GreenWay Project Will Complete Final Leg of Silver Line Extension in Chelsea

The Chelsea GreenWay project is fully under construction this week, and City officials expect to have the multi-million dollar job substantially completed by the fall.

The GreenWay project came through a $1.1 million commitment to the City from the state, as well as funds from the City Council to complete the beautification of the shared use path along the new Silver Line.

The Chelsea GreenWay project is currently underway on the shared use adjacent to the Silver Line. Land-scaping and extensive tree plantings of native species is expected to be completed in November.The project is the final piece-aside from the new commuter rail station of the Silver Line extension in Chelsea

“This final part of the Silver Line project will result in such enhancements as the planting of more than 500 trees and several parcels will be landscaped, and there will also be hardscape plazas at key entryways such as Chestnut Street and Highland Street,” said Alex Train of the Planning Department.

That project goes from Eastern Avenue where the shared use path stats and concludes at Chestnut Street.

After that, there will be on-street improvements to continue the walking path such as signage, sidewalk replacement and crosswalk enhancements – filling out the walking path from one end of the project to the end at Market Basket.

Train said this is also an opportunity to plant more native trees that aren’t necessarily common in Chelsea.

“I think there is a real opportunity in the planting program,” he said. “This is one of the most intensive planting of local native species. These are trees that are native to the area, but may not be prevalent anymore.”

The idea with the GreenWay is to take pieces like the Chelsea stretch and connect it to other greenways and paths, such as the East Boston GreenWay and Everett’s Northern Strand Trail. Connecting those paths can create a network for alternative transportation that most planners only dreamed of a few years ago.

“We’re working very close now with an organization called the Land Line Coalition, which is working to try to connect all of these greenways together,” he said.

The same is true for the Silver Line’s potential expansion into Everett and Cambridge – a plan that is being considered by the MBTA in the near future.

“We are ready to expand the GreenWay network if the Silver Line expands into Everett and to the casino and beyond,” he said. “That could be a tremendous connection for our residents.”

Work will continue throughout 2019 on the project, though it is expected to be finished in November, with punch list items finishing next spring.

The contractor on the project is D’Allesandro of Avon.

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An Elite College Athlete, DA Rollins Got a Taste of the Law and Never Turned Back

New Suffolk County DA Rachael Rollins has quickly come to be known as an agent of change, a passionate advocate for equity in the law and a solid leader ready to stand up for a cause – but few know that before all that she was an elite Division 1 college athlete, and it was on the playing field where she first gained her love and respect for the law.

Rollins grew up in a large family in Cambridge, and sports were part of her family from the beginning, long before she ever thought of the legal system.

Rollins said she was a team captain of every sport she played going back to youth soccer, and an All-Scholastic in basketball at Buckingham, Brown & Nichols School (BB&N), but it was on the lacrosse field where she was the most outstanding. The sport – which was somewhat newer to New England in the 1980s when she was in high school – was fast moving and, having been recruited to play after a basketball practice, Rollins had a great skill set to be a high achiever.

“I was the oldest of five siblings and my parents worked very hard to make sure we got a great education,” she said. “I got into BB&N after the third grade, but at one point my parents sat me down and told me I was a good athlete and a good student and needed to get a scholarship if I wanted to go to college.”

Her skills led her to a full Division 1 Scholarship to UMass-Amherst for lacrosse, this coming after winning a national championship on the high school level in 1989. After an outstanding freshman year, Rollins and her teammates were shocked to learn that their sport was being eliminated by the university due to budget cuts.

Though she was able to keep her scholarship, she said she eventually missed the athletic fields, and that’s when she and some other women athletes turned to the law – which she found to be a powerful leveler for those without much of a voice.

“At first, I was kind of relieved because I didn’t have to wake up at 5 a.m. for conditioning anymore, but later I began to miss sports,” she said. “I’d played sports my entire life and missed the camaraderie you feel when you have the team behind you and you score a goal.

“We only had three or four scholarship players and we were good,” she continued. “The men’s football team hadn’t won a game in years and they had 75 full-time scholarships with everything provided for them, including food and lodging. I didn’t know a lawyer or a judge, but it seemed so unfair. Myself ,and a few other athletes from the women’s teams, asked to meet with the Athletic Director.”

That meeting didn’t go so well, and there was no change, but DA Rollins said everything changed when they got a lawyer.

“Our lawyer threatened a Title 9 lawsuit,” she said. “The AD completely changed his tune. We got all or our teams re-instituted after a while.”

Rollins – who attended Northeastern University Law School after UMass – said it was her first taste at how the law can be used to empower and bring about justice.

And it was a powerful experience.

“I saw that lawyers matter and words matter,” she said. “As a young person, I thought, ‘Oh my God, lawyers are awesome.’ They make everyone fall into line and things change.”

It was the defining moment she points to after a long legal career with MassPort, the MBTA, and now as the Suffolk District Attorney, where the law became her passion.

However, when it came to leadership – another characteristic she said has been critical as the newly-elected DA in an office that has had the same leader for almost two decades – it was what happened after the teams were re-instated that taught her the most.

She said when the team was finally brought back, she was the only player left with any real experience. Most of the players and coaches had been plucked from other sports like track and volleyball. The elite athlete soon found herself the captain of a team that couldn’t win a game to save themselves.

Yet, she said it was the most important time of her life, leading a team that likely wasn’t going to win, but could still accomplish some goals in the meantime.

“It was one of the best learning experiences I ever had,” she said. “You show up with a smile on your face and give 100 percent even when things aren’t going well. It taught me character…Anyone can be present when things are going great, but where are you when things get hard? Do you still show up? I like to say it costs very little to pay someone a compliment or be respectful. Yet so few do it.”

That kind of optimism for a competitive person in the midst of a losing season was life changing.

“What’s beautiful is to learn not to be discouraged and to be optimistic,” she said. “Those are actually the years I broke records because the numbers of goals I scored. There are still records out there 26 or 27 years later that I set and I’m proud to say I still hold.”

Certainly, the end of her athletic career did not mean an end to those valuable lessons. In fact, she said, it has been sports that taught her about justice and leadership.

“We are breaking down barriers,” she said. “When you see a woman in leadership roles, it happens quite often that in the past that woman had some athletic ability or played some sport. It teaches us about inclusion or teamwork or perseverance. Sports doesn’t care about how much money you have or where you live, it’s about how well you perform on the field. It’s a great leveler. It’s been invaluable for me.”

And in the office, she is adjusting to being that new person who is also the leader of the office. That, she said, takes the kind of skills she honed on the athletic fields some years ago.

“I’m the new person to the team here in the DA’s office and I’m also their leader,” she said. “Change is difficult. What I try to do is show up, know the great work they do and be as encouraging and purposeful as I can.”

Nowadays, Rollins doesn’t spend much time on the playing field, but still enjoys watching her daughter run track, where she has won national championships in the 100m and 200m races. Such things are encouraging, she said, to see girls and young women have so many opportunities that were hard-fought by the generation ahead of them – a generation such as the women athletes like Rollins who used the legal system to challenge decision makers.

“It’s really exciting to see young women are getting the same opportunities men have had a long time,” she said. “Being excited for my young girls playing sports doesn’t take away from my excitement for young men playing sports. We want everyone to have the opportunity for success, on and off the field.”

DA Rollins indicates her office will be more present at crime scenes

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said one change she has made immediately to the office is making sure at major crime scenes, she and members of her office are on scene.

That includes homicides and other such crimes.

Whether in Boston, Chelsea, Revere or Winthrop, she said it is important to be present at the scene, even if it’s the middle of the night.

She said she has instructed everyone to call her no matter what time, and not to wait for the morning to brief her on major crimes.

“For me, it’s important to kind of be proximate and present when things happen so people know we not only handle the case, but also we had boots on the ground from the beginning. A lot of the work we do is behind the scenes and people don’t see it…So, it’s important they see us and we experience what they are dealing with because it really makes us have insight into the work we do every single day.”

She said that, particularly at homicides, she and her office would make every effort to be on scene throughout the county.

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Cocinas Program Looks to Promote Healthy Eating with Traditional Foods

Cocinas Program Looks to Promote Healthy Eating with Traditional Foods

When Jose Barriga was working as a translator at an area hospital, he routinely saw a cycle of poor health from his Latino patients that seemed to be caused by the food they ate.

Jose Barriga (center) discusses the Malanga with Bessie Pacheco and Alicia Castillo on Monday during the Cocinas Saludables Seminar program in Chelsea this March. Participants in the two-week class meet at the Chelsea Collaborative and travel to Stop & Compare Supermarket in Bellingham Square to discuss healthier alternatives in cooking traditional Latino dishes. The class continues on April 1 where participants will cook a traditional
meal using the new techniques and ingredients.

Many of them new to the country, or having come as adults, food and cooking and daily life was far different than in their native countries. Yet many still cooked and ate in the same ways that they did when they lived at home.

Doctors suggesting that patients give up their traditional food was a non-starter, even if they agreed to it at the hospital.

Above, Grisalda Valesquez examines a package of garlic.
Below, Leslie Garcia examining Goya brown rice with Grisalda Valesquez.

At the same time, Barriga saw that something did need to change, but maybe not altogether.

That’s what bore the idea of the Cocinas Saludables program in Chelsea, which is in its second year and is a partnership with the Cambridge Food Lab, Chelsea Collaborative, and Healthy Chelsea.

“What I realized when I was interpreting is there is a big problem in communication between health care providers and the Latino community,” he said. “A doctor will say you need to change how you eat, usually suggesting to cook brown rice or eat other foods. They have the best interests, but the language is not effective. I was seeing a cycle. I saw mothers with diabetes bringing children who were overweight. The issues they were having in large part was due to the foods they were eating or their cooking techniques. This is a huge, huge problem from a public health perspective in the Latino community.”

What Barriga and the other partners are trying to do is create the best of both worlds.

They’re looking to have their arroz con habichuelas, and eat them too.

Anais Caraballo of the Collaborative said they are excited to host the class for a second year, and said she sees a great value in educating people on how to cook traditional foods in a more healthy manner.

“I think it’s very important coming from a Puerto Rican background,” she said. “It’s a great program to have the community become more aware of healthier ways to eat and cook, but at the same time still be able to enjoy cultural foods that are an ingrained part of their lives.”

On Monday, Barriga and a class of 10 people met in the Collaborative to talk about foods and cooking and how people thought about food. That was followed up with a trip to Stop & Compare – a loyal partner to the program. There, those in the class walked through the aisles with Barriga to look at ingredients in their traditional foods.

Armed with materials from their class, and the advice of Barriga, they looked at the ingredients they usually buy, and considered alternatives that were healthier. In that sense, they didn’t have to give up the foods that meant so much to them, and they could also ensure they were eating healthy.

Barriga said he customizes the class according to the culture. If there are a lot of Caribbean cultures in the class – such as Puerto Ricans – he will discuss different ways of cooking aside from frying – as well as using healthier oils when cooking the food.

“When it comes to the Caribbean community, it’s talking about fried foods, which is a constant in the Caribbean diet,” he said. “My proposal isn’t to be 100 percent healthy options. If you come and say you have to change everything you eat, people won’t do it. I give them a couple of changes that will help their overall health in the long run. I try to be realistic. For the Caribbean cultures, I tell them to avoid fried foods sometimes, and try to sauté a little more so they use less oil.”

Another issue is that many people who have just come from outside the United States arrive and find food cheaper and more accessible. For example, a family in El Salvador may only have had meat one time a week. However, in the U.S. they find they can have it seven days a week, and they do that.

“If you grow up poor and food was a problem, then you come to the U.S. and food is plentiful,” he said.

That is also true when it comes to activity.

Many people had a similar diet in their home countries, but they often had to walk or bicycle many miles each day just to do simple tasks. That active lifestyle and different climate helped to regulate their diet.

Once here in Chelsea, they find themselves far less active and in a climate that is inhospitable to them six months of the year.

“I call that the food-culture clash,” he said. “They have no cars in many Latin American countries. They walk or they bike. People come here and they get overweight because it’s very comfortable. They drive and there is a lack of physical activity, which is a major symptom of being overweight.”

Next Monday, students in the Cocinas class will gather the remainder of their ingredients and cook up traditional foods with a healthy twist.

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Council President Says She Will Bring Back Non-citizen Voting Measure

Council President Says She Will Bring Back Non-citizen Voting Measure

A small order on the Feb. 25 Council agenda likely didn’t attract a lot of attention at the regular meeting, but Council President Damali Vidot said she had hoped it could have sparked a conversation.

That measure, which she introduced, revolved around looking at the possibility of allowing non-citizens that are here legally to vote in municipal elections.

Instead, she said, she was greeted with silence – and a ‘no’ vote.

“We have people invested in our community, who own homes, have kids in the schools and own businesses, but because they are citizens, they can’t vote in our elections,” she said. “Why not have a conversation about allowing them to vote? The fact my colleagues didn’t want to at least have a conversation is a travesty.”

The roll call consisted of a 5-6 defeated vote, with Vidot and Councillors Judith Garcia, Yamir Rodriguez, Enio Lopez and Giovanni Recupero agreeing to begin talking about it.

Those voting against were Councillor Roy Avellaneda, Calvin Brown, Joe Perlatonda, Luis Tejada, Leo Robinson and Bob Bishop.

Vidot said she fully intends to bring the matter back in 90 days.

“I don’t understand why we couldn’t entertain this, to allow people to be part of the civic process,” she said. “At the minimum, I thought we could have a conversation. If I had known there would be this reaction from my colleagues, I would have organized before. I have every intention of bringing it back again in 90 days. We can’t be in the habit of saying ‘no’ without talking about it.”

Other cities in Massachusetts have voted to allow non-citizens to vote, including Cambridge and Brookline. Such a petition by the Council would require a home rule petition by the State Legislature. It would also require legislative action by the State House as well.

The measure in Chelsea would not allow non-citizens to vote in state or federal elections.

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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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Student Exodus – Young People, Families Leaving for the North Shore Due to Higher Rent

Student Exodus – Young People, Families Leaving for  the North Shore Due to Higher Rent

Supt. Mary Bourque said that for the first time in decades, more students are leaving the Chelsea Public Schools (CPS) than are coming in – an exodus of students that seems to be heading mostly to Lynn.

“We’ve always had more students coming in from certain communities than students leaving Chelsea for those communities,” said Bourque this week. “Since July, we’re seeing the inverse. We have more going out to the four communities of Lynn, Revere, Everett and Boston…A few years ago, we were seeing an influx of students from outside of the country. We’re seeing the reverse. We’re not seeing that influx from out of the country, and we’re actually seeing the exodus of our families more to the North Shore communities. The movement is more to the North Shore. I think it’s linked to housing and affordability.”

According to CPS data, from July 1, 2019 through February 14 – 257 Chelsea students left for other communities in Massachusetts. Of the 257, the largest pattern saw 29 going to Boston; 35 going to Everett; 44 going to Lynn; and 34 going to Revere. Those are places that, historically, Bourque said usually leak more students to Chelsea than Chelsea loses to them. That trend has changed now.

The root cause could come for multiple reasons, but Bourque said she firmly believes it all comes down to the drastic rise in rents and housing costs in Chelsea.

“I do believe it’s the rising rental properties around the community,” she said. “Right now, Chelsea is experiencing it just like, if not more so, than other communities. We’re losing many, many families. I’m seeing documents of many, many families going to Lynn in particular. Lynn seems to be the most popular destination for families being able to find rental properties. Secondarily, they are going to Revere, Everett and Boston.”

Bourque, who has studied student mobility in depth during her career, said many studies have indicated over the years that student population is a bellwether for the changes that are coming to a community.

In Chelsea, she said she believes this latest trend in student population could be sounding an alarm for the community to try to take action.

“This is definitely something we have to pay attention to,” she said. “The demographics in our schools are telling of what is coming to the community at-large. We’re the canary in the coal mine for community shift. I see it as a positive though because we can look at it and get out in front so we can be prepared to meet the needs of that shift.

A consequence of that loss is that the CPS budget is likely going to shrink due to the smaller enrollments.

“We already have an issue with the Foundation Budget at the state level being broken, and it still needs to be fixed,” she said. “We still need to advocate for that. At the same time, we have a confounding situation where we’re losing student enrollment that results in a natural decrease in staffing and resources due to that lower student enrollment. The challenge will be keeping those two budgetary issues separate and not allowing them to blend together. They are two different issues.”

Bourque said the situation reminds her of what Somerville Public Schools went through some years ago as it gentrified on the back of Cambridge’s successes. At one point, she said she recalled they had somewhere around 6,000 students enrolled in the public schools, but as that City changed, the numbers dwindled down to around 4,000. She said Chelsea should fight to keep that from happening here.

Looking for a wave from Venezuela, Brazil

Chelsea has always had a reputation and a practice of having open arms to refugees and new immigrant populations.

Now, as new immigrant families seem to be migrating a bit towards the North Shore, Supt. Mary Bourque said they are keeping an eye on Brazil and Venezuela as potential sources of incoming students.

Bourque said immigrant groups from crisis areas of the world typically begin showing up in Chelsea schools about 10 to 15 months after the crisis in their countries.

With the recent political upheaval in Venezuela with its leadership, she said the federal government is considering giving Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Venezuelans. That, she said, could result in more students arriving from that country soon.

“It will be interesting to wait and see if we get an influx from Venezuela,” she said. “It usually happens 15 to 18 months after a crisis. We’ll watch to see if this summer enrollments begin to come in from that country.”

In Brazil, she said a down economy has already brought a trickling of new Brazilian students to the district.

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Encore Boston Harbor Delighted With Job Fair Turnout

Encore Boston Harbor Delighted With Job Fair Turnout

As Melissa Perez has watched the Encore Boston Harbor casino get taller and taller, she never dreamed she might work there one day.

On Monday, Perez, 26, stood with a smile from ear to ear at the Encore Job Fair in the Hynes Convention Center, reveling in the good news that she likely would be hired as a pastry chef.

“I knew it would bring a lot of employment opportunities for a lot of people,” she said. “I voted for it thinking about the future. Now they are wanting to hire 5,000 people here at this fair. That’s a really big number to think about. I was all for it from the beginning, and it feels really, really good to think I have a good chance to be part of it. I’m excited to see what they have in store.”

Perez was one of thousands of potential employees, particularly from Everett, Charlestown, Chelsea and Malden, that flooded the Hynes Convention Center in the Back Bay last Sunday and Monday looking for possible employment at the casino – which is offering some 5,000 jobs in 500 different categories, and they’re jobs that need to be filled and ready by the June 23 opening date.

Perez’s enthusiasm was shared by many, and Encore President Bob DeSalvio said that the long-promised job opportunities have now become reality.

“The message is, it worked,” he said on Monday. “I was extremely impressed by the quality of applicants we saw on Sunday. We saw so many people from Everett, Chelsea, Charlestown, Boston, Medford and Malden. So many people had hoped to get an opportunity, and to see it become a reality now is really impressive. All the planning meetings and all the information for years that we’ve put out, it became real.”

DeSalvio said they had concerns of whether they could find the right people in the right numbers, but he said after this first fair, he no longer is so concerned. Many of the people they interviewed, he said, were already employed.

“I think what we’re seeing is folks looking to trade up,” he said. “Every single person I interviewed Sunday was already employed. There was a few who were in between jobs or had been laid off, but most of the folks I saw were already in a job and looking for their next opportunity.”

Like Perez, DeSalvio said applicants from the Everett and Chelsea communities were interested in being closer to home.

“The people I spoke to were very happy about a shorter commute,” he said. “Commuting has been a very big deal for people trying to get time for their family and their lives. They liked the idea of the bus lane and getting jobs where they could be close and take the bus to work.”

DeSalvio said they interviewed for nearly every position, from hotel workers to food and beverage workers to banquet supervisors to finance positions.

In the area of finance, DeSalvio said he was surprised by the vast numbers of folks looking for an opportunity with Encore.

“We had an exceptional turnout for accountants (and finance),” he said, noting that they had many from the banking industry show up for their openings.

He said they were also just looking for talented people – even if they weren’t right for the job they wanted, DeSalvio said they wouldn’t let them slip away.

“We’re trying not to let really good candidates slip out the door,” he said. “If the job they are looking for isn’t right, we can shift them to other similar areas.”

The job fair was the first of three that are planned for the Hynes, and the usual Encore energy was transferred to the Back Bay facility from the first step inside.

Applicants were greeted at the front lobby of the main hall to check in or register if they were walk-ins. If one did not have a resume printed or created, there were places on hand to get that done before going inside.

Once inside, pulsating music sounded from a live DJ in one of the back waiting rooms, while candidates registered and got their number for the initial interview. After that process, they progressed to a waiting room with comfortable couches, the live DJ, a dance floor and fresh flowers. It was there they waited for their specific job interviews – with the DJ calling their number over the music when it was time for them to interview.

Encore didn’t hire any special company to do the interviews, but rather they had all hands on deck, with current employees – including DeSalvio – handling the interview processes. Current employees from food and beverage interviewed prospective candidates from those areas.

If all went well, candidates could leave with a good assurance that they would be hired – though no jobs were given on site.

DeSalvio said they already have 400 employees on board, and they have another 1,100 that are already in the queue.

“We need about another 3,500 and we saw 2,100 people on Sunday,” he said. “I think we’ll do quite well on Monday too. Based on the numbers of applicants we’ve seen, it tells me we can get there. As long as we keep up this pace at the other hiring events.”

He also added they have been very pleased with the success of the dealer school at Cambridge College in Charlestown. They have about 150 that have graduated and the next session is full already.

“That’s going to be 300 folks that will have gone through and be ready for employment as a dealer on day one,” he said. “That is excellent. The instructors tell me they are quality students. They are learning the game and infusing the culture of the company too…It’s not just the mechanics of the game, but how we treat our guests.”

From the point of hiring, those who are “onboarded” will have a series of licenses from the state or qualifications to get through. Once that is done, they will begin reporting for their jobs in late May and early June – with some of the culinary positions starting in late April.

DeSalvio said they will go through extensive on-site training because things have to be perfect when they open. While there will always be mistakes, at the five-star level, a resort has to be top quality on day one.

“I has to be ready,” he said. “That’s one reason we bring folks on so early.”

Encore plans to have another large hiring event at the Hynes Convention Center in mid-March.

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‘A Dream Come True’: New Children’s Librarian Always Envisioned Helping Chelsea Kids

‘A Dream Come True’: New Children’s Librarian Always Envisioned Helping Chelsea Kids

New Children’s Librarian Katherine Palencia said landing the position at the Library is a dream come true for her.

When new Children’s Librarian Katherine Palencia sits at her desk in the basement of the Chelsea Public Library near the Children’s Rooms, it’s a place that has been familiar to her since she was a little girl – coming to the library with her mother and experiencing a safe, learning environment.

Now she has been hired as the new full-time librarian after having worked part-time at the library for about 10 years, and is excited to share her love of reading with a new generation of Chelsea kids.

“I didn’t want to leave Chelsea because my family is here and my memories are here,” she said. “I don’t want to work in any other area. I want to help Chelsea grow and I want to be part of the growth…This position is a dream come true for me. I worked here in high school and came back after college and have been here since 2011. It’s a dream come true because I believe in what the library provides – the education and the free access to information. I enjoy seeing kids excited about reading or coming to work on their homework. I want to help them out. It’s a dream come true because I have always seen myself here.”

Palencia attended St. Rose School as a girl, and then went to the Williams Middle School. She attended Chelsea High School and graduated in 2007. She graduated from Salem State and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Library Science at Cambridge College.

Palencia said her memories of the Chelsea Library are very comforting, and she hopes to be able to pass that on.

“I think it was the people who made it very special,” she said. “They had great relationships with my mother coming in here and being able to feel comfortable and to ask questions. They always quenched the curiosity I had.”

Palencia has been spearheading the English as a Second Language program that meets on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m., and now she has expanded that to working in the Children’s area.

She said her big push right now is for the upcoming Summer Reading Program.

“I am already really excited about summer reading,” she said. “I am looking for any local businesses wanting to collaborate with the Chelsea Public Library to donate prizes. It could be as simple as a free ice cream cone, or as much as a free bike – which the Knights of Pythias donated last year.”

She said they will be bringing back the story times soon, and will have a full range of winter and spring activities soon as well.

“I’m a life-long Chelsea resident and also very proud to be Latina,” she said. “I’m happy that we can bring in more Spanish speakers. Our staff does a great job and we have so many knowledgeable people to help accommodate everyone.”

Cutline – New Children’s Librarian Katherine Palencia said landing the position at the Library is a dream come true for her. Having fond memories of attending the library as a girl, she said she is excited to pass that on to a new generation of Chelsea kids.

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Council Looking into Keeping Some Marijuana Licenses for Residents

Council Looking into Keeping Some Marijuana Licenses for Residents

Chelsea city councillors are looking at ways in which they can legally find a way to reserve some of the recreation marijuana licenses for Chelsea residents.

Councillor Roy Avellaneda forwarded an order recently to reserve at least two of the four recreational licenses for Chelsea residents, as so many residents have been impacted by the War on Drugs and the prosecution of marijuana possession crimes.

Avellaneda said his order is to amend the current retail marijuana ordinance in similar fashion to Somerville and Boston. At the state level, the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) signaled early on that it would approve licenses quicker in communities like Chelsea that historically have been heavily impacted by drug prosecution.

However, Avellaneda and other councillors said they have only seen well-heeled investors from out of town turning up to take advantage of that designation in Chelsea.

“The recent rush we have seen by well-funded and politically connected individuals and groups to apply for the available licenses puts those living in communities like Chelsea at a serious disadvantage,” he said. “The goal of the legislation I have introduced is to provide a two-year window for two of the four licenses just for Chelsea residents or a business entity comprised of 60 percent Chelsea residents…I think we would have better host agreements and community benefits offered by an individual or group based from Chelsea than from someone with no connections to this city. Should we allow the money made from these lucrative licenses leave the city? Or should we try to keep that revenue here?”

The Council held a Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday night, Feb. 4, to discuss the matter and try to find a solution.

Council President Damali Vidot said she and Avellaneda and the rest of the Council seem to be on the same page with the idea, but may differ on how to accomplish it.

“My concern at Monday’s meeting and a couopld of other councillor’s concerns were that we could be interfering with a business’s right ot commerce,” she said. “If I own an adult-use shop and want to sell it, I don’t know if we can limit who you sell it to. We don’t want to cut people off at the knees. That will effect investors because they may not want to enter into a place where there are so many limits on their investment…Also, we’re only allowing the rich to get richer. If you live in Chelsea and have the money to buy one of these, you’re obviously already rich.”

She said the marijuana licenses mimic the regulations for liquor stores, and there are no such limits on liquor licenses.

That said, she agreed that Avellaneda has a good idea that needs to be explored and hopefully implemented in some fashion to help Chelsea residents – to empower those economically who have been affected in the past.

Avellaneda said the idea is consistent with the recent 100 percent residency requirement for all new police and fire hires, as well as the affordable housing requirement for Chelsea residents.

“It asks that any new jobs created in Chelsea have a priority for Chelsea residents,” he said. “I doubt Chelsea would lose any opportunities or see a delay in applications because any outsider looking to open in Chelsea would look to partner with a Chelsea resident rather than risk losing a chance at a license by waiting two years.”

Western Front Moving Quickly on Webster

The Economic Empowerment marijuana proposal on Webster Avenue is moving quickly through the local process for a marijuana dispensary at 121 Webster Ave.

Western Front is a minority-owned firm that received the Economic Empowerment designation from the state last spring, and had its community meeting shortly after. The firm plans to open a dispensary and also employ those who have been adversely affected by the War on Drugs – particularly people from the Chelsea. The ownership of the company comes from Boston and Cambridge though. Western Front is scheduled to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) on Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. It is the first ZBA hearing in Chelsea for a marijuana proposal.

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City Council Wants to Look at In-house Municipal Trash Collection

City Council Wants to Look at In-house Municipal Trash Collection

Rather than Russell Disposal, the trash and recycling trucks rumbling down city streets could one day say City of Chelsea.

While that possibility is a slight one at the moment, the City Council is asking City Manager Thomas Ambrosino to look into the costs of the City owning its own trash trucks and picking up its own trash. Currently, the City has a contract with Russell Disposal, Inc. of Somerville.

More than half the sitting councilors had their name attached to the order that was introduced at Monday night’s meeting: President Damali Vidot, District 6 Councilor Giovanni Recupero, District 1 Councilor Robert Bishop, District 4 Councilor Enio Lopez, District 3 Councilor Joe Perlatonda, and District 2 Councilor Luis Tejada.

Lopez said he does not believe Russell is doing a good enough job with trash removal, sometimes leaving trash behind and picking up recycling on a haphazard schedule.

“They are being paid big bucks and they are not doing it,” Lopez said. “For the amount of money we are paying, we can get a few trucks and hire people from the city of Chelsea.”

Bishop said he has heard no complaints from his district about trash collection, but did support having Ambrosino look at the numbers.

“If this saves money, I’m interested in what (the city manager) has to say,” said Bishop. “The whole idea is to see if we can save money.”

In some procedural wrangling, Councilor-at-Large Leo Robinson made a motion to move the issue into conference committee.

“I feel like we keep putting things out there and we have no idea what the costs will be,” said Robinson. The councilor, who said his family has a long history in the waste management business, said a single trash truck could cost over a quarter of a million dollars, along with additional costs to retrofit the trucks to collect trash barrels in Chelsea.

“If we make the move to go pick up our own trash, there is a lot involved,” Robinson said. “I don’t have a number in front of me, but it could cost $3 million to $3.5 million per year.”

Recupero said there was no need to put the issue into council committee at this time, since the request was to have Ambrosino get more information and numbers on municipal waste collection.

“If he tells us it’s not feasible, then it can’t be done,” he said. “If it is feasible, then we can send it to committee.”

Perlatonda estimated that the costs could be even higher than those estimated by Robinson.

While Cambridge has more than double the population of Chelsea, he said annual costs of municipal collection there are about $12 million.

“I don’t think it is going to be feasible to find (an option) cheaper than Russell,” he said. The vote to move the issue to committee failed, with Robinson, Perlatonda, and District 7 Councilor Yamir Rodriguez on the short end of the vote. The request will now go to Ambrosino for his review.

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