics.

Henriquez has been a coach himself for 20 years. His oldest son, Jovan, played in the Malden Little League and for the Boston Astros before Julio founded the Angel Baseball Giants travel teams that have won two state championships. The teams compete in the annual Lou Tompkins Tournament of Champions.

Players from Lynn, other local communities, and as far away as Portsmouth (N.H.) have been traveling to the Dugout in preparation for the 2019 baseball season. In addition to the baseball skills clinics, there are also strength, agility, and conditioning sessions.

“I’m happy to say we’re getting a lot of Lynn’s high school baseball players training here,” said Henriquez. “They also love my Manimal Camp (for strength and conditioning).”

Jason Harper, a former independent league baseball player, is the pitching coach at the Dugout. Other coaches are Dustin Voss and Sharom Urdaneta.

Henriquez said the Dugout is expanding its instructional program to include softball. He is in the process of hiring a pitching coach.

The reviews from parents have been positive. Henriquez is optimistic about the increasing enrollment at the facility and proud of the players’ improvement in all facets of their game.

“The athletes tell me they love being in a baseball environment during the winter,” said Henriquez. “One player told me, ‘when I walk in to this space, it’s like it has its own heartbeat.’”

One of the well-known local athletes who works out at the Dugout is Ryan January of Swampscott, a player in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.

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Chelsea’s Taylor Ready to Surprise as Republican in 16th

Chelsea’s Taylor Ready to Surprise as Republican in 16th

Chelsea's Todd Taylor will run as a Republican for state rep in the 16th District, and he said he intends to surprise a few people and win the race.

Chelsea’s Todd Taylor will run as a Republican for state rep
in the 16th District, and he said he intends to surprise a few
people and win the race.

If there are any surprises lurking in the 16th Suffolk state representative race, then Chelsea’s Todd Taylor is ready to claim them and take on the role of spoiler.

Taylor, 46, has lived in Chelsea for the last 14 years, and makes his home on Nichols Street with his wife, Regina, and two young children, Alanna and Finn. When he’s not busy with family, he’s running his own business – a business where he started as an employee on the lowest rung and for which he now owns.

However, for the past few years he’s noticed some troubling sings on Beacon Hill, and the Republican candidate says he is ready to make a real run for the seat and give people in the district another choice – a break from the normal Democratic politics that sustains the most lopsided State Legislature in the nation.

“We need to change that,” he said. “One party rule is not good. We’ve seen that time and time again…It’s frustrating because I think I’m only the second Republican in this district that’s run since the 1970s. People really need a choice. It’s important for the people to have another voice and not to have to just go with what is handed to them by the party in control. If you just keep on going with the same old things, you’ll never get anywhere.”

While some Republican campaigns in the area have been an exercise in futility, Taylor said he is serious about running and he believes he has a shot if people keep an open mind and hear him out.

“This is a serious campaign; it’s not just a token campaign,” he said. “I intend to win this race. Scott Brown won by 10 points in this district. The numbers are very encouraging to me and I’ve looked carefully at them. If Scott Brown can win the district by 10, I think there’s a real chance I can win over the voters and win the race.”

Taylor added that he will be holding a kick-off celebration this coming Tuesday, Feb. 4, from 7-9 p.m. at the Casa Lucia Function Hall in Revere.

Beyond his run for state rep, Taylor has a fascinating story – a story that has shaped the cornerstones of his campaign.

An academic who grew up in Arizona and came to Boston for advanced studies in the Soviet Union at Brandeis University, Taylor soon realized academia wasn’t a good fit for him. To make ends meet, he signed on with a temp worker agency as a bartender.

Now he owns the company.

“I worked my way up in that company and became a manager and general manager and then I bought the company,” he said. “I own the company now and operate it. I worked as a temp worker. I know what it is to go out and work for $13 bucks an hour. It’s made a difference in my perspective on things. I get it. I’m just a regular guy who is frustrated with the way things are going. I think I can go to Beacon Hill and make a difference with common sense.”

That said, Taylor wants to bring to Beacon Hill the sense of a small business owner with business-friendly ideas, but also the experience of a person who has worked in the trenches as a temp for years.

“I think as a business person I often see how people in government don’t get what we do,” he said. “I think we really need a lot more business friendly people in government.”

However, one of the cornerstones of his campaign is advocating for charter schools. He said his kids attend the Brooke School in East Boston and he sees that, despite being a public school, the charter is under pressure because the state has a cap on the number of students that can attend such schools. Currently, those schools often have to hold lotteries to see who gets in and they also have trouble expanding programs to include high school.

That, he said, should change and he said he believes charters and public schools can work side by side.

“It provides a fabulous alternative and opportunity for kids to get a real solid education and it gives them a way to get out of getting stuck with a bad school,” he said. “The Brooke is trying to expand with a high school, but they’re blocked by this cap on seats. I support public schools, absolutely. We have to, but these charter schools with a positive track record should be allowed to flourish and not restrained…You shouldn’t have to be lucky in a lottery to try to get what you think would be a better education.”

So far, Taylor said he has been doing a lot of door knocking and canvassing the district in Chelsea and Revere. The response he’s gotten, despite being a Republican, has been very strong, he said.

“I understand that I’m the underdog, but I’ve gotten very encouraging responses from people when I’ve been out going door-to-door,” he said. “We need to change our direction and the political culture. I think I’m the one who can do that.”

Taylor, likely, will be the lone Republican on the ballot, so he will not face an opponent in the March 4 primary – unlike his Democratic opponents. He will face the Democratic winner on April 1.

For more information on his kick-off, contact Michael Cowett at (617) 866-0802.

ON THE BALLOT

State Rep candidates for the 16th Suffolk District had until the end of Wednesday, Jan. 29, to turn in their signatures, but the ballot appeared to be mostly set by mid-day.

One surprise was Chelsea resident Todd Taylor, who will be running as a Republican and indicated Tuesday that he had the signatures to be on the April 1 final ballot.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side – where most of the favorites currently lie – the Secretary of State’s Office confirmed that both RoseLee Vincent and Linda Rosa, both of Revere, had been officially certified.

Vincent has been active over the past few weeks around Revere and spoke to a large gathering of her campaign volunteers at the St. George last Saturday. She will hold a kick-off even at the Casa Lucia on Thursday, Feb. 6.

Rosa has also been active across the district, appearing at Council meetings and stumping for support from Chelsea’s Prattville to the Point of Pines. Her support in the Revere Beach areas seems to be gathering steam. She said she will announce a kick-off celebration soon.

Meanwhile, Chelsea’s Josh Monahan indicated that he had the signatures to qualify for the ballot as a Democrat. He has also been active at several local events, pressing the flesh around Chelsea and taking careful notes at last Monday’s Revere City Council meeting.

The field will be solid by the end of today, Thursday, Jan. 30.

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