One Year Later : Councillor Believes ‘Nip’ Ban Has Reduced Alcohol-Related Issues

One year into the ban on ‘nips’ – or small alcohol bottles – at least one city councillor is proclaiming victory based on ambulance data that shows major decreases in the numbers of alcohol-related transfers.

Councillor Roy Avellaneda said he has been monitoring data and anecdotal information surrounding the nip ban, which he advocated for a little over a year ago, and believes that the ban has resulted in major victories.

First among those victories is the numbers of alcohol-related transfers done by the ambulance in Chelsea.

“It’s been one year and it’s been the most significant feature in what we see with alcoholism and reducing the alcoholism that plagued the downtown,” he said. “If I was solely to look at how the number of ambulance transfers has decreased for alcohol-related calls, it strongly correlates to the time that the nip ban went into place.”

Date from Cataldo ambulance regarding alcohol-related calls shows that there was an astounding number of those transfers in the past. In 2015, there were 872 transfers, followed by 715 in 2016 and 742 in 2017.

The nip ban went into effect in the middle of 2018, and Avellaneda points out that the ambulance data begins to decrease at the same time.

In 2018, there was a decrease to 556 transfers, and this year, 2019, data would support that the transfers have nose-dived. As of June 30, there were only 127 transfers. Doubling that number in the second half of the year would still only result in around 260 transfers – which would be 50 percent less than in 2018 and nearly 600 fewer transfers than in 2015.

“My figures show a result of 66 percent fewer alcohol-related ambulance responses and I think that’s unbelievable,” he said, noting that public works personnel have also said they are experiencing less nip bottle litter issues too.

While other things might have also contributed to the decrease, including the advanced work of the HUB by the Police Department and its partners, Avellaneda points out that the HUB does great work but mostly related to opiate and drug issues. The alcohol issues, he said, stood out to him initially because they had plagued the downtown since he was a kid in the 1980s. It had become normal, and the numbers of ambulance transfers shocked him when he first saw that they numbered in the 800s.

They were nearly seven times greater than those of other issues, like opiates, and that’s when he said he decided to join the fight to ban nips.

“I felt we were focusing way too much on one issue and not enough on the other,” he said. “There were seven times as many responses for alcohol and we needed to do something on that too…It’s something I’ve seen since I was a kid. It got to a point where we just accepted it. When you talked to merchants about it, they would say, ‘Well, that’s Chelsea.’ That’s not the Chelsea we want and we don’t have to allow these behaviors – and by that I mean the behaviors of people who are selling these nips to people with a problem or addiction.”

The battle has been difficult, though.

While the City has instituted the ban, nine package stores in the city have sued in court, and that case is pending before the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC). The City is arguing that the ABCC doesn’t have jurisdiction, while the stores argue it does. That has been pending for many months, since earlier this year.

The process is slow because Chelsea has been the first community to successfully go through with a ban, despite the fact that many have tried and many desire to follow suit.

“There are a lot of eyes on this decision,” said Avellaneda. “There are a lot of communities around the state what want to try this. There are many that did try to pass it but the alcoholic beverage lobby is so strong they turned back. Chelsea has done it and all eyes in the state are looking at us to see if we can withstand a legal challenge.”

Surviving that challenge could be made even stronger if the data holds regarding ambulance transfers.

“There is no next step here, just monitoring the situation,” he said. “They didn’t just go buy the next size to drink. We aren’t seeing the next size bottles littering the streets. That argument is out. I believe we can see this made significant changes and we’ll just build on that.”

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Chelsea Entrepreneurs Challenging Zoning Ideas Around Marijuana

Two Chelsea residents looking to break into the recreational cannabis industry in Chelsea are challenging the ideas behind the zoning regulations set by the City – regulations that bar such establishments from the Broadway business corridor and relegate them to expensive industrial locations in the city.

Chelsea has been known to be quite progressive when it comes to permitting and welcoming the marijuana industry, but the zoning regulations set more than a year ago required that any marijuana businesses be located in the industrial or shopping center districts.

Ola Bayode and Kyle Umemba, both from Chelsea, are questioning the zoning regulations for marijuana establishments – saying they should be allowed in the downtown area to help local residents and people of color to break into the industry. They said they believe retail marijuana could help to revive the downtown area, and they believe the current zoning unintentionally sets a barrier too high for locals to overcome.

That limits them to the Produce Center, Eastern Avenue or Parkway Plaza, and many in the City have postulated that it has excluded local people unintentionally from being able to participate or profit from this new industry.

The Chelsea City Council had just such a discussion earlier this year, asking if it were possible to set aside licenses for residents who might qualify in the future – that coming because most of the City’s licenses were being gobbled up by big-money interests from out of town, and sometimes out of state.

Now, add Chelsea residents Ola Bayode and Kyle Umemba to those critics.

Both are young professionals working regular jobs, but with a hope on the side that they could establish their own business in Chelsea within the emerging cannabis industry. Being right at the nexus of Boston and Somerville (and with Everett and Revere having prohibited marijuana shops), they felt the downtown area was a prime location.

Then they found out about the zoning restrictions, and found it nearly impossible to draw the interest of investors to be able to afford the buildout of a place in the industrial areas.

“For us, we can’t even find a place,” said Bayode. “The one place we did find was on Broadway and Congress. It was a great location and we went to the City and found it wasn’t allowed. We believe the City Manager and the City Council need to think five to 10 years ahead…Our demographic is not Chelsea residents but people who live in One North and upcoming new Forbes development – people new to Chelsea. We want to provide a premier boutique opportunity here…This is a critical time. This game is the first three years and who is able to navigate the waters early will prevail. It’s hard to grip and replace the incumbent business. That is why it’s so important to create a business friendly environment that is helpful to local residents. Right now is the time for that. Later will be too late.”

Bayode said they believe that retail marijuana would fit really well with the City’s idea for reviving the downtown. Umemba said it is proven that such establishments are more safe because of required security, and the foot traffic brings vibrancy to the areas. Having them walled off, both said, misses a great opportunity to bring people to the business district, and also to help local business-people get into the industry.

“The build-out cost in the industrial areas are so expensive,” said Bayode. “Spaces on Broadway are retail ready. They are made for this. It’s also hard to attract any investors because locating in an area like that doesn’t seem as credible.”

Umemba said he believes the zoning now creates a barrier to local people and people of color – maybe even those who have marijuana convictions and are encouraged by the state to get involved in the industry.

“There’s so much investment that can be brought into the downtown,” he said. “The zoning there now creates an extremely large barrier for individuals. We’re young guys who went to college and now we work. We have middle-class jobs. We want to break into this industry in Chelsea, but the way it’s set up creates an unfair playing field…and Chelsea is progressive compared to others and we still don’t have an equal playing field.”

Both said they plan to talk with elected officials and City leaders over the summer to see if there is room to make such zoning changes – perhaps allowing a few licenses to be located in the downtown and reserved for Chelsea residents.

“If there are four or five at least have one or two for Chelsea people,” Bayode said. “It shouldn’t all be big companies from the outside.”

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Gaming Commission Moves Quickly to Clear Encore of Lawsuit Charges

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) moved quickly last week to investigate claims in a class-action lawsuit against Encore Boston Harbor, and then announced on Thursday they felt Encore’s practices were appropriate – that the lawsuit “conflates” state regulations on Blackjack.

“We reviewed the claim and have preliminarily found Encore to be in compliance for payouts on Blackjack,” said Bruce Band, assistant director of the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau (IEB). “The word ‘conflate’ is exactly right here. Six-to-five is used for two things. One is a variation sub-game of Blackjack that so far hasn’t been dealt anywhere in Massachusetts. Six-to-five is also a type of payout for someone playing standard Blackjack if they hit a Blackjack. You need to know what they odds are at that table if they hit a Blackjack. That’s what that is.”

The lawsuit was filed by Attorney Joshua Garick on behalf of Richard Schuster of New York in a class-action format. Schuster had played at the Encore and alleged that they were playing the Blackjack game wrong, and that they were withholding change from patrons at the electronic redemption machines.

In terms of the change machines, Band said the machines at Encore payout dollar amounts, and then dispense certificates for the change. Those certificates are good for one year and can be claimed at the cashier. However, they can also be used at another slot machine.

Band said they felt that the redemption machines were operating at standard procedures for a casino, but they suggested a sign be placed on the machine making it clear what is happening with the change.

“What we did find was it probably wasn’t stated clearly enough so they have added a sign that clearly expresses this on the machine,” said Band.

Both claims, one on Blackjack and one on the change machines, were refuted by the MGC. Commissioners assured everyone that there is a state process for unclaimed winnings, and none of that money remains or stays with Encore. It is kept in a type of escrow account, and then turned over to the state at the end of one year.

All of it was much to the delight of Encore officials.

“I feel the lawsuit is completely without merit, and I was particularly interested in the issue about the redemption of the slot tickets,” said President Bob DeSalvio. “There were allegations in there that for some reason they thought we might be rounding to our favor. It is completely, utterly false. Every customer gets every penny they deserve at Encore Boston Harbor. Never would we engage in a practice that would actually keep any of a customer’s money they deserve. There is no way, shape or form any customer is not getting exactly what they should get. Nor is there any opportunity at the end of the year for any unclaimed monies to come back to the property.”

DeSalvio also said emphatically that Encore is following all of the Blackjack rules, and the MGC agreed with that in its report.

“The claims in the lawsuit are false and unfounded,” he said. “They went back and looked at our procedures. They went back and looked at our games. They went back and looked at the felt on the tables. What they found is they are all exactly as they should be. There’s really no issue at all on Blackjack. None. Zero. The rules are the rules and we are following the rules exactly and that’s what you heard the Commission say.”

But Attorney Garick said he wasn’t pleased with the ruling by the MGC, and that’s why his client will take the matter before an impartial judge.

“It’s our interpretation of the regulations is that the game of Blackjack does not allow an eight-deck shoe where they pay 6-to-5 odds on the Blackjack,” he said. “We intend to fully raise all these issues to a judge rather than in a Commission where the inspector and the casino representatives are sitting at the same table.”

DeSalvio said they are going to seriously consider putting some electronic redemption machines on the floor that have the ability to dispense change. He said they made a customer-based decision early on to only put out machines that dispensed dollars. He said customers – especially at high-volume times – would rather not wait for a machine to be filled with pennies to get their dollar winnings.

“We will go back and take a look at having certain units on the floor that would make it more convenient to get the change,” he said. “Understand, the reason we did it this way was actually for customer convenience because if you are standing in front of one of those redemption units and it was to run out of pennies, and you had to wait 30 or 40 minutes, I’ll be you would be more upset about having to wait for 5 cents or 15 cents because that machine will lock up until it’s refilled with coin. The reason we did it was for customer service. If I can add another option to make it even more convenient for customers, I’m happy to do so. I’ll certainly take a look at that.”

Garick said they were happy the Commission and Encore paid attention to the suit, and that they were happy that some changes – like the change machines – were being considered.

“We’re certainly happy they have heeded the issues addressed in our lawsuit and have made some changes to the procedures they have,” he said. “I think that indicates they knew that there was some issues with the way they were dispensing change to customers. Frankly, I think this idea that people don’t want to wait for change is kind of a cop out. If I went to a table game and had $9.90 and the table minimum was $10, well they would wait for me to find that extra 10 cents…At this point the money is maintained by the casino. The regulations do require that after one year the money is paid to the state. We’re aware of that, but that doesn’t mean the consumer should be out that money that belongs to them.”

Garick said they didn’t plan to sue the MGC, and he said they did not have a court date yet.

DeSalvio said their attorneys would be responding to the suit “post haste.”

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Getto Young to Receive Top National Award : Chief of Staff to Sen. DiDomenico Is First Person in Mass. To Be Accorded This Honor

Special to The Independent

Senate Assistant Majority Leader Sal DiDomenico and his team are proud to announce that Christie Getto Young, chief of staff to Sen. DiDomenico, is the 2019 recipient of the National Conference of State Legislature (NCSL) Legislative Staff Achievement Award.

This national award is given annually by the NCSL Leadership Staff Professional Association and was created to recognize an individual who demonstrates excellence in support of the work of a state legislature and strengthening of legislative institutions.
Getto Young is the first staff member from the Massachusetts Legislature to ever receive this top national award, and she will be honored at the 2019 National Conference of State Legislature Summit in Nashville on August 4-5.

“Christie truly deserves this award, and I am excited that others around the country will see what we already know in our office and in the Senate – Christie is a leader who others look up and she is a huge asset for the Legislature. Not only are we fortunate to have her as our Chief of Staff, but the residents of my district and the Commonwealth are the beneficiaries of her passion and dedication to serve,” said Sen. DiDomenico. “We look forward to joining her in Nashville as she receives this well-deserved recognition for being the best in her field. I am very proud of Christie, and she is a friend, advisor, trusted colleague and partner who I rely on and have had the honor of working with since our first days in the Senate. Christie has an impressive record of accomplishments throughout her career, and she has built strong relationships inside and outside the State House. I am thrilled that she will be given this national Legislative Staff Achievement Award because Christie is a kind and compassionate person who is a fierce advocate for those who need our help the most. This is the Christie Getto Young we all know, and I am pleased that others on the national stage get to see this as well.”

For nearly a decade, Getto Young has been a steadfast leader in the Massachusetts Senate and a key resource for legislative staff, non-profit organizations, and advocates working to pursue policies that support our Commonwealth’s children and families. Christie was nominated by Sen. DiDomenico and her colleagues in light of her many accomplishments. From writing legislation to protect human service workers, promoting education equity, working to repeal devastating policy decisions made decades ago that hurt vulnerable families, and spearheading a multi-year Senate initiative known as Kids First to take a holistic approach to the way our Commonwealth supports children and families Christie has helped contribute to the well-being of hundreds of residents who will never know her face or name, but they can be sure that there was someone advocating for them and making lives a little better for themselves and their families.

“Everyone, from constituents to her Senate colleagues to the children and families she has advocated for, has a reason to be grateful that Christie has chosen to dedicate her life to public service,” said Senate President Karen Spilka. “Christie’s combination of professionalism and kindness make her a natural leader, and she has served as a role model for many staff members in the Senate. On behalf of the entire Massachusetts State Senate, I wish to congratulate Christie Getto Young for this very well deserved award.”

In her nomination letter, Christie’s Senate colleagues wrote “while Christie’s list of legislative accomplishments are impressive her greatest career achievement is the long-lasting impact and influence that she had on young staffers, especially female staffers. Christie has not only inspired dozens of young people to pursue careers in public policy, she has become a mentor to many in the Massachusetts Legislature.”

Christie Getto Young has worked in the Massachusetts Legislature for a total of 11 years. Her career in public service began working as a Research Analyst for the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Human Services from 1993-1995. After pursuing a career in the nonprofit sector, serving as Senior Director of Public Policy at United Way of Massachusetts Bay, Christie returned to the Legislature in 2010 working for Massachusetts Sen. Sal DiDomenico, first as his Budget & Policy Director and eventually becoming his Chief of Staff in 2013.

Getto Young has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Kenyon College in Ohio, Masters in Social Work from Boston College, and a Juris Doctor degree from Northeastern University in Boston.

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Lawsuit Filed Against Encore

A class-action lawsuit filed Monday in Middlesex Superior Court on behalf of a New York man is accusing Encore Boston Harbor of not following the state’s Blackjack rules when it comes to variations on the game – in particular the ‘6 to 5’ variation.

A second piece of that suit alleges that electronic kiosks for redeeming winnings at the casino were withholding change, rounding down to the lowest dollar amount for the payment.

Encore, in a statement, denied the accusations.

And the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) said it is reviewing the allegations.

“The MGC is aware of the lawsuit and reviewing its content to determine next steps,” said MGC Spokesperson Elaine Driscoll.

Encore Spokesperson Rosie Salisbury said they have followed all of the state’s rules for Blackjack and gaming since opening.

“Since opening, Encore Boston Harbor follows the Massachusetts Gaming Commission regulations for blackjack payouts,” she said on Monday.

The lawsuit is filed on behalf of A. Richard Schuster of New York as a class action for all betters since opening, and it delves into the ins and outs of Blackjack and all of its variations. Schuster allegedly visited the casino and played on July 11.

Specifically, the suit claims there have been problems with how the ‘6 to 5’ variation of the game has been run at Encore. The ‘6 to 5’ statistically can benefit the house, and it has been the primary Blackjack game offered on most occasions in the gaming floor of Encore, with the standard ‘3 to 2’ game sometimes closed off and located at the back of the gaming floor.

The ‘6 to 5’ term refers to the odds for the payout on a Blackjack, so that a $100 winning bet pays $120.

Part of Schuster’s suit indicates that the casino is only paying out the ‘6 to 5’ odds on a Blackjack, and should be paying out ‘3 to 2’ odds according to the state law governing the game.

That law is not for the novice, and will require a careful review by experts at the MGC.

However, the rules do state odds that must be paid. Most wagers in the game are to be paid out at a 1-to-1 ratio. The payouts change, however, for a Blackjack – which is defined as “an ace and any card having a point value of 10 dealt as the initial two cards to a player or a dealer except that this shall not include an ace and a ten point value card dealt to a player who has split pairs.”

That payout is what is at odds.

The MGC rules for Blackjack read that a Blackjack played at a ‘6 to 5’ can pay out at that ratio.

“All winning wagers…shall be paid at odds of 1 to 1 with the exception of standard blackjack which shall be paid at odds of 3 to 2, or at odds of 6 to 5 for the 6 to 5 blackjack variation,” read the regulations.

Also at stake is the numbers of decks of cards used in games of ‘6 to 5.’ It is alleged the casino was using more than two decks, which some say is the standard for that game. However, the rules at the MGC are not entirely clear, stating that a minimum of one or two decks must be used. Nothing seems to state that there is a maximum number of decks for that variation.

“Notwithstanding the foregoing, the minimum number of decks used to play blackjack shall be…one or two, if the 6 to 5 blackjack variation is offered,” read the regulations.

However, in a totally different subsection regarding how to play ‘6 to 5’ Blackjack, there seems to be an expectation that no more than two decks would be used – and that they have to be dealt from the dealer’s hand and not using a dealing machine.

“The dealer shall remove the shuffled deck or decks from the automated shuffling device, and shall place the single deck or two stacked decks of cards in either hand,” read the state rules. “Once the dealer has chosen the hand in which he or she will hold the cards, the dealer shall use that hand whenever holding the cards during that round of play. The cards held by the dealer shall at all times be kept in front of the dealer and over the table inventory container.”

There are also rules in that section about whether the cards in that variation are to be dealt up or facedown. The lawsuit does challenge that practice of how the game is dealt as well.

Much of the allegations are very detailed, and will require careful review by both a judge and the MGC. What is particularly at stake, it would appear, is whether or not the state’s rules conform to the standards of such games of chance in other parts of the country and world.

The MGC did not say if there were other such complaints about the Blackjack rules in the Springfield MGM casino – the only other venue in the state where Blackjack is allowed.

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Police Briefs 07-18-2019

Vandalized Chelsea Walk Pub

On June 18 at 4:39 a.m., officers were dispatched to 411 Broadway for a report of a disturbance. The calling party who resides at that address stated they heard a loud bang and an alarm going off. Upon arrival, Officers heard an alarm sounding from The Chelsea Walk Pub located at 416 Broadway. Officers observed the front door glass had been shattered. The door was open and Officers entered the building and located a brick on the ground. Officers searched the building, but did not locate anyone inside. Officers reviewed the city cameras and that information led them to place the female suspect under arrest. The female also had outstanding warrants out of the state of Florida.

Guillermina Montanez, 49, of 439 Broadway, was charged with breaking and entering a building in the night, possession of burglarious tools, being a fugitive from justice and one warrant.

Assaulted at the Basket

On June 25, at 6:02 p.m., CPD officers responded to the Market Basket on a report of a shoplifter who assaulted an employee. Officers were told that a manager attempted to stop a female accused of shoplifting $43 worth of items when he was attacked. The manager stated he was struck in the face with a set of keys from the shoplifter. A description was broadcast to officers in the area and the female subject was taken into custody.

Rosa Lawson, 42, of 827 Broadway, was charged with armed robbery, assault and battery, threatening to commit a crime and two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

Wrong Way

On June 25, at 11:40 p.m., CPD officers observed a Red Ford Focus traveling in the wrong direction on Broadway. Upon speaking with the operator, it was determined he did not have a license to operate a motor vehicle. And he was arrested.

Ever Gutierrez Vargas, 23, of Cambridge, was charged with unlicensed operation and one way violation.

Car Break

On July 2, at 10:10 a.m., officers were dispatched to 73 Pearl St. for a report of a male party checking the door handles to motor vehicles who was now sitting inside a grey motor vehicle. Upon officers’ arrival, an unknown male party was observed in the rear seat of a grey motor vehicle. The motor vehicle was parked on private property with no license plates attached. A vehicle VIN number was located and given to Chelsea Control for owner information. It was determined by the owner that the person inside was known to him. He was placed under arrest.

Melvy Amaya, 21, of 106 Williams St., was charged with breaking and entering a vehicle in the day for a felony.

Stole Items From Car

On July 6, at 10;10 a.m., a CPD officer was dispatched to 793 Broadway for a report of malicious damage to a motor vehicle. The officer observed a Honda CR-V with the back passenger side window smashed. The owner of the vehicle stated that she discovered the vehicle damaged around 10 a.m. Officers were able to review security footage and identify a male subject smash window and remove items from the car. A short time later officers observed a male matching the description on Shawmut Street. He was placed under arrest on scene. Albin Hernandez, 37, of 466 Broadway, was charged with breaking and entering a vehicle in the day for a felony and possession of burglarious tools.

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Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home to be Renamed in Honor of Elliot and Donna Katzman

Chelsea Jewish Lifecare has announced that the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home, the flagship property of the organization, will be renamed The Katzman Center for Living in honor of Elliot and Donna Katzman.

The Marblehead couple, who made a significant donation to Chelsea Jewish Lifecare, have longstanding ties to the nursing home, the city of Chelsea and to the healthcare organization.

Elliot and Donna Katzman have made a significant donation to Chelsea Jewish Lifecare, and they will now be honored with the naming of the newly-renovated Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home on Lafayette Avenue. It will soon become the Katzman Center for Living.

“We are enormously grateful to Elliot and Donna Katzman for such a generous gift,” said Chelsea Jewish Lifecare CEO Barry Berman. “I have known the Katzman family for many years and am thrilled to have their name attached to the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home. Their support and friendship mean the world to us.”

Elliot Katzman and Donna (Frangiamone) were classmates at Chelsea High and will soon celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. Both are Salem State alumni and the proud parents of sons and daughters in law Matthew and Katie, and David and Emily. They are even prouder grandparents to granddaughters Nora, Maggie, Julia and Clara. Elliot, a general partner at Commonwealth Capital Ventures, a private venture capital firm, has built some of New England’s most successful technology companies.

“Donna and I are truly thankful for the love and kindness that Chelsea Jewish Lifecare has shown our family,” said Katzman. “Our involvement began when my grandmother was a resident of the nursing home over forty years ago. Ten years ago my parents moved to the Cohen Florence Levine Estates Assisted Living where today my dad, Myer, still enjoys being a part of this caring community. Donna’s mom, Mary Frangiamone, is a resident of the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home. We want to pay tribute to the mission of the organization’s founders and the extraordinary leadership of Barry and Adam Berman.”

Adam Berman, Chelsea Jewish Lifecare president, noted that the nursing home has played a significant role in the organization’s history.

“The Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home is very near and dear to my heart,” said Berman. “We are honored to have Elliot and Donna involved with this special residence and we truly appreciate their substantial contribution.” Founded in 1919, the non-profit Chelsea Jewish Lifecare is one of the largest providers of senior healthcare services in the region. The Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home, soon

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Make the Most of Summer

Our founding publisher, Andrew P. Quigley, who lived an extraordinary life, used to say, “When you look back on your life, you realize that all you really have is a lot of memories.”

What brings these words to mind is the realization that the long, hot summer is upon us. With school out and the excitement of the Fourth of July behind us, we now have arrived at what often are referred to as the dog days of summer — humid, steamy, and languid — that have burned indelible memories into our mind’s eye from our earliest childhood into adulthood.

For those of us who live in the Greater Boston area, numerous vacation spots, from the mountains and lakes of Maine and New Hampshire, to the pastoral serenity of the Berkshires, to the world-famous beaches of Cape Cod and the islands, are within a short distance.

The Greater Boston area itself is full of summertime pleasures and recreational opportunities, whether it be a visit to the 15 beaches maintained by the state, boating in our beautiful Boston Harbor and nearby environs, concerts at numerous venues, or taking in the vibrancy of the Boston waterfront scene.

However, what summertime always has meant to us — the time we spend with our families, friends, and children — reinforces the notion that the best things in life are free.

While life itself is short and passes all too quickly, summer is even briefer. There are just seven weeks from now until Labor Day weekend (how depressing is that?). All of us will lament, “Where did the summer go?” when we return to work and school on the day after Labor Day, Sept. 2.

Let’s make sure that when we do so, we can look back on a summer that created memories that will last a lifetime for ourselves and for those whom we love.

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Fire Officials Urge the Public to Leave the Fireworks to the Professionals

“Last year, several people lost fingers and suffered serious burns lighting off illegal fireworks in Massachusetts,” said State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey. “Thirty-four firefighters were injured when an errant firework ignited a six-family building. Have a fun but safe Fourth of July and leave the fireworks to the professionals,” he added.

Fourth of July No Holiday for Firefighters

Needham Fire Chief Dennis Condon, president of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of Massachusetts, said, “The Fourth of July holiday is a busy time for firefighters. We are supervising the professional displays so that they are safe for spectators and licensed operators; we are busy responding to all types of fires and medical emergencies. In fact, the week of July Fourth is one of the busiest times of the year for fires.”

State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said, “This year, set a good example for your children. Just as children know where you keep the matches and lighters, they know where you stash your illegal fireworks.” He added, “Children imitate adults. If you use fireworks, children will copy you, not realizing how very dangerous fireworks are.”

Fireworks Cause Many Dangerous Fires

Last summer, there were many fires, amputations and burn injuries from illegal fireworks in Massachusetts. In the past decade (2009-2018), there have been 800 major fires and explosions involving illegal fireworks in Massachusetts[1]. These incidents resulted in 12 civilian injuries, 39 fire service injuries and an estimated dollar loss of $2.5 million.

· On June 25, 2018, people shooting fireworks in the street started a fire in a six-unit Lynn apartment building. One ricocheted to the second floor porch and ignited several items. The fire spread to the rest of the second floor and to the third. Thirty-four firefighters were injured at this fire.

· On July 2, 2018, the Worcester Fire Department was called to a fire in a three-unit apartment building. The fire was started by fireworks igniting trash in a first floor doorway.

· On July 3, 2018, Dartmouth District #1 responded to a pier fire at Anthony’s Beach. Crews discovered remains of many fireworks on and around the pier after the fire was extinguished.

· On July 4, 2018, the Agawam Fire Department responded to a brush fire started by three juveniles who were using illegal fireworks.

· On July 5, 2018, the Lynn Fire Department put out a car fire started by fireworks.

Fireworks Injuries

In the past decade (2009-2018), 38 people were treated at Massachusetts emergency rooms for severe burn injuries from fireworks (burns covering 5 percent of more of the body) according to the Massachusetts Burn Injury Reporting System (M-BIRS). Fifty-five percent of the victims were under age 25. Eighteen percent (18 percent) were between the ages of 15 and 24; 8 percent were between the ages of 10 and 14; 18 percent were between five and nine; and 11 percent were children under five. The youngest victim was a six-month old boy. These victims are scarred for life. In the past year:

· A 22-year-old man was seriously injured when roman candles were set off inside an Amherst apartment.

· A 22-year-old was injured in Gloucester playing with sparklers.

· A 10-year-old boy was injured by illegal fireworks at a Marshfield beach on July 3, 2018. He was an innocent by-stander.

· A man lost part of his hand when a firework he was holding exploded. The explosion occurred in a Mansfield MBTA parking lot.

· The Tewksbury Fire Department provided emergency medical care to a man who lost a part of every finger on his right hand when a firework he was holding exploded.

· A 25-year-old Brockton man suffered injuries to his left hand when a “cherry bomb” exploded.

· A 22-year-old Kingston man suffered injuries to his hands, face and stomach from a firework.

All Fireworks Are Illegal in Massachusetts

The possession and use of all fireworks by private citizens is illegal in Massachusetts. This includes Class C fireworks, which are sometimes falsely called “safe and sane” fireworks. Class C fireworks include sparklers, party poppers, snappers, firecrackers, spinners, cherry bombs and more. Sparklers burn at 1,800ºF or higher. It is illegal to transport fireworks into Massachusetts, even if they were purchased legally elsewhere. Illegal fireworks can be confiscated on the spot.

For more information on the dangers of fireworks, go to the Department of Fire Services webpage Leave the Fireworks to the Professionals.

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It’s Time: Encore Boston Harbor to Open at 10 A.M. June 23, Short Program Before

Don’t expect a long program ahead of the Encore Boston Harbor ribbon cutting on Sunday morning, June 23, but expect the City and the company to get things moving and get the doors open.

Encore will open officially to the public at 10 a.m. Sunday, June 23, and that will be preceded by a short program at 9:30 a.m. to celebrate the moment. However, after seven years of speeches and discussion about Encore, the time will be punctuated with the goal of getting inside the building.

Encore’s opening day is June 23

Elected officials from the City and state are expected to be there, along with company executives from all over the world. A large contingent of media is also expected to be present for the opening morning as well.

There are to be a few small surprises, but the goal, once again, is to get people in the door.

A full plan for transportation will be put in place early that day, with officers from the State Police, Everett Police, Boston Police, Medford Police and Chelsea Police on forced overtime to monitor the streets into and out of the Encore casino area.

Transportation executives for Encore, the MBTA and law enforcement agencies have been meeting for several months to coordinate the opening period plan. That plan is flexible, and executives said that if there needs to be a change in routing vehicles, they will be able to do that on the fly.

The casino will be stressing the use of its shuttle from Wellington and Malden Center Stations, as well as the Neighborhood Runner in Everett/Chelsea and the water shuttles in the Harbor. For those coming from long distances, the Encore buses are the preferred option, with depots north, south and west of Greater Boston.

Parking on site at Encore is $22 for six hours, $42 for 24 hours, and $49 for 24-hour valet parking. As part of the special grand opening offer, Red Card holders can use one COMPDOLLAR to pay for onsite parking.

Inside the casino after opening, the State Police Gaming Enforcement Unit’s Encore deployment, commanded by State Police Lt Timothy Babbin and made up of MSP Troopers and Everett Police Officers, will enforce the law inside and outside the casino to maintain a safe environment for the employees and patrons of the casino and to assist in preserving the integrity of the gaming operation. Unit members will be first responders to any emergency incident on casino property, and will conduct follow-up investigations for any potential criminal act on the property. State Police personnel are, of course, supplemented on the casino floor by private security employed by the casino, which is under the excellent direction of retired Massachusetts State Police Special Operations commander Richard Prior.

The Troopers and Officers in the unit have undergone training in best practices related to casino security and policing, a spokesman said. In addition to our responsibilities at Encore, the Gaming Enforcement Unit, under the overall command of Detective Lt. Brian Connors, is supported by the full resources of the Massachusetts State Police as necessary.

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