Amateur and professional photographers of any age are invited to participate in the Welcome to Chelsea Photo Contest. The contest is presented by Chelsea Prospers, the City of Chelsea’s initiative for vitality in the downtown, and the Facebook group Chelsea MA Photography Club coordinated by photographer and former City Councillor Matt Frank.
The organizers seek images that capture the richness of life in this dynamic city.
“What people, places and things tell you that you are home? What image serves as invitation for others to visit Bellingham Square, Chelsea Square, Broadway? What does Chelsea mean to you? Everyone sees the city through a different lens, and we want you to show us your view!” they declare.
Entries will be accepted until May 31, 2018 via the contest website at https://tinyurl.com/PhotoContestforChelsea. An illustrious panel of judges will then select multiple winners in the categories of Local Business; The People of Chelsea; Community; and Chelsea, Past and Present. The panel will nominate a slate of finalists for a People’s Choice award to be determined via popular votes on the Chelsea MA Photography Club Facebook page.
All of the top images will be reproduced in large print format and displayed in the new storefront gallery, Gallery 456, coming soon to the former Salvation Army store on Broadway. At the conclusion of the summer-time exhibit the winners will take home their high-quality, framed images with the Best in Show and People’s Choice winners receiving additional prizes.
The judging panel includes:
Darlene DeVita, an award-winning fine art photographer who specializes in portraits that capture the energy and humanity of her subjects. Her creative eye, patience, humor and unobtrusiveness have made her one the most sought-after photographers in Greater Boston. Between photographing weddings and exploring her fine art world, Darlene shoots portraits at her studio in Chelsea. She was Co-Director of the Gallery@Spencer Lofts for fourteen years, served as a member of the Chelsea Cultural Council and is a co-founder of CHARCOLL (Chelsea Artists Collaborative).
Matt Frank is a life-long resident of Chelsea and served on the Chelsea City Council for ten years after four years on the Planning Board. His government, non-profit and community-based work focuses on policy and project-based initiatives that serve the public interest. His interest in communications and community building combined with a deep appreciation of the beauty of city life led Matt to pursue an interest in photography. Matt captures our beloved city with a painterly eye as he celebrates the colors, textures and moods of Chelsea’s ever-changing landscape.
Roselee Vincent holds the16th Suffolk District Seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, comprised of the communities of Revere, Chelsea and Saugus. A champion for the arts, Rep Vincent served on the legislature’s Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, giving her an opportunity to visit with arts advocates across the state and learn how the arts are vital to local economies across the Commonwealth.
Sury Chavez, a painter, was born in Los Angeles but spent much of her childhood in her ancestral home of Guatemala. While East Boston is where she now resides, the colors, flora and fauna of Central America continue to inspire her work. Local businesses, The Cuscatlan, Bella Isla Express and Pan y Café, have partnered with Sury for decorative murals and menu boards and she’s working with Chelsea’s Beautification Committee to illustrate “Welcome to Chelsea” signs for key locations throughout the city.
Marianne Ramos is a self-taught “outsider artist” who believes everyone can express themselves through art. A resident of Chelsea for the past 35 years, she serves as Program Coordinator for the Chelsea Senior Center. What began out of economic necessity became the foundation of her artistic philosophy as Marianne embraces a Do-it-Yourself approach and environmental stewardship through the use of recycled and non-toxic materials. An extension of her civic involvement, Marianne’s works are typically presented in settings that foster community building.
Beyond the photography exhibit on Broadway, all submitted photographs will contribute to a collection of images for the promotion of the City of Chelsea as a great place to live and to visit. Submitted photos will become part of a collection of images for use by the City in materials like municipal reports, the city website and informational brochures.
For more information about the Welcome to Chelsea Photography Contest visit https://tinyurl.com/PhotoContestforChelsea.
The U.S. Congressional race has heated up this week as both candidates, incumbent Congressman Michael Capuano and challenger Ayanna Pressley, have touted their fundraising efforts, and one local Chelsea official gives the first endorsement – but for the challenger.
City Council President Damali Vidot announced Wednesday that she would be backing and supporting Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley in her Congressional run. The shot across the bow comes in territory that has firmly been in the Capuano camp for many years, but perhaps could be a key battleground community in the race.
As has become a common criticism of Capuano, Vidot said it’s not enough to simply vote against attacks.
“Attacks on our community are nothing new, but, in light of Donald Trump and the Republican Congress, we need a new generation of leaders who are willing to intentionally advocate for solutions that address our most challenging issues,” said Vidot. “For that, and so many other reasons, I emphatically support Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley’s candidacy for the 7th Congressional District… Leadership like Ayanna’s is what our country is missing at this critical moment in history. It is not enough for our elected officials to vote against the attacks on our communities. We need representatives that will lead with us, for us, and alongside us to help build the communities we deserve.”
Vidot said Pressley’s advocacy on DACA and TPS recipients within the immigration debate in Boston, as well as her leadership for women and people of color, were reasons for her endorsement.
Meanwhile, in a press release battle of fundraising prowess, Capuano got the upper hand on Pressley this week, noting he has raised more money and has more money in his campaign fund. That coming shortly after Pressley sent out a news release about her “surprising” fundraising efforts.
On Tuesday morning, Pressley put out a news release saying the campaign had raised $364,368 in the first two months of the race.
“I am humbled by the outpouring of love and encouragement I have received from so many individuals who share our vision for our district, our Commonwealth, and our country,” said Pressley. “I am also deeply moved by those who tell me that they are contributing or volunteering for the first time ever, and have chosen this unique and challenging moment in our nation’s history to stand alongside our campaign and fight for a better future.”
A few hours later, the Capuano campaign put out a similar press release showing far greater fundraising in the first quarter of the year.
Capuano touted raising more than $500,000 in the first quarter and having $1.1 million in cash at the moment.
“I am truly grateful for the support I am receiving in this campaign,” said Capuano. “We face real challenges from a Trump presidency threatening working families, seniors, women, immigrants, and young people all across our district. I’m on the front lines of these fights and will keep standing up to Donald Trump to keep making a difference for the people who count on me to protect and advance their interests.”
Campaign Manager Sam Raymond said campaign volunteers gathering nomination signatures across the district are finding enthusiastic supporters. “During caucuses and in coffee shops, at farmer’s markets and community meetings – our volunteers are finding and growing the strong support Mike has throughout the district because his record of strong advocacy and real results on issues that impact their lives is substantial,” he said.
“From protecting vital programs like Social Security and Medicare, to advancing legislation that supports job creation and economic growth, Mike is standing up to President Trump and his dangerous policies and he’s making a difference. The people of our district know it,” Raymond added.
The Pressley campaign touted its grass-roots efforts on the ground, including in places like Chelsea
They indicated a strong presence at 30 Massachusetts Democratic Party caucuses in every city and town across the district. This past weekend, the campaign’s first “Day of Action” brought out over 40 volunteers who participated in signature gathering efforts in Somerville, Cambridge, Chelsea, and Boston, they said.
The campaign said it has activated more than 300 volunteers across the district, including Councillor Vidot.
The Wynn Boston Harbor tower hasn’t even reached the top floor, and already the name on the top is under serious reconsideration following the exit of the company’s founder Steve Wynn regarding sexual misconduct allegations.
Responding to comments from Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey, Wynn Boston Harbor president Bob DeSalvio said they are seriously considering changing the name to not include ‘Wynn.’
“We are at this time considering a re-brand of the project and we’ll have an announcement on that at a later date,” said DeSalvio following the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) meeting on March 29.
He said he didn’t have a time frame, though, and it isn’t expected to be announced this week.
“It’s something we are actively considering right now,” he said.
The name change has seemingly been coming for several weeks, but the local Wynn team and the Las Vegas team had all been silent on the issue.
In comments to the Boston Globe in February following his ascension to CEO of the company, Matt Maddox indicated that a sudden re-brand of the company worldwide would be very difficult. He said that while most American customers associate the company with Steve Wynn, many of the Asian customers associate the brand simply with five-star luxury. Changing a well-known name, he said, cannot happen overnight.
The local thinking has been quite different, though, as the project has not been completed. Though the name has contained ‘Wynn’ for the last two years, nothing has yet been affixed to the building – making a change much easier here than elsewhere in the company’s existing portfolio of properties.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) Chair Steve Crosby said he didn’t have a strong opinion on the matter, but said Wynn would do what it best for its business.
“For the record, I’m agnostic on that,” he said. “It’s the first I’ve heard they’re doing that. At the moment, it’s a decision for them to make.”
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) said they would proceed as normal with plans for the Wynn Boston Harbor resort casino, but described the situation as “awkward” and said that Wynn was moving forward with the project “at its own risk” – meaning that losing the Region A gaming license is a possibility.
The situation came at the MGC’s monthly meeting on March 29 in Boston, where Wynn appeared for their first quarterly update since CEO Steve Wynn resigned under sexual misconduct allegations in February. The dual nature of the program for Wynn – and the reason for the awkwardness – is that the MGC is running a no holds barred investigation into the company right now, while at the same time proceeding with matters as if nothing has happened.
It is the reason for the ‘at risk’ designation now given to the project.
Wynn Boston Harbor president Bob DeSalvio said they made the decision to proceed at their own risk and they are not worried about it at all.
“It doesn’t (worry us) whatsoever,” he said. “We certainly understand we are always under review with regards to licensing with the Gaming Commission. As far as the local workforce goes, we are moving forward – all systems go.”
He also explained that there are two investigations going on right now, the MGC one and one from the Wynn Board of Directors. He said they need to let both play out right now.
“The best thing we can do now is let those play out,” he said, noting that they won’t put any timelines on it. “They have significant work to do. They will be thorough.”
Further questioned by members of the media about Wynn’s suitability to hold a license in Massachusetts, DeSalvio said he believed they were suitable.
“We are an excellent gaming company operating at a very high level in Las Vegas and Macau. Next June, we’ll be operating in the Commonwealth,” he said. “Our 25,000 team members do an outstanding job every day…We feel we are very much suitable.”
MGC Chair Steve Crosby said Wynn has made the decision to proceed, and right now their license is still viable – but he said there are investigations that are ongoing.
“We’re simply awaiting the outcome; that’s where it now stands,” he said.
“There are two things happening here,” he continued. “This is the biggest single-phased development in the history of Massachusetts. It’s a $2.4 billion project in Everett. It’s critical for Everett and communities around it…From a workforce perspective, we need to remember this can hurt a lot of people’s lives and lots of money that’s been invested. In parallel, we have to do a thorough no holds barred investigation…We will bring the results of that forward and talk about it in front of everyone.”
He also stated the Wynn project is at its own risk.
“Wynn is making the decision to proceed,” he said. “There is an investigation going on and they will be doing this at their risk. That the decision they made and that’s fine with us.”
The discussion of being ‘at risk’ came at the outset of Thursday’s meeting, when MGC Executive Director Ed Bedrosian Jr. set the tone and addressed the awkwardness of the situation.
He said the investigation is ongoing and that he hopes they can have the results to the MGC by summer. He said that right now there are MGC investigators in Las Vegas making inquiries.
“It’s an awkward situation, but the matter from now on must continue on parallel tracks,” he said.
“As a practical matter, Wynn Resorts is proceeding on the project on an at-risk basis,” he said.
Crosby chastises Wynn on sexual harassment
MGC Chair Steve Crosby had a word of warning for the Wynn group during and after the meeting on Thursday as the company discussed hiring and employee matters, but skirted by any discussion of sexual harassment training.
“To not bring attention to sexual harassment and women in the workplace during that discussion seemed to be a fairly substantial missing piece for the protection of employees,” he said. “It seemed to be a pretty big missing piece, particularly for people from Wynn Resorts.”
The discussion came during the report on employment, diversity employment goals and the new employment practices being put in place in preparation for a “mass hire” in early 2019.
Wynn officials said they are in the process of modifying their policies and will report back soon.
New commissioner to come soon
Commissioner Lloyd MacDonald has left the MGC as a commissioner, and Attorney General Maura Healey has appointed Eileen O’Brien to the vacant post.
O’Brien will begin her seating on the MGC this week.
O’Brien, a Newton resident, served in various positions within the Special Investigations and Narcotics Division at the AG’s Office, including chief of the division from April 2004 to July 2008.
New, early morning bus routes on several area MBTA lines began on Sunday, April 1, for a one-year early morning pilot program on the routes.
The pilot will be on the MBTA’s busiest key bus routes serving neighborhoods within the immediate Boston core traveling to downtown Boston, the Seaport, and key stops in between beginning as early as 3:20 a.m. Serving residents who start their work day before many people’s alarms ring, the new routes are part of the MBTA’s continued commitment to expanding offerings for those riders who need them most.
There are nine routes on the pilot, and four of them serve the areas of Everett, Chelsea, Revere, East Boston and downtown Boston. Those routes in this area include:
Route 104 – Lynn Street Revere via Broadway Everett to Sullivan Square.
Route 109 – serving Broadway Everett.
Route 117 – serving Wonderland Revere to East Boston, via Revere, Chelsea and Eastie.
Route 455 – Salem to Wonderland Revere.
“The T’s expansion into early morning bus service will provide an important opportunity for the changing needs of Massachusetts’ workforce,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Throughout this one-year pilot, the MBTA will be able to gather important information about changes in bus ridership and analyze that data to better inform future transportation plans around the Greater Boston area.”
“The launch of early morning service demonstrates that the MBTA is acting on its top priority to put the needs of its customers first,” said Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack. “This new transit option will serve workers who must start their day earlier than most. Other commuters and city residents depend upon these essential workers and the MBTA’s ability to get them to their work places safely and on time.”
The changes also include additional service on existing routes during pre-dawn hours. Some routes will extend beyond their normal end points during the early morning to provide direct service to downtown Boston and Logan Airport, allowing customers to reach those destinations even before trains start running. Early morning service is already a part of the MBTA’s bus service on several routes, but these added services represent earlier and/or extended routes on several bus lines. This expansion is the result of a year-long ridership study and planning initiative at the T, which resulted in the identification of key routes where early morning demand is heaviest.
The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles is reminding the public that on March 26, to get or renew any driver’s license, ID card, or learner’s permit, customers will need documentation showing United States citizenship or lawful presence as required by federal and state law.
Lawful presence means that a person is legally living in the United States according to federal immigration laws. All United States citizens and lawfully permanent residents have permanent lawful presence in the U.S. Non-U.S. individuals who are studying, working, or living temporarily in the U.S. may have temporary lawful presence that may vary in length.
On March 26, customers will have the choice between a REAL ID Driver’s License or ID Card or a Standard Massachusetts Driver’s License or ID Card. REAL ID is a Federal Security Standard for IDs that was created in 2005 as a result of increased federal security measures after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
REAL ID will be available on March 26; however, people will not need a REAL ID until October 2020. And if they have an active passport and don’t mind carrying it, they will never need a REAL ID. After October 2020, citizens will need either a passport or REAL ID Massachusetts Driver’s License to fly in the United States, or to enter restricted areas of federal buildings. The Standard Massachusetts License or ID card will not be valid as a federal ID after October 2020.
“We encourage the public to review information on our website at HYPERLINK “http://www.mass.gov/id” t “_blank” mass.gov/id to learn what documents they must provide for the credential they seek,” said Registrar Erin Deveney. “In most cases, people will have the required documents on hand as these documents are regularly requested when a child starts school, when someone travels outside the country, or in order to get married.”
On March 26, individuals applying for Registry credentials are encouraged to start their applications online at HYPERLINK “http://www.mass.gov/rmv” t “_blank” mass.gov/rmvand answer a few questions to determine if they should choose a REAL ID driver’s license or ID or a Standard Driver’s license or ID, and exactly what identification documents are necessary for each. Customers who visit the RMV’s website will be able to print online applications or have an application that can be displayed on a mobile phone. The website tells customers exactly what to bring to complete the transaction and also directs AAA members to the closest AAA offices for renewals. The online application includes a bar code that will be scanned to retrieve the customer’s information in the system to save time in line. Renewal customers requesting a standard card may be able to perform their renewal successfully online, without coming in for the transaction in person.
Before March 26, 2018: Customers can process renewals as usual – online or in person at a RMV Service Center or AAA location, (if they are a member of AAA). The Registry encourages the public to renew early.
Lawful Presence Documentation
For U.S. citizens, a valid, unexpired U.S. passport is sufficient proof of lawful presence. U.S. citizens may also provide a certified copy of their U.S. birth certificate.
For permanent residents, a valid permanent resident card (green card) is sufficient proof of lawful presence.
For customers who are not U.S. citizens, valid, verifiable immigration documents as well as proof that they have been granted a legal stay in the U.S. for at least 12 months is required. Their license or ID will expire when their legal stay is over.
An MS-13 member was sentenced on March 22 in federal court in Boston to racketeering conspiracy involving murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy to commit murder.
Bryan Galicia Barillas, a/k/a “Chucky,” 21, a Guatemalan national who resided in Chelsea, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV to 22 years in prison and five years of supervised release. Galicia Barillas will be subject to deportation upon completion of this sentence. In October 2017, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy.
The racketeering activity by Galicia Barillas, a member of MS-13’s Enfermos Criminales Salvatrucha (ECS) clique, included his involvement in the death of an innocent bystander in Chelsea. On Oct. 18, 2014, Galicia Barillas and Hector Ramires, a/k/a “Cuervo,” another member of the ECS clique, encountered a group of individuals in Chelsea suspected of belonging to a rival gang. Ramires, who was armed with a weapon that Galicia Barillas had provided on an earlier occasion, shot at one of the suspected gang rivals and missed, killing an innocent bystander who was looking out a nearby window of a room she shared with her three children. Galicia Barillas was a juvenile at the time of the murder.
Galicia Barillas also accepted responsibility for his role in a Sept. 8, 2014, stabbing and attempted murder of an individual in Chelsea, which Galicia Barillas also committed when he was a juvenile. Shortly after he turned 18, Galicia Barillas was involved in an April 2015 conspiracy to kill an MS-13 member that the gang believed was cooperating with law enforcement, and a May 26, 2015 stabbing and attempted murder of a suspected rival gang member in Chelsea.
Ramires pleaded guilty in October 2017 to RICO conspiracy involving murder and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 11, 2018.
After a three-year investigation, Galicia Barillas and Ramires were two of 61 persons named in a fifth superseding indictment targeting the criminal activities of alleged leaders, members, and associates of MS-13 in Massachusetts. MS-13 is one of the largest criminal organizations in the United States with thousands of members across the country, including a sizeable presence in Massachusetts. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence, including murder, against suspected gang rivals and those suspected of cooperating with law enforcement. The fifth superseding indictment alleges that, from approximately 2014 to 2016, MS-13 cliques in Massachusetts were responsible for, among other things, six murders and approximately 20 attempted murders, as well as robberies and drug trafficking.
Riding on the heels of what is expected to be the approval of a new Parkinson’s disease treatment drug, Acorda Therapeutics of 190 Everett Ave. has announced a proposal to significantly expand its existing operations.
The company has been located at its facility for some time, and operates under a lease from a New York company that is very active in Greater Boston. Now, however, they received good news from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the likely approval of its new drug INBRIJA, a drug that delivers relief to Parkinson’s patients through an inhaler rather than a pill. It is expected it could be approved in October, leading to the need to ramp up manufacturing of it by 2019.
“Acorda Therapeutics seeks to expand operations at its manufacturing site at 190 Everett Avenue where it will support the global market for the Parkinson’s disease treatment INBRIJA and will ultimately provide the capability to support simultaneous manufacture of multiple products…The proposed project is an immediate expansion and upgrade of manufacturing and warehouse space. Acorda anticipates that the project will create 20 to 25 full-time, well-paying new jobs with targeted construction completion by Quarter 3 2019. This is a first step toward a long-term master plan vision that could ultimately create 100 new jobs and include a substantial capital investment.”
A spokesman for the company declined to comment now as it was too early in the process.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he is 100 percent in favor of the proposal and will speak in favor.
“I am hoping that it will be nothing for smooth sailing for them,” he said. “This is a very exciting proposal and I am 100 percent in favor. It has a lot of potential for Chelsea.”
The project includes a new manufacturing fit out of existing space in one of the buildings to house specialized equipment. It will also include the demolition of the 115-foot smoke stack and a demolition and reconstruction of another existing building on the site.
The manufacturing building will be unchanged in its footprint, though more than 2,000 sq. ft. of space will be added to the top floor for manufacturing.
The reconstruction of the demolished building will add nearly 4,000 sq. ft. of new floor area for manufacturing, shipping and warehouse space.
The identify that the new configuration will have at least 121 parking spaces, and they will require a zoning variance for the building height of the warehouse – where the requirements are no higher than 25 feet and the new building would be 66 feet. The existing building is now at 44 feet tall.
After a long process, Sen. Sal DiDomenico allegedly fell a few votes short of gaining the Senate Presidency, a process that completed last week when State Sen. Karen Spilka corralled the 21 votes needed to secure the presidency.
It was announced publicly in a press conference on Thursday, March 22.
While no one was keeping score on the outside, and few on the inside were talking, it was believed by those watching closely that DiDomenico had as many as 19 votes just within the last month.
Sen. DiDomenico would not comment on the process within the Senate this week where he had tried to make a run for Senate President.
However, he did say publicly that he will still be the assistant majority leader in the Senate – a post he was recently promoted to and will keep under the new leadership.
He also said there is no bad blood between himself and Sen. President-elect Spilka after the long process.
“Before this process Speaker-elect Karen Spilka and I were close friends as we will continue to be,” he said. “We have worked well for some time as a result of me being the vice chair on her Ways and Means Committee. There is no bad blood or animosity between us. There comes a point in time when you have to bring the body together and move forward. I thought this was the right time to do that.
“Now that this process is over and we have a new senate president elect, I support Karen 100 percent and will do everything I can to support her as senate president,” he continued. “Our relationship is as strong as it always has been.”
Sen. DiDomenico did not want to comment any further on his role in the new leadership team, but affirmed the strong relationship between himself and Sen. Spilka.
“I look forward to serving under Senate President-elect Spilka and being an integral part of her team,” he said.
Observers had been worried that, as typically happens, the senator that comes out on the short end of the bargain gets relegated to the back of the room. Many thought that if Sen. DiDomenico lost, he might also lose all of the power and responsibilities he has worked towards since being elected and coming into leadership roles under former Sen. President Stan Rosenberg.
However, with DiDomenico affirming his positive relationship with Spilka this week, many believe that he will come out unharmed after the process finishes out.
As for the ascension, there is currently no consensus between Sen. President Harriet Chandler and Sen. President-elect Spilka about when she might take office.
Some postulated it could come on July 1 after the end of the current fiscal year.
Others thought it could come at the end of December.
During a press conference last week, Spilka indicated they had not yet ironed that out.
The Chelsea Public Schools has hit a major shortfall in its budgeting for next year, and reported at recent meeting that it is in deficit $3.1 million, and has been underfunded by as much as $17.2 million by the state funding formula.
It has now become a major call to action for the school community and for activists in Chelsea, including the Chelsea Collaborative – whose Director, Gladys Vega, called on the City Council to support joining a lawsuit against the state for underfunding schools.
That suit was filed by Brockton and Worcester last week due to what they believe is chronic underfunding of urban schools through the 1993 Education Reform School Budget Formula.
“This reimbursement problem in the formula needs to be solved and I think we need to address the formula and I urge the City and the City Council to join with Brockton on this lawsuit against the state,” said Vega at Monday’s Council meeting.
She was right on the same page with Supt. Mary Bourque, who on Monday morning said they are seriously considering making that move.
“We have not officially joined, but we are seriously exploring the need to join this lawsuit,” she said.
By the numbers, the state Chapter 70 School Budget has underfunded the Chelsea Schools in five categories, according to the schools. One of the key pieces comes from the new definition of economically disadvantaged students (formerly low-income), which has caused an underfunding of $1.077 million in the coming year. Other areas included things where full reimbursements are promised, but only partially delivered – such as with Charter School reimbursements.
Those numbers include:
Fringe Benefits, $5.78 million
Charter School Reimbursement, $2.014 million
Special Education Tuition, $7.98 million
Homeless Student Transportation, $373,059
This came on the heels of a very lively and contentious meeting at City Hall by the School Committee on March 15, where the School Budget process was rolled out to a standing-room only crowd.
Bourque led off the meeting saying it is time to stand up for public education, and pressure legislators to take up the cause – a cause she said was the Civil Rights struggle of our time.
“Sadly, we find ourselves in a time and place where we are not willing as a society to invest in public education,” she said. “Each year I come to you with a budget that is failing each year to meet the complex needs of our students. Each year I come to you with a budget that fails to provide an equitable education compared to public school children in wealthier communities. Each year these educators…are being asked to do more with less and less. Providing our schools with the funding that’s needed to educate the next generation is the Civil Rights struggle of our time. I ask you: Will you join me in this Civil Rights struggle and our quest for social justice? We need to have the courage to standup now and today for public education.”
The Chelsea Teacher’s Union called for the same kind of advocacy, but also called on the City and the City Council to use its $34 million in Free Cash to shore up the School Budget.
“For the short term, the City of Chelsea has made some significant investment in the schools and we appreciate that. However, we need more,” said Sam Baker, vice president of the union. “The City has $34 million in Free Cash and the City is seeing significant real estate development. What is the purpose of all this this development and progress if the proceeds aren’t going to support the education of the kids in Chelsea? The CTU welcomes the opportunity to advocate for changes at the state level. That’s a long term solution. I’m asking the School Committee and the school community to lobby the City Council to release more funds to the School Department here in order to prevent the cuts to this proposed budget.”
Catherine Ellison, a special education teacher at the Browne Middle School, said many of her students have suffered because of budgets last year. She said last year the middle school Special Education budget was slashed, and after hearing of the impacts, the budget still wasn’t restored.
“Caseloads have soared while resources have severely declined,” she said. “Children have been forced to struggle in mainstream classes while funds were cut…Our staff and our students have been aggressive in addressing the increasing and complex needs of our brilliant, resilient and magnificent children. It’s time for the school district to do the same.”
Chelsea is not alone in the struggles, which is why the lawsuit is such a tempting option for urban schools like Chelsea.
Already, in Everett, mid-year cuts to the tune of $6 million were avoided by an infusion of cash by the City, and it is expected that the Everett Schools could need as much as $8 million to plug holes next year.
Revere has a similar circumstance and isn’t as far in its budgeting process as Chelsea and Everett, but it is expected they will have a sharp deficit as well.