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.”
By Seth Daniel
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.
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.