Keynote speaker Lucia Robinson-Griggs receives a standing ovation for her speech from the audience, including her parents, Linda Alioto-Robinson and Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson, and City Manager Tom Ambrosino.
The People’s A.M.E. Church, led by the Rev. Dr. Sandra Whitley, and the Chelsea community honored the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the annual breakfast and awards ceremony Jan. 21 at Chelsea High School.
The Rev. Whitley and the Planning Committee
put together another impressive tribute to the late Dr. King, the civil rights
leader who dedicated his life to promoting unity and delivered one of American
history’s greatest speeches, “I Have A Dream,” on Aug. 28, 1963 in Washington,
City Manager Tom Ambrosino, State Rep. Dan
Ryan, Council President Damali Vidot, Councillors Leo Robinson, Joseph
Perlatonda, and Enio Lopez, School Committee Chair Richard Maronski and member
Yessenia Alfaro, CBC President Joan Cromwell, Latimer Society Co-Director
Ronald Robinson, and Roca Executive Director Molly Baldwin led a slate of
dignitaries in attendance at the tribute that featured, singing, dancing, awards,
and inspirational speeches.
The Chelsea Hub, a network led by the
Chelsea Police Department and comprised of 27 different agencies, received the
prestigious Spirit Award in recognition of its ongoing efforts to help people
facing difficult challenges. Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes, Capt. David
Batchelor, Officer Sammy Mojica, Community Engagement Specialist Dan Cortez,
and Roca Assistant Director Jason Owens were among the award recipients.
The highlight of the program arrived when
Lucia Robinson-Griggs stepped to the podium and delivered the keynote address.
Robinson-Griggs, who holds degrees from
Bentley and Lesley and is a former high school and college scholar-athlete,
rose to the occasion with a heartfelt and eloquent address to the people of
“I’d just like to start by saying thank you
so much for inviting me to be here today to celebrate Chelsea while honoring
the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Robinson-Griggs, adding that
she was honored to be the keynote speaker after receiving the Young Adult
Dreamers and Achievers Award in 2018.
She noted the “I Have A Dream” and “We are
all created equal” theme of the program, stating, ‘it’s incredible how relevant
[Dr. King’s famous speech in 1963] still is here in 2019.”
She encouraged members of the audience to
carry on Dr. King’s legacy “even when it isn’t easy to do so.” She said
everyone should work for a better Chelsea in the years to come.
my words today are going to be a charge for the people in this auditorium to
reach beyond this room and change the perspective,” said Griggs-Robinson.
She singled out the Chelsea High student
choir (who performed at Gov. Baker’s inauguration), the Latimer Society (in
encouraging careers in STEM), and the award recipients, The Chelsea Hub and others,
as being positive influences in the city.
Briggs-Robinson cited her personal
experiences as an associate head coach of the MIT women’s basketball team,
relating how the coaching staff encourages its players to be “a part of the
solution and be a builder, to find the good somewhere and work to help build up
She said that people should be positive in
their actions and in their interactions with others, that even a small act of
kindness or an inspiring phrase or a compliment can have a profound effect on
starting to change another person’s life.
“Kindness catches on,” said Robinson-Briggs.
Strive to be someone’s builder every day. Be their bright spot and give hope
that we can be the generation to make Dr. King’s dream a reality.”
Robinson-Briggs received a warm, standing
ovation as she returned to her seat beside her parents, Councillor-at-Large Leo
Robinson and Linda Alioto-Robinson, and City Manager Tom Ambrosino in the front
row of the auditorium.
The Rev. Whitley concluded the impressive
program by having all audience members join hands and sing “We Shall Overcome.”
And in an unsung
but important gift to the community, CCCTV Executive Director Robert Bradley
and Technical Director Ricky Velez videotaped the entire two-hour program and tribute
to Dr. King, including Robinson-Griggs’ remarks, for broadcast on the local
Kathleen Bray, Councilor Leo Robinson, Linda Alioto Robinson, Stephanie Rodriguez, City Manager
Tom Ambrosino, and Dan Cortell helped coordinate the evening for the REACH program. Linda Aliota Robinson, long-time director of the REACH program, was honored for her years of work with the youth of Chelsea High.
If you’re a Chelsea student who enjoys scientific exploration, then the Latimer Society’s third annual Chelsea Science Festival is a must-go on your summer calendar.
Latimer Society Co-Directors Leo Robinson and Ronald Robinson are calling this year’s event, “Science Carnival,” which means it will be both educational and fun.
The Carnival will be held on Friday, Aug. 10, from noon to 5 p.m., at the Port Park, 99 Marginal Street. Joseph and Shelagh McNamee of Eastern Minerals have generously donated the facility for the event, and it’s proven to be a perfect venue with its waterfront location.
“What we’re trying to do is bring practitioners of science together with members of the community, children, and families,” said Ronald Robinson. “We’re trying to get our younger students involved in STEM, science, technology, engineering, and math, but we do STEAM and the ‘A’ stands for art.”
Robinson said the event will have local and regional scientists and science-oriented organizations in attendance.
“It’s our big event of the summer,” said Robinson. “We’re also working with CAPIC’s youth development center once a week this summer with a program that helps youth learn about designing.”
What activities can students expect when they arrive at the Science Carnival?
They will have access to interactive stations staffed by representatives from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) and the Suffolk County Mosquito Board, and of course, the Latimer Society, which is named for the brilliant scientist and inventor Lewis Howard Latimer, who was born in Chelsea in 1848.
“We’re all about promoting science because he [Latimer] was a noted scientist,” said Ronald Robinson.
The event is free of charge and open to students from Chelsea and other communities. Refreshments will be available.
“We expect students from Chelsea, Everett, East Boston, and Revere to be at the carnival,” said Leo Robinson, a longtime city councillor in Chelsea whose life has been dedicated to helping local students and athletes.
In concluding the interview about the Aug. 10 event, Ronald Robinson told a heartwarming story about two Chelsea students, ages 14 and 15, whom he had asked about their future career aspirations.
“One student said he’d like to play at Duke and in the NBA,” said Robinson. “I asked him what else he would like to be doing after college. So now I have him and his friend rebuilding a 3-D printer and they’re really enthusiastic about the project. And that’s what we do at the Latimer Society. We connect our youth with the sciences.”
And Ronald and Leo Robinson having been doing that well at the Latimer Society for more than 20 years.
The Chelsea Black Community’s 2018 Black History Month Celebration continued Tuesday with an art exhibit opening at the City Hall Gallery. Pictured are some of the guests at the event, from left, Councillor-at-Large Calvin Brown, Beverly Martin-Ross, Sharon Caulfield, Councillor Luis Tejada, Yahiya Noor and son, Khasim Noor, Henry Wilson, Lisa Santagate, Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson, CBC President Joan Cromwell, and Ronald Robinson. The next Black History Month event is a Taste of Culture Cook-Off Monday at 5 p.m. at La Luz de Cristo Church, 738 Broadway.
By a preliminary vote of 8-0, Councillor Damali Vidot received the support of her colleagues to become the new Council President in 2018 during a meeting on Monday.
The annual Conference Committee on leadership took place Monday with two possible candidates, current President Leo Robinson and Vidot. Both had been vying for the position behind the scenes, lobbying their colleagues for the position.
However, Robinson apparently had withdrawn his name before Monday’s conference, conceding the gavel to Vidot.
Those voting for Vidot to be president were Councillors Luis Tejada, Yamir Rodriguez, Giovanni Recupero, Calvin Brown, Bob Bishop, Enio Lopez, Robinson and Judith Garcia.
Vidot did not vote for herself, and Councillor Roy Avellaneda did not show up for the Conference. Councillor-elect Joe Perlatonda was absent during the president vote.
Vidot said she was honored to receive support from her colleagues, and will lean on the experience of long-time councillors to help her with the new role.
“I am honored to have received the support of my colleagues in serving as president of Chelsea City Council,” she said. “It is a responsibility I do not take lightly. I intend on leaning on the experience of longer-serving councillors while building on the passion and ideas of newer colleagues. We all have something different we bring to the table and I want to honor all of those voices while working cohesively on the concerns of our hard-working residents.
“More importantly, I want to ensure that we are always adhering to our City Charter and it’s ordinances and ensuring that the process is always fair and transparent,” she continued.
The vice president role was more hotly contested, with Councillor-elect Brown getting the nod over Recupero in a vote of 6-4.
Those voting for Brown were Vidot, Rodriguez, Brown, Bishop, Lopez, and Garcia. Those voting for Recupero were Tejada, Recupero, Robinson, and Perlatonda.
Avellaneda was not present for the vote.
Tejada was unanimously elected as the new School Committee liaison in a vote of 10-0, with Avellaneda absent.
The Council also participated in the annual drawing for Roll Call vote order and seating order.
Vidot will be the first vote next year in any roll call, with Recupero being the last vote.
In seating, there will be some interesting neighbors – with Councilors Recupero and Perlatonda sitting next to one another again. The old friends sat next to one another when Perlatonda was on the Council previously. Oddly enough, Perlatonda will also sit next to Garcia, who replaced him two years ago and whom he has criticized from time to time. Bishop will site on one end of the Council, while Calvin Brown will sit on the other end.
City Council President Leo Robinson and the Chelsea community are fondly remembering retired Chelsea firefighter Darren Moore, who died on Saturday, Nov. 25 at the age of 52.
Many of Darren’s classmates and friends learned of his passing during the Chelsea High School Class of 1982 35th Reunion Saturday night at the Merritt Club. Reunion co-chair Allen Andrade called upon the gathering for a moment of silence in memory of their beloved classmate, teammate and friend.
Robinson remembered his cousin Darren Moore’s exploits while wearing the Chelsea High Red Devil uniform in three varsity sports. A handsome, personable young man with a warm smile, Darren Moore had confidence in his abilities and developed in to a team leader who conducted himself with sportsmanship and grace on the court and on the field.
“Darren played football, basketball, and baseball at Chelsea High when the Red Devils were a hoop powerhouse in the Greater Boston League,” said Robinson. “Darren was also a coach of the Chelsea Pop Warner ‘A’ football team that rallied to defeat the San Francisco Bombers, 18-14, to win the 2001 national championship.”
Robinson said that following Darren’s athletic career, he wanted to help young kids in Chelsea enjoy the benefits that he had gained from playing sports.
“Darren wanted to give back to the city that was so good to him as a kid,” said Robinson. “He really enjoyed his years as a coach and winning the national championship was a thrill for everyone involved in that historic season.”
Robinson recalled that he was a member of the Board of Aldermen when Darren Moore took the oath as Chelsea firefighter.
“Darren’s family and I were so proud to be at City Hall and see him become a Chelsea firefighter,” said Robinson. “He served in the department for 20 years.”
Robinson said that Darren enjoyed accompanying him, his brother, Ron Robinson, and family friend Dale Johnson on camping trips and excursions to Newport, R.I.
“Darren was a just a good, fun-loving to be around,” said Robinson.
Former CHS cheerleader Debbie Cronin, one of Darren’s childhood friends, remembered Darren’s friendly and congenial nature.
“Darren was a lifelong childhood friend and a genuinely good guy,” said Cronin. “His passing is a tough one. Over the last few years, I’d bump in to him at the most random of places and even though it was clear he had health issues, he always had a smile. Darren will be missed by all.”
Robinson said he will ask the City Council to join him in a moment of silence in memory of Darren Moore at their meeting Monday night at City Hall.
A memorial gathering and visitation for Darren Moore will be held on Friday, Dec. 1, from 3 to 7 p.m., at the Frank Welsh and Sons Funeral Home, 718 Broadway, Chelsea. A life tribute and service of remembrance will be held in the funeral home beginning at 7 p.m.
Councillor Roy Avellaneda made a stunning oration Monday night at the Council meeting regarding the accusations of ethics breaches that have been volleyed his way over the last few months – singling out a councillor, though not by name, and then calling for the councillor to be censured.
After the meeting, Avellaneda admitted that the councillor in question was Damali Vidot.
The shocking moment came when Council President Leo Robinson submitted an order calling for an Ethics workshop to be conducted for the Council, setting off Avellaneda on a defensive course.
Over the last few weeks, several allegations have been thrown towards Avellaneda in the course of a heated neighborhood discussion that involved his request to get eight two-hour parking spots near his coffee shop in Cary Square. Though Avellaneda recused himself from the parking issue – which was approved by the Parking Commission and then rescinded by the Council last week – and was out of the room for most of the debate and voting, many felt he had crossed a line by requesting zoning changes and parking changes as a sitting councillor for the benefit of his business.
On Monday, after Robinson’s order, Avellaneda castigated Vidot and one of her supporters, and called to the carpet Robinson as well for not preventing the allegations when he was out of the room.
Ironically, Vidot was not present at Monday’s meeting during the oration, but was out of the country on a leadership training trip.
“This is the second time that false charges of ethics violations have been made against myself,” he said, passionately. “At the last occurrence, someone associated with a certain councillor’s campaign made the allegations and then this councillor rose and made similar allegations. This is the second time a councillor has done this…This is false information being allowed adjacent one’s character. It’s the essence of the definition. I’m surprised that the person making charges is a fellow councillor at-large, some would say an adversary.
“Personal attacks in this forum are not allowed,” he continued. “These are grounds for censure. As president you had an obligation to stop it and you didn’t…Quite frankly, I don’t expect this behavior to be allowed. We shouldn’t be allowing personal political attacks in this Chamber; they shouldn’t be allowed here. That’s what put the City into receivership.”
Vidot had stood and delivered an impassioned speech two weeks ago during the first hearing on rescinding the Cary Square parking program, a meeting that was very heavily attended by neighbors and residents. She indicated at the time that the proposal by a sitting councillor for business purposes was shady and didn’t sit well with her.
Others made similar statements from the general public.
Reached on Tuesday, Vidot said she was out of the country and found it ironic that Avellaneda would complain about being attacked while he was not present to defend himself – and then would move to attack her when she was not there.
“The irony that my Council decorum in holding one accountable bothers some more than the appearance of impropriety by another is very telling of the culture that existed prior to my election,” she said. “If speaking of a colleague while they’re out of the room is grounds for censure, what does it mean to talk about them when they’re out of the country? Or is this the ‘boys only’ club rules? I have and will continue to speak truths standing on either side of the dais on behalf of the residents. In fact, it may work in one’s favor to keep me close rather than to allow me to wander to the other side where it’s all fair game.”
Robinson said his order for an ethics workshop was not targeted at Avellaneda or any other councillor, but was in general to answer questions members had about ethics and the Open Meeting Law – especially as it relates to social media.
Chelsea City Council voted in a formal resolution on Monday night to take a stand in opposition to the statewide Question 2 charter school expansion ballot initiative.
The vote was 9-0, with Councillors Roy Avellaneda and Yamir Rodriguez not voting.
Rodriguez works for a Charter School in Boston and chose not to vote, and Avellaneda said he hasn’t made up his mind on the matter.
Other councillors, including Damali Vidot who has a child at Excel Charter School, were firmly against Question 2, citing that it would have very negative effects on the budget of the Chelsea Public Schools and other schools in the state.
“I haven’t made a decision on this; I’m still taking in the information,” Avellaneda said. “Chelsea is a little special because we’ve had a partnership with a charter school – Phoenix. The are kids who never would be able to graduate from our high school. I wonder if we’re going to take that same opportunity away from another community…I’m still struggling with the issue and haven’t made up my mind.”
Vidot said her daughter went to Chelsea schools and then she faced the decision to put her in middle school here or go to a charter. She chose a charter, but she said that didn’t mean she supports the expansion question.
“This isn’t an argument about charters versus public schools,” she said. “Question 2 is saying that in districts where schools are failing, they would be allowed to open up to 12 new charters each year. That would be a complete disaster for our public schools…I can’t sit here saying I am an advocate of the public and advocate something that would take away critical services from them.”
Councillor Judith Garcia said she believes in the teachers in the Chelsea Public Schools, where she attended school, and believes voting for Question 2 would be throwing them to the wind.
“I will vote ‘no’ for Question 2,” she said. “Not because I believe parents shouldn’t have options. It’s because I am not willing to give up on the teachers in our public schools.”
Councillor Leo Robinson said it was a matter of funding, and he said Chelsea School get a bad rap – which is undeserved.
He said statistics show that if more charters open up, more kids might choose the charters over the public schools. For one student leaving, that would be $12,000, and if 45 left, they would lose $306,000. For the most part, funding follows the student, but Robinson did indicate that the public schools get a payback for six years when a child leaves the public system for a charter. That includes 100 percent of the funding in the first year, and 25 percent of the funding for the remaining five years.
“That sounds great, but they’re not funding that at the state,” he said. “They only funded 63 percent of those costs this year. It’s an issue of dollars and sense. I think the school system here is doing an outstanding job.”
Added Council President Dan Cortell, “This isn’t an anti-charter school vote, but it is a pro-public school vote.”
Todd Taylor, a member of the Planning Board and a parent of kids in a charter school, said he didn’t think the vote was appropriate, and he was disappointed in the Council.
“The charter schools we have in this state give the best opportunity for disadvantaged kids in mostly minority community to lift themselves up,” he said. “The school my kids go to, the Brooke in East Boston, is successful at that. The whole thing just shows the need for more serious conversation about real issues and unfortunately they just wanted to do something to say ‘Rah Rah.’ We needed to engage in a real dialog about this issue.”
Question 2 will be on the statewide ballot for voters to choose in November.
Taking the gavel once again this January will be District 8 Councillor Dan Cortell, after he received unanimous support of his colleagues in their caucus Monday night.
The incoming Council met on Monday night for its annual caucus session to pick its officers, its seating position and its voting order for the 2016 session. Gone were many of the councillors that have served for decades and, in their place for the first time, were several new councillors who will take a place at the table next year.
Cortell was chosen as the president in a vote of 9-0. Missing from that vote was Councillor Giovanni Recupero, who has been tending to a family issue for a few weeks, and Councillor-elect Luis Tejada, who came in just after the vote.
Council President Leo Robinson – the dean of the Council – ran the meeting and kicked off the proceedings.
Councillor Paul Murphy nominated Cortell, and Councillor-elect Damali Vidot seconded that motion.
Then, Councillor-elect Yamir Rodriguez nominated Councillor-elect Roy Avellaneda for president.
Avellaneda, who has been running for the position over the last month, had apparently failed to secure the necessary votes and withdrew.
“I appreciate it, but I will withdraw,” he said.
He then threw his support behind Cortell, who was elected unanimously.
“I am honored to have been chosen to lead Council’s next session by both councillors I have worked with over the years and some who I’ve only recently gotten to know,” said Cortell. “From the many conversations that have taken place since, and even before elections were over, I’m most confident that all councillors put their name on a ballot, campaigned and ran to play their part in making Chelsea the best it can be. I have inherent respect for anyone who takes the leap from interested resident to elected official and am confident we’ll have an active and effective Council that, despite inevitable periodic disagreement, will work collectively and with City Manger Tom Ambrosino to better the City we have a shared passion to see reach its full potential.”
Following that, Vidot was chosen as vice president of the Council – a relative rarity that one who has yet to take a seat on the Council would have secured the votes needed to be second in the leadership chain.
“I’m excited to serve and am looking forward to working together with everyone to move Chelsea forward on a City Council that hears the needs of everybody,” she said.
She was chosen by a vote of 10-0, with Recupero absent.
Tapped to be the School Committee delegate was Councillor-elect Yamir Rodriguez of District 7.
Avellaneda returned the favor and nominated Rodriguez, which was seconded by Cortell.
The vote was a unanimous 10-0 with Recupero absent.
In other more mundane matters, the Council (using the same envelopes they’ve
Council Clerk Paul Casino spreads out the envelopes to help choose seating position as the Council caucused Monday night to choose a president for the 2016 session. In a unanimous vote, Councillor Dan Cortell was chosen for the position.
used since receivership, a nod to frugality) chose closed envelopes that contained numbers and determined where they would sit in the coming year.
Avellaneda chose number 1, meaning he will be on the far left, while Councillor Matt Frank chose number 10, which means he’ll be on the far right. In between, left to right, will be Paul Murphy, Enio Lopez, Recupero, Tejada, Vidot, Robinson, Judith Garcia, and Rodriguez. Cortell will be seated at the rostrum as the new president.
An official vote for officers will take place on inauguration night, Jan. 4, but the vote of the caucus most often stands
It’s tough to be an incumbent these days, and the national trend to oust those in office carried over to Chelsea Tuesday night when six new people out of 11 seats – creating a new majority – swept into office on a wave of voter excitement and candidate campaigning that hasn’t been seen here for a decade or more.
There were 2,832 ballots cast for a 21 percent voter turnout.
The most exciting race was the City Council at-Large race, but the most dramatic change came in the district seats, where every contested race resulted in the removal of the incumbent councillor.
But first, the at-Large race was where most of the hard campaigning had been done since the Preliminary Election in September. Old political sidewalk politics such as sign holding, campaign rallies and door knocking efforts, unheard of in Chelsea politics for years, became the norm as voters saw more of the candidates than in many previous contests.
Topping the ticket in the race was returning councillor Roy Avellaneda, who had served previously on the Council and decided to make a run once again after two failed state representative bids last year. The vote tally reflected as follows, with Avellaneda, newcomer Damali Vidot and Council President Leo Robinson.
Robinson was the only Council incumbent in a contested race to be re-elected.
•Calvin Brown, 970
•Todd Taylor, 798
•Deborah Washington, 380
The most surprising news of the night was that long-time Councillor Calvin Brown got knocked out of his seat. He trailed Robinson by only 18 votes, and said afterward he didn’t know if he’d go for a recount.
“That’s something to think about and maybe sleep on,” he said. “You have to take your time with that decision, but it was close.”
Avellaneda said he was very humbled and encouraged by the excitement that the race generated.
“It’s humbling to be honest,” he said. “It’s very exciting to go out there an get the support of the community I grew up in…I’m looking forward to working with our new city manager, our councillors, some of the incumbents, on making Chelsea a better place to live and work. We had a lot of excitement about this race and we haven’t seen that in years. Between School Committee, the district seats and the at-large races, we saw a type of atmosphere we haven’t seen since the first City Council was elected after the Charter passed…We need that excitement now to roll over and keep those people engaged in civic activities.”
Vidot, who had not intentions of ever running for City Council last year at this time, said she was humbled and found it hard to believe she had walked the path she had over the last several months.
She said voters responded to her message loud and clear, that City Hall isn’t representing the people and that there is a disconnect between City Hall and the neighborhoods.
“People clearly want change,” she said. “We have an almost entirely new City Council. The people have spoken and it’s time for us to respond. Until January, I’m going to read up and educate myself on the job and the responsibilities. I’m going to also keep my supporters close by and engaged so we can keep our momentum. I’m really looking forward to working with everybody.”
The District Council races were the most shocking, and where the real wave of new faces will be seen.
In District 2, Chelsea native Luis Tejada beat incumbent Chris Cataldo 160-137.
In District 4, long-time Councillor Paul Barton was beaten decidedly by activist Enio Lopez, 139-59.
In District 5, incumbent Councillor Joe Perlatonda had been edged out already in the Preliminary Election, leaving two challengers. The heir apparent had been Henry Wilson, a long-time community activist and Planning Board member. However, up and coming candidate Judith Garcia, who has youth on her side being in her 20s, surged in the campaign and beat Wilson, 164-109.
In District 7, newcomer Yamir Rodriguez, also in his 20s, beat out incumbent Clifford Cunningham, 155-123.
District 1 Councillor Paul Murphy, District 3 Councillor Matt Frank, District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero, and District 8 Councillor Dan Cortell were all unopposed.
The results will give the Council, as stated above, six new faces in January.
In the School Committee race, Shawn O’Regan flexed some political muscle and cruised to an easy victory over write-in candidate Carolyn Vega, 1,449-390.
The two contested races on the School Committee showed former Chelsea High graduate Robert Pereira beating Kizzi Reyes in District 5, 147-85.
Also, in an open seat, Yessenia Alfaro-Alvarez barely edged out Elizabeth Shahinian, 188-177.
Newcomer Diana Maldonado was unopposed in Dis
Ticket topper Roy Avellaneda (right) – a new Council at-Large member – with Chelsea Cable Director Duke Bradley during a break in the Chelsea Cable live Election Night broadcast.
trict 4 and received 150 votes.
Newcomer Kelly Garcia won District 7 with 63 votes in District 7.
District 1 Rosemarie Carlisle, District 2 Jeanette Velez, District 3 Richard Maronski, and District 6 Ana Hernandez all won in unopposed races.