Large Crowds Enjoy Live Racing, Food Trucks at Suffolk Downs

Large Crowds Enjoy Live Racing, Food Trucks at Suffolk Downs

More than 13,000 people came to Suffolk Downs this weekend to enjoy live thoroughbred racing and a food truck festival.

And what a show it was. There was a carnival-like atmosphere on two hot summer days at the popular East Boston racetrack.

Longtime horseracing fans stood trackside next to some some young families who were getting their first, up-close look at what was once one of the most popular sports in the United States. The Kentucky Derby, for example, is still often called “most exciting two minutes in all of sports.”

Chief of Operations Chip Tuttle, a giant in the industry of horse racing, was very pleased with the large turnout on both days. He said the food trucks are always a nice draw that gives people variety over the standard racetrack faire.

There had been some concern at mid-week that the weekend of racing might not materialize after the State Legislature failed to vote on the measure during the last day (July 31) of its legislative session. But the legislature met informally Thursday to reinstate the law and Gov. Charlie Baker signed it, thus allowing for simulcasting and live racing to resume.

“Thankfully it was taken care of quickly and we appreciate the work of the House leadership, and the Senate, and the governor to get it remedied in less than 48 years hours,” said Tuttle. “We thank Speaker DeLeo for his efforts especially.”

Tuttle said that Suffolk has a request before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to add another weekend of live racing on Sept. 15-16. “It’s on the Commission’s agenda for their meeting on Aug. 14,” said Tuttle. “We’d really like to run one more weekend. There’s certainly funding to do it in the Racehorse Development Fund and it helps the local horsemen, the Massachusetts breeders. They don’t have as many opportunities to run for purse money as they like and we’re doing our best to accommodate them.”

Tuttle said that Suffolk Downs will be open through the end of the year (2018) for simulcasting.

“And we’re already in discussions with both the horsemen and HYM [the real estate company that will be redeveloping the Suffolk property] about dates for the first half of 2019,” he added.

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Frustrated House Waited for Horse Racing/Simulcast Bill All Night

Frustrated House Waited for Horse Racing/Simulcast Bill All Night

Live horse racing and simulcasting took a topsy-turvy ride over a period of 48 hours last week, when the Sport of Kings became illegal in the Commonwealth for the first time in generations.

All of it came as a result of the State Legislature’s run up to the end of its two-year Legislative session on Tuesday and into Wednesday (July 31 and Aug. 1) night Ð and it was a frustrating end for Speaker Bob DeLeo, who said they waited all night for the Senate to send back an approved Racing Bill.

It was considered a non-controversial, annual renewal, but it was a wait that proved fruitless and frustrating for the Speaker.

When the bell sounded to end the session, racing hadn’t been done, and that technically made it illegal Ð something with dire consequences for Suffolk Downs and Plainridge Race Course, both of which had major racing events last week.

“We were waiting for it to come back from the Senate so we could vote on it,” DeLeo said this week. “It never made it back to the House for a final vote so that there would be no disruption in racingÉI have to say, it was very frustrating to be waiting all night for the legislation to come back and it never did. I know that things get lost. I appreciate that, but we’re talking about people’s livelihoods and people who rely on that paycheck. I thought it was important that got done and that’s why we moved so quickly to get it straightened out the next day on the governor’s desk to sign by mid-day.”

Indeed, by Thursday afternoon, racing had been restored, and DeLeo said that was because he and his team moved immediately all night long to make sure it passed.

It didn’t stop the talk, however, about why Senate President Karen Spilka hadn’t taken up a matter so important to Speaker DeLeo’s district in a session that ended with a bit of animosity between the two bodies Ð particularly on the failure to pass an education funding and health care bill by the end of session.

Some inside sources have said that it was retribution from Spilka to DeLeo for not passing certain things that were important to her Ð essentially, they said, making racing a pawn in a larger political spat.

DeLeo played that down, however, this week, saying only, “We were just awaiting the documents from the Senate.”

Spilka told the State House News Service last week that racing was simply one of many bills that failed to pass before the session’s end.

“Just like every single year, we don’t always get to everything,” she said to State House News.

Suffolk Downs COO Chip Tuttle said he was glad to see that the matter was quickly resolved, which meant that it didn’t disrupt Suffolk’s weekend of live racing Saturday and Sunday.

“We want to thank the House, Senate and Governor for addressing this today and we’re looking forward to two great days of racing this weekend,” he said late on Thursday.

But Suffolk, Plainridge and Raynham didn’t get there without sweating it out for a period of many hours when their product has suddenly become unauthorized.

On Wednesday morning, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) put out a letter of direction to Suffolk Downs, Plainridge Park and Raynham Taunton Greyhound Park.

The letter said that the Commonwealth’s legislation for live racing and simulcasting had expired on July 31 at midnight and no action had been taken to renew or replace it.

“As of today, there is not statutory authorization for live horse racing or simulcasting in the Commonwealth,” read the letter. “Please be advised that until further notice from the Gaming Commission, simulcasting in all forms under any license at your facilities is suspended. Further, live racing at Suffolk Downs and Plainridge Park is also suspended until further notice.”

The MGC added the item as an emergency agenda item for its meeting on Aug. 2, in Springfield, but as they got to the matter, DeLeo had straightened everything out.

Getting it fixed was the main point of the matter, DeLeo said this week.

“Suffolk did have a very big live racing weekend coming up, but for meÉwe have a number of people who live and work in my district who quite frankly live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford even one day without that paycheck,” he said. “That’s very important and that’s why the very next day we worked to get it passed on signed by the governor.”

The Racing/Simulcast legislation doesn’t sunset again until July 31, 2019.

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School Funding Meltdown:Legislature Fails to Pass Education Funding Fix

School Funding Meltdown:Legislature Fails to Pass Education Funding Fix

The last second ticked off the clock on Beacon Hill Tuesday night, and when the score was settled, education funding for Gateway cities like Chelsea was the big loser.

School Supt. Mary Bourque and Chelsea’s State Sen. Sal DiDomenico voiced extreme disappointment on Wednesday that the Legislature could not come to a compromise on fixing education funding – an issue that has dogged Chelsea, Everett and Revere in particular for the last three years. The compromise committee, made up of members of the House and Senate, failed to reach a compromise between their separate bills, essentially killing the plan that would bring more dollars to Chelsea.

“We’re leaving another generation of kids behind by not addressing the issue now,” said Sen. DiDomenico, who had helped to pass a comprehensive funding revamp bill in the Senate earlier this year. “The districts that lost the most are the ones that need the most help. It was our responsibility to step up for communities who are continuously doing more with less and in these circumstances we have failed them. I was willing to go the extra mile to make that happen. To not be able to make a deal is extremely disappointing. We can’t keep kicking the can down the road. This bill would have seen substantial funding increases to our low-income communities like Chelsea and Everett – indisputably.”

Supt. Bourque said she was very angry when she heard the news that there hadn’t been a compromise.

She said that the time for waiting and watching for the state to take action is over.

“I just think it’s unconscionable that we aren’t putting student first and foremost in the budget,” she said. “We’re concerned about the economy and this is the next generation that will bolster that economy. It’s extremely short-sighted of our leaders to do this.”

She said that there should have been a compromise, as there were so many people willing to work out a solution, including Gov. Charlie Baker – who is a Republican.

“The House and Senate bills were so close in many ways,” she said. “It only required leaders to compromise at a certain point and they didn’t. It’s going to call on all of us for stronger advocacy moving forward. That’s what you’re going to hear from us. We have balanced our budget for this year. We made the difficult cuts this year and last year. We cut $2.7 million last year and $3.1 million this year. The greater implications and my concern is for the fiscal year 2020 budget. The situation will be much more difficult and we’ll be facing a third year of cutting $3-$4 million. Where do we cut? We’re already at class sizes of 30 students. We’ve eliminated all of our after-school programs.”

For those looking for answers within the inside baseball of the State Legislature, one clue came from a statement by Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, who was the lead sponsor of the Senate’s wide-ranging education reform fix.

In a statement on Wednesday, Chang-Diaz indicated that the House leadership was not willing to compromise. She said the House put forward their “deal,” and with time the Senate agreed to that deal – only to be told that the House was rejecting its own deal.

“This bill shouldn’t have been difficult to negotiate,” she wrote in a statement. “[The Senate] offered multiple versions of major concessions – on structure, on content, on money. I have only good things to say about the House conferees, who I believe really wanted to get to a deal. Yet, in the end House leadership rejected all our offer, moved the goal posts, and then killed the bill completely – stunningly, by rejecting one of their own proposals. I’ve seen a lot in my 10 years in [the State House], but I’ve never seen so many rationalizations and double-standards employed to avoid doing what’s right for kids.”

Chelsea has made numerous difficult cuts over the past two years especially. They have cut librarians, special education teachers at the middle school level and have not replaced positions.

Sources indicated that the compromise bill could have delivered along the lines of $10 million to Chelsea.

Other sources in line with Chang-Diaz’s comments said that the meltdown in the education funding fix came from the top of both houses.

Talk on Beacon Hill now is that the relationship between the Senate and the House – in particular their two leaders – is at an all-time low.

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Chelsea Schools Get Raw Deal in ‘Pothole’ Account This Year

Chelsea Schools Get Raw Deal in ‘Pothole’ Account This Year

The Chelsea Public Schools have had a life-line in the State Budget the last few years as finances have gotten more difficult.

That life-line is known as the ‘Hold Harmless’ provision, or more popularly the ‘Pothole’ account. This year, that account is little to no help for Chelsea as the district saw their funding slashed in half.

Last year, Chelsea got an additional $1.214 million from the Pothole account funding – a fund that seeks to help districts who are not getting a proper count of their low-income students due to changes three years ago in the way they are counted.

However, this year Chelsea will only get $296,000, nearly $1 million less than last year.

“The whole idea of the account is to hold us harmless for the change in the way they calculate the funding, which has taken dollars away from us,” said Supt. Mary Bourque. “Come to find out, it was slashed this year at a rate of about 56 percent, so we are not held harmless because that would mean you are at 100 percent. By their own admission, we aren’t held harmless at 100 percent.”

State Sen. Sal DiDomenico said he was disappointed in the funding allotted to Chelsea for the Pothole account, and the ability not to be able to fix the funding for the long-term. That was something he had proposed in the education funding bill.

“I’m disappointed that was also not addressed within this session,” he said. “It would have been addressed with (the education) bill and it’s another reason I’m disappointed with how all of this happened.”

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And They’re NOT Off:Horse Racing, Simulcasting is Suspended as Legislature Fails to Act

And They’re NOT Off:Horse Racing, Simulcasting is Suspended as Legislature Fails to Act

Live racing and simulcasting have been suspended at Suffolk Downs and all other horse tracks and betting facilities in the state due to the fact that the State Legislature did not act to renew the Simulcast Bill before the end of its formal session at midnight on July 31.

The renewal has been routine for several years.

The news came out of Beacon Hill early Wednesday morning that horseracing and simulcasting had suddenly become illegal in Massachusetts overnight. It seemed like fantasy, but soon the news was solidified.

In order for horse tracks like Suffolk Downs to operate live racing and simulcasting, the annual bill has to be renewed by the House and Senate by July 31. The Legislature did not do that this year.

There were few comments from legislators on the matter, but Suffolk Downs had its placard off Wednesday morning, a placard that usually advertises simulcast betting on Saratoga races for that day.

Later in the morning, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) put out a letter of direction to Suffolk Downs, Plainridge Park and Raynham Taunton Greyhound Park.

The letter said that the Commonwealth’s legislation for live racing and simulcasting had expired on July 31 at midnight and no action had been taken to renew or replace it.

“As of today, there is not statutory authorization for live horse racing or simulcasting in the Commonwealth,” read the letter. “Please be advised that until further notice from the Gaming Commission, simulcasting in all forms under any license at your facilities is suspended. Further, live racing at Suffolk Downs and Plainridge Park is also suspended until further notice.”

The MGC added the item as an emergency agenda item for its meeting today, Aug. 2, in Springfield.

The news complicated things tremendously for Suffolk Downs, which had planned and proceeded with a weekend of live racing for Aug. 4 and 5. That event is now in great doubt as there is no law allowing live racing in the state.

Reportedly, many of the horses and support personnel had already begun the trek up to Massachusetts from other states for the live races.

Many were left to ask why it had happened without warning.

There were no official comments on Wednesday from the Legislature, but numerous sources near the situation indicated it revolved around a growing rift between the leadership of the House and Senate.

It was believed by those sources that when a very important priority item for the Senate leadership didn’t pass the House – the gender equity bill – then the Senate in turn blocked the action on the renewal of the Simulcasting Bill.

One course of action to fix the matter is to address it during an informal session this week. However, during an informal session, rather than with a roll call vote of everyone, only one objection to any matter by any member can kill it under the rules of the body. That makes restoring the bill even more difficult, especially if there is a political rift between the two houses.

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Charlie Baker Represents All of Us

Charlie Baker Represents All of Us

A recent news article in The Boston Globe quoted a number of reportedly important RepubIican party members who asserted that they have been disappointed in the performance of Gov. Charlie Baker because he has been “too liberal.”

They are upset with his support both for social causes they deem “liberal” and for his assent to the recently-enacted, so-called “grand bargain” that will raise the minimum wage, among other items.

However, what they really seem to be upset about is that Charlie Baker rates as the most popular governor in the country among his own constituents. They would prefer a governor who is combative, negative, and insulting — in other words, they crave a Donald Trump at the governor’s desk, who is intent only on sowing seeds of hatred and discontent.

When you think about the disaster in Washington, as well as the bitterness that exists in many states among governors and their rivals, thank goodness we have Charlie Baker at the helm of our ship of state.

Massachusetts stands out among the the states in many measurable ways (such as our public schools’ performance), but chiefly we stand out because of the respect that our state’s leaders have for each other and the manner in which they work together.

They conduct our state’s business by the twin maxims that it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable and that politics is the art of compromise.

What these so-called Republicans are ignoring about Charlie Baker are four things:

First and foremost, he is as honest and straightforward as any governor who has served us;

Second, he campaigned in support of the issues he has signed into law. In short, he has kept his promises to the people who elected him — what a novel concept for a politician!;

Third, he is a Republican in Massachusetts — a True Blue state with veto-proof majorities in the Democratic-controlled legislature. Yet, Gov. Baker and the legislature  have achieved as much for the people of our state in the past four years as ever have been accomplished by previous administrations — including Democratic ones; and

Finally, Charlie Baker has appointed people in his administration who actually know what they are doing and who are dedicated to public service, such as Jay Ash, the secretary of housing and economic development.

The bottom line is that the vast majority of the people in Massachusetts believe that our state is headed in the right direction and they attribute that to our governor,  Charlie Baker.

Apparently, there are some who don’t agree and that certainly is their right to do so.

However, we are glad that Charlie Baker has failed to heed their calls for rancor and divisiveness. Massachusetts is moving forward — and the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker undeniably has played a large role in our success in the past four years.

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MyRWA to Concentrate on Climate Change, Adaptation

MyRWA to Concentrate on Climate Change, Adaptation

On the heels of record-setting flood events in January and March 2018, the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) announced today that it is updating its core mission and resources to help municipalities manage the extreme weather associated with climate change.

“Slowing down climate change is all about managing energy,” said Patrick Herron, MyRWA’s executive director.  “Adapting to climate change is all about managing water—both flooding and drought.  Water is something that we have thought about for over four decades.”

The Mystic River watershed spans 21 cities and towns from Woburn through Revere.  This spring, MyRWA staff met with nearly fifty state and local stakeholders to best understand how a regional watershed association could help municipalities become more resilient to flooding, drought and heat.

“We heard over and over from cities and towns that they can’t manage flooding from just within their municipal boundaries,” explained Herron. “Stormwater flooding in Medford for example, has its origins in upstream communities.  Coastal storms below the Amelia Earhart Dam threaten both New England’s largest produce distribution center and Logan Airport’s jet fuel supply.”

“We’re concerned about the neighborhoods and residents living in the shadows of massive petroleum storage tanks and other industries which are projected to be severely impacted by climate change.  When the flood waters and chemicals reach homes, how will our communities be protected?” asked Roseann Bongiovanni, executive director of GreenRoots in Chelsea.  “We’ve seen neighborhoods in Louisiana, Puerto Rico and Houston be decimated.  Chelsea and East Boston could be next.”

Based on this feedback, MyRWA requested and received a $115,000 grant from the Barr Foundation that will allow the non-profit to work with municipalities, businesses and community organizations on an action-oriented, regional, climate resilience strategy for the Mystic River Watershed.  This grant will allow MyRWA to hire Julie Wormser to lead this new program.

“The Barr Foundation’s climate resilience grantmaking has historically focused on Boston. Yet, we know climate change is no respecter of city boundaries. If some act in isolation, neighboring communities could actually become more vulnerable,” said Mary Skelton Roberts, co-director of Barr’s Climate Program. “It is our privilege to support MyRWA’s efforts to advance solutions at a more expansive, watershed scale.”

As executive director of The Boston Harbor Association, Wormser was instrumental in in drawing attention to Boston’s need to prepare for coastal flooding from extreme storms and sea level rise.  She coauthored Preparing for the Rising Tide and Designing With Water and co-led the Boston Living with Water international design competition with the City of Boston and Boston Society of Architects.  She will join MyRWA as its deputy director beginning July 1st.

“Three of the US cities most engaged in climate preparedness—Boston, Cambridge and Somerville—are located in the Mystic River Watershed,” said Wormser.  “This grant will allow us collectively to share information and lessons learned since Superstorm Sandy with lower-resourced municipalities.  By working regionally and with the State, we can also create multiple benefit solutions such as riverfront greenways that double as flood protection.  It’s very inspiring.”

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Soaring to New Heights:Simon Completes a Sensational Sophomore Season

Soaring to New Heights:Simon Completes a Sensational Sophomore Season

Every time Chelsea High girls track coach Mark Martineau set a goal for Stephanie Simon this season, the 5-foot-4-inch sophomore eclipsed it.

Stephanie Simon is on her
way to another victory for the Chelsea High girls track team.

“I think Stephanie exceeded our expectations to the point that we don’t know what the expectations should be for Stephanie,” said Martineau, who has piloted the CHS track program’s resurgence and helped Simon develop in to its marquee performer.

Simon just completed an outdoor track season that was unprecedented in school history. She was the Commonwealth Athletic Conference MVP in the track and field events at the CAC Meet and the season-long honoree. She set six school records and won every event in which she competed, with the exception of one. Her older sister, Martine, an All-State performer heading to Mass. College of Art, edged her out one time in the triple jump.

Stephanie qualified for the Division 1 State Meet in six events (high jump, triple jump, long jump, 100 meters, 200 meters, and 100-meter hurdles). She entered three events in the Division 1 Meet and finished second in the triple jump, third in the high jump, and third in the 100-meter dash.

Competing in the New Balance Nationals at North Carolina A & T State University against the trop track athletes in the country, Simon placed 15th in the high jump and 27th in the triple jump.

Martineau believes Simon’s improvement has been striking and that her future is exceedingly bright.

“Stephanie has improved a ton from freshman to sophomore year, which leads us to believe that there is more room to grow,” said Martineau. “It’s hard to predict what her ceiling is.”

So who is this emerging superstar that is already drawing comparisons to Autumn Lopez, Denise Chappell, Kristin Rosa, Tiffany Moore, Katrina Hill, Nancy Pilcher, Laurie Taraskiewicz, Minerva Cruz, and Loreen Bradley – some of the greatest female athletes to wear the CHS uniform?

Stephanie is the 16-year-old daughter of Hubert and Mathilde Simon, who are of Haitian descent. Both parents played soccer in Haiti. Stephanie attended the Early Childhood Learning Center, the Berkowitz School and the Clark Avenue Middle School. In addition to an older sister, Martine, she has an older brother, Norbert, a graduate of CHS and UMass/Boston and a former CHS track athlete, and a younger brother, Emmanuel, who will be a freshman at CHS.

What is Stephanie Simon’s best track event?

“The high jump is my favorite event, but my best event is the triple jump,” she said.

Simon is already raising the bar for next season.

“My goal for the high jump is to jump 5-6 by the end of indoor season and 5-8 in the outdoor season. For the triple jump, I want to be able to jump 38 feet consistently and in the 100 meters, I want to be in the high, 11-seconds. And we’re going to try out the 400 meters next year,” she said confidently.

She views her sister, Martine, as a role model and a motivating influence in her track career.

“Martine taught me in my freshman year the do’s and don’ts and I appreciate all that she has done for me,” said Stephanie.

The MVC (Most Valuable Coach) in her athletic career is Martineau, without a doubt. Martineau, however, is stepping down as coach to be the Grade 9 assistant principal at CHS.

“Coach Martineau has been an incredible mentor who has brought out all the excellence in me and I’m definitely going to miss him as my coach,” said Stephanie, with emotion in her voice. She added that she was also appreciative of CHS Athletic Director Amanda Alpert’s support and encouragement.

College coaches are becoming aware of Stephanie Simon’s record-breaking accomplishments. A good student, Simon is looking at such prestigious institutions as Amherst College, Smith College, and Tufts University.

“I’m only a sophomore and I believe I can get better,” said Stephanie.

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Bongiovanni of GreenRoots Named Chelsea Unsung Heroine

Bongiovanni of GreenRoots Named Chelsea Unsung Heroine

Sen. Sal DiDomenico recently joined with Reps. Daniel Ryan and RoseLee Vincent to congratulate Roseann Bongiovanni on being recognized as an Unsung Heroine by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women (MCSW).

Each year the MCSW recognizes women across the Commonwealth who make outstanding, yet perhaps unnoted, contributions to their communities.

Sen. DiDomenico and Representative Ryan nominated Bongiovanni, the executive director of the Chelsea-based environmental justice organization GreenRoots, for her efforts over the past 21 years to improve environmental conditions and quality of life in Chelsea.

On June 20 Bongiovanni was honored at the MCSW’s Unsung Heroines Celebration at the State House.

“I was happy to join Rep. Ryan and present Roseann with our citations.” said Senator DiDomenico. “This is a well-deserved honor for Roseann, who has made it her life’s work to assist individuals and families that need our help the most, and for her tireless efforts on environmental justice issues in our community.”

The Board, staff and members of GreenRoots were happy to hear the leader of their organization was getting credit for her years of work.

“On behalf of the Board, staff and members of GreenRoots, we would like to recognize Rosie for being recognized by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women as an Unsung Heroine of 2018,” read a statement from the organization. “Rosie was chosen as the Unsung Heroine for our District. We are lucky to have her as a model of leadership and unwavering commitment to our community.”

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Well Done:CHS Track Star Stephanie Simons Makes Good Showing at Nationals

Well Done:CHS Track Star Stephanie Simons Makes Good Showing at Nationals

Chelsea High track star Stephanie Simons became the first female athlete to participate in the National High School championship meet last weekend in North Carolina, doing the city proud as she took 15th in the high jump and 27th

CHS Sophomore track star Stephanie Simon in a promotional photo from the New Balance High School National Championships last weekend at North Carolina A&T University.Simon was the first female athlete in CHS history to go to the nationals, and she competed in two events. She placed 15th out of 54 in the high jump.

in the triple jump.

Simon, only a sophomore, has starred for the track team over the past year, along with her sister, Martine, who is a senior. Stephanie distanced herself from the pack in qualifying earlier this year to compete at the New Balance High School National Championships last weekend at North Carolina A&T University.

In the high jump, the talented sophomore finished 15th out of 54 competitors from all over the United States.

Meanwhile, in the triple jump, she placed 27th out of 44 competitors.

“The sky is the future for this talented student athlete – who is just a sophomore,” said Coach Mark Martineau. “She is already looking forward to next year and even better performances.”

Simon has already set several school records and placed high at the Division 1 State Meet earlier this year.

She is also a very talented hurdler as well.

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