2018 Black History Month

2018 Black History Month

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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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City Council, Quiet Man Spar Over Meeting to Discuss Community Center

City Council, Quiet Man Spar Over Meeting to Discuss Community Center

A proposal by former heavyweight boxing champ, and Chelsea native, John ‘The Quietman’ Ruiz has sparked major controversy over the past week in the follow-up to a preliminary meeting on the issue Feb. 6.

The meeting on Feb. 6 was a preliminary presentation to the City Council by Quietman Sports, which included Ruiz and his Business Manager Mark Giblin, in a Committee on Conference.

During the meeting, the presentation included a preliminary written proposal that called for using the CCC Club in Bellingham Square to create a new youth athletic and education center. The CCC Club folded last year and was sold to Chelsea’s Jim D’Amico – who is refurbishing apartments above the old club. The City had bid on the building as well to establish a youth center in the downtown, but did not win the bid. In the aftermath, the City and D’Amico agreed that they could possibly partner with a non-profit to establish the center in the D’Amico building.

Since that verbal agreement, no one had really come along, until Ruiz floated the initial idea of putting a center there using his name. He has opened similar boxing clubs in Medford in the past. The effort, he indicated, was a move to give back to the City he grew up in and to help many youth who are straying from the right path.

“Mr. Ruiz and his team…know what it takes to overcome the same obstacles Chelsea youth face,” read the proposal. “Maybe by sharing their personal success stories, providing scientific and historic educational programs, and athletic programs, it can make a difference. In the least, Quietman Sports hopes their influence can prevent tragedies such as the March 2016 incident in Chelsea where a 19-year old was gunned down and several other teenagers injured by another 16 year old at an empty apartment. Stories such as this are unnecessary and preventable. The community must act soon or by failing to do so will affect Chelsea for generations to come.”

One of the other stipulations was that the City would provide a $475,000 grant to Quietman Sports over three years to help launch the programming. Quietman Sports would put up $195,171 and would fundraise $75,000.

City Councilors were lukewarm to the idea, though, asking many questions about the expenditure and if the venture had coordinated with existing programs like the Explorers Post 109 and other activities.

Council President Damali Vidot, Judith Garcia and others asked a lot of questions.

In all, the welcome wasn’t as warm as Ruiz seemed to expect.

After the meeting, he attacked Vidot in a post on Instagram, and she said she was highly offended by it.

“In my thoughts I assumed they would welcome my intension to give back to my hometown that I love, but it became a backlash from Council President Damali Vidot,” Ruiz posted. “Council President Damali Vidot comments ‘why do we need your help; you don’t liver here’ and her resistance threw me back. It’s a sad moment when a City representative especially the Council President who should lead by example is taking a stance against anyone trying to extend a hand and who has it slapped away…Call Council President Damali Vidot to leave her power hungry attitude at home and embrace anyone who is willing to help my city that I love.”

Vidot, in an op-ed in today’s paper, said the matter needed clarity. She said Ruiz misrepresented what she said.

“Let’s be clear that the City Council does not decide whether we grant Mr. Ruiz funds for his proposal,” she wrote. “That decision-making process rests solely with the City Manager. The City Council as a body then votes on the appropriation of requested funds in which I am 1/11th of the vote. Unfortunately, following the meeting, Mr. Ruiz chose to turn to social media and misrepresent my comments. At that moment it became clear to me that residents deserved more clarity around the facts as to how things transpired.”

She said anyone who is proposing to work with children should be a better example – not taking to social media to complain when they don’t get their way.

“As a longtime boxing fan of Puerto Rican roots, I was ecstatic to meet the first Latino heavyweight boxer of the world,” she wrote. “However, my fandom doesn’t equate to disregarding my role as a public servant…As a longtime youth worker, I am appalled that someone who is proposing to manage a youth center would not look for better ways to demonstrate leadership. I cannot take responsibility for the ill-advice given to Mr. Ruiz prior to the meeting; I did however encourage dialogue and identified ways in which Mr. Ruiz could seek out community input.”

Giblin did not return an e-mail immediately to the Record asking for comment.

Councillor Leo Robinson, who helped Ruiz in bringing the proposal by filing an order to have the meeting, said he wasn’t happy with the champ’s reception.

“It wasn’t professional,” he said of his fellow councillors. “You don’t treat people like that.”

Councillor Giovanni Recupero said he isn’t opposed to the center, but he would like to see it be for everyone, not just the youth.

Meanwhile, City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the proposal was extremely preliminary. He said the City would have to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) before anyone could even begin talking seriously. Any proposal would have to officially apply to an RFP.

“We’re a long way from anything being there yet,” he said. “I actually have an interest in having youth programming in the downtown and the CCC is a great facility for that. I’m interested in the idea. I would first need direction from the Council for putting out an RFP. I don’t have that. I would say we’re very early in the process.”

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Ban Plastic Bags

Ban Plastic Bags

There are 61 communities in Massachusetts including the City of Boston that have placed a ban on those horrible plastic shopping bags and the City of Revere is poised to become number 62 after Revere City Council members Steve Morabito and Patrick Keefe sponsored a motion that is set for a public hearing on Feb. 26.

When we think of the litter problem in America, the item that is most ubiquitous and that most readily comes to our mind’s eye is the small plastic shopping bag that is at every checkout counter in every store across the country.

They float in our oceans, get stuck in trees and tall grass, or just blow in the wind, the modern-day equivalent of a prairie tumbleweed. There is not a space anywhere that is spared from their unsightliness.

There is no good reason to have them, given the degree of environmental degradation they cause, and we are pleased that communities in Massachusetts are doing the right thing to ban these bags.

The movement to do so, in our view, highlights what we all know: That preserving our environment is necessary from the bottom-up.

We can make a difference, person-by-person and community-by-community, and a plastic bag ban is a big step in that direction.

Maybe, Everett officials should consider being number 63.

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Dockless Bike Sharing Program Finds Success Here

Dockless Bike Sharing Program Finds Success Here

ofo, the world’s first and largest station-free bike-sharing company, has been popular among Chelsea residents and has big plans to expand its presences in the area, according to company representatives.

ofo operated pilot programs in four Boston area cities, including Chelsea, from September to December 2017, and looks forward to building on those programs and further expanding in the coming months.

In Chelsea, as across the Greater Boston area, ofo has hired a local team, including experienced fleet managers and mechanics who together have more than 30 years of experience in the local bike industry.

“I was thoroughly impressed with the ofo pilot program as company officials were very responsive from start to finish,” said Councilor at-Large Roy Avellaneda. “As an advocate for eco-friendly and improved public transportation for Chelsea, I was thrilled to be able to have the city offer a bike sharing program to Chelsea residents. The amount of positive feedback from users and the usage data provided by ofo at the end proved two things: 1. That a bike sharing program is needed in Chelsea; 2. There is much room for growth and use in our community.”

The company has worked closely with local city officials to ensure smooth operations leading up to and through launch, and will continue its collaboration to help improve urban travel and ensure all corners of the city have access to this new affordable and convenient way to get around. ofo has also sponsored local events, such as Chelsea’s bike-marathon.

“Collaborating with local officials to bring this affordable, convenient and green transportation option to Chelsea has been a great experience,” said Head of ofo U.S., Chris Taylor. “Thank you to the residents who’ve welcomed us into the community. We look forward to continuing this partnership, growing our business and offering more bikes to folks throughout the Boston area this year.”

ofo currently operates in more than 20 cities across the U.S. and more than 250 cities worldwide. Since ofo’s launch in the greater Boston area in September, users have taken more than 35,000 trips and traveled nearly 70,000 miles.

ofo’s founders pioneered the concept of station-free bike sharing, which eliminated the inconvenience of docking stations and their expense to city taxpayers. The bikes can be parked anywhere and cost only $1 per hour.

To get started, Chelsea residents can download the ofo app available for iOS and Android. The app helps users find a nearby bike via GPS and unlock it by scanning a QR code. Once a ride is complete, locking the bike ends the trip automatically and the user will receive a digital receipt and map of their route.

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Ward 4 Democratic Committee Elects Delegates to the State Convention

Ward 4 Democratic Committee Elects Delegates to the State Convention

Registered Democrats in the City of Chelsea Ward 4, held a Caucus on February 3, 2018 at the Chelsea Public Library to elect Delegates to the 2018 Democratic State Convention.

Elected Delegates are:

Olivia Anne Walsh

91 Crest Ave.

Luis Tejada

103 Franklin Ave.

Thomas J. Miller

91 Crest Ave.

Theresa G. Czerepica

21 Prospect Ave.

This year’s State Convention will be held June 1-2 at the DCU Center in Worcester, where thousands of Democrats from across the Commonwealth will come together to endorse Democratic candidates for statewide office, Including Constitutional officers and gubernatorial candidates

Those interested in getting involved with the Chelsea Ward 4 Democratic Committee should contact Attorney Olivia Anne Walsh, Ward 4 Chair, at 617-306-5501.

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Stuck:Firefighters Come to the Rescue of Trapped Residents after Council Meeting

Stuck:Firefighters Come to the Rescue of Trapped Residents after Council Meeting

By Seth Daniel

It reads like an off-color joke, but it wasn’t any joke on Monday night when a councillor, a reverend, a Republican and a clerk with a phobia of elevators got trapped for 45-minutes in the City Hall elevator.

“We were cool; no one freaked out,” said Rev. Sandra Whitley, who was stuck with Planning Board member Todd Taylor (the Republican), Councillor Leo Robinson and Council Administrative Assistant Ledia Koco. “These firefighters are amazing and they need all the credit. Stuck for almost 45 minutes, they kept asking if we were alright, plugging away until they had to almost blast the metal doors apart.”

The firefighters involved in the rescue were Capt. Paul Doherty, Mark Chiaradonna, Gary Poulin, Angel Arrieta, Kevin DeJesus and Lt. Andrew Cerratani.

The situation unfolded Monday after the Council let out for the night. Due to the fact that the stairs in City Hall were being replaced, most everyone had to take the elevator to get down. It gave the old lift quite a workout, and apparently, then those four got on and started going down – everything stopped.

It took some time before anyone realized they were trapped, but enough people were still around to hear them calling for help.

Chelsea Fire was alerted and City Manager Tom Ambrosino directed them to where it was believed the four were stuck.

Firefighters tried to pry open the elevator, but it wasn’t budging.

Firefighters then had to deploy other tools, including an inflatable air bag, to open the doors.

Finally, the job was done and the four emerged from the elevator.

“I was just glad those  other three were with me, because  these days, if it were just me, they might have left me in there,” joked Taylor.

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Momentum for Plastic Bag Ban Grows, Not Everyone on Board

Momentum for Plastic Bag Ban Grows, Not Everyone on Board

By Seth Daniel

A major first jab at banning plastic shopping bags took place at City Hall on Tuesday night, Jan. 23, and many believe that momentum is gathering for the ban.

Council President Damali Vidot and Councillor Enio Lopez are leading the initiative, along with environmental organizations like GreenRoots. The turnout for the Tuesday meeting was very large, and Vidot said she got the sense that public opinion is on the side of a ban.

She said, however, nothing has been decided, but that only they would take the discussion to the next step.

“We will continue the conference to a later date and propose a rough draft of an ordinance to get the ball rolling,” she said.

Councillor Luis Tejada said he also got the sense that the City is moving in the direction of a ban – which Boston has already passed last year, with implementation coming this year.

“At the moment it appears as though we are moving in the direction of banning the plastic bags, but of course there is still a lot of work to be done,” he said.

Tejada said trying to figure out which types of plastic bags to keep and get rid of will be a key part of the conversation that is often overlooked. He said he would really like to understand the impact on businesses.

Already, in a story in last week’s Record, Compare Supermarket owner Al Calvo said he felt it was just another tax on small business – noting it will cost him tens of thousands more to invest in the thicker bags.

Tejada said he  wants to hear from more businesses before he makes a decision.

It is important to know what is the impact on our local small businesses that literally have thousands of bags with their logo on them,” he said. “This would impact them significantly if the measure was approved and enacted too swiftly. What I would like to do is put the small and large businesses on notice that it looks as though the city is moving towards a more environmentally conscious lifestyle, and they should begin to look at and enact whatever measure they are considering when this goes into effect. If they do it sooner rather than later, it can minimize any potential burden and or loss when the measure does take effect.”

Councillor Joe Perlatonda said he is very interested in eliminating litter, and plastic bags are just one piece of a bigger problem in Chelsea. He said he doesn’t feel like they should come down hard on plastic bags, while leaving out other litter items like lottery tickets and dog poop.

He also said some residents have told him they don’t like the idea.

“I had one resident tell me this is just another tax being imposed on residents of Chelsea, which many of us can’t afford,” he said. “With everything going on, I’m concerned that the top priority is plastic bags. It was a great turnout, but I wish more people would turn out for other issues. There are other issues that need to be addressed that should take precedent over a plastic bag ban.”

Vidot said the next meeting has not been set, but should be on the docket soon.

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Business and Environment Meet in Plastic Bag Ban Discussions

Business and Environment Meet in Plastic Bag Ban Discussions

By Seth Daniel

City leaders, business owners and members of the community are preparing for what might be the first big debate of the year – whether or not to ban plastic shopping bags in Chelsea.

Already, several municipalities have taken the step to ban the common, thin plastic shopping bag given out at almost every store in the City. Boston banned bags late last year, and their new ordinance will start later this year. In Chelsea, some of the larger supermarkets and businesses are ready to debate with environmental leaders about something that comes down to evaluating the cost vs. benefit.

Council President Damali Vidot and Councillor Enio Lopez have initiated the conversation with a Committee on Conference that will meet on Tuesday, Jan. 23, to have an initial discussion.

“It’s a topic Councillor Lopez and I have been entertaining for a few months,” said Vidot. “Seeing as though we are an Environmental Justice community, I think we should be doing everything in our power to support our environment. We have plastic bags everywhere in the city – on the ground, stuck in trees, flying into our waters, and posing a threat to animals. If we minimized their usage and/or charged per bag, we can hopefully get people to ‘think differently’ about our dependency on plastic.

“However, it isn’t something I want to change overnight,” she continued. “I want residents and business owners to bring their voices to the table and share their concerns and be a part of the conversation so that people aren’t impacted from one day to the other, if it does pass.”

Vidot said she hopes that a side conversation amidst the debate can be how to take more ownership of the City by littering less.

On the business side of things, Al Calvo of Compare Supermarkets said his market uses about 140,000 plastic bags per month, which is about 1.7 million plastic bags per year. They cost about 2 cents each, and his store pays about $34,000 per year for plastic bags.

A paper bag, he said, is about 9 cents per bag – resulting in an increased yearly cost to him of $85,000 for bags. The reusable heavy plastic bags, he said, cost a whopping 15 cents per bag. Many times, he said, customers forget to bring it back for re-use – and often substitute paper bags for the forgotten reusable.

The bottom line is this is an additional cost for the store owner, in addition to taxes, health care costs, minimum wage, and other costs,” he said. “In a very price competitive environment which our company faces, such as competition from that little corner store a mile away called Market Basket, we will either absorb the cost, which impacts profitability or raise prices to absorb the additional cost. Raising prices risks losing customers to Market Basket. Although we have other competitive advantages, price is still paramount in the eyes of the customer. It’s another potential death blow to the small business.”

Calvo said the discussion should focus on the tradeoffs between the environmental benefits and the added costs to business and/or customers.

Sergio Jaramillo, interim president of the Chelsea Chamber, said his personal view is that he supports anything to get rid of the plastic bags that litter the city and dirty up the business districts.

“I have seen the effects of plastic bags floating everywhere, and this is in particularly true in our own neighborhoods, where uniformed individuals leave them on unassigned places,” he said. “I understand that one of the consequences will be a higher cost to the merchant as it needs to provide an alternative to bags and may be passed on to the consumer and reflected in higher merchandise prices. It could be said this is the ‘cost of doing business.’”

Jaramillo said he thinks the solution is more global, with the plastics industry needing to come up with a better alternative.

“The industry as a whole needs to retool plastics and come up with cost efficient alternatives, such as fast-biodegradable materials that will minimize the impact on our ecosystem,” he said.

GreenRoots Director Roseann Bongiovanni said she also agrees that the ban is the right way to go.

“We have been talking to the City Council and other leaders in the community about this,” she said. “We really want to see the City go in that direction to ban these bags. We’ve received concerns from people who carry these bags from Market Basket and the supermarkets – especially people who are transit-dependent – but I think those concerns can be overcome.”

Bongiovanni said she is in favor of the thicker reusable bags, and allowing merchants to charge for them. She said a slow rollout would be best if such a ban passes.

“I think it will be like the trans-fat ban,” she said. “There really has to be a time when there is an education piece that starts it out.”

Joe Mahoney, a resident of Admiral’s Hill and member of the Chamber, said he tends to have a ‘green’ opinion and he would support eliminating the bags.

“I see the bags flying around all the time,” he said. “If you can recycle them or get a reusable plastic bag, I think it would be better for the city. When it comes to plastic vs. paper, I have to put myself more on the paper side. Unfortunately, plastic is a lot less expensive though.”

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Significant TIF Likely to Come for Revamped CHA Mixed-Income Development

Significant TIF Likely to Come for Revamped CHA Mixed-Income Development

By Seth Daniel

A new, revamped effort by the Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) to build a mixed-income development on Central Avenue will likely come with a significant Tax Increment Financing (TIF) request, said City Manager Tom Ambrosino.

The new proposal, which is a second attempt by designated developer Corcoran Jennison, will likely come before the City in February or March. However, this time Ambrosino said it’s probably going to also be accompanied by a request from Corcoran for a TIF agreement.

“It will not be an insignificant amount for a TIF,” said Ambrosino. “From the City’s perspective, we’re motivated by the fact there is no other way to get that development rebuilt. This will give those resident brand new units in a mixed income development. Right now, we’re getting zero tax dollars on it, and we would be getting something from the developer if this is built.”

The development was proposed in 2017, but was beat back when Corcoran requested the City Council allow them to use some non-union labor on the project to make the finances work.

A large group of residents and union workers appeared at the meeting on the night of the vote, and the Council agreed with them, shooting down the request.

Nothing has happened  since, but it appears that to make the books balance, Corcoran will be looking to get some property taxes reduced for a period of time.

“The City will be sympathetic,” Ambrosino said. “I want that project to move forward. That’s going to be a huge upgrade for those public housing tenants.”

Historically, the Council has been accommodating for TIF requests, but in recent years many councillors have began to question whether they are really needed any longer. It will likely be a spirited debate once again within the board.

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Chelsea Inauguration 2018

Chelsea Inauguration 2018

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Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes leads the procession of City Council members to begin the Inauguration ceremonies on Tuesday night, Jan. 2, in the Council Chambers at City Hall. Meanwhile, outgoing Council President Leo Robinson is given a gavel by incoming Council President Damali Vidot. Vidot was sworn in as the first female Council President
since charter reform.

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