Controversial Parking Plan Gets Tabled at Council, Still a Victory for Vidot

Controversial Parking Plan Gets Tabled at Council, Still a Victory for Vidot

After many hours of meetings and dozens of discussions, a parking plan putting put forth by Council President Damali Vidot has been tabled by a vote of 6-4.

But within that vote was the promise by City Manager Tom Ambrosino to do a comprehensive parking study that would focus on resident needs and be done by this fall.

“Sometimes, you put things forth knowing you won’t get support; but as an opportunity to allow councilors to show where they stand to their constituency for when Election season comes,” said Vidot after the vote Monday night. “The parking ordinance served its purpose by initiating conversation and the City finally getting a comprehensive parking study going. It’s a win-win for the people of Chelsea.”

Vidot’s plan would have applied to developers who asked to waive more than 10 percent of the required parking under the zoning ordinances. Those that do ask for such relief would then be required to put in apartment leases that residents of the development could not apply for or receive City residential parking stickers.

One of the main problems with many developments, it has been explained, is that they waive the parking requirements with the assumption that residents won’t utilize cars. However, Vidot and other councillors have said that it isn’t the case, and resident parking is being taken up by those in new developments with nowhere to park.

By precluding the parking stickers for those who have sought relief for more than 10 percent of parking, Vidot hoped to open up spaces for existing residents.

“We have a serious problem with parking,” she said. “That’s one reason I became a city councilor…I’m not sure if this is the best thing personally. I speak to residents and they say it is, but I speak to businesses and non-profits who are in the development world and they say not to do it. I was elected by the residents, so I say yes to this.”

Many, however, had grave concerns that it would squash new development.

“I do speak in opposition to the amendment as proposed,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “I understand the sentiment, but the 10 percent figure will surely hamper out ability to improve the downtown and do one thing this Council is intent on doing and that’s building more affordable housing. I ask that you consider deferring action until we finish any parking study.”

Councillor Leo Robinson said he could not support the matter.

“I have concerns about how we’re going about this,” he said. “We’re in the process of finishing a parking study. At this point, I think we should be able to work on a study first.”

Those voting for the parking plan were Vidot, Enio Lopez, Bob Bishop, and Giovanni Recupero.

Those voting to table the matter were Yamir Rodriguez, Calvin Brown, Luis Tejada, Leo Robinson, Joe Perlatonda, and Judith Garcia.

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License Commission Comes Under the Microscope for Some Councillors

By Seth Daniel

In what was a complete surprise to several observers and councillors at Monday night’s meeting, a block of five councillors rose up and nearly blocked the re-appointment of a long-time License Commission member, Ken Umemba.

Umemba was re-appointed in the end, on a 5-5 tie vote that was finally decided 24 hours later.

The move was what will likely be the first shot in a long battle for some councillors who want change on the License Commission – chiefly Councillor Roy Avellaneda, who previously service on Licensing before being elected to Council last year.

“I stand by my vote,” said Avellaneda. “I think we need someone on the board with restaurant and bar experience and we don’t have that. We have lost one appeal recently on Las Palmas at the state level and there is another appeal, on Plaza Mexico, that is awaiting a decision. The issues that are on that board still remain. I’m disappointed that despite my concerns I raised, the councillors decided to vote more on feelings and knowledge of the family over actual things that happen at the meetings. I’m just as concerned about the young man who was stabbed in Plaza Mexico and the young man who had his head cracked open and was pushed outside at Las Palmas. I just felt Ken Umemba wasn’t the right person to be on the board.”

The vote was seemingly a mundane re-appointment in what was a short and mundane meeting at the Council. However, as the roll call was read, suddenly there were several ‘no’ votes coming from members.

With Councillor Giovanni Recupero gone, there was an even number and so a 5-5 tie was the result. Those voting against Umemba were Matt Frank, Paul Murphy, Luis Tejada, Roy Avellaneda and President Dan Cortell.

At first, the ruling was that the 5-5 tie vote meant that Umemba was denied re-appointment, which sent a shockwave into the crowd – including his family members who were there to observe and speak on his behalf.

However, a day later it was determined that the City Charter actually has a special rule for appointments that end with a tie vote.

City Attorney Cheryl Watson Fisher said Section 4-2 of the Charter requires six votes to deny an appointment, which also means that a tie vote ends in an approval of any appointment.

“I’m in shock,” said Umemba’s wife, Joan Cromwell, after the vote. “I don’t know if it was some type of political situation. I don’t know if some councillors did their homework on his voting record and dedication to the board. It’s surprising. I thought the City was taking a positive step forward in terms of diversity and transparency. This is a step backward.”

Umemba is the only black member of the Commission, and has served on it for six years.

Councillor Matt Frank said he has been to meetings and he agrees with Avellaneda.

“It’s not personal,” he said. “I happen to think the Licensing Board needs to go in a different direction.”

Councillor Leo Robinson, who supported Umemba, said it was a bad scene.

“I think it’s unfortunate we have a person that has served on the Board for six year and those who voted against him never even had a conversation with him about it,” he said.

Umemba was present at a public meeting on Tuesday night and said he was happy to be back on the board.

Avellaneda said it’s only one of many changes he hopes to push on the Licensing Commission. He said he would advocate for several more changes in it’s membership.

“I would also advocate to take the ISD representative off the Commission and replace him with the City Attorney,” he said. “I know that requires a Charter Change, but I think we need to do that. The meetings aren’t recorded, the dates aren’t posted six months in advance, and you have business people waiting for months to get a simple license. That’s no way for the City to do business.”

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Leaders Disappointed in Decision for Chelsea

Leaders Disappointed in Decision for Chelsea

It was a $27 million decision that didn’t swing Chelsea’s way when the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) chose Wynn Resorts in Everett over Mohegan Sun in Revere on Tuesday.

And the sentiment in Chelsea due to that loss is one of unilateral disappointment.

City Manager Jay Ash said going with Wynn is disappointing to him in that Chelsea will see $27 million less in mitigation payments over the 15-year license term.

“I’m very disappointed with the decision, as I believed Mohegan Sun to have a superior proposal and a better appreciation of the impact their casino could have in the region,” he said on Tuesday. “That said, I plan on staying on top of the situation and will continue to advocate within the process to recapture as much of those lost potential proceeds as possible. I can’t say enough good things about the relationship that Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs offered to us in Chelsea. I’m very disappointed that their great vision will not be realized, but so very much appreciate how they treated every concern that Chelsea had with the greatest of attention.”

Ash said he was very impressed by Revere’s mayor, Dan Rizzo, and said he had done his best to represent the interests of the region.

“I’d like to thank Mayor Dan Rizzo of Revere for his significant efforts, which included always looking out for the best interests of Chelsea and the region,” said Ash. “While he lost a very important project, he gained a tremendous amount of respect from government and business types that will no doubt stand the city of Revere in good stead as it moves on.”

City Council President Matt Frank – who had been the Council’s envoy to the casino process – said he was also very disappointed, especially considering Wynn’s trouble with surrounding communities like Chelsea.

I am disappointed that Mohegan Sun was passed up,” he said. “I was impressed with their willingness and desire to mitigate issues Chelsea may have seen with the construction of a local casino. Chelsea already spends more per capita on lottery tickets than any other municipality in the Commonwealth and Mohegan was willing to assist us with gambling addiction issues both for those addicted to casino gambling and for those who have an unhealthy relationship with lottery spending. Unfortunately in our meetings with Wynn they did not seem as committed to fostering those same sorts of results. I do not believe the settlement we were granted is enough to mitigate the issues the city will face, let alone benefit from it. Considering that more than half of their neighboring communities have had issues with Wynn, I am honestly a little shocked that the Commission granted the license to them.”

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Regional Mohegan Casino Effort All Positives for Ash

Regional Mohegan Casino Effort All Positives for Ash

Last Friday's regional casino partnership forum saw leaders from all over the area converge on Revere, including Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash. Ash, (center) is pictured with Mohegan executive Gary Luderitz, State Sen. Tom McGee (D-Lynn), and Suffolk Downs COO Chip Tuttle.

Last Friday’s regional casino partnership forum saw leaders from all over the area converge
on Revere, including Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash. Ash, (center) is pictured with Mohegan
executive Gary Luderitz, State Sen. Tom McGee (D-Lynn), and Suffolk Downs COO Chip
Tuttle.

City Manager Jay Ash wasn’t sure what to expect when he walked into Revere City Hall last Friday for the regional casino partnership forum.

What he found was an assemblage of municipal and business leaders from the region rarely seen in the same room – all looking to find a common denominator in supporting the regional approach of the proposed Mohegan Sun casino project in Revere.

Ash said he left feeling very good about where the project was going and how its leaders saw Chelsea fitting into their plans.

“I thought it was a great forum and an insightful one to me,” Ash said. “I’m seeing how much emphasis Mohegan Sun is placing on the region and how the entire region can benefit…I have to say it’s head and shoulders above any discussions I’ve had with any other casino operator.

“I left with a good feeling,” he added. “I’ve had the opportunity to see both proponents and the Mohegan Sun project continues to impress me as to where Chelsea fits into all of this.”

The forum included a panel of mayors and managers from Winthrop, Melrose, Saugus and Lynn who discussed how they wanted to see the project impact their areas. There was also a portion dedicated to business, where Chamber members and business leaders from all over the area contributed to the discussion. Finally, there was a panel discussion on traffic improvements with Mohegan’s traffic planner, John Kennedy, and City Manager Ash.

The meeting was the the brainchild of Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo and his Economic Development Director, John Festa. They said they would like to get the ball rolling on regional collaboration prior to any licenses being awarded.

“We don’t want to wait until a license is granted to start talking about ways we can do things together to make this project help elevate the entire region,” said Rizzo.

Ash said he felt like the transportation piece was an important discussion to start having due to the fact that the area’s roads so often isolate and “lock-up” cross community business opportunities.

“The transportation was an important discussion to have and opens up the ideas many of us have had to unlocking the things in the region that have been locked up by transportation issues for so long,” he said. “With such a big investment in our backyard, this is an opportunity to look at how that investment can help us unlock these opportunities.”

The Mohegan Sun casino proposal will have a public hearing in Boston at the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) this Tuesday, March 25, at 4 p.m. Then, on April 7, there will be a hearing on the proposal in Revere at the Revere High School Auditorium at 4 p.m.

The meetings will seek to gain input from the Revere community and surrounding communities.

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Ticket Troubles; Councillors Fed Up with Getting Tickets While at Meetings, on City Business

Ticket Troubles; Councillors  Fed Up with Getting Tickets While at Meetings, on City Business

City Councillors Joe Perlatonda and Giovanni Recupero report that most City Councillors frequently get tickets when at City Hall checking on things or even at meetings. They're looking to ease the parking situation at City Hall for councillors and for residents.

City Councillors Joe Perlatonda
and Giovanni Recupero
report that most City Councillors
frequently get tickets
when at City Hall checking
on things or even at meetings.
They’re looking to ease
the parking situation at City
Hall for councillors and for
residents.

For several City Councillors, finding those little, orange $25 parking tickets on their windshields after a Council meeting has become a rite of passage.

Few councillors have escaped the parking ticket wrath during their tenure, and it pretty much has become a given that councillors who frequent City Hall meetings will come away with a backlog of tickets. Councillors have frequently been heard muttering under their breath about the fact that the City trusts them with important financial decisions, but not with a simple parking pass.

So it has been.

Now, first-term Councillor Giovanni Recupero is proposing to end what he calls a ridiculous state of affairs for public servants trying to do the people’s business.

And he’s found some allies on the Council, including Councillor Joe Perlatonda. Other councillors also appear to be on board as well.

Both Recupero and Perlatonda told the Record that they have proposed councillors get a four-hour pass to park in and around City Hall during Council Meetings or while on Council business. Both said that they were looking for something very minimal and didn’t want to create a controversial citywide free parking pass.

“I’m a working councillor so I come to City Hall all the time to check on things – pretty much every day,” Recupero said. “I come to do the people’s work. I’m not asking for a special privilege for all over the city. If I’m checking on things or at a meeting, it can take longer than you might expect. You can forget to come out and move your car or pay the meter. Sometimes you’re involved in a discussion and you can’t leave. If I’m at a meeting or doing the work of the people at City Hall, as a councillor I shouldn’t have to worry about getting $25 tickets all the time. It makes it hard to conduct city business.”

Perlatonda said he typically comes to City Hall at night and in the evenings. When he gets there, parking is minimal at best, and feeding the meter is often impossible during a Council meeting.

“If I come to City Hall at night, there’s nowhere for me to park,” he said. “I usually come straight from work in Cambridge, so there’s no time to go home and walk here. If I need to conduct official business, I have to park at a meter or on a side street and walk several blocks. Giovanni had proposed that we get a limited parking permit so we can park. My thing is why not take some spaces in the lot and set them aside for City Councillors during days when the City Council meets – when a councillor is on official City business. If it’s tough for us to do business here, it must be tough for everyone.”

City Manager Jay Ash is not entirely in favor of the idea, though he said he hasn’t seen any formal proposal from the Council. He indicated he also gets tickets and it’s something that City leaders could learn to avoid.

“I am also one who gets parking tickets regularly, and I pay them because I was at fault by violating our local parking rules, just like the hundreds of others who violate parking rules and similarly get ticketed,” he said. “Parking is often inconvenient, but there are many ways of avoiding tickets.”

Recupero countered opposition by indicating that School Committee members are afforded a placard so that they can park on school property when performing the work of their office. He said he is only looking for the same kind of accommodation, just a minimal pass so that he and other councillors don’t have to worry about getting parking tickets while they’re debating how to spend millions of dollars.

“School Committee members, as I understand it, can go to any school parking lot,” he said. “That’s their job and that’s a good thing. Our job is to work for the people at City Hall. How do we do that when we get hit with a ticket every other time we’re up there? For a working councillor, it’s needed.”

Perlatonda said there are many fixes he sees, comparing his experiences in working at the cramped Cambridge City Hall. He said, first of all, City vehicles and employee vehicles don’t need to be tying up spaces meant for the people, and secondly, the meters around City Hall should be shortened.

“I know everybody has a tough time parking,” he said. “Where I work at Cambridge City Hall, it’s first come, first serve. There’s six or so spaces and the City doesn’t provide parking for employees. Why should the City be providing parking for all employees? I don’t think that if a person is coming to do business at City Hall, it should be that there are no parking spaces available because City Hall employees, DPW trucks and police cars have taken all the spots.

“The meters also shouldn’t be 10-hour meters,” he added. “The City is actually losing revenue in that area because there is no turnover.”

The bottom line, both said, is that if it’s tough for them to come to City Hall, it must be even more difficult for their constituents.

“You come to City Hall and think it’s going to take an hour or so, and then it takes longer than that if you’re at a meeting or discussing something,” Perlatonda said. “Nobody wants a ticket, and it’s a frustrating experience to come out of City Hall and find tickets all the time.”

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