Year in Review:Balancing Prosperity and Priorities

Year in Review:Balancing Prosperity and Priorities

The year 2018 saw many changes in Chelsea as the city tried to balance prosperity with priorities all year long. While new investment poured in, residents struggled to stay in the city and schools grappled with budget cuts. Meanwhile, public transit increased substantially in a positive direction with the introduction of the new Silver Line service.

• Flooding becomes a major issue after a Jan. 4 blizzard and a March 2 storm, both of which occur during substantial high tides. The Jan. 4 blizzard caused a huge storm surge that flooded many parts of the city and even shut down operations at the Chelsea Street Bridge.

• The New England Flower Exchange celebrates its first Valentine’s Day holiday at its new location on Second Street after being in Boston’s South End for the past 50 years. The new facility has been brought online seamlessly.

• Wynn CEO Steve Wynn seemed to be in control of his company and the project in Everett until late January, when he was accused of sexual misconduct in a Wall Street Journal report. The allegations quickly gathered steam, and by February Wynn had resigned from the company and the license for the Everett casino was in jeopardy and the project to be moving forward “at risk.” The new CEO became Matt Maddox and the company saw huge amounts of turnover throughout the year. By the end of 2018, the license for the Everett site was still in limbo and an investigation into the matter still had yet to be revealed – having been delayed for months.

• City Manager Tom Ambrosino says in his State of the City on Feb. 26 that now is not the time to save up money, but rather the time to continue investing in the City and its residents. He announces several key programs for the upcoming year.

• Sen. Sal DiDomenico is involved in a heated and intense bid for the office of Senate President over several months, but in the summer comes up just short in getting the votes necessary to prevail. Sen. President Karen Spilka gets the nod instead, but DiDomenico remains the assistant majority leader and ends up coming out of the battle in a very good position of leadership.

• Students at Chelsea High stage a walk-out in regard to school safety and school shootings on March 15. Despite lots of snow, thousands of students take to the Stadium for the one-hour protest.

•YIHE company returns to the City with a new plan for the old Forbes site in the Mill Hill neighborhood. They start the process in April with a scaled down version of their previous plan, but reviews of the project continue throughout the year and into 2019.

• The new Silver Line SL-3 service debuts on Saturday, April 21, in Chelsea. The service starts out a little slow, but by December the MBTA reports that ridership has exceeded its estimates.

• The Chelsea Soldiers’ Home secured a $70 million budget item from the federal government in April that allowed the replacement of the Quigley Hospital to move forward. The Community Living Center has a groundbreaking in the fall and construction is ongoing in the new year.

• The Chelsea Walk is transformed throughout the spring, summer and fall in a unique placemaking partnership between the City and GreenRoots. At the end, there is a new mural on the Walk and more activity. New things are also planned for the Walk in 2019.

• A $3.1 million School Budget gap hits the School Department hard, with numerous cuts reported to key school services. Th School Department, City and state grapple with the issue all summer long, but no resolution to the issue emerges at the end of the legislative session. The school funding fix is still outstanding, and no fix has yet been passed to help districts like Chelsea, who have been penalized mistakenly by a new formula.

• Chelsea High sophomore track star Stephanie Simon caps off a stellar year by heading to the National Track Meet in North Carolina over the summer. She placed 15th in the high jump and 27th in the triple jump out of a field of athletes from around the nation.

• Students at the Clark Avenue Middle School are ecstatic to return to school on Aug. 29, and that’s because they were able to enter their brand new building for the first time. The Clark Avenue premiered to excited parents and students for the new school term after many years of construction.

• The Sept. 4 Primary Election features many surprises, but the biggest headline of the night, however, was when Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley upset sitting Congressman Michael Capuano decidedly. Capuano had campaigned hugely in Chelsea, and won here with 54 percent of the vote. However, a strong Boston turnout propelled Pressley to an big win. Pressley also had notable support in Chelsea from Council President Damali Vidot and School Committeeman Julio Hernandez.

• The Two-Way Broadway proposal gathers steam, but fizzles out as residents and elected officials protest the change vehemently. That came after a late-August approval of the plan by the Traffic Commission. However, in September, it fails to get past the City Council. Broadway will remain a one-way street.

• Supt. Mary Bourque surprises most in late December when she announces she will retire at the end of 2019, pledging to help the School Committee with a new superintendent search throughout the year.

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Feeling the Pain:After 11 Weeks of Lock-Out, National Grid Gas Ready to Continue the Fight

Feeling the Pain:After 11 Weeks of Lock-Out, National Grid Gas Ready to Continue the Fight

Down in the Back Bay’s Park Plaza, hundreds of National Grid gas workers – now locked out of work for 11 weeks – took center stage on what many said was the truest example of what Labor Day should actually mean.

The politics of the matter shone through clearly on Monday morning during the rally in the street with the state’s political elite, but another piece of the puzzle is the day-to-day reality of having lost health insurance, paychecks and having to stage labor’s most ardent fight of the past decade.

For Everett’s Rocky Leo, who appeared with about a dozen locked-out Chelsea workers recently at a Chelsea City Council meeting, the lockout has a human angle – and standing tall in the Back Bay on Monday, he said that is exactly what the company is trying to exploit.

“They’re banking on us not getting by – we workers going under and losing our health care and defaulting on our mortgages so we have to get in,” he said. “It’s a struggle. It’s been 11 weeks since we were locked out. It’s really hard on many of us and that’s their strategy. They figure we’ll give in.

“Five days in they took our health care away,” he continued. “We had a guy who had just had his leg amputated, and people with diabetes who needed care and children who are being treated for cancer. That’s what we have here.”

The lock out started earlier this summer during contract negotiations with two unions in the National Grid gas operations division. The unions are represented by the United Steelworkers and talks have been ongoing, but nothing has been fruitful and labor leaders seemingly – on Labor Day – had seen enough.

“This is unacceptable on Labor Day and any day,” said state AFL-CIO President Steve Tolman. “The fight you’ve been waging the last three months is the most important fight you’ll ever have. Brothers and sisters, you are standing up to a corporate environment that has been scraping away for the last 20 years at our health care and pensions. Where are the elected officials asking National Grid to step up to the table and negotiate and get an agreement? Public safety should be first.”

Joe Buonopane, a president of one of the locked out unions, said on Monday that he wanted Governor Baker to stand up for the workers.

“Gov. Baker hasn’t said a word about National Grid workers being locked out for 11 weeks,” he said. “National Grid is a foreign company, based in the United Kingdom. We are Massachusetts workers locked out of our jobs and Gov. Baker hasn’t said (anything) about it. That shouldn’t happen in Massachusetts.”

On Sept. 4, National Grid and the two unions were to come back to the bargaining table. The results of those meetings were not reported by press time, but National Grid said they wanted to resolve the lock out.

“To end the lockout, which is a goal we share with our union employees, we need to have serious, productive conversations about reaching an agreement,” read a statement by National Grid sent to the Independent on Tuesday, Sept. 4. “Since June 25, National Grid has communicated to the unions that we remain willing to meet seven days a week to reach an agreement on all outstanding issues. Through a federal mediator, they have so far provided eight dates for meetings that have occurred and we are meeting with them again today, September 4.”

National Grid said they wanted to have a fair contract, but that also meant being responsible to the ratepayers. They said what the union characterize as a drive for company profits at employee expense is actually an effort to preserve reasonable rates for customers in Chelsea and beyond.

National Grid said the major sticking point is the company’s proposed benefit package that includes a new defined contribution 401(k) retirement plan. That new plan would apply only to new employees hired on or after June 25, 2018.

National Grid said they had negotiated away from pension plans to 401(k) plans with at least 16 other unions representing 84 percent of the company’s employees. National Grid also said the package is consistent with proposals that the Steelworkers have accepted in Massachusetts with all other public utilities.

National Grid said it doesn’t believe customers should have to pay for outdated benefits when most of those customers don’t enjoy such benefits themselves.

Leo said the idea is to preserve what they have and have had for years. He stressed that the workers only want the same thing they’ve always had.

“It’s frustrating because we’re not asking for everything and anything,” he said. “We just want what we have. We have completed more work than we have been asked to do and they’re profits are up. We exceeded 20 to 50 percent of our work in all categories. We’re doing more than what we are asked and they are profiting, so it’s hard to see why we have to make concessions. There’s no bargaining or discussion. It’s concession or nothing. It’s like talking to a 4-year-old and when they ask why, you only get ‘because.’”

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Back to School: Beware of the JUUL

Back to School: Beware of the JUUL

If last year’s fidget spinners were all fun and games, this year, the national attraction is rather different: JUUL, an e-cigarette device that has become so synonymous with vaping and accepted by the masses, that the term “juul-ing” has been coined.

Unlike the past forms of bulky e-cigarettes, JUUL proposes a completely different design: a small, USB-like device that comes in a variety of colors, skins and flavors. Its convenience has won over the e-cigarette industry, now claiming about 70-percent of the market share, according to a study by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Juul Labs says that the device is designed to help adult smokers transition out of their cigarette addiction, but if you think that JUUL devices won’t reach the hands of the youth, that’s a grave mistake.

An estimated 11.7-percent of high school students and 3.3-percent of middle school students were e-cigarette users in 2017, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey.

That’s more than 2.1 million youth.

The stats are seemingly increasing over time. According to a 2018 study by the Truth Initiative, nearly one-fifth of youth, ranging from 12- to 17-year-old, reported that they had seen the use of JUUL in their schools.

There are several concerns: For one, while JUUL pods contain nicotine. The greater issue, perhaps, is the lack of awareness on the issue. A study from Truth Initivative found that 63-percent of 15-to-24-year-old JUUL users did not know that JUUL always contains nicotine.

Nicotine, according to the Surgeon General’s report, “poses dangers to youth, pregnant women, and fetuses. The use of products containing nicotine in any form among youth, including in e-cigarettes, is unsafe.”

JUUL has been a particular subject within Massachusetts, where the State Attorney General Maura Healey launched investigations into Juul Labs for failing to prevent minors form purchasing its products.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with the Massachusetts Attorney General because, we too, are committed to preventing underage use of JUUL,” said Juul spokesman Matt David in a past statement. “… Furthermore, we have never marketed to anyone underage.”

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National Night Out

National Night Out

Damaris Gonzalez with her granddaughters, Solmariz and Charlize,enjoying the evening during National Night Out on Tuesday, Aug. 7. Nationally, it was the 35th anniversary for the event. This year, scores of community members came out to celebrate the event at Mary O’Malley Park on Admiral’s Hill.

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Shark Week is Back

Shark Week is Back

Ocean animals don’t always draw national attention, but once every year, they become a media sensation. That time of the year is back. First aired on July 17, 1988, Shark Week returned to Discovery Channel this week to celebrate its 30-year anniversary.

The 10-show lineup launched with a bang on Sunday, starring the week’s host Shaquille O’Neal and UFC Hall of Famer Ronda Rousey, among others. O’Neal made headlines, when a small shark entered the former NBA star’s protective cage, forcing him to get pulled out of the water.

Shark Week will have featured 26 shows in all, when the two-hour special of Naked and Afraid of Sharks run on Sunday, July 29.

But as visibility of white sharks have seemingly increased in recent years, one must wonder if sharks are as great a threat as Shark Week makes them out to be.

“Shark Week has gotten much better in terms of their science content around [sharks], but as is common to most media and TV, their promotions of it often still promotes the idea of sharks as being dangerous or a threat,” said Tony LaCasse, of the New England Aquarium. “We play on the fear aspect that most people have of large predators.”

People should still be careful around sharks, but the likelihood of a fatal shark attack is fairly uncommon, LaCasse said. In fact, the last fatal shark attack in Massachusetts happened in 1936; the last non-fatal shark attack was in 2014, when two kayakers safely escaped a great white shark that bit their boats.

His biggest tip on cautionary measures against sharks? “If you’re swimming in the outer cape, and you see a seal in the water, get out of the water,” LaCasse said. “That’s going to minimize the chance that you have an accident.”

LaCasse said New England has always been home to a small population of white sharks, but with seals under the protection of the U.S. federal law, population of seals, the preferred prey of white sharks, have increased drastically in areas including Chatham and Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.

“Over time, all those white sharks [Massachusetts has] that were dispersed throughout New England are concentrating around the elbow of Cape Cod because that’s where their food is,” LaCasse said of the increased visibility of the white sharks.

“If you’re going to the outer cape, the thing that hurts most people are other people,” LaCasse said.

This won’t be the only time this summer will feature sharks on air, as The Meg will be released in theaters on August 10. The film is based on Steve Alten’s 1997 science-fiction novel, Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror.

The film features Jason Statham, Rainn Wilson and Ruby Rose. Despite the name’s similarity, The Meg is unrelated to the 2004 horror Megalodon or the Megashark franchise.

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Erin Barker Recognized by Care Dimensions

Erin Barker Recognized by Care Dimensions

Care Dimensions, the largest provider of hospice and palliative care services in Massachusetts, celebrated National Nurses Week, May 6 -12 by honoring its nurses, many of whom are board certified in hospice and palliative care

. Care Dimensions’ new President & CEO, Patricia Ahern, a 41-year veteran in the field of nursing, said, “The capacity to explain complicated medical information is something that everyone values about nurses and the confidence that people have in the technical skills of nurses is remarkable. More importantly, nurses are gifted with the ability to discern the worry and apprehension that folks can’t quite get into words when they are feeling vulnerable and isolated.”

Erin Barker, RN., a Care Dimensions nurse from Chelsea was recognized for her professionalism, leadership and commitment to excellence in patient care at Care Dimensions:

Since the founding in 1978, nurses have helped to make the time of advanced illness dignified and meaningful for patients and their families. We welcome new members to our team of caring, compassionate nurses. Visit www.CareDimensions.org/careers to learn more.
About Care Dimensions

Making a Difference in Countless Lives for 40 years

Care Dimensions is the largest hospice and palliative care provider to adults and children in Massachusetts. As a non-profit, community-based leader in advanced illness care, Care Dimensions provides comprehensive hospice, palliative care, grief support and teaching programs in more than 90 communities in Eastern Massachusetts. Celebrating 40 years of service, Care Dimensions was founded in 1978 as Hospice of the North Shore, and cares for patients wherever they live – in their homes, in skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities, in hospitals, or at our two inpatient hospice facilities (the new Care Dimension Hospice House in Lincoln, and the Kaplan Family Hospice House in Danvers). To learn more about Care Dimensions or to view a tour of our hospice houses, please visit www.CareDimensions.org.

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Students Stage Walk-Out at Chelsea High to Highlight School Safety

Students Stage Walk-Out at Chelsea High to Highlight School Safety

More than 500 Chelsea High students walked out of class on Thursday, March 15, as part of the national school walk-out movement to promote more efforts towards school safety.ChelseaRecord

Armed with only a megaphone, students marched into shin-deep snow and cold temperatures to participate in the movement locally, and to draw attention to school safety.

They were supported by the Chelsea Public Schools and the Chelsea Police, who stood in solidarity with the students, who ranged in age from 13 to 18.

“P-O-W-E-R,” yelled Stephanie Rodrigues, one of the key coordinators along with Diego Estrada. “We have the power. We have a voice. We can use our power…We deserve to be heard. We deserve to be safe. We don’t deserve to stand around and wait for someone to come kill us. You could be next. Unfortunately, the 17 students in Florida were killed by a man who should not have had a gun. This is not normal. We should not stand around and wait for someone to take action for us. We can take action.”

Student Eric Lazo entertained the crowd with impromptu chants and songs on the megaphone, for which most everyone in the crowd followed.

“I came out because this can’t happen again,” said Imane Rharbi. “We can’t have students being killed and unsafe. We need gun control right now. That’s why I came out.”

Junior Angel Vargas said he and many other students are concerned that they could be next, that the fear of something at Chelsea High is real.

“It’s important for all of us to come out here,” he said. “It was terrible what happened in Florida. That was the reason I came out. We are scared.”

Students cheered loudly, hats and scarves wrapped tightly around them, and then broke into a solemn moment as Rodrigues read the names of the 17 students killed in Florida on Feb. 14.

The national walk-out day was supposed to occur on March 14, and all over the state and country students staged walk-outs to call for more gun ownership restrictions and more funding for mental health services inside and outside of school. In Chelsea, the effort had to be postponed because of the blizzard on March 13 that cancelled school for two days.

Originally, the plan called for Chelsea students to have their walk-out in the school gym to avoid having to go in the snow. However, Rodrigues said she and Estrada were approached by students who said it should go on outside.

“We were approached by some students who felt we shouldn’t be focused on comfort by going in the gym,” said Rodrigues, who described herself as just another student and a track athlete. “We agreed. We shouldn’t be comfortable when making a stand. We wanted to show we were standing up no matter what the conditions were outside.”

Outside on Thursday, students carried signs that made many different statements.

Some depicted an anti-gun message, while others called for funding to help people who are mentally ill. Some signs blasted the National Rifle Association (NRA) and others called for remembrance of the Florida students.

Most striking, however, were the hand-made signs that read, “Am I Next?”

Rodrigues said it isn’t an overreaction in Chelsea.

She said students and adults are concerned about their safety in school, and it’s something that is a bit new.

“Honestly, I feel we are all scared, even the adults,” she said. “That’s what pulled us all together. We shouldn’t let our safety in school be in question. That brought us together…One day it could be us.”

Cutlines –

FRONT –

Stephany Villatoro and Masireh Ceesay were two of about 500 Chelsea High students that participated in a walk-out for school safety on Thursday, March 15. Students said they came together because they were scared that one day they could be school shooting victims.

2017 –

Nancy Baguada and Mauricio Rubi march through the snow to the walk-out.

2051 –

Co-Organizer Stephanie Rodrigues fires up the student crowd at the Stadium with a megaphone.

2067 –

Student Erik Lazo shouted out interesting chants and songs during the walk-out to get the crowd fired up.

2083 –

Imane Rharbi said there can be no more school shootings. She said now is the time for stricter gun control.

2097 –

Students rally on the Stadium field in the snow.

2012 –

Junior Angel Vargas signs the petition from Chelsea High.

2104 –

Student organizers standing with Chelsea Police Officers. Chelsea Police and Chelsea High security provided a safe perimeter for the students during the walk-out.

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Alleged MS-13 Member Pleads Guilty to Unlawful Re-Entry of Deported Alien

Alleged MS-13 Member Pleads Guilty to Unlawful Re-Entry of Deported Alien

An alleged member of MS-13 pleaded guilty Jan. 11 in federal court in Boston to an immigration charge.

Elenilson Gonzalez-Gonzalez, a/k/a “Siniestro,” 31, a Salvadoran national, pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful reentry of a deported alien.  U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV scheduled sentencing for April 5, 2018.

Following a lengthy investigation, Gonzalez-Gonzalez was one of 61 defendants named in a superseding indictment targeting the activities of alleged leaders, members, and associates of the transnational criminal organization, La Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13.

Gonzalez-Gonzalez is the 27th defendant to plead guilty in this case.

In December 2015, during the course of the investigation, law enforcement encountered Gonzalez-Gonzalez near Deer Island National Park in Winthrop. Further investigation revealed that in May 2012, Gonzalez-Gonzalez had been apprehended by U.S. Customers and Border Patrol agents illegally entering the United States near Mission, Texas.

At that time, Gonzalez-Gonzalez admitted that he was a Salvadoran national who had entered the country illegally and was attempting to make his way to the Boston area. He was subsequently removed from the United States in 2012 on an expedited basis. Gonzalez-Gonzalez later re-entered the United States and was charged with illegal reentry after deportation.

The charging statute provides for a sentence of no greater than two years in prison, one year of supervised release, and up to a fine of $250,000. Gonzalez-Gonzalez will also be subject to deportation upon the completion of his federal sentence. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

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Social Security Matters – When Should I Apply for Social Security?

Social Security Matters – When Should I Apply for Social Security?

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor

Association of Mature American Citizens

Dear Rusty: I will be turning 62 in 2018; birth date 9/24/1955. My husband is 77 and receiving Social Security.  Longevity runs in my family. I have been self-employed all my life. I am still working and my husband collects a pension, Social Security and RMD from a traditional IRA, so there is no need for additional monies under my current circumstances. When should I start taking Social Security?   Signed:  Thinking about Retirement

Dear Thinking: The question of when to take Social Security normally gets an answer of “It depends on your health, your family history of longevity, and your need for the money”.  You’ve already addressed those items so I’ll focus on your main question – when should you start taking Social Security?

Even though you’ll be eligible to collect Social Security when you turn 62, if you do so you will only get 74.17% of the retirement benefit you would be entitled to at your full retirement age (FRA). Whenever you apply, you will be deemed to be filing not only for your own retirement benefit but also any spousal benefit you may be entitled to from your husband’s work record. Similar to your SS retirement benefit, your spousal benefit would also be reduced because you took it early; instead of being 50% of your husband’s benefit at your FRA, you would only get 35% at age 62 (if that is larger than your own retirement benefit). The point I’m making is that by claiming SS early, any benefit you’re entitled to will be reduced from what you would get at your full retirement age.

Just as you are penalized for claiming before your full retirement age, you are rewarded for waiting beyond it to claim Social Security retirement benefits. In fact, for each year you wait beyond your full retirement age, your retirement benefit will be 8% higher than it would be at your FRA. That will continue up until you are 70 years old when your retirement benefit will be 30.67% higher than it would have been at your FRA. You stop earning additional credit at age 70, so there’s no reason to wait beyond that to apply. Let’s use an easy example to illustrate: If your FRA retirement benefit is $1000, by applying at age 62 you would only get $741 per month instead of $1000. But if you wait until you are 70 to claim benefits, you would get $1306 per month, nearly twice what you would get by applying at age 62.

There are two other factors you should incorporate into your thinking:

1) At your FRA, you will be entitled to ½ of your husband’s benefit at his FRA.  If your spousal benefit at your FRA is substantially more than your own retirement benefit, then applying at your FRA may be a good strategy, as opposed to waiting and earning delayed retirement credits.

 2) Once you have reached your FRA you will be entitled to 100% of your husband’s benefit amount if he should predecease you. If your eventual survivor’s benefit would be more than your own FRA benefit amount, you might be better served by claiming your retirement benefit earlier than age 70.

As you can see, most of the answer to your question depends upon whether your benefits as a spouse or a survivor will be more than your benefit based upon your own work record. If not, then waiting beyond your FRA up to age 70 will yield you the maximum retirement benefit. But if your spouse and/or survivor’s benefit will be more than your own retirement benefits, then applying at your full retirement age may be the best strategy. If you haven’t already done so, I suggest you go to www.ssa.gov and set up your personal “My Social Security” account which will give you access to your currently estimated retirement benefit. Comparing that to your potential spousal and survivor benefits should give you the answer you’re seeking.

The information presented in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The opinions and interpretations expressed are the viewpoints of the AMAC Foundation’s Social Security Advisory staff, trained and accredited under the National Social Security Advisors program of the National Social Security Association, LLC (NSSA). NSSA, the AMAC Foundation, and the Foundation’s Social Security Advisors are not affiliated with or endorsed by the United States Government, the Social Security Administration, or any other state government. Furthermore, the AMAC Foundation and its staff do not provide legal or accounting services. The Foundation welcomes questions from readers regarding Social Security issues. To submit a request, contact the Foundation at info@amacfoundation.org.

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