One Year Later : Councillor Believes ‘Nip’ Ban Has Reduced Alcohol-Related Issues

One year into the ban on ‘nips’ – or small alcohol bottles – at least one city councillor is proclaiming victory based on ambulance data that shows major decreases in the numbers of alcohol-related transfers.

Councillor Roy Avellaneda said he has been monitoring data and anecdotal information surrounding the nip ban, which he advocated for a little over a year ago, and believes that the ban has resulted in major victories.

First among those victories is the numbers of alcohol-related transfers done by the ambulance in Chelsea.

“It’s been one year and it’s been the most significant feature in what we see with alcoholism and reducing the alcoholism that plagued the downtown,” he said. “If I was solely to look at how the number of ambulance transfers has decreased for alcohol-related calls, it strongly correlates to the time that the nip ban went into place.”

Date from Cataldo ambulance regarding alcohol-related calls shows that there was an astounding number of those transfers in the past. In 2015, there were 872 transfers, followed by 715 in 2016 and 742 in 2017.

The nip ban went into effect in the middle of 2018, and Avellaneda points out that the ambulance data begins to decrease at the same time.

In 2018, there was a decrease to 556 transfers, and this year, 2019, data would support that the transfers have nose-dived. As of June 30, there were only 127 transfers. Doubling that number in the second half of the year would still only result in around 260 transfers – which would be 50 percent less than in 2018 and nearly 600 fewer transfers than in 2015.

“My figures show a result of 66 percent fewer alcohol-related ambulance responses and I think that’s unbelievable,” he said, noting that public works personnel have also said they are experiencing less nip bottle litter issues too.

While other things might have also contributed to the decrease, including the advanced work of the HUB by the Police Department and its partners, Avellaneda points out that the HUB does great work but mostly related to opiate and drug issues. The alcohol issues, he said, stood out to him initially because they had plagued the downtown since he was a kid in the 1980s. It had become normal, and the numbers of ambulance transfers shocked him when he first saw that they numbered in the 800s.

They were nearly seven times greater than those of other issues, like opiates, and that’s when he said he decided to join the fight to ban nips.

“I felt we were focusing way too much on one issue and not enough on the other,” he said. “There were seven times as many responses for alcohol and we needed to do something on that too…It’s something I’ve seen since I was a kid. It got to a point where we just accepted it. When you talked to merchants about it, they would say, ‘Well, that’s Chelsea.’ That’s not the Chelsea we want and we don’t have to allow these behaviors – and by that I mean the behaviors of people who are selling these nips to people with a problem or addiction.”

The battle has been difficult, though.

While the City has instituted the ban, nine package stores in the city have sued in court, and that case is pending before the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC). The City is arguing that the ABCC doesn’t have jurisdiction, while the stores argue it does. That has been pending for many months, since earlier this year.

The process is slow because Chelsea has been the first community to successfully go through with a ban, despite the fact that many have tried and many desire to follow suit.

“There are a lot of eyes on this decision,” said Avellaneda. “There are a lot of communities around the state what want to try this. There are many that did try to pass it but the alcoholic beverage lobby is so strong they turned back. Chelsea has done it and all eyes in the state are looking at us to see if we can withstand a legal challenge.”

Surviving that challenge could be made even stronger if the data holds regarding ambulance transfers.

“There is no next step here, just monitoring the situation,” he said. “They didn’t just go buy the next size to drink. We aren’t seeing the next size bottles littering the streets. That argument is out. I believe we can see this made significant changes and we’ll just build on that.”

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First ‘Night Market’ Draws Manageable, Excited Crowd

The first Chelsea Night Market is being deemed a success, bringing a good crowd to Luther Place for the music, vendors and excitement in the downtown.

“It was great,” said Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney. “We had a decent, manageable crowd. The attendees and vendors were all really pleased. We had lots of neighbors attend, which was great. There were no major technical snags and the fire performance was a hit.”

The Night Market blocked off the City parking lot behind the main business district, using the refurbished Chelsea Walk as an entry point. On the lot were vendors with all kinds of wares, food servers and a stage. Musical acts were popular, but the hit of the night was the Boston Circus Guild’s fire-breathing and juggling performance.

The next Night Market will be on July 13, and coordinators said to look for some new and different things to be on the docket.

The next event for the downtown, however, is the Fiesta Verano – a great Latin music themed event that was cancelled last year three times due to rain. This year they hope to find some better luck.

They will have the Fiesta on Second Street and in collaboration with the Chelsea Cooperative.

Look for a cowboy them, Graney said.

“We’re embracing a rodeo theme this year with pony rides and a bounce house for little ones,” said Graney. “A ‘bike rodeo,’ presented by the Chelsea Bike and Ped Committee and MassBike, is an obstacle course and games for all ages so bring your bike or trike. Over on the big lawn a mechanical bull will be bucking and kicking all riders for your merriment.”

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Sun-Shining Moment CHS Graduation Heads Outdoors for 2019

The story of the Chelsea High Class of 2019 won’t be complete with just a rundown of what happened in the hallways of the high school.

In fact, it’s what this class did at City Hall, on social media and in rooms with powerful decision makers that will define the 312 seniors who will walk across the stage on Sunday to collect their diplomas and celebrate a journey concluded.

Workers on Monday began cobbling together more than 20,000 hard plastic squares over the new Chelsea Stadium turf field to protect it for the first outdoor graduation in many years. The new situation was a hard-fought win for the Class of 2019, and will likely define them for years to come, school officials said. Graduation takes place at 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 9.

That story starts and ends with having graduation under what (hopefully) will be bright blue skies and sunshine – as the class celebrates their year-long fight to get graduation back outdoors and open up the celebration to many more family members.

will be bright blue skies and sunshine – as the class celebrates their year-long fight to get graduation back outdoors and open up the celebration to many more family members.

Principal Alexander Mathews said the class is very accomplished academically, socially and athletically, but it has taken an extra step of moving outside the school and advocating in the community.

“It’s a class that more than any I’ve seen is driven to show leadership in a way that feels organized and professional,” he said. “I’ve been really, really impressed with what I’ve seen at Chelsea High this year – even in the face of discord among the adults at times…They remained calm and serious even when so much was happening around them. It’s a very community-minded ethic in the group. They are genuinely of a belief that what they’re doing is best for the community and not necessarily their families only. They believe they are doing this for the future of the other classes behind them. That’s pretty impressive in a teenaged mind.”

The Class of 2019 decided early on that they wanted to be able to graduate outside, and it wasn’t just to get some sun.

In fact, since the graduation moved into the indoor gym, many family members have been excluded from the ceremony due to space reasons. With larger classes and larger families, many parents found they had to go and watch the graduation on a telecast in the cafeteria.

Students in the Class of 2019 didn’t think it was right and fought back against that.

“In some cases, relatives traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to be there, but weren’t able to be with the family in the gym,” said Mathews.

It seemed like an attainable goal, but then they ran into the red tape of consumer affairs.

That came in the form of the warranty of the brand new turf field at the Stadium where graduation would take place. That warranty would be void, City officials learned, if the graduation were held on the field without and protections in place.

And those protections cost nearly $200,000.

School officials and City officials seemingly told the class members that it was a good effort, but couldn’t be done.

Leaders like President Jocelyn Poste and activist Manuel Teshe would not take ‘no’ for an answer. They began to fundraise and attend City Council meetings to speak in favor of finding a solution to their predicament.

After a lot head scratching, City Manager Tom Ambrosino, Supt. Mary Bourque, the School Committee and the Council found a solution, but it cost $175,000. Students advocated that the expense was well worth it so that families could be together on what was a very big day.

And the City agreed.

This week, workers have been cobbling together 25,000 hard plastic pieces over the new turf field that will protect it on graduation and preserve the warranty as well.

“I think these students have realized the connection between their growing academic skills and their ability to influence policy and important decisions around the city,” he said. “Seeing that connection is really motivating for students.”

And those students, in what is another one of the largest classes in several years (last year had a record 344), will take the academic and advocacy lessons they have learned this year to a number of great colleges, universities and workplaces.

Students will be attending schools such as Dartmouth College, Tufts University, Boston University, Suffolk University and others. There are also several full-ride Posse Foundation Scholars attending schools such as Bucknell University, Denison College, Union College, and Centre University in Kentucky.

Graduation will take place on Sunday, June 9, outdoors at the new Chelsea Memorial Stadium at 1 p.m. – rain or shine.

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Chelsea Ward 4 Elects Delegates To Democratic State Convention

Registered Democrats in Chelsea Ward 4 recently elected the following

Delegates to the 2019 Democratic State Convention:

Attorney Olivia Anne Walsh

91 Crest Avenue

David A. Armstrong

91 Crest Avenue

Thomas J. Miller

91 Crest Avenue

This year’s State Convention will be held on September 14. 2019 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Ma. where thousands of Democrats from across the State will come together to discuss Party business and celebrate our successes as we prepare for upcoming elections. Those interested in getting involved with the Ward 4 Democratic Committee should contact the Ward 4 Chair, Attorney Olivia Anne Walsh or Ward 4 Secretary Thomas J. Miller at 617-306-5501.

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Abeyta is School Committee Choice for Superintendent

In the end, it was a unanimous vote by the School Committee to enter into negotiations with Almudena Abeyta as the next superintendent of schools, although it took a handful of votes to reach that decision.

The Committee met Thursday, May 9 to consider three finalists to replace Mary Bourque, who is retiring this year after more than 30 years in the Chelsea schools.

While each of the three finalists for superintendent garnered some support from Committee members Thursday night, Abeyta, currently the assistant superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment for the Somerville Public schools, had the majority of the support from the board throughout four votes.

While there was not unanimous support for Abeyta from the get-go, Committee members universally praised the high quality of all three finalists. In addition to Abeyta, the other two finalists were Anthony Parker, the Weston High School principal, and Ligia Noriega-Murphy, assistant superintendent of secondary schools in the Boston Public Schools.

“Chelsea is very lucky tonight to have three outstanding candidates,” said At-Large School Committee member Frank DePatto. “The city is in good hands with any of the candidates.”

DePatto noted that having three highly qualified candidates did make for a difficult decision for the Committee members, a sentiment echoed by District Five School Committee member Henry Wilson – who just joined the Committee a few weeks ago.

“I changed my mind and then I changed my mind again,” said Wilson. “Today, I did a lot of praying.”

District Seven School Committee member Kelly Garcia said Abeyta was the candidate who spoke most to her as an educator.

“She answered every question with calmness, urgency, confidence, and experience,” said Garcia.

In the first round of voting, it looked like Abeyta was in as the choice of the School Committee with a 5-3 vote. The Committee’s ninth member, Rosemarie Carlisle, could not attend the meeting because of a medical issue.

However, after some legal consultation, it was determined that the vote was taken after only one name was entered into nomination. Under procedure, the Committee should have entered all candidates being considered into nomination.

During that round of voting, Abeyta fell just short of a majority, garnering four votes, with Noriega-Murphy getting three and Parker grabbing one vote. A second round with the top-two vote getters ended with a 5-3 majority for Abeyta, enough to secure approval.

DePatto, who voted for Noriega-Murphy during the open nominations, made the motion to make the vote unanimous for Abeyta.

Even though he backed Noriega-Murphy, after the meeting, DePatto said he was happy with the outcome of the meeting.

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Night Market Plans are on Fire…Quite Literally

The Chelsea Night Market plans is smoking, and that’s because the first installment on June 8 will have fire jugglers, amongst musicians, comedians and a full slate of food and craft vendors.

Unveiled earlier this year, the Night Market is part of the City’s Chelsea Prospers campaign and looks to add activity to the downtown area on summer evenings with a creative and exciting market in the Luther Place municipal parking lot once a month.

As the plans come together for the first Market, Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney said she couldn’t be happier with the way things have come together.

“It’s going amazingly,” she said. “We’ve got this really cool Turkish band that’s playing on the first day. We will also have the Boston Circus Guild coming and they will have two performances. There will be folks on stilts, jugglers, people juggling fire and close interactive magicians. They will have a 20-minute fire performance during the evening. Think juggling things on fire with incredible music behind it.”

Graney said she couldn’t yet reveal the vendors, but they have 13 signed up so far that will be a great mix of exciting items and food.

“I’m really excited so many local businesses and food businesses are looking to take part,” she said. “We’re not doing food trucks because we want an intimate atmosphere with open BBQs and food service.”

All of that will be flanked with creative lighting that is meant to ‘wow’ visitors as they come via the newly-refurbished Chelsea Walk.

“Our plan is to encourage people to come into the Market using the Chelsea Walk and it will be like ‘kapow,’” she said. “They’ll be hit with the lights and music and circus acts and vendors.”

There will also be community entries into the Market, with a group of comedians participating and the Chelsea Pride Committee having a booth.

“The Pride Committee will be having their flag raising the day afterward, but they will have a booth at the Market too,” she said. “They plan to use grease body paint to have people write things on themselves that they are proud of. I love a lot of the community vendors are trying to do new and different things instead of just standing behind a table.”

The first Night Market will be on June 8 from 7-10 p.m. with a rain date of June 15.

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Workers at Everett/Chelsea Stop & Shop Store on Strike

Workers across the Greater Boston region took to the picket lines on Friday, April 12, to fight a continued contract battle against Stop & Shop – and workers were out in force at the Everett/Chelsea location as well.

Most workers at the local store asked shoppers to consider using another store, standing with strike signs to the side of the doors to the store.

Some 31,000 unionized grocery store employees were included in the strike, with many from the local store being Everett and Chelsea residents.

Long time Stop & Shop employee Mike Bruce strikes outside of his workplace in Everett.

The main contention of the demands by workers includes a fair wage, affordable/accessible health care and a reliable retirement plan.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said on Tuesday afternoon that they are still negotiating with the company but might have some news by the end of the week.

The struggle began earlier this year when the union contract was about to expire in February, with the Union threatening a strike. On Feb. 23, the contract did expire, and the Union authorized a strike. The union local representing Everett’s store is UFCW 1445.

“Stop & Shop has known for the past three years that our contract was set to expire on February 23,” read a statement from the union presidents in February. “But because of their continued corporate greed throughout these negotiations, Stop & Shop employees and customers now find themselves in a position where job actions may take place.”

While federal mediation was taking place in the time from that strike authorization to now, talks did break down recently – prompting the strike action.

Local officials made visits to the front lines over the weekend.

State Sen. Sal DiDomenico said Stop & Shop, and its parent company Royal Ahold, should treat the workers with dignity and respect.

“Once again, we have another corporate giant who refuses to treat it’s employees with dignity and respect,” said DiDomenico. “I have been a frequent shopper at Stop & Shop and I will no longer step foot in any of their stores until they come to a resolution with the union workers and provide them a fair contract. I am proud to support Stop & Shop workers in their fight for fair wages, affordable health care, and a dependable retirement, and I will continue to stand with them in this fight and urge everyone to respect their picket line.”

Stop & Shop officials said that negotiations are continuing with the UFCW union locals, again with the support of federal mediators.

The company has said they have been very generous in their contract offer to the UFCW union.

On health care, they indicated they have agreed to pay 92 percent of heath premiums for family coverage and 88 percent for individuals. Th company said that is much more than other large retailers – citing that the federal government pays 72 percent and other employers average between 70 and 80 percent. Additionally, the offer includes no changes to the deductibles, and small increases to co-pays.

The company said it is also offering a defined benefit pension plan that pays between $1,926 and $2,644 annually per associate. In the new contract, the company said it has agreed to increase contributions to pension funds.

Also, they added that the paid time off has not changed and continues to be 10 to 12 paid holidays per year.

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Supt. Bourque Says Governor’s Budget Increases Still Aren’t Enough

Supt. Bourque Says Governor’s Budget Increases Still Aren’t Enough

Gov. Charlie Baker brought a short smile to the face of many when he unveiled an increase in education funding in his State Budget proposal two weeks ago, but this week Supt. Mary Bourque said the proposal needs to go further for cities like Chelsea.

“Although a step in the right direction for public education and in particular gateway cities, the Governor’s FY20 budget does not go nearly far enough,” she wrote in a letter on Feb. 6.

Bourque said the Chelsea Public Schools are facing another year where they will likely – as it stands now – have to cut another $2 million from their budget. That falls upon multiple years of cuts that have weighed cumulatively on the schools and taken away core services from students.

One of the problems is that salaries, health insurance and special education costs are rising so quickly. This year, she said, they are looking at increases in those areas of $5.2 million.

Gov. Baker’s budget proposal steers an increase of $3.2 million to Chelsea over last year, but in the face of rising costs, that still leaves the schools in the red.

It’s yet another year of advocacy for the schools to fix the Foundation Formula – an exercise that has seemingly played out without any success for at least five years.

“Once again we are facing another year of painful budget cuts because the foundation formula used to calculate aid to our schools is broken,” she wrote. “The formula from 1993 has not kept up with inflation, changing demographics or increased student needs. I am however, encouraged this year that all leaders at the State level have acknowledged that the formula is broken, including for the first time the Governor.”

Bourque also spelled out the complex nature of the Chelsea Schools, including numerous factors that are contributing to the reduction in funding.

One of the most startling situations is that there are fewer kids, and with education funding based on numbers of kids, that translates to even less money for the schools.

Bourque said this year they have begun to identify a downward trend in enrollment for the first time in years. She said fewer kids are coming in from outside the U.S. and families are leaving Chelsea for areas with lower rents and costs of living.

“In addition to the foundation formula undercounting critical costs, a significant portion of this year’s $2 million dollar gap is due to student demographic shifts taking place in our schools,” she wrote. “We are seeing a downward trend in student enrollment…This year we have noted fewer students entering our schools from outside the United States as well as a number of students and families moving from Chelsea due to the high cost of living in the Boston area.” The Chelsea Public Schools under the City Charter have until April 1 to submit their balanced budget. Bourque said they plan to lobby members of the House of Representatives and the Senate in the meantime to fix the funding gaps that now exist.

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A Visit from Santa

A Visit from Santa

Justin Machado holding his new Phlat Ball after his special visit with Santa at the Chelsea Police Station on Tuesday, Dec. 18. The annual pre-Christmas visit to Santa has become a staple for local children, with the Police partnering with the Early Learning Center (ELC) this year.

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Senior Captain Balances Work, Family, School and…Basketball

Senior Captain Balances Work, Family, School and…Basketball

Jose Gutierrez wears many hats in his family and on the Chelsea High basketball team as well, but this week, he is wearing the captain’s hat and has taken one step in leading an experienced hoops team to a good year.

Chelsea kicked off its season on Tuesday against Essex Aggie and cruised to an easy victory behind the defensive effort and leadership of Gutierrez.

The Record sat down with Gutierrez on Monday afternoon, and the two-time captain and senior said they have a scrappy team this year.

“We have a very scrappy defense this year,” he said. “I’m excited to see how we do on the defensive end and how that will create our offense. We’re going to be all up in your face – rah-rah – trying to put pressure on you so you’ll turn over the ball. It’s a very scrappy team.”

The team returns seven seniors for second-year Coach Judah Jackson, and Gutierrez said they have learned from their playoff loss last year against Waltham.

“Last year we didn’t have the experience,” he said. “this year, we’re full of seniors. If we all do what we’re supposed to be doing, we’ll have that confidence come playoff time to get that kind of win.”

Gutierrez, 18, grew up in Chelsea and went to the Kelly School and the Wright Middle School before landing at Chelsea High. He also played in the Chelsea Youth Basketball League (CYBL) and said it made him more of a team player.

“It helped me to focus more on the game and not just going out as an individual player,” he said. “Every year it was myself and another kid who did everything for the team. We would win, win, win and then during the championship we would always lose because we were just two guys and never involved our other team members. That helped me grow as a player because my IQ for basketball got a lot better.”

Same could be said for his academic IQ as well.

Gutierrez busies himself taking a rigorous college preparatory schedule and is enrolled in the Bunker Hill Community College program that allows students to take college classes in high school.

“It is a lot more difficult this year,” he said. “Right now I’m trying to focus on my high school classes so I can go to Bunker Hill next year and pursue my dream of becoming an EMT.”

Becoming an EMT is very personal for Gutierrez, who said two years ago he and his family watched helplessly as his father had a heart attack in their home. When the paramedics arrived, he said he was impressed with their skill and how they were able to care for his dad.

It hooked him.

“Two years ago my dad had a heart attack 20 minutes before we celebrated Christmas,” he said. “We celebrate at midnight and right before he had a heart attack. It was so tough to see my dad having cold sweats and shaking and I couldn’t do anything. That’s really when I knew I want to be an EMT.”

Gutierrez also runs track and plays soccer too, having been on this fall’s outstanding Chelsea High soccer team that went undefeated in the regular season.

However, Gutierrez also has to work as a janitor at a local radio station, where his parents supervise him. He is also responsible for watching his 9-year-old sister, who has become the team mascot and honorary water girl.

He said every time he hits the practice floor or suits up for a game, he has to thank his parents, Rafael and Nolbia. He said it’s because of them that he even gets to still play sports.

“They have helped me so much,” he said. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be doing this. I’m a senior and I need to work and save money. It’s because of them I’m able to do three sports every year and do what I want to do.”

Gutierrez and the Red Devils will host Greater Lowell at 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 14, in the gym.

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