After more than two and a half years of negotiations, the City is on the verge of a new contract with its two police unions that will see pay increases of up to three percent and implement residency requirements for new hires.
Monday night, City Manager Thomas Ambrosino requested the City Council approve the contracts, which are retroactive to Fiscal year 2017. The Council forwarded the request to its subcommittee on conference, and will take up an official vote on the contracts at a future meeting.
The collective bargaining agreements are for the unions which represent police superior officers and patrol officers.
“Both deals encompass four years, made up of two separate contracts: a one year deal for FY17; and a subsequent three year deal for FY 19-FY20,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the City Council.
The contracts include a retroactive salary increase of 2.5 percent for FY17 and 3 percent for FY18 and FY19. There is also a 3 percent increase slated for FY20 and an additional 1 percent increase that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
All told, the retroactive salary increases total about $876,000.
“I strongly recommend that the City Council support these agreements, which have been the subject of lengthy negotiations spanning more than two and a half years,” Ambrosino stated. “We set aside in Salary Reserve for the resolution of these two agreements a total of $700,000. Accordingly, we will need an additional appropriation from Stabilization of $176,000 to satisfy these contractual commitments.”
The salary hikes are the only cost item in the new contracts, according to the City Manager. Other items in the contracts related to longevity, detail pay, sick leave incentive, and clothing allowance are limited to clarifications or minor changes and do not add any additional costs to the City, he added.
The percentage increases for salary are slightly more than those other City Hall unions have received, Ambrosino said.
“However, in return, the City did secure new language on residency upon which the City Council insisted,” he stated. “As of January 1, 2019, all new police hires must live in the City of Chelsea for five years, consistent with the Ordinance approved by the City Council earlier this year.”
While there was no debate over the union contracts themselves at Monday’s Council meeting, District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop did raise concerns about the City’s use of its stabilization, or “rainy day” funds.
Bishop noted that Ambrosino was requesting the use of stabilization funds for improvements to Eden Park and for a protective cover for the new high school turf field as well as for the contract salary costs.
Those stabilization funds should be used for emergency situations, Bishop said.
“I don’t think any of these requests rise to the level of an emergency to use the rainy day fund,” he said.
While Bishop said he supported the requests being made, he wanted assurances that any money taken out of the City’s stabilization funds be replaced by free cash as soon as those funds are certified by the state.
Outside graduation coming closer to a
resolution, decided Dec. 17
The Chelsea High School Class of 2019’s quest to graduate outside at the high school could come to a conclusion at the City Council’s next meeting on Monday, Dec. 17.
That’s when the Council is expected to vote on a $170,000 appropriation from the school stabilization account to pay for a protective mat for the new turf field at the high school.
City Manager Thomas Ambrosino made the request for the funds for the protective mat, which he said will allow for the use of the turf field for non-sporting events. The turf field comes with an eight-year warranty, but that warranty is voided if there are certain non-sporting uses on the field.
The possible purchase is good news for members of the high school’s senior class, who have been working with school and city officials, as well as fundraising, in an effort to have their graduation moved to the high school field.
Senior Manuel Teshe said the turf field cover will benefit the whole city, as well as students and their families attending the graduation.
“This investment is going to last for years,” he said. “If this is done, it is done for the city, and the future of the city is the students at Chelsea High School right now.”
Senior Class President Jocelyn Poste was one of a number of CHS students wearing “Dream Big” shirts who addressed the Council on Monday night.
“We are close to achieving our dream of graduating outside on our own field,” said Poste. “With the help of the City Council, this can be a possibility.”
School Supt. Mary Bourque also lent the students some support before the Council.
“This is a wise investment for our future and will have a positive impact on every generation here,” Bourque said.
District 5 Councillor Judith Garcia urged all the students present on Monday night to return with their friends on Dec. 17.
“I’m so incredibly proud of everything that was said tonight,” she said.
In other business, the Council approved a change in the zoning ordinance requiring tighter building controls in the Admiral’s Hill neighborhood.
Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda introduced an order requesting that the License Commission hold two recreational marijuana licenses for applicants that have a majority ownership consisting of Chelsea residents.
Ambrosino asked the Council to approve funding for renovations to Eden Park.
The majority of the renovations will be reimbursed through a state grant, the city manager stated.
“The proposed renovations of Eden Park include replacement of the playground’s rubber surfacing, introduction of new playground equipment, installation of a new water feature and splash pad, installation of new site furniture and lighting, and reconstruction of all site utilities,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the Council.
The total cost of the renovations is about $750,000, according to Ambrosino. The City Council appropriated $250,000 through the Fiscal Year 2019 Capital Improvement Program. Of the remaining $500,000, the City Manager said $400,000 should be reimbursed by the state.
Christmas is coming and wish lists vary. Here are ideas from which most can benefit.
Medical care for all Americans. Congress must sever ties with lobbyists working on behalf of the pharmaceutical and medical insurance companies and represent the American people. Prescription costs are too high and the government pays too much money to the drug companies for those who receive various medicines from government coverage. All Americans should be able to see a doctor and receive medical care. Working Americans should have access to affordable medical care. Retired and poor/disabled/uninsurable Americans should have access to Medicare and Medicaid. All Veterans and military should be able to choose an alternate doctor or hospital when the VA hospital and doctors are not in close proximity or are inaccessible.
My medical insurance company recently informed me that my doctors must always gain their consent when prescribing any kind of medicine. They not only demand final approval on any medications I might need, they frequently dictate that my doctor prescribes a medication that is less expensive. I would like to think that my doctor prescribes medicines based on his opinion that they will work. If I decide to follow my doctor’s direction and the medical insurance company doesn’t agree then I will be totally out of pocket for my prescription.
My wife and I were in France once and she had to see a doctor. There were doctor offices everywhere in Paris. Seeing a doctor and getting two prescriptions were less than $35. We didn’t use an insurance card and a visit to the doctor and going to the pharmacy around the corner both took less than 90 minutes. France does not have socialized medicine. They are involved in controlling the costs of drugs. The life expectancy for those living in France is longer than us living in America. France’s medical world is not perfect but we should take notes.
Christmas will be good if Americans can have access to jobs across the country. Big cities are booming with jobs it seems but rural America does not have the same options. I suppose it will always be this way but everyone cannot live in Provo, Utah, Austin, Texas or Nashville, Tennessee. A friend of mine recently moved to Indianapolis and has job opportunities galore. The federal government must spend some of the money we give away to the Middle East on rural America. Roads, bridges, parks and investing in small companies that will locate in rural America must be a government priority. We’ve spent too many years nation-building throughout the planet and let Appalachia and other rural communities drown.
I don’t have enough space so here are musts for Americans this Christmas:
Small interest loans so our youth can afford to go to college. Make college as affordable as possible.
Turn Social Security around and keep our promised retirements solvent for our graying Americans.
Reward the corporations who stay in America and let those who want to be out of America pay the price for abandoning us.
Keep America safe with strong borders and a strong military and take care of those who do and have served our country.
Insure that sane Americans can have their Colt-45 revolvers by their bedside tables when they turn out the lights and say their prayers.
Finally, may we all be a little more like President George H.W. Bush who wrote newly elected President Bill Clinton a very gracious note welcoming him to the oval office and assuring him of his support saying “…that you will be ‘our’ President when you read this note.” He led by living the example that it doesn’t hurt any of us to be respectful, gracious, decent people who help, love and encourage others.
Woodlawn Cemetery has announced it will be holding its 18th annual Christmas Ecumenical Memorial Service in the chapel on Thursday, Nov. 29, at 7 p.m.
Francis J. LaRovere, III, esquire president and chief executive officer, in making the announcement said, “This is a difficult season for those who have lost a loved one; we hope that in offering this opportunity to share in this memorial service, the loss will be less painful.” LaRovere continued, “We are gratified with the response we have received form the public regarding this event and are pleased to be able to offer it each year during the holiday season.”
In addition to the service, Woodlawn will again light a memorial Christmas tree while the carolers sing traditional Christmas hymns. Reverend Thomas Coots and Father Vincent Gianni will celebrate the service.
Staring at 6:30 p.m., a seasonal music program will be performed by the Figgy Puddin Holiday Carolers. This acappella quartet of Dickensian carolers will perform traditional Christmas music in beautiful Victorian costumes.
This program is not recommended for children under 12 years old. Following the program, a collation will be held in Patton Memorial Hall. Gates will open at 6 p.m. seating is limited and may not be held for late arrivals, therefore; it is suggested you arrive early. For additional information please contact Paul M. Maniff, director of sales.
Members of Chelsea Uniting Against the War, a group of young women from the Chelsea Collaborative, peace activists from neighboring communities, Rhode Island and Vermont filled a bus from Chelsea City Hall to attend the Women’s March on the Pentagon on October 21. Other Chelsea residents came in large vans or cars.
The march was organized by Cindy Sheehan whose commitment against war and the military was sparked after the death of her first born son, Casey Austin Sheehan, an Army Specialist, who was killed in combat in Iraq in 2004. In an effort to talk to the President Bush, who refused to meet with her and to express her opposition to war, Cindy Sheehan set up camp outside of Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas in 2005. For three years, tens of thousands of people from the U.S. and internationally came to Camp Casey to show their support .
Cindy Sheehan’s activism has not wavered. She chose Oct. 21, 2018, as the date for women and others to march on the Pentagon to mark the 51st anniversary of the first March on the Pentagon. In 1967 over 50,000 people gathered at the Pentagon to demand and end to the war in Vietnam and to bring the troops home. The demands of this year’s march included the complete end of wars abroad, closure of foreign military bases, slashing of the Pentagon budget and the funding of healthy social programs and education.
Two women from Chelsea Uniting Against the War spoke to the crowd about the grass roots successful anti-military recruitment campaign at Chelsea High School. Every year since 2004 at the beginning of the school year, members of Chelsea Uniting Against the War welcome students and hand out English and Spanish leaflets in English and Spanish to each of the 1200 students to remind them of their right to withhold their contact information from military recruiters. In 2017, 70-percent of the seniors exercised their right to opt-out. Interest was expressed by many people in the audience to adopt Chelsea Uniting Against the War’s approach to educating students in their local high schools.
For some activists, the Women’s March on the Pentagon was their first national protest in the U.S.
As Juitiza Torres, a youth from the Chelsea Collaborative stated, “As a young Latina this march and the people involved encourages me to speak up and talk about what really needs to be talked about.” Dalia Juarez added “It was my first time in D.C. It felt like an amazing experience for me and it felt empowering to be there for something I feel very strongly about. It was an overall great experience to start the (school) year.”
The work of Chelsea Against the War continues with monthly meetings and events. For more information about Chelsea Uniting Against the War, contact us on FaceBook at ChelseaUnitingAgaistthe War (note there is an “n”missing) or firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-884-5132.
For more photos or to learn more about the Women’s March on the Pentagon, go to MarchonPentagon.com.
All are invited to attend the Chelsea Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration on Thursday, Nov. 29, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Chelsea Square.
Presented by the City of Chelsea and the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, the celebration brings two hours of family-friendly activities including music, dance, and crafts to Chelsea Square.
“The Tree Lighting has been a long standing tradition in Chelsea,” said City Manager Thomas Ambrosino. “Last year’s event was a great success and we’re looking forward to bringing the community together again. Positive momentum is building and I’m pleased at this latest opportunity to draw more people to the area to shop, dine and gather with their neighbors.”
This year’s program includes performances by a choir from the Chelsea High School, Off Broadway Dance Studio, and the Back Bay Bell Ringers. Everyone will have a chance to support a good cause with crafts for sale from Empty Bowls. Decorate a gingerbread person to eat right away or bring home. Free refreshments will be provided by Chelsea Chamber of Commerce businesses. Bringing back a tradition of years past, Santa is scheduled to make a dramatic entrance courtesy of the Chelsea Fire Department.
“The Chamber is excited for this time of year,” said Chamber Acting President Joe Mahoney. “In addition to serving our member organizations and supporting the general commerce of Chelsea, we strive to bring positive programming the whole community can enjoy.”
The Tree Lighting Celebration is one of three events kicking off the winter holiday season. Saturday, Nov. 24 is Small Business Saturday presented by the Chamber and Chelsea Prospers, the City of Chelsea’s downtown initiative, a day to celebrate and support small, locally-owned businesses. The following Saturday, Dec. 1, is the Chamber’s annual Breakfast with Santa event at the Williams School.
A proposed $6,000 per year pay cut for City Councillors was handily defeated Monday night.
District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop proposed slashing councilors’ salaries from $14,000 to $8,000 annually as a way to begin a wider budget belt tightening across all City departments.
“The councillors all work very hard for the stipend they are given,” said Bishop. “This is not to indicate that we are not working hard. It’s not easy, and the job has become more demanding than it was 20 to 30 years ago.”
Rather, Bishop said the salary cut was needed as part of the Council taking a hard look at the City’s financial situation.
“The tax rate just goes up and up, and there is only one solution,” he said. “We have to cut the budget. Where do we start?”
While Bishop said there should be cuts across the board in all departments, the Council should start the process in its own chambers.
District 3 Councillor Joe Perlatonda argued that cutting the Council pay so drastically could limit the pool of candidates for office, noting the long hours, travel, and constituent services each councillor puts into the job.
Perlatonda said that councillors in Malden make $17,500 per year, and in neighboring Revere, the City Council salary is set at $18,000 per year and councillors there are eligible for health insurance and other benefits.
Councillors in Chelsea do not get any additional benefits.
The salary cut was defeated by a 9-2 vote, with only Council President Damali Vidot voting alongside Bishop.
In other Council business Monday night, several orders introduced by District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero were sent to committee for further discussion.
One order introduced by Recupero and District 4 Councillor Enio Lopez asked City Manager Tom Ambrosino to implement a policy where any company that does work in the city remove any equipment that is moveable and has rubber tires after work hours.
Recupero said that many parking spaces are lost in the city as large construction vehicles remain parked on city streets overnight.
“There’s no need to have all these big dump trucks in all these areas,” he said. “They are taking very precious parking spaces away from the people.”
Several councillors said they understood Recupero’s sentiment with the order, but felt it was too broadly written and could have a larger impact than he intended, if passed.
“I love to support anything that improves the lives of residents, but this is so broad,” said District 5 Councillor Judith Garcia. She said that if a more defined, revised version of the order came back before the Council, she would be happy to support it.
Bishop did attempt an amendment to the order on the floor, but Vidot and several other councillors said they were uncomfortable with the process of making policy on the fly. Councillor-At-large Leo Robinson moved to send the order to committee to get a better handle on costs and impacts of Recupero’s proposal.
The majority of the Council also recommended further study of another order introduced by Recupero. Recupero asked that when the City Manager hires new employees, that he implement the same procedures used to prove residential tax exemptions.
Several councillors pointed out that the order as proposed by Recupero was too limiting, since the residential tax exemption only applies to homeowners and not renters.
Robert DeSalvio, president of Encore Boston Harbor, was the guest speaker at the Jordan Boys and Girls Breakfast
Robert DeSalvio, president of Encore Boston Harbor, speaks at the Jordan Boys and Girls Club Breakfast on Nov. 8 at the clubhouse on Willow Street.
Series at the clubhouse on Willow Street.
DeSalvio presented an update on the $2.6 billion 5-star-hotel and casino that will open in Everett in June, 2019. The project is the single largest, private single-phase development in Massachusetts history.
“It’s amazing how big this is,” said JBGC Breakfast Chair Mark Robinson.
DeSalvio said construction began in August, 2016. “From the very beginning, we said we were going to do this project in 34 months, start to finish. That’s 3.1 million square feet of construction in that building, and then, of course, the landscaping and the work outside of the building.”
“On an average day out there [at the site], there are about 1,500 workers,” said DeSalvio. “We are currently averaging about seven percent of the workforce is female on the job site.”
He noted that the gaming area at Encore will be situated differently than at a typical Las Vegas casino. “When you walk in to a lot of those places, you’re literally smack in the middle of the casino. What we did is put the casino more towards the back of the building, enabling guests to come in, go to the front desk, circulate within the room tower, go to the ballroom space, go to most of the restaurants – all without actually stepping foot in the gaming area,” said DeSalvio.
The rooms in the hotel will be 650 square feet, double the size of a typical hotel room. There will be 671 rooms, of that number 104 will be suites.
DeSalvio called the ballroom event space “amazing.”
“We built one large ballroom that is 37,000 square feet – the second largest ballroom in Greater Boston – the only bigger one is at the BCEC,” said DeSalvio. “There will be 13 restaurants in the building, there’s everything from steakhouse to fine dining Italian to casual Italian, to Chinese, to Asian fusion, to sports bar – we designed a really interesting and fun craft beer outlet to take advantage of so many of the great local breweries.”
DeSalvio added that Encore is working with two Boston restaurateurs, Frank DiPasquale and Nick Varano, and the Midnight Entertainment Group, “which is Ed Kane and Randy Greenstein, and they are wonderful operators who will do the Asian fusion and the nightlife facility in the building.”
DeSalvio said there are currently 200 employees on the Encore team “and we have to get to about 5,000, so we have a little bit of hiring to do after the first of the year.”
He said they are looking for people to work in IT, finance, public relations, marketing, and engineering. “It’s all kinds of jobs, almost any job you can think of is in that building,” he said.
During the question-and-answer session, DeSalvio was asked about the security measures at the building.
“We are thinking long and hard about every aspect of the safety of that building,” said DeSalvio. “We have 3,500 cameras in and around that facility, both inside and outside the building. We have the most sophisticated surveillance technology and we cover literally everything except bedrooms and bathrooms in that building, up to and including all the guest room hallways. I want people to know that when you step foot on that property, do me one favor: have a good time but behave. And that’s what we want people to do. We want them to come in and have a good time, but if there are bad actors, we are going to be all over that.”
DeSalvio, a highly regarded leader in the hospitality and gaming industry, stayed after his remarks to further interact with the local business professionals and officials in attendance.
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.
If District 1 City Councillor Robert Bishop gets his way, he’ll be taking $6,000 per year out of his own pockets, and those of his fellow city councillors.
Monday night, Bishop introduced an ordinance asking that the Council salary be cut from $14,000 to $8,000 per year beginning in 2020. The councillor said he was unhappy when the salary increased from $8,000 to $14,000 several years ago, and wants to see it cut back.
The ordinance was moved to a second reading at a future council meeting before there was any discussion on the proposal, but Council President DamaliVidot said there will be an opportunity for debate and discussion during the second reading.
The council voted for the pay raise to $14,000 in 2013 and it went into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
In other business, the council heard a legal opinion from City Solicitor Cheryl Watson Fisher that stated that the Council’s subcommittee on finance violated the open meeting law when it discussed a $20,000 appropriation for legal services that was not properly placed on the subcommittee’s agenda. Bishop, who heads the finance subcommittee, countered that the matter was properly posted and fell under the heading of financial requests.
“I felt it would be appropriate to discuss,” Bishop said. “I see nothing in Rule 26 that says we could not speak about it. … To me, this is kind of petty and picayune.”
But Councillor-At-Large Leo Robinson said he didn’t understand how the matter had gotten to the finance subcommittee without coming before the full Council first.
Vidot said there will be a subcommittee discussion about how to best move forward with financial matters on the Council.
Bishop also asked for a meeting to discuss traffic flow issues at Revere Beach Parkway and Washington Avenue, Revere Beach Parkway and Webster Avenue, and Spruce Street and Everett Avenue. The councillor noted that motorists are faced with an especially dangerous intersection at Revere Beach Parkway and Washington.
“It’s a wonder that there are not more accidents than there already are,” Bishop said.
The District 1 Councillor is also requesting a subcommittee meeting to discuss issues with the city and the Chelsea Housing Authority’s rodent baiting programs. Bishop said he has concerns that the programs are ineffective and dangerous for the workers implementing them.
District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero introduced an order asking the public works director provide the Council with an accurate account of how the City sets water and sewer rates and how those rates could be stabilized.
In contrast to the past several meetings, when discussion over water and sewer rates brought a steady stream of residents to the microphone, it was a more subdued public speaking session at Monday’s meeting.
Chelsea High School senior Manuel Teshe advocated for fundraising efforts that would allow the senior class to graduate outside at the school’s football field. Teshe estimated the total cost of covering the field to keep it safe for a graduation ceremony would be about $30,000.
“We are passionate about this and want to graduate from the school in the best way possible,” said Teshe.
Teshe’s classmate, senior class president Jocelyn Poste, was also on hand at the meeting to promote the Red Devil Turkey Trot race on Saturday, Nov. 17 to benefit the school’s track and cross country programs.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the race can visit HYPERLINK “http://chelseahightrack.com” t “_blank” chelseahightrack.com. The event begins at 10 a.m. at Admiral’s Hill.
Civility was at a premium at Monday night’s City Council meeting.
While the meetings typically end with a pro forma opportunity for councillors to make community announcements and hold moments of silence to honor those who have recently died in the community, this week’s meeting ended with a flurry of accusations, banging gavels, and frustration.
Tensions were already high Monday night, as the month-long debate over a water and sewer discount for homeowners was rescinded by one vote (see related story).
Things only got hotter as the Council got to an order introduced near the end of the agenda by Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda. That order asked the Council to schedule a conference with the City Clerk’s office to discuss the campaign finance filing deadline enforcement policy, and the state’s campaign and political finance office findings of campaign finance law violations, by Council President Damali Vidot’s campaign committee.
“I was a little surprised when I saw that you allowed this particular order to be placed before the Council,” District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop said to Vidot. “One councillor going against another councillor, it should be ruled out of order. It’s a personal thing, and I don’t think those types of things should be put on the floor.”
Vidot ruled that Avellaneda’s motion was out of order. She said she brought the matter forward as a matter of transparency, but would not allow orders attacking her personally to go forward.
“I think this matter is totally inappropriate, and Councillor Avellaneda, I understand you wanting to embarrass me, but this is not the place to do it,” said Vidot.
Avellaneda argued that nowhere in his motion was he attacking Vidot, and that it was a motion based on facts. He challenged Vidot’s decision to rule the motion out of order.
No councillors joined Avellaneda in voting to overturn the challenge.
Matters only got more out of hand as the meeting wound down with the announcements portion that typically ends the night.
District 4 Councillor Enio Lopez accused Avellaneda of putting forward proposals that would directly affect his business ventures, which Avellaneda denied.
Vidot repeatedly banged the gavel as she tried to restore order to the proceedings.
“We are looking very circus-like,” said Vidot. “I ask that we display a little decorum and reflect on the type of representation this community needs.”
As the meeting ended, several councillors had already walked away from their seats as a steady stream of cross-talk filled the chamber before Vidot was able to settle the room for a moment of silence.
After the meeting, several councillors were visibly frustrated and expressed dismay over the recent proceedings in the Council chambers.
In earlier, more sedate business, the Council received communication from City Manager Tom Ambrosino asking the City to consider a request for proposals for use of the Salvation Army building for residential and commercial use.
District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero asked that the City Manager look into ways the building, now owned by the City, could be converted into a community center.