Chelsea Cultural Council Grants to Support Art and Cultural Projects

Chelsea Cultural Council Grants to Support Art and Cultural Projects

Chelsea Cultural Council has received $21,900 from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) a state agency, to assist public projects that promote access, education, diversity and excellence in the arts, humanities and sciences.

Council members will be available to discuss grant procedure and guidelines on Monday, September 24 from 2-6 p.m. in the lobby of the Williams Building, 180 Walnut Street.

Organizations, schools, individuals are encouraged to apply for grant funds that can be used to support a variety of artistic and cultural projects that benefit citizens in Chelsea – including field trips, exhibits, festivals, short-term arts residencies or performances in schools as well as cultural workshops and lectures.  Projects awarded must be implemented between January, 2019 and December 31, 2019.

The deadline for completed Online Application must be received by October 15, 2018.

Online Application is available at  www.mass-culture.org/chelsea.  Guidelines can be picked up at Chelsea City Hall, Dept. of Health & Human Services, Room 100 or find it at  www.chelseama.gov/ccc.  For additional information call (617) 466-4090 or email  culturalcouncil@chelseama.gov.

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Chelsea Collaborative Celebrates Unveiling of Workers Rights Mural

On May 31st, members of the Chelsea Collaborative, Chelsea city councilors, workers rights activists and Chelsea Community members gathered for the unveiling of the Chelsea Collaborative’s new workers rights mural. The mural creator, artist Nancy Guevara met with members of the Chelsea Latino Immigrant Committee an Environmental Chelsea Organizers a several times over the past few months to create the design for the mural.

The mural is part of a statewide education campaign to bring more awareness to the worker’s rights violations that immigrant workers face throughout Massachusetts. Organizations like the Collaborative, have long been fighting issues of wage theft, especially in industries with a high level of subcontracting, where cleaning, construction and

Artist Nancy Guevara speaks during the unveiling of the Worker’s Rights mural at the Collaborative on May 31.

Artist Nancy Guevara speaks during the unveiling
of the Worker’s Rights mural at the Collaborative on May 31.

painting workers often see their wages and overtime stolen by predatory subcontractors.

Currently, a coalition made up of local unions, workers centers like the Collaborative, and the Boston-based organization Community Labor United is pushing a bill that would further protect sub-contracted immigrant workers. Representative Dan Ryan and Senator Sal DiDomenico, who is the co-sponsor of the bill, both attended the mural unveiling and spoke about the importance of continuing to fight for the rights of immigrant workers. At noon on Thursday June 23rd, workers, union members and other supporters of the bill will gather for a Wage Theft Speakout on the steps of the State House to call on their Senators and Representatives to pass the bill. For more information and the action and the problem of wage theft, check out www.StopMassWageTheft.org.

The mural also seeks to highlight the strength workers find through culture, community unity and organizing and features figures modeled after active members of the Chelsea Latino Immigrant Committee and Somali Bantu Girls Group. As artist Nancy Guevara wrote in the inscription accompanying the mural, “This mural celebrates the different cultures found in this city and our shared commitment to hard work and a passion for justice. Together, we weave our future, our battle giving us the strength to fight and move on. We need fairly paid and dignified work in order to realize and inherit our dreams. We came to this country to live the American dream, but we have realized it was not for us, but with the strands of our battle, our collective voices amplified and the power of our love and effort, we continue to demand the right to dream.”

Anyone interested in taking a look at the worker’s rights mural, should feel free to visit the Collaborative anytime between 10 and 5pm. The mural is meant to be an inspiration for all in our community to keep on fighting for a more just and equitable city where all workers and community members are treated with respect and dignity.

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Roca’s High-Risk Young Mothers Program Wins National Award

The Roca, Inc. High-Risk Young Mothers Program is honored to be a recipient of the Center for the Study of Social Policy’s inaugural Accelerating Change Award. The award recognizes programs and initiatives that have demonstrated a commitment to reach diverse populations of young women and girls of color and create opportunities for their well being and success.

Young women and girls of color—especially those involved in or at risk of involvement in public systems like child welfare and juvenile justice—face a unique and alarming trajectory that puts them at risk of poor outcomes in life. To spotlight organizations, programs and practices that interrupt that trajectory, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) is recognizing initiatives such as Roca’s High-Risk Young Mother’s Program for our compelling and creative interventions to make a difference in young women and girls’ everyday lives. Roca and four other organizations were selected after a nationwide competition.

“Roca exists to disrupt the cycle of poverty and disconnection that ensnares young people,” said Rosie Muñoz-López, director of Roca’s High-Risk Young Mothers Program. “We’re proud of the work we’ve done to support our young women to become good parents and attain self-sufficiency, and because of this award, we’ll have the opportunity to begin sharing the lessons we’ve learned with others who want to make a difference on behalf of young women and girls of color at a national level.”

Along with national recognition, a small honorarium to support our work and an opportunity to join a network of similar high-performing initiatives, members of Roca’s High-Risk Young Mother’s Program will attend United State of Women Summit hosted by the White House next month. The United State of Women Summit will rally women and girls across the nation and abroad to discuss key gender equality issues, such as economic empowerment, educational opportunity, health and wellness, violence against women, entrepreneurship and innovation and leadership and civic engagement.

“Organizations like Roca are changing the narrative about young women and girls of color,” said Tashira Halyard, CSSP senior associate and lead for the Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare. “Too many of our girls and young women of color are placed on a path toward negative outcomes after experiences with public systems that are meant to protect them and support them. Rather than perpetuating what is often an ‘abuse-to-prison pipeline,’ these organizations are lifting up and supporting our young women and girls of color as crucial to our nation’s future.”

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Girl Scout Parade to Honor Gold Star Mother on Memorial Day

By Seth Daniel

The annual Girl Scout Parade will have Diana Ramirez – a Gold Star Mother – riding at the front of the line this year as she honors her son, the late Sgt. Nelson Rodriguez, as the 2016 Parade Marshal.

The Parade, which starts at 8 a.m. at Welsh Funeral Home on Broadway, will be followed by official Memorial Day Exercises at City Hall at 9 a.m.

Ramirez is the mother of Sgt. Nelson Rodriguez, who was killed in combat while serving in Afghanistan in June 2008.

The annual Parade is planned and organized by the girls of the various Chelsea Girl Scout troops. The Girl Scouts in the city have grown from a few dedicated girls just five years ago to become one of the largest activities for girls in the city.

The Girl Scouts want to encourage all local organizations to walk in the parade and for residents to come show their support for veterans and their families. Organizations that are walking should meet in the parking lot of Welsh Funeral Home, 713 Broadway, by 8 a.m. The parade route goes from the funeral home down Broadway to Chelsea City Hall, where the Memorial Day Celebration will take place.

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The Final Report

For more than 25 years, the Federal courts have been monitoring the quality and necessary cleanup of Boston Harbor as submitted by the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority. The final report as ordered by the courts was submitted March 18, 2016.

Those of us who grew up in the Boston area and enjoyed the local beaches can still remember how the water quality continued to deteriorate in the 1960s and 1970s, culminating to the point where, in an infamous 1988 presidential advertisement, Boston Harbor was named as the most polluted harbor in the country.

Since then, much has changed for the better, but at a tremendous cost to local ratepayers. For some users, the water bills that for years had been a few hundred dollars a year have skyrocketed to thousands of dollars a year. Older cities like Revere had been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to repair outdated and inefficient water and sewer lines.

The bottom line has been that Boston Harbor has seen a resurgence in marine life, with herds of seals living in the Harbor and whale spottings off the coast of Revere last year.

Beaches like Constitution Beach in East Boston, once closed for many days during a summer heat wave due to dangerous water quality issues, are now open. Residents can now safely swim in the Charles River, but in the 1970s, if one fell into the water, a tetanus shot was required immediately.

Organizations like Save the Harbor/Save the Bay can now focus on the positive aspects that living on the coast can afford residents, rather than continually fighting for the basics like better water quality.

However, while much has been done for the water quality, much still remains to be done. There are still many brownfields along waterways like the Mystic River that leach chemicals into the water. The Wynn organization has spent tens of millions of dollars in cleaning up the contaminated planned casino site in Everett. In Boston, homeowners are now required to spend thousands of dollars in neighborhoods like the South End and Back Bay on water filtration systems to take the rain runoff from the roofs and put into the ground rather than run off the ground.

All these are positive examples of more than 30 years of hard work and billions of dollars to bring back the water quality to acceptable levels.

Today, one can be optimistic about the future of the Harbor, but also guarded. Massachusetts’ politicians have always shown the willingness to spend money on public projects, but not the resolve to fund the maintenance of these projects. Our deteriorating infrastructure and the transit system are two examples of billions having been spent in the construction phase, but then grossly underfunded for maintenance.

Living on the coast, given the fact that our population is growing, our water environment is safe for now. But if our current strong water status, gained from impressive public effort and extraordinary cost, are not constantly monitored going forward, then we will find ourselves back in the same place, a place of public danger and national ridicule, when songs were sung like “Love That Dirty Water” in the 1970s and being named as the most polluted harbor in America in 1988.

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A Good Read: Chelsea Family Literacy Day is November 1

A Good Read: Chelsea Family Literacy Day is November 1

There is a reason that Chelsea Family Literacy Day was nominated for one of the esteemed All-Chelsea Awards in the Project of the Year category.

Actually there are more than 800 reasons – that’s the number of children and parents who enjoyed last year’s reading extravaganza at the Chelsea Public Library, making it one of the most popular youth-oriented events in the city.

While Bob Collins helped shepherd Literacy Day to prominence during his reign as Library Director, it’s now Library Director Sarah Gay leading our city’s treasured institution and standing at the helm of the Ninth Annual Literacy Day organizing committee. This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 1 at the library.

In addition to Gay, the key organizers of the event are new Children’s Librarian Martha Boksenbaum, Raising A Reader Outreach Coordinator Laura Keenan, and Chelsea-Revere Family Network Coordinator Jeanette Velez, who is chairperson of the Chelsea School Committee, Joanne Stone-Livon of CAPIC, Latimer Society Co-Director Ronald Robinson, and Bob Collins, who remains on the library staff in a senior librarian role. The Chelsea Interact Club will assist at Literacy Day.

City Manager Jay Ash has been a strong supporter of the event.

Gay said the event’s format will remain unchanged.

“We pretty much kept it the same because everyone really enjoys what we have,” said Gay. “But this year we are adding for the older kids a spoken word poetry slam contest.”

Gay said all activities are literacy based. There will be 16 different activity stations. The guest readers include Supt. of Schools Dr. Mary Bourque, State Rep. Roselee Vincent, Police Sgt. David Flibotte, and Police Sgt. John Noftle.

Velez said she works with pre-school children in her profession and understands the foundation that literacy sets for students’ formal educational training.

“I work with pre-school children so I’m very invested in this event because it’s promoting literacy and it’s the main thing the children need to be prepared to go on through school,” said Velez.

Keenan said the Raising A Reader program welcomed the opportunity to get involved an event that promotes literacy.

“Raising A Reader is an early literacy program for children up to age five and we do a form of reading called dialogic reading which is mainly we want the parents to have a dialogue with the children rather than read the words on the page.”

Other highlights of the event include the appearances of costumed characters and the distribution of free backpacks with books to all participants.

Boksenbaum said she is excited to be a part of her first Literacy Day in the city.

“I think it’s an absolutely wonderful activity and I think it’s great that it’s so big,” said Boksenbaum. “Literacy doesn’t always get a front-stage of a spotlight as it really should and so I was really delighted when I discovered that the event was not only important to the library but to the entire community. It’s really great that Chelsea has such a strong network of organizations that all help each other. That’s really wonderful.”

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U.S. Attorney Asks Court for Low End of Sentencing for Michael McLaughlin

U.S. Attorney Asks Court for Low End of Sentencing for Michael McLaughlin

A last-minute piece of evidence from former Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) Accountant James McNichols could drastically increase the sentence of former CHA Director Michael McLaughlin when he faces sentencing on Friday – but otherwise federal prosecutors are advocating for the low-end of sentencing guidelines and likely 12 months in prison.

In documents filed in Boston’s Federal Court on Monday, McLaughlin’s Attorney, Thomas Hoopes, called for a sentence of probation only, while federal prosecutors called for the necessity of some prison term.

Just how long that term might be is up to Judge Doug Woodlock.

Information provided to prosecutors after McLaughlin’s February plea agreement indicated that key witness, James McNichols, had told authorities that McLaughlin approached him in October 2012 in order to concoct a cover story that would protect both of them in any investigations.

That testimony by McNichols has led to an obstruction charge against McLaughlin that could up the sentencing guideline structure and land him in jail for longer than anyone expected. Hoopes has vigorously disputed the obstruction charge, noting that McNichols has admitted to lying to investigators on a number of occasions during the case and recanted some previous testimony. Hoopes has called for a hearing before sentencing on the matter, and has said McNichols’s allegations should not be considered.

In either case, prosecutors have said they would like to see jail time, and they have laid out sentencing guidelines for Judge Woodlock that fall between 12 and 18 months in prison. They have also indicated that McLaughlin has helped them in testimony regarding other cases – all of which is sealed.

“Pursuant to the filed plea agreement, the government recommends that the Court sentence the defendant to a term of incarceration at the low end of the Sentencing Guideline range as calculated by the Court at sentencing,” read the document signed by U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz. “The government also recommends that the Court impose a fine of $4,000, 24 months of supervised release, and a mandatory special assessment of $400. Whether the Sentencing Guideline range is 12 to 18 months, or higher if the Court finds there was obstructive conduct, the government believes that imprisonment at the low end of that range is warranted to reflect the defendant’s repeated flaunting of his obligations both to the federal and state agencies that funded the Chelsea Housing Authority with taxpayer money and to the tenants of public housing who lived under his management and care. By any conceivable measure, the defendant’s compensation was grossly disproportionate to any reasonable amount which the public has a right to expect to pay its employees. Sending the defendant to prison for his manipulative and deceptive conduct is necessary to promote respect for the law and deter others who may be tempted to use such means to conceal their fleecing of the public trust.”

Ortiz also indicated that she would not advocate that restitution be included as part of the sentence, disappointing many involved in a grass-roots effort of CHA tenants. The tenants’s group and the CHA had filed two weeks ago with the court to include restitution of $548,192 to the CHA for repairs to the housing authority properties. The amount represents the difference between what McLaughlin reported as his salary and the true amount he was paid over the four-year period examined in the case.

“The CHA has also moved for restitution as a victim of the offense of conviction,” wrote Ortiz. “Consistent with its obligations under the plea agreement, the government is not recommending restitution as part of the defendant’s sentence.”

McLaughlin’s attorney also submitted a lengthy document on Monday pleading with the court to go downward on the sentencing guidelines and to keep in mind all of the good that McLaughlin has done in his long political career – as detailed in numerous character reference letters. There was also a call for the judge to consider McLaughlin’s role in taking care of his wife’s chronic brain illness.

“Mr. McLaughlin has submitted substantial evidence, in the form of letters, of a life productive for society,” wrote Attorney Hoopes. “As discussed above, these letters highlight the many ways in which Mr. McLaughlin’s service to his community left the organizations that he led better for his leadership. As many of the letters recognized, Mr. McLaughlin had a reputation for taking on difficult roles – oftentimes volunteering to take over severely mismanaged organizations – and not only turning around the organization but also championing programs that benefited citizens for years to come…The defendant respectfully requests that the Court sentence the defendant to a term of probation.”

More than 30 letters of recommendation were included in the filing, mostly from family members and those who worked with him in Dracut, Somerville, Lowell and Billerica.

One man, Emile Steele – a retired Billerica Police captain – went so far as to say McLaughlin would be like the Good Samaritan.

“Michael is a person who would stop and help a poor soul who has fallen on the sidewalk after hundreds of others have passed on by,” wrote Steele.

Two letters came from Chelsea.

One came from former CHA employee Nyomi Pena who noted that McLaughlin did not think twice about providing all residents with free bed covers when there was an outbreak of bed buds in one of the CHA’s elderly building. He also ordered the entire building flushed without thinking twice, all 210 units.

The second Chelsea letter came from Buckley Tenant Council President Joe Pandolfo.

He advocated for McLaughlin’s work at CHA for implementing elder services, useable card-operated washers and dryers, monthly food banks with fresh produce, security cameras, and monthly meetings with the tenant council.

“His honest open-door policy earned him the greatest of respect,” he wrote.

All of the information in the filings will be considered at the sentencing, which will take place in Boston’s Federal Court on Friday at 2:30 p.m.

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