The City of Chelsea will begin a downtown façade and signage improvement program in a kick-off meeting on July 12.
Business and property owners in the downtown, as well as other interested parties, are invited to this meeting to learn about the rollout of the program and to meet Nathalia Hermida.
Hermida will be available throughout the summer to provide free design services for signage and façade improvements of downtown properties. During this meeting, Hermida will detail the design process, what assistance she’ll be able to provide and how to engage her services.
Along with responding to inquiries solicited through this meeting, Hermida will also be approaching specific identified properties. Those interested in the program who cannot attend this meeting should contact Mimi Graney, Downtown Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Design consultation with Hermida will be available both in English and in Spanish.
The City of Chelsea Façade and Signage Program meeting will take place on Thursday, July 12, at 8:30 a.m. at Chelsea City Hall, third-floor Committee Room.
On Dec. 22, at 5:20 p.m., officers responded to 165 Walnut St. for a report of a past armed robbery. Upon officers’ arrival, they made contact with the victim and alleged robbery suspect, standing out front of the building. The victim claims the suspect took $200 from him after he left the ATM at the Chelsea Bank on Broadway. The suspect claims the money was used to buy drugs from him and that the victim complained about the quality of the drugs purchased.
Jose Rivera, 32, of 11 Congress Ave., was charged with unarmed robbery.
REFUSED SERVICE AT BAR
On Dec. 22, at 10:49 p.m., officers were dispatched to the Spanish Falcon Club located at 158 Broadway on the report of a fight outside.
Officers observed security outside speaking to a group of men, two of which appeared intoxicated. As Officers spoke to security, they were informed that the two intoxicated males had been causing a disturbance because security refused them entry due to their state of intoxication.
They were asked to leave several times, but were becoming aggressive towards employees. As officers engaged the men in conversation, it was apparent that the men were upset at having been refused entry and wanted to continue their night of drinking. The two men refused the officers’ orders to leave the area and became loud and boisterous, causing a disturbance. The first male was placed into custody after violently resisting officers in their attempt to place him under arrest. The second male, and brother of the male taken into custody, refused orders to leave, and he also became aggressive and was taken into custody after a struggle.
David Garcia, 24, of 141 Marlborough St., was charged with disorderly conduct.
Kevin Garcia, 21, of Lynn, was charged with disorderly conduct, assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest.
City officials and consultants for the Re-Imagining Broadway effort will take one of their most controversial suggestions to the business community on Broadway today, Aug. 31, prompting a discussion about making Broadway a two-way street.
The six-month planning effort has come up with numerous suggestions about how to improve the corridor, but at the top of those suggestions is the idea about taking Broadway from a one-way to a two-way.
The street has been in its current configuration for more than a generation, and few remember the last time it was moving differently.
However, count City Manager Tom Ambrosino as a convert to the idea.
“I think it will be transformative and make a large difference for the downtown’s flavor,” he said. “I think we can do it. Put me down as a huge proponent. It could dramatically improve the safety of the corridor by slowing down traffic considerably. I think it would look a lot prettier. The drawings have a very interesting iteration of a two-way Broadway.”
Ambrosino said this month that after the meeting with the downtown stakeholders, including the businesses, they would come up with a decision on the matter.
All downtown business owners and employees are invited to attend the meeting, which takes place at 9 a.m. at the Greenhouse Apartments Community Room, 154 Pearl St.
Elsy Sanchez, 17, is one of 11 Chelsea High students to be awarded the new Seal of Bi-Literacy this year during graduation.
Eleven new Chelsea High School (CHS) graduates will carry at least one more award with them this year than did other classes at CHS, and that award is the newly piloted Seal of Bi-Literacy that Chelsea and several other districts are implementing.
Sarah Warren of Chelsea Public Schools said Supt. Mary Bourque and the administration was looking for a way to recognize students who had strong bi-literacy skills. In Chelsea, because so many students are fluent in Spanish and English, the designation was meaning and was a way to market this unique skill to colleges and employers.
The Awards were given out at the annual Chelsea High Awards Night on Monday, June 5.
“We have just started this,” said Warren. “Dr. Bourque wanted us to see how we could get a meaningful designation in place that would recognize students that achieve bi-literacy,” said Warren. “As a district, we want to recognize students that become proficient in more than one language. We believe that is a very valuable skill for college and in the workplace. In Chelsea, we have a great amount of people who are proficient in more than just English. We’re very excited to be able to introduce this award when students achieve full proficiency in two languages.”
Bourque said she was very excited to be able to premiere the new award to 11 students in the class. She said they will move forward with it in the future as well.
“The Seal is a recognition of the fact that Chelsea Public Schools values students’ language skills and heritage as a huge asset,” said Bourque. “This credential will travel with our graduates as they move on to higher education and future employment. There is increasing demand – both in Massachusetts and nationally – for employees who are literate in two or more languages. By encouraging students to earn the Seal, we are sending the message that the ability to communicate in more than one language and to bridge different cultures is part of being a well-rounded global citizen in the 21st Century. It takes a lot of hard work to become fully proficient in two or more languages, and I couldn’t be more proud of these young people for their high level of achievement.”
Warren said there are three levels for the Chelsea seal.
Platinum winners achieve a 5 on their Advanced Placement Spanish Test and an advanced on their MCAS English Language Arts (ELA) test.
A gold winner scores a proficient on their MCAS test and a 5 on their AP Spanish.
A silver winner scores a proficient on their MCAS test and a 3 or 4 on their AP Spanish.
Elsy Sanchez, 17, was one of the first Gold Seal winners, and came to that point after starting out her high school experience in the English Language Learner (ELL) program.
Sanchez was born in Chelsea and attended the Sokolowski School and the Clark Avenue Middle School. However, after fifth grade, tired of going back and forth to Honduras where her parents had moved – having left Chelsea behind – she decided to stay in Honduras. However, after being in Honduras for some time, Sanchez realized that she had some pretty big goals for her future. She decided that getting to an American university from Honduras was going to be very tough, but getting there from Chelsea was more likely a successful path.
“My father asked me if I wanted a Quincenaera party or to go back to Chelsea,” said Sanchez. “I decided to come back here. So I came and quickly realized my English wasn’t as good as when I left for Honduras in 5th grade. One thing I wanted to do was go to college here. When I came back to Chelsea, I understood what people were saying, but i couldn’t express myself…Sometimes I would start a sentence and not be able to finish it because I couldn’t think of the right word.”
Sanchez entered the ELL program, known as the Bridge Academy at CHS. There, her teachers saw she was talented and had big goals and just needed a push.
“The teachers always pushed me to challenge myself,” she said. “They are always there to support you. They work to make connections with you. If they see someone who they thinks needs a push, they will push you to do better.”
With that support upon moving back, Sanchez was able to move to the regular Chelsea High program by her sophomore year, regaining her English fluency again.
In her senior year, Sanchez has put her English headaches behind her and took six Advanced Placement classes, including Physics, Stats and Language.
She said she plans to go to Salem State in the fall to study biology and Spanish, with the goal of becoming a pediatrician.
“I really like kids,” she said. “I always thought that because I also like science, I could become a doctor and help kids and people feel better. That is the perfect combination for me.”
As for the seal, she said it has the potential to open doors not only for school, but also in the workplace.
“I think it will help me in many different ways,” she said. “We live in a country with many different languages and being able to be fluent in multiple languages will open doors for me along the way. This helps me to market that and it goes on my transcript and on my resume.”
As the cast and crew started rehearsing for ‘Hamlet’ in the PORT Park last week, the mildly sunny day soon gave way to a heavy, thick fog that rolled in off the Chelsea Creek and covered the park and the s
Actor Brooks Reeves (center) will play ‘Hamlet’ in Apollinaire’s Theatre in the Park production this month, which kicked off last night, July 13, at the PORT Park. The unique production has Hamlet giving his famous speech on top of one of the salt piles.
ets put in place for the production.
Brooks Reeves, 33, who is playing Hamlet, looked around at the surreal surroundings, heard a fog horn in the distance and said, “This is going to be very interesting,” he recalled.
“Sometimes you get thunderstorms and sometimes you get happy accidents,” he said this week. “Being outside is challenging and extremely rewarding. It’s especially rewarding when the weather is just right. The other day we were rehearsing and fog just started drifting heavy into the park. It was so beautiful and the sound travels so well in the fog. You could talk regularly on the set and be heard at the other end of the park.”
‘Hamlet’ by Apollinaire premeired for this summer’s run in the PORT Park on Marginal Street Wednesday night, July 13, and will continue until July 31 from Wednesdays to Sundays at 8 p.m. and is free thanks to generous donors and supporters of Apollinaire. Those interested in taking in the interactive, moving production are invited to bring a blanket and walking shoes – as there are 10 different locations within the Park that the audience will have to travel to.
“There are probably around 10 locations we’ll have sets on, and that means that the lighting and setup has been very challenging,” said Director Danielle Fauteaux Jacques. “This year is going to be very interesting because Eastern Salt has been working with us to create sets on top of the salt. We just did that on Monday. It’s going to be really fun and adds something very unique. It’s also an industrial landscape and so you have things going on around you. Even at Mary O’Malley Park we were also in a shipping lane. Sometimes having a massive boat passing in the background just adds to the atmosphere. It can be an exciting to have the things like that happen that aren’t expected.”
Jacques said it is notable because for the first time in more than a decade, they’ll be presenting a Shakespearean play – and on the Bard’s 300th birthday to boot.
“It is the first Shakespeare play we’ve ever done,” she said. “It’s different than a lot of plays because its something you’ve been familiar with all your life. We thought a lot about it before we decided to do it, but as you get further and further into it and deeper into it, you see the story and things jump out at you that you never really caught before.”
Reeves, who is now in his fifth show with Apollinaire and his 21st show in Greater Boston since moving here from Wyoming, said the moving sets are quite interesting in the outdoor setting.
“We’re pretty much using every part of the park except the jungle gym,” he said. “The ‘To Be or Not to Be’ speech I give is on a large salt pile that I have to climb up. The graveyard scene has also been transformed into this moving salt structure. The show is really fun. Don’t expect to just sit down and be there. Expect to move around and be part of the action. Expect expert sword fighting and a great cast and crew.”
Jacques said that those watching will have to move, and that’s part of the program with many Apollinaire productions and has been a hallmark of their outdoor shows the last 13 years. Even so, she said anyone who needs a wheelchair or walker will be able to get one from the crew. Those items will be on hand to borrow.
“There’s a lot of movement in the play and we go back and forth from the amphitheater,” she said. “When we leave the amphitheater, we go to numerous locations in the park and then move back to the amphitheater. It’s going to be a fun production run.”
This is Apollinaire Theatre Company’s 13th year of offering free bilingual productions in English and Spanish. In anticipation of the fall opening of its new youth theater, this summer our Chelsea Youth Theatre students will present the Spanish production on July 30 and 31 at 6 p.m.
Audience members are encouraged to bring blankets and beach chairs, and a picnic to enjoy along with the harbor views.
The Chelsea City Council voted 6-3 on Monday night to look into irregularities in the voting process on the Nov. 3 City Election – an outstanding issue that embraced everything from non-profit conduct to racial identity to campaign etiquette.
Those voting in favor of Councillor Clifford Cunningham’s order were Cunningham, Paul Murphy, Joe Perlatonda, Leo Robinson, Paula Barton and Dan Cortell.
Those voting against were Councillors Brian Hatleberg, Matt Frank and Calvin Brown.
The order calls for the City Manager through City Clerk, to file a formal request with the Secretary of State to investigate numerous allegations of irregularities surrounding the municipal election.
After the order passed, Cunningham withdrew a second order calling for the Secretary of State to monitor future elections in Chelsea.
The orders and the related activities behind them, mostly activities performed by the Chelsea Collaborative or its employees on personal time, have set the political world in Chelsea on fire and distracted a great deal from the actual results of the election.
That said, there is enough of an issue that Councillors felt some action had to be taken.
At issue is everything from race to non-profit regulations to voter registration efforts.
“The conversation about race is a part of the overall issue that was the catalyst for the order,” said Cunningham. “The letter that went out to some voters said to vote solely for Latino candidates…I personally find that racist, reprehensible and disgusting. The order isn’t about that, though. It’s about voting irregularities on Election Day…If we have come so far since receivership, how will we as a community let a taxpayer-funded non-profit shirk the voting laws in order to amass a political machine to serve their own agenda – which is not the agenda of the entire city?”
The situation began when ‘Dear Friend’ letters, mentioned above, went out to several districts in the city. They were funded mostly by the campaign of Councillor Roy Avellaneda. Most were innocuous, but one letter in Spanish targeted Spanish-speaking voters and gave a list of preferred candidates endorsed by Chelsea Collaborative Director Gladys Vega.
The letters endorsed mostly Latino candidates – except for one African-American – but some also contained the Spanish phrase, “Vote for the Latino candidates on Nov. 3.”
That has been a dividing wedge in the community since the letters came out and since they became a major public issue over the last two weeks.
Councillor Dan Cortell said his problem with the actions of the Collaborative fell around the issue that they toed the line or crossed the line between endorsing candidates – which the organization is not allowed to do legally.
Members of the Collaborative have said they did their political activities on their own time, but Cortell said it could be hard for a normal resident to figure out what hat a Collaborative employee is wearing – given that they also perform local voter initiative work and Get Out the Vote work as well.
“My problem is it’s very, very hard to figure out what hat any individual is wearing at any given moment on any given day up until Election Day,” he said. “When member of the Collaborative knocks on your door one day for Get Out the Vote, another day for the voter initiative and another day for a political candidate, does the person who answered the door understand what hat they’re wearing any of those times. I don’t want to offend anyone, but probably not. It concerns me. There is not a sufficient enough delineation between what hat the individual is wearing…The Chelsea Collaborative does excellent work, but my request would be to stay away from that line and let people who put their name on the ballot fight the fight and whoever wins, wins.”
Councillor Paula Barton agreed with both councillors, saying she witnessed things at the voting polls that she questioned, and she also questioned the letters that went out.
Councillor Calvin Brown did not vote for the order, but said there were significant problems regarding race and the Collaborative campaigning. He gave much credit to the candidates who won, but said a conversation needs to be had to heal the community.
“They say they did this all the time and that it wasn’t new,” he said. “Not true. There was never a staff or group being used like an army out there…You can’t do that or should not be able to do that in a city like Chelsea. If we were candidates for the All American City now, we wouldn’t win. A lot of folks who made this an All American City were part of this. It’s eating at us. Now we’re hostile. This is dividing us. I don’t want to tarnish anyone’s victory or squash my colleague’s order, but we have to put an end here…We still need to have a conversation. It’s easy to get caught up in something. People got caught up in this.”
He specifically pointed out Avellaneda, who was in the audience, as his name had been attached to the matter of the letter.
Councillor Matt Frank said he wanted everyone to take a deep breath.
“As a City, I think we all need to take a collective breath,” he said. “I’m not saying they should be investigated or not, I’m saying as a biased board I’m not sure if this is the right place…If you step into a political fight, you should be expecting to get a push back, but this isn’t in my opinion the best venue for it.”
Whether or not the City Manager does forward the request is purely up to him, and the Council cannot compel him to do anything. Nor can they compel the City Clerk to act either.
Cunningham said the orders were largely symbolic, but he believed they made a statement.
Political activist and human services leader Gladys Vega said this week that the ‘Dear Friend’ political endorsement letters she sent out during the recent City Election were being misrepresented as an identity politics gesture and did not endorse Latino candidates over white or black candidates simply because of race or ethnicity.
“In certain districts where there were all Latino candidates I endorsed, I did ask Latino voters to vote for Latinos, but that wasn’t the case in every district with every letter,” she said. “In those certain districts I wanted them to vote for Latino candidates. There’s a large population of Latino residents in those areas and there’s nothing wrong with that. In the districts where I endorsed only Latinos, I did ask Latino voters to vote for Latinos. That wasn’t the case in every district. In District 5, if you see all the letters, you’ll see we endorsed Henry Wilson (an African American), and we didn’t endorse in the School Committee race with Bobby Pereira and Kizzie Reyes. I didn’t put that sentence in that letter. We said there are two great candidates and to come out and vote for who you want. Other places, I didn’t feel like the other non-Latino candidates were worth my endorsement. I said in those letters I wanted Latino voters to vote for those Latino candidates in those districts…I have no regret asking Latino voters to vote for Latino candidates in those districts.”
Vega added also that many of the candidates in those districts where the phrases appeared were her friends or family members, such as in District 8 where Yessinia Alfaro-Alvarez – a long-time friend and co-worker – appeared on the ballot. Another example is in District 7 where she endorsed Luis Tejada, who she said she has known for 30 years and wanted to support and endorse.
“Some of them happen to be my friends and my family members and they happened to be the Latino candidates in that district and I would do that again,” she said.
The ‘Dear Friend’ letters sent out by Vega were in Spanish and were mostly non-controversial, simply indicating her endorsement as a community leader and asking people to remember to vote. Such letters are nothing new to politics in Chelsea or elsewhere. However, one key phrase has grabbed the attention of some in the community and especially residents and candidates who are non-Latino.
That phrase stated, “No Se Olvide, Vote! Por los candidatos Latinos este Martes, 3 de Noviembre.”
Loosely translated, it means, “Don’t forget, vote for the Latino candidates this Tuesday, November 3.”
Some have taken issue with that direct phrase, such as District 7 Councillor Clifford Cunningham, who lost to Yamir Rodriguez on Nov. 3 – a first-time candidate who was endorsed by Vega. Cunningham has called for the Secretary of the Commonwealth to review the election activities and to monitor all future Chelsea local elections. Those two Council orders will be discussed next week at the Council meeting.
Vega said the phrase – which again, does not appear on every letter – should not be construed as a discriminatory remark. She clarified once again that it was only called for in the areas where all the candidates she endorsed were Latino.
“It wasn’t meant to sound good or bad,” she said. “I didn’t care for any of the candidates who were not Latino in certain districts. That wasn’t the case in every district…Those were the people I endorsed and I have no regrets.”
The ‘Dear Friend’ letters were paid for by the Roy Avellaneda campaign and Vega’s letter was just one of several strategic letters that Avellaneda put out during the campaign. Another letter, he said, came from former councillor Roseann Bongiovanni – a co-worker of Vega’s – and it endorsed him and another candidate. It was strategically sent to the areas where Bongiovanni had garnered the most support during her tenure, that being in Prattville and Admiral’s Hill – two areas that are known as mostly white or more racially-mixed. Vega’s letter was another piece of that and went out to the areas that were predominately Latino.
“That letter focused on Spanish voters and obviously Gladys Vega is very well known in the Latino community and focused on people who would recognize her as she is in the community, on Spanish-language television and radio,” said Avellaneda. “She is a known commodity there. Her letter went to Latino voters in Latino areas…Nationally you see senators and the president go to fundraisers or to a party to help raise money or support. In this effort, I paid for a letter. There’s nothing nefarious about it. It’s big boy tactics used on a local level.”
Avellaneda stressed it was a tactic he borrowed from the national campaigns in order to help district candidates that he preferred. As a former district councillor, he said he knows it is hard to rally people or fund-raise representing such a small area.
He said he could not speak for the contents of Vega’s letter, including the controversial phrase, but said he doesn’t shy away from it and doesn’t see it as a problem. He said it’s ridiculous to believe that ethnicity or race doesn’t play a part in political campaigns.
“A Latino was asking Latino voters to vote for a Latino in a city where we had no Latino representation and make up 70 percent of the population,” he said. “If they have a problem with that, I’m sorry. Record numbers of black voters came out for President Obama in huge numbers in neighborhoods that don’t typically vote in elections. Come on. Let’s be fair and right here. In the past I’ve worked with candidates of all colors and creeds and I don’t want this to turn into something racist. Let’s call it a rally call and it came in a district where there’s a large population of Latinos. We made that call in 3 of the 4 district races – and did so because the candidate was the best candidate on paper for that seat. Does ethnicity play a role to voters? Absolutely. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we can also say the best candidates in those races were the Latino candidates.
“No one said anything when we said to vote for Paul Nowicki (a white candidate who ran for state senate some years back), but now it’s divisive to say vote for the Latino so you can have one of your own up there?” he asked, in continuing. “It’s not divisive; it’s pride. Aren’t we proud of John Ruiz for being the first Latino heavyweight champion? Yes. We shouldn’t be ashamed of being a certain ethnicity and being proud of and supporting that ethnicity. Shame on those who make it that way.”
In the end, Vega said she felt that the situation was being blown out of proportion and she was being penalized for being politically active on her free time and in that time being a strong Latina voice.
“We did old fashioned politics – knocking on doors, talking to voters and identifying the vote,” she said. “Irish people voted for Irish people back then. It happens…I feel in the end I’m being picked on for my actions in my own free time.”
When 54-year-old Billy Carriere stepped onto the bricks of Bellingham Square Monday morning, it was with a new set of eyes; eyes that weren’t blurred by the illusions of heroin and the daily grind of living to satisfy the cravings of addiction.
Just nine months earlier, and for a per
Billy Carriere, a former addict now in recovery nine months, shares his personal story to help spread awareness on International Overdose Awareness Day.
iod of several years, he was a regular in the Square – getting high every day, going back and forth from the Methadone Clinic on Crescent Avenue and constantly looking for a way to numb the pain that started when his girlfriend overdosed and died three years ago.
It was then that he slipped and became a regular user.
However, on Monday, he was celebrating upon his return, celebrating the fact that he had been sober for nine months and was enjoying his life again without drugs.
“I used to use up until nine months ago almost every day,” he said. “Life was utterly hopeless and meaningless. Now I have hope. Hope is a big thing. They don’t see there is hope – that it is possible. Regardless of the circumstances, we can recover…I really didn’t get a decent pitch to hit; I really didn’t. However, I can deal with it without drugs.”
Carriere and about a dozen other folks in recovery from the Meridian House in East Boston were in the Square Monday with City Navigator Rev. Ruben Rodriguez to spread the word about International Overdose Awareness Day – commemorated with purple ribbons and part of the kickoff of September’s Recovery Month events.
Part of that awareness case was simple – a dry erase board and markers.
On that board, those from the Meridian House and many passers-by were invited to write the names of friends or family who had overdosed.
Within an hour, the board was completely full of names, and there was no longer any room to write anyone else. It was a stark reality of how severe the problem is in Chelsea, as well as the surrounding communities and their residents that often congregate in the Square and, sometimes, overdose in the City as well.
“The position I hold is very tough because I deal with all the overdose victims out here every day,” said Rodriguez. “I wanted to raise some awareness today to those in the public. I also wanted to bring the Meridian House people here so those in the Square could see that recovery is possible. We have people here today in recovery three months, six months and nine months. I also wanted to bring those in recovery here so they could see how much they don’t want to go back to this life. I want them to see what they don’t want to be again.”
Donning purple shirts and purple ribbons, several folks in recovery and concerned citizens not in recovery blanketed the City Hall side of the Square and talked to folks, asking them in English and Spanish if they knew anyone who had overdosed. They talked to folks who were in the midst of addiction and were using. They talked with passers-by who weren’t aware of how serious the problem is in Chelsea.
“I’ve been in recovery one year on Sept. 1,” Ralph Rizzuti told a man passing by. “It’s hard, but a day to day battle. I have a wife, four kids and grandchildren. I finally see them for how great and valuable they are. I finally see that it does no good for me to lie to all of them about whether I am using or not. If I lie to them, and then go use, that’s only hurting me. That sets me back. I’m glad to not by lying anymore and to be sober for one year.”
Rodriguez is currently the only Navigator working for the City, and there is another position opening soon.
“It’s a lot of work and we have a spot for another person to help,” he said. “We are trying to make a difference out here.”
The event on Monday was sponsored by the Winnisimmet Regional Opioid Collaborative.
FRONT – 3838
Billy Carriere, a former addict now in recovery nine months, said he used to come to this very spot in Bellingham Square nearly every day to use heroin and hang out. With fresh eyes, he and other from the Meridian House returned to their former haunt next to City Hall to help City Navigator Ruben Rodriguez spread awareness on International Overdose Awareness Day.
Suzanne Bittrolff writes down the name of a loved one that has overdosed. The board for such names was quickly filled and left with no room for others.
Gladys Guzman held a sign for passers-by to see, reading ‘Say Nope to Dope.’
Jamie Quigley, Rev. Ruben Rodriguez and Ruben Walter helped coordinate the International Overdose Awareness Day in Chelsea.
A large group of folks in recovery from the Meridian House returned to the Square on Monday to talk to folks who are still using and to be an example of hope.
The City Manager Screening Committee announced that two finalists, former Revere Mayor Tom Ambrosino and former Portland (ME) City Manager Mark Rees, have been chosen for consideration to be the next Chelsea city manager.
In a late Thursday meeting, which started with a short executive session to discuss the departure of two other finalists, the Screening Committee assembled – minus Barbara Salisbury – to announce their selections. The other members of the Committee were Juan Vega, Sharon Caulfield and School Supt. Mary Bourque.
“The work of the Committee has been completed,” said Committee member and former Lowell City Manager Bernie Lynch. “We started our work with about 30 applicants and worked down to 15 and then finalized it down to seven. We conducted several interviews and chose seven candidates and narrowed that down to four names and then proceeded forward to do the necessary reference checks. Over the last few days, two of the four finalists withdrew for professional reasons, saying it wasn’t a good fit for them. Following that, we now have two finalists we’re putting forward tonight.
“I was very impressed with the whole field of candidates we had,” he added. “Not everyone met the qualifications, but there was a good number. Chelsea was very attractive to mayors and municipal people. I was impressed with that.”
Both candidates are being asked not to speak to the media until public interviews have taken place via the City Council, and have declined to comment.
Ambrosino is a well-known quantity in Chelsea, having been the mayor of Revere from 2000-2011 and working closely on many initiatives with former City Manager Jay Ash. He is a Harvard University graduate and, since leaving the Revere mayor’s office, has been the executive director of the Supreme Judicial Court under former Chelsea Receiver Harry Spence.
Prior to being mayor, Ambrosino had a legal career that had him very active in Chelsea District Court and in downtown Boston. At the SJC, he has been charged with implementing sweeping changes put in place by the State Legislature over the courts.
Rees is the former City Manager of Portland, ME and has been transitioning from that position after a change in that City’s form of government, resigning abruptly last August according to press accounts. He had been there three years. A charter change in Portland approved in 2010 brought back an elected mayor to serve alongside a city manager, which press accounts from Portland described as “complicated.”
Rees previously was the city manager of North Andover and was the Chief Financial Officer in Framingham before that. According to his resume, he is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh.
Lynch mentioned that there were not many Chelsea residents who applied – citing only two applications received from residents. That, he said, kind of took the residency preference off the table early in the process.
“We made our decision looking at the background and experience of the people in front of us,” he said.
He said the Committee met for a total of about 17 hours in eight meetings – the longest being a five-hour meeting during three days of interviews for the seven semi-finalists.
He said the biggest decision they made was that they had narrowed the field down to three, but couldn’t agree on whether or not to include a fourth, so they did include the fourth name. That decision to forward four was a unanimous decision of the Committee.
Lynch said they also never considered going back to the field of seven when the two finalists withdrew last week. While the City Council had hoped to be able to consider at least three names, the Committee said it was not willing to revive the field of seven in order to bolster their recommendations upon the dual withdrawals.
“We felt the four we had were the most qualified,” he said.
Another question immediately levied was the fact that there was very little diversity in the two finalists, with both men being white males who don’t speak Spanish fluently. In public hearings earlier this year, it was repeatedly said by many residents that they wanted a diverse field of finalists – and someone who could speak Spanish, given Chelsea’s very diverse community and predominately Spanish-speaking population.
“It was a discussion we had and a big point in the interviews,” said Lynch. “A number of us asked questions about the diverse population of Chelsea. My position coming from Lowell was that diversity was a big part of Lowell. I saw the importance of that…”
The next phase of the process will be sending the names to the City Council for a vote, which will likely happen at the June 1 meeting. The Council has to approve the submission for the process to go forward.
The Council had planned to meet Wednesday night past the Record deadlines to discuss the process of interviewing candidates. Council President Leo Robinson said the process would have to be worked out, and not everyone is on the same page.
“We’ll work it all through tonight,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “Some have talked about asking for more names to consider, but I’m not sure if that will come out…For me, I ready to get going and move forward. I would like to come in on a Saturday where we have one of our candidates come in during the morning for an interview and the other one come in during the afternoon for an interview. If we need to call them back for a follow-up, we could do that during the week. That would be my suggestion, but we’ll have to all work it out.”
The Council is charged with making the final selection of the city manager and negotiating his contract. It is one of the key responsibilities of the City Council.
Marlon Hernandez was getting a little desperate in the first part of 2009 as he looked at his growing mortgage bills.
His mortgage payments had gone up under an adjustable rate and things were getting tough despite the fact he was working two jobs. When a pre-foreclosure notice came in the mail, he began to pay attention to things such as the ads on Spanish radio proclaiming loan modification help.
That’s what brought the Malden man, and at least 16 other Latinos, to the Yeamans Street, Revere, offices of Attorney David Zak.
“That’s when the nightmare started,” Hernandez said this week.
The nightmare was a series of unmet promises from Zak, a slick speech to smooth over every concern Hernandez had, and an upfront payment of $5,600 for a modification that never came.
Last week, at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) enacted justice for Hernandez and 16 other defendants in a case that revealed Zak had purposely set up shop in Revere to take advantage of distressed Latino homeowners looking to modify loans and reconcile with the banks – homeowners that the MCAD said he considered “stupid” and “gullible.” That justice came through the organizing of the Chelsea Collaborative and the determination of the Greater Boston Legal Services attorneys.
Zak was also ordered to pay $233,600 in fines.
“Attorney Zak engaged in conduct that can only be described as despicable,” said Commissioner Sunila Thomas-George. “When tough times hit and hard-working families struggle to pay the mortgage, the last thing they need is to have a lawyer defraud them out of thousands of dollars by exploiting their limited English proficiency. The $233,600 judgment should stand as a warning to everyone that there are serious consequences for engaging in discriminatory conduct.”
In her decision, MCAD Hearing Officer Betty Waxman found that Attorney Zak made tens of thousands of dollars preying upon the fear and uncertainty that the collapse of the housing bubble created among Latinos, but ultimately left his Latino clients at far greater risk of losing their homes.
Waxman determined that Zak specifically targeted Latinos with deceptive advertisements for mortgage modification services and misled Spanish and Portuguese-speaking clients with unrealistic and often false guarantees about securing dramatic loan modifications.
Evidence introduced in the case showed that Zak opened an office in Revere because he believed its Latino community would be “easy targets” and gullible. Zak used radio and written advertisements in Spanish and Portuguese to contact Latino homeowners having difficulty making mortgage payments, falsely claiming to have saved hundreds of Latinos from foreclosure, promising to cut their mortgage payments in half, asserting that he was the only attorney in Massachusetts who knew how to do loan modifications, and boasting that he had a “secret formula” and “magic numbers” unknown to others for obtaining loan modifications. Atty. Zak even hired a “Coordinator of the Latino Market”, who was charged with leveraging her extensive network of contacts in the Latino community to recruit agents and clients, MCAD said.
Hernandez was suspicious from the get-go, he said. After hearing ads on the radio, he admitted it seemed too good to be true. However, Zak was an attorney in good standing and his presentation was very believable.
“At the time, the presentation was very professional and believable,” he said. “Now, I wouldn’t believe it, but it looked real. I was all about the documents and about seeing paperwork and finding out what they had done. They showed me all of this correspondence with banks where they had lowered payments – showing me the before and after payments. There was a whole stack of them I looked at. Now we find out all of that wasn’t true. I looked at all the documents and none of it was real, but I didn’t know that.”
After months of wrangling with Zak’s office for updates and with pressure coming from the banks, Hernandez started to get a bad feeling. He demanded meetings with Zak that were always cancelled, he said. He sent letters numerous times.
Finally, one day he went down to the office and demanded a meeting.
“There were a lot of people waiting and one old lady that didn’t speak English and was only saying, ‘My house, my house,’ and the staff was being very abusive to her,” he said. “I just got a really, really bad feeling the way (Zak) was talking to her with no respect.”
Once forcing his way into the office, Hernandez said he soon got turned away and he knew he had been duped.
“I told him I thought he should finish the job he started for me,” said Hernandez. “He told me ‘I don’t give a (expletive deleted) what you think.’ That stunned me. I had paid him so much money and he’s talking to me like that? I don’t know if I was going to cry or hurt the guy. I just stood there paralyzed. Nobody was there for us; just a bunch of clients looking at each other. He told me to leave. I was crying and I knew I wasn’t the only one.”
The Chelsea Collaborative began to get call after call. They logged 65 complaints against Zak, including one person who had lost $8,000, lost his home and was living in his car.
“This was a great victory for us and a case that, without the Collaborative organizing, would have never been accomplished,” said Collaborative Director Gladys Vega. “When we took this case, [Zak] sued the Collaborative for $2 million dollars for defamation of character and we were found not guilty. And now, three years later, this is the result of all that effort.”
Each case was forwarded to Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), which represented the 17 Latino victims.
Nadine Cohen, GBLS lead attorney, stated, “The Latino homeowners who were victimized feel vindicated and are grateful for the opportunity to tell their story and be heard.”
The MCAD’s Waxman also found that Zak charged Latino clients inflated and duplicative fees for services that were available elsewhere for free, encouraged them to intentionally fall behind on mortgage payments, failed to adequately translate documents, misrepresented the status of clients’ cases, performed minimal, substandard work—often failing to secure promised mortgage modifications, refused to provide appropriate refunds, and engaged in threats, intimidation, and demeaning conduct.
Based on the evidence presented at the public hearing, Waxman concluded that Zak’s conduct was discriminatory and awarded $116,600 in compensatory damages to 17 victims and an additional $107,000 in emotional distress damages to 12 complainants. Recognizing the egregious and unlawful nature of Zak’s conduct, he was also assessed a civil penalty of $10,000.
For Hernandez, the money being returned is vindication, but he had to declare bankruptcy, he said, due to Zak’s conduct and no longer owns his home.
“I just wanted an affordable mortgage; I didn’t want to live for free,” he said. “However, the bank said I lost all my legal rights when I filed bankruptcy. They don’t consider me the homeowner any longer and said I had lost the rights to my home. It’s not just me though. That’s the worst part. The $5,600 for me is nothing. There were hundreds of people who paid $12,000 or more. A lot of people were afraid to talk or intimidated by him. I’m glad I did what so many were afraid to do. Whatever happened; it happened, but it’s better to go down fighting, and we fought for this one.”
The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office has a case against Zak and there are on-going proceedings at the Board of Bar Overseers concerning his license to practice law.