At a packed house in the GreenRoots office
Tuesday night, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said she would use her legislative
power to help improve issues of transportation inequity for her constituents.
The Chelsea Transit Equity Roundtable was one of a series of meetings Pressley is holding throughout the 7th Congressional District to gather input about the issues affecting the region, she said.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley was on hand at GreenRoots Tuesday night to discuss Transit Equity in Chelsea and throughout the district.
While the evening focused on issues
surrounding public transportation and pedestrian and bicycling access, the
Congresswoman did also touch on her thanks for local support from Chelsea, her
first 100 days in office, and her gratitude for the activism of GreenRoots and
other local organizations.
“I appreciate that when I come to Chelsea,
they always put me to work,” said Pressley. “I think GreenRoots is at the
center of community building. GreenRoots is such an inclusive movement.”
Pressley said the idea behind the equity
roundtables for transportation and other issues is to create an intimate space
to actively listen to residents about their needs and concerns.
“Developing the best and most sustainable
legislative solutions is what we are after,” said Pressley. “Inequities and
disparity did not just happen, they were made by policy, and that’s why the
mitigation has to be through lawmaking.”
Some of the highlights of the roundtable
included discussions of transit challenges for the disabled, for cyclists, and
for young people.
Disability rights activist Colleen Flanagan
pointed out that Boston and the surrounding area have taken steps to make
transportation more accessible to disabled people, but that there is still a
long way to go. She said price increases and attacks on non-emergency medical
transportation are having a negative impact on disabled public transportation
“We need to continue to show that access to
transportation is a civil right,” said Flanagan.
Pressley also talked about the public
transportation issues facing young people, especially low income youth who rely
on MBTA buses and the subway.
One youth leader Pressley spoke with said
she feels like she is punished because she is a low-income person who has no
other options for transportation.
Cycling educator and activist Gamal Smith
made his way to the Chelsea roundtable from Chelsea on two wheels.
“It’s faster and more reliable to be on two
wheels for almost any distance” in the Boston area, Smith said.
But while cycling can be faster than other
modes of transportation, Smith said there are still many challenges for
cyclists, including safety, with a multitude of roads that have no safe
crossings for cyclists or pedestrians.
Smith said the speed of getting around on
two wheels also highlights the at-times substandard service of buses and other
public transportation options. He said his son takes the MBTA bus to school,
and it can wreak havoc on keeping track of schedules.
“I shouldn’t have to wonder if it’s going to
take my kid a half-hour or an hour when he comes home on the bus,” said Smith.
Pressley encouraged anyone who wants to continue
the discussion on transit equity, or equity on other issues, to use the hashtag
#APequityagenda on social media.
Soon Chelsea – like other cities – can
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he hopes to
proceed with introducing a 311 constituent services reporting platform to the
City in the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1.
Already, Everett, Revere, Boston and others
feature a telephone and online/app 311 system that residents can use to report
anything from a pothole to graffiti to a rabid skunk.
“The goal is to provide better and more
prompt responsiveness to constituent complaints,” read a letter from Ambrosino
to the Council.
Ambrosino said the system he has in mind
would operate with two employees working out of the DPW building. They would
field complaints from 311 by telephone, email, text message and web-based
reporting. They would fall under the supervision of Public Works Commissioner
Once having taken the complaint, the
employees would then assign the complaint to the appropriate department.
That would open up a series of
accountability measures on each complaint, he said.
“These employees will be responsible for
assigning the issue to the appropriate department representative or directly
accessing the relevant information in a City database, tracking progress on the
issue providing information on the resolution of the issue to the individual
who reported it,” he wrote. “We believe this will be a much more effective way
of addressing constituent complaints and hopefully it will be well-received by
Start-up costs would look to be $162,000 for
employees and the computer software. He said there is already $27,000 set aside
for the program, and $50,000 from a state grant received last year. The
remainder of the first-year costs would have to come from a budget request.
“I hope the Council will see the benefits of
this improved constituent services effort and approve the requested FY20
appropriations,” he wrote.
The new system
would replace the old SeeClickFix reporting system, which never worked as
Superintendent David DiBarri is pleased to
announce that the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) invited
Northeast Metro Tech to participate in a feasibility study for its new building
Northeast Metro is operating out of a more
than 50-year-old building that requires educational, capital and maintenance
The MSBA – a state agency that works with
communities to support educationally-appropriate, flexible, sustainable and
cost-effective public school facilities –= invited Northeast into the
feasibility study phase to explore potential solutions to identified problems.
During the feasibility study phase,
Northeast and the MSBA will determine a project manager and designer to conduct
a study of the current building. Once the study is completed, Northeast will
then apply to the MSBA’s building project reimbursement grant program.
thrilled to have been invited by the MSBA into the feasibility study phase for
our building project,” Superintendent DiBarri said. “Our hope is that
we will be able to construct a new building that will better meet the demands
of 21st Century learning.”
On Wednesday, April 3, the Licensing
Commission approved a four-day license for New Hampshire-based Fiesta Shows to
hold a four-day carnival on the Chelsea Commons this spring.
During the short public hearing to approve
the license, Chelsea Police Captain Keith Houghton said the City’s public
safety agencies have never had an issue with Fiesta Shows. The company also
runs events nearby in Revere and Lynn, among other communities.
At-Large City Councillor Roy Avellaneda said
he’s had experience with Fiesta Shows owner John Flynn in the past, and that
Flynn has always run a tight and secure ship with his shows. In addition,
Avellaneda noted that Fiesta Shows will make a donation to the City’s summer
Licensing Commissioner Roseann Bongiovanni
said she did have some concerns about the carnival operating until 11 p.m.,
especially on Thursday night.
Flynn said while the license has the closing
time at 11 p.m., festivities and rides typically wind down around 10 p.m.,
giving police time to sweep the area by 11 p.m. Music and amplification is
usually shut down at 9 p.m., he added.
•In other business, the Commission denied a
permit that would have allowed for Friday night social events at the Rincon
Hondureno Function Hall at 194 Broadway. Commission members and City officials
expressed concern that the social night would effectively turn the function
hall into a nightclub.
•The Licensing Commission also approved a
liquor license transfer for La Esquina Mariachi Restaurant at 170 Washington
Ave., the former site of the Plaza Mexico restaurant.
The pastor and parishioners from the
neighboring church expressed concerns about the new restaurant, given their
experience in the past.
While the Commission approved the license,
members asked that the owners are mindful of the past history at 170 Washington
“You need to be very conscious of the
environment you are stepping into,” said Licensing Commission Chair Mark Rossi.
“Please don’t disappoint us.”
Vietnam veterans unveiling the boulder and a plaque during the Vietnam Veterans boulder rededication ceremony. The boulder has been moved from Malone Park to a new location between the Williams House and Vinnie’s Place due to construction on the campus. During the ceremony, Vietnam veteran Larry Clarke salutes as the names of those from Chelsea who died in Vietnam were read aloud.
Allison Mendez, Damaris Martinez, and Gisele Ribas show off their Salvadoran pride during the Kelly School’s annual Multicultural Night on Thursday, March 28. Tables with food and cultural information was available for nations around the world.
School Committee Chair Rich Maronski
announced on Tuesday that he will be resigning from the Committee as of May 3 –
citing that the frustrations with attendance at the meetings was getting in the
way of his family life.
Maronski has been on the Committee for four
years, and was appointed at the time. He previously served on the City Council,
but said his experience on the School Committee was much more frustrating –
leading him to decide it was time to move on.
“I believe the taxpayers aren’t getting
their money’s worth and the kids are paying the penalty,” he said. “It needs to
change. Our School Committee needs to go back the old way or they need to be
appointed. It’s the only job I know where you don’t have to show up, don’t have
to call in and don’t get fired. I hope our City leaders take a deep look at
this and make some changes.”
Maronski was elected chair this year in his
fourth year, and he was accompanied as vice chair by Julio Hernandez, who also
resigned last week.
While Hernandez cited family and school
complications, he also said he left frustrated by the sparse attendance of some
members of the Committee.
“I loved working in the School Committee,
but it also made me angry to see some members not show up to meetings, not ask
questions, and not have thorough discussions regarding our students’
education,” he said in a statement last week. “…I now believe School Committee Members
should be appointed, because our students’ education is no joke.”
Maronski said things started off bad from
day one, when he showed up to take his appointed seat but not enough School
Committee members showed up to form a quorum and have an official meeting.
“I had to come back another night when there
were enough members there to have a meeting,” he said.
He also said he became severely frustrated
two years ago when the Committee was faced with voting on a $1.1 million grant
that would help save jobs for teachers that had been cut.
The Committee only had to show up in enough
numbers for a formality vote that accepted the grant.
“We didn’t have enough members for a quorum
and we couldn’t vote on a measure that was going to save teacher jobs,” he
said. “There are no phone calls and people just don’t show up…It’s been going
on for years.”
More recently, he said the Committee wasn’t
able to get enough people to vote on the Superintendent’s Job Description, so
the Search Committee had to work for a month with only an unapproved draft
until they could get enough members at a meeting to vote.
“My well-being and my family’s well-being
come first,” he said. “I was taking this home with me. I’m getting married soon
and it wasn’t fair. The reason why I chose to resign is because maybe I could
bring light to our City leaders that this situation has to change…We do have
some very good School Committee members that give their time, but a lot don’t.”
He said the Committee also plays an
important role for supporting the kids in the schools. He said he would love to
see a Committee where members are active and involved, supporting the kids at
reading events, sporting events and concerts.
“We live in a City where there are a lot of
single parent homes and so it’s even more important the School Committee
members show up to these kids’ events to support them,” he added.
Maronski said he had all the respect in the
world for the Central Office, the principals, the teachers and the
He also said Supt. Mary Bourque has done a
great job in a hard job.
“Mary Bourque has
the toughest job in the city,” he said. “We had our differences, but 90 percent
of the time we agreed and only 10 percent we didn’t.”
Dr. Deborah Wayne’s optometry shop has been
on Broadway in one way or another since 1936, but in 2019 she’s hoping that new
City guidelines and a store improvement program will help her shop – and others
around it – catapult into the new century.
“You want to see quality businesses and you
want them to look like quality businesses,” she said. “I think it’s a fabulous
idea. It’s an old storefront. I have a storefront that doesn’t have any grates.
We’ve been operating in one location or another on Broadway since 1936 and
we’ve never had a grate. I’d do anything to get the grates off the businesses
on Broadway. I think they’re ugly. I’m hoping that these regulations go through
so I can take advantage of the program. I don’t want to take action and build
something that isn’t in compliance. I’m ready to rip the front off my store. I
She shares the enthusiasm of most of the
business community on Broadway, who wholeheartedly support a set of design
guidelines for the corridor, as well as a storefront improvement assistance
Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney has
proposed the regulations this spring to the Planning Board, and had a hearing
on April 1. They will have a stop at the City Council again with a ruling promised
“The goal is to be attractive and be
maintained and lit well,” she said. “It’s also transparency of the windows.
We’re telling folks not to have the big frosted glass and we would like the
business to take down the big metal grates. In a lot of cases, they aren’t
necessary because it can done other ways. We can meet the goal of safety and
meet the goal of feeling safe and having an attractive façade.”
One of the problems, she said, is that the
regulations for signage and façade improvements are woefully outdated – in some
cases not allowing simple things like a blade sign. A blade sign is a suspended
sign that faces those walking on the sidewalk. Because of the outdated
regulations, she said, many store owners are hesitant to make upgrades that
could be a code violation.
“The downtown has always been a bunch of
things, but the rules never changed so it means the businesses can’t update or
maintain their facades,” she added.
Alberto Calvo of Stop & Compare
Supermarket said they improved their façade and sign a few years ago, and it
made a huge difference. He’s excited to see that happen throughout the business
“We’re absolutely excited to see movement
toward the revamping of sign ordinances,” offered Calvo, also executive vice
president of the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce.
“A few years ago, we at Stop & Compare in Chelsea invested
significantly to improve our building’s façade and to install updated, modern
signage. It has made a marked, positive
difference in our foot traffic and sales at that location, and I very much want
to see other businesses in the Downtown corridor benefit from these kinds of
Chelsea Chamber President Joseph W. Mahoney
added, “We do get member businesses, and non-members, too, asking whether there
are programs to assist business owners to fund signage and façade
improvements. For façades, we know that
there is a small program to be made available, but the roll-out of the façade
program has been at least a couple of years in the making. Our understanding is
that there may also be a cost-sharing program for signage as well. The new
signage ordinances still need to be passed by the City Council, so we’ve been
telling businesses to sit tight, but be ready. We’ve been saying the same thing
to our member and non-member businesses in the signage business. We suggested to Craig Murphy, owner of our
member Cambridge Reprographics, start talking to people now.”
“I think businesses are most excited about
the potential return of blade signs,” Mahoney elaborated, “those that are
perpendicular to the building.”
Newburyport’s shopping district is full of those signs.
When one drives down its streets, one can
see the businesses’ signs before accidentally passing them. Pedestrians also
can spot their destination from a half-block away.
•Another piece of the regulations addresses
outdoor or sidewalk dining – which was pioneered by the Ciao! Market on
Broadway two summers ago. It was a success, by most accounts, and Graney said
they would like to encourage others to try it.
First, however, they wanted to put some
standards in place.
The regulations would only allow such dining
on sidewalks and they would have to be immediately in front of the business.
The furniture would have to be matching and of a high quality. There would have
to be a safety plan, and businesses would be responsible for the area. No
alcohol service would be allowed for the time being.
Seasonal heaters for outdoor dining are also
“Realistically, there’s not a lot of space,”
she said. “Downtown, where this works, it’s two or three tables or six people.
It’s similar to what Ciao! Did on their pilot.”
Addressing the proposed sidewalk dining
ordinance, Chamber Executive Director Rich Cuthie was slightly more
“Edson and Marvin from Ciao Pizza definitely
have been the market movers on this and need to be applauded,” he said. “They
put in the work and time with the City to test it out. But let’s say it’s a nice summer evening and
you and I wanted to have a beer and split a plate of nachos al fresco at a
local restaurant on Broadway; maybe an
after work meeting or just something social. We sit down at the table and
chairs on the sidewalk and then are told, ‘No, sorry. No alcohol is allowed
outside.’ Like many people, we’re just
going to get up, apologize, and either go to the inside of that restaurant, or
another restaurant, or worse, decide to move our meeting or dinner to another
Cuthie said there is no compelling argument
for a business owner to make the investment in tables, chairs, and staffing
while also having to insure against additional outdoor liabilities if the
potential revenues to offset those costs are not there.
“No mistake,” Cuthie continued, “we’re happy
and appreciative that the City is moving to try to formally create a path to
outdoor dining, but without beer, wine, and cocktails—which by the way are a
restaurant’s highest margin offerings and offset food costs, we’re missing the
mark and I have to reserve judgment on the initiative’s ultimate success. I don’t want Chelsea to always be 10 years
behind other communities. We need proper updating now so that people will say,
‘It’s a beautiful evening, let’s have some margaritas and good Latin food in
Chelsea tonight. We’ll decide where we
want to eat when we get there, because there are so many outdoor dining
The Chelsea Fire Department has begun a major renovation project for the Chelsea Firefighters Memorial that is situated outside the local fire alarm headquarters.
Chelsea Fire Capt. Michael Thompson points to the stone plate marking the original opening date of the memorial. The firefighters have launched a renovation project to restore the site.
Fire Captain Michael Thompson said the
memorial was first erected in 1972 and there has been no refurbishing at the
site since that time.
“Our goal is to revamp the entire site,”
said Thompson, a 32-year veteran of the department. “We will erect granite
walls with the names of our deceased firefighters.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino met with Deputy
Chief Michael Masucci to discuss the project. Ambrosino gave the official
go-ahead for the project.
Seeking to raise monies to defray the cost
of the project, the firefighters will hold a “Chili Selloff” fundraiser this
Saturday, April 6 at the Mystic Brewery, Chelsea.
“Bryan Greenhagan (owner of the brewery) has
graciously invited us to sell chili from 1 to 9 p.m. on that day, with the
proceeds going to the rebuilding of the memorial,” said Thompson.
Chris Flahive and his team of chefs from the
Chelsea Yacht Club will team up with the firefighters to cook up 40 gallons of
chili for the event.
April 13 at the New Brown Jug, owner Michael Matrinko will host a fundraiser
during which 20 percent of all food sales will go the firefighters memorial
fund. There will be a raffle drawing for a $10,000 cash prize.
Every year on the first Sunday of June, the
firefighters hold ceremonies at the site. Thompson is hopeful that the project
will be completed by that date.
“I’m very excited to see this come to
fruition,” said Thompson. “With the help of the citizens of Chelsea, we’re
going to meet our goal and get it done.”
the project can be sent to the Chelsea Firefighters Memorial Fund, P.O. 505616,
Chelsea, MA 02150).
The School Committee passed a $95.4 million
School Budget last week, but it was passed with less than a majority of the
total number of nine committee seats.
The budget, which passed with a $1.9 million
funding gap that led to the elimination of 10 teaching positions, was approved
by a 4-2 vote.
School Committee members Rosemarie Carlisle
and Frank DePatto voted against the budget, while board member Jeanette Velez
and Chair Richard Maronski recused themselves from the vote, citing relatives
who work for the School Department. Last week, Julio Hernandez resigned from
the Committee and his seat has yet to be filled.
School Committee members and administrators
said it has been a long struggle to present a budget that attempts to meet the
needs of the Chelsea schools.
Supt. Mary Bourque and City Manager Thomas
Ambrosino were among those who noted that falling enrollments in the Chelsea
schools, as well as an antiquated state funding formula that underfunds urban
communities such as Chelsea, were the main culprits in the budget cuts.
“I’ve spent a lot of the time with the
superintendent trying to provide city support for the budget,” said Ambrosino.
“The City is really trying to do its fair share.”
That included the City providing an
additional $1.5 million to the schools to address budget shortfalls.
“Every new tax dollar I can raise in Fiscal
Year 2020 is going to the School Department,” said the city manager.
Regardless of how the School Committee ended
up voting on the budget, Ambrosino said the $95.5 million figure is the figure
he would present to the City Council as the school share of the overall City
“The budget (Bourque) presented is fair and
reasonable,” said Ambrosino.
Once the budget is approved, Ambrosino said
attention should be turned towards advocating for change to the Chapter 70
state education funding formula on Beacon Hill.
Bourque said she agreed that the time is now
to fix the state funding formula, noting that Chelsea schools will be
underfunded $17 million by the state.
The other factor leading to cuts in the budget
is falling enrollment, Bourque said. Between January of 2018 and January of
this year, she said Chelsea schools have lost 217 students. That is part of a
larger trend of falling enrollment over nearly a decade, according to the
Carlisle voted against the proposed budget,
but said the problem with the $95.4 million figure laid not with the City, but
with the state.
“The problem is with the state,” said
Carlisle. “They are not doing the right thing, and we have to send them a
School Committee member Ana Hernandez backed
the budget, but said it wasn’t a decision made lightly.
“The votes we make are very hard,” she said.
“This budget is what we dread every year. We have to make a decision for the
best of the entire school system.”
But for DePatto, further cuts to teaching
positions was a bridge too far to support the FY ‘20 budget. He said the
schools laid off seven teachers in 2017, 20 in 2018, 10 in 2019, and have
projected another 10 for 2020.
“Forty seven teachers and 25 paraprofessionals,”
he said. “When is it going to stop? I can’t vote for this budget (when) I don’t
support these cuts.”
School Committee member Yessenia
Alfaro-Alvarez voted in support of the budget, stating that it was in the best
interest of the City’s students to pass the budget, and also noting that
Chelsea is hamstrung by declining enrollments and inequities in the state
•In other business, the Committee voted to
forgo School Choice for the 2019-20 school year.
Committee also approved a field trip to New York City for high school and
middle school REACH students to participate in the Andover Bread Loaf Writing
Conference in May.