Controversial Parking Plan Gets Tabled at Council, Still a Victory for Vidot

Controversial Parking Plan Gets Tabled at Council, Still a Victory for Vidot

After many hours of meetings and dozens of discussions, a parking plan putting put forth by Council President Damali Vidot has been tabled by a vote of 6-4.

But within that vote was the promise by City Manager Tom Ambrosino to do a comprehensive parking study that would focus on resident needs and be done by this fall.

“Sometimes, you put things forth knowing you won’t get support; but as an opportunity to allow councilors to show where they stand to their constituency for when Election season comes,” said Vidot after the vote Monday night. “The parking ordinance served its purpose by initiating conversation and the City finally getting a comprehensive parking study going. It’s a win-win for the people of Chelsea.”

Vidot’s plan would have applied to developers who asked to waive more than 10 percent of the required parking under the zoning ordinances. Those that do ask for such relief would then be required to put in apartment leases that residents of the development could not apply for or receive City residential parking stickers.

One of the main problems with many developments, it has been explained, is that they waive the parking requirements with the assumption that residents won’t utilize cars. However, Vidot and other councillors have said that it isn’t the case, and resident parking is being taken up by those in new developments with nowhere to park.

By precluding the parking stickers for those who have sought relief for more than 10 percent of parking, Vidot hoped to open up spaces for existing residents.

“We have a serious problem with parking,” she said. “That’s one reason I became a city councilor…I’m not sure if this is the best thing personally. I speak to residents and they say it is, but I speak to businesses and non-profits who are in the development world and they say not to do it. I was elected by the residents, so I say yes to this.”

Many, however, had grave concerns that it would squash new development.

“I do speak in opposition to the amendment as proposed,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “I understand the sentiment, but the 10 percent figure will surely hamper out ability to improve the downtown and do one thing this Council is intent on doing and that’s building more affordable housing. I ask that you consider deferring action until we finish any parking study.”

Councillor Leo Robinson said he could not support the matter.

“I have concerns about how we’re going about this,” he said. “We’re in the process of finishing a parking study. At this point, I think we should be able to work on a study first.”

Those voting for the parking plan were Vidot, Enio Lopez, Bob Bishop, and Giovanni Recupero.

Those voting to table the matter were Yamir Rodriguez, Calvin Brown, Luis Tejada, Leo Robinson, Joe Perlatonda, and Judith Garcia.

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Residency Ordinance for Police, Fire Hires Holds Firm at Council

Residency Ordinance for Police, Fire Hires Holds Firm at Council

A last ditch effort by Councillor Roy Avellaneda to reverse the new police and fire residency ordinance successfully passed by Councillor Giovanni Recupero failed on Monday night, June 4, in a close vote.

It represented seven years of twists and turns for Recupero’s number one issue and one that has been before the Council in several forms about a dozen times.

On Monday, the victory came in a narrow defeat of Avellaneda’s proposal, 5-6, which allowed the proposal to become the new law.

Those voting to keep the residency ordinance were Councillors Damali Vidot, Enio Lopez, Bob Bishop, Luis Tejada, Joe Perlatonda and Recupero – a one vote margin of victory.

Those voting to reconsider and repeal the ordinance were Councillors Yamir Rodriguez, Calvin Brown, Avellaneda, Leo Robinson and Judith Garcia.

“This is a good thing,” said Recupero. “It’s something the citizens of Chelsea wanted and I’ve fought for it for seven years solid. Now the councillors wanted it too. I think it’s good for the City and for the people. The police and fire can live in the neighborhood and understand the people and the people can understand them and respect them. The young men and women of the city will relate to them because they live in the same community.”

The matter will apply to anyone hired in the Police or Fire Department after July 31, 2018. It will require them to live in Chelsea for five years after starting on the job. After five years, they can move out of the city if they choose.

The negative came in that to get the measure, it had to become a collective bargaining issue. That meant that the entire Police and Fire Departments would get a raise in order to include the new condition in their contracts. Even those for whom the measure doesn’t apply will get additional pay to accept the new condition.

“Hey, it’s good for those on the department too,” said Recupero. “They’re all going to get a raise, but we’re going to get new officers that want to live in Chelsea.”

Councillor Leo Robinson said he was against the measure because of the cost. He said he was once in favor of residency, but that changed when he learned about the collective bargaining costs.

“The bottom line is you have 40 police living in the city and 26 firefighters right now,” he said. “ When we have to go and negotiate with the union that means 110 police and 96 firefighters get raises. That’s $200,000 we’ll have to give them. I think it’s foolish to do. They think it’s a great thing. You have Bob Bishop voting against the budget because he says it out of control and then he votes for this without knowing what it costs.”

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On the Books:Council Votes to Limit Recreational Marijuana with Zoning Ordinance

On the Books:Council Votes to Limit Recreational Marijuana with Zoning Ordinance

The City Council voted in favor of a proposal put forward by City Manager Tom Ambrosino to limit the siting of recreational marijuana retail stores and cultivation facilities.

The vote came on an 8-2 majority after an amendment by Councillor Roy Avellaneda failed to get the eight votes needed for passage. Avellaneda and Councillor Calvin Brown voted against the City Manager’s proposal. Councillor Luis Tejada was absent from the meeting.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said they have limited zoning areas for retail establishments to the Industrial Zone and the Highway Business zone. Marijuana cultivation and lab facilities would be limited to the Industrial Zone only.

The state Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) has issued regulations regarding the numbers of facilities allowed in each municipality and Chelsea could have up to four retail licensees. The CCC will begin accepting application on April 2 and will potentially begin issuing them on July 1 – though the July 1 date is still very much in the air at the state level right now.

Ambrosino said it was imperative for the City to get something on the books now to limit the locations for these establishments.

“I have proposed an ordinance to try to accommodate this new industry in a way I think is reasonable,” he said. “You do need to pass some ordinance to regulate this new industry to ensure the entire city isn’t open to establishments in this new industry.”

There was a great deal of discussion, though, before the vote was logged to pass Ambrosino’s proposal.

Avellaneda had an amendment that would have eliminated the Industrial Zones as an area for retail, and would have included the Shopping Center district instead – which is in places like the Mystic Mall/DeMoula’s and the Parkway Plaza.

He said siting cultivation facilities in the Industrial Zone is a no-brainer, but he said retail of any kind, even marijuana, doesn’t belong in an industrial area.

“This will be a storefront,” he said. “You don’t picture this in the middle of some warehouse where there are no stairs and a loading dock and lifts for pallets in front. When you think about the retail, we think of this, we should think of it like a jewelry store…You have no public transportation in the Industrial Zone. You’re not taking the bus down Marginal Street or Eastern Avenue…This proposal is drawn up by individuals thinking about this like it was 20 years ago and not today.”

Avellaneda had some measured support for his amendment, but it did eventually fail, getting only six of the eight votes needed.

Those voting for his amendment included Councillors Enio Lopez, Yamir Rodriguez, Bob Bishop, Giovanni Recupero, and Judith Garcia. Those voting against it were Councillors Damali Vidot, Calvin Brown, Leo Robinson, and Joe Perlatonda.

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2018 Black History Month

2018 Black History Month

CHEL_20180215_A1

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

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Council Continues to Push for Appointed Board Reforms

Council Continues to Push for Appointed Board Reforms

By Seth Daniel

By most accounts, the order put in by Councillor Giovanni Recupero on Monday night to effectively put term limits on members of appointed boards and commissions in the city would have been voted down in year’s past.

But the new Council has a new outlook, and the order was approved and pushed to a Committee on Conference by a vote of 7-4 on Monday night.

The measure calls for the Council to adopt a policy that would require the Council not to be able to re-appoint any member of a Board or Commission if they have served two consecutive terms already. The provision would only take effect if someone else in Chelsea is willing to serve on the Board. If no one else is interested, then the re-appointment could go through.

“I’m not for anyone serving over and over and over,” said Recupero. “They need fresh ideas. Some of these people on the boards have been there 20 years. Nothing changes with that. It’s all just the status quo. I’m even for term limits on the Council. I don’t think anyone should serve more than 10 years. It should be 10 years and then you’re out. Same for the Boards and Commissions.”

Recupero’s order did get some pushback, with opposing votes from Councillors Roy Avellaneda, Leo Robinson, Yamir Rodriguez and Calvin Brown.

However, seven other councillors were behind Recupero’s idea.

It continued a hot debate that began last year when Councillor Roy Avellaneda attempted to not re-appoint License Commission member Ken Umemba. That political skirmish led to Councillors Vidot and Enio Lopez presenting an order last fall that called for an effort to have more diversity on the City’s boards.

That was followed up by Vidot unearthing in the Charter that the City had not been advertising the open positions in the paper due to an oversight. That has now begun on a quarterly basis.

Vidot said the matter is now moved to a Committee on Conference.

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Chelsea Wards to Elect Delegates to Democratic State Convention

Chelsea Wards to Elect Delegates to Democratic State Convention

Registered Democrats in these will hold a caucus on February 3, 2018, 10:00 a.m. at Chelsea Library to elect delegates and alternates to the 2018 Massachusetts Democratic State Convention.

This year’s state convention will be held June 1-1 DCU Center in Worcester, where Democrats from across the state will come together to endorse Democratic candidates for statewide office, including Constitutional Officers and gubernatorial candidates. The caucus is open to all registered and pre-registered Democrats in Chelsea Wards 1, 2 & 4.

Pre-registered Democrats who will be 18 by September 18, 2018 will be allowed to participate and run as a delegate or alternate.

Youth, minorities, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ individuals who are not elected as a delegate or alternate may apply to be an add-on delegate at the caucus or at  www.mass.dems.org.

Those interested in getting involved with the Democratic ward committee Committee should;

Jose Vaquerano Ward 1 617-279-3867

Sandra Brown Ward 2 617-466-1548

Olivia Walsh Ward 4 617-305-5501

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Vidot Set to Become Next Council President

Vidot Set to Become Next Council President

By Seth Daniel

By a preliminary vote of 8-0, Councillor Damali Vidot received the support of her colleagues to become the new Council President in 2018 during a meeting on Monday.

The annual Conference Committee on leadership took place Monday with two possible candidates, current President Leo Robinson and Vidot. Both had been vying for the position behind the scenes, lobbying their colleagues for the position.

However, Robinson apparently had withdrawn his name before Monday’s conference, conceding the gavel to Vidot.

Those voting for Vidot to be president were Councillors Luis Tejada, Yamir Rodriguez, Giovanni Recupero, Calvin Brown, Bob Bishop, Enio Lopez, Robinson and Judith Garcia.

Vidot did not vote for herself, and Councillor Roy Avellaneda did not show up for the Conference. Councillor-elect Joe Perlatonda was absent during the president vote.

Vidot said she was honored to receive support from her colleagues, and will lean on the experience of long-time councillors to help her with the new role.

“I am honored to have received the support of my colleagues in serving as president of Chelsea City Council,” she said. “It is a responsibility I do not take lightly. I intend on leaning on the experience of longer-serving councillors while building on the passion and ideas of newer colleagues. We all have something different we bring to the table and I want to honor all of those voices while working cohesively on the concerns of our hard-working residents.

“More importantly, I want to ensure that we are always adhering to our City Charter and it’s ordinances and ensuring that the process is always fair and transparent,” she continued.

The vice president role was more hotly contested, with Councillor-elect Brown getting the nod over Recupero in a vote of 6-4.

Those voting for Brown were Vidot, Rodriguez, Brown, Bishop, Lopez, and Garcia. Those voting for Recupero were Tejada, Recupero, Robinson, and Perlatonda.

Avellaneda was not present for the vote.

Tejada was unanimously elected as the new School Committee liaison in a vote of 10-0, with Avellaneda absent.

The Council also participated in the annual drawing for Roll Call vote order and seating order.

Vidot will be the first vote next year in any roll call, with Recupero being the last vote.

In seating, there will be some interesting neighbors – with Councilors Recupero and Perlatonda sitting next to one another again. The old friends sat next to one another when Perlatonda was on the Council previously. Oddly enough, Perlatonda will also sit next to Garcia, who replaced him two years ago and whom he has criticized from time to time. Bishop will site on one end of the Council, while Calvin Brown will sit on the other end.

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Council President Race Down to Robinson, Vidot

Council President Race Down to Robinson, Vidot

By Seth Daniel

The City Council president race has been quietly going back and forth between Council President Leo Robinson and Council Vice President Damali Vidot for the last several weeks.

The showdown will likely continue as both court their fellow councillors for commitments and votes prior to a meeting that has been called to poll the members on Dec. 18. All that is needed is six votes, and the first candidate to achieve that commitment will emerge as the new president.

Vidot had an interest in pursuing the leadership spot last year, but put that on hold to become vice president and not take the post in her first term. Fresh off of a successful re-election effort, she said she wanted to pursue the position for the coming year.

“I’ve served as Vice President for two years and am prepared to facilitate conversations geared to community first and full adherence to the City Charter absent of personal attacks and status quo politics,” she said. “I believe it is my time, but if my colleagues determine that ‘it is not my time’ – as is typical in cases with women leaders – I will humbly continue to be a strong voice and advocate for the community. In all honesty, the title of president limits our ability to speak openly and so either way, it’s a win-win situation for myself and the residents of Chelsea.”

Meanwhile, Council President Leo Robinson has chosen to run again for the post and go for a second-straight year.

He said this week that he is a candidate and he’s running on a platform of experience.

He said the Council needs a proven leader at this moment in time, and he’s ready to continue his leadership into 2018.

As of now, it appears that both may have five committed votes, including themselves.

The key vote will likely boil down to Councillor Giovanni Recupero once again. Recupero is a supporter of both candidates, and will have a tough decision to make.

Meanwhile, there are also a number of wild cards in the race with three new councillors, including Bob Bishop, Calvin Brown and Joe Perlatonda. Their sentiments and leanings are completely unknown at the moment – though there are many assumptions as to where they might land.

All will be better known after the organizational meeting on Dec. 18, and then on inauguration night, Jan. 8, when the matter becomes official.

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Get Out and Vote:City Election Looms Nov 7 as Candidates Get Out their Message

Get Out and Vote:City Election Looms Nov 7 as Candidates Get Out their Message

By Seth Daniel

The City Election is fast approaching and several races are heating up in the City.

In the district City Council races, at least five seats are contested.

The most active race at the moment is in Prattville, where the District 1 seat has been vacated by Paul Murphy. There, former City Clerk Bob Bishop and Planning Board member Todd Taylor have been out and active since the summer in reaching the voters.

Bishop showed great strength in winning the Preliminary Election with 45 percent of the vote in September, but Taylor has balanced that with several key endorsements this week.

Councillor Murphy has made a recommendation, and that came in the form of an endorsement of Taylor.

Likewise, Taylor has also received an endorsement from popular Governor Charlie Baker.

It will be a battle of great wills on Election Night in Prattville.

Another race to highlight comes in District 7, where Councillor Yamir Rodriguez faces a tough challenge in License Commissioner Mark Rossi.

Both are very qualified and both are very popular.

Rodriguez has great report with the youth in the district and has made a focal point of his tenure in reaching out to young people, organizing youth events and helping residents with quality of life         issues like parking.

Meanwhile, Rossi is an attorney who, like Rodriguez, is also bi-lingual and has focused his campaign on immigration issues and streamlining City government. In recent days, though not official, Rossi has seemed to get help from some incumbents and organizational leaders in Chelsea.

Rodriguez, however, seems to have a great command of what is needed in the district, being a key part of some of the newest resident-led initiatives like the Chelsea Hills Community Group.

In District 6, first-term Councillor Judith Garcia faces a re-match with challenger Henry Wilson. There was no preliminary, but the two had a close race two years ago when Garcia won.

Garcia has been hitting the streets throughout the summer, knocking on doors and attending most all community events. She has shown initiative in her first term as well, filing orders to lower the speed limit to 25 mph and also looking for solutions to the parking situation.

Wilson, for his part, has shown much better organization this time around, getting support of several incumbent councillors and community leaders.

In District 8, former Councillor Calvin Brown looks to be gaining momentum over challenger Jermaine Williams. Brown easily carried the Preliminary over Williams with 73 percent of the vote, and Williams has seemingly been nowhere in the last month.

Incumbent Councillor Dan Cortell is leaving the seat, and has not endorsed anyone.

In District 2, Councillor Luis Tejada is facing Attorney Olivia Walsh. Both are very popular in the District and around the City.

Councillor Giovanni Recupero is basically running unopposed, as challenger Kris Haight suspended his campaign a month ago. However, his name will still appear on the ballot next week – even though he is no longer running.

Councillor Enio Lopez is unopposed, and Councillor Matt Frank is not running in District 3. Former Councillor Joe Perlatonda is the lone candidate running for that seat.

In the at-large race, there are three incumbents on the ballot and no challengers.

Council President Leo Robinson and Councillors Roy Avellaneda and Damali Vidot are running for re-election. Though all are assured a seat, there is a fair amount of jockeying for position to see just who tops the ticket.

That likely has less to do with the City Election, and more to do with who will be the next Council President. Robinson is already the president, but would love to make a good  showing at the top of the ticket.

Meanwhile, Vidot and Avellaneda are both likely candidates for the presidency come December. A strong finish would give one the edge over the other.

In the School Committee, there is little intrigue aside from the at-large seat. Incumbent Shawn O’Regan ran in the Preliminary for the District 1 Council seat, which opened up the at-large seat on School Committee.

Former Chelsea High Athletic Director Frank DePatto put his papers in and got his name on the ballot unopposed.

However, in recent weeks, O’Regan – who lost in the Preliminary Council election – has announced he is running a write-in sticker campaign to try to reclaim his seat on the School Committee.

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Bishop Tops in District 1, Brown Cruises in District 8

Bishop Tops in District 1, Brown Cruises in District 8

By Seth Daniel

Calvin Brown

Calvin Brown

Tuesday’s Preliminary Election in Districts 1 and 8 featured a severely light turnout, but some excitement politically nonetheless for two seats that will be hotly contested in the Nov. 7 election.

The District 1 Prattville contest featured three very well-known and seasoned candidates, and they duked it out on a day that saw only 10 percent voter turnout.

In the end, former City Clerk Bob Bishop topped the ticket in District 1 with 132 votes (45 percent). Second place went to Planning Board member Todd Taylor with 101 votes (34 percent).

Those two will now move on to the City Election on Nov. 7, and reports from the neighborhood indicate that both have been working hard and hitting the streets for some time.

Look for that to pick up in the next six weeks.

Knocked out of the race, in somewhat of a surprise, was School Committeeman Shawn O’Regan – who gave up his seat to run for Council.

He lost with 60 votes (20 percent).

In District 8, former Councillor at-Large Calvin Brown cruised to a victory over two newcomers to the political scene.

Brown captured 73 percent of the Admirals Hill vote, which was 171 votes.

Second place went to Jermaine Williams, who gathered 35 votes (15 percent).

Knocked out was Zaida Ismatul Oliva, who was rumored to have suspended her campaign weeks ago. Nonetheless, she gathered 24 votes.

The two seats opened up with District 1 Councillor Paul Murphy and District 8 Councillor Dan Cortell stepped down from their positions earlier this year.

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