He spent his entire professional career working in the country’s best restaurants and crafting innovative tastes in his own bistros.
Now, Chef Matt Morello is bringing his culinary skills to Revolutionary Clinics, making unique, cannabis-infused edibles. Revolutionary Clinics is a state-of-the-art medical marijuana company with a dispensary at 67 Broadway in Somerville and two planned in Cambridge.
“I have had amazing opportunities to train under some of the finest chefs in the country in world-renowned restaurants and hotels,” Morello said. “Now, I have the chance to be a part of a cutting-edge company like RevClinics.”
Morello says he is bringing his skills to the art of edible cannabis products. “Cannabis edibles present a unique challenge, unlike a cafe or restaurant where food is expected to be eaten right away. We have to be creative and innovative to ensure the highest quality product throughout its shelf life,” he said. “This requires the same attention to detail that is required at the highest level of fine dining.”
Among the morsels available at the Somerville dispensary: strawberry-lemon gummies, concord grape terp chews and passion fruit gummies. They are all created by Morello.
“Our edibles are the perfect mix of chemistry and the culinary arts,” he said. “Chemistry makes sure the products are consistent, of the highest quality, and effective. My job is to make it taste good.”
The Somerville man charged with murdering 15-year-old Jimmy Vasquez in Chelsea last year was ordered held without bail at his arraignment this week, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.
Juan Carlos Matos Figueroa, 22, of Somerville, was arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court on indictments charging first-degree murder, unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of a large capacity feeding device, carrying a loaded firearm, assault and battery by discharging a firearm, four counts of attempted assault and battery by discharging a firearm, and five counts of armed assault with intent to murder for opening fire on a group of unarmed teens, killing Vasquez and striking a second victim. At the request of Assistant District Attorney Stacey Pichardo of the DA’s Gang Unit, Figueroa was ordered held without bail.
According to prosecutors, Vasquez and five other teens aged 15 to 18 were standing in front of a Shurtleff Street address on the afternoon of January 13, 2017. No member of the group was armed.
Shortly after 5:30 p.m., a vehicle in which Figueroa was a backseat passenger made its way down Shurtleff Street toward Grove Street. Figueroa allegedly produced a 9mm handgun equipped with a 30-round magazine and a red laser sight and pointed the weapon at the group, garnering the group’s attention with the laser, prosecutors said.
The vehicle continued down the street a short distance before stopping. Figueroa then exited and opened fire on the group, fatally striking Vasquez in the abdomen and a second 15-year-old in the foot, Pichardo said.
Figueroa and the other occupants of the vehicle then fled the area.
During the investigation that followed, Chelsea Police detectives and State Police detectives assigned to Conley’s office undertook witness interviews, retrieved video footage from cameras in the area, and collected physical evidence that included shell casings recovered at the scene of the shooting.
Suffolk prosecutors continued the investigation behind the closed doors of the grand jury, resulting in the return of 14 indictments against Figueroa on Friday. Chelsea and State Police located him at a Jacques Street residence in Somerville that same date and took him into custody.
Erin O’Connor is the DA’s assigned victim-witness advocate. Figueroa is represented by Robert Griffin. He returns to court May 10.
Revolutionary Clinic Product Consultant Sarah-Jaana Nodell displays two strains of marijuana buds that are dispensed at the clinic’s Somerville/Sullivan Square location. The two types are grown at their Fitchburg farm, and are among several products – from chocolates to tinctures to salves – that the clinic sells to state-registered patients.
The first medical marijuana dispensary in the Lower Mystic region has opened its doors in Sullivan Square on Broadway, Somerville, and operators of the clinic, Revolutionary Clinics, said last week at an open house they are seeing many new patients and believe people in the area with chronic pain are turning away from the black market to get a medicine that helps them deal with their illnesses.
Last Friday, Revolution – which sees itself as a regional dispensary serving the entire Lower Mystic region – said that it has been open every day since November (except Thanksgiving and Christmas) and the business has been ramping up every week – with an average of 38 new state-approved patients per week.
“The company is growing here and the patients are returning on a regular basis,” said Keith Cooper, CEO of the company, which is based in Colorado. “We are very, very excited about this location and obviously disturbed and concerned about what is being said at the national level. We hope that it will be just posturing and not hurt the patients taking advantage of this incredible plant.”
The open house at the dispensary was a chance for the media and for state legislators, including Somerville Sen. Patricia Jehlen, to see one of the area’s first functioning clinics in progress.
At a small panel discussion afterwards, the topic of the black market for marijuana came up.
Revolutionary Managing Director Meg Sanders said they don’t inquire, but they assume people in the area were getting marijuana somehow before there was a place like Revolutionary that is regulated and legal.
“We don’t ask that, but people who need the medicine were going to get it if they needed it,” she said. “There are a lot of black market operators out there. That’s the last place we would want patients to have to go because its unregulated and you don’t know what’s really in it. All of our products are tested and we know what’s in them.”
The clinic is only for those approved by the state for medical marijuana – though there is a desire to convert to recreational sales if permitted later this year. The system is set up with many security checks, from the parking lot to the entrance to the point of sale and delivery of the product.
After going through the procedures, one can work with a clerk to discuss the products available and options. There is an education area and an area for private consultation.
The clinic dispenses everything from traditional marijuana “flowers” or “buds” to salves, vaping cartridges, tinctures, oils, waxes, cookies, biscuits and chocolates.
The actual “buds” are produced in Massachusetts, and right now Revolutionary has a farm in Fitchburg that is producing two varieties now sold in the clinic.
The many different products, said clerk Sarah-Jaana Nodell, are only a matter of preference. Some people come in with arthritis and only want a salve. Some people have lung problems and cannot smoke buds, so they need a tincture or an edible product.
Others just need very low doses for their ailments, while others need to smoke strong buds to relieve chronic pain.
“The flower is really just the delivery mechanism for the oils,” she said. “The primary element is the concentration of oils and there are other ways to deliver it. If someone comes in with lung disease, the last thing we’ll do is give them something to smoke. I’m not going to give you edibles if you can’t digest things. That’s when a patient might be a better fit for a tincture.
“We have so many people saying they don’t want to get high,” she continued. “You don’t have to. You don’t have to get high. We’re here to help patients find the product that is going to make them feel better in any way we can. Many of our products are non-hallucinogenic so they will not get anyone high.”
However, for others, the hallucinogenic effect is precisely the medicine they need in smoking the flower – and the side effects, such as giggling, can be helpful too.
“We have some strains that make you giggly and happy,” she said. “Some people say they want something that will make them giggle. We can do that. For a lot of people with chronic pain, giggling is an easy thing to do.”
Nodell said she can relate to such pain, as she and many of the product consultants are medical marijuana users who have survived and coped with chronic pain for years.
“I lived with chronic pain and was allergic to most pain medications,” she said. “I was 15 when I discovered medical marijuana and never turned back. Six surgeries later and no morphine for me. Chronic pain is a hard thing. That 1-10 scale gets mixed up and it’s hard when 10 is all the time.”
Bringing the 10 down to a manageable level – whether dealing with cancer, Crohn’s Disease or arthritis – is what Revolutionary said they are all about.
“These products really help and provide relief,” said Sanders. “I have seen so many Crohn’s patients find great relief with these products after so many steroid treatments.”
After one finds the product they need and pays for it, the product is picked up in a secure dispensing area – much like a traditional pharmacy counter. After that, a patient can leave, and they do so with a great deal of security in the parking lot and with a network of cameras to prevent theft or assault.
“We haven’t had an incident since we opened,” said Sanders. “It is as secure or more secure than any bank or jewelry store you might enter…With all the cameras around here, we actually end up helping to solve crimes in our experience. In a store we have in Colorado, the police frequently ask us for footage from our cameras to catch things that happen around us. We are actually solving crimes.”
The clinic is open Monday, Weds., and Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, they are open 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. On Sundays, they are open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
They are located at 67 Broadway in Somerville, just two blocks from Sullivan Square.
The Wynn Boston Harbor casino has a clear path to opening for the first time since announcing three years ago that it intended to compete for the Greater Boston license at its Everett site.
The City of Somerville announced on Monday afternoon that it would discontinue all appeals of the casino – saying that it had resolved a number of issues that it had with the casino during the Chapter 91 license appeal and would not choose to take the matter to Superior Court.
“The City of Somerville successfully resolved a number of our community’s core concerns regarding the Wynn casino project through our recent appeal of the casino’s Ch. 91 license,” wrote Mayor Joe Curtatone in a statement. “For this reason, we will not pursue further appeal of the license via the courts. I want to be clear; our appeal was never about stopping the casino, but rather about our civic duty to protect the health, safety, and quality of life of our residents. While we did not get everything we asked for, the appeal did yield significant and meaningful results for our residents, so we feel the process worked.”
The news was greeted happily from China by Wynn Boston Harbor President Bob DeSalvio, who received the news while helping to celebrate the opening of the Wynn Palace in Macau.
“With all legal challenges behind us, we can now focus entirely on making Wynn Boston Harbor one of the most powerful job generators and economic catalysts to ever benefit the Commonwealth,” DeSalvio said. “We are pleased to be joined with all our neighboring communities in making this a historic development for all.”
Curtatone said he was particularly pleased with ensuring that the Wynn ferry will be required to run for 50 years, the entirety of the Chapter 91 license.
“By the Wynn organization’s estimates, the ferry should reduce casino road traffic by an estimated six percent, and in one of the most congested areas of the country, every bit counts,” said Curtatone.
He also cited the decrease in the term of the Chapter 91 license, which was originally 85 years. After the appeal was announced, Wynn and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) worked together to compromise on a plan to knock the license term down to 50 years.
“This means current residents will have greater community benefits now, and the next generation will have an opportunity to reassess benefits within a more reasonable time period,” he added.
Curtatone also indicated he was ready to be a regional partner. He also said he has signed on to an agreement to that effect.
“Together with Wynn, the state, and other regional partners, we will continue to seek progress on traffic mitigation and mobility concerns and opportunities as they relate to the casino,” he said. “To that end, I would like to announce that the City of Somerville and Wynn MA, LLC, have entered into an agreement that commits both parties to jointly working to address these needs.”
He said he would like that group to continue working specifically on Regional Planning, Multi-Modal Mobility and Transportation Funding, Bus Transit Improvements and Bus Rapid Transit, Air Quality and Public Health, and Environmental Sustainability.
Quintavius Smith, 22, 85 Blossom St., Chelsea, was arrested for failing to stop for police, speeding, stop sign violation, operating motor vehicle unlicensed, receiving stolen property over $250, reckless operation of motor vehicle.
Domenic Strazzulla, 53, 151 Liverpool St., East Boston, was arrested on a warrant.
Jomael DeJesus, 19, 93 Bellingham St., Chelsea, was arrested on warrants.
Marbin Bardales, 34, 15 Haskel Ave., Revere, was arrested for possessing/drinking open alcoholic beverage in public.
Spencer Clark, 38, 8 Grove St., Chelsea, was arrested for assault with dangerous weapon, threat to commit crime.
Mario Hurtado, 24, 725 Broadway, Chelsea, was arrested on conspiracy to violate drug law.
Carlos Hernandez, 21, 29 Library St., Chelsea, was arrested for operating motor vehicle with suspended/revoked license (2 counts).
Elizabeth Toro, 30, 959 Broadway, Chelsea, was arrested for assault and battery aggravated on pregnant person.
Amy Pinabella, 43, 59 Bellingham St., Chelsea, was arrested on warrants.
Anastacio Rivera, 25, 116 Curwin Circle, Lynn, was arrested on 5 warrants.
Brunildo Pabon, 40, 26 Eleanor St., Chelsea, was arrested for breaking and entering nighttime vehicle/boat for felony (2 counts), possessing burglarious instrument.
Wilmer Reyes, 28, 948 Broadway, Chelsea, was arrested for operating of motor vehicle unlicensed, marked lanes violation, failure to wear seat belt.
Daniel Barke, 25, 110 Malden St., Everett, was arrested on warrant.
Dramane Ky, 25, 14 Central Ave., Chelsea, was arrested for disorderly conduct, assault and battery.
Madeline Rosa, 39, 767 Broadway, Chelsea, was arrested for assault and battery on +60 disabled, unarmed robbery on +60, assault and battery with dangerous weapon on +60 person.
Pedro Hernandez, 23, 767 Broadway, Chelsea, was arrested for assault and battery on +60/disabled, unarmed robbery on a +60, arrest warrant.
Robert Soroka, 42, 235 Revere St., Revere, was arrested for receiving stolen property over $250.
Dany Betanco, 38, 71 Congress Ave., Chelsea, was arrested for malicious destruction of property over $250, witness intimidation, larceny over $250.
Kendrick Tate, 24, 27 Gerrish Ave., Chelsea, was arrested on a warrants, home invasion, kidnapping, witness intimidation, assault with dangerous weapon, possessing to distribute Class D drug, possessing Class B drug.
Lucio Martinez, 19, 79 Marshall St., Somerville, was arrested for witness intimidation, kidnapping, possessing to distribute Class D drug, possessing Class B drug.
As Chief Brian Kyes stood at the podium in Boston’s Federal Court last Friday after an historic roundup, four years in the making, of key MS-13 gang members in Chelsea, Eastie, Everett and Somerville, he thought of one innocent single mother who had simply looked out the window of a battered women’s shelter when she heard fighting.
For that short peak, she got a bullet in the head – premeditated and, as charges suggest, with extreme violence carried out by two MS-13 members from a clique in Somerville.
“My thoughts after this operation are with a young mother of three – Katerin Gomez – who was murdered on Oct. 18, 2014 by what we believe to be members of this gang,” he said. “This is someone that has nothing to do with gangs. Nothing at all. She heard noise outside, went to look out the window and that’s when she was hit in the head with a stray bullet…The greatest point today is this is not where it ends.”
In an unexpected and shocking roundup of El Salvadoran MS-13 gang members in Everett, Chelsea, East Boston, Somerville, Revere, and elsewhere, federal, state and local officials announced Friday morning that they believed they had put a significant dent in the alleged murderous and criminal gang known in Spanish as ‘La Mara Salvatrucha.’
Around 5 a.m. on Friday, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials, Homeland Security, State Police and local police began arresting targeted members of the gang – that following an investigation that has been underway since 2012 and the recent indictment of 56 local members on RICO charges ranging from murder to drug trafficking.
More than 400 law enforcement officials made some 37 arrests on Friday, 14 of those listed as being from Chelsea. Some 15 of those indicted were already in custody on federal, state or immigration charges, including one man from Chelsea. Authorities also announced the arrest of the gang’s East Coast leader, Jose Martinez-Castro, of Richmond, VA.
Perhaps most important in Chelsea was an accountability for a rampage of violence that the gang has inflicted mostly on Chelsea soil, though many times the players and conflicts come from cliques in Everett, Somerville and Eastie.
Five murders were charged, including two in Chelsea and three in Eastie. Of those in Eastie, two of the victims were young teens from Chelsea – one a 15-year-old from Chelsea High School, Irvin De Paz. There were also 14 charges of attempted murder leveled against gang members, and a shocking 10 of those attempted murders occurred in Chelsea in 2014 and 2015. Drug Trafficking charges of five kilograms of cocaine were also leveled against the gang in Chelsea.
“Our goal is to stop the violence and the danger and fear they enact upon these communities,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz at a press conference on Friday.
“Violence and its impact is real and seen in East Boston, Chelsea, Revere, Everett and Somerville,” said Hank Shaw, FBI special agent in charge. “Today’s operation made the kind of impact where approximately one-third of the MS-13 membership in Massachusetts has been or will be taken off the streets.”
Officials who investigated the murders, particularly that of De Paz and Eastie’s Wilson Martinez, said they were some of the most grisley scenes they had ever witness – noting that charges included murder with “extreme atrocity.”
“In my 30 years of law enforcement, a majority of which has been on the gang unit, I’ve never seen a more violent gang than this,” said State Police Lt. Frank Hughes. “The violence is unimaginable and the brutality they inflict on each other is unspeakable. Anyone who feels they will fill the void left by today’s operation – we’re on you.”
Shaw said the murders were often “machete attacks involving slow, painful deaths.”
VIOLENCE NOTED IN CHELSEA
As a result of the investigation, five very troubling murders were tied back to MS-13.
In Chelsea, the murder of Katerin Gomez in Oct. 2014 was tied to Somerville clique members Hector ‘Cuervo’ Ramires and Bryan ‘Chucky’ Galicia-Barillas. The indictment charges that the two men with extreme atrocity and cruelty murdered her as she looked out the window.
Javier Ortiz was murdered on Dec. 14, 2014 by Chelsea clique members Hector ‘Vida Loca’ Enamorado, Luis ‘Brujo’ Solis-Vasquez of the Everett clique, Noe Salvador ‘Crazy’ Perez-Vasquez of the second Everett clique and Jose ‘Smiley’ Miguel Hernandez, also of the second Everett clique in Chelsea. The murder came as a result of an altercation with Ortiz the night before. Following the murder, the indictment indicates, Enamorado and Solis-Vasquez were congratulated for the murder at a meeting of the East Side Locos Salvatrucha (ESLS) in Everett. Two ESLS leading members, allegedly, were beaten by the gang members as discipline for not helping the two killers the night before.
In Eastie, on Constitution Beach, Wilson Martinez was killed in Sept. 2015 with extreme atrocity by one member from the Everett clique and two members from another clique, as well as a juvenile. The indictment alleges they were encouraged beforehand by Perez-Vasquez to murder more rival gang members in order to get promoted. All of those that participated in the murder were promoted within their cliques – one getting a 13-second “beat in” by numerous clique leaders on Deer Island Dec. 6, 2015.
In particular, the murder of De Paz, who was only 15, of Chelsea, was tied to the two violent strains of Everett MS-13 cliques.
The Everett-based ESLS and the Everett-based ‘Everett Locos Salvatrucha (ELS) had encouraged Everett’s Joel ‘Animal’ Martinez to murder De Paz in order to be admitted to the gang. The leader of ELS, Noe Salvador Perez-Vasquez, gave the initial encouragement, it was alleged.
The murder took place on Sept. 20, 2015 in Eastie. After the murder, the ELS clique disciplined Martinez by beating him at a meeting and refusing him entrance.
However, after that, on January 8 of this year, the ESLS clique allegedly initiated Martinez in a meeting at an Everett auto body shop. After he was beaten for 13 seconds, he was welcomed into the group – according to the indictment, which was established using wiretaps.
Finally, just a month ago, on Jan. 10, in Eastie, Christopher Perez-De La Cruz was allegedly murdered by members of two Somerville cliques. That murder, it was alleged, came due to a call from the East Coast leader in a December 2015 meeting in Richmond, VA for cliques in Massachusetts to be more active in killing rival gang members.
The attempted murders in Chelsea were as follows:
March 28, 2014, Hector ‘Cuervo’ Martinez attempted to murder one victim with a knife.
April 6, 2014, Rafael ’Tremendo’ Leoner-Aguirre attempted to murder two victims by attacking them with a machete.
April 16, 2014, Aguirre, Josue ‘Gallito’ Morales, and Kevin ‘Blancito’ Ayala attempted to murder two men with a gun, hitting one of the victims.
May 29, 2014, Daniel ‘Roca’ Menjivar and David ‘Cilindro’ Lopez attempted to murder one victim by stabbing him with a knife and shooting him with a gun.
Sept. 8, 2014, Angel ‘Bravo’ Pineda and Jose ‘Little Crazy’ Vasquez and Bryan ‘Chucky’ Galicia-Barillas attempted to murder on victim by stabbing him with a knife.
Around April 2015, Menjivar, Lopez, Galicia-Barillas and Aguirre and a man only known as ‘Violento’ attempted to murder one victim with a machete. That victim had been an MS-13 member, and a green light was given to kill him by a leader of the gang in Arizona – as he was suspected of working with law enforcement.
May 12, 2015, Jose ‘Muerto’ Hernandez-Miguel and Luis ‘Brujo’ Solis Vasquez attempted to murder a man with a knife.
May 26, 2015, Galicia-Barillas and Domingo ‘Chapin’ Tirol attempted to murder two men by stabbing them with a knife.
Aug. 23, 2015, Edwin ‘Sangriento’ Gonzalez attempted to murder two men by attacking and striking them with a machete.
Dec. 27, 2015, Joel ‘Animal’ Martinez and Mauricio ‘Tigre’ Sanchez attempted to murder one victim by stabbing him with a knife.
“There was a time when rival gang members stay out of each other’s way – one went one way and the other went the other way,” said Kyes. “It’s getting to the point now that if there are two rival gang members and I see you walking down the street with the wrong hat or shoes, I might kill you by stabbing you or with a gun. This is the way these kids operate. That’s the message they get from the hierarchy.”
RECRUITING IN THE SCHOOLS
Most shockingly, federal officials detailed the fact that the gang was allegedly recruiting members from inside local high schools and middle schools – including Everett High School, Chelsea High School and East Boston High School.
“During the course of this investigation, it is alleged that MS-13 actively recruited prospective members, known as ‘paros,’ inside local high schools from communities with significant immigrant populations from Central America, including Chelsea High School, East Boston High School and Everett High School,” said Ortiz. “Prospective members were typically 14 or 15 years old. Under the strict rules of MS-13, as communicated to the local ‘cliques’ by the leaders of MS-13 in El Salvador, these prospective members must engage in significant violent criminal activity on behalf of the criminal organization, usually the killing of a rival gang member, in order to become a full-fledged member of MS-13, known as a ‘homeboy.’”
In order to recruit, the gang was involved in the three local high schools – both during school and after school – to get students to join the gang. Younger prospective gang members were often encouraged to commit more violent crimes to move up in rank.
Supt. Mary Bourque sent a letter home to parents and students following the raids on Monday.
“I want to reassure you that our schools are a safe place for students to learn and thrive,” she wrote. “We acknowledge that gang activity has taken place outside our schools and in our community. So that you are aware of our work, once we become aware of any student who begins to be enamored with gang life or ultimately becomes gang affiliated, we work closely with the Chelsea Police Department and their extended network to counsel the student and family to a better choice. We encourage you to reach out to us if you become aware of gang activity in your neighborhood or with your child’s friends. Our Chelsea way is to ‘Welcome and Educate.’ Let us not have a few tarnish all the good that we do each and every day in our schools.”
Chief Kyes and City Manager Tom Ambrosino said they will be vigilant to make sure gangs don’t return to the schools or the school kids looking for recruits.
“Schools are supposed to be a safe place for learning and gangs have no place in schools,” he said, noting the coordination that the Chelsea Police has with CHS when it appears a student is headed down the wrong path or may need help.
TRANSNATIONAL CRIMINAL ORGANIZATION
Additionally, Homeland Security officials announced that they were holding 10 individuals who weren’t facing charges, but had significant ties to the gang and were not in the country legally.
According to court documents, in 2012, MS-13 became the first, and remains the only, street gang to be designated by the United States government as a “transnational criminal organization.” MS-13 is one of the largest criminal organizations in the United States, and is an international criminal organization with over 6,000 members in the United States, with a presence in at least 46 states and the District of Columbia, as well as over 30,000 members internationally, mostly in El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala.
In Massachusetts, MS-13 is largely composed of immigrants and descendants of immigrants from El Salvador and has members operating throughout the Commonwealth, with higher concentrations in Chelsea, East Boston, Everett, Lynn, Revere, and Somerville.
Violence is a central tenet of MS-13, Ortiz said, as evidenced by its core motto — “mata, viola, controla,” translated as, “kill, rape, control.”
During the course of this investigation, she said, this violence was directed against rival gangs, particularly the 18th Street gang, and anyone who was perceived to have disrespected MS-13. The 18th Street gang, another criminal organization in Central America with members living in the United States, has been a longstanding rival of MS-13. MS-13 members and associates often commit murders and attempted murders using machetes, knives, and chains in order to intimidate rival gang members – weapons that were confiscated and in full display on a table in front of Ortiz during the press conference.
The indictment further alleges that members of the MS-13 organization in Massachusetts sell cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, and commit robberies, in order to generate income to pay monthly dues to the incarcerated leadership of MS-13 in El Salvador. This money is allegedly used to pay for weapons, cell phones, shoes, food, and other supplies for MS-13 members in and out of jail in El Salvador. It was alleged that the money is typically sent from wire transfer stores right in the communities.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz details the charges and atrocities unveiled by MS-13 in East Boston, Everett, Chelsea, Somerville and elsewhere during a press conference to announce the surprise round up of some 37 gang members on Friday morning by 400 law enforcement officials. A host of charges were levied against 56 members who were indicted on charges ranging from murder to drug trafficking to attempted murder.
The Record performed an investigative report in 2013 about the amounts of wire transfers in 2012 from stores in Chelsea, East Boston, Everett and Revere. The paper found that $247 million left those communities in one year, with $72 million of that money going to El Salvador.
Six Boston area Mayors and City Managers on Wednesday jointly announced the formation of the Greater Boston Regional Economic Compact, which will facilitate regional problem solving among the municipalities of Boston, Braintree, Cambridge, Chelsea, Quincy and Somerville.
“We are thrilled to announce this new partnership between our cities to address the regional economic challenges and opportunities facing the Greater Boston region,” announced the Mayors of Boston, Braintree, Quincy and Somerville and the City Managers of Cambridge and Chelsea in a joint statement.
“In order to succeed it is important that we first recognize that some of our greatest obstacles are not contained within city lines and that regional challenges require regional solutions,” said Mayor Walsh of Boston. “I look forward to working together with our surrounding partners to overcome obstacles and grow together across sectors and across borders.”
The municipal executives and their staffs will meet to strategize and solve common issues in the areas of housing, transportation, sustainability, and economic development that would benefit from a regional response.
As part of the compact, each participating city will explore committing funds to hire a full-time staff member to work with all participants and help develop a strategy for economic growth. In addition, a Regional Compact coordinator will be hired to develop a regional economic development strategy.
“The economy of the Boston region is too complex for each of us to identify ourselves by the community in which we live,” said City Manager Thomas Ambrosino of Chelsea. “While we might think of ourselves as being from Chelsea, or Boston, or Quincy, in reality we are all from the Boston region and we need to plan and foster investment in the region as a single unit.”
The Compact commits each participating City to five principles:
Commitment: Each community will demonstrate their commitment to developing a regional economic strategy by meeting at least every other month and establishing a formal structure for the group;
Leadership: These meetings will serve as a forum for participants to discuss regional economic development and related critical regional issues including, but not limited to housing, transportation, economic development and sustainability;
Follow Through: Participants recognize that success in leveraging regional economic opportunities and solving regional economic challenges requires persistent follow through. They will therefore regularly review progress made and challenges encountered;
Support: Participants agree to explore the appointment of a staff member to serve as a project manager for the compact, recognizing the need to coordinate and manage the several topic areas;
Inclusion: Participants will welcome and encourage other communities in Greater Boston to support and join the effort.
Aside from geographical proximity, the six participating cities and towns have chosen to join the compact because of their common identities and set of challenges. Last May, the mayors of Boston, Cambridge, Quincy, Somerville and Braintree announced the formation of the Life Sciences Corridor. The corridor was created to promote the robust life sciences sector along the MBTA red line in the Greater Boston region.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino signs the new six-city Greater Boston Regional Economic Development Compact on Wednesday, Dec. 9, as Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone look on.
MassDOT Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack on Wednesday launched a year-long pilot program that will provide MBTA monthly passes to up to 1,500 youth between the ages of 12 and 21 in the cities of Boston, Somerville, Chelsea and Malden.
The pilot program was spearheaded by efforts of the ECOYouth Club at the Chelsea Collaborative, and came only after numerous meetings with the MBTA in an effort led by the young people.
“While we continue to work with MassDOT and the MBTA to provide transportation choices that are world-class and reliable year-round, we also want to ensure those options are accessible for our youth,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The Youth Pass Pilot is a step in the right direction to find new and innovative ways to provide access at a price that is affordable for young people to get to work, school and extracurricular activities.”
At Roxbury’s Dudley Station, Secretary Pollack was joined by representatives from a coalition of youth advocacy organizations. The partnership between the MBTA and the cities is designed to extend the current Student Pass available through some middle and high schools to a larger population of young people within the MBTA service area.
“The Youth Pass Pilot Program being launched today was developed by a working group of MassDOT, MBTA, youth advocates, and municipal partners who met for eight months to address the transportation access needs identified by the youth,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “The pilot will measure costs to the MBTA and the benefits to the youth, including their ability to access jobs, school, and civic opportunities.”
Instead of schools, the pass will be administered by municipal partners. The Youth Pass is a LinkPass valid on local bus and subway and will cost $26 a month or $7 for a 7-day pass (7-day pass availability depends on the city partner). Individuals between the ages of 12 and 18 are eligible if they live in Boston, Chelsea, Somerville or Malden and are not receiving a Student Pass from their school. Residents aged 19-21 must meet a needs-based criteria by demonstrating enrollment in high school, a GED or other education program, job training program, or state or federal benefit program.
The pilot will collect data to evaluate the benefits to youth, costs, and the feasibility of having partners administer reduced fare products. Participants (and their parents) must sign consent forms agreeing to anonymous data collection on their use of the MBTA in order to measure the program’s impact.
The MBTA took applications for the pilot and over 2,700 youth applied. Participants were allocated a set number of spots in each city. A waiting list for each city was created, and youth can still apply on the MBTA website to join the waitlist.
Juan Vega, the long-time director and face of Centro Latino on Broadway, announced this week that he will be stepping down from his position as of June 30.
“I write to let you know that, after proudly serving in this role for the past 17 years, I am stepping down as president and CEO of Centro Latino effective on June 30,” read a letter sent out to supporters and friends this week. “The time has come for me to pursue other professional opportunities and for Centro to bring in new leadership to facilitate its continued growth and future development. I feel very privileged to have been able to work with a great Board, staff and team and community partners. Together, we have helped to improve the educational and social well-being outcomes for thousands of families. Centro Latino is well positioned to continue meeting the health and education needs of the region’s growing Latino and immigrant populations.”
Vega was not immediately available when contacted by the Record.
The letter went on to explain that the Board is dedicated and will continue to be a high-quality community service provider.
He indicated that plans have been in the works for the last couple of months to ensure a smooth transition, and that the Board would name an interim management team.
Third Sector New England has been engaged to conduct a search for a new, permanent director of Centro.
“I want to express my sincerest gratitude to the people of Chelsea and communities such as Cambridge, Revere, Somerville and Everett for supporting Centro Latino and being dedicated to helping all families succeed,” he wrote.
Vega is a member of the Chelsea Housing Authority Board of Commissioners and he recently served on the City Manager Search Selection Committee.
Mayor Martin Walsh announced that the City of Boston has filed a civil complaint against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in connection with the proposed resort casino in Everett and Boston.
The City of Boston joined Revere and Somerville in filing a lawsuit against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) in Suffolk Superior Court asking the court to vacate the license agreement given to Wynn in Everett by the MGC last November.
A cornerstone to the argument are the impacts on Charlestown.
The 74-page filing by Boston brought up issues ranging from the problematic land ownership situation in Everett, casino site access, traffic in Charlestown, what was referred to as “mock hearing” two years ago on Boston’s Host Community status and many other issues going back to the beginning of the entire process involving Wynn.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he has been working diligently with Wynn to negotiate a fair agreement that benefits the people of Boston, but has been unable to reach an agreement that accurately represents the impact to the City.
“We have spent an enormous amount of time and sustained effort on the casino issue over the past year since this is something that impacts every single one of our residents,” Walsh said at a press conference Monday that announced the filing. “We have understood from day one the complexity of this issue as it relates to the City and it has always been our belief that Boston is a host community. Our priority is to protect the people of Boston and ensure the safety of our neighborhoods. It is clear to us that this is the best way to move forward for Charlestown, the City of Boston and the entire Commonwealth.”
Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria said he had hoped things could have been worked out without litigation from Boston and other communities.
“I was hoping we could work collaboratively with the City of Boston, the City of Everett and the City of Somerville…[Boston] should have participated in the surrounding community process and they didn’t. I know Mr. Wynn went up to see Mayor Walsh. I know the group had tried to meet with them several times. I don’t understand it…We weren’t asked when the City of Boston put their waste facility right on our border. I didn’t protest when Somerville put an IKEA in Assembly Row. We know what that does to small business…I am hoping we can all sit down together and solve the issues and talk about them.”
Asked if it was just sour grapes, DeMaria paused and said, maybe.
“For a long time Suffolk Downs was a favorite,” he said. “A lot of big Boston people were behind it. I went to the meetings there and saw the plans with the other mayors. To have someone else come in and compete with them in the region; yes they are disappointed. Maybe it is sour grapes from one of the mayors or maybe both of them.”
Wynn officials and the MGC have repeatedly told a different version of the events than Boston – noting that they tried to sit down with Walsh several times before the awarding of the license, but he did not show up or contact them.
Wynn officials told that to the MGC numerous times during deliberations last November, prompting the MGC to work out special provisions to benefit Charlestown and the traffic situation in Charlestown just prior to awarding the casino license.
On Monday, the MGC said it hadn’t read the full complaint, but had addressed issues raised at the press conference numerous times already.
“During the past year, we have addressed the issues the City raised at [Monday’s] press conference – multiple times in a public and transparent manner,” said MGC Spokesperson Elaine Driscoll. “The Commission believes that we have reviewed these issues thoroughly, objectively and fairly, and that exhaustive review helped lead to the decision to award the Wynn license with appropriate conditions. The Commission continues to believe that our resolution was appropriate but also fully understand that parties who are disappointed in our decisions may want to test that belief through litigation.”
The City of Revere filed a lawsuit in October shortly after the awarding of the license, calling for the licensing decision to be vacated. Revere has filed numerous briefs and letters in the interim on that case. The City of Somerville just filed a lawsuit last month on nearly the same terms.
One of the issues raised by Walsh was the issue of access to the casino site, which was raised two years ago and dismissed by the MGC after a two-hour hearing.
Boston believes there is no access point to the casino except by Horizon Way, which is halfway in Everett and halfway in Boston.
Meanwhile, Wynn has been in the process of negotiating an alternate access site that is entirely in Everett and runs through the MBTA Maintenance Yard facility property.
That land sale is still in the works of the state procurement process, and Wynn has an agreement to buy the land for $6 million cash from the MBTA. That process began with the MBTA in September, and has been protested by owners of Suffolk Downs and by the City of Revere.
Securing that site has been a key piece of the puzzle for Wynn in preventing Boston from claiming host status. In Monday’s suit, Boston claimed that the process of securing that land hadn’t happened quickly enough.
“Wynn has planned to develop a casino on a parcel of land located in Everett and in Boston known as the former Monsanto Chemical Site,” read the filing. “Due to the location of the casino site, the City of Boston will bear the lion’s share of the traffic, environmental, and public safety harms. Wynn disputed that access to its site would be through Boston, promising the Commission that it would obtain access through adjacent property in Everett owned by the MTBA. Wynn, however, has failed to obtain access through Everett within 60 days of the award of the license – as required by law – leaving the sole access to the site through Boston.”
The filing also criticized the hearing that was held by the MGC two years ago relating to the Host Community claim held by Boston due to the Horizon’s Way access issue.
MGC Commissioners heard both sides of the argument, and in the end dismissed the argument wholeheartedly and asked Boston and Wynn to go back and work out differences offline. That didn’t happen, though, and Boston was eventually deemed a Surrounding Community rather than a Host Community. A Surrounding Community Agreement (SCA) was never inked between Wynn and Boston, though.
On Monday, Boston said it was re-inserting its right to be a Host Community – calling the MGC hearing on the issue a “manipulation” and a “mock hearing.”
“Fearful that Boston voters would reject Wynn’s proposal due to public safety and traffic concerns, the Commission improperly barred Boston’s citizens from exercising their statutory right to vote,” read the complaint. “During the gaming licensing process, Boston repeatedly asserted that it was a host community, which prompted the Commission to conduct a hearing to determine Boston’s legal status. The Commission manipulated the outcome of the hearing by withholding documents from the City that had direct bearing on Boston’s host community status, advocating on behalf of Wynn, and deliberating and predetermining the outcome outside the public hearing context, in violation of the Open Meeting Law and the Gaming Act. As a result of the mock hearing, the Commission rejected Boston’s assertion of host community status and declared Boston to be merely a surrounding community, with no right to vote. During the hearing, the City challenged the validity of Wynn’s application on the grounds that Wynn did not have a viable site for its casino and was legally unsuitable under the Gaming Act. Absent a viable casino site, Wynn’s application could not proceed and the issue of Boston’s status as a host community was moot.”
Boston bases most of that argument on the idea that the land deal in Everett is fraudulent and, thus, does not give Wynn and actual gaming establishment – as required by the Gaming Law.
Another cornerstone of the Boston complaint on Monday were flaws in the MGC’s protections instituted for Charlestown. The complaint said the City concluded those protections were not adequate.
“The Commission nevertheless imposed nominal traffic mitigation conditions on Wynn that fall far short of the statutory requirement,” read the complaint. “As to the impacted neighborhood of Charlestown, the City has expended considerable resources over many years to develop plans to transform the Sullivan Square area from a major traffic thoroughfare into a walkable, pedestrian–friendly neighborhood. The City’s principal objectives are to diminish traffic congestion, eliminate gridlock, and improve public safety in this area. The Commission’s traffic mitigation conditions are wholly contrary to the City’s planned use of its streets in Charlestown. The Commission was required to impose conditions that would mitigate traffic. This necessitated the imposition of conditions requiring Wynn to re-route casino traffic away from Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square. Instead, the Commission imposed conditions that will do nothing to prevent the exacerbation of existing congestion by introducing thousands of additional vehicles to the area.”
The complaint went on to read that by going ahead with the Wynn planned casino, it would create an “intolerable traffic crisis” in Charlestown.
The suit will now wind its way through Suffolk Superior Court, as are the other two similar suits from Revere and Somerville.