Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop Launch Region-wide Community Health Needs Assessment

Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop Launch  Region-wide Community Health Needs Assessment

For the first time, Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop are combining forces to conduct a comprehensive regional Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) and design a Community Health Implementation Plan (CHIP). Major hospitals, along with health centers, human services providers and non-profits that serve area residents, are working with municipal leaders, health departments and the boards of health of each community to develop the plan. Residents of the three communities are being urged to go online and fill out a survey that asks about local health issues and other aspects of community life.

The effort is being co-coordinated by the North Suffolk Public Health Collaborative and the Mass General Hospital Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI) with the ultimate goal of identifying, prioritizing and addressing the most urgent health needs faced by each community and the region. Such assessments are often used to apply for targeted funding to help address community needs.

Every three years, most hospitals conduct a community health needs assessment to meet requirements set by the Affordable Care Act. The Massachusetts Attorney General also requires such a report and is encouraging regional collaboration among stakeholders, including among healthcare systems who share the same service areas. “This is one of the first regional assessments of its type in Massachusetts,” said Jeff Stone, Director of the North Suffolk Public Health Collaborative. “Mayor Arrigo, Chelsea City Manager Tom Ambrosino and Winthrop Town Manager Austin Faison realize that public health conditions don’t respect borders, and, working together we can solve some of our health challenges more effectively.”

“The North Suffolk Community Health Needs Assessment is critical for the City of Chelsea,” said City Manager Ambrosino. “Not only will it provide the information necessary for Chelsea to better understand our residents’ public health needs, but it will also enable us to properly prioritize resources to better address those needs. We encourage all of our residents to participate in upcoming surveys, forums and interviews.”

The collaborators have set an ambitious timeline. The CHNA and CHIP will be completed by Sept. 30, 2019, and will result in a guide for a three-year community health improvement plan that all providers can use. The process includes intensive data collection–hundreds of resident surveys, interviews and focus groups as well as collecting data from other agencies such as the MA Department of Public Health and the US Census.

A website has been created, www.northsuffolkassessment.org, to provide information to anyone who may be interested. People who live or work in Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop are encouraged to complete a survey. It is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic, reflecting the languages most frequently spoken in the communities.

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MBTA Better Bus Kick-Off

MBTA Better Bus Kick-Off

Steve Poftak, who has been the MBTA General Manager for about a month, expresses his commitment to Chelsea during the inaugural Chelsea Transportation Task Force meeting at City Hall on Thursday, Jan. 24. The Task Force plans to continue meeting for the next six months regarding MBTA issues and the Better Buses program.

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Chelsea Transportation Task Force Inaugural Meeting: Driving the Discussion

Chelsea Transportation Task Force Inaugural Meeting: Driving the Discussion

The people of Chelsea are demanding increased frequency on the Silver Line, more reliability, and additional bus connections from the MBTA. Over the next two years there will be three major construction projects in Chelsea that will adversely impact bus traffic, and City leaders and residents are concerned that the already poor services will worsen.

“There have been big shifts in population and ridership, and the bus routes have stayed largely the same,” admitted Steve Poftak, the newly appointed MBTA General Manager. “The T is playing catch-up.”

On January 24, Poftak sat with locals and members of the City Council during the first inaugural Chelsea Transportation Task Force meeting at City Hall. The goal of the committee is to gather once a month for six months of interactive discussions with the community and Poftak to develop solutions.

“For a lot of us who live on both of the hills, buses are the only means of transportation,” commented a Bellingham Square resident. “Every year or two, they threaten to cut off both of the hills. That would leave us totally stranded, and I’m not having it.”

Many aren’t content with the massive traffic that builds with the 20 minute rising and 20 minute lowering of the Chelsea Street bridge, which slows bus travel. The MBTA noted that active discussions with the Coast Guard regarding the creation of a period of time during peak hours of commuting when the bridge does not open have been hindered by the government shutdown.

“We have limited control over the bridge. Maybe we could have some predictability with windows when we know the bridge will be active and when we know it won’t,” said Poftak.

The Better Bus Project is investigating the quality of the current bus network and working on cost-neutral proposals that will result in more frequent services for customers. Researchers have been speaking with riders to learn more about where people’s trips begin and end, the economic demographics of the area, and where jobs are located.

“We are advocating for fair mitigation,” expressed Council President Damali Vidot. “We’ve needed quality service for years and are working at a sub-par level. Chelsea was an afterthought in the Better Bus Project. We want to make sure we’re getting the service we deserve.”

The Better Bus Project has 47 proposals for changes in the MBTA bus system that will impact 63 out of the 180 routes in 35 of the 50 communities that are served. Proposals include removing bus routes with low ridership, and re-investing resources elsewhere.

The Transportation Task Force is suggesting more inspectors, less cancellations, and easier transfers between Chelsea and Lynn on the Commuter Rail.

“We are re-imagining the infrastructure on Broadway,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “We will be presenting the City Council with alternatives that do away with two fast lanes to make travel safer. One idea is incorporating a dedicated bus lane.”

Gentrification has also forced many Chelsea residents to relocate to Lynn because of the high cost of rent. One Chelsea resident, who works in Lynn, voiced that it takes her up to two hours to commute from Lynn to Chelsea using public transportation. She commented that the only line that directly connects Chelsea to Everett is the 112 bus, and many avoid it due to the lifting of the bridge; and recommended that the 426 bus through Lynn could stop in Chelsea, as it already passes over the Tobin Bridge.

“In the overall bus network redesign, people on the north side of the city are particularly interested in going to Lynn and Malden,” Poftak concluded. Better Bus Project proposals will be available at www.MBTA.com with maps and data. The MBTA will also be providing riders with a warm place to view proposals at Haymarket Station, where they see the most response from Chelsea residents.

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Chelsea Community Honors Civil Rights Leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At Annual Celebration: Robinson-Griggs Delivers the Keynote Address

Chelsea Community Honors Civil Rights Leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At Annual Celebration: Robinson-Griggs Delivers the Keynote Address

Keynote speaker Lucia Robinson-Griggs receives a standing ovation for her speech from the audience, including her parents, Linda Alioto-Robinson and Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson, and City Manager Tom Ambrosino.

The People’s A.M.E. Church, led by the Rev. Dr. Sandra Whitley, and the Chelsea community honored the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the annual breakfast and awards ceremony Jan. 21 at Chelsea High School.

The Rev. Whitley and the Planning Committee put together another impressive tribute to the late Dr. King, the civil rights leader who dedicated his life to promoting unity and delivered one of American history’s greatest speeches, “I Have A Dream,” on Aug. 28, 1963 in Washington, D.C.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino, State Rep. Dan Ryan, Council President Damali Vidot, Councillors Leo Robinson, Joseph Perlatonda, and Enio Lopez, School Committee Chair Richard Maronski and member Yessenia Alfaro, CBC President Joan Cromwell, Latimer Society Co-Director Ronald Robinson, and Roca Executive Director Molly Baldwin led a slate of dignitaries in attendance at the tribute that featured, singing, dancing, awards, and inspirational speeches.

The Chelsea Hub, a network led by the Chelsea Police Department and comprised of 27 different agencies, received the prestigious Spirit Award in recognition of its ongoing efforts to help people facing difficult challenges. Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes, Capt. David Batchelor, Officer Sammy Mojica, Community Engagement Specialist Dan Cortez, and Roca Assistant Director Jason Owens were among the award recipients.

The highlight of the program arrived when Lucia Robinson-Griggs stepped to the podium and delivered the keynote address.

Robinson-Griggs, who holds degrees from Bentley and Lesley and is a former high school and college scholar-athlete, rose to the occasion with a heartfelt and eloquent address to the people of Chelsea.

“I’d just like to start by saying thank you so much for inviting me to be here today to celebrate Chelsea while honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Robinson-Griggs, adding that she was honored to be the keynote speaker after receiving the Young Adult Dreamers and Achievers Award in 2018.

She noted the “I Have A Dream” and “We are all created equal” theme of the program, stating, ‘it’s incredible how relevant [Dr. King’s famous speech in 1963] still is here in 2019.”

She encouraged members of the audience to carry on Dr. King’s legacy “even when it isn’t easy to do so.” She said everyone should work for a better Chelsea in the years to come.

“So my words today are going to be a charge for the people in this auditorium to reach beyond this room and change the perspective,” said Griggs-Robinson.

She singled out the Chelsea High student choir (who performed at Gov. Baker’s inauguration), the Latimer Society (in encouraging careers in STEM), and the award recipients, The Chelsea Hub and others, as being positive influences in the city.

Briggs-Robinson cited her personal experiences as an associate head coach of the MIT women’s basketball team, relating how the coaching staff encourages its players to be “a part of the solution and be a builder, to find the good somewhere and work to help build up someone else.”

She said that people should be positive in their actions and in their interactions with others, that even a small act of kindness or an inspiring phrase or a compliment can have a profound effect on starting to change another person’s life.

“Kindness catches on,” said Robinson-Briggs. Strive to be someone’s builder every day. Be their bright spot and give hope that we can be the generation to make Dr. King’s dream a reality.”

Robinson-Briggs received a warm, standing ovation as she returned to her seat beside her parents, Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson and Linda Alioto-Robinson, and City Manager Tom Ambrosino in the front row of the auditorium.

The Rev. Whitley concluded the impressive program by having all audience members join hands and sing “We Shall Overcome.”

And in an unsung but important gift to the community, CCCTV Executive Director Robert Bradley and Technical Director Ricky Velez videotaped the entire two-hour program and tribute to Dr. King, including Robinson-Griggs’ remarks, for broadcast on the local television station.

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After Investigation, City Will Not Pursue Legal Action on Turf Field

After Investigation, City Will Not Pursue Legal Action on Turf Field

City officials said they will not pursue legal action for the replacement of the turf field at Highland Park, this coming after the Record received information that the field was one of thousands installed with defective materials nationwide.

City Solicitor Cheryl Fisher Watson said they haven’t had many complaints about the turf field until recently, and were not able to locate any warranties that would give them grounds to negotiate replacement.

“We did a lot of research and found that the turf was installed in 2011 and our contractor at the time has confirmed it was FieldTurf,” she said. “Our problem in Chelsea is the statute of limitations has run out since the installment and we have not been able to lay our hands on any warranties. The City did have the responsibility to maintain the field.”

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said they did complete a thorough investigation of their options, but found that they learned of the issue too late.

“The City Solicitor’s Office has completed what I consider a fairly thorough investigation of this issue,” he said. “The bottom line conclusion is that the Statute of Limitations has long since expired on any claims the City might have. Further, the field is getting close to the end of its natural life. Accordingly, even if we could pursue a claim, which we don’t believe we could, it would be hard for the City to distinguish between defective materials and natural wear and tear. For these reasons, we are not pursuing any legal action.”

Late last year, the Record learned through a source that the Chelsea field and several others in Boston were installed with defective materials. The materials had been provided to FieldTurf by a third party, and once it was learned by the company that the materials were defective, they began to manufacture them in-house. However, many fields nationwide had been installed prior to the revelation with the defective materials. Few, however, knew of the problem in the Boston area until last fall.

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City Moves to Dismiss Case to Overturn ‘nip’ Ban

City Moves to Dismiss Case to Overturn ‘nip’ Ban

The City of Chelsea has filed a brief with the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) to dismiss the case brought by nine liquor licensees to overturn the ban on small liquor bottles (50 mL), known as nips.

On Dec. 8, in a hearing at the ABCC, the licensees argued their cause.

However, the City has now filed a motion indicating that the ABCC does not have jurisdiction to decide on the challenge of the ban. The case is somewhat groundbreaking because Chelsea is the first municipality to attempt to ban all nip sales. While few communities find nips a plus due to increased litter and public drinking, the sales are strong pieces of business for many liquor stores – including Chelsea. A number of communities and liquor retailers are watching the case very closely to see what they will do in their communities as well.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the key will be whether there is jurisdiction.

“They will decide on that preliminary issue soon,” he said. “If they have jurisdiction, they’ll decide on the issue. If they decide they don’t have jurisdiction, then the ban stands.”

The motion by the City indicates, “The ABCC is not a super-regulatory authority for review of regulations issued by local licensing authorities, and therefore is not the proper forum for Appellants to challenge the regulations.”

One of the other objections in the motion are that the licensees did not appeal the decision until many months later, in September, while the ban started in May.

Chelsea moved last year to institute the ban on nips, and it has been in effect for many months. A second attempt to ban 100 mL bottles of liquor was tabled until the case was heard and decided.

Ambrosino said he has noticed some definite improvements since the ban went into effect.

“I do notice a little difference,” he said. “I think the Downtown Task Force police officers will tell you the same. I think it’s been effective. It’s one piece of many efforts we have in place. There’s a lot of things that contribute to the absence of that problem, including all the social services and resources going on as well.”

The licensees are expected to file their brief in response to the City’s motion to dismiss within the week.

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Thank You, Jay Ash

Thank You, Jay Ash

When Governor Charlie Baker was elected to his first term of office four years ago, his first major announcement was the appointment of Jay Ash to the post of Secretary of Housing and Economic Development.

The announcement by Gov. Baker, a Republican, came as a surprise to many political insiders because Ash was a lifelong Democrat and at the time was serving as the City Manager for the City of Chelsea, a post he had held for almost 15 years. Moreover, the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development is among the most important members of a governor’s cabinet, and typically goes to a person who is among those most trusted by the governor to implement his broad policy objectives.

However, Ash’s appointment by Gov.-elect Baker signaled two things about the incoming administration: First, that Baker was going to “reach across the aisle” to Democrats and second, that he was seeking the most-qualified persons he could find to serve in his administration.

During the past four years, Charlie Baker’s appointment of Jay Ash, who officially stepped down from his cabinet post in December to become the new president of a nonprofit business group known as the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, has proven to be a win-win for Gov. Baker — and the people of Massachusetts — on both scores.

Ash, who had served for many years as the chief of staff to former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Voke, not only knew the ins-and-outs of the legislative process, but also was on a first-name basis with many legislators, most notably House Speaker Bob DeLeo, who played a key role in working with Jay in implementing the many initiatives put forth by the Baker administration.

In addition, Jay Ash brought to the table his experience as the City Manager of Chelsea, a small city that is the prototype for both the potential and pitfalls of economic development of urban areas throughout the state.

During his tenure, Jay Ash brought to fruition many projects that will bring economic benefits for future generations of our state’s residents. Among Ash’s signature accomplishments, he played a key role in bringing the Pawtucket Red Sox to Worcester, which included the redevelopment of the city’s Canal District with $35 million in infrastructure and affordable housing funds; he brought $12.5 million in state funds to the Berkshire Innovation Center, which will focus on life sciences in Pittsfield; he played an integral role in persuading General Electric to locate its world headquarters in Boston’s Seaport District; and he was instrumental in bringing about a significant reduction in the number of homeless families living in motels.

All in all, Jay Ash’s tenure as Secretary of Housing and Economic Development has been among the most successful and remarkable of any Cabinet member of any administration in the state’s history.

We know we speak not only for the residents of his native Chelsea, but also for citizens throughout the state, in thanking Jay Ash for his years of public service and wishing him well in his future endeavors.

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New Senior Transportation Ready to Serve Senior Center

New Senior Transportation Ready to Serve Senior Center

Celebrating the new service were City Manager Tom Ambrosino, Councillor Roy Avellaneda, John Keegan of Door2Door by SCM, Director Tracy Nowicki and Health Agent Luis Prado.

Getting to the Chelsea Senior Center has never been so easy.

The Senior Center held a grand opening of their new shuttle service on Friday, Jan. 11, to highlight the service that loops around Chelsea and brings seniors to the Riley Way facility.

Tracy Nowicki, director of the Center, said they started the service in November.

“We really hope that people will start using it and that it will really take off,” she said.

The shuttle is operated with Door2Door by SCM, which provides the shuttle and driver.

They make five stops around the city, including:

•Admiral’s Hill

•5 Admiral’s Way

•150 Captain’s Row

•260 Clark Ave.

•14 Bloomingdale St.

•154 Pearl Street.

The service is available five days a week. For more information, call the Senior Center.

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Collins Center Lays Out Roadmap for New Superintendent Search

Collins Center Lays Out Roadmap for New Superintendent Search

It’s been so long since Chelsea has sought out a new superintendent that there isn’t even a current job description.

For so many years, Boston University (BU) appointed a superintendent as it ran the public schools for decades, and when current Supt. Mary Bourque came into the role, it was long-decided that she would succeed former Supt. Tom Kingston – the last BU appointee.

Now, for the first time in 30 or 40 years, the School Committee will be tasked with finding a new leader for the public schools.

“This is all new to all of us,” said Chair Rich Maronski. “It’s even new to the School Department. They don’t even have a job description for superintendent. They have to create one now, which tells you how long it’s been.”

Bourque said the Collins Center was most recently used by the schools to hire Monica Lamboy, the business administrator who took the place of Gerry McCue. She said it was also used to hire City Manager Tom Ambrosino and former City Manager Jay Ash.

“The first couple of steps will go slowly, but from the middle of February to May it will be intense,” she said. “I can’t be involved in it then. I’ll be more of the logistics part. There is a lot of community input, but it’s a School Committee decision. Chelsea hasn’t had a search since before BU…One interesting point is we don’t have any internal candidates. In Revere, Supt. Paul Dakin was succeeded by an internal candidate, Dianne Kelly. None of our internal candidates feel they are ready to move up. Because of that, it’s going to be an outside candidate.”

Maronski, Supt. Bourque and the rest of the Committee met with the Collins Center last Thursday, Jan. 10, to go over the timelines and parameters of the upcoming search.

“It’s all structured by the Collins Center,” he said. “They are looking at the May 2 School Committee meeting for us to vote on this. That would be the first Thursday in May. I believe they will want to get it done by June because that’s a very busy month for us. I think the Collins Center is pretty good. They had all the dates worked out and structured for us. That helps.”

The notice of a job opening will go out on Feb. 8, and focus groups of teachers, staff, parents and community groups will form about the same time. They will be charged with coming up with a candidate profile that will be used by a Screening Committee to review all of the applicants.

The Screening Committee will be selected by the School Committee on March 7, and it will be made up of appointed members, including City Manager Tom Ambrosino, parents and teachers.

They will conduct private interviews of candidates in April, and they will forward a public list of finalists to the Committee around April 4. Community forums and public interviews will take place from April 22 to 25.

A contract is proposed to be signed by May 10.

Bourque said she will remain on through December 2019 so that she can mentor the new person and help transition them into the “Chelsea way.” Since it will be an outside candidate, she said that will be critical. “Chelsea has a very strong reputation and coming in with a solid transition plan with the exiting superintendent to help them is something people will like,” she said. “At the same time, it is an urban district and it is a complex district. Some people don’t like that, others do.”

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City Manager Working on Local Regulations for AirBNB

City Manager Working on Local Regulations for AirBNB

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said this week he is preparing new City regulations that would govern the short-term rental market (known as AirBNB) in Chelsea.

That comes after Gov. Charlie Baker and the State Legislature worked out a sudden compromise at the end of the year to a bill that had been stalled since the summer. That bill was signed into law and went into effect statewide on Jan. 1. While it governs the practice, it also leaves a lot of room for cities to come up with their own regulations and to tax such entities.

Ambrosino said he hoped to have something to the Council in March.

“I’m working on them now,” he said. “I hope to have a proposal up to the Council with new regulations and requirements about the local options taxes that we want to collect. I’ve been working on some drafts and we’ll circulate those internally. We’ll have a proposal to submit in early March.”

Both houses of the state legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker found a sudden compromise at the end of December in their two-year session to push through the stalled short-term rental bill – which Gov. Baker signed into law on Friday, Dec. 28.

The bill has been a long time in the making and has been shepherded through the legislature for years by State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz of the North End, who was happy to see the compromise reached.

Short-term rentals are not a major issue at the moment in Chelsea, but there are more than a few out there. More are expected due to the proximity of the city to the airport and the Encore Boston Harbor casino.

One of the keys of the state law is that it will be obvious who operates them and where, something that is kind of a mystery now.

The new law requires a statewide registry of operators, something the governor had opposed for some time until late in the year.

It also levies a 5.7 percent state tax on all short-term rental units, and allows cities and towns to levy their own local taxes as well. In Boston, it is proposed to put an additional 6 percent on each short-term rental unit.

The trade-off with the registry for the governor seems to be a provision that allows for anyone renting out a unit for 14 days or less to avoid the taxation portion of the law. It was uncertain, but it initially did appear that those units would have to participate in the statewide registry.

Ambrosino said they would undoubtedly push to go for the maximum 6 percent local option taxes.

“We’ll definitely go for the maximum option,” he said. “We’ll look at the Boston ordinance as a model. It was well-crafted. We’ll make sure rentals are adequately inspected and safety is addressed.”

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