The City Budget vote at the Council is usually a night of empty seats and methodical tabulation.
Not so this past Monday night when teachers, students and School Department employees packed the Chambers and councillors debated over several controversial cuts to the document.
One councillor, Bob Bishop, even cast a lone vote against the City Budget.
In the end, the Council did approve the budget 10-1.
The total spending came in at $195,964,074, with the breakdown as follows:
General Fund Budget, $174,074,177.
Water Enterprise Fund, $8,397,199.
Sewer Enterprise Fund, 12,808,779.
General Fund Free Cash, $683,919.
The total sum represents an increase of 6.6 percent over last year’s budget.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said it was a document that represented a philosophy in government and he was proud of it.
“A budget is not just a compilation of numbers and spreadsheets,” he said. “A budget is always a document expressing a philosophy of government. This budget delivers services and programs and invests in our people, our community.”
The real drama came for the School Department, which needed a large influx of City cash into its coffers to avoid massive cuts to it program after being shorted several years by the state’s funding formula.
The City is required to give a set amount of money to the School Department each year, but in the budget crunch of the last few years, the City has kicked in extra funding. On Monday, numerous representatives from the schools were there to speak in support of what amounts to about $4 million (or 5.7 percent) above the required spending amount.
“The state is letting Chelsea down,” said Sam Baker, vice president of the Chelsea Teacher’s Union. “They can’t be relied upon to support urban Gateway districts like Chelsea…When the federal government lets you down, the state government lets you down, there is only one place left to turn – to the neighbors and the local officials of the city. This budget shows that the students and schools in Chelsea can rely on their local neighbors.”
Several others spoke as well, particularly for keeping special education position intact – positions that have been cut heavily in the past few years. School Committee Chair Jeannette Velez urged the Council to approve the additional spending in the budget.
After the vote, the room erupted in applause for the sake of the schools.
But it wasn’t that easy.
While the Council was uniformly in favor of the school measures, there were several things they were flat out against. Major amendments were proposed and hashed out on close votes over the course of an hour.
Almost all of them were proposed by Council President Damali Vidot.
First was a cut of $15,000 to the Law Department – which was a dart in the back of many on the Council. The cut represented funding put in the budget for the Council to have its own attorney on retainer to give them a second opinion when they aren’t satisfied with the City’s staff lawyers.
Only Councillor Giovanni Recupero and Damali Vidot voted for it, with it losing 9-2.
One cut that did survive was a $100,000 cut to the Fire Department as a shot across the bow for their use, and some on the Council would say abuse, of overtime in the last few years.
Vidot said the Department has seen numerous new hires in the last year and has proposed to increase its overtime budget. She said that number should be going down, not up.
The cut was approved 6-4, with Vidot, Recupero, Bishop, Luis Tejada, Enio Lopez and Rodriguez voting yes.
Vidot also proposed to cut the Police Department salaries by $150,000 to curtail the use of overtime pay being given to officers who do walking beats around the downtown. She said that should come out of regular pay at the regular rate, not as overtime pay.
That measure lost narrowly, on a 5-6 vote. Those voting against that were Calvin Brown, Tejada, Avellaneda, Robinson, Perlatonda, and Garcia.
A major discussion took place after that to cut the new Downtown Coordinator position, which comes at $72,000. Vidot said it was a failed program and should be staffed by a Chelsea person who can bring all different Chelsea residents to the downtown to connect in one place. She said she doesn’t see that happening.
However, the majority felt that good things were happening and the coordinator needed more time.
A key supporter was downtown district Councillor Judith Garcia.
That cut failed 3-8, with only Vidot, Lopez and Bishop voting for it.
The final controversial cut proposal was to eliminate monies being spent to keep retiring EMS Director Allan Alpert on board for a year. Alpert plans to retire on June 30, but will be kept on as a consultant to bring the new director up to speed. The cost for that is $55,000.
Vidot said it was unnecessary, and she said it’s time to stop keeping retiring City Hall people on the payroll as consultants.
However, other councillors such as Avellaneda, said there was a succession plan in place for Alpert that didn’t pan out. Now, to make sure a new plan could be put in place, Alpert needed to be allowed to stay on another year.
After much controversial discussion, the cut was defeated narrowly 5-6. Those voting to keep Alpert on were Rodriguez, Tejada, Avellaneda, Robinson, Perlatonda, and Garcia.
For the overall budget, all councillors except Bishop voted for it.
Bishop, who has emerged as a staunch fiscal conservative on the Council, said the spending was not sustainable.
“I cannot vote for this budget,” he said. “I can’t be for this budget because it is not sustainable. We’ll hit the wall one day and that $25 million in the Rainy Day Fund will go out one ear because out budget is almost all salaries.”
Monday night at the City Council meeting, the main item on the agenda was the new five-year Capital Improvement Program, detailing the maintenance and improvement of roadways, water, sewer and drainage systems, sidewalks, transportation, public buildings and facilities, parks and open space, public safety projects and general equipment. However, Councilor Robert Bishop did not sign the resolution that would have brought the order before the councilors since he had several questions about some of the proposed work outlined in the document. The matter was moved to unfinished business.
The Council still has until the end of the month to approve the recommendations and is expected to take the matter up at its next meeting.
With this main part of the agenda being put on hold, councilors started to address issues ranging from the new tax rate that could see a budget increase of 5 percent to providing more affordable housing in the city for residents.
While it may seem that both issues were not related, the councilors came to the same bottom line, which was having Chelsea families being able to afford to continue to reside in Chelsea.
Bishop questioned the proposed new fiscal 2019 tax rate that will go into effect on July 1. “I would like to see a zero tax rate increase,” he said pointing out that the new tax rate could increase as much as 5 percent. He pointed out that many Chelsea homeowners are struggling to pay their real estate bills.
In a similar vein, Councilor at-Large Leo Robinson introduced a motion to schedule a meeting with the Planning Board and the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to look into the possibility of purchasing homes that are foreclosed and keeping the affordable rental units for residents.
Council President Damali Vidot gave up the chair to speak on her motion on amending the existing Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance. “We need to look out for the community,” she said. “Developers have the discretion on whom to provide affordable housing units since we are put into the Boston average median income,” she added.
Vidot also noted the toll of decreasing affordable housing is taking on the most vulnerable in Chelsea, namely the young. She noted that many students in the local schools know of the strain that their parents are having of being able to afford to stay in Chelsea or are in fact homeless and as a result, these students are struggling in school. “We must be mindful of renters,” she reminded her colleagues.
In another measure, Vidot is seeking to have an attendance record started for all appointed members to city boards and commissions. “I have received complaints from residents about people not showing up to meetings. We appoint these people, we should know if they are there,” she said. Vidot also added that an attendance record for councilors would be in order.
Councilor Joe Perlatonda introduced an order to install temporary speed bumps on Clinton Street, one located at Washburn Ave. and the other at Lisa Lane off of Clinton Street . He noted that with the summer approaching and neighborhood children outdoors that these speed bumps would slow down drivers speeding.
The U.S. Congressional race has heated up this week as both candidates, incumbent Congressman Michael Capuano and challenger Ayanna Pressley, have touted their fundraising efforts, and one local Chelsea official gives the first endorsement – but for the challenger.
City Council President Damali Vidot announced Wednesday that she would be backing and supporting Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley in her Congressional run. The shot across the bow comes in territory that has firmly been in the Capuano camp for many years, but perhaps could be a key battleground community in the race.
As has become a common criticism of Capuano, Vidot said it’s not enough to simply vote against attacks.
“Attacks on our community are nothing new, but, in light of Donald Trump and the Republican Congress, we need a new generation of leaders who are willing to intentionally advocate for solutions that address our most challenging issues,” said Vidot. “For that, and so many other reasons, I emphatically support Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley’s candidacy for the 7th Congressional District… Leadership like Ayanna’s is what our country is missing at this critical moment in history. It is not enough for our elected officials to vote against the attacks on our communities. We need representatives that will lead with us, for us, and alongside us to help build the communities we deserve.”
Vidot said Pressley’s advocacy on DACA and TPS recipients within the immigration debate in Boston, as well as her leadership for women and people of color, were reasons for her endorsement.
Meanwhile, in a press release battle of fundraising prowess, Capuano got the upper hand on Pressley this week, noting he has raised more money and has more money in his campaign fund. That coming shortly after Pressley sent out a news release about her “surprising” fundraising efforts.
On Tuesday morning, Pressley put out a news release saying the campaign had raised $364,368 in the first two months of the race.
“I am humbled by the outpouring of love and encouragement I have received from so many individuals who share our vision for our district, our Commonwealth, and our country,” said Pressley. “I am also deeply moved by those who tell me that they are contributing or volunteering for the first time ever, and have chosen this unique and challenging moment in our nation’s history to stand alongside our campaign and fight for a better future.”
A few hours later, the Capuano campaign put out a similar press release showing far greater fundraising in the first quarter of the year.
Capuano touted raising more than $500,000 in the first quarter and having $1.1 million in cash at the moment.
“I am truly grateful for the support I am receiving in this campaign,” said Capuano. “We face real challenges from a Trump presidency threatening working families, seniors, women, immigrants, and young people all across our district. I’m on the front lines of these fights and will keep standing up to Donald Trump to keep making a difference for the people who count on me to protect and advance their interests.”
Campaign Manager Sam Raymond said campaign volunteers gathering nomination signatures across the district are finding enthusiastic supporters. “During caucuses and in coffee shops, at farmer’s markets and community meetings – our volunteers are finding and growing the strong support Mike has throughout the district because his record of strong advocacy and real results on issues that impact their lives is substantial,” he said.
“From protecting vital programs like Social Security and Medicare, to advancing legislation that supports job creation and economic growth, Mike is standing up to President Trump and his dangerous policies and he’s making a difference. The people of our district know it,” Raymond added.
The Pressley campaign touted its grass-roots efforts on the ground, including in places like Chelsea
They indicated a strong presence at 30 Massachusetts Democratic Party caucuses in every city and town across the district. This past weekend, the campaign’s first “Day of Action” brought out over 40 volunteers who participated in signature gathering efforts in Somerville, Cambridge, Chelsea, and Boston, they said.
The campaign said it has activated more than 300 volunteers across the district, including Councillor Vidot.
A proposal by former heavyweight boxing champ, and Chelsea native, John ‘The Quietman’ Ruiz has sparked major controversy over the past week in the follow-up to a preliminary meeting on the issue Feb. 6.
The meeting on Feb. 6 was a preliminary presentation to the City Council by Quietman Sports, which included Ruiz and his Business Manager Mark Giblin, in a Committee on Conference.
During the meeting, the presentation included a preliminary written proposal that called for using the CCC Club in Bellingham Square to create a new youth athletic and education center. The CCC Club folded last year and was sold to Chelsea’s Jim D’Amico – who is refurbishing apartments above the old club. The City had bid on the building as well to establish a youth center in the downtown, but did not win the bid. In the aftermath, the City and D’Amico agreed that they could possibly partner with a non-profit to establish the center in the D’Amico building.
Since that verbal agreement, no one had really come along, until Ruiz floated the initial idea of putting a center there using his name. He has opened similar boxing clubs in Medford in the past. The effort, he indicated, was a move to give back to the City he grew up in and to help many youth who are straying from the right path.
“Mr. Ruiz and his team…know what it takes to overcome the same obstacles Chelsea youth face,” read the proposal. “Maybe by sharing their personal success stories, providing scientific and historic educational programs, and athletic programs, it can make a difference. In the least, Quietman Sports hopes their influence can prevent tragedies such as the March 2016 incident in Chelsea where a 19-year old was gunned down and several other teenagers injured by another 16 year old at an empty apartment. Stories such as this are unnecessary and preventable. The community must act soon or by failing to do so will affect Chelsea for generations to come.”
One of the other stipulations was that the City would provide a $475,000 grant to Quietman Sports over three years to help launch the programming. Quietman Sports would put up $195,171 and would fundraise $75,000.
City Councilors were lukewarm to the idea, though, asking many questions about the expenditure and if the venture had coordinated with existing programs like the Explorers Post 109 and other activities.
Council President Damali Vidot, Judith Garcia and others asked a lot of questions.
In all, the welcome wasn’t as warm as Ruiz seemed to expect.
After the meeting, he attacked Vidot in a post on Instagram, and she said she was highly offended by it.
“In my thoughts I assumed they would welcome my intension to give back to my hometown that I love, but it became a backlash from Council President Damali Vidot,” Ruiz posted. “Council President Damali Vidot comments ‘why do we need your help; you don’t liver here’ and her resistance threw me back. It’s a sad moment when a City representative especially the Council President who should lead by example is taking a stance against anyone trying to extend a hand and who has it slapped away…Call Council President Damali Vidot to leave her power hungry attitude at home and embrace anyone who is willing to help my city that I love.”
Vidot, in an op-ed in today’s paper, said the matter needed clarity. She said Ruiz misrepresented what she said.
“Let’s be clear that the City Council does not decide whether we grant Mr. Ruiz funds for his proposal,” she wrote. “That decision-making process rests solely with the City Manager. The City Council as a body then votes on the appropriation of requested funds in which I am 1/11th of the vote. Unfortunately, following the meeting, Mr. Ruiz chose to turn to social media and misrepresent my comments. At that moment it became clear to me that residents deserved more clarity around the facts as to how things transpired.”
She said anyone who is proposing to work with children should be a better example – not taking to social media to complain when they don’t get their way.
“As a longtime boxing fan of Puerto Rican roots, I was ecstatic to meet the first Latino heavyweight boxer of the world,” she wrote. “However, my fandom doesn’t equate to disregarding my role as a public servant…As a longtime youth worker, I am appalled that someone who is proposing to manage a youth center would not look for better ways to demonstrate leadership. I cannot take responsibility for the ill-advice given to Mr. Ruiz prior to the meeting; I did however encourage dialogue and identified ways in which Mr. Ruiz could seek out community input.”
Giblin did not return an e-mail immediately to the Record asking for comment.
Councillor Leo Robinson, who helped Ruiz in bringing the proposal by filing an order to have the meeting, said he wasn’t happy with the champ’s reception.
“It wasn’t professional,” he said of his fellow councillors. “You don’t treat people like that.”
Councillor Giovanni Recupero said he isn’t opposed to the center, but he would like to see it be for everyone, not just the youth.
Meanwhile, City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the proposal was extremely preliminary. He said the City would have to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) before anyone could even begin talking seriously. Any proposal would have to officially apply to an RFP.
“We’re a long way from anything being there yet,” he said. “I actually have an interest in having youth programming in the downtown and the CCC is a great facility for that. I’m interested in the idea. I would first need direction from the Council for putting out an RFP. I don’t have that. I would say we’re very early in the process.”
A major first jab at banning plastic shopping bags took place at City Hall on Tuesday night, Jan. 23, and many believe that momentum is gathering for the ban.
Council President Damali Vidot and Councillor Enio Lopez are leading the initiative, along with environmental organizations like GreenRoots. The turnout for the Tuesday meeting was very large, and Vidot said she got the sense that public opinion is on the side of a ban.
She said, however, nothing has been decided, but that only they would take the discussion to the next step.
“We will continue the conference to a later date and propose a rough draft of an ordinance to get the ball rolling,” she said.
Councillor Luis Tejada said he also got the sense that the City is moving in the direction of a ban – which Boston has already passed last year, with implementation coming this year.
“At the moment it appears as though we are moving in the direction of banning the plastic bags, but of course there is still a lot of work to be done,” he said.
Tejada said trying to figure out which types of plastic bags to keep and get rid of will be a key part of the conversation that is often overlooked. He said he would really like to understand the impact on businesses.
Already, in a story in last week’s Record, Compare Supermarket owner Al Calvo said he felt it was just another tax on small business – noting it will cost him tens of thousands more to invest in the thicker bags.
Tejada said he wants to hear from more businesses before he makes a decision.
It is important to know what is the impact on our local small businesses that literally have thousands of bags with their logo on them,” he said. “This would impact them significantly if the measure was approved and enacted too swiftly. What I would like to do is put the small and large businesses on notice that it looks as though the city is moving towards a more environmentally conscious lifestyle, and they should begin to look at and enact whatever measure they are considering when this goes into effect. If they do it sooner rather than later, it can minimize any potential burden and or loss when the measure does take effect.”
Councillor Joe Perlatonda said he is very interested in eliminating litter, and plastic bags are just one piece of a bigger problem in Chelsea. He said he doesn’t feel like they should come down hard on plastic bags, while leaving out other litter items like lottery tickets and dog poop.
He also said some residents have told him they don’t like the idea.
“I had one resident tell me this is just another tax being imposed on residents of Chelsea, which many of us can’t afford,” he said. “With everything going on, I’m concerned that the top priority is plastic bags. It was a great turnout, but I wish more people would turn out for other issues. There are other issues that need to be addressed that should take precedent over a plastic bag ban.”
Vidot said the next meeting has not been set, but should be on the docket soon.
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.
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
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.
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.