Joe McCormack and his son, William, making bookmarks during the annual Chelsea Reads Family Literacy Day on Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Chelsea Public Library.
Joe McCormack and his son, William, making bookmarks during the annual Chelsea Reads Family Literacy Day on Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Chelsea Public Library.
The Chelsea Public Library and Raising a Reader are inviting the community to the 13th Annual Family Literacy Day: Chelsea Reads, on Saturday, November 3, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Chelsea Public Library, to encourage families to visit the library and read together.
“I was born and raised in the U.S., but my mom didn’t speak English, and I felt like I was lacking in my vocabulary,” explained Jeanette Velez, Coordinator for the Chelsea/Revere Family Network. “I wanted to make sure my boys were always reading and learning. Take the time and read in any language with your child because that will help them build a vocabulary.”
Families can spend time working on fun literacy activities, such as decorating baseball caps, at the over 13 local community organization tables. Children, infants to teenagers, will enjoy face painting, taking pictures in front of a green screen, and receiving free backpacks filled with books.
“The backpacks are the heart of the event because that’s what we started out doing and continue to raise funds for,” said Sarah Gay, Chelsea Public Library director. “For some kids it’s the only opportunity for them to get new books. I love seeing people with a lot of books and being happy.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino is among the special guests who will be reading to children during story time; and pages from “Can You Say Peace?” by Karen Katz, will be mounted on boards for families to read as they walk through the library.
“Chelsea is a diverse city,” said Velez. “With everything that is going on in the world, we are encouraging kids to know we are all the same.”
Clifford the Big Red Dog will be greeting visitors, and Off Broadway Dance Studio will also be performing Latin and Bollywood routines.
“There was a time 25 years ago when kids didn’t know what a library was,” said Margot Johnson, co-founder of Literacy Day, former traveling bookstore owner, and retired member of Reach Out and Read, Chelsea MGH. “Literacy is very important.”
Family Literacy Day Committee: Margot Johnson, Sarah Gay, and Jeanette Velez.
Gov. Charlie Baker filed legislation that will provide law enforcement and prosecutors with additional tools to prosecute people who repeatedly break the law. The reforms put forth in today’s legislation include expanding the list of offenses that can provide grounds for a dangerousness hearing and closing certain loopholes at the start and end of the criminal process that currently limit or prevent effective action to address legitimate safety concerns.
“Recent tragedies have demonstrated the tremendous damage that can occur when our criminal justice system fails to identify and detain dangerous people charged with serious crimes,” said Governor Baker. “The alarming frequency of these events confirmed for us that we need to fix a broken law, so we worked closely with law enforcement, district attorneys and victims advocacy groups across the Commonwealth and consulted with the courts to develop this proposal to do a better job of protecting Massachusetts communities from dangerous defendants.”
The governor’s legislation strengthens the ability of judges to enforce the conditions of pre-trial release by empowering police to detain people who they observe violating court-ordered release conditions; current law does not allow this, and instead requires a court to first issue a warrant.
“Far too often, there are few consequences for defendants who violate the conditions of a court issued release,” said Lieutenant Governor KarynPolito. “This legislation will empower police officers with the tools they need to protect their communities and hold until trial defendants who pose a continuing danger to our communities.”
This legislation empowers judges to revoke a person’s release when the offender has violated a court-ordered condition, such as an order to stay away from a victim, or from a public playground. Current law requires an additional finding of dangerousness before release may be revoked.
“A person who is so dangerous that his or her release threatens the safety of a specific victim or of the community at large does not become safe to release merely because three or four months have passed since the time of their arrest,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Security Daniel Bennett. “This legislation would ensure that a person who a court determines is a danger or who violates his or her conditions of release is held until the time of trial or other disposition of the case, rather than being released after a defined period.”
“I’m very pleased with the governor’s proposed bail reform legislation,” said Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III. “This will make it more difficult for the court to release dangerous defendants. Dangerous criminals should be held without bail until their cases are resolved. The public and law enforcement have a right to be protected from dangerous criminals. This legislation goes a long way towards doing that. I have long advocated for changes to the bail system, and I appreciate the governor’s leadership on this very important issue.”
“It is encouraging to see that the call for action to keep dangerous and repeat criminals off the streets that began as a result of Sgt. Gannon’s murder is being taken seriously,” said Yarmouth Police Chief Frank Frederickson. “In July the Governor signed the MPTC Training Bill and now the announcement of this proposal is another significant move that will provide needed protection for our citizens from violent criminals.”
“Regardless of whether their cases can be prosecuted, survivors of sexual violence who are respected and believed throughout the process have better health and wellness outcomes,” said Katia Santiago-Taylor, advocacy and legislative affairs manager at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. “The first and most powerful way to do this is to ensure that survivors are informed about what is happening with their case, including timely notification when an offender is released from custody.”
The legislation expands the list of offenses which can provide grounds for a dangerousness hearing and follows the long-standing federal model in including a defendant’s history of serious criminal convictions as grounds that may warrant a dangerousness hearing. Current law requires courts to focus only on the crime charged and ignore a defendant’s criminal history when determining whether the defendant may be the subject of this sort of hearing.
Additional provisions of this legislation:
The legislation also closes loopholes at the start and end of the criminal process that currently limit or prevent effective action to address legitimate safety concerns. It extends the requirement that police take the fingerprints of people arrested for felonies to all people arrested, regardless of the charge, to ensure that decisions about release can be made with knowledge of a person’s true identity and full criminal history. It also allows, for the first time, bail commissioners and bail magistrates to consider dangerousness in deciding whether to release an arrestee from a police station when court is out of session.
The City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the locked out National Grid gas workers in a vote of 8-0 on Monday night, adding to the numbers of elected officials now supporting the workers – who have been locked out in a contract dispute for 12 weeks.
Ray Bell of Chelsea – who has lived here for 45 years – came before the Council as one of the locked out workers. He said it’s a matter of public safety, as the replacement workers are not trained or experienced enough to carry out the work they’re doing.
“This is a matter of public safety,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to. This is not a labor issue. The workers trained and experienced need to be in the ground fixing our pipes. This is a no-brainer. It’s putting Chelsea people first…They’ll bury their mistakes. It may not go off now. Maybe it goes off in two months or two years. It could be a disaster. I’m telling you they don’t have experienced and trained people working on these gas pipes.”
Former Councillor Paul Murphy – whose brother is currently locked out – said he doesn’t want to see a disaster either.
“Knowing the work they’re doing on our streets, there could be a disaster here,” he said. “It is a labor dispute, but a different one because they’re locked out. They want to work.”
Councillors were very much in support of the measure despite a miscue last month at a special meeting when the matter didn’t pass due to Councillor Bob Bishop objecting to it. At a special meeting, one objection to a matter can kill it.
On Monday, Bishop said he didn’t oppose the matter, but had concerns last month due to the fact that it conflicted with the charter. Now, he said, the new draft of the resolution was free of any such conflicts.
Down in the Back Bay’s Park Plaza, hundreds of National Grid gas workers – now locked out of work for 11 weeks – took center stage on what many said was the truest example of what Labor Day should actually mean.
The politics of the matter shone through clearly on Monday morning during the rally in the street with the state’s political elite, but another piece of the puzzle is the day-to-day reality of having lost health insurance, paychecks and having to stage labor’s most ardent fight of the past decade.
For Everett’s Rocky Leo, who appeared with about a dozen locked-out Chelsea workers recently at a Chelsea City Council meeting, the lockout has a human angle – and standing tall in the Back Bay on Monday, he said that is exactly what the company is trying to exploit.
“They’re banking on us not getting by – we workers going under and losing our health care and defaulting on our mortgages so we have to get in,” he said. “It’s a struggle. It’s been 11 weeks since we were locked out. It’s really hard on many of us and that’s their strategy. They figure we’ll give in.
“Five days in they took our health care away,” he continued. “We had a guy who had just had his leg amputated, and people with diabetes who needed care and children who are being treated for cancer. That’s what we have here.”
The lock out started earlier this summer during contract negotiations with two unions in the National Grid gas operations division. The unions are represented by the United Steelworkers and talks have been ongoing, but nothing has been fruitful and labor leaders seemingly – on Labor Day – had seen enough.
“This is unacceptable on Labor Day and any day,” said state AFL-CIO President Steve Tolman. “The fight you’ve been waging the last three months is the most important fight you’ll ever have. Brothers and sisters, you are standing up to a corporate environment that has been scraping away for the last 20 years at our health care and pensions. Where are the elected officials asking National Grid to step up to the table and negotiate and get an agreement? Public safety should be first.”
Joe Buonopane, a president of one of the locked out unions, said on Monday that he wanted Governor Baker to stand up for the workers.
“Gov. Baker hasn’t said a word about National Grid workers being locked out for 11 weeks,” he said. “National Grid is a foreign company, based in the United Kingdom. We are Massachusetts workers locked out of our jobs and Gov. Baker hasn’t said (anything) about it. That shouldn’t happen in Massachusetts.”
On Sept. 4, National Grid and the two unions were to come back to the bargaining table. The results of those meetings were not reported by press time, but National Grid said they wanted to resolve the lock out.
“To end the lockout, which is a goal we share with our union employees, we need to have serious, productive conversations about reaching an agreement,” read a statement by National Grid sent to the Independent on Tuesday, Sept. 4. “Since June 25, National Grid has communicated to the unions that we remain willing to meet seven days a week to reach an agreement on all outstanding issues. Through a federal mediator, they have so far provided eight dates for meetings that have occurred and we are meeting with them again today, September 4.”
National Grid said they wanted to have a fair contract, but that also meant being responsible to the ratepayers. They said what the union characterize as a drive for company profits at employee expense is actually an effort to preserve reasonable rates for customers in Chelsea and beyond.
National Grid said the major sticking point is the company’s proposed benefit package that includes a new defined contribution 401(k) retirement plan. That new plan would apply only to new employees hired on or after June 25, 2018.
National Grid said they had negotiated away from pension plans to 401(k) plans with at least 16 other unions representing 84 percent of the company’s employees. National Grid also said the package is consistent with proposals that the Steelworkers have accepted in Massachusetts with all other public utilities.
National Grid said it doesn’t believe customers should have to pay for outdated benefits when most of those customers don’t enjoy such benefits themselves.
Leo said the idea is to preserve what they have and have had for years. He stressed that the workers only want the same thing they’ve always had.
“It’s frustrating because we’re not asking for everything and anything,” he said. “We just want what we have. We have completed more work than we have been asked to do and they’re profits are up. We exceeded 20 to 50 percent of our work in all categories. We’re doing more than what we are asked and they are profiting, so it’s hard to see why we have to make concessions. There’s no bargaining or discussion. It’s concession or nothing. It’s like talking to a 4-year-old and when they ask why, you only get ‘because.’”
The Chelsea convocation on the first day that teachers return for work after the summer break has always been a venue that Supt. Mary Bourque has used to unveil plans for the district.
On Monday, though, she used her time to unveil a hope for the state of the state’s schools – and to send a message statewide that schools like Chelsea will not be defined only by a standardized test score and a series of cuts delivered in the state budgets.
Bourque said that this will be the year they reclaim the “heart and purpose” of who the Chelsea educators are. She said last year was one of the most difficult years of her career, and she is ready to put that behind.
“Whether it was the severe budget cuts we endured for a second year in a row, the lack of action by the state on the Foundation Budget Reform recommendations, the partial funding of the Economically Disadvantaged rates, or the noise, chaos, and pervasive negative rhetoric swirling around us from all layers of leadership – yes, in my career I will look back on 2017-2018 and say it was not an easy year,” she said. “But we…rose above it all and for that I thank all of you. We rose above it all and will continue to do so this year because we know we are succeeding in putting our students on the journey of life. While others may not hold public education to the high moral value and may not make the commitment to the next generation that is needed, we in Chelsea are different. We know and deeply value our purpose for being here in education, in Chelsea schools.”
Bourque said that the state has been on a very high-pressure, high-stakes mission of academic urgency for 25 years that has labeled every school as one-size-fits-all. That has played out in the labels given districts via the MCAS test results. She said that isn’t fair and has taken the heart out of education.
While she said such standards in the MCAS are valuable and worthy, the system needs to account for different districts like Chelsea that face different challenges – such as poverty, immigration and English Language Learners.
“I contend that the unintended consequences of this 25-year system is the loss of the heart of education,” she said. “The heart of who we are as educators. As a State, we have lost our way and forgotten what is most important in education. It is time then, to rise up and take the heart and purpose back, one classroom at a time.”
The end of the speech was a rallying cry in which Bourque called on all Chelsea educators to fight for things such as revamped state financing and Foundation Budget reform and other such changes at the state level.
“We will fight for our students and for what is right,” she said. “We will rise up as a collective voice, as a force of positivity, civility, advocacy, purpose, and heart whether at the local, state, or national level. We will lead the change that needs to take place from test score accountability framework to state education finances.”
The Chelsea Police Department will increase impaired driving patrols on local roads with grant funds from the Highway Safety Division of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS). Chelsea Police will join local departments across the state as well as the Massachusetts State Police in the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Overenforcement mobilization and public information campaign.
This year’s campaign will urge drivers drinking alcohol or using marijuana and other drugs to plan ahead and designate a sober driver, use a ride-share service or take public transportation.
“Impaired drivers create a dangerous situation for everyone around them, threatening the destruction of lives and entire families,” said Chief Brian A. Kyes. “This grant will help increase our efforts during the busy summer travel season to keep our roads free of impaired drivers and avoid the tragedy they wreak.”
“Getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol, using marijuana or both is one of the most dangerous things drivers can do,” said Jeff Larason, Director of the Highway Safety Division. “A little planning can save your life or someone else’s. Regret or remorse won’t bring someone back.”
Marijuana or marijuana-type drugs were the most prevalent types of drugs found in people killed in crashes from 2011 to 2016.
From 2015 to 2016, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities increased 9 percent (109 to 119).
From 2011-2015, 82 percent of impaired drivers in fatal crashes were men.
From 2011-2015, 45 percent of all alcohol-related driver fatalities were ages 21 to 34.
National Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
Approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers. On average, more than 10,000 people have died each year (2012- 2016) in drunk-driving crashes. To put it in perspective, that’s equal to about 20 jumbo jets crashing, with no survivors.
In 2016, almost one in five children (14 and younger) killed in traffic crashes were killed in drunk-driving crashes. Fifty-four percent of the time, it was the child’s own driver who was drunk.
Drugs were present in 43 percent of the fatally-injured drivers with a known test result in 2015, more frequently than alcohol was present.
NHTSA’s 2013–2014 roadside survey found drugs in 22 percent of all drivers both on weekend nights and on weekdays.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects—slows reaction times, impairs cognitive performance, and makes it more difficult for drivers to keep a steady position in their lane.
Mixing alcohol and marijuana may dramatically produce effects greater than either drug on its own.
To view the Highway Safety Division’s (HSD) “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” TV spots, or for more information about the HSD’s public information campaign, go to www.mass.gov/DriveSober
The Chelsea Public Schools have had a life-line in the State Budget the last few years as finances have gotten more difficult.
That life-line is known as the ‘Hold Harmless’ provision, or more popularly the ‘Pothole’ account. This year, that account is little to no help for Chelsea as the district saw their funding slashed in half.
Last year, Chelsea got an additional $1.214 million from the Pothole account funding – a fund that seeks to help districts who are not getting a proper count of their low-income students due to changes three years ago in the way they are counted.
However, this year Chelsea will only get $296,000, nearly $1 million less than last year.
“The whole idea of the account is to hold us harmless for the change in the way they calculate the funding, which has taken dollars away from us,” said Supt. Mary Bourque. “Come to find out, it was slashed this year at a rate of about 56 percent, so we are not held harmless because that would mean you are at 100 percent. By their own admission, we aren’t held harmless at 100 percent.”
State Sen. Sal DiDomenico said he was disappointed in the funding allotted to Chelsea for the Pothole account, and the ability not to be able to fix the funding for the long-term. That was something he had proposed in the education funding bill.
“I’m disappointed that was also not addressed within this session,” he said. “It would have been addressed with (the education) bill and it’s another reason I’m disappointed with how all of this happened.”
A partnership between the Traggorth Companies and The Neighborhood Developers (TND) will soon file for a project that includes 42 units of affordable and market rate apartments on a long-vacant property at 1001 Broadway – right on the Chelsea City Line.
Traggorth and TND once worked together to create the Box District, with Traggorth being responsible for the Atlas Lofts project within that district.
Dave Traggorth said he and TND have been in some extensive outreach with Mill Hill neighbors regarding the project for some time this month. After an initial proposal to neighbors before July 4th, the developers went back to the table to make some tweaks.
Those changes were reported back in a public meeting on Monday, July 16, in the Mary C. Burke Complex.
“Our current plan calls for 42 residential units over about 1,100 sq. ft. of retail space and a lobby and community areas,” he said. “There will also be 42 parking spaces on the ground floor. That’s the program we’re proposing. That’s after we got feedback from our neighbors along Clinton Street.”
The input included some design initiatives, such as keeping the building lower on Clinton Street than on the Broadway side.
On Broadway, he said, there would be a five-story structure with four residential floors over one floor of parking. On the Clinton Street side, there would be two levels of residential over one level of parking.
“The idea is to keep the height as low as possible on the Clinton Street and provide a buffer between the Broadway corridor and the Clinton Street residential district,” he said.
Per input from the neighbors, the developers have now included some market rate units, where before there were none.
That means there will be 33 affordable units (at 60 percent AMI, or about $55,000 per year for a family) and nine market rate units in the building.
Traggorth said there is a big demand for affordable housing in Chelsea.
“There’s a strong demand here for affordable housing,” he said. “TND is getting ready to draw for the Arcadia (French Club) project and they have 1,400 applications from Chelsea residents for 32 units. There’s just a tremendous demand for affordable housing here to prevent displacement. We’ve heard it loud and clear.”
Meanwhile, one great amenity for the public as a result of the potential development is 3,000 sq. ft. of public open space along the waterfront at Mill Creek.
“It’s part of reclaiming the waterfront and will connect with the hotel waterfront project and the playground further up at the Commons,” he said. “We’re looking at options and we want to start that conversation with the community about their vision for that open space and what would work there. Kudos to the City for having that waterfront vision plan.”
That waterfront plan was conducted in 2016 and called for opening up the waterfront to the public at most potential development sites, such as 1001 Broadway.
Traggorth said they would be filing with the City very soon to start the formal review process. The meetings and neighborhood input were all pre-file work that he said they wanted to do before beginning the process.
Last week, Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) and his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate passed comprehensive legislation to reduce youth access to tobacco and nicotine products. The bill raises the minimum legal sales age for all tobacco products to age 21 and adds vaping products to the smoke free workplace law.
Also included in the omnibus bill is language from Sen. DiDomenico’s bill to prohibit the sale of tobacco and nicotine delivery products in pharmacies and other health-care institutions. In 2014, CVS Pharmacy announced that it would stop tobacco based sales in their local pharmacies, and at least 160 Massachusetts communities have also banned tobacco sales in their local pharmacies. This legislation would require all other pharmacies to follow suit.
“It’s no secret that tobacco and nicotine use remains one of the leading causes of preventable illness and death across our nation, so it only makes sense that our health care institutions and pharmacies end the practice of carrying these harmful products,” said Senator DiDomenico, Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate. “I would like to thank Public Health Committee Chairman Jason Lewis for making this a top priority and including this as a key provision of this critical piece of legislation.”
Tobacco use and nicotine addiction remains the leading cause of preventable illness and premature death in Massachusetts, responsible for more than $4 billion in annual health care costs to the Commonwealth. Youth are particularly susceptible to nicotine addiction, with 9 in 10 cigarette smokers begin using before age 18.
While youth smoking has declined considerably in the last two decades, youth use of other addictive tobacco products like e-cigarettes is increasing sharply. While nicotine delivery products like e-cigarettes may sometimes help some nicotine-addicted adults to stop smoking traditional cigarettes, they present a significant new threat to the health and wellbeing of young people who have not previously used tobacco products.
“Raising the legal sales age for tobacco is an incredible public health achievement that will save lives, prevent addiction and ensure a healthier future for generations of Massachusetts youth,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “This legislation protects young adults whose minds and bodies are still developing, and is a proven strategy for nicotine addiction prevention. I am proud that the Senate has voted to approve this bill.”
“Massachusetts has long been a leader in protecting and strengthening public health,” said Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health and the bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate. “This comprehensive legislation will once again put the Commonwealth at the forefront of preventing youth addiction to tobacco and nicotine products, in order to improve health, save lives, and reduce healthcare costs.”
To directly target youth use, this legislation increases the legal sales age for tobacco products from 18 to 21. This is a proven and effective strategy to reduce youth tobacco use because it removes legally purchased tobacco products from high school social networks. The Institute of Medicine projects that increasing the age from 18 to 21 will reduce overall tobacco use in a population by 12% – the equivalent of 150,000 Massachusetts tobacco users.
Youth use of e-cigarettes has also grown alarmingly, becoming a pervasive presence in our high schools. The provisions in this bill build upon the regulations promulgated in 2016 by Attorney General Maura Healey, and ensure that the places that are tobacco free will also be vape free, including schools, restaurants and workplaces.
Other provisions included in the bill include new authority granted to the Department of Public Health to regulate new, emerging tobacco products and language requiring the Center for Health Information and Analysis to study the current tobacco cessation benefits offered by commercial insurers, MassHealth, and the Group Insurance Commission.
Many cities and towns have enacted policies to reduce tobacco use and nicotine addiction that go beyond current state and federal laws and regulations, creating a patchwork of different laws across the commonwealth that can confound retailers, distributors, consumers and public health officials. This legislation will provide a uniform statewide set of rules that protect youth and simplify the interaction between our state and local laws.
The bill now returns to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where the bill has formerly been engrossed, for enactment.