In a world where every threat to a school has to be taken seriously, that played out on Monday morning at Chelsea High when the schools were put on alert by a social media threat to “CHS” that turned out to be a month old and referring to a school in New Mexico.
Supt. Mary Bourque said around 7:15 a.m. Monday, Officer Dan Delaney was alerted to a threat observed on social media by a parent, a threat that indicated the person was “going to shoot up CHS.”
Bourque said it was unfortunate, but it was something that’s going to happen more often.
“It turns out it was a month old and was referring to a school in New Mexico,” she said. “Every threat has to be taken seriously. We can’t afford to not take threats seriously. At the same time, this is going to be what it’s like in the times we live in…It’s a sign of the times these weekly incidents for schools will be happening. It’s happening around the nation and we’re no different.”
The high school was functioning normally shortly after the threat was investigated.
The Chelsea City Council voted 9-1 on Monday night to call for City Solicitor Cheryl Fisher Watson to draw up a new ordinance requiring a five-year residency period for all new police and fire hires.
The controversial move was brought for the umpteenth time by Councillor Giovanni Recupero at Monday’s Council meeting, and it had been highly anticipated by the membership for several weeks.
Recupero’s plan calls for any new hire of the Police Department or Fire Department to live within the city for five years after being hired.
Currently, there are no such restrictions, but Recupero has been on a mission for more than five years to get something drafted and passed.
His order on Monday simply called for the Solicitor to draft up an ordinance and have it ready for Council consideration by the next meeting.
“For many, many years I’ve been trying to have people who work here live here,” he said. “Other cities do this. We should too. The residents like us love our city. It’s not to say they don’t love the City, but there’s a little extra care when you live here…Life is not what you want. Life is what it is. If you want to work here, you live here.”
Many had been interested to see what new Councillor Bob Bishop might think of the matter, as it was the first time it had been before him. And he made himself quite clear that he supports residency.
“I’m very upset on payday in Chelsea because three-fourths of our paychecks go to Saugus or Lynnfield. We don’t get an economic bang for that buck because that money of ours isn’t circulating in Chelsea. If you’re hired in Chelsea as a firefighter or police officer and you don’t want to live here, then don’t take the job. Someone else will. I think it’s a good thing to have police and fire live here.”
Councillor Roy Avellaneda was the lone lawmaker against the measure this time, and said he thinks the Council should focus on other things.
“I’d rather focus my energy on making Chelsea a better place to live than a place to be forced to live,” he said.
Councillor Judith Garcia didn’t vote on the matter as she was absent.
Fisher Watson said there are concerns that any such ordinance would conflict with collective bargaining agreements, so she wasn’t sure she would be able to produce the new ordinance.
Recupero said that any such conflict does not exist and the ordinance can be written up and considered. He said after the Council passes the ordinance, it’s up to the City Manager to negotiate the collective bargaining to include the new requirement for new hires.
The Chelsea Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration was commemorated in song, in speech and in camaraderie on Monday, Jan. 15, at Chelsea High School.Keynote Speaker Rev. Basil Yarde related how King inspired him as a young man. The annual event also saw performances from Chelsea High students, student essay contest winners and community spirit award winners.
This Monday, the City officially unveiled a light illumination feature in the clock tower of City Hall – a feature that can be seen prominently from Rt.
The Chelsea City Hall clock tower has finally been illuminated after many years of advocacy by Councillor Matt Frank. The project was unveiled on Monday and displays holiday-themed colors at the moment.
1 and the Soldiers’ Home and adds some variety to the Chelsea skyline.
When it went on Monday night, the new lighting scheme alternated green and red colors to match the City’s new Christmas decorations in the downtown area.
The lighting coincided with the last meeting of Councillor Matt Frank, who has long asked for the City to look into introducing some creative lighting on the exterior of City Hall.
Afterward, he said he was very happy to see that the City had taken his request seriously and had actually implemented it before he left office.
“I am beyond delighted that the City was able to complete the first phase of the clock tower light project on the eve of my last City Council meeting,” he said. “It’s a project I have been pushing for since the late 2000s and I am hoping they take the next step by installing outdoor lights to also bring light to the outer structure. Currently the lights are going red and green for the holidays and I’ve been told they are considering using the new lights for snow emergency purposes with a blinking blue.
“Combined with the fixing of the lights on the clock tower, this gives the City a powerful new tool when it comes to civic pride,” he continued. “The lights can be used to signal victory for our high school teams, to show holiday spirit and to showcase City Hall as a beacon for miles in every direction. Symbolism is a powerful thing. Hopefully this light will play it’s part in helping to bring more civic engagement to City Hall.”
Meanwhile, City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he gives all the credit to Frank and to Fidel Maltez of Public Works.
“It’s just another small part of our efforts to improve the Downtown,” said Ambrosino. “I have to give the credit for the idea to Councilor Frank. I would have never thought of that on my own.”
The Chelsea City Council voted 11-0 to on Monday night to begin looking at the forthcoming, new Silver Line Stations and how to prevent commuters from hogging parking spaces.
Councillor Roy Avellaneda introduced the order at Monday’s Council meeting in order to get ahead of what could certainly become an immediate problem once the Silver Line opens some time in the spring.
With working moving at a rapid pace, and residents now able to see the stations and where they will be, Avellaneda said he was compelled to call for some sort of study.
“There areas of the city where these new stations would open are certainly vulnerable and we should think about some parking regulations around them,” he said. “I can imagine there will be outsiders parking in these areas if allowed. So that we don’t harm our residents living in these areas, we should look at doing these parking restrictions now.”
Avellaneda received unanimous support on the Council, and his order calls for a working group to be assembled to look at what might work at the new stations.
The working group would include city councillors, the city manager, the city clerk, the police chief and the Planning Department.
On Monday morning, Margarita Nievez kept busy folding a sheet and some clothing that was set to be trucked out to New Jersey – and later to Puerto Rico.
The day before, she and her friends helped load rice onto pallets.
Last Thursday evening, they participated in a vigil at City Hall, and then helped collect more food that was loaded onto trucks provided by the Teamsters Local 25. That collection was also being shipped to Puerto Rico.
For Nievez, it’s all about staying busy and keeping her mind off her home island, which has been wiped out by two hurricanes this month, most recently Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20.
“It feels good to help here and not think about it,” said Nievez on Monday while folding a sheet at the Chelsea Collaborative. “They are suffering down there from not having food and water. They could be dying now.”
She began to tear up, and then went back to her work.
Nievez said she has family in Ponce and Comerio – among other remote places that were hit directly.
“I haven’t heard anything from any of them,” she said. “I don’t know where they are.”
Maria Figueroa has a sister in Mayaguez, and she said it has been encouraging to see the community in Chelsea band together so quickly to help.
Indeed, Chelsea historically has one of the largest Puerto Rican communities in the Northeast per capita, and so such a devastating impact on many in the City.
On Monday, Chelsea Police officers and Public Works crews were stationed in the Collaborative racing against the clock to load everything up before the tractor trailer arrived at 3 p.m.
Thousands of pounds of food waited in a hallway.
“I’ve been here doing something from last week until now,” said Figueroa. “Thank God everyone is helping each other. Different cultures and different races are all coming together.”
As they worked, David Rodas came through the doors to bring a variety of rice bags, water and canned goods.
“I’m not even Puerto Rican,” he said. “I’m from El Salvador, but we’re all humans and I see people in need. This is what you do.”
Collaborative Director Gladys Vega said keeping busy has helped her, and helped many like Nievez and Figueroa.
“It’s a way of them coping with what they see on TV,” she said. “They don’t want to sit around the house and not do anything and not know what’s happening. So, I’ve had a lot of people who have showed up and wanted to help since last week. They fold clothes, organize food, or whatever they can do.”
Margarita Nievez folds a sheet at the Chelsea Collaborative on Monday while Leanna Cruz organizes clothing in the background. Many Chelsea residents who have family in Puerto Rico haven’t heard any news of their whereabouts since the devastating Hurricane Maria struck on Sept. 20. To cope, they keep busy.
Gold Star Mother Diana Ramirez said nothing can take away the pain of losing her son in 2008 to the war in Afghanistan, but gatherings such as the one on Memorial Day at City Hall Monday help ease the pain of loss.
Ramirez was the keynote speaker at Monday’s exercises, and also the Grand Marshal of the Girl Scout Parade. She said nothing can prepare one for the loss of a child in war.
“A young boy decided he wanted to join the military,” she said. “He joined the Army and two years later, he lost his life in Afghanistan. Time goes on, but the hurt never does heal. This community gathered here helps the hurt though. To see this group of kids here today. This is the medicine that helps our hurt.”
Following her speech, members of the DAV and PAV placed wreaths for the Gold Star Mothers and for those lost in the service of country.
The exercises on Monday were punctuated by the threat of bad weather, but that didn’t come until after a great musical program from the Chelsea High concert band took place. Also, students from each elementary school – all named after fallen veterans – read the story of those that their respective schools are named after.
Veterans Service Officer Francisco Toro and Supt. Mary Bourque thanked everyone for coming out.
Ramirez’s son, Nelson Rodriguez Ramirez, died while fighting in Afghanistan in June 2008.
Specialist Rodriguez Ramirez lived in Rochester, NY with his wife and daughter when he passed.
He died in Kandahar City in Afghanistan as a result of his unit coming in contact with an improvised explosive device and small arms fire.
A heated battle over two-hour parking signs in Cary Square erupted at the City Council meeting on Monday, and it likely is settled – even after a vote of 2-5 by the Council rejected the placement of the new signs, which were petitioned for by Pan y Cafe business owner and Councillor Roy Avellaneda, as well as some other business owners.
Now, however, the matter might not be over even after the vote killed the measure on Monday night. The problem, Council President Leo Robinson said, was that the vote has to be a majority of the Council rather than a majority of those present. That would mean six votes, and only five voted against it. Councillors Judith Garcia, Paul Murphy and Giovanni Recupero were absent on Monday, and Avellaneda was not allowed to vote on the matter or be present in the room during discussion.
Robinson said Councillor Yamir Rodriguez, who represents Cary Square, has filed a reconsideration of the matter, and Robinson will call for a Special Meeting on May 30 to allow for another vote.
Scores of residents and business owners flooded the Council Chambers on Monday night, some to oppose the restrictions on the eight new two-hour parking signs and some to support them. Avellaneda first brought the idea to the Traffic Commission earlier this year and called for an expansive meter program. He argued that commuters were taking all of the parking in the Square in order to use the 111 bus, which prevented his business and others from using the parking for customers.
The Commission compromised and instituted the eight, two-hour spots on a trial basis through August.
However, many businesses and members of the Cary Square Club were outraged by the development and called on the Council to use a little-known oversight power to reject the Cary Square parking program.
The Commission’s report was approved two weeks ago, but the Cary Square matter was pulled from the report and held over until Monday night.
“There was not an issue there and never has been an issue,” said Karen Moschella of Off Broadway Dance. “No one is parking in Cary Square and taking the bus in. Maybe further up on Washington Avenue, ok, but not here.”
Zaida Ismatul-Oliva, of Spruce Street, said she and her mother opposed the change.
“I find it problematic that we’re now trying to change two-hour parking for one or two businesses int he area when its always been parking for residents,” she said.
Dan Morales, of the Blue Frog Sports Bar in Cary Square, said he likes the idea.
“I’m in favor of the parking restrictions because I think it will help businesses,” he said. “I have personally seen people park and take the bus and take up spots for five or six hours. That limits the amount of business you can do.”
Michael Albano of Willard Street said it was time to make a change to liven up that business district.
“It seems to me the Parking Commission got it right,” he said. “I would like to make Cary Square a place people want to go and make vibrant and a place that businesses can flourish.”
But most councillors did not agree.
Rodriguez said it simply wasn’t the right time given the fact that the Clark Avenue School was under construction and taking up a lot of spaces temporarily.
Councillor Luis Tejada, whose district is nearby, was also in agreement, saying that some 15 or more spaces are taken up at the Clark Avenue project, forcing residents to push parking into the Square.
“I’m not in favor of this because it’s just not the right timing,” Rodriguez said. “We have a lot of projects going on right now and it’s pushing the parking issue to other places. We need to wait until that is finished and we should solve the parking issue another way. Two hour parking is not the solution.”
Councillor Dan Cortell, however, agreed with the issue. Living on Admiral’s Hill, he said he rarely visits Cary Square because it is too complicated to get to and park.
“I think the Parking and Traffic Commission got it right,” he said. “They did compromise. It was on a trial basis until August…The Traffic Commission meetings were well attended…They chose a compromise. I’m in favor of the compromise.”
When the vote came down, it was a decided loss, at 2-5. Cortell was joined by Councillor Matt Frank in voting for the change.
However, the next day it was discovered that to use the oversight of the Traffic Commission, and reject one of their measures, requires a majority of the Council – or six votes. With only five votes, Rodriguez took action to call the Council back to perform another vote with more members present.
On Wednesday, that meeting was expected to happen on May 30.
Luis Rodriguez of Blade Masters on Everett Avenue gives a free haircut to Adin Bahan during a special event at the Boys & Girls Club on Monday. Rodriguez and Councillors Yamir Rodriguez and Damali Vidot worked together to start the event this year and hope to make the free haircut day a fixture of Back to School in Chelsea.
The costs of getting kids back to school is a tough bill to pay for parents, and many parents are in situations where they cannot afford all the things that kids need.
In those times, they must pick and choose what kids go back with on their first day.
And often, when it comes down to new shoes or a haircut, the sneaks win out most years.
This year, though, many parents didn’t have to worry about that decision as five local barbers corralled by Luis Rodriguez of Blade Masters, and organized by City Councillors Yamir Rodriguez and Damali Vidot, set up shop in the gym of the Boys & Girls Club on Monday for many hours and gave free haircuts to Chelsea kids just before the first day of school, kids who might otherwise go back to school not looking their very best.
“When I was going to school here in Chelsea, I didn’t have much money for a haircut, so I know what it feels like on the first day of school,” said Luis Rodriguez of Blade Masters on Everett Avenue, a 2015 Chelsea High School graduate. “I’m licensed and I can do this and I wanted to give back to these kids and to the community. I know how they feel and it feels good that I can give back by giving free haircuts. It can be tough for parents in Chelsea to pay for everything. This is one less thing, and I’m glad I can do it.”
Councillor Rodriguez said Luis Rodriguez had been a student at Chelsea High School when he was coaching on the basketball team. The two got to know each other well back then, and last spring, Luis Rodriguez said he wanted to do free haircuts.
“He wanted to give back somehow and had this idea to give free haircuts before school started,” said Councillor Rodriguez. “I told him it was a great idea and we got on the phone and got a couple of barbers to join us and help out. We always talked about helping out in the city and this was one very good way…It’s something Luis can do and it’s something that we know some kids cannot afford.”
On Monday, at least four, sometimes five, barbers were hard at work in the gym cutting hair for one kid after another. All of the barbers were local and said they were really glad to give back to the community and remembered going back to school every year with a fresh haircut on the first day.
Councillor Damali Vidot said it’s something that a lot of people don’t think about, but something that really helps parents who are trying to get kids ready for school.
“This is something we know helps the kids and these barbers wanted to give back and they’re all from Chelsea,” she said. “This is a great opportunity for everyone.”
Councillor Rodriguez said next year they will continue the effort and perhaps do more advance planning to make it a bigger event and to help more people.
“We do plan on making it a yearly event and next year we’ll make it bigger and maybe try to tie it to the Williams School celebration,” he said.
Four days a week, soccer is where it’s at for local young people in Chelsea who want to get down to business and score goals.
In its third year, the Chelsea Collaborative’s Summer Youth Employment Initiative (SYEI) and the GOALS program of the Massachusetts Youth Soccer organization have teamed up again this summer to provide soccer games and light instruction to Chelsea young people. The drop-in program started in late June and takes place Monday through Thursday at Highland Park Field from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The activity is free and supervised by qualified coaches and by Chelsea youth working in the summer program.
“The GOALS program is the Massachusetts Youth Soccer initiative to promote soccer in the inner city areas,” said Loy Urbina, assistant technical director and GOALS program director. “We give the program to organizations like the Chelsea Collaborative. The only condition that we demand is that the program is free. We don’t charge anyone to play. We supply the balls, the T-Shirts, coaches and we pay the coaches. It’s supposed to be a totally free program. My job is to go around Massachusetts and find sites in inner city or low-income areas and bring the beautiful game of soccer to the area. We now have 29 sites and Chelsea has been a great partner.”
Sylvia Ramirez of the SYEI supervises the site Monday through Thursday and said the youth that she employs enjoy helping out and providing water and support to the popular program. She said upwards of 60 or more young people, depending on weather, can show up in a day.
“This is a very good program to give access to the game of soccer and to provide them an opportunity to play a very popular game in our city on a field that isn’t very accessible because it is so busy,” she said. “This is a really fun activity for the youth, and we do it four days a week. Parents can stay with the kids or drop them off. It’s all supervised with qualified people.”
GOALS also provides coaches to help the kids develop some skills, with most of the coaches being college level players from local universities and community colleges. A site supervisor is also provided, and in Chelsea that is Orminsun Medina – long time Chelsea Youth Soccer coordinator.
Urbina said one thing that could improve the program is to overhaul the field, which is the only artificial surface field in the City aside from Chelsea High School. He said the field is now getting old and in rough shape, but that there could be a grant available from soccer organizations.
“There is an organization called the U.S. Soccer Foundation,” he said. “Their number one goal is to help cities and towns repair soccer fields. They give grants anywhere from $1,000 to $1 million. This field need to be fixed. They could put an application in to get Highland Park Field updated and fixed.”
Meanwhile, Urbina and Ramirez said there is some serious talk about expanding the program in Chelsea so that young people from East Boston, Revere and Everett could come to the site to participate. By having a morning session and an afternoon session, Urbina said he believes they could make it work.
“We envision having kids from Everett, East Boston, Everett and Revere come one day a week for each community in the morning,” said Ramirez. “Then we would have the Chelsea kids come four days a week like they are now in the afternoon session. We really would like to expand and we get requests from those communities all the time.”
Last Thursday, boys and girls from Chelsea were still excited about the previous weekend’s European Cup, where Portugal won an improbably victory over France.
Pretending they were Christian Ronaldo, or any of the other stars, the young Chelsea players dribbled the ball around and kicked goals with stars in their eyes.
The GOALS program by the SYEI is for kids age 5 and older and runs through Aug. 4 at Highland Park Monday through Thursday from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.
For more information or to register, call (617) 889-6080.
Eric Monckada blasts a kick from the center of the field during the free soccer program sponsored by GOALS and the Summer Youth Employment Initiative (SYEI) last Thursday afternoon, July 14. The program is free to Chelsea young people Monday through Thursday from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.