The Chelsea Collaborative hosted its annual Thanksgiving Dinner last Thursday at its headquarters at 318 Broadway.
Collaborative President Gladys Vega and her staff welcomed members of the community, who enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner and desserts. There was also a cotton candy station for children.
A large group of staff members and volunteers, led by Board President Rosalba Medina, helped serve the many food items to the guests in attendance.
But this year the celebration was a little different as the Collaborative announced the launch of the Immigrant Justice Bond Fund, in conjunction with EECO organization and the Episcopal City Mission that includes the St. Luke’s Church, Chelsea.
The fund is being set up to assist family members with people in detention centers to pay bonds established by immigration judges, with the purpose of reuniting them with their loved ones.
The Collaborative works hard with relatives who have come to its offices for assistance in locating their loved ones who have been detained by immigration agents. During the effort to locate and to be able to acquire the pro-bono services of lawyers, the Collaborative is faced with the obstacle of not having the necessary funds to help people out of detention.
It is for this reason that the Collaborative has joined forces with ECCO and Episcopal City Mission to find financial alternatives to pay bond. Chelsea Collaborative is honored to now be an organization that can count on these funds and get mothers and fathers out of detention centers.
Once the funds are used, payment agreements will be established so that these funds can always be available to other people in detention. After being released, people will be connected with legal and social resources to establish an individual plan for each family.
During the speaking program, Vega stated that the Collaborative was ready to assist residents with the agency’s many services and programs, and also to direct them to the appropriate groups for legal advice.
Yessenia Alfaro, deputy director at the Collaborative, felt the event, that drew a large turnout on a night that the first snowstorm of the season was approaching, was a huge success.
“It’s a blessing that so many people came here to tonight to celebrate Thanksgiving with us, and we’re grateful for our partnership with the ECCO organization and Episcopal City Mission in launching this important fund,” said Alfaro.
Several residents thanked Gladys Vega for her outstanding leadership of the Collaborative and the agency’s continuing diligence in helping all members of the community.
While Gov. Charlie Baker cruised to re-election statewide with 67 percent of the vote, he barely made any traction in Chelsea this time around.
Though former City Manager Jay Ash is a key member of his cabinet once again, the Republican Baker didn’t seem to get much support in Chelsea over Democratic candidate Jay Gonzalez.
In Chelsea, 3,350 people voted for Gonzalez, while 3,115 voted for Baker – a sharp contrast to the statewide results.
During his victory party at the Hynes Convention Center in the Back Bay, he said his administration will continue to build bi-partisan relationships to tackle the tough issues.
“The people of Massachusetts elected us four years ago to bring fiscal discipline, a reform minded approach to governing, and a commitment to bipartisanship to state government,” he said. “We have done just that. Every single day. And today, the voters have spoken. They like what we are doing and they appreciate the way we work. So here’s the good news. That collaborative, purposeful and humble approach to governing is exactly what you are going to get from us and from our team for the next four years. Non-stop. Let’s rock.”
While governor made the headlines, the most active voting took place on the ballot questions, particularly Question 1 that focused on mandated nurse staffing ratios. The question was defeated easily statewide, and in Chelsea it was also defeated with 67 percent of the vote.
Question 2 won with 70 percent of the vote, and Question 3 to uphold the transgender rights bill passed locally with 68 percent of the vote.
For District Attorney, Rachael Rollins won big citywide and in Chelsea over Mike Maloney. Rollins, who has held great popularity in Chelsea, had been a controversial candidate in submitting a “list” of crimes she would decline to prosecute during the campaign last summer. That “list” had gotten a lot of attention after the September primary victory, and she has spent most of the last month explaining the plan – which would essentially divert resources from smaller, quality-of-life crimes to investigate larger crimes like homicide, rape and aggravate assaults.
In Chelsea, Rollins got 4,812 votes to Maloney’s 1,169.
On Tuesday night, Rollins’ said her election reflects a widespread demand for change in a criminal justice system that for too long has not worked fairly for everyone. Rollins has promised to bring new solutions to the office that will break down wealth and racial disparities, keep communities safe and treat all people with dignity and respect.
“I am humbled by the trust the voters have placed in me to serve as Suffolk County’s next District Attorney,” said Rollins. “I am beyond grateful for the hard work of our volunteers and the support of our community over the last nine months since we launched this campaign. Voters sent a very clear signal today that our criminal justice system is not working for too many people and it’s time for a change. We will start by creating an office that adequately reflects the communities it serves and that is engaged with every neighborhood within the county. Then together we’ll make our criminal justice system better and work to strengthen relationships between communities and law enforcement.”
All three of Chelsea’s state elected officials, State Rep. Dan Ryan, State Rep. RoseLee Vincent and Sen. Sal DiDomenico were unopposed, but prevailed with a good vote Tuesday.
Ryan got 3,637 votes in his unopposed race (Chelsea only), and DiDomenico (for Chelsea only) got 5,409 votes. DiDomenico also represents parts of Cambridge, Allston and all of Everett and Chelsea. Vincent, who also represents Revere, got 1,495 votes in Chelsea.
As a side note, City Clerk Jeannette Cintron White said that early voting was a success in Chelsea once again. She said there were 731 early ballots cast this election cycle.
With Suffolk County District Attorney (DA) Dan Conley announcing earlier this year that he will not seek re-election after leading the office for more than 15 years, a crowded field has emerged to replace him.
Five candidates—Evandro Carvalho, Linda Champion, Greg Henning, Shannon McAuliffe, and Rachael Rollins—are facing-off for the Democratic nomination on Sept. 4. Greg Henning, who is viewed as right leaning, appears to be the favorite with the remaining candidates splitting the progressive vote. The Record recently contacted the five candidates to ask them their pitch for Chelsea voters.
“I’m running for DA because I have a vision for a safe and vibrant Suffolk County for everyone. Your next DA needs to be ready on day one to stem the tide of gun violence, combat the opioid epidemic, and build trust between law enforcement and the community. As an assistant district attorney for 10 years, I worked to deliver justice to victims of shootings and other violent crimes. As a teacher and mentor, I worked with young people to steer them away from crime in the first place. I hope to continue serving this community as your next DA.”
“I have always chosen the hard fight because it was the right fight. First, I never prosecuted one way like the other candidates and now claim, ‘Sorry, I’ll try being fairer now.’ Second, as a 12-year Suffolk County public defender and long-time Suffolk County resident, I have more experience in these very criminal courts than any opponent. Third, I led two sites at Roca, an innovative organization literally proven to reduce recidivism amongst Suffolk County’s court-involved young adults. Finally, I am the only candidate with a proven track record of fighting against injustice and doing different to get different results.”
“The primary responsibility of the DA is to keep our communities safe. I will do that – but I will do it differently. My Administration will give voice to victims and survivors of crime. We will work to solve the 1000+ unsolved homicides in Boston. We will seek to end wealth and race-based disparities by tackling the cash bail system. I understand that mental illness and substance abuse require treatment, not incarceration. I will work hand-in-hand with our diverse communities. With 20+ years of legal and leadership experience, I can implement real progressive criminal justice reform. Get involved at rollins4da.com.”
“I’m running because it’s time for a DA from our community. It’s time for a DA with the leadership and training to transform the office and keep our communities safe. It’s time to elect a DA with a proven record of fighting for the people.
I’m a former Assistant District Attorney and current State Representative from Dorchester, where I live with my wife and daughter. I went to Madison Park High School. I led the fight for criminal justice reform on Beacon Hill and as the DA for Suffolk County, I’ll make the office more accountable, equitable, and transparent.”
“This race is not about politics, it’s about the community. As someone who has lived in poverty, been homeless, experienced the trauma of domestic violence and substance abuse and endured gender and racial discrimination, I feel I can lead the district attorney’s office through the difficult challenges that are ahead of us. I will lead the DA’s office away from a scorecard mentality and toward reducing recidivism through community collaboration, with the overall goal of crime prevention.”
Three Winthrop Town Councilors, including Councilor at-Large Michael Lucerto, Councilor Heather Engman, and Councilor Nick Loconte as well as Chelsea City Counselor Enio Lopez announced their endorsement of Shannon McAuliffe for Suffolk County District Attorney. They join a wide range of leaders in Suffolk County that have endorsed McAuliffe, including Sheriff Steve Tompkins and ten local unions. These unions include the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, Iron Workers Local 7, UNITE HERE Local 26, Building Wreckers Local 1421, Operating Engineers Local 4, Painters District Council 35, Plasterers and Cement Masons Local 534, Sheet Metal Workers Local 17, SEIU Local 888, and NAGE/SEIU Local 5000.
Winthrop Councilor at-Large, Michael Lucerto stated, “I am proudly endorsing Shannon McAuliffe for Suffolk County DA. Suffolk County needs Shannon’s vision for a data-driven, results oriented, common sense approach to justice reform. Shannon possesses the rare combination of experience and leadership, while also running for office for the right reason: to lead positive change in our communities.”
Echoing the sentiments of his counterparts in Winthrop, Chelsea City Councilor Enio Lopez says, “Shannon is the partner the Chelsea community needs in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. She possesses a smart and strategic vision for our criminal justice system, and I am proud to support her.”
Commenting on the recent endorsements McAuliffe says, “ I am honored to be supported by leaders I respect so deeply. Working in partnership with every community in Suffolk County, from Dorchester to West Roxbury to Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop is crucial to ensuring that our justice system is equitable and fair. Having the support of community leaders demonstrates that my vision of a smart and strategic DA’s office, where addiction is not treated as a crime, and where your background does not dictate your fate in court, resonates across Suffolk County. It is time to change the way we look at our justice system, and I am excited to have these partners in that work.”
The Honorable Stacey Fortes, Robert A. Brennan, and Paul C. Dawley applaud the Honorable Matthew J. Machera after the Oath Of Office was administered. Machera was sworn in on Weds., June 27, as the new First Justice of the Chelsea District Court. Machera had been the acting First Justice, and it became official on June 27 at a ceremony that packed Courtroom 1 at Chelsea Court.
Evandro Carvalho believes his campaign for Suffolk County District Attorney is picking up momentum with just under three months to go before the Democratic primary is held on Sept. 4.
“It’s an honor to be running, to get to know the various communities in Suffolk County, and I believe we have a great shot to win this election,” said Carvalho, who has been a state representative in the Fifth Suffolk District (Dorchester, Roxbury) for four years.
Carvalho, 36, is a former assistant district attorney who worked for 2 ½ years in current Suffolk County DA Dan Conley’s office prosecuting gun cases in court.
Carvalho has received a number of endorsements from the Suffolk County delegation in the House of Representatives.
“My colleagues in the House know my heart, they know my passion to serve our community and they know the experiences that I’ve had, particularly as a former assistant district attorney who was one of the leaders in pushing for the criminal justice reform that we just enacted in April,” said Carvalho. “They understand that I’m the best person to go and implement those changes to improve the law.”
Carvalho feels his experience as an assistant DA and state representative and his record of service to the community set a strong foundation to his bid for the Suffolk County DA position.
“I think it’s time for someone like me, who knows the particular communities – whether it’s the youth, the people dealing with substance abuse issues or mental health issues – who has been fighting for those affected by these issues – to serve the people of Suffolk County as their next district attorney,” said Carvalho.
Originally from Cape Verde
Carvalho was raised on his grandparents’ farm in Cape Verde (islands), which is a nation off the west coast of Africa.
“I learned how to work hard and I also learned the value of education,” he said.
Carvalho came to the United States when he was 15 years old to join his mother (Ana), who was already residing in Dorchester. Fluent in Cape Verdean Creole and Portuguese, he learned how to speak English and enrolled at Madison Park High School in Boston. He became a top student academically, graduating in 1999.
He continued his education at UMass/Amherst, focusing on Legal Studies and Sociology with a concentration in Criminal Justice and a minor in African American Studies, graduating in 2004. He enrolled at Howard University Law School, receiving his law degree in 2008.
“One of the reasons I chose Howard was that I was inspired by Thurgood Marshall, who was an alumnus and the Supreme Court’s first African-American justice,” said Carvalho. “He made such an impact on American history. The legacy he provided for us at Howard was so admirable.”
He became a citizen of the United States in 2008 and his first vote was for Barack Obama for President.
“I remember how excited the people were that Obama was elected as president,” said Carvalho. “That was one of the important moments in my life, and it inspired me to serve – that I, too, could be someone that helps move our society forward and becomes a unifier like Obama was, a leader who brought America together.”
Serving as an assistant ADA
After working at the WilmerHale law firm in Washington, D.C., he returned to Boston in 2011 and became an assistant district attorney in Dan Conley’s office. He said he learned a lot in that position and always tried to help people improve their lives and get back on the right path.
“You see the same families cycling though the criminal justice system, dealing with substance abuse issues and other issues,” said Carvalho. “These are real people, not just another folder and another number. I understood their situation because I grew up in those neighborhoods. That inspired me to run for office, to become a state representative and change that system, to be able to do more to break the cycle of individuals going in and out of jail without a way out.”
A focus on criminal
justice in the House
As a state representative for the past four years, he has focused his efforts on improving the state’s criminal justice system.
“And together with the leadership of Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and the work of my colleagues and advocates throughout the state, we were able to accomplish the criminal justice reforms that nobody thought we could,” said Carvalho.
He is also committed to the continuing battle against the opiod crisis in Massachusetts.
“The opioid crisis is one of the most important issues right now,” said Carvalho. “The system, as a whole, has not dealt adequately with the individuals affected by this crisis. As the vice-chair of the public health committee and someone who has visited various neighborhoods, I see too many citizens dying from this epidemic. I intend to fight this through a public health lens and focus upon treatment for people. And instead of drug addicts going to jail, let’s get them in drug treatment facilities and focus on programs to help them get long-term treatment. We need to expand the drug court programs in Suffolk County. Make no mistake, the people that need to go to prison will go to prison, but let’s emphasize diversion programs as well.”
Hopes to bring accountability and transparency to the DA’s office
Carvalho said his plan as DA will be to bring “accountability, transparency, and diversity” to the DA’s office.
“I will make sure that the staff at the DA’s office receives adequate training and that we expand the capabilities of the victim witness advocates,” said Carvalho. “The reality is that the victims of crimes need a voice. We need to do more for them and build a relationship between the DA’s office and our communities ahead of time so they feel comfortable working with the office.”
Carvalho said throughout his life he has been able to “bring people together” for the good of the community.
“We need someone that’s going to come in and try to bring people together,” said Carvalho. “I want to start a sports tournament where different communities compete and the teams are made up of youths from different neighborhoods. I want to bring the next generation of youths together from the different parts of Suffolk County. The youth are our future and this will go a long way toward healing our communities and bringing us together. We are all Americans and we all want the same thing. My goal is to be a voice for all.”
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.
Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) recently announced that the landmark criminal justice reform package crafted by the Massachusetts Legislature has been signed into law. The Senator had previously joined his legislative colleagues in overwhelmingly voting to pass this sweeping piece of legislation, and last week the Governor signed the bill into law. An Act relative to criminal justice reform will lead to a more equitable system by supporting our youngest and most vulnerable residents, reducing recidivism, increasing judicial discretion, and enhancing public safety.
The legislation contains provisions to provide better care for vulnerable populations in the criminal justice system, and implements policies to strengthen protections for public safety and witness protection. The Legislature also passed the accompanying Act implementing the joint recommendations of the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Review (H.4012), which is designed to complement the comprehensive criminal justice reform legislation. The CSG bill allows individuals to earn early release by participating in recidivism-reduction programs.
For the first time in the history of Massachusetts, this legislation establishes a process for expunging criminal records. Courts will now be able to expunge certain juvenile and young adult (18-21) records, and records in cases of fraud or where an offense is no longer a crime.
The Legislature has a longstanding legacy of supporting the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable children, particularly those facing trauma and adversity. Accordingly, this bill raises the minimum age of criminal responsibility from seven to twelve and decriminalizes a first offense misdemeanor if the punishment is a fine or imprisonment for not more than six months. The legislation establishes a Juvenile Justice Policy and Data Commission, which will make the state eligible for additional federal funding, and a Childhood Trauma Task Force to study and recommend gender responsive and trauma-informed approaches to treatment of youths in the juvenile justice system. The bill also extends Good Samaritan protections to alcohol incapacitation for individuals under 21.
This legislation reflects a balanced, modern approach to sentencing. It eliminates mandatory and statutory minimum sentences for many low-level, non-violent drug offenses. Additionally, it creates the nation’s strongest law for Carfentanil trafficking and strengthens the existing Fentanyl trafficking law, bolstering the Legislature’s multi-tiered approach to the opioid epidemic. The legislation also strengthens penalties for repeat offenders convicted of operating under the influence (OUI).
The new law requires district attorneys to create pre-arraignment diversion programs for military personnel, veterans, and individuals with addiction or mental health issues in order to combat the opioid epidemic and provide healthcare parity. It also expands diversion programs to the Juvenile Court and removes the existing age restriction on diversion in the District Court.
Following reforms in 2010 and 2012, this legislation again updates the Commonwealth’s criminal offender record information (CORI) system to help individuals secure gainful employment and housing, enacting the following policies:
Reduces the wait time to seal a conviction from ten years to seven years for a felony, and from five years to three years for a misdemeanor.
Allows a conviction for resisting arrest to be sealed.
Expands the ability of an applicant with a sealed record to be able to answer “no record” on housing and professional license applications.
Establishes protections for businesses and landlords who shall be presumed to have no notice or ability to know about criminal records that have been sealed or expunged.
This legislation updates the Commonwealth’s bail system and enhances judicial discretion by requiring a judge to take a person’s financial resources into account when determining bail. It also raises the threshold for larceny to qualify as a felony from $250 to $1,000. It also creates the crime of solicitation that is tied to the severity of the underlying crime.
Additional policy changes include: reduction of fees imposed on defendants; decriminalization of minor offenses; enhanced limits on solitary confinement; improvement of prison conditions; and release of prisoners who are permanently incapacitated and pose no safety risk.
Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley this week welcomed new community partners to an ambitious diversion project, hoping to double the capacity of a program that allows juveniles charged with some serious offenses to get their lives back on track without incurring additional entries on their records.
Conley’s office launched the Juvenile Alternative Resolution pilot project in February 2017 with half a dozen community-based agencies that provide individualized services to Boston’s youth. In May, the partner agencies began accepting juveniles who faced delinquency charges in the Boston Juvenile Court and showed a moderate to high risk of re-offending. And yesterday, Conley welcomed a new batch of agencies to the team.
“Historically, juvenile diversion in Massachusetts has been geared toward first-time and low-level offenders, and it’s been limited in the services available to promote post-diversion success,” Conley said. “We envisioned something more ambitious – something that would re-direct the lives of young people charged with more serious offenses, even high-risk teens. We sought out partners who could offer individualized services for a wide range of needs. And our shared goal across agencies was to divert young adults outward, away from the criminal justice system, instead of upward and deeper into it.”
By March of this year, 45 juveniles had entered the JAR program and received supervision, support, and services through one or more community partner agencies. Of that number, 12 successfully completed the program and 31 are on track to do so.
Together, the 45 participants accounted for 100 offenses. Almost two-thirds of those offenses were classified as “crimes against the person,” including assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and unarmed robbery. Some were as young as 11, but about half were 16 or 17 years old. About 60% of the juveniles were from Dorchester or Roxbury, about two-thirds were male, and almost all were youth of color.
Participants are also showing significant drops in the risk and need factors they had when they entered, Conley said, reflecting a course correction in the trajectory of their lives. Because JAR-eligible delinquency complaints are placed on hold upon entry to the program and dismissed upon completion six to nine months later, the cases never appear on the participants’ juvenile records.
By expanding the available partners, Conley hopes to double the program’s capacity in the year to come – and continue to accept even juveniles who have prior system involvement and face moderate- to high-level charges. The goal, he said, was to juvenile involvement in the criminal justice system in Suffolk County – and the barriers to social, academic, and employment success that can follow.
“We were warned that there was a risk in taking this older, more experienced cohort into the program,” Conley said, “but what we’ve seen thus far convinces me that the rewards outweigh that risk.”
In addition to formal diversion through the JAR program, first-time and low-level juvenile offenses are informally diverted every day by Suffolk prosecutors. Throughout the year, almost 60% of the county’s delinquency complaints were diverted, with diversions outnumbering youthful offender indictments by more than 10 to one.
“That’s as it should be,” Conley said. “Some crimes are extremely serious and some offenders pose a danger to the community. But most kids and teens come to us with minimal records for minor offenses – better suited to the justice of an angry parent than the Juvenile Court. The JAR program is for youth in between, whose actions are more serious but don’t include gun violence, sexual assault, or serious bodily injury.”
The first group of community partner agencies included Action for Boston Community Development’s Changing Tracks Initiative, the Justice Resource Institute SMART Team, MissionSAFE, the Salvation Army’s Bridging the Gap program, the RFK Children’s Action Corps Detention Diversion Advocacy Program, and UMass Boston. Yesterday, Conley welcomed new partners to the fold – including a collection of youth service programs offered through Action for Boston Community Development, the Charlestown Coalition’s Turn It Around program, More Than Words, and YouthConnect.
“Every life is a journey, and as youth service providers you’re the map and compass these kids need,” Conley told the assembled group. “We’re changing those young lives today, but we’re changing outcomes tomorrow that will strengthen families and communities for years to come. We’re making Boston a safer, fairer place. And that’s a legacy we can all be very proud of.”
r of the community and executive director of the Chelsea Collaborative since 2006, is stepping down as the leader of the well-known agency whose headquarters are on Broadway.
Vega, who has earned victories for Chelsea residents against injustices and helped improve community-police relations, informed her friends and colleagues in a personal letter this week that she would be stepping down.
“The Collaborative has been my home for 29 years and the time has come for me to move on,” wrote Vega, adding that it has been “a tremendous honor to lead such a skilled and dedicated staff.”
City and state officials reacted with deep emotion that Vega, who has done so much to improve the qualify for life for residents and helped establish the Collaborative as a national model, would be calling it a career in the city.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino praised Vega as a tremendous advocate for residents who worked tirelessly on their behalf in important causes. Ambrosino said that Vega was “a true friend” to the city and a highly respected community organizer statewide.
Sen. Sal DiDomenico said that Gladys Vega “has been an outstanding advocate for the City of Chelsea and a champion for the many new residents from throughout the world who call Chelsea home.
“It has been a pleasure working with her over the years to serve the city and to enhance the social, environmental, and economic health of our community and its residents,” said DiDomenico.
Vega began her association with the Collaborative as a receptionist when executive director Edward Marakowitz headed the organization and it was located at 300 Broadway.
Vega’s passion for her work and the personable and professional manner in which she conducted herself became obvious to her colleagues. A 1985 graduate of Cheslea High School who had come to Chelsea from Puerto Rico when she was nine, Vega understood the challenges facing Latino residents and how to best help them grow and prosper in their new community.
Vega became the office manager and then worked as a tenant organizer. She showed her impeccable community organizing skills right away, fighting for tenants’ rights and gaining an important victory against an absentee landlord. Her organization has stood at the forefront advocating for immigrant families. The Collaborative became the go-to place for Chelsea youths seeking a summer job.
The question being asked by residents in all corners of the city is: Why is Gladys Vega leaving at the height of her power and name recognition and with the unmatched skills to rally people for important causes locally and nationally?
“I always told my family when I turn 50 years old (she celebrated her birthday at a large party in June), that I wanted to do something different because I feel the Collaborative has taken my social life away in a manner that all I do is work and be committed to the organization and the movement,” said Vega, who has two children, Melinda, 28, and Jerry, 21.
She spoke emotionally about the loss of her mother, Juanita Vega, who was a great inspiration in Gladys’s life. “There have been all these things that have happened in my life and I have never slowed down. I want to try a different job and leave myself time to help raise my two grandchildren. I have never been happier to have those two individuals in my life and I want to make sure that I don’t steal time from them like I stole from my two children.”
Vega also talked about health issues that she has had in the past but she happily reports to her many friends and supporters, “This year I’ve been in the best health. It’s been a very good year.”
There have been so many personal accomplishments during her brilliant reign as executive director, it was difficult for Vega to pinpoint one.
“But I’d say my biggest accomplishment was putting Latinos on the map and building a bridge between communities regardless where people come from and regardless of documentation,” said Vega. “To be able to put a passion in people that Chelsea is a great community to live in – we are a group of people that have worked very hard to build up Chelsea. Our movement has made history because our goals have always been to focus on the growth and betterment of Chelsea as a community.”
Vega lauded the many Chelsea administrators and community leaders that have helped the Collaborative succeed on its journey. She singled out the leadership of former city manager Jay Ash. Vega was front and center involving Latinos in city government when Ash ably piloted the total resurgence of Chelsea. She traveled with many others to Denver when Chelsea received the coveted All-America City Award from the National Civic League.
Many say that honor was Jay Ash’s finest hour as city manager and Gladys Vega was a valuable member of the team – its preeminent community organizer – that helped bring the city national recognition.
“We, those of us who care deeply about the community, worked with Jay Ash to help turn the city around,” said Vega.
She also spoke reverentially about the positive impact that Police Chief Brian Kyes has had in helping immigrants feel safe in the city.
“I love the fact that Chief Kyes gets the concept of diversity. I’ve worked very close with him and I know that people trust him and trust his leadership. I’m very proud to say that I was a part of the selection committee for chief and Chief Kyes has not let me down. I have been very impressed with his work and the police officers’ work in our community.”
Former Collaborative assistant executive director Roseann Bongiovanni and Colloborative President Rosalba Medina, a Chelsea Police detective, also drew plaudits from Vega.
“Roseann started at the Collaborative at the age of 19 – she was like my sister in the movement,” said Vega. “Little by little we kept working together until we built this environmental justice movement. Both of us learned together and worked very hard to build an environmental justice model that is the envy of other cities. We had more victories than we had losses.”
“It’s been an honor to work with Rosie Medina,” said Vega. “She has been a great liaison and partner in the Chelsea criminal justice system. Her leadership of our board has been outstanding.”
Vega said she worked closely with her cousin, Juan Vega, and community activist Tito Meza to help increase the number of Latino police officers in the department.
Vega regrets that she will not be continuing her work with current city manager Tom Ambrosino at the helm of Chelsea city government.
“As I think about moving on, I would have loved to have worked closer with him – my time with him has been brief, but it has been an amazing partnership. I think Tom, having been elected mayor of Revere, has a great sense of community organization and a sense of helping his constituents and listening to the people with a great level of professionalism. He treats everyone equally. I love what he has done as our city manager and I’m a huge fan of Tom Ambrosino – who has stated that there is no room for hate or injustice in the city.”
Vega will stay on board at the Collaborative until a successor is named. There will be a farewell celebration in December at the Homewood Suites Hotel in Chelsea.
City Council President Leo Robinson congratulated Vega on her successful tenure at the Collaborative, understanding that she has been one of the city’s most visible and most admired community leaders for three decades.
“Gladys Vega did a very good job for Chelsea residents and I wish her good health and good luck in all her future endeavors.”