Gov Baker Signs Bill to Fund New Quigley Hospital at Chelsea Soldiers’ Home

Gov Baker Signs Bill to Fund New Quigley Hospital at Chelsea Soldiers’ Home

Gov. Charlie Baker signed a capital bond bill on Tuesday that increases bond authorization by $244 million to support initiatives across the Commonwealth, including construction of a new long-term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home.

“This bill funds critical projects across the Commonwealth, including the Last Mile broadband project and money for the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home renovation project,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We thank the Legislature for bringing us one step closer to updating the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home for our veterans.”

The bond legislation signed Tuesday includes $199 million to replace the long-term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, which is expected to be partially reimbursed by the federal government pending final approval from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill also directs the administration to study the long-term needs of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke.

“The Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea provides comprehensive, quality health care and residential services with honor, dignity and respect to the Commonwealth’s veterans,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “The upgrades to the Soldiers’ Home  ensure that the physical plant meets modern health care requirements commensurate with the needs of our veterans.”

On May 31, Gov. Baker filed egislation to address immediate capital needs statewide, including $950 million for higher education projects, $880 million for construction, renovations, and accessibility improvements at state office buildings, $700 million for health and human services facilities, $550 million for public safety facilities and $375 million for court facilities. While the legislation signed Tuesday includes authorization for the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, several items from this bill remain pending.

“We are pleased to see authorization for the replacement of the Quigley Hospital at Chelsea Soldiers’ Home passed, which was proposed in our capital budget plan,” said Administration and Finance Secretary Michael J. Heffernan. “By leveraging the use of significant federal resources to build the new facility, we optimize the value of the Commonwealth’s capital investment in this project.”

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Robinson Topping Ticket, Rodriguez and Garcia Win District Contests:Brown, Bishop and Perlatonda Return to Council

Robinson Topping Ticket, Rodriguez and Garcia Win District Contests:Brown, Bishop and Perlatonda Return to Council

By Seth Daniel

Governor’s Councilor Terence Kennedy stopped by the polls to greet those campaigning, including here Candidate Henry Wilson, Councillor Enio Lopez, and Councillor Yamir Rodriguez.

Governor’s Councilor Terence Kennedy stopped by the polls to greet those campaigning, including here Candidate Henry Wilson, Councillor Enio Lopez, and Councillor Yamir Rodriguez.

Incumbents prevailed in several contested district Council contests on Tuesday, Nov. 7, while Council President Leo Robinson showed that experience equals strength in topping the at-large ticket with more than 1,000 votes.

Aside from School Committeeman at-Large candidate Frank DePatto, Robinson was the only candidate to top the 1,000 vote plateau.

In the at-large race, Robinson had 1,023 votes, Roy Avellaneda 986 and Damali Vidot 827. None of the three at-large seats were contested, but there was a spirited race to see who would top the ticket – a victory that carries implications for Council President.

“Now it’s time to stay focused and keep moving the City ahead,” Robinson said. “I want to thank the voters and all my supporters for hard work and dedication in making this victory happen.”

Meanwhile, in District 1, an empty seat saw Bob Bishop – the former councillor and city clerk – emerge as the victor over Planning Board member Todd Taylor, 267-213.

Bishop did win the Preliminary Election, but it came in spite of an endorsement of Taylor by outgoing Councillor Paul Murphy and Gov. Charlie Baker.

One contest that was very high-profile was that between Councillor Yamir Rodriguez and challenger Mark Rossi, of the License Commission. The two ran organized campaigns, with Rodriguez winning 129-98.

Another such contest came in District 5, where a rematch between Councillor Judith Garcia and Planning Board member Henry Wilson also showed lots of action.

Garcia won fairly easily in the end, 148-83.

On Admiral’s Hill in District 8, an empty seat saw former Councillor Calvin Brown cruise to victory over Jermaine Williams, 303-79.

In District 6, Councillor Giovanni Recupero prevailed 101-17 over Kristofer Haight, who had withdrawn from the race in September.

Up on the Soldiers’ Home in District 2, Councillor Luis Tejada beat challenger Olivia Walsh 124-94.

Former Councillor Joe Perlatonda will make his way back to the Council after winning an unopposed election for an open seat in Mill Hill (District 3).

Finally, District 4 Councillor Enio Lopez won an unopposed contest with 109 votes.

The results will mean that there will be three new faces on the Council in 2018.

For School Committee, two of the seats (District 4 and 5) had no candidate on the ballot. However, Lucia Henriquez put together a write-in campaign for one of the seats, and is believed to have won there.

Other winners included DePatto (at-Large), District 1 Rosemarie Carlisle, District 2 Jeannette Velez, District 3 Rich Maronski, District 4 no candidate, District 5 no candidate, District 6 Ana Hernandez, District 7 Kelly Garcia, and District 8 Yessenia Alfaro-Alvarez.

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

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

By Seth Daniel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both are very qualified and both are very popular.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Economic Independence:Chelsea Among Four Housing Authorities to Receive $389,000 in Planning Grants

Economic Independence:Chelsea Among Four Housing Authorities to Receive $389,000 in Planning Grants

Lieutenant Gov. Karyn Polito announced a total of $389,000 in planning and predevelopment grants for Housing Authorities in Chelsea, Gloucester, New Bedford and Taunton to pursue implementation of Worcester Housing Authority-pioneered ‘A Better Life’ programming.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and State Housing Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay present a grant to City Manager Thomas Ambrosino and CHA Executive Director Al Ewing and Assistant Director Diane Cohen to help bring the ‘A Better Life’ program to Chelsea.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and State Housing Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay present a grant to City Manager Thomas Ambrosino and CHA Executive Director Al Ewing and Assistant Director Diane Cohen to help bring the ‘A Better Life’ program to Chelsea.

The program catalyzes economic independence and self-sufficiency by providing families and residents access to support services, educational opportunity and employment, while encouraging debt reduction and home ownership.

“Our administration is committed to pursuing community programming that works, and allowing others to learn from and build on its success,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Worcester’s ‘A Better Life’ program is providing families guidance and access to the services and employment or educational opportunities that allow them to move towards long-term economic independence. We look forward to seeing others implement the program for their families and communities.”

A Better Life (ABL) at the Worcester Housing Authority pairs participating families and residents with a Family Life Coach to conduct a comprehensive assessment of residents’ needs and helps to create a collaborative “family development plan.” This plan helps families map out short and long-term goals in focus areas of employment, financial literacy and education. Participants continue to receive support to discuss progress and accomplishments, and are given access to services through partner providers. Additionally, Worcester Housing Authority employs a full-time employment manager, who works with regional employers to help match participants to job opportunities.

Lt. Governor Polito joined Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay, Worcester Housing Authority Executive Director Alex Corrales and local officials in Worcester for the announcement.

“I am thrilled to announce the expansion of A Better Life, and I want to congratulate the Worcester Housing Authority on creating a program that profoundly benefits the lives of residents and families,” said Lt. Governor Polito. “These awards will give more housing authorities the resources to create their own programming that will support families on the road to economic self-sufficiency and improve access to educational, financial and employment opportunities.”

“Our public housing authorities provide critical housing in the Commonwealth, and affect the lives of thousands of families and residents,” said Chrystal Kornegay, Housing and Community Development Undersecretary. “A Better Life leverages those existing touch points, and provides profoundly effective services to residents, and we are proud to partner with housing authorities to test its effectiveness at other sites.”

Since the program was implemented in 2015, more than 200 residents have taken part in ABL. A Better Life has supported families and residents in pursuing significant accomplishments in employment, education and financial success. Employment among participants has increased by 62 percent, and they have seen an overall increase of gross annual income by 76 percent. Worcester’s participants have completed a collective 106 educational programs: 57 certifications, 12 associate degrees and five bachelor degrees. Additionally, ABL participants have reduced their overall debt by 30 percent, and those who have graduated the program have seen an even more significant reduction, at 75 percent.

These grants will give the Chelsea Housing Authority resources to design, plan, and prepare to implement the ABL program. CHA will create strategies to capture program performance, an implementation timeline and recruit service provider partners to offer critical support services to residents.

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City Councilor-at-Large Roy Avellaneda Announces Re-Election Bid

City Councilor-at-Large Roy Avellaneda Announces Re-Election Bid

Current Chelsea City Councilor at Large Roy Avellaneda has announced he will seek re-election to the City Council in the November 7th election.

Said Avellaneda, “It would be my privilege to continue to represent the people of Chelsea as Councilor at Large. I’ve never stopped fighting for Chelsea residents and stakeholders. But after a brief hiatus, two years ago, I decided to run again, and you gave me the honor of putting me back on the City Council.”

Roy is a lifelong Chelsea resident. His family moved here from Argentina in the 1970s and opened Tito’s Bakery on Broadway. He attended St Rose, Dom Savio High School, and Babson College.

“I was brought up in Chelsea, and I’ve lived here all of my life.  So I not only understand its history, but also keenly aware of its challenges, and most pressing needs,” he said.

He has served Chelsea as a member of the Planning Board, and on the City Council for a total of 12 years, the first time beginning in 1998.  He returned to the Council 2 years ago, and served on the Licensing Board in between.

Along the way, Roy has also worked as Legislative Assistant to State Senator Jarrett Barrios, and worked in the MA Department of Transportation during the administration of former Governor Deval Patrick.

“Twenty years in both local and state government, have given me a unique, and valuable experience. I know how the wheels of government turn, often slowly and painfully. So you have to get in there, roll up your sleeves, and keep pushing it along. You have to have patience, but always maintain a sense of urgency.”

Roy is also a successful real estate broker, and the top producing agent with Weichert, Realtors-Metropolitan Boston Real Estate.  Roy also currently also owns and operates his own cafe, Pan y Cafe in Cary Square, which he opened about a year ago.

“From a very early age,” he said, “my parents taught me the importance of public service — of being involved in one’s community.  But their story and their example also includes the business they founded.  I’ve always been involved in this community, but at the same time, whether it’s the bakery, a cafe, being a real estate broker, I’ve also been in my own business here in different ways for a long time now.  So I have the perspective, not only of someone who has worked in government, but also of a small business person. And in that sense, I’m doubling down on Chelsea because I believe in our bright future, and I always have. I’m doing everything I can to help bring it about and to make the lives of everyone in this community better. But I’ve also made my life here, and I think it’s important to be personally invested in your community, and have a stake in that future.”

Since re-joining the City Council in 2016, Roy has focused on a number issues confronting Chelsea residents and business owners, including tax relief, jobs and economic development, affordable housing, and environmental protection.

“Two years ago,” he said, “I made a commitment to do everything I could to make sure our homeowners and local businesses were not overburdened, to address the affordable housing crisis, to lobby for smart development that reduced negative impacts while increasing green space and support our youth. Today, I can point to achievements that improved those issues facing Chelsea.”

Specifically Roy sponsored, and along with with City Manager Tom Ambrosino, successfully lobbied for state legislative passage of the Home Rule Petition to Increase the Homeowner Residential Exemption from 20% to 35%, saving homeowners hundreds of dollars per year.

He also worked hard to get legislation passed to help small businesses with equipment or inventory of less than $10,000 in value pay less in taxes, resulting in an increase in investment and jobs by local Chelsea merchants.

Roy co-sponsored the Community Preservation Act ballot initiative and campaigned for its approval by voters. Chelsea approved it overwhelmingly (70%) creating a funding mechanism for affordable housing, green space and historic preservation.

Roy also supported and lobbied for the adoption of two key affordable housing measures.  The first, The Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, now requires 15% of housing built by developers to be affordable.  The second, The Condo Conversion Ordinance, limits multi-family owners from evicting tenants without just cause pursuant to condominium conversion.

Roy introduced and successfully lobbied for the passage Anti-Wage Theft Ordinance which now protects workers in Chelsea from unscrupulous employers who attempt to withhold rightfully earned wages and overtime.

Roy’s advocacy was also instrumental in obtaining more funding for Chelsea’s Summer Jobs Employment program, which provides summer jobs and the opportunity for for Chelsea teens to gain work experience and life skills.

“I am particularly proud to have the endorsements of the Greater Boston Labor Council, SEIU 888, SEIU 32BJ, Ironworkers Local 7 and New England Region of Carpenters,” he said, “because I have worked and fought hard for working people of all ages in Chelsea.”

“Two years ago, he said, “I asked Chelsea voters then to give me the opportunity to be their voice and to work for them.  They did, and for that, I’m very grateful. We’ve accomplished a lot since.  But, we have so much more work to do in Chelsea. We need improved access to affordable transportation.  We need a permanent bike sharing program. We need to keep pressure on MassPort to mitigate Logan Airport’s impact on our community. We need more balanced and smart new development that doesn’t negatively impact our quality of life. We need to focus on and properly mitigate the impact of the Wynn Casino. We have to increase economic opportunities for working families so they can afford to take care of themselves and their children and not be priced out of Chelsea.  There’s so much to do. So I am once again asking for your vote on Nov 7th to continue to be your Councilor At Large. Please support me on Tuesday, November 7th. Thank you and God bless.”

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The Finest on the Fourth:Artie Ells Hosts 40th Annual Independence Day Party

The Finest on the Fourth:Artie Ells Hosts 40th Annual Independence Day Party

By Cary Shuman

Party organizer Artie Ells, attired in his traditional red, white and blue costume, speaks to the many guests at the annual July Fourth celebration.

Party organizer Artie Ells, attired in his traditional red, white and blue costume, speaks to the many guests at the annual July Fourth celebration.

When it comes to Fourth of July parties in Chelsea, Artie Ells in a class by himself.

For the past 40 Independence Days, ever since the nation’s bicentennial celebration in 1976, Artie Ells has welcomed hundreds of friends and neighbors to his home on Palmer Street on the holiday.

This year City Manager Tom Ambrosino personally delivered a proclamation to Ells in recognition of his patriotism and lifelong contributions to Chelsea. Ambrosino joins a long list of dignitaries including U.S. Presidents Reagan, Bush (41 and 43), Clinton, and Trump who have honored Ells for his civic and patriotic endeavors with official letters of acknowledgement.

The party is officially known as “Artie’s July 4tH Celebration.” On that day (rain has only forced one postponement until July 5), Artie turns his backyard into a “Party with Artie” extravaganza, with guests young and old enjoying a barbecue of hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages, and steak to go along with musical entertainment, swimming in the Ells pool, and games for the kids.

A large, 24-by-30-foot American flag is on display to complement “God Bless America” signs and red, white, and blue bunting.

Artie, his wife, Tish, and their son, Matt, who is assistant director of athletic operations at Northeastern University, presented blue “Party With Artie” t-shirts to the many guests. Artie, who wears a red, white, and blue costume, personally led the gathering in the singing of “God Bless of America.”

What was the inspiration for launching 40 years of a special observance of America’s birthday?

Ells said he had received an American flag that was flown on July 4, 1976 at the U.S. Capitol Building. That flag has been displayed at the party each year.

“I wanted to hold a celebration to provide a nice day for people and honor our country and salute American patriotism,” said Ells. “I don’t want people to forget the great country we live in and what America stands for. It never hurts to be patriotic and believe in the country that you live in.”

The list of guests has included Major League Baseball players such as Wade Boggs, Danny Darwin, and John Henry Johnson. Former Mass. Governor Edward King attended one of the celebrations. Former state senator Francis Doris was a big supporter.

“It’s just a great event where a bunch of people can get together and have a good time and love each and show their patriotism,” said Frank Mahoney, who has known Ells since his childhood.

Artie grew up on Hancock Street and graduated from Chelsea High in 1963. He later played for the talented and colorful New Bridge Café softball team in the local fast pitch league. Ells joined softball legends Eddie McCarthy, Homer Norton, Danny Cronin, Bobby Gallo, Mike Kearney, Rollie DeSimone and others on the New Bridge team that would pack the old Carter Park on game nights.

He holds a lifelong love for the city and has a respectful knowledge of its history, noting the since demolished Pratt House on Washington Avenue where President George Washington once stayed during a visit.

Whether the “Party With Artie” tradition continues next year is a question being debated in the Ells household. The day takes considerable planning and preparation, not to mention the extensive cleanup afterwards.

But Artie Ells will always have a place of fondness in his heart for his friends, his city, and his country.

“I’ve been blessed with so many great friends and family,” said Artie. “To me, Chelsea is my home and it’s always been my home. And without a doubt we live in the greatest country in the world.”

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John Ligotti, Former East Boston Clerk-Magistrate, Judge, Passes Away

John Ligotti, Former East Boston Clerk-Magistrate, Judge, Passes Away

The passing this past week of John C. Ligotti. known to his friends as Jack, who served for five decades as an assistant clerk and clerk-magistrate of the East Boston District Court and then was promoted to the District Court bench, marked the end of an era for long-time residents of the East Boston, Winthrop, and Revere communities.

John Ligotti’s life was a typical American immigrant success story exemplifying the values of hard work, determination, and love of family and community. Judge Ligotti was born on June 20, 1916, one of five siblings of immigrant parents who emigrated from Barrafranca, Sicily in 1912, initially taking up residence in Passaic, New Jersey before moving to the Boston area a few years thereafter.

Despite meager financial resources, Judge Ligotti worked his way through Northeastern University School of Law during the Great Depression and became one of the youngest persons ever to pass the Massachusetts Bar Exam when he did so at the age of 23.

With jobs still scarce, Judge Ligotti worked as an unpaid intern in the East Boston District Court under then Clerk-Magistrate William Barker. With the help of Boston Mayor James Michael Curley, Judge Ligotti soon was named an assistant clerk-magistrate of the East Boston District Court. After rising to the position of First Assistant Clerk-Magistrate, Judge Ligotti was appointed to the Clerk-Magistrate’s position by Gov. Foster Furcolo in 1957 upon the retirement of Clerk-Magistrate Barker.

Clerk-Magistrate Ligotti was elevated to the bench of the District Court in 1974 by Governor Francis Sargent. Judge Ligotti initially served as a Special Justice of the District Court before being named to the position of First Justice of the Malden District Court, where he served until 1986 upon reaching the mandatory judicial retirement age of 70.

After his retirement, Judge Ligotti’s value and experience to the court system continued to be recognized by the Supreme Judicial Court, which appointed Judge Ligotti for a number of years as a recall justice.

Humility, wisdom, compassion, and a dedication to public service are the words that most often come to mind from those who knew, and worked with, Judge Ligotti during his 50-year tenure as a judicial officer in the Massachusetts court system, according to Sandra Caggiano, who worked in the East Boston District Court for 41 years beginning in 1967 when she was hired by Judge Ligotti and who herself eventually rose to the position of First Assistant Clerk-Magistrate under Judge Ligotti’s successor, Joseph Faretra..

“I learned from John Ligotti, as did everyone who worked for him, what it means to be a compassionate human being and what it it takes to make a man a gentleman,” said Caggiano. “He instilled in us the notion that we were to treat everybody, regardless of their station in life or where they came from, with dignity and respect.

“Judge Ligotti was fond of reading the Bible, and his approach to the job was to take care of the least among us,” continued Caggiano. “His legacy in the East Boston District Court carried over long after he had left the court and continues today. The East Boston District Court is well-known among other courts, among police, and among those who come before it as one of the best-run and most-compassionate courts in the state.”

“My uncle helped everybody who came in front of him and yet he never asked anything from anyone,” said his nephew Joseph Ligotti, who himself has served the Massachusetts judicial system with distinction for more than 50 years, most notably as an assistant clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court and currently as the Clerk-Magistrate of the Hingham District Court.

“He epitomized the concept of public service,” continued Ligotti, whose own son, Angelo, has maintained the family legacy of service in the judicial system as an assistant clerk of the Bristol Juvenile Court. “He was an incredibly humble man who never forgot where he came from. Even though he worked very hard to attain his success, he understood that not everyone had the same degree of opportunity that he had.

“He came from a loving family and what brought him the most pleasure was his own family,” added Ligotti, referring to Judge Ligotti’s four daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchild.

The words of the poet Wordsworth are apt when describing the manner in which the thousands of individuals who came before John Ligotti received the benefit of his innate kindness, compassion, and wisdom:

“That best portion of a good man’s life,

his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.”

Family and friends will honor Judge Ligotti’s life by gathering on Thursday, July 6, in the Ruggiero Family Memorial Home, 971 Saratoga Street (Orient Heights), East Boston, from 9:00 A.M. to 12:00 noon, followed by a procession to Our lady of the Assumption Church, Lynnfield for a funeral Mass in celebration of the Judge’s life at 1:00 P.M. Services will conclude with Judge Ligotti being laid to rest with his beloved wife, Rose (Cavaliere),.

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Why I’m Fighting on Beacon Hill for Our Schools

Why I’m Fighting on Beacon Hill for Our Schools

By Senator Sal DiDomenico

Residents of Gateway Cities throughout the Commonwealth have probably heard quite a bit about how their schools are facing dire budget gaps due to a change in the way the state counts low-income students. This has been an ongoing issue for over two years now, and I have received many questions from concerned parents and constituents who are confused as to how this problem began and what we can do to remedy the situation.

In 2015, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) began the process of changing how it calculated low-income or “economically disadvantaged” students. The number of economically disadvantaged students plays a key role in the Chapter 70 formula that determines the amount of funding school districts receive from the state.

Previously, parents completed a form to determine whether their child was eligible for free or reduced lunch, and DESE used that information to calculate how many students were considered economically disadvantaged. Now, only students who are registered for social welfare programs like SNAP and Medicaid are categorized as economically disadvantaged. This new methodology from the Baker Administration misses thousands of additional low-income students, because it fails to take into account the economically disadvantaged students who are not accessing social services. These students are often immigrants, homeless children, or students who are simply not enrolled in social programs.

As a result, many of the communities who need the most help from the state are faced with significant financial gaps. My communities of Everett and Chelsea are two of the school districts that have been hit the hardest, and this issue has been at the forefront of my priorities since the counting change was first proposed over two years ago.

As soon as my office was made aware of the situation, we began working directly with DESE to reach a solution. Long before the Governor submitted last year’s budget proposal, my office was leading the charge in the Legislature to reach a compromise with DESE to ensure that all low-income students would be counted by the state. I met personally with administration officials and convened a meeting with several superintendents and DESE at the State House to stress this serious issue.  Despite the many assurances we received from them, the promises made by the Administration went unfulfilled, and DESE chose to move forward with their formula change.

In response, as Vice Chair of Senate Ways & Means, I brought the Joint Committee on Ways & Means Education Hearing to Everett High School last year, where I made it clear to Administration officials that their methodology change was crushing our most financially challenged school districts with massive budget cuts and was harming the education of thousands of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable students. I worked tirelessly last budget cycle to secure additional funding that would hold the negatively impacted municipalities harmless and helped to reach a one-year stopgap that allowed school districts to choose whichever method of counting low-income students worked best for their community.

As a result of this temporary solution, many schools districts were saved from imminent teacher layoffs and cuts to major programs, and we were able to buy ourselves additional time to reach a permanent solution. Over the course of the past year, I have continued to be a staunch advocate for not just Everett and Chelsea, but all of the negatively impacted communities, and I have been fighting to reach a long-term solution that benefits every school district in the Commonwealth.  However, even with this additional time, DESE still has not been able to reach a long-term solution.

During this year’s budget process, I have worked with the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (M.A.S.S.) and the Administration to find another temporary fix to our problem.  Ultimately, a compromise was reached with the support of M.A.S.S. and DESE which provided for an additional $12.5 million for the school districts who were harmed by the Administration’s formula change.  This will allow us to mitigate some of the damage, but it is by no means a long-term solution.  Both the State Senate and House of Representatives included the $12.5 million in our budgets this year.  I will be very disappointed if we are once again in this position next fiscal year, and I call on DESE to provide a permanent solution to this problem that their formula change created.

I continue to believe that the answer to this problem is very simple.  We should allow communities to choose their preferred method of counting low income students – either by using the original method of self-reporting or by adopting the Administration’s new formula. This is the solution I have been fighting for since the very beginning, and it is the solution that I will continue pursuing until a long-term resolution that adequately funds all of our schools is reached.

This is not a fight that I am willing to give up on. Our teachers and school officials do an incredible job at educating all of their students, regardless of income or background, and it is up to the state to ensure they have the necessary funding to continue doing so. As the father of two boys in the Everett Public Schools, I am not just advocating as a State Senator, but also as a concerned parent. This issue is deeply personal for me, and it is my hope that my constituents and city officials know that I hear their concerns, and I am working every day to ensure that our schools receive the funding they are entitled to and deserve.

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Gov Baker Stands Tall — Again

Gov Baker Stands Tall — Again

The swift and unequivocal announcement last Friday by Gov. Charlie Baker that Massachusetts will join in an initiative with other states to encourage alternative forms of energy in order to reduce carbon emissions is yet another example of the sort of straightforward decision-making that has become a hallmark of the Baker administration.

Gov. Baker’s  announcement came on the heels of the pronouncement the day before by Pres. Donald Trump that he will withdraw the United States from the Paris climate change agreement.  Unlike President Trump, Gov. Baker realizes that we must stay ahead of the curve in areas that are critical to our economy and also assert our moral leadership when necessary.

Gov. Baker’s policy recognizes first and foremost that global-warming is real and that man-made greenhouse gases are contributing to it — and therefore we need to do something about it.

Furthermore, it recognizes that protecting our environment is necessary not only from the moral imperative of saving the planet, but also because it makes sense from an economic point-of-view.

Solar, wind, and other passive forms of energy production clearly are the wave of the future, both in our country and globally. The governor understands that we must make a choice: We either can get with the program, so to speak, as every other nation is doing, or we will find ourselves stuck with a mid-20th century energy model for a 21st century economy.

This is not a political issue — Democrat vs. Republican or progressive vs. conservative — but rather, it is a matter that should unite all of us toward a common goal.

As Gov. Baker succinctly put it in his official statement, “Our administration looks forward to continued, bipartisan collaboration with other states to protect the environment, grow the economy, and deliver a brighter future to the next generation.”

We are proud to stand with Gov. Baker on this important initiative. We have no doubt that as Massachusetts becomes a leader in the realm of developing and implementing alternative forms of energy, the benefits to our economy — and our planet — will be enormous.

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Gov Baker Signs Higher Residential Exemption for Chelsea Homeowners

By Seth Daniel

Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a home rule petition forwarded by City Manager Tom Ambrosino and the City Council that allows owner-occupied homeowners a 35 percent reduction on their property taxes.

The measure has been discussed for several years by Councillor Giovanni Recupero with little success, but the idea hit a wave earlier this year when Ambrosino signaled he would support such a measure and Councillor Roy Avellaneda codified it in a Council order – an order that increased the savings from 30 percent to 35 percent.

“I have always advocated for this and now we have it,” said Recupero. “I’m glad the homeowner in Chelsea is getting a bigger break. I’ve been asking for that every since I got up here. They told me we could never do this and now we did it. What changed? I’m happy to see it.”

Councillor Avellaneda said he is happy that homeowners will get an even further break.

“I’m thrilled Governor Baker signed the home rule petition I sponsored that increases the tax exemption for Chelsea homeowners,” he said. “I want to thank my colleagues for supporting the measure, the City Manager for helping advocate for it on Beacon Hill and our state delegation, Senator Sal DiDiminico and Rep. Dan Ryan for pushing it through. I’m sure the homeowners of Chelsea will enjoy the reduction on their tax bill.”

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, a City analysis showed, a 30 percent exemption this year 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. Chelsea’s exemption was also 20 percent until last week.

The measure passed last Thursday and is retroactive to July 1, 2016.

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