Councillors Vidot, Avellaneda Battle Over Campaign Finance

Councillors Vidot, Avellaneda Battle Over Campaign Finance

Council President Damali Vidot and Councillor Roy Avellaneda have been battling over a campaign finance violation issued by the state to Vidot earlier this year, with both having radically different views on the matter.

This week, the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) released its fall report that contained the paperwork on the violation by Vidot, which was hammered out last June between OCPF and the Vidot Campaign.

Officially, the OCPF found that Vidot and her campaign did not initially report at least $1,341 during campaigns in 2016 and 2017, and received $180 in cash contributions without keeping appropriate records. Some of the cash contributions were received at a raffle, according to OCPF, and political committees are not allowed to hold raffles.

The resolution was that the Vidot Committee amended its reports and the candidate agreed to forgive $1,000 in loans that she made personally to her committee as punishment.

Vidot said it was simply oversight, and the fact that she is new to politics.

“Basically, I’m new at this whole politics thing and last year in the midst of the re-election, our campaign missed some deadlines,” said Vidot this week. “It’s not that we didn’t want to file it. My treasurer works a full-time job and I was buy and we didn’t get it done. When we did, we made an error and didn’t capture some items. It wasn’t a case of there being any money missing or anything like that. OCPF notified me in May of the problem and we worked it all out by June…The whole reason I got into politics is I don’t like the things that happened that weren’t transparent. I would never do something that was hiding money people gave me. I have cried at a $20 donation…Everything balanced out. There was not missing money. Every dollar donated to me went to mailers, phones, office space, and what it was supposed to go to.”

However, Avellaneda, who Vidot said reported the matter to OCPF, had a far different view of the matter. It was something he first brought up at a Council meeting a few weeks ago, but was not allowed to talk about due to being ruled out of order.

By his count, Vidot should have paid penalties of more than $8,000 had the law been enforced to the letter.

“The law was broken,” he wrote. “Actually, laws plural, were broken. Specifically, Mass General Laws pertaining to campaign finance… The City of Chelsea regularly fines its residents on any number of issues from not having an up-to-date resident parking sticker, trash bags overflowing, and not shoveling snow on sidewalks within 48 hours… Wait more than 30 days (to pay) and the City Clerk sends notice to the RMV to suspend your driver’s license and registration.

Yet here we had an elected official not being disciplined by the City Clerk for non-compliance of state finance laws deadlines, which when finally filed, showed unreported donations and expenses. One could argue that this is a show of favoritism towards an individual because of the position they hold. My call to have the City Council address this with the City Clerk was not only voted against, but Vidot’s supporters deflected and made personal attacks on me.

So much for transparency. So much for insuring the integrity of the electoral process in Chelsea.”

Vidot said that Avellaneda is incorrect about the City Clerk’s and City Solicitor’s role in the matter. She said they did contact her several times about filing the report, and that if she did not file, they would have to turn it over to the state for levying fines.

At that point, Vidot said they did file, but they filed it incorrectly.

“Roy puts at fault the state, the City Clerk, the City Solicitor and everyone else,” she said. “The City Clerk and City Solicitor reached out to me several times, and when I filed it was out of their hands. Roy needs to just back up. We could get so much done if he played nicely…The focus needs be on the 02150 where it should be…If there’s any fault, it’s with me.”

Avellaneda said he takes offense to not being allowed to discuss the matter in public at the Council.

“While President Vidot can use her powers as president to both impede motions and orders that she doesn’t agree with and stifle discussion on the floor of the City Council Chambers, she cannot stop my ability to reach out to the Citizens of Chelsea,” said Avellaneda.

Vidot said she is taking as a learning experience, and noting that it is a confusing process for a lot of candidates. She said will be calling for a joint City Council/School Committee subcommittee that would host an OCPF seminar on campaign finance.

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Secretary Ash says Not Considering MassPort Job at the Moment

Secretary Ash says Not Considering MassPort Job at the Moment

Airplanes apparently aren’t in the future for state Housing Secretary Jay Ash.

Ash – the former City Manager of Chelsea – told the Record this week that he has no intention right now of pursuing the soon-to-be open job of director at MassPort.

“Secretary Ash is not focused on anything other than the work of the Baker-Polito Administration right now,” read a statement from his office.

MassPort CEO Tom Glynn announced two weeks ago that he would step down from his position next year after a run of several years at the helm of the airport.

That has brought on much speculation about who the next director would be, and more than a few insiders were pitching Ash’s name around the diamond. Many believe Ash would make a good candidate for MassPort, having served in Chelsea and knowing the surrounding community’s well.

However, Ash said he isn’t a candidate right now.

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School Resource Officers are Protectors, not the Enemy

School Resource Officers are Protectors, not the Enemy

In 2015 a viral video of South Carolina school resource officer (SRO) Ben Fields’ slamming a student across the classroom caused a public outrage. During the same year in Lynn, an SRO arrested a student with special needs.

“While the [school resource officer] was a support person for the student, the district should realize that involving an SRO in non-criminal matters comes with an added risk to the student because the SRO’s primary responsibility is law enforcement,” the Office of Civil Rights wrote on July 30 regarding the Lynn incident.

All these instances have begged the same question from the public: Will these officers provide protection, or will they threaten student safety?

Viral videos of rare but vicious incidents may cause horrors, but SROs have had plenty of heroics. In May, Illinois SRO Mark Dallas received much praise for chasing and pursuing a gunman out of a high school.

“Because of his heroic actions, countless lives were saved,” Dixon Police Chief Steven Howell told the New York Times in May. “We are forever indebted to him for his service and his bravery.”

Majority of the SROs’ works are not the dramatic highs and lows that the public sees; it’s the small details that are often overseen: preparing the students for real situations by doing drills, ensuring that safety systems are ready, or even their even their presence in itself.

Still, with viral stories often being the one that impacts social view of the SROs, the public relationship could use some work. The recently reported Revere Police Youth Academy may benefit this relationship.

“The foundation of the program is making good decisions and developing positive relationships between youth and law enforcement,” Capt. Amy O’Hara told the Journal.

As the new school year approaches, safety will remain as one of the top concerns for parents and schools alike. There will be few like the school resource officer who will help get that done.

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Oath of Office

Oath of Office

The Honorable Stacey Fortes, Robert A. Brennan, and Paul C. Dawley applaud the Honorable Matthew J. Machera after the Oath Of Office was administered. Machera was sworn in on Weds., June 27, as the new First Justice of the Chelsea District Court. Machera had been the acting First Justice, and it became official on June 27 at a ceremony that packed Courtroom 1 at Chelsea Court.

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Top 100 City Salary Earners Dominated by Public Safety Employees

Top 100 City Salary Earners Dominated by Public Safety Employees

The Top 100 City employee earners list (below) from 2017 was released this week and it showed that, as has become routine, that it is dominated by police and fire personnel.

A total of 41 of the top 100 came from the Police Department, though it should be noted that some of those earnings come from paid details which aren’t paid for in total by City funds. In the Fire department, 31 members were on the Top 100 list. That rounded out 72 police and fire earners in the Top 100.

The School Department came in third with 24 members on the Top 100 list, but most of them falling in the bottom one-third of that list.

The highest paid City employee in 2017 was Chief Brian Kyes, who said he was grateful for being able to serve as chief in his hometown. He made $219,752 in 2017 – the first year that he did not work details as the chief.

“My current salary is based on an employment contract that was negotiated between the City Manager and myself last year in an effort to allow me to finish my career here in Chelsea,” he said. “Based on the terms of the contract I have agreed to serve as the Police Chief for an additional five-year term and continue to do the job that I absolutely love. Although there are lucrative opportunities beyond the borders of our city whether in the legal world or public safety, my commitment remains here in the city of Chelsea.”

Kyes said his is now beginning his 32nd year with the Chelsea Police, with the last 11 as chief. He said others have recruited him from outside the city and state, but he has decided to stay here under his new contract.

“Over the past few years I have been recruited by other agencies both within Massachusetts and outside the state to either lead or compete to run their departments,” he said. “I have also had offers from the private sector as well.  This all being said I honestly know that there is no police department like the one that we have here in Chelsea with the enduring partnerships that serve as the life-blood of our agency. This is in no small part to the dedication and commitment of the men and women, sworn and non-sworn who make up our department.”

City Manager Tom Ambrosino appeared at number eight on the list, making $180,209. He said the list is dominated by police and fire because they work hard for their money in Chelsea.

“Public safety officials are paid good money and in this city they earn it,” he said. “This a difficult city to be a police officer and a firefighter. They put their lives on the line all the time. I don’t begrudge the salaries they earn. They work hard for it here.”

Name                                                     Job                                    Location                      Gross Pay

Kyes, Brian                                     Chief of Police                     Police Department               219,752.46

Fern, Joseph                                        Sergeant                          Police Department               205,227.09

Dunn, Thomas                        Captain  Police Department            Police Department               203,853.47

Batchelor, David                     Captain  Police Department            Police Department               196,668.15

Quatier, John T                                Deputy Chief                        Fire Department                 194,200.46

Houghton, Keith E                  Captain  Police Department            Police Department               191,969.00

Dana, William J                     Captain  Police Department            Police Department               183,002.94

Ambrosino, Thomas  G                     City Manager                    City Managers Office             180,209.33

Bourque, Mary                             Superintendent 225               Superintendent’s Office            178,697.92

Houghton, Robert                             Deputy Chief                        Fire Department                 171,818.69

Delaney,  Daniel                   Lieutenant Police Department           Police Department               167,164.94

Moschella, Robert  F                           Patrolman                         Police Department               166,551.53

Addonizio,  Michael J                           Sergeant                          Police Department               165,570.61

Giancola,  Paul R                              Deputy Chief                        Fire Department                 159,609.20

Krasco, William N                              Patrolman                         Police Department               159,422.55

Eaves, Paul                                      Deputy Chief                        Fire Department                 157,387.51

Cameron, Robert  T                          Deputy Chief                        Fire Department                 157,286.42

McGarry, Edward J                          Deputy Chief                        Fire Department                 157,039.03

Masucci,  Michael  F                         Deputy Chief                        Fire Department                 155,518.72

Conley, Scott                                      Patrolman                         Police Department               155,203.52

Purcell, Stephen M                 Lieutenant Fire Department              Fire Department                 153,053.03

Albanese, Leonard  A                          Fire Chief                          Fire Department                 152,062.60

Nelson, Edwin                      Lieutenant Police Department           Police Department               151,547.85

McCue, Gerald A                           Director Exempt                      Business Office                  149,881.45

Thompson, Michael                   Captain Fire Department                Fire Department                 147,058.30

Doherty, Paul W                      Captain  Fire Department               Fire Department                 146,525.98

Abell, Lyle Robert                              Patrolman                         Police Department               146,403.33

Denning,  Robert                      Captain Fire Department                Fire Department                 146,005.01

Gurska,  Michael P                   Captain  Fire Department               Fire Department                 145,917.85

Brizuela,  William F                             Sergeant                          Police Department                I45,799.72

Carroccino, Richard                  Captain  Fire Department               Fire Department                 143,729.68

Noftle, John                                        Sergeant                          Police Department               143,399.35

D’alba, Anthony  F                               Sergeant                          Police Department               142,601.43

Rizzuto, David M                  Lieutenant Police Department           Police Department               142,577.35

McLain, Thomas  H               Lieutenant Police Department           Police Department               142,257.64

Dunn, Brlan A                      Lieutenant Police Department           Police Department               142,075.70

Flibotte,  David A                                Sergeant                          Police Department               139,282.59

Breau, Linda                          Deputy/Asst. Superintendent       Curriculum & Instruction          138,723.52

Johari, Priti                                     Principal  220                    Chelsea High School              137,504.49

Betz, David K                       Lieutenant Police Department           Police Department               136,752.02

Merritt,  Philips                        Captain Fire Department                Fire Department                 135,078.38

Bevere  Maloney, Jacqueline             Principal  220                   Early Learning Center             134,399.98

Gonzalez,  Hector  L                             Sergeant                          Police Department               134,150.63

Tarraza,  Luis 0                                   Patrolman                         Police Department               132,435.96

Keefe, Edward P                         Deputy City Manager              City Managers Office             131,692.35

Ulwick, Wayne                                 Deputy Chief                        Fire Department                 131,310.43

Lubarsky,  Adele                              Principal 220                     Edgar Hooks School              130,524.94

Ramirez,  Emilio                                Patrolman                         Police Department               130,435.94

Wilcox, Richard J                   Lieutenant Fire Department              Fire Department                 129,511.67

Nee, Michaela                                      Sergeant                          Police Department               129,262.60

Tiro, Anthony J                      Lieutenant Fire Department              Fire Department                 127,929.36

Lee, Michael W                        Captain Fire Department                Fire Department                 127,554.60

Gobin, Rony R                         Captain Fire Department                Fire Department                 126,838.72

Rogers, Philip R                       Captain  Fire Department               Fire Department                 126,715.84

Rosenberg, Cindy D                          Director/Sped                Special  Education  Office          126,704.50

Bower, John C                      Lieutenant Police Department           Police Department               126,621.69

Lam,Longt                                         Patrolman                         Police Department               126,017.51

Torres, Jose                                        Firefighter                          Fire Department                 126,016.67

Grajal, Randy A                                   Teacher                         Edgar Hooks School              125,460.58

O’Brien, Joanne  M                             Patrolman                         Police Department               122.517.49

Bellomo,  Richard  R                           Patrolman                         Police Department               122,434.05

Barber.  Linda                       Assistant Principal 220 Days          Chelsea High School              122,340.06

Andreottola, Miguel                   Director- Admin Union           Information Technology           122,263.17

Martinello, Michelle                          Principal 220                   Eugene  Wright School            121,300.01

Schmidt,  Ronald L                Assistant  Principal 220 Days         Chelsea High School              120,863.05

Bevere, Joseph                                     Sergeant                          Police Department               120,723.24

DeleiDi, Adam  M                            Principal 220               William A Berkowitz School        119,725.05

Sanchez-Gleason, Magdalena             Principal 220                     George Kelly School              119,725.05

Chung, Starn                                      Patrolman                         Police Department               119,622.05

Fisher, Cheryl  W                             City Solicitor                       Law Department                 118,212.79

Kent, Sarah A                             Assistant  Super 220              Superintendent’s Office            118,180.01

Casucci,  Augustus  M                         Patrolman                         Police Department               118,042.21

Talbot, Michael                                Principal  220                   Clark Avenue  School             117,799.89

Noone, Michael J                                Patrolman                         Police Department               117,652.42

Sanchez, Miguel                    Lieutenant Police Department           Police Department               117,208.79

Crowley, Kevin M                  Lieutenant Fire Department              Fire Department                 116,736.44

Griffin, Robert  E                 Lieutenant Police Department           Police Department               116,607.77

Perisie, Rjchard                        Captain Fire Department                Fire Department                 116,068.89

Almquist-Cevallos, Kristen L  Assistant Principal 220 Days          Chelsea High School              115,766.02

Cooney, Joseph F               Director Of Buildings & Grounds      Buildings & Grounds             115,378.83

Maldonado, Jonathan                           Patrolman                         Police Department               114,386.68

Valdes, Reinaldo                                 Firefighter                          Fire Department                 113,953.54

Dent, Sarah E                        Assistant Principal 220 Days          Chelsea High School              113,563.97

Rodriguez, Luis R                               Patrolman                         Police Department               113,325.68

Vazquez, Sylvia E                                Teacher                         George Kelly School              113,032.18

Ostler, Ryan P                                    Patrolman                         Police Department               112,945.35

Glass, Carter R                       Lieutenant Fire Department              Fire Department                 112,886.11

Conlon, Joseph                       Lieutenant Fire Department              Fire Department                 112,711.04

Stutto, Joseph C                                  Patrolman                         Police Department               112,582.33

Peters, Albert W                     Lieutenant Fire Department              Fire Department                 112,509.80

Griffin, Kevin M                   Assistant Principal 205 Days      Joseph A. Browne School          112,400.07

Shea. Julie C                                    Principal 220                 Joseph A. Browne School          112,196.08

Davis, Cove J                              Assistant Super 200               Superintendents Office            112,086.00

Meyers, Nathaniel S                          Principal 220               Frank M. Sokolowski School        111,946.05

Caissie, Arthur J                     Lieutenant Fire Department              Fire Department                 111,895.39

Taverna. Bertram                     Director Of Public Works                  Admin dpw                    111,811.66

Vega. Carlos J                                    Patrolman                         Police Department               111,585.26

Aliberti, Mark A                     Lieutenant Fire Department              Fire Department                 111,494.68

Lawlor, John W                      Lieutenant Fire Department               Fire Department                              111,374.27

Garcia, Stephen  Patrolman                         Police Department              111,132.25

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MS-13 Member Admits Guilt in Murder of 16-Year-Old Boy

MS-13 Member Admits Guilt in Murder of 16-Year-Old Boy

An MS-13 member pleaded guilty recently in federal court in Boston to racketeering conspiracy involving the murder of a 16-year-old boy in East Boston.

The victim was identified as Christofer Perez de la Cruz.

Jairo Perez, a/k/a “Seco,” 27, a Salvadoran national, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO or racketeering conspiracy. Perez admitted that his racketeering activity involved the Jan. 10, 2016, murder of a 16-year-old boy in East Boston.

Under the terms of the proposed plea agreement, Perez will be sentenced to 35 years in prison.  At today’s hearing, the Court accepted the defendant’s guilty plea but deferred acceptance of the plea agreement until the sentencing hearing.  Perez will be subject to deportation proceedings upon completion of his sentence.  U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV scheduled sentencing for Sept. 11, 2018.

The investigation revealed that Perez was a member of MS-13’s Trece Loco Salvatrucha (TLS) clique. Evidence showed that on Jan. 10, 2016, Perez and other MS-13 members murdered a 16-year-old boy whom they believed to be a member of the rival 18th Street gang. The victim was stabbed and shot multiple times.  A few days after the murder, Perez was caught on tape admitting to stabbing the victim multiple times, and he was arrested soon thereafter. Perez was also recorded burying the knives used to murder the victim in a park on Deer Island in Winthrop.

After a multi-year investigation, Perez was one of dozens of alleged leaders, members, and associates of MS-13 named in a superseding indictment unsealed in January 2016 that targeted MS-13’s criminal activities in Massachusetts. Perez is the 48th defendant to be convicted as part of that ongoing prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts.  To date, all eight defendants who have gone to trial have been convicted, and 40 other defendants have pleaded guilty.

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School Shuffle:Several Key Members of the CPS Make Moves

School Shuffle:Several Key Members of the CPS Make Moves

The Chelsea Public Schools are making some big moves at the end of this school year, with the biggest news being Chelsea High Principal Priti Johari moving to the Central Office from CHS to an assistant superintendent position.

Her departure from CHS follows the departure of Assistant Principal Ron Schmidt – who now will lead the new alternative high school within CHS.

“I am announcing that effective July 1, 2018, Chelsea High School Principal, Priti Johari, will be promoted to the position of Assistant Superintendent for Strategic Programs and Accountability,” wrote Supt. Mary Bourque. “To replace Ms. Johari, we will be posting for principal candidates as soon as possible. We are also convening a ‘Selection Committee’ to do the first round of interviews. The job of the Selection Committee will be to narrow the field of possible candidates to the top 2-3 highest qualified for me to interview. I will choose from the 2-3 finalists.”

Bourque told the Record that right now the Committee is looking at five or six semi-finalists. She said they would forward two names to her soon, and she expected that an announcement could come as soon as Friday.

She said with two key leaders at CHS leaving, the thought of a slip-back is on some people’s minds, but she said they are prepared not to let that happen.

“One of the good things we’ve put into the CPS is we build the system so that we collaborate very well,” she said. “One of the things about Chelsea is because of our turnover, we have gotten very good at picking things up quick and making sure they don’t go back…As superintendent, that’s why you always build a deep bench.”

Another piece of big news is that Principal Maggie Sanchez Gleason is leaving the Kelly School as her husband has received a promotion that requires them to move to London.

That opened up the position for Assistant Principal Lisa Lineweaver, who is a former School Committee member and a Chelsea resident. Lineweaver has two children in the schools and came to Chelsea last year after teaching in Boston for many years.

In the realm of retirements, the biggest news is that long time Director of Administration and Finance Gerry McCue will be retiring.

Bourque said she is still looking for a replacement for him, and will be engaging the Collins Center from UMass Boston to help locate and choose replacements. The Collins Center was engaged by the City Council a few years ago to help choose a city manager.

Other notable retirements include:

The six Central Office and district wide administrators retiring are:

  • Tina Sullivan, Director of Human Resources
  • Linda Breau, Deputy Superintendent (who will be moving to Human Resources for one year before retiring).
  • Linda Alioto Robinson, Director of REACH
  • Miguel Andreottola, Director of Technology
  • AnnMarie LaPuma, Director of Assessment and Planning

For Andreottola, Bourque announced this week that long-time resident Rich Pilcher has been promoted to director of technology. Pilcher is also a Chelsea High graduate.

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Lynn Man Arrested in Assault of Chelsea Waitress

Lynn Man Arrested in Assault of Chelsea Waitress

Chief Brian Kyes announced late last week the arrest in Maryland of Gerardo Reyes Menjivar, 36, of Lynn, who was wanted in connection with the stabbing of a waitress at a Chelsea Restaurant on Monday night, May 7.

Menjivar was placed in custody in Beltsville, MD, May 10 by the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force.

Chelsea Police Detectives placed a Nationwide BOLO for Menjivar and the vehicle he was operating on Tuesday, May 8. Investigators worked tirelessly in their efforts to track Menjivar’s movements over 24 hours, and those efforts led to the arrest.

Chief Kyes praised his officers, the community members who came forward with information and a host of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that coordinated together to bring Menjivar into custody.

“Today after a successful nationwide law enforcement effort we placed a violent individual into custody and our community is safer,” he said. “I thank the many agencies involved that worked in unison with our department to apprehend Menjivar.”

Menjivar will be held in Maryland as a fugitive from justice as the Suffolk Court District Attorney’s Office work on his rendition back to Massachusetts.

Menjivar will face multiple charges including Assault to Murder.

The following agencies were instrumental in the investigation:  The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, the Massachusetts State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section, Boston PD Detectives, Denver CO PD, the Bennet CO Sheriff’s Office, NYPD, US Marshals Service, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, and  the regional HIDA (High Intensity Drug Apprehension) Taskforce.

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Councillor Punts on Residency Ordinance, Sent to Committee

Councillor Punts on Residency Ordinance, Sent to Committee

Just when it appeared that Councillor Giovanni Recupero might finally get a version of his long-sought-after residency ordinance passed on Monday, the votes quickly disappeared – causing him to have to pull the measure before the vote and send it to a Committee on Conference.

“Why are these councillors so opposed to it?” he asked. “Everett has it. Boston has it. Revere has it. Everyone has it, but we don’t because some councilors say we’re wasting our energy and wasting our money. In the end, the people want this. Everett is 2.4 sq. miles and they have it. That’s only a little bigger than we are. If it’s good enough for me to live here, it should be good enough for the police…It’s good enough for these councilors to ask for the people’s vote and say they will represent the people, but then they do this and don’t represent the people right. I speak to my constituents all the time. This is what the constituents want.”

Recupero had ordered two weeks ago that the City Solicitor’s Office draft a residency ordinance that would go into effect on April 1 and would be for only new hires of the Police and Fire Departments. Any new hire would have to live in Chelsea for five years after being hired. Currently, any new police officer or firefighter gets preference in hiring if they’ve lived in Chelsea one year before applying.

There is, however, no residency requirement.

Recupero has been pushing some form of a residency requirement for about four or five years. On Monday, he seemed to be at the brink of getting something passed.

With only eight councilors in attendance, the votes seemed like they might line up. However, as discussion went on, he lost some key votes and was going to only end up with three or four in the affirmative.

That’s when he decided to pull his request for a roll call and send the matter to a Committee on Conference.

Part of the problem was that many were confused by what the new ordinance would cost – as it would require the City Manager to collective bargain the new provision with the Police and Fire Unions. That would mean to get the new work condition – meaning the residency requirement for new hires – exisiting police and fire would have to be paid more money contractually.

“I think the situation deserves a little more attention and discussion,” said Councillor Luis Tejada, who has supported the idea in the past.

Councillor Calvin Brown, who filled in as Council president on Monday due to President Damali Vidot being ill, spoke on the matter and said he couldn’t support it.

“I don’t think I’m ready to vote on this or have enough information from the unions,” he said.

Councillor Judith Garcia said she believed that focusing energy and money on residency was a waste of time.

“If our main focus is to have some of our own in the Police Department and Fire Department, the we should focus our attention on recruitment,” she said.

The matter was sent to a Committee on Conference.

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We Can Make It Less Profitable to Traffic Opioids

We Can Make It Less Profitable to Traffic Opioids

 By John A. Cassara and Nathan Proctor

 The president will now declare what many of us experience first hand, the opioid epidemic is a national emergency.

 Frankly, with as many as 59,000 deaths in 2016, there doesn’t seem to be any other possible description.

 So many dedicated people in cities and towns, faith communities and schools, families and hospitals are fighting to save lives and help people escape addiction.

 But there are also a lot of people working to keep illegal opioids on the streets.

 With 2.6 million opioid addicts in the United States, the scale of drug-running operations is immense, as are the profits. It’s not a mystery why the cartels build these operations, they do it for the money — and there is a lot of money to be had.

 The Office of National Drug Control policy estimates that of the $65 billion spent on illegal drugs each year, about $1 billion, or 1.5 percent, is seized by all federal agencies combined. That means some 98.5 percent of the profits from trafficking remain in the hands of the cartels and other narco traffickers.

 We can and must stop that free flow of money, which, besides flooding our communities with cheap heroin, helps strengthen these criminal enterprises.

 As the bipartisan Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control wrote in 2013: ““[W]e have become convinced that we cannot stop the drug trade without first cutting off the money that flows to drug trafficking organizations.”

 There are simple steps we can take now that go after that money. For starters, we must get rid of anonymous shell companies — companies formed with no way of knowing who owns or controls them (known as the “beneficial owner”).

 As documented in the report “Anonymity Overdose,” traffickers can hide and move drug proceeds through anonymous shell companies because starting such companies requires zero personal information.

 One of the most dangerous chemicals associated with the opioid crisis is fentanyl — some 50 times more potent than heroin. Deaths from fentanyl overdoses are up 540 percent in the last three years.

 Law enforcement agents have cataloged how fentanyl is often shipped to the U.S. from China. Sometimes the drugs or drug making supplies are sent from, and addressed to, a set of anonymous companies.

 These companies, which are not connected to the real owner (and sometimes not even connected to a real person), can open bank accounts, transfer money, and buy real estate. Law enforcement does not have access to who is behind these entities.

 Requiring all companies formed in the United States disclose their beneficial owners would enable law enforcement to more effectively follow the money trail to the top. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both chambers of Congress which would do just that, and we believe this is something Congress should enact as soon as possible.

 As we ask ourselves what else can we do to stand against this epidemic, it’s follow the money.

John A. Cassara is a former U.S. Treasury special agent, who spent much of his career investigating money laundering and terrorist financing.  His latest book is titled “Trade-Based Money Laundering: The Next Frontier in International Money Laundering Enforcement.”

 Nathan Proctor is a co-author of “Anonymity Overdose,” and a National Campaign Director with Fair Share.

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