A new function hall is slated to open at the site of the former Polish American Veterans Hall at 35 Fourth Street.
At its most recent meeting, the licensing commission approved restaurant and entertainment licenses for the proposed hall.
The applicant, Emiliana Fiesta, LLC, also applied for a wine and beer license, but will have to wait until there is an available license in the city. However, one-day liquor licenses can be granted for the weddings, birthday parties, and other functions planned for the facility.
The Polish American hall had a capacity of over 500 occupants for the two floors of the building. But based on concerns voiced by police officials, the licensing commission approved the restaurant license with a capacity of 250 occupants, limiting the functions to one level of the building, while the basement level can only be used for storage and kitchen purposes. The owners will also install licenses at all entrances on both floors of the building.
Even with the limitations on use, police Captain Keith Houghton said he was wary that the use of the building could tip from being a function hall to operating as a full-blown night club.
“This is going to be a challenge,” said Houghton, who also requested that the opaque outside of the building be replaced with clear windows and that a floor plan be provided to police and the licensing committee.
Broadway resident Paul Goodhue said he also had concerns about the proposal.
“I’ve watched the police clean up that corner of Fourth and Broadway,” he said. “You’re going to be opening up a can of worms if that ends up being a nightclub.”
Commission member Roseann Bongiovanni said she understood the concerns of the police and neighbors.
“We do not want this to turn into a nightclub, that’s not an appropriate function,” she said.
But with the proper conditions in place, Bongiovanni said the new owners of the building should have the chance to give the function hall a go.
“They bought (the building) with the same use,” Bongiovanni said. “I feel like we should give them a shot.”
Licensing Commission Chairman James Guido also stipulated that live bands can perform during functions only and that for functions of over 100 people, a police detail should be requested.
The approved hours for the function hall are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sundays.
By Seth Daniel
Chelsea GreenRoots is leading the way in jump-starting a renewal of Chelsea-Eastie activism on the Chelsea Creek – sending out teams to help build up momentum on the Eastie side for Creek activism.
GreenRoots Director Roseann Bongiovanni said the organization began trying to revitalize the interest in Eastie back in August after getting a grant to do some organizing.
“We can only be more powerful with one voice like we were in the past,” she said. “Overall, since we started, folks have been receptive because they know this is for East Boston residents and will be led by East Boston residents. It goes back to the holistic look at the Chelsea Creek on the East Boston and Chelsea side.”
For many years, the former Chelsea GreenSpace and the Eastie Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) combined efforts to form the Chelsea Creek Action Group – or CCAG. Together, that group fought of what they believed to be environmental threats to the Creek, including a power plant, CAD cells buried in the riverbed, and the Hess tank removal. They also advocated successfully for the Urban Wild location on the Eastie side, and held social events like the River Revel.
However, about two years ago, a lot of the leadership in Eastie shifted to other matters and concerns in the neighborhood, leaving Chelsea holding up one side of the Creek.
Recently, though, Eastie’s Magdalena Ayed spun off environmental work in her organization HarborKeepers.
That began to develop some interest again in the Creek activism in Eastie.
This year, GreenRoots got a grant to do work to re-activate the grass roots base in East Boston and to institute Eastie leaders to begin leading the revived organization.
“That was very important that this was for East Boston and we were just helping to get it started for them,” said Bongiovanni. “We didn’t want it to seem like Chelsea was coming over and telling East Boston what to do.”
First, they visited 12 groups, including the many neighborhood organizations in Eastie, and spread the word about trying to revive interest in Creek activism.
Right now, John Walkey of Eastie and Indira Alfaro of GreenRoots are canvassing Eastie to get more people involved.
Bongiovanni said getting both sides organized again is very important to the health of the Creek.
She said there is also a great opportunity to learn from one another.
“You see gentrification along the Creek a lot more in East Boston and we are hoping to learn from what they have gone through,” she said.
Bongiovanni said the missing link on the Creek still is Revere, but she has hopes that some organizing can be done there as well.
By Seth Daniel
Xavier and Angel Mojica enjoyed their time paddling on the Chelsea Creek on Tuesday, Aug. 8, during an event sponsored by GreenRoots to make a statement about recreational boating on the Creek. Both GreenRoots and City officials see the pier on Marginal Street as a key site to getting people more access to the Creek.
When Sandra Perdomo’s little daughter saw the kayaks floating off the new pier on Marginal Street last Tuesday, Aug. 8, her eyes lit up as big as silver dollars.
She had never been on a kayak, and certainly had never really been anywhere near the Chelsea Creek for recreational events. But at the first-ever GreenRoots Paddle on the Creek event, there was plenty of room for everyone to grab a paddle and boat across the Creek to Eastie or just kick around the pier with a paddle.
“After she went out, my daughter said, ‘Oh mommy, can we do this again and again?’” said Perdomo. “One time wasn’t enough. She wanted to do this every day. For her, it was the first time in a kayak…This was a great opportunity for the community to be able to use the water for fun. For me, I felt it was the best community event in all of Chelsea because we had a good time with family and friends. It’s a fun activity outside and everyone enjoyed themselves.”
The event featured activities and the Chelsea Police Copsicle Truck up on the expansive concrete pier – which is basically brand new and very much underutilized.
Down in the water by the docks, kayaks were lined up and people were excited to get out on the water.
Looking down from the dock, GreenRoots Director Roseann Bongiovanni yelled, “We’re kayaking on the Chelsea Creek. Can you believe it?”
But many like Bongiovanni and other City leaders hope that it becomes much more common.
“We’ve had canoeing and kayaking on the Creek before, but it was with the River Revel, which we had with East Boston,” said Bongiovanni. “We’ve never done it on the Chelsea side on the Chelsea Creek. We wanted to give the community and the kids the opportunity to use their waterway. We’ve been putting a lot of attention on that pier area and we have a vision that one day that could become a park. There’s much more to come on that site. It’s a very key site…Getting out there kayaking and canoeing felt very powerful to people. This was something people said you couldn’t do. We did it.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the long-term goal is to have residents using the Creek for recreation despite the limits of it being a commercial and industrial waterway.
Both Ambrosino and Bongiovanni believe it can be a shared space for both commerce and leisure.
“One of our long-term goals here is to try to provide more access to the Creek,” he said. “I hope some day to have a park in that area where things like that can happen. The PORT Park is great but we’re trying to do something more. If we can use the pier there to do something, it would be great. Everything now is privately owned, but that may not always be the case in the future.”
Many of the youth at the event had never been on the Creek, and even more had never been in a kayak. It’s something that many have struggled with for years in Chelsea, whereas many young people live only a stone’s throw from the waterfront, but don’t even know the waterfront exists.
Long time resident Lisa Santagate said the waterfront had been blocked off to residents for more than a generation. She couldn’t recall ever being able to really access the Creek in her lifetime.
“This is not a one off thing,” said Bongiovanni. “It can be difficult to have recreational boating on the Chelsea Creek, but we’re going to have try as much as we can to get people on the Creek regularly so it becomes something that’s normal. We see that (pier) as a key property that can change the Chelsea Creek in a dynamic way.”
By Seth Daniel
As around 40 residents assembled at the Williams School Monday night on a beautiful summer evening, their greetings to one another and their conversations had to be punctuated by numerous pauses to accommodate the endless parade of airplanes passing loudly overhead.
By a quick count, about 40 planes passed over in 30 minutes before the meeting started.
It’s that sort of thing that brought out so many to the meeting, and it’s also what spawned activists and neighbors to announce that it’s time to stop working cooperatively with the airport as it’s getting the community nowhere.
“We go from Chelsea to East Boston to enjoy the parks they get as mitigation for the airport,” said Roseann Bongiovanni of GreenRoots. “A little mitigation goes a long way on helping the burden. It’s a sign of goodwill and good faith to say, ‘We understand the burden you are facing.’ That’s not happening with MassPort. We tried for six to eight months to get a meeting with them and we finally did. They heard our concerns and absorbed it and said, ‘We’re going to come back to you.’ It was positive. Eighteen months later, where are we? Nowhere. We don’t have a park or any mitigation or any amenities. They just don’t give a rat’s (expletive deleted),” she said.
MassPort has long been a thorn in the side of Chelsea as many residents have contended that the noise and frequency of the planes over Chelsea are just as obtrusive as many parts of East Boston, the host community. Meanwhile, the City also hosts an airport overlay district that serves to provide a district on Eastern Avenue and Marginal Street for airport-related uses like heavy trucking, fuel storage and rental car storage.
None of it is exactly an ideal use for residents to endure.
That said, City Councillors, Bongiovanni and scores of residents have detailed that the last couple of months have been unbearable as the airport has engaged in a Runway Improvement Project to pave the runways. That has resulted in more flights temporarily going over Chelsea, Everett and other air corridors. It has been the straw that seemingly has broken the back of Chelsea’s relationship with the airport and its regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Bongiovanni said Logan announced two weeks ago that the runway project was to end on June 23, and that things would be far less intrusive. However, residents and officials have said nothing has changed.
“June 23 came and went and today is June 26,” said Bongiovanni. “Planes are going over every 90 seconds or more. They said it would be all done. We’re seeing other communities getting up and fighting, such as in Milton. In Chelsea, we’re doing little things…It’s time for the community to stand up here and fight. We need to give them a little bit of trouble so they will listen.”
Residents at the meeting detailed being able to see planes so close that they can and have waved to passengers from their balconies. One man said the noise is so loud – occurring late in the night and resuming early in the morning – that his five-month-old baby has disturbed sleep patterns.
Others joked that they can’t watch television without the Closed Captioning – even with the windows closed.
Some even said they were frightened by how low the planes were coming in – saying it causes anxiety that they might hit something or go down.
Residents said they would like to begin taking action, and Bongiovanni said it would be important to dig up some facts and studies to bolster Chelsea’s position.
One study that never got a lot of play in Chelsea, but made big waves in Eastie, was a Department of Public Health study 10 years ago. That Environmental Health Assessment focused on Eastie, but also proved that some parts of Chelsea were just as impacted as Eastie – the airport host community.
The meeting also featured a guest speaker, John Walkey of Air, Inc, an East Boston organization that is sanctioned to work on environmental impacts of Logan Airport.
Many in the audience left the meeting with a charge to gather information and to get on the agenda of the MassPort Board meeting on July 20. There, they hope to begin making a strong point for Chelsea.
By Seth Daniel
The new GreenRoots team, L to R, Associate Executive Director Maria Belen Power, Nelson Martinez, Sequoyah Williams, Qamar Sabtow, Cristian Corchado, Juan Vasquez and Executive Director Roseann Bongiovanni.
A new non-profit from a very familiar group of folks has begun operations this month to advocate for environmental issues on the Chelsea Creek and throughout the city at its headquarters on Marginal Street.
GreenRoots has spun off from the Chelsea Collaborative, formerly being Chelsea GreenSpace, and will operate in cooperation with the Collaborative, but as it’s own group. The leader of the new environmental group is Roseann Bongiovanni – a long-time fixture at the Collaborative. She will be assisted by another long-time Collaborative leader, Maria Belen Power.
The two filed the papers for GreenRoots on May 27- the day of the Battle of Chelsea Creek – and have been working towards complete operation since then.
There has been no split, though, in personalities or missions for the two groups, but really just a reality of the growth at the Collaborative spurred by the mounting immigration issues and by the closure of Centro Latino.
“We will be two separate entities that are working on two different missions, but in cases where we can, we will work on projects of mutual interest,” said Bongiovanni. “An example of that was the Boston Hides and Furs case where that was an environmental issue and a worker’s rights issue too.”
The main reason for the spin-off is the fact that, due to critical issues around immigration and family survival, environmental issues and public transportation were getting pushed to the wayside. Though they had great victories against the Ethanol trains and defeating the power plant on Eastern Avenue, those victories were getting fewer and fewer as all hands were on deck to help people solve important immigration issues and to absorb the large numbers of people looking for a new service-provider home after the closure of Centro Latino last summer.
“The environmental justice work at the Collaborative was always important, but got to the point where it wasn’t the most important priority on a day-to-day basis because of all the pressing issues we faced,” said Bongiovanni. “It had become all hands on deck to help people who were in dire need of housing or food or immigration or even day to day survival. That work took away from environmental justice and administration and fund-raising. It was the right time and just made sense. GreenSpace had a meeting of its members and we talked about the good work we’ve done, and people felt it made sense to spin off now and see what other achievements could be made – especially when waterfront development is a big issue right now.”
GreenRoots has established a small Board of Directors that includes Madeline Scannell of Chelsea, Yahya Noor of Chelsea, Bob Boulrice of Chelsea and Neris Amaya of Chelsea. More Board members are expected to be added in the coming months.
Additionally, they have hired Juan Vasquez full time to work on an indoor air quality study project in Chelsea that is being done in conjunction with local hospitals.
GreenRoots will now have oversight of the Community Gardens program, and they will look to hire a part-time coordinator as well.
Additionally, all of the GreenSpace functions and the ECOYouth group are now under the GreenRoots umbrella.
Power will be working on public transportation issues as well, which was her specialty at the Collaborative.
“We’re happy to have started off small and have GreenRoots up and running,” said Bongiovanni. “We believe we have achieved many good things over the last 20 years as GreenSpace, but there is so much more we can do and we’re ready to tackle that – whether it’s water quality, land uses, environmental justice or transportation justice.”
A grand opening is scheduled for September.
The new GreenRoots team, L to R, Associate Executive Director Maria Belen Power, Nelson Martinez, Sequoyah Williams, Qamar Sabtow, Cristian Corchado, Juan Vasquez and Executive Director Roseann Bongiovanni.
Political activist and human services leader Gladys Vega said this week that the ‘Dear Friend’ political endorsement letters she sent out during the recent City Election were being misrepresented as an identity politics gesture and did not endorse Latino candidates over white or black candidates simply because of race or ethnicity.
“In certain districts where there were all Latino candidates I endorsed, I did ask Latino voters to vote for Latinos, but that wasn’t the case in every district with every letter,” she said. “In those certain districts I wanted them to vote for Latino candidates. There’s a large population of Latino residents in those areas and there’s nothing wrong with that. In the districts where I endorsed only Latinos, I did ask Latino voters to vote for Latinos. That wasn’t the case in every district. In District 5, if you see all the letters, you’ll see we endorsed Henry Wilson (an African American), and we didn’t endorse in the School Committee race with Bobby Pereira and Kizzie Reyes. I didn’t put that sentence in that letter. We said there are two great candidates and to come out and vote for who you want. Other places, I didn’t feel like the other non-Latino candidates were worth my endorsement. I said in those letters I wanted Latino voters to vote for those Latino candidates in those districts…I have no regret asking Latino voters to vote for Latino candidates in those districts.”
Vega added also that many of the candidates in those districts where the phrases appeared were her friends or family members, such as in District 8 where Yessinia Alfaro-Alvarez – a long-time friend and co-worker – appeared on the ballot. Another example is in District 7 where she endorsed Luis Tejada, who she said she has known for 30 years and wanted to support and endorse.
“Some of them happen to be my friends and my family members and they happened to be the Latino candidates in that district and I would do that again,” she said.
The ‘Dear Friend’ letters sent out by Vega were in Spanish and were mostly non-controversial, simply indicating her endorsement as a community leader and asking people to remember to vote. Such letters are nothing new to politics in Chelsea or elsewhere. However, one key phrase has grabbed the attention of some in the community and especially residents and candidates who are non-Latino.
That phrase stated, “No Se Olvide, Vote! Por los candidatos Latinos este Martes, 3 de Noviembre.”
Loosely translated, it means, “Don’t forget, vote for the Latino candidates this Tuesday, November 3.”
Some have taken issue with that direct phrase, such as District 7 Councillor Clifford Cunningham, who lost to Yamir Rodriguez on Nov. 3 – a first-time candidate who was endorsed by Vega. Cunningham has called for the Secretary of the Commonwealth to review the election activities and to monitor all future Chelsea local elections. Those two Council orders will be discussed next week at the Council meeting.
Vega said the phrase – which again, does not appear on every letter – should not be construed as a discriminatory remark. She clarified once again that it was only called for in the areas where all the candidates she endorsed were Latino.
“It wasn’t meant to sound good or bad,” she said. “I didn’t care for any of the candidates who were not Latino in certain districts. That wasn’t the case in every district…Those were the people I endorsed and I have no regrets.”
The ‘Dear Friend’ letters were paid for by the Roy Avellaneda campaign and Vega’s letter was just one of several strategic letters that Avellaneda put out during the campaign. Another letter, he said, came from former councillor Roseann Bongiovanni – a co-worker of Vega’s – and it endorsed him and another candidate. It was strategically sent to the areas where Bongiovanni had garnered the most support during her tenure, that being in Prattville and Admiral’s Hill – two areas that are known as mostly white or more racially-mixed. Vega’s letter was another piece of that and went out to the areas that were predominately Latino.
“That letter focused on Spanish voters and obviously Gladys Vega is very well known in the Latino community and focused on people who would recognize her as she is in the community, on Spanish-language television and radio,” said Avellaneda. “She is a known commodity there. Her letter went to Latino voters in Latino areas…Nationally you see senators and the president go to fundraisers or to a party to help raise money or support. In this effort, I paid for a letter. There’s nothing nefarious about it. It’s big boy tactics used on a local level.”
Avellaneda stressed it was a tactic he borrowed from the national campaigns in order to help district candidates that he preferred. As a former district councillor, he said he knows it is hard to rally people or fund-raise representing such a small area.
He said he could not speak for the contents of Vega’s letter, including the controversial phrase, but said he doesn’t shy away from it and doesn’t see it as a problem. He said it’s ridiculous to believe that ethnicity or race doesn’t play a part in political campaigns.
“A Latino was asking Latino voters to vote for a Latino in a city where we had no Latino representation and make up 70 percent of the population,” he said. “If they have a problem with that, I’m sorry. Record numbers of black voters came out for President Obama in huge numbers in neighborhoods that don’t typically vote in elections. Come on. Let’s be fair and right here. In the past I’ve worked with candidates of all colors and creeds and I don’t want this to turn into something racist. Let’s call it a rally call and it came in a district where there’s a large population of Latinos. We made that call in 3 of the 4 district races – and did so because the candidate was the best candidate on paper for that seat. Does ethnicity play a role to voters? Absolutely. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we can also say the best candidates in those races were the Latino candidates.
“No one said anything when we said to vote for Paul Nowicki (a white candidate who ran for state senate some years back), but now it’s divisive to say vote for the Latino so you can have one of your own up there?” he asked, in continuing. “It’s not divisive; it’s pride. Aren’t we proud of John Ruiz for being the first Latino heavyweight champion? Yes. We shouldn’t be ashamed of being a certain ethnicity and being proud of and supporting that ethnicity. Shame on those who make it that way.”
In the end, Vega said she felt that the situation was being blown out of proportion and she was being penalized for being politically active on her free time and in that time being a strong Latina voice.
“We did old fashioned politics – knocking on doors, talking to voters and identifying the vote,” she said. “Irish people voted for Irish people back then. It happens…I feel in the end I’m being picked on for my actions in my own free time.”
One councillor – now joined in support by others – has called for the state Secretary of the Commonwealth to look into a long list of alleged “irregularities” from the Nov. 3 City Election and to bring in observers to monitor future Chelsea elections.
Meanwhile, the focus of most of the complaints, the Chelsea Collaborative, said this week that the call is sour grapes and any advocating they did was on their own, personal time and not associated with their organization.
The situation toes a very thin line, as the non-profit is not allowed to take political stands on candidates, but prominent members did take an active role personally outside of work in backing several candidates during the recent election – all but one of whom was Latino. One issue cited frequently are hand-delivered letters using Collaborative Director Gladys Vega’s name and suggesting what candidates to vote for. The letters were apparently hand-delivered primarily to registered voters with Hispanic surnames.
“We did that all on our own personal time and with our own resources or, with the letters, they were paid for by Roy’s (Avellaneda) campaign,” said Vega this week. “The reason I endorsed them was because the people who are elected weren’t doing anything in the City. People are upset about the status quo and that’s why I worked to bring change. People wanted that because the elected officials were doing nothing for the people…I’ve been doing those letters for years and have been holding signs since I was 18 and Juan Vega ran for Council. I grew up here and have been politically active for 20 years. I backed Latino candidates and others back then. Did they complain? No. That’s because there wasn’t a Latino majority…We did the things these candidates didn’t do and we did it on our own time. We went door-to-door to make sure issues weren’t taken for granted. [Some incumbents] thought they were going to walk into office without doing anything and they didn’t. That’s what really happened.”
The issue was boiling prior to the election, but since Nov. 3, the pot has exploded into what has become a very divisive situation in the aftermath of a huge wave of upsets – mostly, again, by Latino candidates who are new to the political arena and, in most cases, not associated with the Collaborative.
That complicates the matter even more as most of the Latino candidates ran on their own accord, as people first and Latinos second, and never asked for any help from the Collaborative, yet were endorsed by Collaborative Executive Director Gladys Vega in the ‘Dear Friend’ letters that she said she has been doing on her own time for years – and this time were paid for by Councillor-elect Roy Avellaneda’s campaign.
On Monday night, the issue came to a head when Councillor Clifford Cunningham – who was defeated by political newcomer Yamir Rodriguez – called for a state investigation into a list of “irregularities” he had submitted to City Clerk Debbie Clayman and for the state to monitor future Chelsea City Elections.
Following the meeting, he said he had no intention of upending the results of the election and he accepts defeat, but he doesn’t accept the activities he saw during and before the election.
“To be clear, one should not blame any candidates for what occurred,” he said. “Though many were beneficiaries of questionable actions, I believe the blame lies fully with the organization that flirted with the bounds of better judgment, if not the law, to advocate on behalf of certain individuals…I believe anyone who values an electoral system free from corruption by special interests should be bothered by what transpired on Nov. 3. The notion that a non-profit organization, in this case the Chelsea Collaborative, its director being the author of the document (the Dear Friend letter), would use a supposedly non-partisan voter initiative as cover to not so subtly advocate directly on behalf of, or against, specific candidates runs contrary to the letter and spirit of the law and possibly rules that govern their status as an entity that is the recipient of money from both this City and the state…The accusations made here are, disappointingly, nothing new to Chelsea politics, but this year, I feel, simply went so boldly and unapologetically far that they cannot and must not be ignored.”
He was joined afterward by Councillor Paula Barton, who lost to long-time advocate Enio Lopez. She said one of her tenants who has a Hispanic surname got the ‘Dear Friend’ letter from Vega, yet no one else did. She said she didn’t like the tenor of the letter and is also disturbed by things she saw at the polls.
“I couldn’t believe some of the things I saw happen,” she said.
Councillor Chris Cataldo, who was defeated by long-time resident Luis Tejada, said he would support Cunningham’s effort of an investigation.
“I have always been for transparency in all aspects of the City, and feel as though it would be hypocritical for anyone who preaches transparency to stand in the way of any reasonable Council order calling for an investigation into City business,” he said. “I fully believe that the outcome of the Secretary of State’s office will show that the candidates did nothing other than hard work to get themselves elected. It is for this reason that I will vote to support the order should it come before Council at the next meeting.”
Newly elected Councillor-elect Damali Vidot said this week that she has been troubled by the talk about race during the campaign. She said she is proud to be part of the first Latino-majority Council, but is focused first on all the people of Chelsea.
“Personally for me, as proud as I am of my Nuyorican heritage; it is only a fragment of what I represent as I am also a homeowner, former at-risk young person, concerned resident, but most importantly, I am a mom,” she said. “Throughout this campaign, I have heard many divisive conversations with respect to race, gender and ethnicity that I often ignored. Since our historic elections, those conversations have intensified leaving me with no choice but to address it…My message is and has always been that of ‘One Chelsea’ as I feel that residents from every corner of this city united is the only way we’ll be able to get anything accomplished.”
Meanwhile, members of the Collaborative said there are a lot of misconceptions about how their organization operates during elections – whether federal, state or local.
Vega and Collaborative organizer Roseann Bongiovanni – who is also a frequent political activist in the city – said that about 10 years ago their Board agreed to make all election days a holiday at their offices. Employees get a paid holiday on election days as many in the past wanted to be politically active and had to take vacation days to do so. Instead, the organization closes its doors. Some, however, do perform work on election days and that is via their non-partisan voter registration and Get Out the Vote work. That, they said, is non-partisan and not associated with any candidates.
“It fires us up and makes us very angry that people think we’re not allowed to do this,” said Bongiovanni. “Many of us are part-time here and I only work 25 hours a week, so I have a lot of free time and I choose to be politically active. Nobody’s complaining when I’m paying my taxes or water bills or fighting to block [Ethanol] trains. Yet, if I’m supporting a candidate who is a friend or who I think is a good fit for the office, then I’m doing something wrong. It’s my prerogative to do that on my time. It’s on my own dime and on my own time and I can prove that…What Gladys and I do on our own private time is what we do on our own private time. I’m not going to hide from my actions.”
Bongiovanni said she paid for a lot of her personal electoral activities, but some were also paid for by the Damali Vidot and Roy Avellaneda campaigns.
The ‘Dear Friend’ letters – which seemed to spark most of the controversy – were written in Spanish and were mostly sample copies of the actual ballot with information about when the polls opened and closed. There were no references to ‘Latino Power’ as some have contended, but Vega writing that it was important for “our community” to have a voice in the City. Lines were drawn on the ballot to indicate Vega’s endorsed candidates. All but one of those candidates were Latino, with the lone endorsement coming for Henry Wilson, who is African American, over Judith Garcia, who is Latina, is District 5.
Vega said such letters and endorsements are nothing new, and she wasn’t endorsing people by their ethnicity. However, in a copy of the letter reportedly written by Vega that was obtained by The Chelsea Record for District 8, Vega specifically writes, “VOTE Por los candidatos Latinos este Martes, 3 de Noviembre (translated, Vote for the Latino Candidates this Tuesday, November 3.). Vega added that she was endorsing the challengers because she and a group of leaders decided that the incumbents weren’t getting the job done. She said she and that group of Latino leaders met at Tito’s Bakery two months ago and agreed on who the best candidates would be in each contest, a decision that defined who would be endorsed in Vega’s ‘Dear Friend’ letters.
One of those endorsed was Henry Wilson, she said, over Judith Garcia.
“Henry has been a good friend for 10 years in Chelsea and has been active here for a long time and we decided to endorse him because we didn’t know anything about Judith,” said Vega. “We have every right to endorse who we want on our own time.”
Vega, Bongiovanni and Collaborative organizer Rita Falzarano said many see the faces of the Collaborative and often think everything that employees of the Collaborative do is also associated with the Collaborative’s official actions.
It isn’t so, they said.
“If you work here you almost don’t have the right to a personal life,” said Falzarano, who was collecting signatures for a ballot initiative next year on Election Day. “I felt there was some serious hostility going on here on [Election Day].”
Added Bongiovanni, “Just because we work at the Collaborative doesn’t mean the Collaborative is backing X, Y or Z. There are 168 hours in a week and many of us are part-timers at the Collaborative and have a lot of free time. People drive by and see us holding signs or something and think everything we do is for the Collaborative. If we decide to knock on doors in District 7 in our free time, that’s our prerogative.”
Cunningham’s two orders passed the Council Monday night and will likely come back for more discussion in two weeks. He said the orders are largely symbolic, but would send a message for the future if passed.
“These orders will send a message that Council believes there were a sufficient number of inappropriate actions that took place leading up to and on Election Day that warrant notice and possible action,” he said. “Second, the role of the Secretary of State would be for the purpose of recommending solutions aimed at preventing like issues from reoccurring.”
Gov. Deval Patrick made a stop by the Chelsea Collaborative on Tuesday morning in order to sign an executive order pertaining to environmental justice. Spearheading the event were the Collaborative’s Gladys Vega and Rosann Bongiovanni – along with environmental activists from all over the state. The executive order could be rescinded by the incoming administration, but there is no indication right now that would happen. It is an order than is several years in the making. The Executive Order requires the following actions: The establishment of a Governor’s Advisory Council to advise the Governor and Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary on Environmental Justice Issues; to update its 2002 Environmental Justice Policy within 60 days; to appoint a Secretariat Environmental Justice Coordinator within 30 days for each cabinet position; to post Environmental Justice strategies online within 180 days for each cabinet position.
Yaritza Gonzales, special events coordinator, Gladys Vega, executive director, Rita Falzarano,
development coordinator, Yessenia Alfaro, director of social economic justice department,
and Roseann Bongiovanni, associate executive director, are pictured at the Chelsea
Collaborative 25th Anniversary Gala on December 5 at the Holiday Inn Somerville.