Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes leads the procession of City Council members to begin the Inauguration ceremonies on Tuesday night, Jan. 2, in the Council Chambers at City Hall. Meanwhile, outgoing Council President Leo Robinson is given a gavel by incoming Council President Damali Vidot. Vidot was sworn in as the first female Council President
since charter reform.
By Seth Daniel
In the last meeting of the year for the City Council, members voted in several new appointments and re-appointments to City boards – including the approval of long-time activist Gladys Vega to sit on the Planning Board.
Vega received a 10-0 vote with Councillor Giovanni Recupero being absent for all the appointment votes.
Vega said she was looking to get more active in the City’s committees, especially since there has been a call for more people to fill the volunteer – yet critical – roles. She said she planned to become increasingly active in City matters in the coming years if all goes well on the Planning Board.
Meanwhile, Chelsea Housing Chair Tom Standish stepped down from the Board after a monumental and tremendous job in his role as chair for the past several years.
Former CHA Board member Bert Taverna was voted in 10-0 to replace Standish.
Standish was one of the first members of the new Board appointed by the state and former City Manager Jay Ash when the CHA went into receivership following the Michael McLaughlin scandal.
Standish was a solid presence on the Board in the years following the scandal, helping to put the once-troubled CHA back onto solid footing after the fleecing done by McLaughlin to virtually every part of the organization.
Standish led the Board throughout the difficult process, and helped to take it from a troubled agency to a top performer.
After those two appointments, there was Council politics that entered the room, with Councillor Damali Vidot clashing with Councillor Roy Avellaneda on the nine re-appointments.
Vidot has been a staunch advocate for getting new and different people on the City’s boards and said she discovered in the Charter that the City is required to advertise open Board and Commission seats. However, due to an oversight, that hasn’t been done in some time.
Avellaneda disputed that such a thing was in the Charter, and read Section 4 that did not include any such language.
However, after some tussling between members, City Manager Tom Ambrosino said it is in Section 9 of the Charter and it was an oversight. He said he will begin to advertise quarterly any openings in the English and Spanish-language newspapers.
To make a point, Vidot voted against all nine re-appointments, which were mostly non-controversial and resulted in 9-1 votes of approval.
Planning Board member Todd Taylor did elicit some controversy, as he was approved by a vote of 7-3, with Councillors Judith Garcia, Vidot and Avellaneda voting against him.
Those voted in on a 9-1 vote were:
- Olivier del Melle, Dudley Street, Planning Board
- Emmanuel Tellez, Broadway, Board of Health
- Robert Pereira, Gerrish Avenue, Historical Commission (replacing Ilana Ascher)
- George Pazos, Union Street, Traffic & Parking Commission
- Marlene Jennings, Breakwater Drive, Cultural Council
- Mark Rossi, Clark Avenue, License Commission
- Robert Lynch, Shawmut Street, Conservation Commission
- Frances Mascolo, Breakwater Drive, Historical Commission.
By Seth Daniel
By a preliminary vote of 8-0, Councillor Damali Vidot received the support of her colleagues to become the new Council President in 2018 during a meeting on Monday.
The annual Conference Committee on leadership took place Monday with two possible candidates, current President Leo Robinson and Vidot. Both had been vying for the position behind the scenes, lobbying their colleagues for the position.
However, Robinson apparently had withdrawn his name before Monday’s conference, conceding the gavel to Vidot.
Those voting for Vidot to be president were Councillors Luis Tejada, Yamir Rodriguez, Giovanni Recupero, Calvin Brown, Bob Bishop, Enio Lopez, Robinson and Judith Garcia.
Vidot did not vote for herself, and Councillor Roy Avellaneda did not show up for the Conference. Councillor-elect Joe Perlatonda was absent during the president vote.
Vidot said she was honored to receive support from her colleagues, and will lean on the experience of long-time councillors to help her with the new role.
“I am honored to have received the support of my colleagues in serving as president of Chelsea City Council,” she said. “It is a responsibility I do not take lightly. I intend on leaning on the experience of longer-serving councillors while building on the passion and ideas of newer colleagues. We all have something different we bring to the table and I want to honor all of those voices while working cohesively on the concerns of our hard-working residents.
“More importantly, I want to ensure that we are always adhering to our City Charter and it’s ordinances and ensuring that the process is always fair and transparent,” she continued.
The vice president role was more hotly contested, with Councillor-elect Brown getting the nod over Recupero in a vote of 6-4.
Those voting for Brown were Vidot, Rodriguez, Brown, Bishop, Lopez, and Garcia. Those voting for Recupero were Tejada, Recupero, Robinson, and Perlatonda.
Avellaneda was not present for the vote.
Tejada was unanimously elected as the new School Committee liaison in a vote of 10-0, with Avellaneda absent.
The Council also participated in the annual drawing for Roll Call vote order and seating order.
Vidot will be the first vote next year in any roll call, with Recupero being the last vote.
In seating, there will be some interesting neighbors – with Councilors Recupero and Perlatonda sitting next to one another again. The old friends sat next to one another when Perlatonda was on the Council previously. Oddly enough, Perlatonda will also sit next to Garcia, who replaced him two years ago and whom he has criticized from time to time. Bishop will site on one end of the Council, while Calvin Brown will sit on the other end.
Mass Alliance, a coalition of political organizations dedicated to making Massachusetts more progressive is proud to announce their endorsement for their Rising Stars Program of Damali Vidot for Chelsea City Council.
“We are proud to endorse for our Rising Stars Program, Damali Vidot for Chelsea City Council,” says Mass Alliance Executive Director Jordan Berg Powers. “We know that Damali is going to continue to put the community first, focusing on what it will take to move Chelsea forward. We are excited to join Chelsea voters in supporting Damali.”
Damali Vidot, current City Council Vice President shared her message of One Chelsea, a vision of a more inclusive and participatory government. Committed to reinvigorating residents in local issues such as development without displacement, supporting Chelsea Youth and maintaining an authentic voice for all residents on the Council.
Councilor Vidot, ran a spirited campaign in the last Municipal Elections. She topped the ticket in the Preliminary and finished in the General with an impressive show of support in one of the highest voter turnouts in a municipal electoral race the city of Chelsea had seen in years.
“I am thankful to Mass Alliance and their members for their continued support. Mass Alliance has an endorsement process that holds candidates and elected officials to a high standard. Their renewed support for me in this second term means a lot, given that I am always working hard to learn more about local and state issues and they have been a rich resource for me and my leadership”. Vidot shared.
From re-establishing the Chelsea Youth Commission, kicking off The Movement with other Chelsea Leaders, as well as advocating against development that does not put residents first, she continues to be an emboldened and fierce advocate that is bringing many disengaged residents back into the many conversations that continue in building a city that is representative of all.
Although Damali is running unopposed, she did open a headquarters where she is making phone calls to voters, along with door knocking with supporters; continuing that same spirited campaign that she insists is essential in continuing to build community and engage with all residents as the general election nears on Tuesday, November 7th.
Mass Alliance is a coalition of political and advocacy groups that fights for a more progressive Massachusetts. Their member organizations advocate on a wide variety of issues, including civic participation, civil rights, economic justice, education, environmental issues, healthcare, reproductive rights, and worker’s rights.
Mass Alliance provides clear leadership for the progressive community, cultivates and empowers progressive leaders, and assists them in ultimately winning their elections.
By Seth Daniel
Luis Rodriguez of Blade Masters on Everett Avenue gives a free haircut to Adin Bahan during a special event at the Boys & Girls Club on Monday. Rodriguez and Councillors Yamir Rodriguez and Damali Vidot worked together to start the event this year and hope to make the free haircut day a fixture of Back to School in Chelsea.
The costs of getting kids back to school is a tough bill to pay for parents, and many parents are in situations where they cannot afford all the things that kids need.
In those times, they must pick and choose what kids go back with on their first day.
And often, when it comes down to new shoes or a haircut, the sneaks win out most years.
This year, though, many parents didn’t have to worry about that decision as five local barbers corralled by Luis Rodriguez of Blade Masters, and organized by City Councillors Yamir Rodriguez and Damali Vidot, set up shop in the gym of the Boys & Girls Club on Monday for many hours and gave free haircuts to Chelsea kids just before the first day of school, kids who might otherwise go back to school not looking their very best.
“When I was going to school here in Chelsea, I didn’t have much money for a haircut, so I know what it feels like on the first day of school,” said Luis Rodriguez of Blade Masters on Everett Avenue, a 2015 Chelsea High School graduate. “I’m licensed and I can do this and I wanted to give back to these kids and to the community. I know how they feel and it feels good that I can give back by giving free haircuts. It can be tough for parents in Chelsea to pay for everything. This is one less thing, and I’m glad I can do it.”
Councillor Rodriguez said Luis Rodriguez had been a student at Chelsea High School when he was coaching on the basketball team. The two got to know each other well back then, and last spring, Luis Rodriguez said he wanted to do free haircuts.
“He wanted to give back somehow and had this idea to give free haircuts before school started,” said Councillor Rodriguez. “I told him it was a great idea and we got on the phone and got a couple of barbers to join us and help out. We always talked about helping out in the city and this was one very good way…It’s something Luis can do and it’s something that we know some kids cannot afford.”
On Monday, at least four, sometimes five, barbers were hard at work in the gym cutting hair for one kid after another. All of the barbers were local and said they were really glad to give back to the community and remembered going back to school every year with a fresh haircut on the first day.
Councillor Damali Vidot said it’s something that a lot of people don’t think about, but something that really helps parents who are trying to get kids ready for school.
“This is something we know helps the kids and these barbers wanted to give back and they’re all from Chelsea,” she said. “This is a great opportunity for everyone.”
Councillor Rodriguez said next year they will continue the effort and perhaps do more advance planning to make it a bigger event and to help more people.
“We do plan on making it a yearly event and next year we’ll make it bigger and maybe try to tie it to the Williams School celebration,” he said.
It’s tough to be an incumbent these days, and the national trend to oust those in office carried over to Chelsea Tuesday night when six new people out of 11 seats – creating a new majority – swept into office on a wave of voter excitement and candidate campaigning that hasn’t been seen here for a decade or more.
There were 2,832 ballots cast for a 21 percent voter turnout.
The most exciting race was the City Council at-Large race, but the most dramatic change came in the district seats, where every contested race resulted in the removal of the incumbent councillor.
But first, the at-Large race was where most of the hard campaigning had been done since the Preliminary Election in September. Old political sidewalk politics such as sign holding, campaign rallies and door knocking efforts, unheard of in Chelsea politics for years, became the norm as voters saw more of the candidates than in many previous contests.
Topping the ticket in the race was returning councillor Roy Avellaneda, who had served previously on the Council and decided to make a run once again after two failed state representative bids last year. The vote tally reflected as follows, with Avellaneda, newcomer Damali Vidot and Council President Leo Robinson.
Robinson was the only Council incumbent in a contested race to be re-elected.
•Calvin Brown, 970
•Todd Taylor, 798
•Deborah Washington, 380
The most surprising news of the night was that long-time Councillor Calvin Brown got knocked out of his seat. He trailed Robinson by only 18 votes, and said afterward he didn’t know if he’d go for a recount.
“That’s something to think about and maybe sleep on,” he said. “You have to take your time with that decision, but it was close.”
Avellaneda said he was very humbled and encouraged by the excitement that the race generated.
“It’s humbling to be honest,” he said. “It’s very exciting to go out there an get the support of the community I grew up in…I’m looking forward to working with our new city manager, our councillors, some of the incumbents, on making Chelsea a better place to live and work. We had a lot of excitement about this race and we haven’t seen that in years. Between School Committee, the district seats and the at-large races, we saw a type of atmosphere we haven’t seen since the first City Council was elected after the Charter passed…We need that excitement now to roll over and keep those people engaged in civic activities.”
Vidot, who had not intentions of ever running for City Council last year at this time, said she was humbled and found it hard to believe she had walked the path she had over the last several months.
She said voters responded to her message loud and clear, that City Hall isn’t representing the people and that there is a disconnect between City Hall and the neighborhoods.
“People clearly want change,” she said. “We have an almost entirely new City Council. The people have spoken and it’s time for us to respond. Until January, I’m going to read up and educate myself on the job and the responsibilities. I’m going to also keep my supporters close by and engaged so we can keep our momentum. I’m really looking forward to working with everybody.”
The District Council races were the most shocking, and where the real wave of new faces will be seen.
In District 2, Chelsea native Luis Tejada beat incumbent Chris Cataldo 160-137.
In District 4, long-time Councillor Paul Barton was beaten decidedly by activist Enio Lopez, 139-59.
In District 5, incumbent Councillor Joe Perlatonda had been edged out already in the Preliminary Election, leaving two challengers. The heir apparent had been Henry Wilson, a long-time community activist and Planning Board member. However, up and coming candidate Judith Garcia, who has youth on her side being in her 20s, surged in the campaign and beat Wilson, 164-109.
In District 7, newcomer Yamir Rodriguez, also in his 20s, beat out incumbent Clifford Cunningham, 155-123.
District 1 Councillor Paul Murphy, District 3 Councillor Matt Frank, District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero, and District 8 Councillor Dan Cortell were all unopposed.
The results will give the Council, as stated above, six new faces in January.
In the School Committee race, Shawn O’Regan flexed some political muscle and cruised to an easy victory over write-in candidate Carolyn Vega, 1,449-390.
The two contested races on the School Committee showed former Chelsea High graduate Robert Pereira beating Kizzi Reyes in District 5, 147-85.
Also, in an open seat, Yessenia Alfaro-Alvarez barely edged out Elizabeth Shahinian, 188-177.
Newcomer Diana Maldonado was unopposed in Dis
Ticket topper Roy Avellaneda (right) – a new Council at-Large member – with Chelsea Cable Director Duke Bradley during a break in the Chelsea Cable live Election Night broadcast.
trict 4 and received 150 votes.
Newcomer Kelly Garcia won District 7 with 63 votes in District 7.
District 1 Rosemarie Carlisle, District 2 Jeanette Velez, District 3 Richard Maronski, and District 6 Ana Hernandez all won in unopposed races.