Chelsea announced this week that it’s partnering with OpenGov – a leader in government performance management – to further increase its effectiveness and accountability.
“Our new open data portal is a valuable resource for residents and businesses interested in understanding how their taxpayer dollars are being spent and learning more about the various projects that the City is engaged in,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “We hope it will also help City officials to make data-driven decisions by giving them access to information that was previously in silos.”
The portal, which can be accessed at chelseama.ogopendata.com/ already features showcases on property values, demographics, crime and Narcan information, and expenditures.
The OpenGov Cloud is an easy-to-use, cloud-based solution for budgeting, operational performance, and citizen engagement. OpenGov’s open data portal aggregates, organizes, and visualizes various data sets (like budgets, permits, and citizen requests). It’s powered by CKAN – the open-source standard that the U.S. federal government, the European Union, and hundreds of other agencies around the world use for open data. It also includes tools like APIs that developers can use to build applications.
“Our open data portal is a win-win for Chelsea and the community,” said OpenGov CEO Zac Bookman. “On average, governments receive 20 percent less requests for information after they launch their OpenGov open data portals. That means citizens are getting the information they need, and it saves governments time and energy that can be spent elsewhere.”
Chelsea joins over 1,900 city, county, and state governments, special districts and schools that rely on OpenGov to be more effective and accountable, including the City of Boston.
But only if residents turn out to help paint the newfound oasis in the middle of the Broadway business district.
GreenRoots and Chelsea artists Sylvia Lopez Chavez will host two Paint Days of the Walk on Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“We hope everyone will join GreenRoots and artist Silvia Lopez Chavez to transform the Chelsea Walk into an area we will all be proud of,” said GreenRoots Director Roseann Bongiovanni.
Phase II of the Walk transformation will begin later this summer with furniture and lighting installations, to be followed by Phase III consisting of art installations on the ceiling of the Chelsea Walk.
The Chelsea Public Schools have had a life-line in the State Budget the last few years as finances have gotten more difficult.
That life-line is known as the ‘Hold Harmless’ provision, or more popularly the ‘Pothole’ account. This year, that account is little to no help for Chelsea as the district saw their funding slashed in half.
Last year, Chelsea got an additional $1.214 million from the Pothole account funding – a fund that seeks to help districts who are not getting a proper count of their low-income students due to changes three years ago in the way they are counted.
However, this year Chelsea will only get $296,000, nearly $1 million less than last year.
“The whole idea of the account is to hold us harmless for the change in the way they calculate the funding, which has taken dollars away from us,” said Supt. Mary Bourque. “Come to find out, it was slashed this year at a rate of about 56 percent, so we are not held harmless because that would mean you are at 100 percent. By their own admission, we aren’t held harmless at 100 percent.”
State Sen. Sal DiDomenico said he was disappointed in the funding allotted to Chelsea for the Pothole account, and the ability not to be able to fix the funding for the long-term. That was something he had proposed in the education funding bill.
“I’m disappointed that was also not addressed within this session,” he said. “It would have been addressed with (the education) bill and it’s another reason I’m disappointed with how all of this happened.”
To promote safety and bike laws in urban areas, as well as introduce an emerging biking and pedestrian committee, the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition led an Urban Biking Workshop at the Chelsea Public Library on July 31.
Vivian Ortiz, a League of American Bicyclists, certified instructor, focused on the importance of safety in areas that don’t necessarily offer bike-protected paths, such as Chelsea.
Jennifer Kelly, director of the Healthy Chelsea Coalition, is seeking members to form a biking and pedestrian committee to address the issues and concerns in the community. The committee, funded by the statewide movement to work toward healthy and active lifestyles – dubbed Mass in Motion – will work toward funding programs.
One such program is an outreach effort to give free helmets to bicyclists to increase safety.
“I work as a teacher in Chelsea, and have taken a bike to school. In the mornings when I thought I would feel safe because there wasn’t a lot of traffic, I actually had a couple of problems because I think people at that hour weren’t expecting to see someone on a bike,” Lisa Santagate said. “It was actually scarier than I thought it would be, so I don’t do it all that much, but I really want to.”
Ortiz addressed the importance of understanding that, according to state law, bicycles are considered vehicles, and should be treated as such with traffic laws, traffic flow and signaling. Although Chelsea doesn’t have much in terms of bicycle infrastructure, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) implemented a bike-sharing system to promote bicycle use and offer cheaper travel alternatives.
Residents do have the opportunity to ride on the new shared-use path along the Silver Line, and plans are in the works to include protected bike lanes on the reconstruction of Beacham Street – the only access point into Boston by bike.
LimeBike and Spin’s dockless bike program, introduced in May, opened the dialogue for bike safety in Chelsea, and created an app-based bike rental system that charges riders $1 per hour. Since there are no additions to the city for docking, the city was able to implement the program at no extra cost.
Although there is no added cost, the main concerns brought up by citizens are the bright green bikes being left in places that create a less aesthetically pleasing environment, or in places that can be dangerous, such as pedestrian walkways.
“Riding in an urban area that doesn’t have any bike infrastructure is really, really scary,” Ortiz said. “A lot of my fear in the beginning was folks were just not used to seeing people on bikes in my neighborhood. So that’s one tip that I would give folks, if you’re not comfortable riding by yourself, find a group of people. It’s much easier riding with a group to be on the street because there’s more power in numbers.”
The workshop introduced a variety of group rides that take place throughout the greater Boston area, including Hub on Wheels Sept. 16, as well as general safety tips for riders.
Ortiz’s final tips for riders: ride with traffic, not against it; choose your line and maintain it without swerving or lane splitting; avoid the “right hook” and check to make sure a car isn’t going to turn right in front of you; and always signal turns using the arm signals.
Anyone looking to become more involved in the biking and pedestrian committee can reach out directly to Kelly at email@example.com.
If you’re a Chelsea student who enjoys scientific exploration, then the Latimer Society’s third annual Chelsea Science Festival is a must-go on your summer calendar.
Latimer Society Co-Directors Leo Robinson and Ronald Robinson are calling this year’s event, “Science Carnival,” which means it will be both educational and fun.
The Carnival will be held on Friday, Aug. 10, from noon to 5 p.m., at the Port Park, 99 Marginal Street. Joseph and Shelagh McNamee of Eastern Minerals have generously donated the facility for the event, and it’s proven to be a perfect venue with its waterfront location.
“What we’re trying to do is bring practitioners of science together with members of the community, children, and families,” said Ronald Robinson. “We’re trying to get our younger students involved in STEM, science, technology, engineering, and math, but we do STEAM and the ‘A’ stands for art.”
Robinson said the event will have local and regional scientists and science-oriented organizations in attendance.
“It’s our big event of the summer,” said Robinson. “We’re also working with CAPIC’s youth development center once a week this summer with a program that helps youth learn about designing.”
What activities can students expect when they arrive at the Science Carnival?
They will have access to interactive stations staffed by representatives from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) and the Suffolk County Mosquito Board, and of course, the Latimer Society, which is named for the brilliant scientist and inventor Lewis Howard Latimer, who was born in Chelsea in 1848.
“We’re all about promoting science because he [Latimer] was a noted scientist,” said Ronald Robinson.
The event is free of charge and open to students from Chelsea and other communities. Refreshments will be available.
“We expect students from Chelsea, Everett, East Boston, and Revere to be at the carnival,” said Leo Robinson, a longtime city councillor in Chelsea whose life has been dedicated to helping local students and athletes.
In concluding the interview about the Aug. 10 event, Ronald Robinson told a heartwarming story about two Chelsea students, ages 14 and 15, whom he had asked about their future career aspirations.
“One student said he’d like to play at Duke and in the NBA,” said Robinson. “I asked him what else he would like to be doing after college. So now I have him and his friend rebuilding a 3-D printer and they’re really enthusiastic about the project. And that’s what we do at the Latimer Society. We connect our youth with the sciences.”
And Ronald and Leo Robinson having been doing that well at the Latimer Society for more than 20 years.
A Chelsea man pleaded guilty last week in federal court in Boston to being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Cesar Alicea, 22, pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns scheduled sentencing for Nov. 7, 2018.
In December 2017, Alicea was indicted along with Andres Perez, of Chelsea, who was charged with possessing cocaine base and heroin with intent to distribute. It is alleged that Alicea and Perez are members of the East Side Money Gang.
On Oct. 31, 2017, Alicea was in a car that was stopped by law enforcement officers. As Alicea ran from the police, he was observed throwing an item. Shortly thereafter, Alicea was apprehended by police and arrested. The item was recovered and determined to be a .25 caliber Raven Arms pistol.
The charge of being felon in possession of a firearm provides for a sentence of no greater than 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
When the chips were down a few years ago and few were willing to stand up, rock the boat and call on President Barack Obama to slow down deportations from the country and places like Chelsea – Illinois Congressman Luis Gutiérrez told a crowd of people at Pan Y Café in Cary Square last Friday that one man stood with him.
That man was Congressman Michael Capuano, and the popular Latino congressman from Illinois appeared with Capuano Friday morning, July 20, in Chelsea to endorse Capuano and remind voters here how hard Capuano has been working – both in good times and bad times.
“Ten years ago I came to East Boston to tell President Obama to stop the deportations,” Gutierrez said. “There wasn’t a lot of Democrats who wanted to strongly tell our president to do that. Barack Obama was popular, we liked him and we wanted him to success, but the deportations were continuing. Not many wanted to do that. Mike didn’t hesitate. We met with immigrant groups together 10 years ago to deliver that message and we’ve been working together every since then on these issues.”
Gutierrez has become a very popular member of Congress in the last few years as immigration issues have come to the forefront and he has combined with others like Capuano to tell the stories of those caught up in the system. Capuano took him on a tour of two locations in Chelsea Friday and one in Boston – talking to Latino and immigrant groups throughout the City. It reinforced that battle ground nature that Chelsea has taken on within the congressional race between himself and challenger Ayanna Pressley.
On Friday, he also received the endorsement of Councillor Leo Robinson and Roy Avellaneda. State Rep. Dan Ryan, who previously endorsed him, was also in attendance – as were several local movers and shakers.
“I didn’t know a lot about Mike when I came on the City Council many years ago, but on the advice of a neighbor and other councillors, I met with him and he was a solid guy,” said Avellaneda. “I looked at his resume and I’ve never looked back and never regretted supporting him. I’ve called on Mike so many times over the years for an issue regarding Chelsea…He earned my vote back then and has for the last 20 years.”
Robinson reminded everyone that Capuano has always brought home important monies for Chelsea from the federal government, including money recently allocated for rebuilding Quigley Hospital at the Soldiers’ Home.
Capuano was gracious, and said he really appreciated the support from Chelsea and Gutierrez, his colleague in Washington, D.C.
“It’s nice when you’re under the gun to learn who stands with you,” he told the crowd, moving on to the immigration issue and the family separation he recently saw in a trip to the Texas/Mexico border. “It’s a simple question. Do you like people or don’t you? Do you want to be a country that’s welcoming or don’t you?…None of us would have said that we would live in a country where the official policy was to rip nursing infants from their mothers…It’s horrible and it’s not right. Infants and their mothers should be together…Unless Democrats get the House back, we won’t have any progress on these issues. If Democrats get the House back, I promise you we will deal with the TPS (Temporary Protective Status) issue. We will deal with the infants ripped from their mother’s arms. We will have honest discussions and debate about comprehensive immigrations reform. It will be difficult, but at least we will have a chance because we’ll be talking about it.”
Six Chelsea city officials endorsed Boston City Councillor Ayanna Pressley’s candidacy for U.S. Congress at a campaign event last Thursday night at the Mystic Brewery.
City Councillors Damali Vidot, Jamir Rodriguez, and Enio Lopez and School Committee members Lucia Henriquez, Kelly Garcia, and Julio Hernandez each praised Pressley in separate speeches stating their endorsement.
Vidot, who has been a force in Chelsea politics since being elected as a councillor-at-large in her first run for citywide office, said she embraced Pressley’s candidacy from the beginning.
“From the moment I found out Ayanna was running, I was on board,” said Vidot. “The reason I’m supporting her is because I follow politics very closely and I have seen the work she’s done on the Boston City Council advocating for families and for girls. The way she has been able to lead, so authentically and gracefully and not allow anything to interfere with the work she has been able to get accomplished, it’s just magical for me.”
Vidot said people in Chelsea are enthusiastic about Pressley and welcome her positive energy. “The people are loving her. They love her message. She’s real. There’s a whole different energy. We have such a diverse group of people that are supporting her.”
The endorsement event followed a second campaign reception earlier that drew a large crowd at Tu Casa Restaurant on Broadway. Saritin Rizzuto organized the gathering and was pleased with the sizable turnout of supporters.
“My friend, your advocate, and our candidate for the Seventh District congressional seat ,” said Rizzuto in an enthusiastic introduction of Pressley.
Pressley thanked her many supporters at Tu Casa.
“As I look out at all of you, I’m overwhelmed – and my heart is so full,” said Pressley. “Chelsea from the very beginning – you have been so very good to me.”
Pressley is challenging incumbent Michael Capuano in the Sept. 4 Democratic primary in the Seventh Congressional District.
The opening of the fully-completed Clark Avenue Middle School is just about one month away, and work crews are finishing up the final preparations to welcome students into the completed new school project – after more than three years and two phases of construction.
“I think we’re shooting for substantial completion by the middle of August,” said Gerry McCue of the Chelsea Schools. “Teachers go back on Aug. 27 and students come into the new school on Aug. 29. We expect to have the school operational then. There will be punch list items to get to, but nothing major will be left.”
The completion of Phase 2 will mark the end of the $57 million project that started under former City Manager Jay Ash, and was carried out by City Manager Tom Ambrosino and the School Department.
Already, Phase 1 opened in December 2017, and students and teachers have been using half of the school since that time. The former building, the Old Chelsea High, had been completely demolished earlier this year to make way for Phase 2.
Demolition of the other side of the old high school started in March 2015, when the project first got off the ground.
With the addition of the Phase 2 building, the school will be introduced to many of the amenities, including the gym, an auditorium, a small performance stage, the library, technology labs, art rooms, music rooms, an administrative suite and the new front courtyard facing Crescent and Clark Avenues.
“In addition to things like the gym, there will be a smaller performance space and things can be done on that stage and the cafeteria can be used for seating,” he said. “Larger productions can be done in the auditorium. That’s important because the Clark Ave is the feeder program for the Chelsea High Drama Club, so they have an emphasis on music and performing arts at the Clark Avenue.”
The courtyard will be a very welcome addition to the school and the neighborhood, he said. The space was designed to open up to Crescent and Clark Avenues so that the buildings are pushed back and the space seem more open and inviting. He said the possibilities are endless for the new space.
“We could do outdoor performances or in the summer the City could have a movie night for the neighborhood out there,” he said. “There will be seating and decking in the courtyard. There will also be a school garden there too. There has been a big emphasis on school gardens across the district and the Clark Ave will have one too.”
He said that the top floors are pretty much completed, and many classrooms are set up now. He said the bottom floor is still having work done – as the contractor started from the top and worked down.
As it is, the action is aplenty on the site as the final work is completed.
“There’s just a lot of activity there now and it will be non-stop until the first day of school,” he said.
The Clark Avenue School is expected to have 668 students when it opens in August.
The good news for Chelsea residents is that the $5 million redesign of the Broadway business district is moving forward, and a final decision will be made by the City Council about its exact components next month.
And if the vision and innovativeness that City Manager Tom Ambrosino fostered in all parts of Revere can be matched here, then Chelsea residents can expect a Broadway and Bellingham Square bustling with activity and commerce.
But a big question about “The New Broadway” remains: Should the six city blocks from Williams Street to City Hall Avenue be a one-way street (as it exists now and has for many decades) or a two-way street?
The Chelsea Traffic Commission hosted a public meeting Tuesday night at City Hall to hear residents’ opinions about the potential change of Broadway to a two-way street. The Commission is scheduled to vote on the matter at its next meeting before the Council casts the final vote about the entire redesign project, including the traffic plan.
Alexander Train, Chelsea’s assistant director of the department of planning and development, gave a thorough presentation of the re-imagined Broadway project that will totally transform the business district’s intersections, sidewalks, bicycle paths, tree pits, and physical appearance.
“We’ve completed the planning and development portion of the process and we’re now approaching the Traffic Commission to vote and adopt and enact the plan,” said Train. “Their vote will be relayed to City Council, who has the authority to approve or reject their decision.”
Police Chief Brian Kyes spoke in favor of a two-way Broadway, saying it would improve the flow of traffic.
“If a person double parks his vehicle, we have a reason to tow the vehicle ASAP,” said Kyes. “We want to keep the traffic flowing.”
Kyes said he was happy to hear that the intersection of Broadway and Third Street will have traffic lights in the redesign project. “Broadway and Third is probably one of the most dangerous intersections in the entire state,” said Kyes.
He said that when he drove from the police station to City Hall for the meeting, “the backup when I got to Hawthorne Street was incredible, because everybody is making the loop (around Broadway). I think the final [redesign] project makes a lot of sense. I drive down Broadway, Revere all the time and I very, very rarely see double parking there.” Councillor-at-Large Damlili
Vidot said she would like to see the city pay more attention to cleaning up Broadway (such as removing the weed in the metal grates). She also disputed the claim that two-way traffic would curtail double parking and that it would make it safer for pedestrians. She also asked about potential back-ups on the Tobin Bridge and how it would affect traffic on a two-way Broadway.
Vidot said she was not happy with the swiftness of the entire redesign process.
“I urge everyone to just take several steps back and let’s figure out a way to engage more people,” said Vidot. “The way that this process has gone, having a meeting in the middle of summer when the City Council isn’t even meeting – in a hot room where everyone is aggravated and we had to wait 10 minutes to even start the meeting, all of it is just not right.”
Ambrosino, who favors a two-way Broadway, said the traffic configuration should not predominate the discussion of the redesign project.
“That’s only a small part of the reimaging Broadway,” said Ambrosino. “Many of the improvements [to Bellingham Square, Fay Square, City Hall Avenue, traffic signals at dangerous intersections] are happening regardless of which of these two configurations between Williams and Fifth Streets is chosen. Even the one-way configuration is a major improvement over the two-lane speedway that currently exists on Broadway. The two-way configuration is still safer, calmer, and slower for bicylists and pedestrians.”
Ambrosino said the two-way configuration will be “transformative.”
“It will make a difference to the feel and the look of that downtown. It makes it vibrant. It makes it aesthetically pleasing. This will be better for pedestrians, for traffic, and for businesses.”
Rick Gordon, owner of Allen Cut Rite on Broadway, said the No. 1 issue in the downtown district is parking. “I personally prefer a one-way plan for the flow of traffic. The street is much narrower than other communities and I don’t think two-way makes a business more visible.”
Gordon credited the Chelsea Police for their efforts in slowing down motorists and enforcing double-parking restrictions on Broadway. Some residents at the meeting had noted that double-parking is a recurring issue on Broadway.
Councillor-at-Large Roy Avellaneda, whose family owns Tito’s Bakery, asked whether the City Council will have to vote on the redesign project in its entirety as opposed to voting on individual components such as the traffic configuration, and the placement of new bus stops and traffic lights on Broadway.
Following more than two hours of discussion, the one-way/two-way Broadway issue remains a hotly debated one and all eyes will be on the Traffic Commission when it convenes for a vote at its next meeting.WE should be Ambrosino said he favors a two-way Broadway