We have been remiss for not having offered
our congratulations to Chelsea native Brian Sullivan upon his recent
appointment by Gov. Charlie Baker, and subsequent confirmation by the
Governor’s Council, to the position of Clerk-Magistrate of the Lynn District
Brian’s ascension to the clerk-magistrate’s
position culminates a long career in the court system that began as a Probation
Officer in the Chelsea District Court in 1986. He became an assistant
clerk-magistrate in that court and then the Salem District Court before being
named the Acting Clerk Magistrate of the Cambridge District Court prior to his
appointment to the Lynn District Court.
Brian is a Chelsea guy through-and-through.
His dad, the late Vincent Sullivan, who was the long-time Assistant Commandant
of the Chelsea Soldiers Home, and his mom, Eleanor, raised their four children
in the Mill Hill section of the city, where they were one of the most-respected
families in Chelsea.
Brian attended St. Rose grammar school
before going on to Malden Catholic and Northeastern University. He was a member
of the Chelsea Knights of Columbus and was well-known as a member of the K of
C’s softball team in the heyday of the Chelsea Modified Fast Pitch Softball
League when that league drew huge crowds to Highland Park in the early 1980s.
Brian married the former Paula Hansbury, who
also is a Chelsea native and well-known Chelsea High grad, and they have raised
their family in Swampscott.
If we were writing this column in another
era, it might have been titled, “Local boy makes good.” We know we speak for all of those who have
been friends and acquaintances of Brian Sullivan and his family through the
years in offering our congratulations to Brian upon his appointment and in
wishing him continued success in his outstanding career in the Massachusetts
District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero
doesn’t like some of the noise he is hearing about a proposed Massport-funded
Earlier this spring, Recupero and
Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda proposed that the City use $300,000 of the
$600,000 annual Massport mitigation payment to help provide soundproof windows
for residents who deal with the whoosh of jets traveling to and from Logan
But a letter from City Manager Thomas
Ambrosino to the City Council states it might not be that easy to automatically
earmark those funds for a soundproofing program.
“I am not opposed to creating some local
grant program, operated through our Planning Department, to provide funding for
soundproofing to residents adversely impacted by airport related noise,”
Ambrosino stated. “Deciding who should qualify for such grants, and how to
prioritize areas of the City, might be a bit challenging. But, I feel with some
time, we can work out those details together in collaboration with the City
But Ambrosino said the funding proposed by
the Council is problematic, since the annual mitigation payment cannot be
directly used for a specific program. The payment is considered a payment in
lieu of taxes by the state’s revenue department, making it a general revenue
source that is deposited into the City’s general fund.
“If the Council desires to depend upon this
Massport payment to help fund a soundproofing program at the level of $300,000
annually, it must appropriate the $300,000 separately,” Ambrosino stated. “It
can do that either in an annual Budget line item, or as an isolated appropriation
from a source such as Stabilization or Free Cash.”
Ambrosino recommended the City commit to
appropriating $300,000 for the soundproofing program from Free Cash whenever it
is available, rather than making it a permanent part of the budget.
“I can see what
the City Manager is saying, but this money comes to us direct from Massport, we
get it all the time, so why do we have to wait and put it in free cash?”
Recupero asked. “What kind of guarantee can the City Manager give us? I want
the City Manager to give us some kind of guarantee that the money will be used
for that purpose, not all of it, but a piece of it.”
With a few adjustments, the City Council
approved City Manager’s proposed $18 million Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)
budget for Fiscal Year 2020. About $4.7 million of that proposal comes from the
City’s free cash reserves.
The Council held a special meeting Tuesday
night, May 28, to pass the CIP before the June 1 deadline.
The major changes to Ambrosino’s requests
included paying for the second phase of the Mary C. Burke School roof project
through $825,000 in free cash rather than the school stabilization fund, and
doing away with $450,000 in the FY20 CIP for an updated Master Plan.
“Even though I am a huge proponent of the
Master Plan, I think we should take a step back,” said Councillor-At-Large Leo
He said the City will be looking at some
zoning issues in the near future, and should focus on that before it moves
forward with a Master Plan update.
Earlier this year, City Manager Thomas
Ambrosino presented the proposed 2020-2024 Capital Improvement Plan to the City
Council. That document included 45 projects totaling $18 million for FY20.
“It is my strong belief that this
comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan fully meets our promise to invest the
City’s strong reserves in projects that enhance the quality of life in our
City,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the City Council.
The program areas addressed in the CIP for
FY20 include equipment purchases including furniture, desktop replacements, and
vehicles for the library; roadway and sidewalk improvements; improvement and
expansion of open spaces, including the Mary C. Burke playground; replacement
of police cruisers, radio communication equipment, and a new engine pumper; and
nearly $7 million for infrastructure improvements including utility replacement
on Upper Broadway, mitigation of localized flooding and expansion of the City’s
lead service replacement program.
“This gives our City Manager the leverage to
go out and continue to fix our sidewalks and roads and also help with school
projects and water projects,” said District 8 Councillor Calvin T. Brown. “It’s
a lot of money, but it needs to be done to improve the quality of life in
District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero
voted in favor of the CIP, but questioned why the Council vote is necessary,
since the City Charter already requires the annual adoption of the CIP.
“The charter is telling you it has to be
approved,” he said.
It’s a general consensus among City
officials that parking and traffic are among the greatest challenges facing
But the best way to help ease clogged
streets and ensure residents aren’t endlessly circling their block to find an
open parking spot are open to debate.
The latest proposal is an ordinance
introduced by City Council President DamaliVidot and District 1 Councillor
Robert Bishop seeking a change in the City’s off-street parking requirements.
Under the proposal, the residents of any
development or housing that is granted relief by the Zoning Board of Appeals
(ZBA) from the City’s parking requirements won’t be eligible to participate in
the residential permit parking sticker program. Already, in Everett, City
officials at their ZBA have been requiring new developments or expanded housing
units in triple deckers to not participate in their parking sticker program.
That tool has proven quite successful over past several months.
The Chelsea proposal will head to the
Planning Board for a recommendation before coming back for a public hearing
before the City Council.
“This will require any developer that comes
into the city to put their money where their mouth is by asking tenants not to
participate in the City parking program,” said Vidot.
Bishop said it is unfair that larger
developments come into the city and ask for and are granted well below the 1.5
parking spaces per unit required by the City.
“There are too many units and not enough
parking,” said Bishop. “Where do you think all those cars go? They go all over
the streets, that’s where they go.
“There is very little parking even in areas
where there was once parking. This is something we should have done years ago.”
District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero said
that while developers promote the use of Ubers, Lyfts, and public
transportation, the fact is that more development brings more cars into the
“There are more cars being registered in our
city, our streets can’t support all the cars,” Recupero said.
If developers want to build in Chelsea,
Recupero said they should do like they do in Boston and provide parking
underneath the units.
Several councillors said there are still
some questions about the proposal made by Vidot and Bishop.
Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda asked
what would happen with condominiums, where there are owners as opposed to
tenants. He also questioned what would happen if developers did provide
“If they meet the conditions and there are
15 spots for 10 units, would we still allow the parking sticker?” he asked.
Avellaneda said he is supportive of working
out more details for a parking plan, and also noted that many of the biggest
parking issues come not from the larger developments, but from smaller
conversions where parking relief is granted for buildings increasing from one
to two or two to three families.
District 3 Councillor Joe Perlatonda said
there needs to be a closer look at the overall parking program for the city.
He said the current program, which limits
resident sticker parking to 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. is unfair to residents.
“Unless we change the parking program to
24/7, these people are still going to be parking in our streets, and I’m sick
of it,” said Perlatonda.
A 38-unit affordable housing project at the
former Midas site on Broadway can move forward after the Zoning Board of
Appeals (ZBA) unanimously granted a special permit for the project Tuesday
The $15 million project is a partnership
between the Traggorth Companies and The Neighborhood Developers (TND). The
developers initially came before City officials last year with plans for a
42-unit housing development with some market rate units included.
In addition to cutting the project down to
38 units and making all the units affordable, a planned fifth floor of a
building along the Broadway side was eliminated.
“This project cannot do everything for
everyone, but it can achieve many things for Chelsea by creating 38 units of
affordable housing,” said Dave Traggorth of the Traggorth Companies. “This
blighted site pays very little in taxes. This will change that and bring
revenue to the city.”
In addition to providing affordable housing,
Traggorth said there will be public access to Mill Creek for all Chelsea
As has been the case during past public
hearings on the project, a number of community members touted the need for
affordable housing in Chelsea and TND’s past successes in bringing affordable
units to the city.
City Council President Damali Vidot said she
has never supported a TND project in the city until this one.
“There is a huge problem with affordability
in this city and we are displacing residents at a rapid rate,” said Vidot.
Resident Sandy Maynard supported the
creation of affordable units and the improvement of a blighted site in the
“I can’t think of a better project than this
one to meet that (affordable housing) need and to beautify Chelsea,” said
Maynard. “That lot is an ugly, ugly place.”
Several residents who have been homeless
also spoke in favor of the project and of the need of affordable housing.”
A letter from District 3 City Councillor Joe
Perlatonda cited his objections to the project, including the welfare of
neighboring residents due to traffic and parking concerns.
City Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda, who
has spoken against approval of the 1001-1005 Broadway project in the past, said
his overreaching concern has been TND’s lack of a vision to bring affordable
home ownership, as opposed to rental units, to the city.
“Teachers and city employees are not able to
bid on homes (in Chelsea) and they are pushed out,” said Avellaneda. “I
understand the need for affordable housing, but there is no balance here …
There is a broader discussion that is needed in this community.”
The special permit granted by the ZBA was
required because the project did not meet minimum zoning requirements for rear
yard setbacks, number of off-street parking spaces, and maximum lot coverage
A housing lottery will be held for all of
those units, with 30 offered at 60 percent of the Average Median Income (AMI)
for the area (about $64,000 for a family of four) and eight at 30 percent AMI
(about $32,000 for a family of four). The maximum preference allowable under
state law will be given to Chelsea residents for the units.
There will be 42 parking spaces for the 38
units (the majority of which will be two-bedroom apartments). And because of
state law regulating public access to public waterways, 31 of those parking
spaces will be available as public parking from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to provide
access to Mill Creek for everyone.
•In other business, the ZBA held a public
hearing for a retail marijuana shop at the site of the former King Arthur’s
strip club at 200 Beacham St. GreenStar Herbals, Inc. is seeking to tear down
the existing two-story building and replace it with a one-story retail
Representatives from GreenStar said the
building will feature state-of-the-art security and 34 parking spots on site.
Representatives of several of the neighboring local produce businesses came to
express concerns about traffic and parking affecting their businesses.
The GreenStar proposal still needs to go
before the Planning Board later this month before coming back to the ZBA for
special permit and variance approvals.
•The ZBA also
denied a special permit for a church to operate out of the second and third
floors of 307 Broadway because the plan did not include any parking spaces.
City Manager Thomas Ambrosino presented a
city budget just short of $181,500,000 for Fiscal Year 2020 to the City Council
The proposed budget funds city expenditures
at $86,095,981 and the schools at $95,391,784 for a total budget of
$181,487,765. This budget is about $6.5 million more than the FY19 budget, an
increase of 3.71 percent.
“The FY20 budget continues support for many
programs we have implemented over the past few years,” Ambrosino stated in a
letter to the City Council.
The City Manager is proposing full funding
for social services programs in the downtown, including the Navigators and
Youth Navigator program. The Health and Human Services budget also includes a
new social services contract to support the ISD housing program.
The budget does include new positions in
three city departments — E-911, DPW, and Elder Services — and an increase
from a part-time to a full-time position in the Licensing Department. The E-911
increase, a total of three new full-time positions, follows a personnel review
by the department’s new director.
Increases in the DPW include personnel for a
new 311 system as well as a group of new hires required for the city to operate
its own Water and Sewer Department.
The FY20 budget includes funds in salary
reserve to cover the anticipated costs of ongoing union negotiations with City
Hall employees. With the exception of the police and fire union contracts, all
municipal union contracts expire on June 30 of this year.
•In other business, the Council approved an
order proposed by councillors Giovanni Recupero, Enio Lopez, Luis Tejada, and
Damali Vidot requiring that all street cleanings should be limited to the same
amount of time in every street. Lopez and Recupero both noted that residents
who live in areas where they have to move their cars for five hours for street
cleaning face greater hardship than those where street cleaning is limited to
•The council also held a public hearing on
zoning amendments that will allow for outdoor dining and improved signage and
facades in the city.
business owners and city officials spoke in support of the zoning amendments,
noting it would improve the look of the downtown and make for a livelier, safer
Current and former
municipal employees crowded into Monday night’s City Council meeting as the
council took up a vote to allow City Manager Thomas Ambrosino to negotiate
changes to the city’s group health insurance policies.
Most of those employees
did not leave happily or quietly as the council voted 8-2 to grant Ambrosino
that authority to negotiate the changes. Councillors Roy Avellaneda and Yamir
Rodriguez voted against the order, while Councillor Calvin T. Brown was not
present at the meeting.
The city’s current group
health plan is governed by a three-year agreement with the Public Employee
Committee (PEC) that expires on June 30 of this year.
“During the months of
November through March, I did attempt to negotiate with the PEC a new
multi-year agreement that would provide some cost savings to the group health
plan,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the council. “Unfortunately, I have not
been able to reach agreement with the unions.”
General Laws, Ambrosino stated, in the absence of a new agreement, the old PEC
agreement will remain in effect indefinitely. Without City Council action,
Ambrosino said he cannot put any health care cost savings in place.
The action approved by the
City Council allows the city to take advantage of recent state legislation that
allows municipalities to implement cost saving plan design changes on its own
if no agreement can be reached with the PEC as long as the city agrees to share
a percentage of its first year cost savings with the unions.
With the newly granted
authority by the council, the City Manager said he will negotiate reasonable
design changes to the city’s group health policies, likely by imposing
deductibles in line with deductibles paid for health insurance by state
Ambrosino said even with
any changes, Chelsea will always have health insurance at least as good as that
provided to Massachusetts public employees.
However, a letter to the
City Council submitted by the Chelsea Public Employees Committee outlined over
two dozen reasons why members believe the adoption of the changes to the group
health insurance should not be adopted.
“The PEC strongly believes
that the adoption of Sections 21-23 is inappropriate and premature for multiple
reasons: the Self-Insurance Trust Fund is running about a $2 million surplus;
the PEC has agreed to apply any surplus to reduce future health insurance
costs; City Manager Thomas Ambrosino wants the sickest families among City
employees and retirees to pay $1 million more on an annual basis currently paid
by the City; the PEC and City Manager Thomas Ambrosino agree that no changes to
employee/retiree health insurance are needed until FY2022; Ambrosino has failed
to bargain in good faith for a successor PEC agreement; a grievance, including
an alleged unfair labor practice, are pending at this time; and Sections 21-23
will effectively disable bargaining on health insurance,” the letter summarizes.
City Council President
Damali Vidot noted that her husband works for the Department of Public Works
and that any changes in health insurance would directly affect her. However,
she said the changes are necessary to allow Ambrosino to negotiate with city
“We hire the Town Manager
to negotiate with the unions, and I’m not comfortable when he does not have all
the tools needed for the negotiations,” said Vidot.
Vidot she said she hopes
Ambrosino can go back to the unions with the new negotiating tools and find
common ground with the unions. In addition to wanting the best for city
employees, Vidot said the council has a fiscal responsibility for the entire
The council president also
said that there has been some miscommunication on the issue, especially when it
comes to retirees. Vidot said changes to group health insurance plans would
only affect a very few retirees who do not qualify for Medicare.
District 1 Councillor
Robert Bishop said he agreed that the City Manager should have all the tools
available as he negotiates with the city’s union.
As the vote took place, many in the audience shouted and voiced their
displeasure, with several people stating the council should be ashamed of their
vote. The meeting came to a brief halt as the crowd noisily filed out of the
council meeting, with several audience members individually appealing to
The City’s Licensing
Commission might want to consider making its public hearings adults’ only
At its Thursday, May 2,
meeting, the commission handed down a 10-week liquor license suspension to
Latinos Falcons at 185 Broadway after police showed a video from the bar
featuring an assortment of groping, grabbing, grinding and all-around Dirty
Dancing among waitresses, staff, and patrons.
The Falcon was called before
the commission for a public hearing after a patron was placed into protective
custody for public intoxication after drinking at the bar.
Before video from the bar
was screened, the attorney representing Latinos Falcons, asked that the
commission members keep in mind that some of the displays of affection captured
on screen were merely representative of the restaurant’s predominantly “Latino
culture.” The attorney also noted that there has recently been training at the
bar for staff to help prevent future incidents.
As the video, featuring a
fair share of bumping and grinding, came to an end with a shot of a security
guard at Latinos Falcons sniffing a waitresses hair, commission member Gladys
Vega was having none of the attorney’s justification.
“This has nothing to do
with Latino culture,” said Vega, visibly incensed and angered despite battling
laryngitis. “You should be ashamed. That is so disrespectful to say what you do
about my culture.”
While the video evidence
was from only one night at Latinos Falcons, and City Solicitor Cheryl Watson
Fisher stated that the bar has not been formally cited before, City
Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda said the behavior shown was nothing new.
“I’ve been told about
these allegations for a while now, and in 2014 and 2015 I witnessed them
myself, this is nothing new,” said Avellaneda. “Unfortunately, this (behavior)
is prevalent in a few bars in Chelsea and we’ve heard complaints from former
waitresses, especially at this place.”
The councillor urged the
Licensing Commission to send a message to Latinos Falcons and other
establishments that exhibit similar behavior in the city with a heavy
“This was only one night,
you can imagine what else happens,” said Avellaneda. He noted that patrons,
waitresses, and owners were all engaging in unseemly behavior at Latinos
City Council President
Damali Vidot said she initially showed up at last week’s public hearing to
support local business.
“But if this is the way
you do business, I have a huge problem with the way you treat women and them
being objectified in this video,” said Vidot. “This video is very disturbing.”
Kimberly Martinez, who
said she is a Salem State University student who has worked at Latinos Falcons
for six months, countered that she has never been encouraged to act in any
sexual manner or to flirt with customers as a way to increase the bill. She
said many of the problems at the bar are caused by certain clientele.
“We are trying to filter
that as best we can,” she said. “I feel like we are moving forward and things
But for the commission
members, it wasn’t enough to sway them.
Commission member James
Guido noted that on top of everything else, the waitresses were seen drinking
with customers and called for harsh punishment.
“For me, this is so
disturbing and troubling,” said Commission Chair Mark Rossi. “How anyone could
allow that in their establishment, with the owner taking part, is so out of
line … How can that environment be conducive to reporting sexual harassment?”
Rossi, who sometimes acts
to tamp down harsher penalties proposed by other commission members, wasn’t
averse to going all the way to the most extreme punishment for Latinos Falcons.
“I will shut you down
right now, this is so repugnant,” he said.
Guido initially proposed
a 30-day license suspension for the bar, but it failed to pass. The lengthier
10-week suspension passed unanimously, along with a rollback of the bar’s hours
from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. to 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
•In other business, the
commission continued a public hearing on a change in manager for Los Agaves at
950 Broadway. There are currently legal proceedings in probate court over the
ownership of the restaurant.
are asking that all the current owners work together to find a new manager
acceptable to all sides in the fight as the legal case makes its way through
the court system.
•The commission also adopted revised licensing rules and regulations. The
revised regulations place stricter requirements on security staff at bars and
restaurants, requiring that security wear clearly marked red shirts, have
city-issued identification, and not carry anything that could be used as a
The three finalists for the position of
superintendent of schools have been on whirlwind tours of the district this
week, concluding the day with a community forum at the Williams School.
On Monday, Weston High Principal Anthony
Parker visited Chelsea and spoke with teachers/staff, business leaders and at a
community forum in the evening. On Tuesday, Ligia Noriega-Murphy, currently the
assistant superintendent of secondary schools in Boston Public Schools, went
through the same agenda. Finally, today (May 2), Almudena Abeyta, currently the
assistant superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for the
Somerville Public Schools, will visit the city and have a forum at 4:30 p.m.
School Committeewoman Jeannette Velez said
the School Committee would start with separate rounds of public interviews with
the candidates. They would follow the same order as this week.
All interviews are open to the public.
Interviews will be held at City Hall Council Chambers in the evening.
The goal of the Committee is to have a vote
on May 9 – after the final interview – to decide who to pick and negotiate a
contract with. If all goes well, that person would likely begin on July 1.
At Monday’s community forum, Parker said he
was very interested in Chelsea because it was a challenge and a place to learn.
Though he has spent most of his career in suburban schools like Newton and
Weston, he said he feels like he could be very successful in Chelsea.
“I like what I read about Chelsea and I like
the emphasis on building bridges and the pathways,” he said. “I like the
diversity of it…It was different enough for me to be interesting. I think any
district is a challenge. It’s the opportunity to build on what is here. What
you have is Chelsea is you have a great district that wants to be excellent in
many ways. I believe I can help you do that.”
He also said he hasn’t applied to any other
districts, only Chelsea.
“This is where I want to be,” he said.
The forum was sparsely attended, and likely
because it wasn’t well publicized ahead of the beginning of the forums by the
Collins Center – which is running the superintendent search process.
However, numerous students from the Chelsea
Collaborative and organizers from the Collaborative did show up with many
The conversation went from opinions on
expulsion to outside opportunities to gun violence.
At that, Parker said his students – like
Chelsea last year – organized a walkout for school safety.
He said he believes in supporting student
voices – something that has grown to be very important to students at the high
school over the last year. Students at Chelsea High have successfully organized
the walk-out, and also successfully advocated to move graduation back outside
on the new turf field.
“I walked out with them,” he said. “We knew
it was happening and supported it. It was a genuinely student-led effort. We
need to support that even if we disagree with that they want to do. I think if
a district didn’t support students on that particular situation, I think they
When it came to challenges between suburban
Weston and urban Chelsea, Parker said he would likely have a learning period
with getting community and parent participation – which often lacks in Chelsea
but is strong in Weston.
“If our parents cannot make meetings or
conferences because they are working multiple jobs or are too busy, then we
need to go to them,” he said. “I would spend time finding out where they are
and where I need to go to engage them.”
The process with the School Committee next
week on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday is open to the public.
Anthony Parker, currently the principal at
Weston High, listens intently to a question from students during Monday’s
community forum at the Williams School. The three finalists have been in
Chelsea this week for whirlwind tours and forums. Next week, all three will
meet with the School Committee for public interviews. A decision is expected
Soon Chelsea – like other cities – can
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he hopes to
proceed with introducing a 311 constituent services reporting platform to the
City in the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1.
Already, Everett, Revere, Boston and others
feature a telephone and online/app 311 system that residents can use to report
anything from a pothole to graffiti to a rabid skunk.
“The goal is to provide better and more
prompt responsiveness to constituent complaints,” read a letter from Ambrosino
to the Council.
Ambrosino said the system he has in mind
would operate with two employees working out of the DPW building. They would
field complaints from 311 by telephone, email, text message and web-based
reporting. They would fall under the supervision of Public Works Commissioner
Once having taken the complaint, the
employees would then assign the complaint to the appropriate department.
That would open up a series of
accountability measures on each complaint, he said.
“These employees will be responsible for
assigning the issue to the appropriate department representative or directly
accessing the relevant information in a City database, tracking progress on the
issue providing information on the resolution of the issue to the individual
who reported it,” he wrote. “We believe this will be a much more effective way
of addressing constituent complaints and hopefully it will be well-received by
Start-up costs would look to be $162,000 for
employees and the computer software. He said there is already $27,000 set aside
for the program, and $50,000 from a state grant received last year. The
remainder of the first-year costs would have to come from a budget request.
“I hope the Council will see the benefits of
this improved constituent services effort and approve the requested FY20
appropriations,” he wrote.
The new system
would replace the old SeeClickFix reporting system, which never worked as