A heated discussion between the candidates for Suffolk County District Attorney took place in a packed room at Suffolk University Law School on Thursday, May 3.
The event was moderated by Meghan Irons, the social justice reporter at The Boston Globe, and was hosted by Boston Wards 3, 4, and 5 Democratic committees, Suffolk Law School, Boston NAACP, MassVOTE, and the Mass. Dems Latino Caucus.
Candidates Evandro Carvalho, Massachusetts state representative from Dorchester, Attorney Linda Champion, Greg Henning assistant district attorney, Shannon McAuliffe director at Roca, an organization that disrupts the cycle of poverty, and Rachel Rollins, Chief Legal Counsel to the Massachusetts Port Authority, were ready to answer questions during the forum.
“About 77 percent of DA races go un-contested across the U.S.,” said Rahsaan Hall, Director of the Racial Justice Program and “What a Difference a DA Makes” campaign for the ACLU of MA, to a crowded room. “There is a lack of opportunities for communities to engage but, this is what democracy looks like.”
Hall said that many folks don’t even know what goes on in a DA’s Office and most don’t even know that it is an elected position.
“We are working to make sure the country and residents of Suffolk County are engaged and active,” said Hall.
Candidates were allowed 90 seconds to answer questions and 30 seconds for rebuttal. Questions ranged from are you too much of an insider or outsider to change things, to how to stop cycle of repeat offenders to how will the candidates make the office more diverse?
Champion said she has three areas she will focus on as District Attorney beside safety: education, housing and jobs.
“When you have all of these things you can have an environment that everyone can feel safe,” she said. “I’m in this race to focus on what is the problem and that’s the lives of our residents.”
Henning said his goal as DA would to make sure that everyone is protected, and to re-connect the community with law enforcement.
“I will not only ensure community policing to keep the streets safe but to help people to not to engage and re-engage with the justice system.”
Rollins said that to make a real difference more people of color and women need to work in the justice system.
“To get fairness, equity and justice you need more diversity in the people that serves those decisions,” said Rollins.
McAuliffe distanced herself from the pack by focusing on her current work at Roca, a non-profit that takes young adults who have a high chance of repeat offense and steers them in a different path by providing job training and other opportunities.
“I’m the only one here that hasn’t worked for a job opening,” said McAuliffe who took on the current DA during the last election. “Reform needs a reformer, and that’s who I am.”
Carvalho said that in order to seek justice you need to look at who is making the decisions. He pointed out that the people making the decisions are largely white and those going in and out of the DA’s office are largely people of color.
“I live in Dorchester and my constituents deal with it every day,” he said. “They are trapped without help every day, and that has to change. As DA I will be sure to change things.”
Current DA Dan Conley announced earlier this year that he will not be seeking re-election. Conley has held the office since February 2002.
This will be the second open candidate forum of the year. The primary for the Suffolk Country District Attorney race will be on Tuesday, Sept. 4. The general election will be Tuesday, Nov. 6.
After a long process, Sen. Sal DiDomenico allegedly fell a few votes short of gaining the Senate Presidency, a process that completed last week when State Sen. Karen Spilka corralled the 21 votes needed to secure the presidency.
It was announced publicly in a press conference on Thursday, March 22.
While no one was keeping score on the outside, and few on the inside were talking, it was believed by those watching closely that DiDomenico had as many as 19 votes just within the last month.
Sen. DiDomenico would not comment on the process within the Senate this week where he had tried to make a run for Senate President.
However, he did say publicly that he will still be the assistant majority leader in the Senate – a post he was recently promoted to and will keep under the new leadership.
He also said there is no bad blood between himself and Sen. President-elect Spilka after the long process.
“Before this process Speaker-elect Karen Spilka and I were close friends as we will continue to be,” he said. “We have worked well for some time as a result of me being the vice chair on her Ways and Means Committee. There is no bad blood or animosity between us. There comes a point in time when you have to bring the body together and move forward. I thought this was the right time to do that.
“Now that this process is over and we have a new senate president elect, I support Karen 100 percent and will do everything I can to support her as senate president,” he continued. “Our relationship is as strong as it always has been.”
Sen. DiDomenico did not want to comment any further on his role in the new leadership team, but affirmed the strong relationship between himself and Sen. Spilka.
“I look forward to serving under Senate President-elect Spilka and being an integral part of her team,” he said.
Observers had been worried that, as typically happens, the senator that comes out on the short end of the bargain gets relegated to the back of the room. Many thought that if Sen. DiDomenico lost, he might also lose all of the power and responsibilities he has worked towards since being elected and coming into leadership roles under former Sen. President Stan Rosenberg.
However, with DiDomenico affirming his positive relationship with Spilka this week, many believe that he will come out unharmed after the process finishes out.
As for the ascension, there is currently no consensus between Sen. President Harriet Chandler and Sen. President-elect Spilka about when she might take office.
Some postulated it could come on July 1 after the end of the current fiscal year.
Others thought it could come at the end of December.
During a press conference last week, Spilka indicated they had not yet ironed that out.
The Estates on Admiral’s Hill (www.admiralshill.org) will hold a holiday open house for its two assisted living residences on Tuesday, December 5 from 3pm to 5pm. Amidst holiday treats, lively piano music and hot chocolate by the fireplace, attendees will meet Executive Director Yari Velez and her talented team. One-on-one discussions and personalized tours will be provided as well as the opportunity to meet the current residents.
Located on Admiral’s Hill at 201 Captains Row in Chelsea, The Estates is comprised of two separate residences: Cohen Florence Levine Estates, a traditional assisted living and Florence & Chafetz Home for Specialized Care, a residence for those in need of additional support services. Amenities include fresh healthy meals, a 24-hour café with home-made baked goods, hair and nail salon, library, living room, great room for concerts and shows, dining room and outdoor courtyard area for seasonal activities.
“This open house is a chance for area residents to personally meet our amazing staff and residents and find out, first hand, what assisted living is all about,” explains Executive Director Yari Velez. “In addition to personalized tours, we can answer questions about the affordability of assisted living as well as the tax credit program.” She added, “Finding the right place to live for seniors can be a complicated process; our goal is to make the process as easy as possible.”
The open house will be held from 3pm to 5pm on Tuesday, December 5 at 201 Captains Row in Chelsea. To RSVP to the open house and/or schedule a private tour, please call Terry Halliday at 98-854-1825 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. email@example.com
Chelsea Jewish Lifecare, a highly respected leader in senior living, employs over 1200 people and provides care to over 800 individuals daily, with campuses in Chelsea and Peabody, MA. Offering a full continuum of services, Chelsea Jewish Lifecare (www.chelseajewish.org) is redefining senior care and re-envisioning what life should be like for those living with disabling conditions. The eldercare community includes a wide array of skilled and short-term rehab residences, ALS and MS specialized care residences, traditional and specialized assisted living options, memory care, independent living, adult day health, geriatric care management, home care, personal care and hospice agencies that deliver customized and compassionate care.
Numerous media outlets reported on Wednesday that State Housing Secretary Jay Ash – the former Chelsea City Manager – has made an application to become the next city manager of Cambridge, possibly leaving the cabinet post on Beacon Hill for the confines of Cambridge.
Ash confirmed to the Globe on Wednesday that he has applied and is pursuing the job.
Ash did not return a request for comment from the Record in time for publication.
He was one of the first to join Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration in January 2015 and was credited with luring in and ushering in General Electric to Massachusetts earlier this year. He also concentrated on getting homeless families out of motels an into long-term housing situations – something that he worked on also while in Chelsea.
Ash also told the Globe that his current job requires a lot of travel across the state and prevents him from focusing in on one community. Rather, he said, he is constantly rushing from one place to another listening to the needs of various locales.
His expertise in drilling down on problems, as he did in Chelsea one by one, is not particularly as useful in his current position.
The city manager position in Cambridge would also nearly double his salary, the Globe reported.
Ash’s current salary is approximately $160,000, while the salary for the Cambridge city manager exceeds $300,000.
A decision on the position is expected by the City Council in Cambridge this fall.
A new provision being considered over the summer regarding zoning ordinances would allow the Methadone Clinic on Crescent Avenue and MGH-Chelsea to establish substance abuse counseling centers near their current site – though no medications would be allowed to be dispensed.
The Methadone Clinic on Crescent Avenue has recently come under fire, and particularly at a public meeting last month hosted by Councillors Luis Tejada, Roy Avellaneda and Leo Robinson. At that meeting, a huge turnout of residents opposed to the location of the clinic asked its owner if he would move it. The discussion went on for more than an hour.
All of the sudden, the Methadone Clinic seems to be a top concern of the public.
Now, City Manager Tom Ambrosino is proposing that the Council allow the clinic to expand its counseling services to an office building next door on Crescent Avenue through a change in the zoning ordinances. The change would also allow MGH-Chelsea to operate a counseling center near its location on Everett Avenue.
The change in zoning provides a definition of a counseling center, which stipulates that under no circumstances can it dispense medication. It also allows such centers to locate more easily in certain zoning districts of the city, including the Light Industrial and Highway Business Districts.
“There’s been no indication the Methadone Clinic is moving,” said Ambrosino. “The discussions we’ve had is the would like to have more counseling at a location next door. They have said they want to do more counseling to accompany the medication. MGH supports this idea too…There is a need for more counseling and we don’t have a zoning ordinance that allows it. We’re proposing to add it by special permit in these few districts away from residential areas.”
The change is part of a very large zoning package Ambrosino submitted to the Council right before its summer recess. The Council has been considering the many changes and proposals over the summer, and is expected to vote on it at the first meeting in the fall.
Last week, the Planning Board held a hearing on the ordinance for counseling centers, and took it under advisement.
Ambrosino said he knows the history of the Clinic, including the unpopular court order to put it on Crescent Avenue, but stressed that there would be no medication dispensed at the proposed counseling centers. He also said the Methadone Clinic has been responsive in recent years where maybe they weren’t in the past.
“In my tenure here, the Clinic has been pretty good to work to address problems when we’ve asked them to do so,” he said.
Many say there is no free lunch, but those folks would be wrong if there were in the Chelsea Schools next year.
The Chelsea Schools announced that within their new budget is a component that will allow free lunch for all students in all grades next school year.
“We have included universal free lunch in next year’s budget,” said Supt. Mary Bourque.
Bourque said the schools have had universal free breakfast for the last five years.
“We did it so we could make sure students who need to eat are getting the food they need,” he said. “It isn’t something we will lose money on because we get the federal dollars.”
School Committeeman Bobby Pereira said he thought it was the right step.
“I feel this is a great step for our community,” he said. “Given the current structure it is difficult to pinpoint who is low income and who is not, and that should not be an issue concerning our students when they go to into the lunch line. I feel all of our students need to be nourished and provided the best meal possible for the day. I am excited about this program and hope it goes through.”
The Chelsea Housing Authority has put out Requests for Proposals to have a private developer partner with the redevelopment of the Central Ave. and Walnut St. housing complexes.
Both of these projects were built decades ago – Central Ave. in the 1950’s and Walnut St. in the early 1960’s – when the times, and their primary need, were very different.
Today, these housing developments need an upgrade.
The idea of partnering with a private developer has worked well in Columbia Point where more rental units were added, creating a neighborhood of mixed incomes as opposed to being just low-income families. In Charlestown, officials have started the process of a private firm redeveloping the Bunker Hill complex by keeping the 1,100 existing low-income units and adding an additional 1,600 mixed-income units.
The role of government has changed in the last decade. The need for private and public dollars working together has generated a better life for all the residents of our nation.
We are not suggesting that all questions and concerns by residents and city officials should be ignored. The viewpoints of current residents certainly must be considered.
However, we believe that this is an interesting proposal and we agree with Housing Authority Board Chair Tom Standish’s comment, “This is the wave of the future.”
As City Manager Tom Ambrosino recently noted, Chelsea is a dynamic city that is undergoing a transformative period. Perhaps the most discussed and contested question worth analyzing during this process is how, where, and to what degree Chelsea will undergo development. The Chelsea Waterfront is one area where work is already underway to discuss a comprehensive approach to conceptualizing the future of the space.
Over the past 20-plus years, Chelsea Green Space has engaged the community in efforts to thwart negative developments such as a power plant, ethanol “bomb” trains and other environmental and public health threats. But outside of community-supported processes, has the city, state or any other entity asked us, the residents, what we want for our waterfront? Now is our unique opportunity to act. Chelsea Green Space encourages your participation and involvement.
Recently, the City of Chelsea has contracted the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to begin the visioning and planning process for the development of the waterfront. As part of the MAPC’s process, meetings with community residents are now being conducted in order to build consensus and discuss the goals, concerns, and ideas that residents have regarding the opportunities on the waterfront. On March 3, MAPC met with members of the Chelsea Green Space Committee to begin an initial conversation on perspectives on and intentions for this visioning process.
On Wednesday, March 23, Chelsea residents will have their next opportunity to meet with each other and MAPC to continue this conversation on waterfront visioning. A public workshop will be facilitated by MAPC at the Chelsea Senior Center at 10 Riley Way from 6-8 p.m., and will serve to gather input from community residents as well as allow residents to hear proposals from MAPC on developmental possibilities. In particular, MAPC will be providing examples of potential plans to develop the waterfront in such a way so as to balance various stakeholder interests.
At the conclusion of this series of meetings, the MAPC will be tasked with consolidating the information gathered during the various sessions and producing a proposal to be submitted to the city for approval. As MAPC is contracted by the City of Chelsea for this monumental work, it is of the utmost importance that residents attend the meetings to produce an authentic voice that reflects our current residents’ needs and perspectives on the future of the waterfront space.
The November municipal elections here in Chelsea demonstrated a resounding commitment to a particular thematic issue: development. With the new council now in office for just over three months, the time is now upon us within the community to engage with our councillors, each other, and MAPC to raise the standards by which our community mobilizes and communicates on issues of development. In order to ensure that Chelsea develops equitably, sustainably, and transparently, residents must become informed on and active in the various initiatives throughout the city.
Building our community does not stop at your polling location with the official you elected, but is instead an active process of planning, outreach, and consensus building. If re-imagining our waterfront is important to you, clear your calendars for just two hours on March 23 to engage in this timely and essential conversation. Let’s build a waterfront that works for our community, protects our residents, and expands upon Chelsea’s resource network.
A request by city councillors to increase the owner-occupant residential tax exemption to 35 percent has gotten a very positive recommendation by City Manager Tom Ambrosino.
The measure was called for by Ambrosino last fall at 30 percent, and then Councillor Roy Avellaneda and several other colleagues called for the measure to increase to 35 percent at the first Council meeting of the year on Jan. 25.
This week, Ambrosino reported to the Council that a study of the 30 percent and 35 percent threshold by the Assessor’s Office found that there move would hurt very few and help many residents – to the tune of at least $451 in tax savings per year.
Chelsea currently has a 20 percent owner-occupant residential tax exemption.
“Based upon this analysis, the City Council can be confident that, if it were so inclined, it could seek to increase the Residential Exemption from 20 percent to 35 percent with significant benefit to the overwhelming majority of Chelsea homeowners,” he wrote. “In Chelsea, there is a sufficiently high percentage of non-owner occupants to make this program successful. In fact, with the current 20 percent exemption, the cut off for residential owner occupied properties that pay a higher tax with he exemption than without are homes valued at greater than $625,000.”
The residential tax exemption works by shifting the tax burden to non-owner occupants and to some higher valued owner-occupied properties. The idea is to reward residents living in lower valued homes and give those residents a break on their property taxes. One consequence, though, is that if there aren’t enough non-owner occupants, then some owner occupants in high-value homes can be hurt by the measure.
In this case, Ambrosino said that cut off was the $625,000 number and only four homes fall into that category.
For a $300,000 home, the analysis showed, that a 30 percent exemption would have yielded $292 in savings on the tax bill this year. For a similar home, the 35 percent exemption would have yielded $451 in savings on the tax bill.
Right now, 13 communities in the state have a residential exemption, with the majority of those being at 20 percent.
Boston, Cambridge and Malden have 30 percent right now, and Somerville is the only community to carry the 35 percent exemption.
Ambrosino said he would be ready to draft a Home Rule Petition to the Legislature is the Council so chooses.
In order to make the change, the State Legislature would need to give its approval in what is called a Home Rule Petition.
A deal to sell and completely renovate the Wyndham Hotel has hit a snag this month and may not end up happening, according to sources and City Manager Tom Ambrosino.
“It’s run into a snag for environmental reasons,” said Ambrosino on Monday. “Everyone is trying to make it work notwithstanding this issue. Hopefully it will be overcome. It’s certainly in a holding pattern now. It’s not fault of any of the parties…but these environmental issues have a long life.”
Earlier this fall, XSS Group – which owns several other hotels in Chelsea – agreed to purchase the 15-year-old hotel and invest $9.8 million into updating it for a high-end customer base.
It would have been a joint venture with the current owners, WEDGE Group of Texas. The hotel was to close this month for renovations and remain closed until March 2016.
The City Council this fall approved a five-year Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) agreement for the new ownership configuration in order to preserve and increase the numbers of jobs at the hotel. Under the current ownership of WEDGE, community leaders have worried that the owners are having a hard time keeping up with the property.
Total new tax dollars projected for the City during the five-year TIF were just short of $250,000 – even with the tax break included.
Ambrosino said all is not lost and everyone is trying to keep the deal going.
“The hope right now is we can figure out how to move forward,” he said.