CHS Class of 2019: Deedee Hernandez is 2019 Valedictorian; Salutatorian is Jocelyn Poste

The surf is up for Chelsea’s Deedee Hernandez, who might be the first and only Chelsea High valedictorian that doubles as a surfer, a trumpet player and Ivy League student.

Hernandez has been very active in the school and community over the last four years, but being at the top of her class wasn’t something she thought would happen.

Valedictorian Degree Hernandez with Salutatorian Jocelyn Poste after graduation on June 9

“Honestly, I wasn’t aspiring for the valedictorian of the class,” she said. “My only goal was just to get into a college. That was a goal since I entered middle school. My mother always told us that we had to go to college. That was always a goal we were reaching for.”

And not only did she reach it, but she grabbed onto a great school in the Ivy League Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

Hernandez, 18, said she was drawn to the rural landscape – being interested in the outdoors and hiking – but was also impressed with the alumni network.

“I was really drawn to the alumni network they have,” she said. “A lot of them come back to the college and have relationships and share their experiences with students. I thought that was very unique. The college is very small and it felt like a family and people were friendly.”

At Dartmouth, Hernandez hopes to major in environmental science – something she was drawn to by her swim coach, Traverse Robinette, at the Jordan Boys & Girls Club.

In addition to swimming twice at the National Championships in Florida, Hernandez and several other Chelsea kids joined Robinette’s surf club. When surfing in Connecticut and Rhode Island, the students learned about the various animals in the ocean.

“My swim coach was passionate about the environment and pointed out the animals we saw,” she said. “I did research on it and was drawn to the idea of preserving these animals. I love nature and being outside, so it’s something I’m very interested in.”

In addition to those pursuits, Hernandez is well known for playing the trumpet in the band – having been the designated performer of ‘Taps’ for the City and the Soldiers’ Home for four years.

She said she started playing in fifth grade when her former band teacher, Mr. Thomas, picked up a trumpet and played ‘Reveille.’

“I heard him play that and I knew I had to play the trumpet,” she said.

She does plan to pursue the trumpet in college and hopes to play in their orchestra.

Hernandez has gone to Chelsea schools her entire life, starting at the Silber ELC, moving on to the Kelly School, then to the Clark Avenue Middle.

Hernandez credits her mother, Ana Moscoso, for always pushing her to reach higher.

“My mother was always the type of person to asked me what I would do next after I had accomplished something,” she said. “I’ve found that to be useful because you see what else you’re capable of doing and don’t get satisfied with one thing.”

Hernandez has two brothers, Mike, 16, at Chelsea High; and Akanni, 10.

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Speaker Deleo Prepares for the Future

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo this week unveiled the details of the plan he announced last February that will provide $1.3 billion to combat the ever-increasing effects of climate change. Among the major aspects of the plan will be the awarding of grants to cities and towns across the state to encourage green energy initiatives and climate change resiliency efforts, which are particularly needed for our vulnerable coastal communities.

The grant program, called GreenWorks, would be funded by $1 billion in bonds and paid out over a decade. The program, to be run by the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, will allow local governments to seek grants for a variety of projects that will focus on climate change preparedness and clean energy production in order to reduce carbon emissions.

The bill also would set aside an additional $295 million in state spending for energy infrastructure, including $100 million for municipal microgrid systems to increase the resiliency of the electricity grid and $125 million for electric vehicles in municipal fleets and regional transit authorities.

There no longer is any dispute that climate change is occurring and that our coastal communities, including the City of Boston, are ill-prepared at the present time to address the twin threats of rising sea levels and more powerful storms.

Speaker DeLeo’s GreenWorks initiative represents a major step forward in protecting our vulnerable coastline, while at the same time creating jobs in the green energy and clean tech industries.

Given the urgency and pressing need to address the issue of climate change, which is occurring at an ever-accelerating pace, we urge our state senators to join with Speaker DeLeo and the Mass. House in presenting a bill for Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature by the end of this year.

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Finally, Some Good News On the Environmental Front

Every few weeks — or even more often, it seems — we learn of some new, looming catastrophe for our planet because of the combined effects of climate change and the degradation of our environment by human activity.

Everyone agrees that the climate is changing, and that it will have far-reaching consequences that we only can imagine. So too, the activity by the seven billion persons with whom we share the earth is destroying the natural world at an unprecedented and ever-accelerating pace.

So it was with some degree of relief that we read the annual report by the organization Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, which informed us that our major metropolitan beaches never have been cleaner (in terms of water pollution) and safer for recreational swimming and other activity.

As lifelong residents of this area, we always are amazed that the beaches with the cleanest water every year are the M Street Beach and the City Point Beach in South Boston — go figure — but we’re sure there is a logical and scientific-based reason for why these two beaches have achieved ratings of 100-percent for the past six years.

However, almost all of our metropolitan beaches, from Nantasket Beach on the South Shore to Revere and Winthrop beaches on the north, improved their ratings in 2018 compared to their six-year running-average. Winthrop Beach, for example, attained a 100-percent rating in 2018 compared to a 97-percent rate for the previous five years.

There are many factors that contribute to a beach’s water quality. There are natural effects, most notably the amount of rainfall over the course of a season or over a short time period. The diligence of government agencies at the state and local levels in assuring that sewer connections are working as intended are a vital part of the equation.

We as individuals also play a key role in assuring that our water stays clean by making sure we don’t dispose of our trash and hazardous waste into our waterways, by using the pump-out services for our boats, and by picking-up after our dogs.

The clean and healthy beaches that we enjoy today are the product of three decades of hard work, effort, and great expense by officials and the residents of the Boston Metro area. However, we cannot rest on our laurels. We must commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes in the years ahead to ensure that our region’s greatest resource — our beautiful coastline — remains clean and useable both for ourselves and for generations to come. So we wish to thank Save the Harbor/Save the Bay for issuing their annual report card on the state of our beaches — and for giving us some good news, for a change, about our environment.

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Rollins Speaks at Chamber of Commerce Luncheon

Suffolk County District Attorney announces community meeting in Chelsea on June 19

Rachael Rollins, the dynamic district attorney who became the first female elected to the esteemed Suffolk County position last November, was the guest speaker at the Chamber of Commerce Luncheon Wednesday at the Holiday Inn/Boston Logan Airport Chelsea.

Rollins proved to be as dynamic a speaker as she is a public official.

“The people that are most impacted negatively by the criminal justice system – it has nothing to do with race and almost everything to do with poverty,” Rollins told the luncheon audience. “If you can’t afford somebody who can navigate fluently through the criminal justice system – you are at a significant disadvantage.

“I don’t care what hue your skin is – if you have no money, the system does not work well for you, period, end of story,” said Rollins.

In well-received remarks, Rollins spoke about the DA’s mission as the chief law enforcement office of Suffolk County. She addressed serious issues such as the opioid crisis. She talked about the marijuana industry and law enforcement’s efforts in the field since recreational marijuana became legal in the state.

Chamber President Joseph Mahoney noted Rollins’ achievements as a Division 1 college athlete at UMass/Amherst. While at UMass, she challenged school leaders to increase the number of athletic scholarships given to female students.

Rollins also used the forum to make a major announcement: she will hold a community meeting on June 19 at 6 p.m. at the Chelsea Senior Center.

It is the second such quarterly meeting in the county following the inaugural session in Roxbury. It will be in the style of a state of the union/state of the city, followed by a question-and-answer session.

Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson and Chelsea Police Community Engagement Specialist Dan Cortez praised Rollins’ initiative to host a community meeting in the city.

“A community meeting on a regular basis is a great idea,” said Robinson, an early supporter of Rollins in her campaign for office. “It follows through on her pledge to be accessible and accountable to our residents. I expect to see a tremendous turnout of people welcoming her to Chelsea on June 19 and learning about the important role the DA’s Office has in our lives.”

Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes was a guest at the luncheon while Roca Assistant Director Jason Owens, who provided an overview of Roca’s efforts during brief remarks, led a delegation from the agency.

Rollins called on Kyes to elaborate on the challenges facing police officers in regard to the new marijuana laws.

“We have individuals in the state, police officers in the state who are known as drug recognition experts (DREs),” said Kyes. “There are only about 200 DREs out of 17,000 police officers, including the State Police. At the end of the day, when an officer sees somebody and they’re unsteady on their feet, bloodshot eyes – they could potentially get probable cause to make an arrest, but then without that DRE to do an added evaluation, when it goes to court, these individuals aren’t getting convicted.

“Right now, some judges will allow the testimony pf a DRE and some will not,” concluded Kyes.

Rollins’ remarks were videotaped by Chelsea Community Cable Television. Executive Director Robert Bradley said the luncheon will begin airing on the cable television station.

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Chelsea Fatal Fire Determined to Be Caused by Electrical Problems

Chelsea Fire Chief Leonard A. Albanese Jr., Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes, State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey and Suffolk District Attorney Rachel Rollins announced the cause of the May 3 fire at 48 Watts St., a 2-family home in Chelsea, was electrical.

A quick-moving fire on Watts and Highland Streets last Friday, May 3, claimed the life of one 37-year-old man and caused extensive damage. Investigators said there were major problems with smoke detectors in the home and first-responders reported not hearing any alarms upon arrival.

The fire took the life of an adult man believed to be a relative of the occupants of 48 Watts St. The victim was identified as Milton Lopez, 37.

In the dense neighborhood, the fire spread to rear of 107-109 Highland Street.

The fire originated in a void space above the suspended ceiling of an enclosed porch. Investigators determined that an electrical event took place in the area of origin where there were numerous electrical circuits. Just before the fire was discovered, residents reported that the lights in the first floor kitchen, the room next to the porch, went off. The victim was found on the enclosed porch.

Chelsea fire investigators, Chelsea detectives, and State Police assigned to both the Office of the State Fire Marshal and to the Office of Suffolk District Attorney Rachel Rollins jointly investigated this fire. The Chelsea Inspectional Services Department, State Police Crime Scene Services and the Department of Fire Services’ Code Compliance Unit provided assistance.

The home had a mixture of working, missing and disconnected smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms and heat detectors. All of the alarms found in the home, whether they were disconnected, lying on a shelf, or actually functional, had expired and were more than 10 years old. First-arriving firefighters report not hearing any alarms sounding.

State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said, “May is Electrical Safety Month and electrical fires are the second leading cause of fire deaths in Massachusetts behind smoking. It’s important to have a licensed electrician check out your system every ten years to prevent problems.”

For more information on electrical fire safety go to: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/electrical-fire-safety.

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Cocinas Program Looks to Promote Healthy Eating with Traditional Foods

Cocinas Program Looks to Promote Healthy Eating with Traditional Foods

When Jose Barriga was working as a translator at an area hospital, he routinely saw a cycle of poor health from his Latino patients that seemed to be caused by the food they ate.

Jose Barriga (center) discusses the Malanga with Bessie Pacheco and Alicia Castillo on Monday during the Cocinas Saludables Seminar program in Chelsea this March. Participants in the two-week class meet at the Chelsea Collaborative and travel to Stop & Compare Supermarket in Bellingham Square to discuss healthier alternatives in cooking traditional Latino dishes. The class continues on April 1 where participants will cook a traditional
meal using the new techniques and ingredients.

Many of them new to the country, or having come as adults, food and cooking and daily life was far different than in their native countries. Yet many still cooked and ate in the same ways that they did when they lived at home.

Doctors suggesting that patients give up their traditional food was a non-starter, even if they agreed to it at the hospital.

Above, Grisalda Valesquez examines a package of garlic.
Below, Leslie Garcia examining Goya brown rice with Grisalda Valesquez.

At the same time, Barriga saw that something did need to change, but maybe not altogether.

That’s what bore the idea of the Cocinas Saludables program in Chelsea, which is in its second year and is a partnership with the Cambridge Food Lab, Chelsea Collaborative, and Healthy Chelsea.

“What I realized when I was interpreting is there is a big problem in communication between health care providers and the Latino community,” he said. “A doctor will say you need to change how you eat, usually suggesting to cook brown rice or eat other foods. They have the best interests, but the language is not effective. I was seeing a cycle. I saw mothers with diabetes bringing children who were overweight. The issues they were having in large part was due to the foods they were eating or their cooking techniques. This is a huge, huge problem from a public health perspective in the Latino community.”

What Barriga and the other partners are trying to do is create the best of both worlds.

They’re looking to have their arroz con habichuelas, and eat them too.

Anais Caraballo of the Collaborative said they are excited to host the class for a second year, and said she sees a great value in educating people on how to cook traditional foods in a more healthy manner.

“I think it’s very important coming from a Puerto Rican background,” she said. “It’s a great program to have the community become more aware of healthier ways to eat and cook, but at the same time still be able to enjoy cultural foods that are an ingrained part of their lives.”

On Monday, Barriga and a class of 10 people met in the Collaborative to talk about foods and cooking and how people thought about food. That was followed up with a trip to Stop & Compare – a loyal partner to the program. There, those in the class walked through the aisles with Barriga to look at ingredients in their traditional foods.

Armed with materials from their class, and the advice of Barriga, they looked at the ingredients they usually buy, and considered alternatives that were healthier. In that sense, they didn’t have to give up the foods that meant so much to them, and they could also ensure they were eating healthy.

Barriga said he customizes the class according to the culture. If there are a lot of Caribbean cultures in the class – such as Puerto Ricans – he will discuss different ways of cooking aside from frying – as well as using healthier oils when cooking the food.

“When it comes to the Caribbean community, it’s talking about fried foods, which is a constant in the Caribbean diet,” he said. “My proposal isn’t to be 100 percent healthy options. If you come and say you have to change everything you eat, people won’t do it. I give them a couple of changes that will help their overall health in the long run. I try to be realistic. For the Caribbean cultures, I tell them to avoid fried foods sometimes, and try to sauté a little more so they use less oil.”

Another issue is that many people who have just come from outside the United States arrive and find food cheaper and more accessible. For example, a family in El Salvador may only have had meat one time a week. However, in the U.S. they find they can have it seven days a week, and they do that.

“If you grow up poor and food was a problem, then you come to the U.S. and food is plentiful,” he said.

That is also true when it comes to activity.

Many people had a similar diet in their home countries, but they often had to walk or bicycle many miles each day just to do simple tasks. That active lifestyle and different climate helped to regulate their diet.

Once here in Chelsea, they find themselves far less active and in a climate that is inhospitable to them six months of the year.

“I call that the food-culture clash,” he said. “They have no cars in many Latin American countries. They walk or they bike. People come here and they get overweight because it’s very comfortable. They drive and there is a lack of physical activity, which is a major symptom of being overweight.”

Next Monday, students in the Cocinas class will gather the remainder of their ingredients and cook up traditional foods with a healthy twist.

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Webster Avenue Pot Shop Gets Planning Board Okay

Webster Avenue Pot Shop Gets Planning Board Okay

A retail marijuana shop on Webster Avenue near the Home Depot is one step closer to opening in Chelsea.

Tuesday night, the Planning Board approved a site plan for a 10,000 square foot retail marijuana facility at 121 Webster Ave. by The Western Front, LLC.

The pot shop still needs additional approvals from the state’s Cannabis Control Commission as well as the local Zoning and Licensing Boards before it can officially open its doors. But local officials have praised the plans for the facility, which is filing for a license to operate under a state economic empowerment provision.

The economic empowerment provision helps provide for minority populations that have faced the brunt of marijuana prohibition punishments achieve social and economic justice, according to Timothy Flaherty, the attorney representing the Western Front team.

The Western Front’s board includes a number of Massachusetts business and community leaders who have addressed social justice issues in the past, including board chair Marvin Gilmore.

Gilmore has a long and storied history in the Boston area and beyond. He co-founded Unity Bank and Trust, was a major real estate developer in the Southwest Corridor of Boston, owned the storied Western Front nightclub in Cambridge, and was awarded the Legion of Honor, among other awards, for helping storm the beaches of Normandy in World War II.

Economic empowerment applications get priority for consideration at the Cannabis Control Commission, Flaherty said.

As for the proposed site at 121 Webster Ave., Flaherty said as a stand-alone building in an area with adequate parking, is an optimal site for a retail marijuana facility.

All marijuana products will be shipped in pre-packaged from a wholesaler, and the facility will feature a host of security measures, from cameras the Chelsea Police can immediately access to a what Flaherty called a mind-boggling number of alarms.

Chelsea police officials were satisfied with the security measures for the building, according to John DePriest, the City’s planning director.

Inside the shop, plans also call for a future workforce development area and a work bar where consumers can gather before entering the retail sales floor.

The sales area will be like “a cross between a jewelry store and a spa,” said Flaherty.

The facility will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days per week. There will be a total of about 25 employees, with eight to 10 working at any given time.

“The goal is to hire 100 percent Chelsea residents,” said Flaherty.

All those employees will be trained and certified by the Cannabis Control Commission.

“I’m impressed by the group before us and their commitment to social justice,” said Council President Damali Vidot.

District 3 City Councillor Joe Perlatonda also said he was very impressed with the organization and happy that they are committed to hiring Chelsea residents.

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Major Broadway Improvements Could Begin in 2022

Major Broadway Improvements Could Begin in 2022

A major $9.5 million improvement project for the one-mile stretch of Broadway from City Hall Avenue to the Revere line could get underway by the spring of 2022.

On Thursday, March 21, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation held a public hearing on the preliminary design plans for the roadway reconstruction. Although the state officials and engineers outnumbered the residents in attendance for the meeting, there was a good amount of information provided on the shape, scope, and timeline of the road reconstruction project.

“We are finishing the 25 percent design stage,” said Larry Cash, the MassDOT project manager. “After this hearing, we will be advancing to the final design stage.”

The purpose of the project is to increase safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles along the Broadway corridor and intersecting streets in the city, according to Weston and Sampson engineer Larry Keegan. He said there will be new turn lanes, additional vehicle stacking room, and traffic signals at the project intersections allowing for the safer turning of vehicles and improved safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. The plans also include dedicated bicycle lanes through the one-mile stretch.

“There have been 97 collisions over a three-year period” along that portion of Broadway,” said Keegan. “That is above the state average.”

Keegan pointed to poor intersection layout, outdated traffic signals, and deficient pedestrian, bicycle, and public transit accommodations as being among the chief culprits for the high number of accidents. All of those issues will be addressed during the roadway reconstruction, he said.

In addition to the repaving of the road itself, a major component of the work includes new sidewalks and improved drainage.

Sidewalk improvements will mean the removal of some trees.

“The existing trees are old and unhealthy, lifting up the sidewalks themselves so that they are not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant,” said Keegan.

Other areas that will get major upgrades are the MBTA bus stops along the route. Keegan noted that there is deterioration of pavement and pavement markings from years of use along the mile of Broadway, and that the deterioration is especially pronounced at the bus stops.

The proposed project will require permanent and temporary easements from adjacent property owners, but Cash said those easements are either temporary to allow for construction work along the road, or are for the installation or minor regrading of sidewalks.

As with any project that involves ripping up pavement and sidewalks to make way for improvements, there will be traffic and construction impacts once work gets underway.

But Keegan said the plan is to keep disruptions to a minimum and traffic flowing as easily as possible.

“No detours are anticipated at this time,” he said.

During the day, the plan is to have a single lane of traffic closed and have the traffic managed by police. At night, there will be two-way traffic, according to Keegan. Access to schools, businesses, and residences will be kept open as much as possible, he added.

Chelsea resident John Gunning asked if the bus stops would remain in the current locations and if there would be improvements to the bus shelters.

Keegan said engineers will be working with the MBTA during the next phase of design to address some of those issues.

“The T wants certain things and the city wants certain things (for the bus stops),” he said. “We are looking at different options at this point.”

Dunning said he would like to see fresh, new bus shelters and stops that will complement the surrounding area and completed improvements.

Cash said design, permitting, and right of way acquisition for the project will continue through 2019 and 2020 with construction anticipated to start in the spring of 2022.

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Council Calls for Administration to Draft Strategies in Lieu of Parking Study

Council Calls for Administration to Draft Strategies in Lieu of Parking Study

The City Council has asked that City Manager Tom Ambrosino use the next month to figure out some new parking strategies for the city instead of spending a hefty sum on a major Parking Study.

Ambrosino said the Council had instructed him to put out a bid for a parking study late last year, but there was only one bidder on the project. That bid did not include the whole city and was more than $200,000.

On Monday, the Council held a Committee meeting to discuss the next steps, steps that don’t include spending such a sum on a study.

“The Council at the end of the meeting on Monday wanted to explore the idea of internal remediation before proceeding with an expensive outside study,” he said.

Ambrosino said he and his administration will spend the next month “brainstorming” some ideas and recommendations to help with the parking bottleneck in many areas of the City – including the neighborhoods.

Ambrosino said they do see it as a problem in several aspects of the city.

“There’s no question it’s a problem in the city,” he said. “There are way too many cars and not enough parking spaces. There is no simple solution to that problem. Long-time, we do have an agreement as part of the Tobin Bridge Viaduct project to add 135 spaces only a short walk from downtown. That might help a little bit, but that’s three years away.”

One solution he will not suggest is to reduce parking requirements for new development. While many might think that is counter to solving a parking problem, many planners now believe that one solution to reducing the numbers of cars is to build developments without parking.

That won’t be a solution he suggests again, after having had lower parking requirements rejected by the Council only two years ago. “I don’t see the Council reducing parking any time soon,” he said. “It’s not something I’m going to re-submit.”

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City to Get Mitigation from MassDot for Viaduct Project

City to Get Mitigation from MassDot for Viaduct Project

The City might have to put up with traffic backups for nearly three years on the Chelsea Viaduct, but there will be a mitigation package for the City when the dust all settles.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said they have received a mitigation package to go along with the Viaduct project, which starts on April 1.

“We got what I thought was a reasonable mitigation package from MassDOT,” he said. “It wasn’t perfect, but at the end of the day it was reasonable.”

One of the major improvements will be two new, fully constructed public parking lots under the Tobin curves when the project is done.

Ambrosino said it will include 135 public parking spaces just a block from downtown Chelsea, something he hopes will help alleviate some of the parking crunch in the area.

There will also be parking constructed under the curves at Carter Street too.

One key piece of the puzzle that will remain as part of the package is the Arlington Street onramp by the Williams School. MassDOT had toyed with the idea of eliminating that ramp in early designs, but pushback from the community seemed to keep that idea at bay.

Other pieces of mitigation include:

•A robust snow fence for noise mitigation.

•Money for community engagement to inform everyone of the project over the three years.

•Repaving Fourth Street. •lighting improvements under the Bridge after the project is completed.

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