The School Committee passed a $95.4 million
School Budget last week, but it was passed with less than a majority of the
total number of nine committee seats.
The budget, which passed with a $1.9 million
funding gap that led to the elimination of 10 teaching positions, was approved
by a 4-2 vote.
School Committee members Rosemarie Carlisle
and Frank DePatto voted against the budget, while board member Jeanette Velez
and Chair Richard Maronski recused themselves from the vote, citing relatives
who work for the School Department. Last week, Julio Hernandez resigned from
the Committee and his seat has yet to be filled.
School Committee members and administrators
said it has been a long struggle to present a budget that attempts to meet the
needs of the Chelsea schools.
Supt. Mary Bourque and City Manager Thomas
Ambrosino were among those who noted that falling enrollments in the Chelsea
schools, as well as an antiquated state funding formula that underfunds urban
communities such as Chelsea, were the main culprits in the budget cuts.
“I’ve spent a lot of the time with the
superintendent trying to provide city support for the budget,” said Ambrosino.
“The City is really trying to do its fair share.”
That included the City providing an
additional $1.5 million to the schools to address budget shortfalls.
“Every new tax dollar I can raise in Fiscal
Year 2020 is going to the School Department,” said the city manager.
Regardless of how the School Committee ended
up voting on the budget, Ambrosino said the $95.5 million figure is the figure
he would present to the City Council as the school share of the overall City
“The budget (Bourque) presented is fair and
reasonable,” said Ambrosino.
Once the budget is approved, Ambrosino said
attention should be turned towards advocating for change to the Chapter 70
state education funding formula on Beacon Hill.
Bourque said she agreed that the time is now
to fix the state funding formula, noting that Chelsea schools will be
underfunded $17 million by the state.
The other factor leading to cuts in the budget
is falling enrollment, Bourque said. Between January of 2018 and January of
this year, she said Chelsea schools have lost 217 students. That is part of a
larger trend of falling enrollment over nearly a decade, according to the
Carlisle voted against the proposed budget,
but said the problem with the $95.4 million figure laid not with the City, but
with the state.
“The problem is with the state,” said
Carlisle. “They are not doing the right thing, and we have to send them a
School Committee member Ana Hernandez backed
the budget, but said it wasn’t a decision made lightly.
“The votes we make are very hard,” she said.
“This budget is what we dread every year. We have to make a decision for the
best of the entire school system.”
But for DePatto, further cuts to teaching
positions was a bridge too far to support the FY ‘20 budget. He said the
schools laid off seven teachers in 2017, 20 in 2018, 10 in 2019, and have
projected another 10 for 2020.
“Forty seven teachers and 25 paraprofessionals,”
he said. “When is it going to stop? I can’t vote for this budget (when) I don’t
support these cuts.”
School Committee member Yessenia
Alfaro-Alvarez voted in support of the budget, stating that it was in the best
interest of the City’s students to pass the budget, and also noting that
Chelsea is hamstrung by declining enrollments and inequities in the state
•In other business, the Committee voted to
forgo School Choice for the 2019-20 school year.
Committee also approved a field trip to New York City for high school and
middle school REACH students to participate in the Andover Bread Loaf Writing
Conference in May.
An exhibit by the Chelsea Hunger Network is
now installed at Gallery 456 and will remain until the day of its community
fundraising event on April 18, the 8th Annual Chelsea Empty Bowls.
Since September of 2018, 19 groups have
convened over 300 “community artists” in Chelsea to paint a variety of ceramic
bowls and mugs. A selection of these
colorful pieces of practical art, all fired in the kilns of Salem State’s Art +
Design department, are now on display in the gallery. Next to the exhibit of the decorated
ceramics, a collage depicts various artists showing off their work as well as
groups and individuals at work. Many
photographed are widely recognized community figures including Chelsea’s City
Manager, Tom Ambrosino.
Another section of the gallery displays
large color posters revealing the identity of the 19 participating groups and
gives additional background on the Chelsea Hunger Network. An infographic
outlines the contributing factors leading to an increase in food insecurity and
hunger in our community.
The 8th Annual
Chelsea Empty Bowls event will take place on April 18, from 5-7 p.m. at the
Williams School at 180 Walnut St. Choose one of the hundreds of bowls and mugs
and serve yourself from an all-you-can-eat menu of delicious clam chowder,
chili, soups, and Toscanini’s ice cream. Tickets are $20 ($25 at the door) and
can be purchased online at www.eventbrite.com under “Chelsea Empty Bowls”. Children under 8 years old are free.
A small order on the Feb. 25 Council agenda
likely didn’t attract a lot of attention at the regular meeting, but Council
President Damali Vidot said she had hoped it could have sparked a conversation.
That measure, which she introduced, revolved
around looking at the possibility of allowing non-citizens that are here
legally to vote in municipal elections.
Instead, she said, she was greeted with
silence – and a ‘no’ vote.
“We have people invested in our community,
who own homes, have kids in the schools and own businesses, but because they
are citizens, they can’t vote in our elections,” she said. “Why not have a
conversation about allowing them to vote? The fact my colleagues didn’t want to
at least have a conversation is a travesty.”
The roll call consisted of a 5-6 defeated
vote, with Vidot and Councillors Judith Garcia, Yamir Rodriguez, Enio Lopez and
Giovanni Recupero agreeing to begin talking about it.
Those voting against were Councillor Roy
Avellaneda, Calvin Brown, Joe Perlatonda, Luis Tejada, Leo Robinson and Bob
Vidot said she fully intends to bring the
matter back in 90 days.
“I don’t understand why we couldn’t
entertain this, to allow people to be part of the civic process,” she said. “At
the minimum, I thought we could have a conversation. If I had known there would
be this reaction from my colleagues, I would have organized before. I have
every intention of bringing it back again in 90 days. We can’t be in the habit
of saying ‘no’ without talking about it.”
Other cities in Massachusetts have voted to
allow non-citizens to vote, including Cambridge and Brookline. Such a petition
by the Council would require a home rule petition by the State Legislature. It
would also require legislative action by the State House as well.
The measure in
Chelsea would not allow non-citizens to vote in state or federal elections.
A roomful of commuters and elected officials
roundly rejected proposed MBTA fare hikes during a public meeting on Wednesday,
Feb. 27, at the State Transportation Building in Boston.
Steve Poftak, general manager of the MBTA, outlined
the increases, which would go into effect July 1 and raise fares an average of
6.3 percent system-wide.
Under the proposal, the cost of a local bus
Charlie Card would increase to $1.80 from $1.70 while a subway Charlie Card
would rise to $2.40 from the current $2.25. The monthly LinkPass, which
provides unlimited bus and subway travel for one customer, would jump to $90
from $84.50, and a seven-day LinkPass would rise to $22.50 from $21.25.
The proposed fare increase would bring in
$32 million in additional revenue to help recoup losses against the budget
shortfall of $111 million projected for the next fiscal year.
The last hike came in July of 2016, which
raised fares an average of 9.3 percent across the system, but since that time,
the Legislature has passed a law limiting fare hikes to a maximum of 7
percent every two years.
After Poftak’s opening remarks, City
Councilor Michelle Wu presented T officials with a petition she circulated
calling for unlimited year-round passes for seniors and children, as well as a
lower fare for the city’s poorest residents, which had already garnered 2,700
signatures by the time the meeting commenced.
“This moment in history demands aggressive
action against the threats of income inequality and climate change,” Wu said.
“Sustainable, affordable, reliable public transit is fundamental to providing
Boston residents with the greatest access to jobs, schools, and opportunities
beyond their home neighborhoods.”
State Rep. Adrian Madaro, who represents
East Boston, read from a letter on behalf of the Boston Legislative Delegation
urging the MBTA board of directors to hold off on fare hikes at this time.
“Public transportation is a vital resource
for residents of Boston, and especially for low-income individuals, seniors and
students who rely on MBTA service as their primary means of transportation,”
the letter read in part. “We realize fares bring needed revenue to the
operations of our public transportation system, but understanding how higher
fares affect these vulnerable populations is essential to striking the right
balance between funding and public accessibility to transportation services. We
believe that there needs to be a more in-depth discussion with the MBTA about
the background and reasoning for this proposal prior to the imposition of any
James White, chairman of MBTA Accessibility
Advisory Committee for the past 18 years, advised against raising fare until
after planned improvements are made to the Red and Orange lines, including the
replacement of both fleets by 2023.
In response to the MBTA’s own projection
that a fare hike would amount to a 1.3-percent loss in ridership, State Rep.
Andy Vargas, who represents Haverhill, said, “At a time when we have increased
ridership on the T, we should be doing everything we can to encourage that.”
State Rep. Tommy Vitolo, who represents
Brookline, took to the podium with a can of Arizona Iced Tea in hand.
costs 99 cents, says it right on the can,” he said. “It has cost 99
cents for 18 years. What the good people of Arizona Iced Tea figured out is if
you don’t improve the quality of the tea, you don’t raise the prices,”
Vitolo said before drinking from the can as the audience applauded him.
The fare increase would put an even bigger
burden on commuters living outside the city as illustrated by statements from
Egan Millard, a 27-year-old Weymouth resident who works in Cambridge and
currently pays $217.75 for his monthly commuter rail and subway pass.
“I, and I’m sure
most T riders, already feel we’re paying too much for such abysmal service,”
Millard said “Commuter rail service is so infrequent I have to plan my entire
day and sometimes week around it. I have lost, at this point, days of my life
on the T that I can’t get back.”
Fresh off of a new contract, City Manager
Tom Ambrosino gave an enthusiastic opening to Monday’s Council meeting during
his State of the City Address, where he talked about Chelsea’s accomplishments
in 2018 as well as its goals for 2019.
“I feel confident in saying that the state
of our City of Chelsea is very good indeed,” he started.
Among the achievements of the past year,
Ambrosino noted that the City ended 2018 with an excess of $28 million in its
“There’s not another city our size in the
entire Commonwealth with that level of reserve,” he said. “That is a testament
to the shrewd financial planning of City Council.”
In 2018, Chelsea was also one of only 35
cities in the country to be awarded a Bloomberg Challenge grant for its vision
to reduce crime with preventative care.
“Because of that award, our model of
predicting harm and then engaging in cross-sector collaboration to address the
harm got national attention,” said Ambrosino. “It’s gaining interest and it has
people seeking to replicate that, not just in Massachusetts, but outside as
Ambrosino cited the City’s increased
development in 2018, such as the construction of two new hotels and the
multi-million dollar expansion of a pharmaceutical company. He also mentioned
the $10 million grant by the state to reconstruct Broadway from City Hall to
the Revere Line, as well as a $3 million federal Economic Development Administration (EDA)
grant to renovate Chelsea’s waterfront, one of the largest grants given by the
EDA to any municipality in the country in 2018, and one of the only grants
issued in Massachusetts.
“We kept our promises to our residents in
2018 by doing good services,” Ambrosino reflected. “I think we can achieve the
same level of success in 2019 if we have the same level of collaboration from
In terms of goals for 2019, Ambrosino
highlighted the effort to renovate the downtown Chelsea area, building on the
foundational work done in 2018.
“We added police, social services, more lighting,
decorative banners, public art,” he said. “We’ve created an atmosphere and
foundation for success, so what we need to do now is finalize the work that
Ambrosino outlined four areas of improvement
for downtown Chelsea: finalizing the design for the infrastructure improvements
for one-way schemes, adopting the necessary zoning permissions to improve the
facade of the corridor, offering a rich array of cultural and artistic
activities, and submitting a request for proposal (RFP) for the redevelopment
of the former Salvation Army site.
The City Manager threw his support behind
the Forbes Proposal, which is up before
the City Board of Appeals next month for the redevelopment of the Chelsea
waterfront, claiming that it will include affordable condominiums for Chelsea
residents looking to become homeowners.
Ambrosino also mentioned the planned
infrastructure and capital improvements for 2019, including work to the Chelsea
Greenway, the Chelsea Garden Cemetery and Veterans’ Field. This would all be in
the context of a master plan, the first of its kind in Chelsea since the 1970s.
The City Manager emphasized the importance
of investing in affordable housing as well as in education, specifically for
grants to allow high-achieving, low-income high school students in Chelsea to
attend Bunker Hill Community College free of charge.
“This idea of public funding for education
beyond just high school is gaining momentum in this nation,” he said. “We can
feel a sense a pride that Chelsea is in the forefront of that movement.”
Manager’s State of the City address can be viewed on the Chelsea Community
Cable’s YouTube channel here: youtu.be/lRVWajXR44w.
The announcement last week by House Speaker
Robert A. DeLeo that the state will be investing $1 billion over the next
decade to help communities across Massachusetts adopt technologies to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions and fortify infrastructure is welcome news to everyone
who realizes that time is running out if we are to offset the inevitable
effects of climate change that already are taking place all around us.
The proposal – known as GreenWorks – builds
on a long-standing approach by the House under Speaker DeLeo’s leadership to
provide the means for our cities and towns (especially along the coast) to
build sustainable and resilient communities that hopefully will prepare us for
the impending threats posed by rising sea levels and catastrophic weather
Environmental groups and clean-energy businesses
across the state have praised the plan. The $1 billion investment envisioned by
the GreenWorks proposal not only will provide cities and towns with the ability
to cut greenhouse gases and lower their long-term energy and operating costs,
but it also will adopt Massachusetts-made innovative technologies that will put
people to work on clean-tech infrastructure projects.
These competitive grants, to be administered
by the governor’s Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, will provide
funding for a wide array of projects, including energy-efficient buildings,
solar, microgrids, energy storage, electric vehicle charging stations, and
Inasmuch as the GreenWorks plan presents an
opportunity to pursue innovative approaches to funding clean energy and
climate-change resiliency projects, the economic and environmental benefits of
GreenWorks grants will be felt immediately, while also expanding the state’s
commitment to embracing cost-effective investments in leading-edge clean technologies.
In our view, the GreenWorks program
represents a timely part of the overall solution that is essential if we are to
address the imperatives we face from the looming catastrophe of climate change.
We applaud Speaker DeLeo for taking the lead in advancing a plan that
acknowledges this reality and the need to deal with it immediately.
Stephanie Simon takes second place in the long jump at all-state meet
Chelsea High track star Stephanie Simon
captured second place in the long jump at last Saturday’s All-State Meet that
was held at the Reggie Lewis Center.
Simon was in third place approaching her
third and final jump of the day, but her leap of 18′-2.25″, which was five
inches better than her top jump to that point, propelled her into the second
spot, behind only Jada Johnson of Sharon, who had the best jump of the day at
Stephanie had advanced to the all-states by
taking first place the previous week in the Division 2 meet with a jump of
17′-9″. Thanks to her second-place finish at the all-state meet, Simon now
will compete in the All-New England Meet this Saturday.
competed in the 55 meter dash on Saturday, finishing in 16th place with a
clocking of 7.48 seconds. Stephanie had grabbed third place in the D-2 Meet the
week before to advance to the all-states.
Chelsea residents and MBTA officials mingled
at the Chelsea Senior Center on Tuesday, February 19, where the MBTA sought
community feedback on three new system-wide changes on the horizon: a proposed fare hike, a bus system improvement
initiative dubbed The Better Bus
Project, and an upgraded program for managing ticket purchases called Automated
Fare Collection 2.0.
The event was the first meeting in a series that the Transit Authority is hosting in the Greater Boston area throughout February and early March. Other cities and communities on the list include Quincy Center, Woburn, South Boston, Harvard Square, Downtown Boston, Watertown and Worcester.
Chelsea residents perused information from the MBTA on Tuesday night at the Open House – the first of many in the Greater Boston area dealing with rate increases, the Better Bus Project and the new fare collection system.
Departing from the traditional town
hall-style meeting, there was no speaker or agenda. Rather, officials from the
MBTA were stationed at a horseshoe of tables featuring large informational posters
and fliers in Spanish and English. Residents from the Chelsea community were
invited to circulate from station to station in order to learn about the
proposed changes, ask questions and provide oral and written feedback.
The MBTA is looking to increase fares by an
average of 6.3%, which, according to its website, it needs in order to
“continue making system investments to improve service.”
The increase, which is aligned with Boston’s
inflation rate, also meets the State law allowing the MBTA to raise their rates
no more than 7% every two years. The fare hike, which would go into effect in
July, would be the first since 2016.
The 6.3% increase would be applied to all
fares, including bus and subway, commuter rail, ferry, and The RIDE.
In terms of the most common fares and
passes, a local one-way bus ticket would go from $1.70 to $1.80. A one-way
subway ticket would go from $2.25 to $2.40. A monthly LinkPass would go from
$84.50 to $90.00, and a 7-Day LinkPass would go from $21.25 to $22.50.
Those interested can read more about the
proposed fare hike at mbta.com/fare-proposal-2019. Comments can be emailed to
email@example.com, or mailed to MBTA, Attn: Fare Proposal, 10 Park Plaza, Boston,
MA 02116. Respondents can also share their opinions via an online survey
available at surveymonkey.com/r/6TW8FFQ.
THE BETTER BUS
Another project on the table is The Better
Bus Project, an expansive initiative looking to overhaul the entire bus service
of the MBTA. Its current projected rollout date is 2020.
“Too many of our bus routes still fail to
live up to our own standards,” states the MBTA on its web site. “Through the
Better Bus Project, we are changing that. Every day we’re finding new ways to
improve the experiences of the people who use and ride our buses.”
The Better Bus Project would be comprised of
five distinct elements: continuous change, analysis, proposed near-term
changes, multi-year investment strategy and the Bus Network Redesign.
Continuous change refers to changes that can
be made incrementally over time as the opportunities arise. Analysis includes
reports generated from a period of outreach in which the MBTA surveyed riders
most affected by gaps in service.
“Riders want more frequent, more reliable
service,” said the MBTA. “They want more routes that run more often throughout
the day—not just during peak service hours. And we learned […] that there are
too many routes, too many complex routes, and too few routes with frequent,
Proposed near-term changes for The Better
Bus Project include 47 specific suggestions for the consolidation of duplicate
routes, the increase of space at bus stops and the elimination of some obsolete
One of the 47 proposed projects is Route
111, which runs from Haymarket through Chelsea to Revere. The MBTA aims to
“provide faster and more reliable service to Route 111 by removing service on
Park Avenue in Revere, with connection remaining via Route 110,” according to a
Better Bus Project flier.
A multi-year investment strategy will kick
off a dialog about how to best leverage resources to improve the bus system as
a whole, taking into account what riders want and need.
The ambitious Bus Network Redesign would
re-envision the current MBTA bus network in the hopes of better serving
To learn more about The Better Bus Project
and share your input, go to mbta.com/projects/better-bus-project.
AUTOMATED FARE COLLECTION 2.0
Citing an outdated system, the MBTA hopes
that its new project will make paying for transit easier. With the introduction
of AFC 2.0, the MBTA hopes to “improve customer experience, ensure equal
access, upgrade outdated hardware and software, improve revenue control,
operate buses and trains more efficiently and support future MBTA changes and
According to the MBTA, passengers will be
able to pay their fares faster with improved Charlie Cards, a smartphone app,
different payment options and digital fare readers. Under the new system,
passengers will be able to conveniently reload their Charlie Cards in a number
of venues, from schools and employers, online, over the phone, retailers and an
increased number of vending machines.
MBTA employee Anthony Thomas explained that
people could still use cash to reload their Charlie Cards at a number of
locations throughout the city, but that cash would no longer be an option for
paying on buses. The idea is to reduce the long bus queues, resulting in faster
“Our new fare system will get you moving
faster,” said the MBTA. “It’ll also get our vehicles moving faster (by up to
10% according to some estimates).”
These changes would not be rolled out all at
once, but would overlap with the current technologies available, some of them
in place for over a decade. In this way, the MBTA hopes to have a seamless transition
to the new system.
information about AFC 2.0 and to submit your feedback, visit afc2.mbta.com.
State Rep. Dan Ryan said this week he is
pleased in what is considered a step up in becoming the vice chair of the Post
Audit Oversight Committee – a powerful committee that runs investigations of
government operations and actually has subpoena powers.
“I want to thank Speaker DeLeo for this
appointment, and my House colleagues for voting to affirm his trust in me,”
said Ryan. “I look forward to working with Chairman Linsky and other committee
members in continuing to bring solid, cost-effective government programs to the
Ryan said Post-Audit Oversight certainly
isn’t a household name for most people in the Town, but said it has a unique
mission and is a sought-after committee on Beacon Hill.
“The Post-Audit Oversight Committee is a select House committee that has a
unique mission,” he said. “Members of the committee are tasked with ensuring
that State agencies are abiding by legislative intent and the program
initiatives put forth, by the legislature, through the budget process. When
necessary, the committee will work with administrative agencies to
propose corrective actions to best serve citizens of the Commonwealth.”
One of the most visible investigations
conducted by the Committee came several years ago in the previous
administration when the Department of Children and Families (DCF) came under
fire for its handling and management of numerous cases involving children.
Ryan has also been assigned as a member of
the Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Recovery Committee, and as a member of
the Transportation Committee.
•Just across the North Washington Street
Bridge, State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz came away with one of the biggest scores
for the Boston delegation in getting assigned as chair of the powerful Ways
& Means Committee.
Rep. Ryan said that having such an important
chair nearby will be very good for Charlestown as well as the North End. That
will particularly be apparent with projects like the North Washington Street
Bridge, which affects the North End as much as Charlestown.
Michlewitz told the Patriot-Bridge that he
is humbled by the appointment, and that while he has to build consensus across
the state, he will keep his district and Boston in the forefront.
“I am honored
that Speaker DeLeo believes I can do the job,” he said. “The first order of
business is creating and debating a $42.7 billion budget. A lot of work has
been done in committee, but we have a short timeframe to get a lot done. The
thing I was to stress is my district is my number one priority.”
There is no stopping Chelsea High track star
Simon continued her spectacular junior
season by winning the Division 2 state long jump title Saturday at the Reggie
Lewis Track Center in Roxbury.
Designated as the No. 1 seed in the competition based on her performance this season, Simon jumped 17 feet, 9 inches to claim the first-place medal.
Simon, who was undefeated this season in the
Commonwealth Athletic Conference (CAC), became the first female athlete in
school history to win a divisional state indoor track title.
Chelsea High girls track coach Cesar
Hernandez said Simon had an outstanding day, putting the 17-9 jump on the
scoreboard on one of her first jumps.
“I was very excited to see her win the
Division 2 state championship,” said Hernandez, a 2010 CHS graduate who
competed in the Red Devils’ boys track program.
reigned over the CAC indoor track circuit this winter as a champion in the long
jump, 55-meter dash, and 55-meter hurdles.
The talented 5-foot-5-inch athlete will compete in the All-State Championships this Saturday. Simon is the No. 3 seed in the event.“Stephanie is working hard and I think she has put herself is in great position to contend for the title,” said Hernandez