Study the Three Ballot Questions

Study the Three Ballot Questions

There are three questions on the ballot for the upcoming state election on Tuesday, November 6. The three are about as unrelated and disparate as one could imagine.

The first question asks voters to adopt a proposed new law that would require minimum staffing by nurses in every hospital in the state. We have to admit that when we started reading the full text of the very lengthy proposed new law, our eyes began to glaze over because of the use of terminology that may be common to doctors and nurses, but which means little to the rest of us.

However, what is clear is that those who proposed this question have a good idea of what they’re doing.

We doubt there is anyone who would dispute that nursing care in hospitals is critical for patients. It also is beyond dispute that avoidable mistakes in hospital care are a leading cause of death of patients in even the best hospitals.

In our view, this ballot question comes down to a cost/benefit analysis: Is the added cost of minimum staffing for nurses (and by the way, no one really knows what that dollar figure might be) worth the undisputed benefits for patient care?

Question 2 seeks to amend the U.S. Constitution to limit the spending by corporate entities. The amendment is designed to overturn the Citizens United decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, which declared unconstitutional the limits imposed by Congress on campaign spending by corporations.

In deciding this question, voters would do well to recall the words of Louis Brandeis, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

The only way to change Citizens United is to amend the Constitution — a drastic measure, no doubt .

Question 3 seeks approval of an already-existing state law, that was approved by the legislature in 2016, that bans discrimination against transgender persons. The law has been working well and is endorsed by many groups and organizations, including the Mass. Police Chiefs Association. A “Yes” vote keeps in place the current law.

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Massachusetts Must Move Forward on Our Own

With the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, coming on the heels of the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, it is clear that the America as we have known it for the past 70 years, a time in which the United States attained and maintained its supremacy in the world and achieved unprecedented prosperity for its people, could be coming to an end. That may sound dramatic, but we don’t think it is overstating the case.

In our view, the principal reason why America has prospered since the end of WWII, despite our many missteps (Vietnam, Watergate, and Iraq being the top three) is because we have expanded the rights of all of our citizens and we have welcomed people from all over the world to partake of, and contribute to, our wealth and our democratic ideals.

As regards the latter point, we would note that the majority of the Nobel prizes awarded to Americans in recent years have been won by persons who were immigrants. And let’s not forget that Steve Jobs’s father came from Syria and the parents of one of the founders of Google emigrated from Russia. They came to this country, as immigrants always have and still do, to create a better life for themselves and their families and to contribute to their new country.

However, there should be no doubt that the newly-constituted Supreme Court not merely will take us back to the pre-1930s, but rather will be in the vanguard of a new movement.

The court in recent years already has eviscerated the Voting Rights Act and (via the Citizens United case) has entrenched the ability of the ultra-rich to throw unlimited amounts of cash into our electoral system.

Now, with the ascension of two more conservatives, the Supreme Court may turn back the clock on much of what most Americans have taken for granted for the past three generations in the realms of the rights of women, persons of color, and persons of different sexual orientations.

Hopefully, the Democrats will gain control of the House of Representatives in the fall — and we say that not so much because we love Democrats, but because we need at least one house of Congress to act as a check on the White House — but that will not change the direction of the Supreme Court.

So what does that mean for us in Massachusetts and the other states on the coasts (with a few pockets in between)?

In concrete terms, let us be welcoming to all people; let us be the safe harbors for a woman’s right to choose (when the Supreme Court eviscerates Roe v. Wade, as it surely will); let us increase the minimum wage and be supportive of unions; let us prepare for the effects of climate change; let us enforce strict gun laws (to keep crime and mass shootings down); and let us make our states’ educational systems world-class.

We need to be everything they are not

Think of it this way: Let’s build our state’s economy to take advantage of what they are giving up.

This will require two things: Out-of-the-box thinking by our elected leaders and an unprecedented partnership between the state and the business community, which must be convinced to partake of a partnership with the state in order to pursue our common goals.

In short, we must take our future into our own hands as we never before have imagined.

It will require  lot of hard work and sacrifice — but given what is happening at the national level, we have no choice.

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Chelsea Police Receive State Grant to Increase Impaired Driving Patrols

Chelsea Police Receive State Grant to Increase Impaired Driving Patrols

The Chelsea Police Department will increase impaired driving patrols on local roads with grant funds from the Highway Safety Division of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS).  Chelsea Police will join local departments across the state as well as the Massachusetts State Police in the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Overenforcement mobilization and public information campaign.

This year’s campaign will urge drivers drinking alcohol or using marijuana and other drugs to plan ahead and designate a sober driver, use a ride-share service or take public transportation.

“Impaired drivers create a dangerous situation for everyone around them, threatening the destruction of lives and entire families,” said Chief Brian A. Kyes. “This grant will help increase our efforts during the busy summer travel season to keep our roads free of impaired drivers and avoid the tragedy they wreak.”

“Getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol, using marijuana or both is one of the most dangerous things drivers can do,” said Jeff Larason, Director of the Highway Safety Division. “A little planning can save your life or someone else’s.  Regret or remorse won’t bring someone back.”

Massachusetts Data:

Marijuana or marijuana-type drugs were the most prevalent types of drugs found in people killed in crashes from 2011 to 2016.

From 2015 to 2016, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities increased 9 percent (109 to 119).

From 2011-2015, 82 percent of impaired drivers in fatal crashes were men.

From 2011-2015, 45 percent of all alcohol-related driver fatalities were ages 21 to 34.

National Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers. On average, more than 10,000 people have died each year (2012- 2016) in drunk-driving crashes. To put it in perspective, that’s equal to about 20 jumbo jets crashing, with no survivors.

In 2016, almost one in five children (14 and younger) killed in traffic crashes were killed in drunk-driving crashes. Fifty-four percent of the time, it was the child’s own driver who was drunk.

Drugs were present in 43 percent of the fatally-injured drivers with a known test result in 2015, more frequently than alcohol was present.

NHTSA’s 2013–2014 roadside survey found drugs in 22 percent of all drivers both on weekend nights and on weekdays.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects—slows reaction times, impairs cognitive performance, and makes it more difficult for drivers to keep a steady position in their lane.

Mixing alcohol and marijuana may dramatically produce effects greater than either drug on its own.

To view the Highway Safety Division’s (HSD) “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” TV spots, or for more information about the HSD’s public information campaign, go to www.mass.gov/DriveSober

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Rep Ryan:State Did Not Retreat on Opiate Legislation, Passes Unanimously

Rep Ryan:State Did Not Retreat on Opiate Legislation, Passes Unanimously

The long-discussed wide- ranging  opiate treatment bill passed the state legislature late Tuesday night just in the nick of time, after a conference committee on Tuesday agreed to a compromise form of the bill that went through many twists and turns over the past month.

State Rep. Dan Ryan, who is vice chair of the House’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Committee and had a big hand in the bill, said he was happy to see that the body came to agreement and voted unanimously on the final bill only hours after the compromise reached the floor.

He said that many hard issues were discussed – such as providing opiate treatment to inmates, creating Safe Injection Facilities, and looking at involuntary commitments for substance abuse treatment – but none of the sticking points caused the bill to derail in the last hours.

“A unanimous vote on such a major piece of legislation, such as the opioid bill, shows what we are able to do here in the Commonwealth,” he said. “Because we don’t retreat into our partisan safe zones, we are able deliver a bill that will go a long way in curbing this scourge that had affected so many communities… I have to thank Speaker DeLeo for appointing me vice-chair of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Committee. My knowledge of so much of the good work being done by others in Charlestown and Chelsea really helped me to shape discussion. I thank everyone in our communities that are doing recovery work.”

Rep. Ryan said he thanked Conference Committee Chair Rep. Denise Garlick and Sen. Cynthia Friedman for their quick analysis of a tough issue.

“After months of public testimony, stakeholder meetings and expert analysis they worked through the weekend processing all of that info and hammered out a bill we can all live with and will save lives,” he said. “Our neighborhoods, hospitals, schools and even correctional facilities will be safer places because of this bill.”

One of the sticking points in the bill was Safe Injection Facilities (SIFs), which allow people to use illegal injection drugs in a supervised medical environment. It is illegal in the United States and opposed by the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts. While that measure had supporters in the Senate, it did not get support in the House. The compromise on that created a commission to study the concept with municipal leaders, including Mayor Martin Walsh – who opposes the idea outright.

A second measure allows a pilot program in county jails and state prisons to allow treatment medicines, such as Methadone, to be given to inmates. Currently, those in treatment when they enter jail are cut off from that treatment. The pilot, however, does not operate in Suffolk County. Only two state prisons are included – MCI-Cedar Junction and the Plymouth treatment facility for men.

Finally, Ryan said the House had been very much opposed to the idea of Section 35 involuntary treatment, but Gov. Charlie Baker was very supportive of the idea. The program is running in Boston on a pilot with the West Roxbury District Court, and it allows police and medical professionals to involuntarily hold certain individuals for the sake of treatment without the approval of family – which is usually required.

The matter was adopted for study by a commission.

Other highlights include:

  • Requires electronic prescribing for all controlled substances, with limited exceptions, effective January 1, 2020.
  • Expands access to naloxone (Narcan) in the community by (1) establishing a standing order, providing access to naloxone without a prescription, (2) allowing certain Sheriffs to purchase naloxone at a lower cost through the state’s bulk purchasing program, and (3) allowing local governments and agencies to exchange unexpired naloxone.
  • Establishes a commission to make recommendations on the certification of Recovery Coaches.
  • Mandates that providers check the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) prior to issuing any prescription for a benzodiazepine.
  • Establishes a Center for Police Training in Crisis Intervention to support cost-effective, evidence-based mental health and substance use crisis response training programs for law enforcement, providing the tools to respond appropriately to behavioral health crises.

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Church Needs to Take Swift Action on Sexual Abuse

Church Needs to Take Swift Action on Sexual Abuse

For the past several days, articles in the national media have reported accusations of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s sexual improprieties with several adults and his criminal violations of the sexual abuse of minors.  These alleged actions, when committed by any person, are morally unacceptable and incompatible with the role of a priest, bishop or cardinal.

I am deeply troubled by these reports that have traumatized many Catholics and members of the wider community. In one case involving a minor the Archdiocese of New York, after investigation, has found the accusation to be credible and substantiated. While another accusation concerning a minor is yet to be investigated, the reports are devastating for the victims, their families and for the Church itself. Each new report of clerical abuse at any level creates doubt in the minds of many that we are effectively addressing this catastrophe in the Church.

These cases and others require more than apologies. They raise up the fact that when charges are brought regarding a bishop or a cardinal, a major gap still exists in the Church’s policies on sexual conduct and sexual abuse. While the Church in the United States has adopted a zero tolerance policy regarding the sexual abuse of minors by priests we must have clearer procedures for cases involving bishops. Transparent and consistent protocols are needed to provide justice for the victims and to adequately respond to the legitimate indignation of the community. The Church needs a strong and comprehensive policy to address bishops’ violations of the vows of celibacy in cases of the criminal abuse of minors and in cases involving adults.

My experience in several dioceses and my work with the members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors have brought me to this conclusion. The Church needs to swiftly and decisively take action regarding these matters of critical importance. In every instance of claims made by victims of sexual abuse, whether criminal violations or the abuse of power, the primary concern must be for the victim, their family and their loved ones. The victims are to be commended for bringing to light their tragic experience and must be treated with respect and dignity. Recent media reports also have referenced a letter sent to me from Rev. Boniface Ramsey, O.P. in June of 2015, which I did not personally receive. In keeping with the practice for matters concerning the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, at the staff level the letter was reviewed and determined that the matters presented did not fall under the purview of the Commission or the Archdiocese of Boston, which was shared with Fr. Ramsey in reply.

These accusations are understandably a source of great disappointment and anger for many. These cases, involving a cardinal, must be viewed in light of the last two decades of the Church’s experience with clerical sexual abuse. It is my conviction that three specific actions are required at this time. First, a fair and rapid adjudication of these accusations; second, an assessment of the adequacy of our standards and policies in the Church at every level, and especially in the case of bishops; and third, communicating more clearly to the Catholic faithful and to all victims the process for reporting allegations against bishops and cardinals. Failure to take these actions will threaten and endanger the already weakened moral authority of the Church and can destroy the trust required for the Church to minister to Catholics and have a meaningful role in the wider civil society. In this moment there is no greater imperative for the Church than to hold itself accountable to address these matters, which I will bring to my upcoming meetings with the Holy See with great urgency and concern.

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

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

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

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

in the triple jump.

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

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

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

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

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

She is also a very talented hurdler as well.

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Is This Really America?

Is This Really America?

The national disgrace that is occurring at our southern border is something that we never could have imagined happening in the United States of America.

The images of children separated from their parents and locked behind chain link fences evokes the worst horrors of the 20th century —  the concentration camps and gulags to which millions of people were consigned by the very worst dictatorial regimes.

For almost 250 years, America has been not merely a place, but an ideal for the proposition that all men are created equally and that every person has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In less than a few days’ time however, the principles that Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers so eloquently, yet simply, put into words in the Declaration of Independence have been destroyed.

The justification for what, by any standards of decency, amounts to an inhumane policy resembles a classic case of reductio ad absurdum.

The New York Times columnist David Brooks (who is a conservative writer) put it this way in his analysis of the language that is being used when they talk about the situation:

“This is what George Orwell noticed about the authoritarian brutalists: They don’t use words to illuminate the complexity of reality; they use words to eradicate the complexity of reality.”

If we say nothing then basically we are telling these families and their children that they are getting what they deserve. If separating people into metal cages is okay, then what does that say about our society and ourselves.

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May Day Observances

May Day Observances

Chelsea residents held up a sign reading “Chelsea Workers United” as they marched on Broadway for International Workers’ Day on Tuesday, May 1, in the annual May 1st Coalition procession from East Boston to Chelsea and Everett. After the march, a rally was held in Everett with all three communities showing solidarity for numerous causes.

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Art Appreciation:Lane Helps Chelsea Village Seniors Use Art as Therapy

Art Appreciation:Lane Helps Chelsea Village Seniors Use Art as Therapy

Lesley University graduate student Natalie Lane wanted the students in her art therapy group to have their artwork appreciated by others, so she organized a show in the community room at Chelsea Village Elderly on the final day of her internship.

Lesley University graduate student Natalie Lane (right), with the seniors, Elisa Enamorado, Silvia Hernandez, and Irena Lewicki, in her art therapy group at the Chelsea Village Elderly, 5 Admirals Way. The seniors are pictured in front of their artwork at a show inside the Chelsea Village community room.

Residents walked in and admired the artwork of Village residents Irena Lewicki, Elisa Enamaorado, and Silvia Hernandez, who stood proudly in front of their finished pieces and happily answered questions about the entre artistic process.

Lane, 22, has been working with the seniors as an art therapy intern since September. She held one-hour art classes twice a week in addition to a one-hour art therapy studio session.

“My goal was to introduce therapeutic expressive art to the residents,” said Lane, who is originally from Texas.

“I stressed the creative component of healing, along with building relationships and a community. The seniors did such a good job and they deserve to be proud of it and to be appreciated.

It turns out what the seniors themselves appreciated the most was Lane’s teachings and professional manner, complemented by her warmth and vibrant personality that made each student feel special.

“Natalie is the finest person I’ve ever met,” said the 71-year-old Lewicki, who was born in Poland and came to the United States in 1963. “She directs us in such a positive way. I’ve learned so much from her. It’s not easy, but it’s a beautiful thing to be able to express yourself through your art. She’s transformed me in to an artist.”

Enamorado also said that Lane was an inspiration and gave her a deeper appreciation of art.

“We had an art group that was like a family and it was taught by a wonderful person,” said Enamorado. “What I enjoyed most was working on the group art piece.”

Tammy King, residence services coordinator for Chelsea Village (Peabody Properties), said the art therapy program was a huge success.

“I really appreciate Lesley College’s programming and administrative support and having Natalie here to provide such an outstanding program for our residents,” said King, who attended the art show.

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On May Day, Thousands to March For Worker and Immigrant Rights

On May Day, Thousands to March For Worker and Immigrant Rights

On Tuesday, May 1, International Workers’ Day workers, immigrants and supporters from across the region will join with labor and community organizations, starting at 4:00 p.m. in East Boston, and marching to Chelsea and Everett to participate in an act of unity and defiance against the Trump administration’s attacks against workers and immigrants.

Labor, community and immigrants’ rights organization will make clear that the Trump administration’s systematic attempt to criminalize immigrants not only assaults the civil rights of communities of color, but also opens a dangerous path of intolerance that is already having dramatic consequences in communities across the country as hate crimes against immigrants, and those perceived to be foreign continue to spread.

Organizers and participants will also highlight how unions have been defending their rights’ by collective resistance. Additionally, we will encourage our state legislature to pass safeguards that protect our communities and the rule of law by separating local law enforcement and the federal immigration deportation machinery.

The day will start with a multi-community roundtable at the Chelsea Collaborative, 318 Broadway, at 10 a.m. with Esther Lopez, secretary-treasurer of the United Food and Commercial Workers International (UFCW).

The march will start in East Boston at 4 p.m. in Liberty Plaza, then head to Chelsea City Hall. At 4:30 p.m., the combined group will march from Chelsea to Glendale Park in Everett. There, a rally and cultural program will take place in the park at 5:30 p.m.

The May 1 Coalition of Chelsea, Everett & East Boston includes the Chelsea Collaborative, La Comunidad Inc., City Life/Vida Urbana, International UFCW, UFCW Local 1445, Raise Up, Fight for $15, MIRA, American Friends Service Committee, MassCOSH, SEIU 32BJ, SEIU 509, Jobs With Justice, New England Carpenters Union, Mass. AFL-CIO, Community Labor United, Chinese Progressive Association, Brazilian Women’s Group, UUMassAction, Chelsea Uniting Against the War, IWCC, Projecto Hondureño, Workers World, EBECC, Painters Union, NOAH, Brazilian Workers Center, CAN, Comite de Hondureños Unidos de Massachusetts.

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