On April 10, at 8:19 a.m., a well-being check was executed at 93 Parker St. Upon arrival at the address three individuals were observed fleeing the residence. After further investigation, all three were placed into custody for narcotics charges.
Derik Hidalgo-Sanjuan, 19, of 192 Shurtleff St.; David Hurtado, 27, of 725 Broadway; and Pedro Colon, 29, of Revere; were all charged with possession of a Class B drug and conspiracy.
KNOW WHERE I CAN GET SOME CRACK?
On April 14 at 2:47 a.m., two male parties were observed chasing each other in front of the Fine Mart, located at 260 Broadway. The victim stated that he encountered the suspect near 52 Hawthorne St. when the victim asked the suspect if he knew where he could purchase crack cocaine. The victim then pulled out $251, at which point the suspect grabbed the money and fled the area. The victim chased him down, and police locked the suspect up.
Johel Mims, 18, of Malden, was charged with unarmed robbery and assault and battery.
STABBED FATHER IN NEW YORK
On April 14, at 1:24 a.m., information was received from New York State Police that suspect had stabbed his father, who was sent to the hospital and required
emergency surgery. New York State Police had information that the suspect was fleeing the State of New York and heading to his mother’s residence in Chelsea. The subject was located at 9 Guam Rd. and placed into custody for being a fugitive from justice out of New York State.
Yunis Aden, 24, of Cleveland, was charged as a fugitive from justice.
A LONG, LONG DISAGREEMENT
On April 9, at 12:34 a.m., officers responded to the New England Produce Co. Bay # 1 (Travis Fruit Company) on the report of a past assault with the victim on scene. Officers learned that the two drivers who occupied the truck had an ongoing argument that started in Virginia and escalated during their travel to Chelsea.
It all came to a head on the dock at the Produce Center when one driver attacked the other by kicking him while he was on the ground. He was placed under arrest on scene.
Andrew Ramirez, 30, of Santa Fe Springs, CA, was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (shod foot).
CRASH ON CHESTER
On April 14, at 11:15 p.m., officers responded to 138 Chester Ave. for a report of a car crashing into several parked vehicles. Dispatch reported that the driver was attempting to leave the scene. Officers observed a white Mercedes in the middle of the roadway with significant damage to the front end and the suspect standing just outside the driver’s door. Several neighbors were out on the sidewalk who were pointing to the suspect and stating that he was the driver. Based on observations the operator was placed under arrest.
Renato Garcia, 29, of 149 Congress Ave., was charged with operating under the influence of liquor, reckless operation, speeding, stop sign violation and failing to wear a seat belt.
The Chelsea City Council passed a unique pilot program by a vote of 8-2 on Monday night that would allow qualifying students at Chelsea High an opportunity to finish their Associate’s Degree after high school on the City’s dime.
The program is a partnership with Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) and was championed by City Manager Tom Ambrosino this year in his State of the City. It is seen by him and the School Department as a logical extension of the dual enrollment program at the high school that allows students there to take college level courses at BHCC.
The problem with the program in Chelsea, Ambrosino and others said, is that many students after graduation don’t have the financial resources to continue on and finish the Associate’s Degree they have been working towards.
The pilot program would use $150,000 in the first year, and would be open to students who have completed 12 credits while still in high school within the dual enrollment program. They also must remain Chelsea residents while receiving the benefit.
If a student applies for and gets a Pell Grant, BHCC will provide a subsidy as well and will waive tuition for the student as part of their end of the bargain.
“I had concerns at first, but I did some digging and it’s a good program,” said Councillor Leo Robinson. “I will be supporting this.”
“Many of the students in dual enrollment can’t complete their degree by the time they graduate high school, and they just don’t have the resources to complete it afterward,” said Council President Damali Vidot. “I think now is a great time to invest in our young people.”
But not everyone was on board, and some who voted for it had concerns as well.
Councillor Luis Tejada ended up voting for the matter, but said he was challenged by it.
“My challenge is with the money going to just Bunker Hill,” he said. “What I have a bigger problem with is you take care of your household first before you take care of your extended family. If you take care of everyone else before your household, you will tank…We have a $3 million deficit in our school system and Free Cash should be devoted to that first…If there is excess cash, maybe it should be devoted to the public schools.”
The chief detractor, however, was Councillor Bob Bishop, chair of the Finance Committee. Bishop said it’s a good program, but shouldn’t be funded by the taxpayers.
“To me, it’s a big problem because we’re using taxpayer money on something we’re not required to spend it on,” he said.
“This $150,000 is a pilot program and next year it could possibly be a lot more money,” he said. “I don’t understand how we can get involved in the business of paying for college for a select few…I suspect this is a misuse of taxpayer dollars. This is $150,000, but it will be $500,000.”
Councillor Giovanni Recupero agreed with Bishop, saying it should be funded by private money and not taxpayer dollars.
Councillor Roy Avellaneda said it was about investing in the future of students in the modern era.
“The school education system we have is outdated,” he said. “Everyone knows you need more than a 12th grade education in this economy. You need advanced courses beyond high school. As a City, we have to prepare them. It only makes sense to prepare them for today. Unlike 30 or 40 years ago, a college education is required for that.”
Councillors Judith Garcia was absent for the vote, but had vocally supported the matter in previous meetings.
On a related note, the Council voted 10-0 without much discussion to approve a $50,000 program to help City Hall employees pay for courses to advance their education. That program was also proposed by Ambrosino and championed by the Council.
Cops For Kids With Cancer collaborated with the Chelsea Police Department collaborated to present a donation to a local family during a ceremony at the station.
Through a translation by Chelsea Police Officer Sammy Mojica, Sandra Ingles said her family was “very grateful” to the Chelsea Police and the Cops For Kids With Cancer charity for their assistance during this tough time.
Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes praised Cops For Kids With Cancer as “a great charity and an awesome program.”
“They go to police departments throughout New England and assist families with children afflicted by this illness,” said Kyes. “They help out these families during difficult times. We thank this organization very much for coming to Chelsea today.”
Captain Mike Drummy of the Massachusetts State Police said families are referred to the charitable organization by local police departments and social workers. The organization has donated more than $3 million to families.
After a long process, Sen. Sal DiDomenico allegedly fell a few votes short of gaining the Senate Presidency, a process that completed last week when State Sen. Karen Spilka corralled the 21 votes needed to secure the presidency.
It was announced publicly in a press conference on Thursday, March 22.
While no one was keeping score on the outside, and few on the inside were talking, it was believed by those watching closely that DiDomenico had as many as 19 votes just within the last month.
Sen. DiDomenico would not comment on the process within the Senate this week where he had tried to make a run for Senate President.
However, he did say publicly that he will still be the assistant majority leader in the Senate – a post he was recently promoted to and will keep under the new leadership.
He also said there is no bad blood between himself and Sen. President-elect Spilka after the long process.
“Before this process Speaker-elect Karen Spilka and I were close friends as we will continue to be,” he said. “We have worked well for some time as a result of me being the vice chair on her Ways and Means Committee. There is no bad blood or animosity between us. There comes a point in time when you have to bring the body together and move forward. I thought this was the right time to do that.
“Now that this process is over and we have a new senate president elect, I support Karen 100 percent and will do everything I can to support her as senate president,” he continued. “Our relationship is as strong as it always has been.”
Sen. DiDomenico did not want to comment any further on his role in the new leadership team, but affirmed the strong relationship between himself and Sen. Spilka.
“I look forward to serving under Senate President-elect Spilka and being an integral part of her team,” he said.
Observers had been worried that, as typically happens, the senator that comes out on the short end of the bargain gets relegated to the back of the room. Many thought that if Sen. DiDomenico lost, he might also lose all of the power and responsibilities he has worked towards since being elected and coming into leadership roles under former Sen. President Stan Rosenberg.
However, with DiDomenico affirming his positive relationship with Spilka this week, many believe that he will come out unharmed after the process finishes out.
As for the ascension, there is currently no consensus between Sen. President Harriet Chandler and Sen. President-elect Spilka about when she might take office.
Some postulated it could come on July 1 after the end of the current fiscal year.
Others thought it could come at the end of December.
During a press conference last week, Spilka indicated they had not yet ironed that out.
The Chelsea Public Schools has hit a major shortfall in its budgeting for next year, and reported at recent meeting that it is in deficit $3.1 million, and has been underfunded by as much as $17.2 million by the state funding formula.
It has now become a major call to action for the school community and for activists in Chelsea, including the Chelsea Collaborative – whose Director, Gladys Vega, called on the City Council to support joining a lawsuit against the state for underfunding schools.
That suit was filed by Brockton and Worcester last week due to what they believe is chronic underfunding of urban schools through the 1993 Education Reform School Budget Formula.
“This reimbursement problem in the formula needs to be solved and I think we need to address the formula and I urge the City and the City Council to join with Brockton on this lawsuit against the state,” said Vega at Monday’s Council meeting.
She was right on the same page with Supt. Mary Bourque, who on Monday morning said they are seriously considering making that move.
“We have not officially joined, but we are seriously exploring the need to join this lawsuit,” she said.
By the numbers, the state Chapter 70 School Budget has underfunded the Chelsea Schools in five categories, according to the schools. One of the key pieces comes from the new definition of economically disadvantaged students (formerly low-income), which has caused an underfunding of $1.077 million in the coming year. Other areas included things where full reimbursements are promised, but only partially delivered – such as with Charter School reimbursements.
Those numbers include:
Fringe Benefits, $5.78 million
Charter School Reimbursement, $2.014 million
Special Education Tuition, $7.98 million
Homeless Student Transportation, $373,059
This came on the heels of a very lively and contentious meeting at City Hall by the School Committee on March 15, where the School Budget process was rolled out to a standing-room only crowd.
Bourque led off the meeting saying it is time to stand up for public education, and pressure legislators to take up the cause – a cause she said was the Civil Rights struggle of our time.
“Sadly, we find ourselves in a time and place where we are not willing as a society to invest in public education,” she said. “Each year I come to you with a budget that is failing each year to meet the complex needs of our students. Each year I come to you with a budget that fails to provide an equitable education compared to public school children in wealthier communities. Each year these educators…are being asked to do more with less and less. Providing our schools with the funding that’s needed to educate the next generation is the Civil Rights struggle of our time. I ask you: Will you join me in this Civil Rights struggle and our quest for social justice? We need to have the courage to standup now and today for public education.”
The Chelsea Teacher’s Union called for the same kind of advocacy, but also called on the City and the City Council to use its $34 million in Free Cash to shore up the School Budget.
“For the short term, the City of Chelsea has made some significant investment in the schools and we appreciate that. However, we need more,” said Sam Baker, vice president of the union. “The City has $34 million in Free Cash and the City is seeing significant real estate development. What is the purpose of all this this development and progress if the proceeds aren’t going to support the education of the kids in Chelsea? The CTU welcomes the opportunity to advocate for changes at the state level. That’s a long term solution. I’m asking the School Committee and the school community to lobby the City Council to release more funds to the School Department here in order to prevent the cuts to this proposed budget.”
Catherine Ellison, a special education teacher at the Browne Middle School, said many of her students have suffered because of budgets last year. She said last year the middle school Special Education budget was slashed, and after hearing of the impacts, the budget still wasn’t restored.
“Caseloads have soared while resources have severely declined,” she said. “Children have been forced to struggle in mainstream classes while funds were cut…Our staff and our students have been aggressive in addressing the increasing and complex needs of our brilliant, resilient and magnificent children. It’s time for the school district to do the same.”
Chelsea is not alone in the struggles, which is why the lawsuit is such a tempting option for urban schools like Chelsea.
Already, in Everett, mid-year cuts to the tune of $6 million were avoided by an infusion of cash by the City, and it is expected that the Everett Schools could need as much as $8 million to plug holes next year.
Revere has a similar circumstance and isn’t as far in its budgeting process as Chelsea and Everett, but it is expected they will have a sharp deficit as well.
Americans are paying too much for prescription medicines. State lawmakers are fed up with Washington’s apathy towards high pharmacy bills. So they’re taking matters into their own hands and pushing forward with several bills
Their proposals are well-intentioned — but they’re doomed to backfire and hurt patients. Why? The bills are based on false assumptions.
Many lawmakers believe that prescription drug prices are skyrocketing. They’re not. In fact, after accounting for all the rebates and discounts manufacturers offer, drug prices have barely budged in recent years. Drug spending grew just 1.3 percent in 2016, according to the latest federal data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Overall health spending increased by 4.3 percent.
In other words, drug spending is growing slower than hospital and nursing home expenditures. In fact, it’s growing even slower than the general inflation rate, which has averaged just under 2 percent.
Legislators also blame drug prices for rising costs in Medicaid, the entitlement program for low-income Americans that is managed and partly funded by the states. Once again, they’re mistaken.
Drug companies provide generous discounts and rebates back to Medicaid to curb its overall prescription drug spending. Medicaid’s statistics rarely reflect these discounts. In 2014, the program reported that its gross spending on drugs reached $21 billion. But after factoring in discounts, the program actually spent only $8 billion on medicines.
Federal law guarantees Medicaid the lowest drug prices on the market.
Nevertheless, state lawmakers insist that drug companies are charging too much. So they’re calling for a variety of price controls.
One measure floated in Utah would allow patients to import medicines from Canada. That’s a bad idea.
The policy wouldn’t lower healthcare costs. Ninety percent of all drugs sold in the United States are generic, and generics generally cost less in the United States than in Canada. a patient’s co-pay — what he actually pays at the pharmacy — is often lower than the price paid at a Canadian pharmacy, even if the list price of the medicine is higher in the United States.
Another proposal in Louisiana, would allow the state to infringe on manufacturers’ patents. State legislators want to give generic drug companies the right to make cheap knockoff copies of hepatitis C medicines, which are heavily utilized by the state’s Medicaid and prison populations.
This move simply isn’t necessary. In 2017, Medicaid spending on hepatitis C drugs fell by 28 percent — the biggest drop for any class of medicines.
If states start weakening patent protections, it will have a chilling effect on scientific research. Drug companies won’t plow billions in to developing new medicines if the government can break their patents on a whim. Patients would miss out on future treatments and cures as a result of this drop in research.
This isn’t to say that patients aren’t paying high prices for drugs. They are. But drug makers aren’t at fault.
Middlemen, like pharmacy benefit managers and insurers, are the ones raising prices on consumers.
PBMs negotiate drug prices on behalf of health plans. They secure big discounts and rebates from manufacturers. But PBMs and insurers routinely fail to pass these savings along to consumers. Instead, they hike consumers’ out-of-pocket expenses by forcing them to pay ever-higher co-pays and co-insurance.
If lawmakers want to reduce peoples’ pharmacy bills, they should demand more transparency from insurers and PBMs.
Peter J. Pitts, a former FDA Associate Commissioner, is President of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.
With the crowd overflowing from the room, State Treasurer Deb Goldberg kicked off her re-election campaign last night. Goldberg, who was introduced by House Speaker Robert DeLeo, spoke of how her principles and values have guided her tenure as State Treasurer.
“Economic stability, economic opportunity, and economic empowerment are the values I was raised with and what guides my work as your State Treasurer,” Goldberg told the crowd. “I am proud of what we have accomplished and am excited to continue to work for the people of Massachusetts as your Treasurer.”
In introducing Goldberg, DeLeo said, “Deb understands that the role of the Treasurer’s office is not just about dollars and cents; it is about making people’s lives better. The programs she has created have had a positive impact for our children, our families, our veterans and seniors across this Commonwealth. Deb Goldberg has made good on all the promises she made when she ran, and she has truly made a difference in people’s lives.”
DeLeo continued, “Massachusetts is lucky to have Deb Goldberg as our Treasurer. I know she can and she will do even more for our Commonwealth and our residents in the future.”
Since taking office in January of 2015, Deb Goldberg has brought a commonsense business approach to the management of the treasury’s various offices. Leading on initiatives that include wage equality, increasing diversity, and expanding access to financial education, she has also helped families save for college, protected the state’s pension fund and developed programs for veterans and seniors. For more information, contact Treasurer Goldberg’s campaign at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Somerville man charged with murdering 15-year-old Jimmy Vasquez in Chelsea last year was ordered held without bail at his arraignment this week, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.
Juan Carlos Matos Figueroa, 22, of Somerville, was arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court on indictments charging first-degree murder, unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of a large capacity feeding device, carrying a loaded firearm, assault and battery by discharging a firearm, four counts of attempted assault and battery by discharging a firearm, and five counts of armed assault with intent to murder for opening fire on a group of unarmed teens, killing Vasquez and striking a second victim. At the request of Assistant District Attorney Stacey Pichardo of the DA’s Gang Unit, Figueroa was ordered held without bail.
According to prosecutors, Vasquez and five other teens aged 15 to 18 were standing in front of a Shurtleff Street address on the afternoon of January 13, 2017. No member of the group was armed.
Shortly after 5:30 p.m., a vehicle in which Figueroa was a backseat passenger made its way down Shurtleff Street toward Grove Street. Figueroa allegedly produced a 9mm handgun equipped with a 30-round magazine and a red laser sight and pointed the weapon at the group, garnering the group’s attention with the laser, prosecutors said.
The vehicle continued down the street a short distance before stopping. Figueroa then exited and opened fire on the group, fatally striking Vasquez in the abdomen and a second 15-year-old in the foot, Pichardo said.
Figueroa and the other occupants of the vehicle then fled the area.
During the investigation that followed, Chelsea Police detectives and State Police detectives assigned to Conley’s office undertook witness interviews, retrieved video footage from cameras in the area, and collected physical evidence that included shell casings recovered at the scene of the shooting.
Suffolk prosecutors continued the investigation behind the closed doors of the grand jury, resulting in the return of 14 indictments against Figueroa on Friday. Chelsea and State Police located him at a Jacques Street residence in Somerville that same date and took him into custody.
Erin O’Connor is the DA’s assigned victim-witness advocate. Figueroa is represented by Robert Griffin. He returns to court May 10.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino delivered his State of the City address on Monday night, Feb. 26, prior to the Council meeting, and he implored the Council that the time to fill the storehouses is not now.
Ambrosino once again – as in the previous two State of the Cities – praised the former City governments for putting the City in a firm and solid financial position with a lot of reserves and savings.
However, he said the City just received $34 million in Free Cash from the state, and having that kind of money to save doesn’t sit well with him.
“Now, I give full credit this Council and others that preceded you for that incredible financial stewardship,” he said. “But, having that level reserves has to give us a little pause. There’s always been something just a little unsettling to me about this City having that much money in reserve. Government is not intended to be a profit making enterprise. Our goal isn’t to make money year after year. As a local government, our goal, our mission is to provide services to our residents. So, it is my strong opinion that with this level of reserves, we have an obligation, a fiduciary duty, to start investing more in our City. And, that will be something you will see from me this year and beyond.”
One of the major examples he quickly turned to was the $11.4 million Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) that he proposed two weeks ago to the Council – a plan that calls for more than $4.5 million in Free Cash to get started. The CIP plan focuses on projects like water and sewer repairs, sidewalks, public parks, street repairs and public building improvements.
Beyond those nuts and bolts spending measures – which Chelsea has neglected for many years – he said he will present plans in the next few months for things like more youth programming, a local workforce training program to prepare for the coming casino jobs, standardized trash barrels to reduce rodents, and a pilot program for Senior Citizen transportation.
“All of these are ideas that cost money to implement, and, if they are approved, they will reduce our reserves,” he said. “But, at the end of the day, we’re not going to be judged by how much money we have in the bank. We are going to be judged by whether we improved the lives of our residents. That is my overriding motivation as City Manager.”
Another piece of investment he noted – and one that Ambrosino will likely focus on more than any previous City Manager – is investing in the School Department.
“We have to avoid the temptation, which often happens in Massachusetts Municipalities, of looking at it as just another department competing for limited resources,” he said. “Instead, we have to consider it as our co-equal partner in making our community better.”
He said he wants to do more to help the students in the school system from the City’s reserves, and he rolled out an idea that would use City funds to pay for Chelsea High students to achieve higher education.
The program, he said, would be a pilot program for any Chelsea High student already enrolled in the dual enrollment program with Bunker Hill Community College. Under the pilot, any student in that program could go on to complete an Associate’s Degree at Bunker Hill after high school at no additional cost. City funds would cover the cost of students to finish that degree they started in high school.
“Again, I don’t look, and we shouldn’t look, at funding for the School Department needs as a burden,” he said. “Instead, it is a pure investment.”
Another area he said he would like to think about spending more reserves is in the possible acquisition of properties in the Broadway business district in order to build mixed-use affordable housing. Such an acquisition was successful at the Salvation Army Store on Broadway last year, and the City hopes to find a developer to complete the job this year.
He said if the City buys property, they can control the affordable component. That, he said, could spur large amounts of affordable housing that will sit aside what is expected to be a lot of private market-rate development on Broadway in the coming years.
“Because we own it, we can dictate the level of affordability in any development,” he said. “Maybe we consider other similar acquisitions, particularly in the Downtown, using either Reserves, as we did in acquiring the Salvation Army site, or through a tool we now have for the first time, Community Preservation Funds. I don’t have anything specific in mind at this time, but if another opportunity presents itself, particularly on Broadway, a further acquisition is something I might advocate to the Council.”
When it comes to development, Ambrosino was upbeat as well, saying there is great interest in the City.
On the Chelsea Creek, he announced that in the next few months, he would announce a significant mixed-use development for the Forbes Plant site. Much of the development, he said, is expected to be as of right and would need no extra relief at the Zoning or Planning Boards.
“Our goal for that project there is to ensure that the public benefits, particularly the public access to the waterfront, are not just significant, which they will need to be, but are also early action items, so that our residents benefit from the very start of the project, not just when the project is completed years from now,” he said.
On the same front, that being the waterfront, Ambrosino said the long-awaited Municipal Harbor Plan effort has finally moved forward. He announced that a contract has been signed with Utile Design of Boston to conduct the plan, and they are waiting for the Notice to Proceed from the state. He expects the first public meeting on that plan to take place in the spring.
With the Silver Line starting full operations on April 21, he said there is and will be great interest for development along that new public transit corridor.
“Developers have already been in to see us for parcels on Cottage Street and Sixth Street, and there will inevitably be more,” he said.
In conclusion, he said that he has enjoyed the “unique cohesiveness” that continues to exist in Chelsea.
“It’s why I love my role here; it’s why I’m optimistic; and, it’s why I can say without reservation that the State of the City in 2018 is very, very solid,” he concluded.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino and Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney are moving forward with the idea that the former Salvation Army Store on Broadway can be the catalyst for the entire block both in the future and in the present.
In his State of the City Address on Monday, Ambrosino laid out a plan for the building and said, now that the City owns it, they plan to move forward soon to seek proposals from developers for a mixed-use redevelopment with a major affordable housing component.
“Although the particulars of that development are unknown at this point, it will definitely include activation of the streetscape and affordable housing,” he said. “I really believe the redevelopment of the Salvation Army site could the spark for the transformation of that block between Fifth and Fourth Street.”
Meanwhile, Graney has been busy making temporary renovations to turn the old store into a temporary gallery, something being installed right now.
The exterior will be cleaned up and temporary walls and new lighting will be installed to show off rotating art exhibits. The first show scheduled is letterpress prints from middle school students of English teacher Lindsey Horowitz and art teacher Jennifer Porto of the Eugene Wright Science and Technology Academy.
Those students are composing poems about Chelsea and creating posters and other media of words and images. Chelsea artists interested in exhibiting in this space should contact Mimi Graney at email@example.com.
Meanwhile, for the future of that block, Ambrosino said Graney is working to land a very significant grant from MassDevelopment for the block.
“For the last several months, our Downtown Coordinator has been working with the Chamber, business owners and property managers on Broadway on a grant application to MassDevelopment to help us transform the block between Fifth and Fourth St. on Broadway,” Ambrosino said. “We’ll know for sure in a matter of weeks whether we are selected for this Transformative District Initiative Grant, but we are certainly confident in our chances. And, regardless, we now have a committed team to help us tackle the challenges in that block.”