Maureen Foley was installed as the 91st president of the Rotary Club of Chelsea at the organization’s Installation of Officers Receptions June 21 at the Homewood Suites Event Center.
Rotary Club President David Mindlin (right) and President-Elect Maureen Foley congratulate Paul Harris Fellow honoree Ledia Koco after she received the prestigious award.
Foley was on her home turf. She is the director of community relations for Colwen Hotel Management which operates three hotels in Chelsea, with a fourth, brand new hotel on the Chelsea-Revere line set to open soon.
Foley has become the face of the busy and beautiful hotels since their openings. She is visible at community events and has been a goodwill ambassador for Colwen with her numerous philanthropic and community-spirited endeavors.
And now she’s ready to lead one of the city’s most prominent service organizations that has been here for close to a century. She succeeds outgoing president, Attorney David C. Mindlin.
“When I came to Chelsea and Saritin [Rizzuto] invited me to my first meeting, I had no idea what Rotary was,” said Foley. “I came to make business connections because my company was building a hotel here, but it didn’t take very long before it wasn’t about the business connections any more, it was about a feeling – that I was part of something special and I wanted to stay.”
Foley, who is the eighth woman to serve as Rotary Club of Chelsea president, called it “a great honor” to be the new leader of the club. She noted that Rotary International approved a new vision statement last years.
“It says, together we see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves,” Foley told the gathering.
“Preparing for tonight and the year ahead,” Foley continued, “I thought about that statement and this year’s ‘Be the Inspiration.’
“Inspiration comes from the Latin word, meaning to breathe into; to put life into. I realize before inspiring passion, energy, enthusiasm, or excitement into our club, all of us must work to create change within ourselves, to first inspire ourselves to bring new attitudes, ideas, and passions to Rotary.”
Concluding her remarks, she said, “I am sure the Chelsea Rotary Club can be the inspiration for each other, for our community, and for all those who will follow us in the next 91 years.”
As proud as Maureen Foley was to take office as Rotary president, you could sense the equal feeling of joy and proudness in her daughter, Marika, son, Peter, and 5-year-old granddaughter, Aria, who sat together at a table closest to the podium.
Rotary President-Elect said that Ledia Koco was a wonderful example of the importance of the Interact Club at Chelsea High School.
Koco, 25, was a member and president of the CHS Interact Club during her four years at the school. Interact Club is sponsored by the Chelsea Rotary Club and introduces students to the club’s service to the community and its international reach.
For her outstanding efforts as an Interact leader and senior facilitator of Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) her 1,000 hours of community service, and her continued work in the community, Koco was honored as the recipient of the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International’s Paul Harris Fellow Award at the club’s Installation of Officers Reception at the Homewood Suites Hotel.
Past President Allan Alpert handled the formal presentation of the award to Koco.
“All Paul Harris Awards are important and very distinguished, but this one is a little more special because it’s the members of the Rotary Club that honored you by making you a Paul Harris Fellow for all the things that you have done in your very short time here,” said Alpert.
Koco is the daughter of Luan and Manjola Koco, who are originally from Albania. A former model who finished as first-runnerup in a major pageant, Ledia graduated in 2011 from Chelsea High where she was an honor roll student and member of the National Honor Society. She continued her education at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, receiving her degree in International Relations and Spanish.
Koco continued her membership in RYLA while at Bucknell, teaching other students in work force development. She is a member of the Chelsea Enhacement Team, which is a volunteer organization who participates in community service such as beautification efforts in the city.
“Ledia is the administrative assistant to the Chelsea City Council and probably the youngest person that has ever held that very distinguished honor,” said Alpert.
Koco humbly accepted the prestigious award.
“This is such an honor – I’m overwhelmed right now,” she said. “I just want to say that I feel incredibly honored to be gifted the Paul Harris Fellow Award, especially because it helps raise millions of dollars for the Rotary Foundation.”
Koco said her commitment to public service began early in her life.
“I always knew I wanted to make a difference, especially having emigrated to the States from a Third World country, Albania,” said Koco. “But it wasn’t until I joined Interact and started doing community service, that I realized how much of an impact you can make starting from the bottom up. I didn’t need a fancy job or to be an adult to make a difference. Through Rotary and Interact, I was able to give back to my community regardless.”
She thanked the Rotary Club for presenting her a college scholarship, along with helping to build her leadership skills.
“The irony here is while Rotary is recognizing me, I feel like I should really be recognizing Rotary,” she added thoughtfully.
Koco concluded her remarks by thanking her mentors, including her favorite high school teacher, Ilana Ascher, the Chelsea City Council, Council Clerk Paul Casino, and “my parents, the hardest-working people I know –
I want to thank you for your unconditional love and support.”
Koco received a warm ovation from the many Rotary members and guests in attendance.
“This was an outstanding honor for one of Chelsea’s young adults who is making a difference in our community,” said Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson. “I wanted to be here tonight to join the Rotary in this much-deserved recognition of Ledia’s contributions to Chelsea with this prestigious award. I congratulate her on behalf of all my colleagues in city government and the citizens of Chelsea.”
Chelsea residents held up a sign reading “Chelsea Workers United” as they marched on Broadway for International Workers’ Day on Tuesday, May 1, in the annual May 1st Coalition procession from East Boston to Chelsea and Everett. After the march, a rally was held in Everett with all three communities showing solidarity for numerous causes.
On Tuesday, May 1, International Workers’ Day workers, immigrants and supporters from across the region will join with labor and community organizations, starting at 4:00 p.m. in East Boston, and marching to Chelsea and Everett to participate in an act of unity and defiance against the Trump administration’s attacks against workers and immigrants.
Labor, community and immigrants’ rights organization will make clear that the Trump administration’s systematic attempt to criminalize immigrants not only assaults the civil rights of communities of color, but also opens a dangerous path of intolerance that is already having dramatic consequences in communities across the country as hate crimes against immigrants, and those perceived to be foreign continue to spread.
Organizers and participants will also highlight how unions have been defending their rights’ by collective resistance. Additionally, we will encourage our state legislature to pass safeguards that protect our communities and the rule of law by separating local law enforcement and the federal immigration deportation machinery.
The day will start with a multi-community roundtable at the Chelsea Collaborative, 318 Broadway, at 10 a.m. with Esther Lopez, secretary-treasurer of the United Food and Commercial Workers International (UFCW).
The march will start in East Boston at 4 p.m. in Liberty Plaza, then head to Chelsea City Hall. At 4:30 p.m., the combined group will march from Chelsea to Glendale Park in Everett. There, a rally and cultural program will take place in the park at 5:30 p.m.
The May 1 Coalition of Chelsea, Everett & East Boston includes the Chelsea Collaborative, La Comunidad Inc., City Life/Vida Urbana, International UFCW, UFCW Local 1445, Raise Up, Fight for $15, MIRA, American Friends Service Committee, MassCOSH, SEIU 32BJ, SEIU 509, Jobs With Justice, New England Carpenters Union, Mass. AFL-CIO, Community Labor United, Chinese Progressive Association, Brazilian Women’s Group, UUMassAction, Chelsea Uniting Against the War, IWCC, Projecto Hondureño, Workers World, EBECC, Painters Union, NOAH, Brazilian Workers Center, CAN, Comite de Hondureños Unidos de Massachusetts.
Every country has a story about the strength of its women. That was the lesson learned by the 30 or so young mothers who attended Roca Chelsea’s International Women’s Day celebration on March 29.
Roca’s Young Mothers program focuses on helping high risk young moms get out of violence and poverty, go to work, and care for their children. As part of the programming, Roca has built a community among the participating women through a weekly ‘family night,’ where moms and their children gather to take classes, learn, and grow – and also eat and socialize in a safe environment. The International Women’s Day festivity was an add on to this weekly gathering, giving the group a chance to learn about each other’s home countries and the women that helped shape history.
Ahead of the event, each participating young mom was asked to research a woman in history from her home country, and prepare a short presentation for the group. The result was a diverse line up of rock star women from all over, including Honduras, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, and the US.
“We asked them to look for women in history that made a difference and acknowledge powerful women in Latin America who have always been there,” explained Roca Chelsea Young Mothers staff member Gina Josette. “We wanted to celebrate these women and ourselves as women in a fun and creative way.”
And celebrate they did. The women also brought traditional dishes from their home country to share with the group making the event a feast!
“It’s important and empowering for our young mothers to celebrate women in their country’s history,” said Josette. “For other events, we celebrate other important parts of our lives—Mother’s Day, graduations, etc. We celebrate any type of success in our group, and we celebrate it together.”
Six months after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, many areas of the country outside the tourist hot spots are still in crumbling disrepair – some without electricity since the first storm, Hurricane Irma – and residents of the island nation that is closely tied to Chelsea continue to suffer.
Record photographer Keiko Hiromi traveled to Puerto Rico in late March to survey the damage, having followed the story last fall when Chelsea galvanized to provide thousands of pounds and multiple truckloads of donations to help relieve the situation.
Residents of Chelsea are closely tied to Puerto Rico, with thousands here having been born there or having had relatives emigrate here from the island.
Hiromi reported that upon landing at the airport, things looked normal, but upon leaving the population centers, she discovered homes in much the same shape as the day after the devastation.
“When I landed at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport on March 21, everything looked normal as if nothing had ever happened,” she said. “As I spent five days travelling through Puerto Rico, sometimes away from the functioning tourist areas, I witnessed Puerto Rico in recovery. Many raw scars were still unmended: debris on roads, houses without roofs. Yet, at the same time, I encountered the faces of resilient, strong, patient people, compassionate for each other.”
At the Chelsea Collaborative, Director Gladys Vega and Program Manager Sylvia Ramirez were not surprised at what Hiromi found. Both said they are worried that too many have forgotten about the disaster despite the fact that little has improved for many there.
“I knew that the island was going to be devastated, and at the same time I am shocked how citizens of the United States are so ignored,” she said. “In the next few months, the hurricane season is going to be starting again, and Puerto Rico is nowhere near able to take their normal storm season. One thing I was extremely sad about is we are not getting any help. The news has forgotten about Puerto Rico and moved on to other things. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico is still in devastation. People are suffering, they have no housing and they’re hungry.”
Ramirez said she feels the same way.
After the devastation, she headed up the Collaborative’s efforts to provide aid to those in Puerto Rico, and also to welcome families coming to Chelsea from the island for refuge.
She said much remains the same there, but that story isn’t getting out.
“I think the lack of coverage in the news doesn’t really portray the reality of what’s happening there,” she said. “People go on with their lives and they focus on their kids, they go to work, Christmas came and went. It’s no longer a priority because it’s not in the news. Our plan here in Chelsea is to do another call for action in June or July to bring attention to the situation. The worry for everyone is that nothing is being done to prepare for this year’s hurricane season.
“People go on with their lives, but there are still parts of the island absolutely devastated and nobody is talking about that,” she continued.
That is exactly what Hiromi reported firsthand.
In Toa Baja, just outside of San Juan Hiromi found Miguel Anjel Mericado at his home. His home still had a collapsed roof that had not been fixed and was open to the elements. Beams rested on the floor and electricity was spotty. He collected items that he could find in order to continue the efforts of fixing the home.
Hiromi also visited Yabucoa, where Maria first made landfall.
In Vega Alta, a rural community in the mountains, she visited a family that had no electricity since Hurricane Irma – the first storm to hit Puerto Rico last year even before Hurricane Maria.
Herberto Rivera, a school bus driver there, had been powering the family home with a generator they purchased months ago. They hoped that power would come back to the community before the next hurricane season.
In Chelsea, Ramirez said they are currently working with 55 families who came to the city after the hurricane for refuge, with 18 of them still in FEMA hotels. Statewide, she said, there are nearly 700 families in hotels who arrived after the storm, and 530 are in FEMA hotel rooms. The dire need is that FEMA will stop paying for those rooms on April 20. Already 123 families have used up the FEMA payments and are being paid for by the Red Cross.
She said they are still collecting furniture for those refugees moving into apartments, and they are still trying to secure more stable living conditions.
At the same time, the identical fight continues on the island of Puerto Rico.
“There are still a lot of people without electricity and with blue tarps on their roofs,” said Ramirez. “That’s the reality.”
The president will now declare what many of us experience first hand, the opioid epidemic is a national emergency.
Frankly, with as many as 59,000 deaths in 2016, there doesn’t seem to be any other possible description.
So many dedicated people in cities and towns, faith communities and schools, families and hospitals are fighting to save lives and help people escape addiction.
But there are also a lot of people working to keep illegal opioids on the streets.
With 2.6 million opioid addicts in the United States, the scale of drug-running operations is immense, as are the profits. It’s not a mystery why the cartels build these operations, they do it for the money — and there is a lot of money to be had.
The Office of National Drug Control policy estimates that of the $65 billion spent on illegal drugs each year, about $1 billion, or 1.5 percent, is seized by all federal agencies combined. That means some 98.5 percent of the profits from trafficking remain in the hands of the cartels and other narco traffickers.
We can and must stop that free flow of money, which, besides flooding our communities with cheap heroin, helps strengthen these criminal enterprises.
As the bipartisan Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control wrote in 2013: ““[W]e have become convinced that we cannot stop the drug trade without first cutting off the money that flows to drug trafficking organizations.”
There are simple steps we can take now that go after that money. For starters, we must get rid of anonymous shell companies — companies formed with no way of knowing who owns or controls them (known as the “beneficial owner”).
As documented in the report “Anonymity Overdose,” traffickers can hide and move drug proceeds through anonymous shell companies because starting such companies requires zero personal information.
One of the most dangerous chemicals associated with the opioid crisis is fentanyl — some 50 times more potent than heroin. Deaths from fentanyl overdoses are up 540 percent in the last three years.
Law enforcement agents have cataloged how fentanyl is often shipped to the U.S. from China. Sometimes the drugs or drug making supplies are sent from, and addressed to, a set of anonymous companies.
These companies, which are not connected to the real owner (and sometimes not even connected to a real person), can open bank accounts, transfer money, and buy real estate. Law enforcement does not have access to who is behind these entities.
Requiring all companies formed in the United States disclose their beneficial owners would enable law enforcement to more effectively follow the money trail to the top. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both chambers of Congress which would do just that, and we believe this is something Congress should enact as soon as possible.
As we ask ourselves what else can we do to stand against this epidemic, it’s follow the money.
John A. Cassara is a former U.S. Treasury special agent, who spent much of his career investigating money laundering and terrorist financing. His latest book is titled “Trade-Based Money Laundering: The Next Frontier in International Money Laundering Enforcement.”
Nathan Proctor is a co-author of “Anonymity Overdose,” and a National Campaign Director with Fair Share.
Sailors on the Coast Guard Ship the USCGC Eagle bring down the colors at 8:24 p.m., sunset, on Tuesday, June 20, after the firing of the USS Constitutions cannon. The event was an official Sail Boston Sunset Salute in the Charlestown Navy Yard and drew hundreds to the Town. The USCGC Eagle was in port at the Charlestown Navy Yard as part of Sail Boston all week, departing this morning, June 22. Sail Boston and the National Parks combined to host thousands upon thousands of visitors last weekend and early this week for the international
State Representative Adrian Madaro (D-East Boston) and Senator Sal DiDomenico’s (D-Chelsea) bill that was co-sponsored by Rep. Dan Ryan (D-Chelsea) to raise the base pay for Logan Airport workers to $15 per hour came out of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development and now moves to the Senate, where it awaits further consideration. The bill received a favorable report by the Committee.
“Logan Airport is a great place to start implementation of a $15/hour wage floor and the guaranteeing of worker’s rights. Airports are pretty much self-contained, self-governing workplaces with huge government expenditure and oversight. If we can’t get wage equality done right there then just throw in the towel on the rest of our economy”, said Ryan.
Ryan said the irony is, when it comes to competing against more profitable international carriers major US airlines want the government to help level the playing field. However, the government is supposed to butt out of the ‘free-market’ when it comes to providing worker’s rights and a livable wage.
“You can’t have it both ways. Government is either here to help level the playing field or it isn’t. Government built the airline industry, subsidizes the airline industry and bends over backwards to keep it profit driven,” said Ryan. “All we ask for in return is a fair, livable wage for our front line workers. I thank SEIU 32BJ for continuing to call attention to this workplace disparity. I thank Senator DiDomenico and Representative Madaro for taking the lead.”
At a hearing last month before the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, Madaro testified that Logan Airport is a critical hub in Massachusetts that serves more than 20 million passengers a year and brings in more than $7 billion in economic activity to the area. However, despite Logan’s positive financial impact on our Commonwealth, it is also one of the leading low-wage work sites in the region.
“By voting to move our Airport bill forward, the committee is sending a clear message: no one should be working full time and remain in poverty,” said Madaro. “This legislation supports struggling workers, many of whom live in my district. Decent wages and fair contracts not only protect workers, they also ensure the kind of quality service that Boston’s visitors deserve.”
Madaro added that to cut costs, airlines have outsourced passenger service jobs to low-bid contractors, a system that leaves over 1,500 employees making as little as $10 an hour, without access to affordable health care.
“An increase in wages would be life-changing for airport workers, and would cost airlines just cents of every dollar they earn at Logan,” he said.
Madaro, Ryan and DiDomenico strongly urged the committee to pass the legislation, stating that MassPort has already established a minimum wage for aviation service workers of $11 an hour in January 2016 and the bill would build upon that practise by raising wages to $13.50 in 2017 and $15 by 2018 for these Logan employees. The bill would apply to all baggage handlers, airplane cleaners, wheelchair assistants and other employees at Logan International Airport.
“People who work for a living ought to be able to make a living, but unfortunately this is not the case for the thousands of aviation service workers at Logan Airport who continually struggle to make ends meet,” said DiDomenico. “Far too many of these employees work long hours, for low pay, and under difficult working conditions, all while performing their jobs in highly sensitive areas. With this bill, my colleagues and I in the Legislature now have a real opportunity to ensure that the people who make Logan Airport work for all of us get the respect, dignity, and wage that they deserve.”
Due to the efforts of the Fight for $15 movement, there has been a growing push nationwide for higher wages for the lowest paid workers. As a result, $15 an hour has now become a reality in cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and it is the minimum pay at leading companies throughout the country. In Massachusetts, this bill has also become part of a larger conversation surrounding the need to bridge the gaps of income inequality.
Making its first real statement since being charged with continuing the environmental permitting process, Wynn Resorts said on Monday that it has started work on its Second Supplemental Final Environmental Notification Form (SSFEIR) and has officially put a piece of Everett MBTA land in escrow.
The first step in continuing the grueling process for Wynn apparently was getting a grip on the property – which will provide unfettered access to the casino through Everett only and which the MBTA sold illegally due to it not going through environmental review.
Wynn has entered into an agreement with the MBTA to put the 2-acre land sale – which passed papers earlier this year – into escrow so that the state regulators can review the sale. Wynn also said it would provide a full analysis of the sale and the impacts of the sale on the MBTA in its upcoming SSFEIR filing.
“Secretary Mathew Beaton articulated the necessary path for us to resolve a handful of remaining issues. We are committed to following that path and our actions today are a demonstration of that commitment,” said Robert DeSalvio, President of Wynn Everett. “We see no obstacles in meeting the requirements the Secretary has presented.”
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) and the state Attorney General’s Office announced late last week that they have entered into an agreement regarding lawsuits against the MGC – specifically those filed by Boston, Revere and Somerville. Normally, the AG’s Office would defend any state agency like the MGC, but to avoid any conflicts of interest, the MGC has agreed to retain its own legal team to defend itself in the lawsuits.
The conflict comes due to the fact that the AG’s Office continues to prosecute the cases regarding the land sale in Everett from several individuals to Wynn Everett.
“The Attorney General’s Office and the Commission agree that the AG’s existing criminal prosecution of several individuals associated with the sale of land in Everett for a casino is of paramount importance,” read a statement. “It also is agreed that if the AG’s Office both prosecutes the criminal case and defends the Commission in the local cities’ litigation, it may complicate the full and vigorous presentation of legal issues by both the AG’s Office and the Commission in these respective matters.”
The MGC will hire private legal representation not paid for by the taxpayers to defend itself in the three suits.
Wynn Everett will be giving its second update to the MGC this month in what will become quarterly reports to the Board.
While no date has been set just yet, the update will happen in the next two weeks.
As part of the licensing agreement, Wynn and other casinos are called to give full reports on the projects and their statuses every quarter.
MGC Commissioner Bruce Stebbins will now be joined in state government by his wife, Katie.
Katie Stebbins was named by Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash on Tuesday as the new assistant secretary of innovation, technology and entrepreneurship.
Katie Stebbins comes to the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development with 20 years of experience in city and regional, and workforce and economic development. She served the City of Springfield for 10 years, specializing in environment planning and Brownfield redevelopment, worked for the Cecil Group in Boston, and served as the Western Massachusetts Director for Mass. Mentoring Partnership. Most recently, Katie ran her own consulting practice and was the primary consultant for the Holyoke Innovation District on behalf of the Massachusetts Tech Collaborative. She is a resident of Western Massachusetts.
There will be a Trade Union Expo held at Everett High School on Saturday, May 9. All the trades will be there to speak with Chelsea residents about construction apprenticeships and opportunities that will be available during the construction period.
MOHEGAN SUN RESURFACES IN S. KOREA
Mohegan Sun officials announced Tuesday morning that, after a few disappointing ventures in America, they have inked an agreement with the Incheon International Airport Corp. in South Korea to develop a gateway entertainment resort on 800 acres of land.
The development is to include hotels, sports arenas, retail/shopping, a casino, an indoor-outdoor amusement park and a private jet terminal.
The company will develop, build and operate the facility, according to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
It would be the only resort-casino in the world attached to a fixed base private aviation operation. It would also be developed on the ground of the international airport, another rarity.
The Incheon International Airport is the 8th largest in the world and is estimated to serve 45 million travellers per year.
The development is expected to include, but not be limited to the following features:
Two-tower luxury hotel complex with 1,000 guest rooms, which will be split between 300 6-star rooms and 700 5-star rooms;
The first and only private jet terminal (FBO) in the world connected to an integrated casino resort;
More than 18,500 sq. meters of retail, food, art and music entertainment experiences, including a Korean village celebrating Korean food, and music, state of the art motion picture and film studio, and a Native American cultural and arts experience;
Over 60 of the most sought after luxury retail brands in the world and over 20 food and beverage concepts;
A Korean cosmetics and beauty hub promoting Korea’s dominance in Asia in this area;
Entertainment arena with capacity for up to 20,000 attendants for Class-A acts and arena sport events that have become synonymous with Mohegan Sun properties;
An Indoor-Outdoor amusement park with 18,500 sq. meters of the latest high-tech amusement rides and more than 12 outdoor attractions; and
A 18,500 square meter casino with 250 tables and 1,500 slot machines.
Mohegan Sun is joined in the venture by Miura Holdings Asia, and a final agreement must be made by June 30.