Brian LaPierre

The 6 ‘alternative facts’ of school no-voters

COMMENTARY BY CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT DARREN CYR

I write as president of the Lynn City Council and for the councilors-at-large. We cannot in good conscience sit by and allow the negative, defamatory statements, distortions and outright lies from the “vote no on two new schools” team go unanswered.  

The negativity and outright venom spewed by the opposition shocks the values that we hold true in our hearts. We are utterly disgusted to read social media posts stating that “those children” from foreign countries who speak with accents do not deserve a quality education.  

The anger and nastiness of this campaign by the “vote no” supporters makes the recent presidential election look like a hug fest.

We as Lynners have a unique opportunity to literally change the lives of more than 100,000 of our children for the next century. It is ironic that the residents of Ward 1 who pay some of the highest property taxes in the city are forced to send their children to a crumbling building that does not meet the educational needs of the 21st century.  

Not so long ago, a former Marblehead state representative told his constituents they should support strong state school funding for Lynn. Swampscott raises captains of industry, he said, who “need very well educated employees.”

As Lynners, we find that statement and such a sentiment to be a slap in the face.  We sincerely hope that no Lynner believes that we should be looked down upon by any other community.  

We are proud to be from Lynn and want nothing but the very best for our families and children.  

We’re not anti-education, ‘no’-voters say

The irony is not lost on us collectively that Swampscott educational leaders have toured the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School and intend to model future construction in their town on this project that was finished on time and under budget. The proposed schools in large part will be modeled after Marshall and the West Lynn site will be almost identical.

“Alternative fact No. 1” put forth by the opposition claims that Lynn can simply go back to the drawing board and select a new site. This is just not true. Lynn has spent almost $1.1 million on architectural drawings, traffic studies, sewer studies and wetland/drinking supply protection studies. There is no more money to funnel into additional studies and plans.  

The plain fact of the matter is that the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) has insisted that one of the schools be located in the East Lynn District. There are no other sites in East Lynn that exist that are financially or environmentally feasible.  

The Magnolia Avenue site is not a viable option. That  land is located in a flood zone. There is an existing Massachusetts Water Resources Authority pipe that runs underneath the playground that supplies water to the citizens from Swampscott and Marblehead.  The site is not large enough to accommodate a 600-plus student facility without taking by eminent domain a portion of the neighboring elderly apartment complex. Such a taking would result in dozens of elderly persons being relocated to new homes.

If the citizens of Lynn reject the two modern state-of-the-art educational facilities, Lynn will go to the end of the line and be forced to submit a new application. Exploding enrollment projects show that by 2021, Lynn will have either double sessions or classrooms with 50 children.  In all likelihood, Lynn would not get back to the front of the line at the MSBA until 2019 or 2020.  

This ensures double sessions or students crammed into classrooms like sardines. But even this ignores the fact that there are no other viable sites in East Lynn. Therefore, it makes no sense to re-apply. Lynn will just dump good money after bad fixing up a Pickering Middle School that can never be adequately rebuilt for today’s middle school educational needs.

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

“Alternative Fact No. 2” as put forth by the opposition states Lynn will be taking multiple homes at the reservoir site. This is just not true. Lynn heard the voices of the opposition and redrew the plans so that only one home will be taken by eminent domain.  

The wonderful woman who was the subject of news coverage several months ago will not lose her home. The younger woman who would be required to relocate has and will continue to be offered every reasonable accommodation. The Lynn City Council has gone on record supporting the idea of moving her home several hundred yards down the road so that she can remain in the home she built.

Opponents ignore the fact that two homes were taken by eminent domain in order to construct Thurgood Marshall. Those relocated for Marshall were residents of Ward 3 and we know for a fact that they were extremely satisfied with the efforts Lynn undertook to relocate them to a new home of their choosing.  

“Alternative fact No. 3” put forth by the opposition states that the cost of the school project will be $5,000 per taxpayer. This figure will be spread out over 25 years. In return, Lynners will see their property values soar. Think about it: Residents with children looking to buy property will not want to buy in Lynn if our schools are an embarrassment. We urge Lynners to take a tour of the existing Pickering.

Quite simply, the physical condition of Pickering is an embarrassment.

The more families are satisfied with the conditions of our schools, the greater the demand will be for our own homes. Our greatest assets are our homes. With the construction of two new schools, our homes will go up in value considerably.  By approving these two new schools, we have just increased our own net worth by tens of thousands of dollars almost immediately.  

“Alternative fact No. 4” put forth by the opposition states that the property is part of Lynn Woods. This outright fabrication can simply be rebutted by the fact that the Friends of Lynn Woods have publicly said that the land is not part of the Lynn Woods Reservation.

“Alternative fact No. 5” put forth by the opposition states that the land is cemetery land. The deeds for the subject land clearly state that the City of Lynn owns this land with no restrictions. An attorney for the “vote no” group has conceded at a public hearing before the Lynn City Council that the deeds on file at the Registry of Deeds contain no restrictions requiring this land to be used for cemetery purposes.

Conversely, the Lynn City Council is on record as supporting the sale of 32 acres to the Pine Grove Cemetery and said deed will state the land will be used solely for cemetery purposes.  Because there exists no deed restrictions or conditions on file at the Registry of Deeds, the Lynn City Council would be free to sell this land to a developer to construct hundreds of new homes.

The Lynn City Council did not seek such a solution. Rather, it unanimously voted to commence the process to transfer this land to the Pine Grove Cemetery Commission at no cost.

“Alternative fact No. 6” put forth by the opposition states that the selection of these sites was done behind closed doors with no public input. All meetings of the Pickering Site Committee have been open to the public.  Three public forums were held where our community could speak up on the proposed sites.

Members of the Lynn City Council have personally met and spoke with the leader of the opposition on almost a dozen occasions. Our city council colleagues have attempted to address or mitigate each and every one of their stated concerns.  

Now is the time for us as a community to step up.  The negativity and anger is unacceptable. We are supporting the two new schools because our only interest is the children of Lynn.  

Our fellow Lynners: Let’s vote yes on two new schools so that our children will have the necessary tools to be captains of industry for generations to come.  


Editor’s note: City Council President Darren P. Cyr wrote this editorial and signed it with fellow councilors Buzzy Barton, Council Vice President, and Councilors-at-large Daniel F. Cahill, Brian P. LaPierre and Hong L. Net.

 

Kennedy makes final push on school vote

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy speaks with the Item at her office.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy won’t say whether she will seek a third term this fall, but the city’s chief executive is sure acting like a candidate.

In a wide ranging interview with The Item this week, the mayor laid out her goals for 2017.

At the top of her list is winning Tuesday’s vote for construction of two new middle schools. The special election on March 14 asks homeowners to approve a property tax increase for 25 years for the $188.5 million project that would build a school on Parkland Avenue and a second in West Lynn.

“Next week will give us an indication of whether we will be able to move forward with providing our students with the same kind of education they receive at the new Marshall Middle School,” she said.  “I just hope there is no confusion that voters need to vote yes on both questions in order for it to pass. If you favor the new schools, vote yes for both or it will fail.”

We’re not anti-education, ‘no’-voters say

While the mayor is optimistic that voters will approve the ballot initiative, she is considering Plan B should the vote fail.

‘We would go back to the Massachusetts School Building Authority and start over,” said the mayor, referring to the quasi-independent government agency that funds a portion of school construction projects. “And hope that within a few years we could turn the vote around.”

While opponents of the school site on Parkland Avenue say a better alternative is to renovate the Pickering Middle School, the mayor said the city lacks the $44.2 million it would take to gut the 90,000-square-foot facility and install new systems, classrooms, gym, cafeteria and labs.

“We simply can’t afford it out of the city budget,” she said.

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

Also in the planning stages is a marketing staffer for the Lynn Auditorium, the city’s 2,100-seat concert hall, that would be paid for by ticket sales.

“We could reach more people and expand if we had someone to do marketing,” she said.

Kennedy is also planning to spend $400,000 for a study to replace Engine 9 on Tower Hill and Engine 7 on Pine Hill with a fire safety building in West Lynn at a cost of $15-20 million.

“Those buildings are 100 years old and continuing to show signs of aging,” she said.  “We would build one facility and perhaps move dispatch into the new station and save on rent.”

The mayor also plans to seek $100,000 in grants to restore the Angell Memorial Fountain at Broad and Nahant streets. Built in the early 1900s  in memory of George T. Angell, the founder of Boston’s Angell Memorial Hospital, the fountain once served as a horse trough.

In addition, the mayor said summer job applications for teens are available at the personnel office in City Hall. Selection for the 120 jobs will be done by lottery.

While no one has declared their candidacy for mayor, local political observers say Kennedy will run. State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) and City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre have said they are exploring the possibility of running. McGee recently held a fundraiser in Boston and may have been the person behind a citywide poll on the race.

Kennedy and LaPierre said they had nothing to do with the poll. But a McGee spokeswoman did not respond when asked the question.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Lynn’s Gregg House championed by Patriot

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Two-time Patriots Super Bowl winner Duron Harmon talks to kids in the Saturday Youth Program at Gregg House in Lynn. Seated from left are Anaisha Foster, Kylee Barker and Martha Francois.

By SCOT COOPER

LYNN — Two-time Patriots Super Bowl winner Duron Harmon says he’s fulfilled one of the two big things on his bucket list.

Harmon, in Lynn Saturday addressing a group of children at The Gregg House, told students from the Pickering and Marshall middle schools, not to let anyone keep them from realizing their dreams. After all, his dreams certainly came true. And so can theirs, he said.

“When I was younger I wrote down that my goals were to make the NFL and buy Mom a car,” he told the middle school students, who listened intently.  “Well, I’ve been in the NFL with a great team (and) won two Super Bowls. So my dreams have pretty much come true there.

However, he added, “I’m still working on getting the right car for Mom though.”

The Youth Mentoring Program at Gregg House meets every other Saturday, starting in February, and goes over issues such as respect and self-esteem, community service and the college application process.

“We’ve divided things up into different workshops, so the 12 kids from Lynn schools can work on subjects that are important for them,” said Kellie Rowe, Gregg House assistant director. “We have different workshops on respect, bullying, health and wellness … things that impact kids, especially of middle school age.”

Anaisha Foster, Shane Geezil and Romeo Francis of Marshall, and Kylee Barker and Gavin Kennedy (Pickering), were among those who gave Harmon their undivided attention as he told them of his journey from growing up in Maryland, moving on to Rutgers, and for the past four seasons, playing for coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.

“We always have a good time at the Gregg House,” Francis said. “The activities are a lot of fun. They’re interesting, we get to meet a Patriot and we’re going to a basketball game (Celtics-Wizards on March 20) too.

“I’ve enjoyed coming to Gregg House, learning and making new friends.”

Foster said. “Gregg House is definitely a wonderful learning experience for all the kids that come here. One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most is learning about respect — respect for others and for yourself.”

“The after school programs here are great, I’ve been coming here and I’ve made so many great friends, and the staff is great,” Geezil said. “One of the things I like the most about coming here is reading, I think that’s my favorite thing, I really like reading non-fiction.”

Said Kennedy, “I’ve been coming to Gregg House since I was five years old. And ever since I’ve been coming here I’ve loved the activities. The staff is excellent. I just really enjoy being here and exploring everything I can.

“It’s been awesome making new friends, learning, we have fun no matter what we do here, and I think fun is the key to success.”

“I’ve been coming here since I was five too, and I like everything we do here, I’m doing much better with my homework because the staff has helped me become a better student,” Barker said.

Rowe said that Harmon’s message of achievement through hard work is beneficial for the group.

“We’re glad that Duron came to talk about succeeding by putting in the work and the effort, being humble and respectful and helping your community, and how that can really take you places,” Rowe said.

Harmon reiterated that his message is to always believe in your dreams, and he also told the kids that academics are just as important as athletics.

“Basically the message to the kids is don’t let anybody tell you what you can and can’t do about your dreams. There are a lot of people out there who might not believe in you, but you’ve got to believe in yourself and do whatever it takes to fulfill your dreams,” Harmon said. “Other people can interpret your dreams and your goals, so don’t be influenced by others’ negativity. Always believe in yourself.”

Lynn Councilor-at-Large Brian Lapierre will be speaking at Gregg House March 18, sharing his experiences on growing up as a kid in Lynn and the obstacles he had to overcome.

Restaurant owner announces city council bid

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Taso Nikolakopoulos is the latest candidate for councilor-at-large.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Taso Nikolakopoulos is the latest candidate to throw his hat in the ring for an at-large seat on the City Council.

“I see a lot of disconnect between the council, the mayor’s office and the community,” said the 47-year-old owner of John’s Roast Beef & Seafood. “We need more of a collaborative effort and I really think I can change things.”

Married with two children, Nikolakopoulos said he will focus his campaign on a handful of issues that promise to advance the city.

“The key is economic growth,” he said.

First, the city must invest in a planning department, he said.  While other communities like Salem and Somerville have robust planning divisions that guide development, he said Lynn is lacking.

“When you call the city of Salem and tell them you plan to invest $2 million, you get someone who will guide you through the process,” she said. “Within a few steps, you know where you stand.”

On how the cash-strapped city would pay for a new department, he said, “I think we can find $300,000 in a $300 million budget.”

The other thing needed to spur growth, he said, is streamlined permitting.

“It still takes as much as four times longer to get permits in  Lynn than competing municipalities,” he said.

Figueroa for stronger community connections

Nikolakopoulos would also update the city’s plans for the Lynnway and add manufacturing to the mix of allowed uses on the non-waterside section of the busy road.

“My idea is to create a unique overlay district for manufacturing to bring in revenue,” he said.

On schools, he favors the controversial ballot question scheduled for March 14 to support construction of two new middle schools at a cost of $188.5 million.

“I am voting yes,” he said.

If approved, a 652-student school would be built near on Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on Commercial Street. While parents in the Pickering Middle School district support the project, there’s opposition from many Pine Hill residents who oppose the new school on Pine Grove Cemetery land near Breeds Pond Reservoir.

Nikolakopoulos said he also favors teaching trades at Lynn English and Classical high schools.

“Teaching trade skills at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute is not enough,” he said. “We need to offer it at the other high schools. Not every family can afford a four-year college.”

On how to pay for expanded services, he suggested returning  parking meters to the downtown as a way to generate revenue.

Nikolakopoulos emigrated to the U.S. from Kalamata, Greece in the 1970s with his parents at age 4 during a time of political unrest in the southeast European nation.

He was enrolled in a Greek bilingual program at Washington Elementary School, attended St. Mary’s High School and later graduated from the College of St. Joseph’s, a small Catholic school in Vermont, where he was soccer captain.

After graduation, he worked a few jobs at the State House, including as a research analyst for the Joint Committee on Transportation. All the while, he helped his family at the restaurant.

“I’ve been working more than 70 hours a week since I was 22,” he said. “I don’t have free weekends, unless I go away.”

Nikolakopoulos joins what is expected to be a crowded field that includes incumbents Brian LaPierre, Buzzy Barton, Hong Net and Daniel Cahill. It’s unclear whether Cahill, who was elected as a state representative last year, will seek reelection.

In addition, Jaime Figueroa, a 28-year-old Suffolk University student, hopes to be the city’s first Latino councilor and Brian Field, who works at Solimine Funeral Homes, said he is considering a run.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Jolene Kelly leaves LynnArts

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Jolene Kelly accepts praise from Lynn Museum Director Drew Russo at her goodbye party.

By STEVE KRAUSE

LYNN — Jolene Kelly only worked as operations manager for LynnArts for three years. But judging from the response from people who stopped by the Exchange Street building to say their goodbyes, she touched a lot of lives positively.

Kelly will be leaving next month to go to Wyoming, where her husband, Ken Coder, will be working at Laramie County Community College. Her departure will leave a tremendous void, friends and co-workers say.

“Aside from the absolute dedication to everything that went on at LynnArts, Jolene is the sparkle of the downtown area,” said Drew Russo, director of the Lynn Museum, which encompasses LynnArts. “She was such a vital part of the downtown community, and she added so much to it.”

Though Kelly worked officially for LynnArts, she was known just as much for what she did outside the building — such as walking dogs, getting to know people from all walks of life (including some of the homeless people in the downtown area), and, last month, helping to organize a clothing drive after a large apartment building on West Baltimore Street.

“The downtown area is in every fiber of her being,” said Russo. “Sometimes, it amazes me that she didn’t grow up in Lynn because she seems to be such a large part of it.”

For her part, Kelly, who did everything from supervising building maintenance to planning and scheduling exhibits, isn’t one to take credit.

“I like to think I do what needs to be done,” she said after accepting citations from Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, Lynn City Councilor Brian LaPierre and State Rep. Brendan Crighton.

She’s a firm believer that nothing gets done without lots of help. For example, she says she’s indebted to Joe Scanlon and Steve Babbitt of the Lynn Museum and the Friends of Lynn Woods for their help during the winter of 2015.

“So many things went wrong with the building,” she said. “And they were invaluable.”

Kelly has lived in many places, “but Lynn is one of the few places that I really consider home,” she said.

City plays Quincy in Manchester film

Annette Sykes, chairwoman of the Curatorial Committee at the museum, worked closely with Kelly and called her “a very inviting person who creates a true sense of community. She brings people together, and that’s a true gift.”

And Yetti Frankel, a longtime artist in residence at LynnArts, said Kelly was “a character in her own way, and she really cares about the people in the building.”

Haley Sullivan will serve as interim operations director when Kelly leaves.


Steve Krause can be reached at skrause@itemlive.com.

LaPierre crosses the line

Lynn City Councilor at large Brian LaPierre knows how to represent unions. He knows how to win elections and, if Tuesday’s council committee meeting is any indication, he knows how to time travel.

For a few minutes during the discussion on spending money to build new public middle schools Tuesday evening, LaPierre took the council and its audience back to the 1950s when U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy carved up reputations under the guise of asking important, intelligent questions.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham sat mere feet away from LaPierre as he directed these words to city attorney James Lamanna:

“There has been a rumor going around that somehow, some way, if you pass a bond of this nature, that the mayor or superintendent benefit monetarily (from) a bond like this. That is what people are asking. Does anyone in the city benefit from this bond being passed?”

In reply, Lamanna said Lynn students will benefit from the bond’s passage. “No salary increase will occur as a result of this bond.”

Reached by phone on Thursday, LaPierre said he subsequently apologized to Kennedy and Latham for his question. When asked to explain his “People are asking” remark, the councilor said three people brought the question to his attention. “I do regret asking it. I’m trying to close the books on it,” he said.

LaPierre probably could have asked a dozen probing and pertinent questions about the middle school project during Tuesday’s meeting. But the one that made the final cut for his choice of questions sounded like long-dead Joe McCarthy could have written it himself.

LaPierre is an educated and popular man capable of summarizing his position on issues and stating that position clearly. So why did he sling mud in the direction of two people who have all but staked their reputations on the construction of new middle schools?

Is there any reasonable-minded person, including Brian LaPierre, who thinks even for a minute that Judy Kennedy and Cathie Latham would approach their fellow Lynn residents with a tax-increase proposal that included a boost in their salaries?

Kennedy’s political future rests in part on how voters view the debt exclusion question. Latham is the architect and prime mover of the plan to get Marshall Middle School built. Her effort to repeat that success on behalf of Lynn’s students and future generations of students did not deserve to be tainted by LaPierre’s tawdry questioning.

Brian LaPierre is certainly aware of how much money Kennedy and the superintendent earn. Yet he publicly posed a question on Tuesday that sounded like, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”

LaPierre made sure Lamanna and anyone else listening knew he had researched the City Charter in an attempt to answer his own question. That statement was, at best, a clumsy effort by LaPierre to distance himself from the question. The notion that LaPierre — a man skilled in reading detailed labor contracts — does not have a working knowledge — if not a detailed knowledge — of the charter is preposterous.

LaPierre did himself a disservice as an elected city official and as a Lynn resident with his brief but pointed interrogation on Tuesday. In addition to the mayor and the superintendent, he also owes city residents an apology and, assuming he is running for reelection, he will have to wait until the fall to find out if they accept it.

Figueroa for stronger community connections

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Pictured is Jaime Figueroa, 28. He is running for City Council.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Jaime Figueroa wants to bring the spirit of community service into City Hall.

“City government is losing touch with our community,” he said. “We are too focused on economic development and too focused on where the marijuana clinics should go. As a result, people are feeling the brunt of it. I want better communication between city government and residents.”

At 28, the Suffolk University student said he is qualified to be an at-large city councilor because he is a caring community activist and citizen public servant who has dedicated the past five years to bettering Lynn.

“I serve on the Lynn Community Action board where we just celebrated Martin Luther King Day with more than 300 volunteers,” he said. “We distributed 35 duffle bags full of toiletries, towels and sheets for the Plummer Home and assembled gift bags for 1,000 veterans that were distributed to the Lynn Shelter Association.”

The Ward 7 resident moved to Lynn in 2003, attended Classical High School and graduated North Shore Community College where he studied business administration. He is a senior at Suffolk, studying business marketing, and an intern at the legal department at the Boston Planning & Development Agency. Figueroa’s priority, he said, is to fix the city budget which has faced a deficit.

“The main thing is to prioritize school funding, that’s one area of the budget that should never be touched,” he said. “Schools should always be fully funded, that and public safety. We must fully fund ESL and our schools so teachers have the resources to properly teach our children.”

Rights and responsibility in Lynn

In addition, Figueroa said he wants to bring back community liaisons to the police department as a way to improve relations between Latinos and the police.

Figueroa did not know how much these initiatives will cost taxpayers, but said they could be paid for by grants.

“Police are not the enemy; they are friends,” he said. “In the Latino community, where sometimes they are afraid of law enforcement, we need to start that conversation.”

Figueroa said they can make improvements on paying for schools without raising taxes. Rather, he said the money should come from increased tax revenues as new restaurants come to the downtown.

Figueroa said he plans to vote against $75 million in taxpayer funding for two new schools next spring because he is opposed to the controversial site of the 652-student school that would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue.

“The city needs to go back to the drawing board to come up with a better location that everyone can support,” he said.

The incumbent at-large councilors include Daniel Cahill, Brian LaPierre, Hong Net and Buzzy Barton. It’s unclear whether Cahill, who won a seat in the Legislature last year, will seek re-election. He said a decision will be made in March.

Figueroa has raised $700 to finance the campaign and said he needs $30,000 to win.

“I can do it,” he said.

Nomination papers will be available starting March 20.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

City Council facing question of leadership

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN The new year will bring fresh leadership to the city council.

Ward 3 Councilor Darren Cyr has lined up votes to be the next city council president and Councilor-at-Large Buzzy Barton has secured the vice president post. The vote is expected to take place on the council’s first meeting of 2017.

“I believe Buzzy and I have the votes,” said Cyr. “We will be an unbelievable team, we are all about openness and have already had lots of discussions and are looking forward to working with the mayor to make sure things keep moving in the city.”  

City Council President Daniel Cahill, who was elected to the legislature in May, told councilors he planned to step down as president in January. He had been juggling being a councilor-at-large, state representative and working at a Lynn law firm. In addition, he has a wife and two young children. “The council presidency takes up a great deal of time,” he said. “It’s a lot of extra work. In order for me to be an effective city councilor, state legislator, lawyer, father and husband, I needed to relax some of my obligations and the presidency was a likely choice.”

Cahill won’t say whether he will run for reelection to the council in 2017.

City councilors earn $25,000 annually and the council president gets an extra $2,000.  

Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre said he is looking forward to serving with Cyr as council president.

“He’s been a great mentor over the years and we have been friends for a long time,” he said. “His leadership style will complement the council in 2017 and I look forward to big and little projects as we move the city forward and continue working well together as a council.”

Nahant splits the plots

On Barton’s selection as vice president, LaPierre said he has known his family for many years.

“In this new capacity, he will be able to showcase his leadership talents,” he said. “Together Cyr and Barton will be a formidable force on the Lynn City Council to lead us in 2017.”

Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi said he was a candidate for council president because the job requires someone who can work with the business community, understand issues facing residents, has experience at City Hall and can work with the mayor.

“It’s a void that I could have filled,” he said. “But you need six votes and I wasn’t going to get there. That said, Cyr will make a fine president, I’m supporting him and I expect the vote will be unanimous.”

Ward 7 Councilor Jay Walsh also put his support behind Cyr.

“He’s a good leader who will bridge the gap between businesses and residents,” he said. “He is a good fit.”

Barton said he’s reluctant to comment until the councilors vote. “I’m voting for Councilor Cyr for president and I’m a candidate for vice president,” he said. “But beyond that, let’s wait to see what happens.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Mayor: Lynn won’t touch Prop 2 1/2

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Less than a week after Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she had no choice but to seek a tax hike to fill a budget gap, the city’s chief executive changed her mind.

The mayor now says she is confident City Hall can close a massive shortfall with cuts and without seeking a Proposition 2½ override.

“I had a knee-jerk reaction last week when Peter (Caron, Lynn’s chief financial officer) said we must do a Prop 2½ override,” she said.  “I jumped and I shouldn’t have. I should have considered my other options before I spoke publicly. I’m taking a step back, looking at my options and I think I will be able to do this.”

ALSO: Take a step back into shoe history

The administration began considering how to solve its budget crisis last week when the state Department of Education threatened to withhold its $11 million November payment in school funds until City Hall came up with more school spending.

The budget deficit list includes a $7.5 million shortfall in school spending; how to pay for a wage hike for the Lynn Police Department over four years that will cost more than $3 million; and the city’s prospective share for the cost of building two new middle schools of $68.5 million.

In addition, the Lynn International Association of Firefighters Local 739 is in arbitration discussions on a wage hike.

Caron said he was working on a list of possible tax and fee increases and potential cuts.

The components include more aggressive collection of the boat excise tax, implementation of a local option meals tax that would  impose a .75 percent local tax on top of the state’s 6.25 percent meals tax, raising fees for a building permit, a hiring freeze, job cuts and approval for every non-school department purchase.  

Caron said he did not know how much could be saved by trimming the budget and was not sure of the exact amount of the shortfall.

The list of possible new taxes and fees along with cuts followed a request by the city council earlier this week when some members wanted cuts to be identified before any new taxes are approved.  

“I have produced a laundry list of steps that must be considered to go forward,” Caron said.

The mayor said given the budget challenges, she has three options: raise taxes, cut personnel or cut services.

“By far, the least odious of those choices is to cut services which could mean some extreme cutting, but that’s my focus right now,” said Kennedy.

“It requires me to go through every bit of spending that’s anticipated between now and June 30 and try to come up with the money to close the gap. If something is not absolutely necessary, then that is one of those line items that will be cut. Everything is on the table.”

Still, taxpayers are not out of the woods on a possible major tax hike next year.

If the city is to build two new schools to serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn, voters will be asked to support a so-called debt exclusion next spring.

The $183 million proposal includes a 652-student school to be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

If approved, the measure would add $163 annually to the real estate tax bills for 25 years.  

City Council President Daniel Cahill said it’s important for the council and the public to know what course of action will be presented in the near future to address the budget issues raised by Caron at a council meeting this week.

Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre said he was pleased to hear that a Prop 2½ override is off the table.

“I’m glad to hear that things are progressing in different ways because the city has never had an override in the city’s history,” he said.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Lynn plots pot plan

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — After nearly a year of debate, officials are set to invite medical marijuana treatment centers to open their doors in the city.  

Prospective clinic entrepreneurs have until Tuesday, Nov. 22 to answer the city’s request for proposals. The public will have an opportunity to hear presentations by the bidders and ask questions at a city council hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 29.

Last summer, the city council approved a plan to bring two medical marijuana clinics to Lynn. Under the controversial ordinance, the treatment center zoning district includes the non-waterfront side of the Lynnway from Market Street to the General Edwards Bridge, two sites on Commercial Street and all properties on Route 107 from the Belden Bly Bridge to the intersection of Western and Murphy avenues.

So far, two potential operators have made it clear to Lynn officials that they intend to apply. Former City Councilor Paul Crowley, trustee of the Lynnway Sportscenter, a 12,000-square-foot facility at 497 Lynnway, has filed an application with the Inspectional Services Department to change the use of the center to a medical marijuana clinic.

Under the terms of the application, the 81-year-old candlepin bowling alley would become a pot dispensary operated by the New England Patient Network Inc. The East Boston-based company is seeking approval from the state Department of Public Health for a retail shop in Lynn and another in the western Massachusetts community of Deerfield.

Also, Patrick McGrath, owner of the Lynnway Mart Indoor Mall & Flea Market, told the council he wants to be the owner and operator of one of the clinics at his property at 491 Lynnway. He’s already invested $100,000 in licensing fees and intends, if he is granted permission, to employ 20 people at the dispensary, he said.

James Lamanna, the city’s assistant city solicitor, said based on the number of inquiries he’s received, the city expects as many as a dozen firms to respond to the RFP.

Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre said the RFPs come on the heels of a series of public hearings on where the clinics should be located.

“We heard from the public and tried to zone them in the proper places,” he said. “Now, it’s time to let the process take shape.”

Peter Capano, the Ward 6 city councilor who lives in the neighborhood behind the Lynnway, made unsuccessful attempts to keep the dispensary locations off the Lynnway.

The council has appealed to Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy to select a representative of the panel to work with the mayor on a so-called host agreement, LaPierre said. The RFP calls for negotiations between the mayor and the applicant. Typically, the deal calls for an amount of cash to be paid to the city to operate the facility.

“We haven’t heard from the mayor on this yet,” he said.

Kennedy could not be reached for comment.

In Deerfield, for example, the town and New England Patient Network Inc. signed a three-year agreement that calls for a one-time payment of $50,000 and 2 percent of the gross annual revenues for the first two years, with an increase to 3 percent for the third year. Deerfield expects to net about $100,000 annually.  


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Taco Bell has a bad ring to it for Lynn neighbors

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — City councilors Tuesday night rejected a 24-hour Taco Bell proposed for the Lynngate Shopping Plaza.

Instead, the Licensing Committee approved a closing time of 1 a.m., similar to other fast food shops in the city. The city’s action clears the way for the 2,500-square-foot restaurant that is under construction on a portion of the parking lot in the shopping center at Boston and Stetson streets.

More than a dozen residents of the 162-unit Stadium Condominiums on Locust Street behind the plaza packed the hearing room on Tuesday night. They argued that late night hours will exacerbate traffic and trash problems on Boston Street and disturb the neighborhood at all hours.

Patricia Dutch, a Stadium resident, said she is worried about the restaurant’s lights shining on their condos.

“We are totally opposed to an all-night operation,” she said.

Michele Wilkins, a condo resident, said she has complained about the temporary fence with cement blocks on the sidewalk around the construction site that has caused pedestrian accidents, but has not received a call back from Taco Bell.

“Given the lack of response, I don’t know what kind of a good neighbor they would be,” she said. “A midnight closing is fine, not 24 hours.”

Gertrude Sally Chapman, another Stadium resident, said she wants a guarantee that the lights from the eatery and the cars going through the drive-through will not shine on their homes.

“We are abutters to this property and we have not been told anything and have been left in the dark with nothing in writing,” she said. “Hopefully you will listen to us.”

Jack Griffin, another Stadium resident, said the neighbors are concerned about trash and rodents in the eatery’s lot as well as noise from customers.  

“We have the best looking condos in the city and we want to keep it that way,” he said.

Ward 3 Councilor Darren Cyr,  Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi and Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre said while they sided with neighbors over closing time, they are not anti-business and hope Taco Bell and the condo owners can work out their differences.

Cyr said Taco Bell is welcome to return to the council at a later date to report on how the operation is going and if neighbors are convinced the eatery is a good neighbor. If so, Cyr said they will reconsider the closing time.

Michael Rose, marketing coach for Charter Foods, the firm that franchises more than 200 Taco Bell, Long John Silver’s and KFC locations, said the Tennessee-based company has 24-hour operations in other regions of the country. Typically, he said, the restaurant closes at 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends and only the drive-thru is open all night. Rose said he can live with the 1 a.m. closing time and hopes the restaurant’s management will have a good relationship with the neighbors.

In other council matters. James Moore, the attorney representing Charles Patsios, the Swampscott developer planning a $500 million mixed-use complex at the former General Electric Co. Gear Works property, is seeking the city’s approval to add an assisted-living facility to the 65-acre project.

In addition, Patsios is seeking to increase the height of his tallest residential tower to 26 stories, up from 20, to make room for parking. If approved, the developer would have the option to add the new such housing to the mix that is expected to include 1,250 apartments and condominiums adjacent to the train stop. The full council is expected to consider the new zoning at a later date.

In another move that could make a new $26 million YMCA a reality, the Ways and Means Committee approved the sale of a large adjacent traffic island in front of the facility that could be used as a expansion site. The city determined the parcel was worth about $215,000, the YMCA offered $50,000 and the panel and the Y agreed to a $75,000 price tag for the parcel.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Pine Hill stuck in the middle

Pickering Middle School (Item file photo)

By Adam Swift

 

LYNN — Residents in the Pine Hill neighborhood are firmly against building a new school near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue, as well as a second potential site at Gallagher Park.

Nearly 100 members of the Pine Hill Civic Association and assorted concerned neighbors met at the Hibernian Hall Thursday night to discuss the evolving nature of plans to replace the deteriorating Pickering Middle School on Conomo Avenue.

“This is our little slice of paradise living in Pine Hill,” said neighborhood resident Don Castle. “We don’t want anyone changing or disrupting our neighborhood with a big school.”

While the residents, as well as three city councilors who attended the meeting, are firmly against the building of a new middle school at either the Parkland Avenue or Gallagher sites, the whole issue could be a moot point by late this morning.

The Pickering Middle School Building Committee is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. this morning, with discussion centered on the Parkland site.

The building committee was set to focus on legal documents identified by the city law department tracing historic ownership of land proposed for the school construction.

In August, the building committee approved constructing two middle schools to replace Pickering. One school would house 652 students at the Parkland site, while a larger school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), which would fund a portion of the project, has to approve the potential middle school sites.

City attorney James Lamanna said the law department became aware of documents from 1893 last week suggesting that the Pine Grove Cemetery Commission obtained a loan and purchased the land where the new school could be constructed.

Ward 5 Councilor Dianna Chakoutis, Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano and Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre all reiterated on Thursday night that they are against seeing a new school built at either the Parkland or Gallagher locations.

Castle also brought forward the possibility of a taxpayer initiative legal action against the city to intercede against the taking of the Parkland Avenue land, if that option does move forward.

“I thought Parkland Avenue was off the table, and that’s a move in the right direction,” said LaPierre. “I want a new middle school, and it would be great to have two new middle schools.”

LaPierre said he wants to see a new school at McManus Field, and possibly a smaller school on Magnolia Avenue near the current Pickering School.

A drawback to the Magnolia site is that there is a Massachusetts Water Resources Authority pipe located on the property that provides water to Swampscott and Marblehead. Relocating the pipe could cost as much as $800,000, according to city officials.


Adam Swift can be reached at aswift@itemlive.com.

Mayor and council making noise in the library

Lynn City Hall. Item File Photo

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — The fight between the City Council and the mayor over new staff positions shows no sign of letting up and could be a preview to the 2017 mayor’s race.

Last week, the council’s Personnel Committee rejected Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy’s plan to add a $69,276 assistant chief librarian/head of technical services to the Lynn Public Library. 

During the hearing, City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre was candid about why he opposed her request.

“Until the mayor funds the deputy election commissioner position, I make a motion to table this until we have our election commission funded,” said LaPierre.

The dispute began last month when the the mayor blocked

the council’s selection of Michele Desmarais, a city Inspectional Services Department employee, as the new deputy election commissioner at a cost of more than $100,000, a job the mayor said the city doesn’t need and can’t afford.

The mayor said she has adequately funded and staffed the City Clerk’s office, the department that handles elections.

As a result, the council is flexing its muscle to get what it wants. But the mayor insists the jobs can’t be compared.

“It’s apples and oranges,” Kennedy said. “The library director is the only department head in the city without an assistant director.”

Given advances in technology, she said, the library needs someone to manage the changes. In addition, Kennedy said the position will not cost taxpayers a dime. The library director will simply use a portion of the library’s existing $1 million budget to pay for the salary, she added.

City Council President and state Rep. Daniel Cahill said the election commissioner position will not cost taxpayers any money either, that the funds for the position will come from the Massachusetts Secretary of State.

“Is having an assistant library director more important than having a deputy election commissioner?” asked Cahill. “The election position will assure fair and free elections in the city of Lynn.”

This is not the first time the council has refused to fund the mayor’s requests.

Kennedy said she has twice tried to make a $833 transfer to pay the final installment of a bill from David Grunebaum, the city’s labor attorney.

“It’s an unpaid bill from a prior year,” she said. “When the council rejected it the first time, I suspected it had something to do with the deputy election commissioner position. When it was rejected a second time, that pretty much confirmed my suspicions. When the library position got rejected, I knew there was a pattern.”   

The once-cordial relationship between Cahill and Kennedy has deteriorated and the fighting has fueled speculation that next year’s race for mayor is already heating up.

So far, a handful of names are being talked about including LaPierre, Sen. Thomas McGee and state Rep. Brendan Crighton.

Political observers say if McGee entered the race, it would clear the field.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

City takes the LEAD with developers

Charlie Patsios talks about the future of the land that used to house the old General Electric gear plant site during the economic development tour today. Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — Jay Connolly admits he is “somewhat of a stranger to Lynn,” but the vice president of Beverly-based Connolly Brothers Inc. registered for Tuesday’s city development tour of Lynn to find new opportunities.

“The city seems to have lots of potential, proximity to Boston and waterfront opportunities, so it’s exciting to see it,” Connolly said.

More than 100 investors, developers, lenders, brokers and contractors like Connolly boarded three buses for a glimpse at the city’s development opportunities.

“It’s encouraging to see so many new faces looking at Lynn,” said Matthew Picarsic, managing principal of RCG, a Somerville-based real estate firm whose Lynn projects include the Boston Machine Lofts building on Willow Street. “Lynn has lots of opportunities … and it seems ready to go.”

Hosted by the Economic Development & Industrial Corporation of Lynn (EDIC), MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development agency, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton and the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) team, the tour showcased acres of waterfront land and more than a dozen underdeveloped properties in the downtown.

Charles Patsios, the Swampscott developer who is preparing to build a $500 million complex on the 65-acre former General Electric Co. Gear Works property that will feature 1,200 apartments adjacent to the train stop, met the tour on his site.

“Lynn has the best of the best and it’s been hidden in plain sight for so long,” he said. “Lynn is the next Charlestown, East Boston, South Boston, North End, Somerville, Cambridge, Kendall Square, all of those components can be found in Lynn. The future is Lynn … the opportunities abound.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy welcomed the visitors at the ferry terminal parking lot on Blossom Street extension, telling them that few people know there are 200 acres of undeveloped land available in the city, much of it on the waterfront. She urged them to let their imaginations stay open throughout the event. “Hopefully, you will come back with some ideas to transform Lynn,” she said. “All of us are standing by, ready to make that happen for you.”

Jay Ash, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development and a member of a LEAD team, said he’s excited about Lynn’s present and future. He said the response he’s received about investing in Lynn has been encouraging.

“For those of you who are thinking about development in Lynn, I can’t think of a better place to make an investment,” he said. “It’s a jewel along the water. This place is happening. We are prepared to work with you to help make your development successful. We know that together there are great days ahead for Lynn and we are happy to be a small part of it.”

Gregory Bialecki, who held Ash’s job in the Patrick administration and is now a principal at Redgate, the Boston-based developer who is considering Lynn, said as housing prices soar in places like Somerville and Chelsea, Lynn is the next logical place to build apartments.

“Twenty years ago, people said Chelsea was not on the list of where people with choices would want to live, but they’ve turned the corner,” he said. “The conditions are ready for it to happen in Lynn.”

Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) sang the city’s praises to the potential investors, telling them Lynn has a vibrant sense of community that is unmatched.

“Our waterfront offers one of the most beautiful sites on the East Coast and there are regional water transportation opportunities,” he said. “I know I’m biased living here in Lynn, but people in this city really care about this community.”

State Rep. and City Council President Daniel Cahill said so many elected officials gathered for the tour because they believe in the city.  

“We have done lots of rezoning, so you will see lots of build as-of-right possibilities, a very exciting phrase to developers, and we have expedited permitting,” he said. “You will find some great parcels and great investments.”

Just before the tour, James Cowdell, EDIC’s executive director, said the downtown has been rezoned to allow for conversion of industrial buildings into housing. As a result, he said, more than 300 new residents live downtown.

He provided a preview of the stops along the trek including 545 Washington St., the five-story former home of Prime Manufacturing Co. that is zoned for commercial use on the first floor and residential above; 11 Spring St., a six-story building across the street from the MBTA that has been used for location shots for Hollywood movies; 40-48 Central St., vacant buildings with adjacent parking which comprise a site for multi-story, market rate housing above commercial space; 38 South Common St., and the 1893 state-owned Lynn Armory that is on the National Register of Historic Places and is available for sale.

In addition, Cowdell noted there are multiple sites available on the waterside of the Lynnway including 40 acres owned by National Grid that could be developed.

“The sky’s the limit,” Cowdell said.

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said the city is finally getting noticed, in part, because they have a full set of tools in their toolbox to help developers.

“We want to show off the city and get feedback to see if there are things we can do better,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton met the tour at the Lynn Museum & Historical Society and compared the proximity of Lynn to Boston in the context of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

“Think about how Brooklyn has taken off in the last 10 years and it’s not just the Brooklyn of 50 years ago” he said. “There are a tremendous number of start-ups, a great tech scene and all sorts of things that are very much relevant to today, not just the economy of old. That’s the kind of thing we want to see in Lynn.”

At the start of the tour, about two dozen members of Lynn United for Change, a community organization that supports affordable housing, used the gathering to advocate for low- and moderate-income units. They held signs that read “Lynn Says No To Gentrification” and “Lynn Families Before Developer’s Profits.”  

“In this city, we need affordable housing that’s accessible to the working people of our city,” said one protester through a bullhorn.  

City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre, who was present during the protest, said the developer’s tour was not the time or place to air their grievances over housing.

“I would not go along with 100 percent of the units in a new development being affordable. But I am sympathetic to their cause. But the details are subject to them talking to the developers to see how many affordable units, if any, developers are willing to do.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Enough, already, in Lynn

An artist rendering of the waterfront residential development to be built at the former Beacon Chevrolet site on the Lynnway by Mimco Development. Image courtesy of Arrowstreet

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and City Council President Daniel F. Cahill deserve credit for sending a “hands-off” message to a local organization trying to interject affordable housing and union labor into a 348-apartment waterfront development.

The New Lynn Coalition, in the words of one of its members, wants to “start a conversation” with Arthur Pappathanasi and Louis Minicucci, owners of the so-called Beacon site on the Lynnway, about hiring union labor to build the development and include affordable housing in it.

In the broader context of what is good for the city, the timing of the Coalition’s proposal could not be worse.

The percentage of affordable housing in Lynn hovers around 30 percent. That number includes a 14 percent state affordable-housing calculation for the city, plus housing vouchers assigned locally. It does not include federal vouchers issued elsewhere that are being used by people moving into the city.

Think about that for a minute: Almost one-third of the city’s housing stock is tax-dollar subsidized. And the percentage will increase once the Gateway Residences project on Washington Street, which will include affordable housing, is built.

Lynn’s legislative delegation, Mayor Kennedy, the City Council, and the Economic Development & Industrial Corporation (EDIC/Lynn) deserve credit for drafting and implementing the zoning changes required to get Gateway built.

Lynn is a city in desperate need of economic stimulus. That stimulus comes from economic development — businesses expanding or opening in the city and, in turn, hiring local residents and raising their standard of living.

What the city doesn’t need is more subsidized housing. It has enough – if not too much.

A better way to help people who want to be self sufficient is to provide them with jobs and the ability to increase their housing opportunities.

A hands-off approach on private development is the best way for the city to move forward.

The city has been working in conjunction with the state and federal government – in the form of the LEAD (Lynn Economic Advancement and Development) team – since last November to attract developers to Lynn, particularly along the waterfront.

It is most unfortunate that Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre has interjected himself into private-developer hiring decisions. One of several union-affiliated councilors, LaPierre is lobbying for unions, which is detrimental to the city’s relationship with prospective developers.

Unions have a long and strong history of doing well in Lynn, and firms that pay union wages can and should compete for private construction contracts just like any other. LaPierre and city government should stay out of the conversation.

Lynn is not Boston, with cranes on every corner, developments springing up on every vacant lot.

Right now, the City of Lynn has one significant project of market-rate housing ready to go.

Get a shovel into the ground.

Charter school looks to chart new course after contest loss

Frank DeVito. Item File Photo

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — A proposed second charter school for the city failed its bid to win a $10 million prize in one of the nation’s biggest high school redesign competitions.

The planned Equity Lab Charter School by Frank DeVito of Waltham-based Education Development Center’s National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools was a finalist in the XQ Super School Project challenge. The charity supported by Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs provided 10 teams with a collective $100 million Wednesday to create new high schools or transform existing ones.  The cash would have guaranteed that KIPP Academy, the city’s only charter school, would face competition.

“I’m a sore loser,” said DeVito with a laugh. “To me there’s no moral victory here, but the good news is the finalists are eligible for some XQ funding and we expect to get the details soon.”

The grades 5 through 12 Equity Lab came close. They were one of 50 finalists from more than 700 applications nationwide. Originally, XQ planned to name five winners, but at the last minute 10 winners were funded. Only one Massachusetts proposal received the award, Powerhouse Studios in Somerville.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and the City Council oppose the opening of a new charter school, saying it drains much needed money from the Lynn Public Schools.

“Thank goodness,” said City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre, who also serves as a political organizer for the American Federation of Teachers. “When will Mr. DeVito  learn that the kids of Lynn are being very well educated in our public schools? I would not buy a used car from him if it were the last one on the Lynnway.”

In response, DeVito acknowledged that he has made enemies. He said the goal is to offer a school that provides services not offered in the public schools, such as an extended day.

“From my perspective, it’s not that Lynn schools are horrible and I will show them the way, rather we can offer something different,” he said. “I know Brian is a good guy and he cares.”

Despite the loss, DeVito has said he would still open the school next year if the state approves it, with or without the winning cash. But the loss poses a new challenge.

If the proposal for a new school is approved by the state next year, they will provide him with $800 per student to lease or purchase space. He anticipates 160 students for a total of $128,000. In addition, the new school would receive $2.1 million from Lynn Public Schools or $13,223 per student who switches schools.

DeVito said he would still have to raise about $250,000 for the school to launch. He is applying to foundations to make up the difference.

He has already received more than 300 inquiries from families who want to send their child to the school, DeVito said.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Lynn says ‘no’ to potential Pickering sites

The old Pickering Middle School. Item File Photo

By Leah Dearborn

LYNN — Lynn residents are not happy with the proposed sites for potential new middle schools.

The second public forum on a replacement for Pickering Middle School took place before a packed room Wednesday night in the newly-opened Marshall Middle School’s cafeteria.

Project architect Gene Raymond of Raymond Design Associates, Inc. said school overcrowding is a major reason for the need to build one, or possibly two, new schools. He said the district is projected to grow by 757 students by the year 2020.  

Potential sites at Magnolia Park, Parkland Avenue, McManus Field and Gallagher Park were discussed before a sizeable crowd that nearly filled the cafeteria.

The proposed choices drew almost unanimously negative responses from meeting attendees, especially the Parkland Avenue and Gallagher Park sites.

Residents lined up to list concerns that ranged from environmental destruction to lack of transparency in the development process to issues with traffic.

“Our area’s beautiful,” said Basse Road resident, Marie V. Muise about the Parkland Avenue site, which is near wetlands at the back of Barkland dog park. “I don’t know why they’re going to spoil the woods.”

It was a sentiment that was echoed over the course of the night, with City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre speaking against Parkland and Gallagher to loud cheers from the crowd.

Instead, LaPierre supported the development of Magnolia Park.

Funeral director Brian Field of Solimine Funeral Homes said he attended the meeting to watch over concerns about Pine Grove Cemetery.

Field, who has been a funeral director for over two decades, said the cemetery will run out of space in only 10 years.

“I can’t think of anything more disrespectful than to put a big school next to a cemetery,” said meeting attendee Gail Lowe Giannetto of the Parkland Avenue site.  

Superintendent Catherine Latham said the next step in the process is to present a list of pros and cons to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) with cost estimates. The city will then wait for feedback on the suggested site choices.

Latham emphasized that site choices can also be changed in response to strong community opposition. She said the date of the next public forum for the project has yet to be set, but there will be other opportunities for residents to speak and all comments at the forum will be submitted to the MSBA.

The original version of this article incorrectly identified Susan LaMonica instead of Gail Lowe Giannetto for a quote. We apologize for the error.

McGee not seeking reelection as state party chair

State Sen. Thomas McGee. Item File Photo

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — State Sen. Thomas McGee will not seek reelection as chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party.

In an email to the State Democratic Committee over the weekend, the Lynn Democrat, who faces no opposition in his senate reelection bid in November, said he is proud of his accomplishments over the last three years, which included strengthening the state party’s relationship with organized labor and working special elections which included recapturing Republican seats.  

“I’m not leaving until November and I have a full plate including the sheriff race, where for the first time in many years we could elect a Democrat, and numerous legislative races,” McGee told The Item.

Competition for Essex County Sheriff will pit Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger against Peabody City Councilor Anne Manning-Martin, a Republican. In addition, Democrat Jennifer Migliore will face off for state representative against Saugus Republican incumbent Rep. Donald Wong.

McGee’s four-year term as chairman, which pays $104,000 annually, expires in November. He also earns about $80,000 as senator.

City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre said McGee’s resignation could fuel speculation that the senator will run for mayor next year against Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy.

“As chairman of the Democratic Party, he’s done a wonderful job,” he said. “As to what happens in 2017, that’s up to him and his family. It’s premature and anyone’s speculation. I did see on Facebook someone wrote: Is this the beginning of a mayoral run?”

The mayor did not return calls seeking comment.

For his part, McGee declined to talk about the race for the corner office.

Jay Cincotti, executive director of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, had high praise for McGee.

“For the past three years, Tom McGee has been a tremendous asset to the Massachusetts Democratic Party as Chairman,” Cincotti wrote in an email. “That comes as no surprise given his deeply instilled values of equality, opportunity and fairness and his lifelong passion to make the lives of Massachusetts residents better.  Just as he as done for Lynn, Tom has worked tirelessly on behalf of the Massachusetts Democratic Party ensuring that people across the commonwealth have a voice and that we are all working for a brighter future.  While we will certainly miss his leadership, we know that Tom will continue to fight beside us, just as he always has.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) expressed gratitude for McGee’s work on behalf of the Democratic Party.

“Being chairman isn’t easy, but for three years Tom has worked his heart out to strengthen our party and our candidates,” said Warren in a statement. “Thanks to Tom’s dedication, we held on to Democratic seats in tough special elections and even took back a Republican seat. Tom is a good man and a good friend, and he’s made us all proud. I’m looking forward to working with him this fall to send Hillary Clinton to the White House in November.”

Senator Linda Forry, a Boston Democrat, said McGee’s commitment to Democratic ideals and his efforts to translate them into action has made a difference.

“I sincerely thank Chairman McGee for his service to the state party and know that whoever follows has big shoes to fill,” she said in a statement.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com

Early childcare educators present a case for change

Lynn City Hall. File Photo

By Leah Dearborn

LYNN — Early educators schooled the public and several local government officials at a roundtable discussion hosted by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The discussion was the fifth of its kind to take place in the state this year, with previous forums held in Springfield, Worcester, Boston and Lawrence.

Jason A. Stephany, senior director of communications at SEIU Local 509, said increasing wages and minimizing the state’s early child care waitlist are major issues that educators wanted to discuss.

According to 2016 statistics produced by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, 1,217 children are wait listed for affordable state care in the city of Lynn alone.

The state calculates a per-day figure that is paid out to caretakers for every child in their charge, but extra expenses related to equipment, professional development and insurance aren’t factored in, said Stephany.

Felix Martinez, veteran child care provider, said transportation presents another challenge for families and early education workers.

Vouchers provide limited miles, said Martinez, so if a child lives farther away than the number of miles allotted and parents have no transport, that child may be forced to attend day care elsewhere.

Ana Perdomo, an early child care educator from Lynn who has been in the field for 11 years, was at the event to speak about the low wages imposed on child care workers employed by the state.

Perdomo said she receives $44 per day for the care of children 2 or younger, but the amount of money she invests into her business exceeds those wages. Her aspiration is to make a bottom line of $15 per hour.

Kiana Hardnett, the mother of a child Perdomo cares for, attended the discussion to show her support for Perdomo.

“My daughter is 1 and she knows her ABC’s. That’s because of Miss Ana,” said Perdomo, who works  35 hours per week and said she worries about where she’ll find care if Perdomo can’t afford to remain in business.

State Reps. Daniel Cahill and Brendan Crighton attended the Wednesday discussion, as well as Lynn City Councilors Hong Net and Brian LaPierre.

“You deserve to take care of your own children as much as anybody else,” said LaPierre when introducing himself to participants. “It’s time for us to move that ball forward.”

Lynn loss is Medford gain

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Longtime city Health Director MaryAnn O’Connor is leaving her job to become Medford’s new health director.

The Lynn native and St. Mary’s High School Class of 1979 graduate said the new gig offers a chance to tackle health initiatives she has worked on in Lynn, including teen smoking reduction, opiate abuse intervention and exercise promotion.

“I hope to do some good things there,” she said.

With a population of roughly 57,000, Medford is about half Lynn’s size.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has yet to select a replacement, said mayoral chief of staff Jamie Cerulli.

“She wishes her well,” she said.

Since succeeding Gerald Carpinella as health director O’Connor said her biggest accomplishment has been to expand health services beyond the Health Department’s City Hall office.

O’Connor said she brought $10 million in grants and other funding into Lynn to fund health-related programming. She formed partnerships with local organizations during her 12-year career including Lynn Community Health Center and Girls Inc.

“You go to the experts in the field to get the work done,” she said.

O’Connor earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Boston College and studied graduate public health courses for two years at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Her last day will be Friday, Aug. 12.

The search for O’Connor’s successor comes as Kennedy and the city council remain at odds over hiring a $73,000 a year deputy election commissioner.

Since the council passed an ordinance creating the deputy commissioner job, the position must be funded in next year’s city budget. That said, Kennedy insists the city cannot immediately spend money to pay the salary.

Councilors sided with City Clerk Mary Audley, who oversees the clerk’s office and city elections and wants a deputy commissioner in place prior to the Sept. 8 primary election.

Audley said early voting initiatives and work involved in relocating several city polling places has made the election oversight job complicated enough to require another department head to manage it.

Council President Dan Cahill last month said money in the clerk’s budget and other funding sources are available to pay the deputy salary until a new budget year begins next July.

A half dozen applicants have submitted resumes for the job, and the council personnel committee may conduct interviews as soon as next Tuesday, said Councilor at large and committee chairman Brian LaPierre.

“We’re moving forward with the looming Sept. 8 primary,” LaPierre said.


Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com.

City Council approves Leahy on Lynnway

BY THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The City Council ended months of debate and approved a controversial contractor’s yard for the Lynnway.

In an 8-3 vote on Tuesday night, the council gave the green light for Leahy Landscaping LLC to move its operation to the Lynnway from Sanderson Avenue. The company, owned by Matthew Leahy, will lease the land from owner Kenneth Carpi.

Before the vote, Councilor Peter Capano, whose Ward 6 district includes the proposed site, encouraged the council to support the plan.

“It’s not my vision for the waterfront, but it will do until something better comes along,” he said. “It’s way back from the street and not visible from the Lynnway.”

Carpi testified that the company will operate a clean facility and not have mountains of loam on the property.

But Councilor Wayne Lozzi urged the members to vote no.

“This is not what we want on the waterfront,” he said. “This is not a good idea.”

At-Large councilors Brian LaPierre and Buzzy Barton joined Lozzi in opposition.

Last month, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted 4-1 to approve a variance to make the move possible.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development & Industrial Corp. of Lynn, has opposed the yard, calling it a “horrible use.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy echoed those sentiments in a letter to the ZBA opposing the contractor’s yard. She said the city invested $4 million to relocate power lines, which hugged the coast and precluded development. She also cited the Beacon site, dormant for nearly 30 years, as moving forward with a project that will create 355 apartments. She wrote that the city is working with the state on a $79 million project at a nearby lot owned by Joseph O’Donnell.

“All of these projects have one thing in common,” Kennedy wrote. “They fit into the master waterfront plan and our vision. Allowing a landscaping company to locate in that area with 50 large vehicles and piles of loam does not fit into our vision and will hurt our efforts of encouraging millions of dollars to be invested.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Motorized bikes leave Lynn spinning its wheels

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Junior Perez poses with his scooter on Munroe Street in Lynn.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Police and city officials are trying to figure out how to regulate motorized bikes.

“The Lynn Police Department has received several complaints about scooters, mopeds and motorcycles driving erratically through the city,” Lynn Police Lt. Rick Donnelly said in a statement. “Police urge drivers to follow the rules of the road and avoid becoming the victim of an accident.”

Motorized scooters cannot be driven on any public way or sidewalk. Police define a motorized scooter as a “two-wheeled tandem or three-wheeled device that has handlebars, designed to be stood or sat upon by the operator, powered by an electric or gas-powered motor that is capable of propelling the device with or without human propulsion.” This also extends to “mini motorcycles” and “pocket bikes.”

A violation of the ordinance could result in a $100 fine and seizure of the vehicle, Donnelly said.

Motorcycles must be insured, registered and inspected annually. A motorcycle learner’s permit or license is required. While mopeds do not have to be insured or inspected, they must be registered biannually and have a decal showing the registration. A learner’s permit or driver’s license is required, Donnelly said.

Last week, Police Chief Kevin Coppinger met with the Public Safety and Public Health Committee to discuss the ordinance and how it could be enforced.

City Councilor Darren Cyr said bikes and mopeds are becoming a problem. There’s a lot of teenagers that are out riding them, with their parents’ encouragement, he added.

“It’s becoming a mess on the roadways,” Cyr said. “It’s becoming a public safety issue.”

Coppinger said enforcement is difficult because people on the motor bikes fail to stop for police and weave in and out of traffic. He said police don’t pursue them for safety reasons, as a chase could result in accidents.

He didn’t present a solution to officials he met, which included Cyr and city councilors Buzzy Barton and Brian LaPierre. People are getting killed by dirtbikes, he added.

“We can do the enforcement, but we can’t stop them,” Coppinger said. “The kids know it.”

Junior Perez, 22, of Lynn rides his motorized bike around and doesn’t see the issue.

“It’s not a problem,” he said.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Goldfish Pond residents remember Orlando

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
From left, Jan Muirhead, Katie Moniz, Carla Moniz and Susie Moniz stand under a rainbow umbrella during the candlelight vigil for the Orlando shooting victims at Goldfish Pond in Lynn.

BY MICHELE DURGIN

LYNN — The Goldfish Pond Association hosted a candlelight vigil Sunday to honor the 49 lives lost in the Orlando nightclub mass shooting.

About 200 people gathered at dusk with candles and created a symbolic circle of light and hope around the perimeter of the pond.

Flags matching the number of people killed in the massacre fluttered on the pond’s island. After a moment of silence, the simple lyrics of “Feel My Hope,” wafted over the crowd, moving people to tears.

Coco Alinsug, who spoke at the event, sent a message of acceptance.

“I am foreign born,” Alinsug said. “I came to America so that I could live my life being honest to myself and my family. I’ve never regretted that decision. I married Peter, the love of my life, and we live here free to be ourselves, without judgement.”

City Councilor Brian LaPierre who was also in attendance with his son, Owen, said he needed to be at the vigil because everyone has been touched by the events in Florida.

“They are all in our thoughts and prayers, and I truly believe that one day the Pulse nightclub will be filled with people singing and dancing because we are a resilient nation and we stand together in saying we have no tolerance for the violence and hatred suffered by those innocent people,” he said.

Colette Mundele, 39, of Lynn said she attended the vigil because the message of tolerance and acceptance is louder when delivered by a group of people.

“Everyone deserves to be free to express who they really are and live in peace and safety,” she said. “I want the victims’ families to know they are not alone and we stand united with them.”

Rosemie Leyre shared her poem with the crowd. Her message was simple: “We must celebrate diversity and we must send a message of hope as we reach out to those who need us most.”

Paul Coombs, president of the Goldfish Pond Association, said he was grateful to those in attendance.

“We gather to heal,” he said. “What happened a week ago is intolerable and even though the goal of tolerance is allusive,we must continue to seek it and never give up. Good will always overcome bad.”

Lynn teachers rally on testing, charter cap

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
From left, Callahan School kindergarten teachers Jaime Paragios and Leslie Cole hold signs for the walk for education.

By THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNNDiana Luciano was not alone when she spoke of why she loves teaching and some of its biggest challenges.

The Aborn Elementary School fourth grade teacher was among 40,000 educators and parents who participated in rallies nationwide focused on appreciating teachers and highlight hardships involved in achievement testing aimed at the youngest students.

“I see the anxiety in children,” said the 26-year educator.  “It’s not right.”

City Councilor-at-large and American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts organizer Brian LaPierre called the rally an opportunity to vote no on a November ballot question asking to expand the number of charter schools in Massachusetts.

LaPierre, like many public school educators, criticizes charter schools for syphoning state tax dollars from municipally-controlled schools. He said charters “need local control and local approval.”

About two dozen Lynn teachers and parents gathered across from Callahan Elementary School Wednesday before walking to the school carrying signs that read, “Our kids can’t afford broken promises of charter schools” and “less testing more learning.”

In an interview following the rally, Knowledge Is Power Program director Caleb Dolan described the expansion proposed in the ballot question “very modest.” He said KIPP received 1,000 applications for seats in its Lynn kindergarten and 5th grade classes.

“There’s a tremendous demand for choice among families in our community,” Dolan said.

He quoted a Mass Insight Education survey concluding a large majority of Boston minority parents favor lifting the charter cap.

While the rally focused on achievement testing and the charter ballot question, Callahan kindergarten teacher Leslie Cole saw it as an opportunity to celebrate teaching.

“I love being with children and seeing the progress they are making,” said the 21-year veteran of the Lynn’s public schools.

Luciano agreed.

“For children to come back and say, ‘I am in college because of you, it’s just great to know they made it,” she said.


Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com

Young Lynn Latinos talk politics

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Dulce Gonzalez talks about her involvement in politics.


BY GABE MARTINEZ

LYNN — Millennial Latinos are becoming increasingly involved in politics in the U.S. and abroad.

Ruben Holguin of Lynn, a student at North Shore Community College, has already worked on one political campaign.

“I love politics,” he said. “Politics are my passion. The last campaign I was involved in was the Brian LaPierre campaign.”

Holguin, a Dominican immigrant, is part of a small number of Latinos who are politically involved within the city, despite its large Hispanic population.

The Hispanic population in the U.S. and Lynn continues to grow. Lynn’s Hispanic population was 18.4 percent, but grew to 32.12 percent in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Latinos, especially younger ones, feel dissatisfied with their elected officials.

Jaime Figueroa, a junior at Suffolk University, said many Latinos feel politicians don’t have their interests at heart.

They only show up during election time,” he said. “They need to walk the walk instead of just talking the talk.”

He also said many politicians attend Latino events during election season, but vanish afterward. Figueroa believes many Latinos don’t vote because they feel underrepresented, and the most effective way to make a change is to become politically involved.

Figueroa also mentioned government corruption as another reason for the lack of political participation among Latinos.

Holguin, a member of the Dominican Republic’s Partido de la Liberación Dominicana party and the JPLD, the youth wing of the party, said many Latinos come from corrupt countries, which discourages them from becoming politically involved in the U.S.

One of his tasks is getting Dominicans in Lynn registered to vote for elections in the Dominican Republic, similar to an absentee ballot.

“I’m heavily involved in politics in the Dominican Republic,” Holguin said. “I am going door-to-door and canvassing just like I would for an American candidate.”

In the 2012 Dominican Republic elections, there were approximately 200,000 Dominican-Americans registered to vote.

With a significant amount of its voters residing in the U.S., it’s not uncommon for Dominican presidential candidates to make campaign stops in American cities with heavy Dominican populations, such as Lynn.

Dulce Gonzalez, a politically active Lynn Latino and an intern for Rep. Seth Moulton, has been politically active since she was 12.

“I think being involved in this city, and being able to see how there’s a lot of things that can change, has motivated me to be active,” she said.

Gonzalez said she aspires to be a voice of the voiceless.


Gabe Martinez can be reached at gmartinez@itemlive.com follow him on Twitter @gemartinez92.

Union Hospital affected by new legislation

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Healthcare workers testified on Beacon Hill Tuesday in favor of pricing reforms that they say will lower the costs for community hospitals and reduce insurance premiums for consumers.

Proponents say the state’s hospital reimbursement system is unfair because large medical centers, such as Partners HealthCare, receive up to 500 percent more in payments for the same services provided by smaller hospitals, such as Union Hospital.

“It’s time we finally bring greater transparency and fairness to the financing and funding of Massachusetts hospitals,” said Tyrek D. Lee, executive vice-president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, in a statement. “Excessive payments paid to a few hospitals creates a vicious cycle that drives down wages for community hospital workers and puts local services at risk. We need to take action now, so that we can ensure the state’s remaining community hospitals have an opportunity to survive and thrive.”

The measure, and a ballot question in November, would require private health insurers to negotiate new contracts with larger hospitals, obligating them to lower their costs and bring greater fairness to healthcare providers, according to the union and the Campaign for Fair Care, an advocacy group whose mission is to lower healthcare costs for all. They argue that the state’s present system is unfair, threatens community hospitals, drives down wages and increases costs.

Lee said the bill would provide a “level playing field,” because larger networks are able to negotiate higher insurance rates than some of the smaller hospitals. For instance, he said Union Hospital receives lower reimbursement rates than Massachusetts General Hospital.

If the legislation is approved, the union estimates that North Shore Medical Center, including Union and Salem Hospital, could receive an additional $702,455 annually in reimbursements, following renegotiations with insurance providers.

Lee said the bill is about protecting community hospitals and the services they provide. He said access to services is key, and there have been “a lot of closures and consolidations over the years due to how these community hospitals are being reimbursed.”

North Adams Regional Hospital and Quincy Medical Center are cited as hospitals that have been forced out of business.

In a letter to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing — the panel that is considering the reforms — City Council President Dan Cahill, Councilors-at-Large Buzzy Barton and Brian LaPierre, and councilors Peter Capano, Dianna Chakoutis, Richard Colucci and Darren Cyr urged lawmakers to “strongly consider” the proposed hospital pricing system reforms outlined in the bill and ballot question.

The councilors wrote that the large, wealthy hospitals continue to demand an oversized share of medical payments, causing community hospitals to struggle for the necessary funding to maintain jobs, invest in facility upgrades and continue to provide quality care.

“In Lynn, we are seeing tangible effects of what unfair hospital compensation can do, as Partners HealthCare is moving forward in its attempt to reduce services at the only full service hospital in the city,” the councilors wrote in their letter. “Partners has filed plans to proceed with the expansion and renovation of NSMC-Salem, which includes the relocation of 48 medical/surgical beds and 38 inpatient psychiatric beds from Union Hospital in Lynn to the company’s Salem branch — effectively shuttering Union Hospital.”

But not everyone is in favor of the legislation.

Representatives from Mass Hospital Association (MHA) testified against the bill and ballot question.

“We have a diverse board that has examined the issue and has unanimously voted to oppose the ballot initiative,” said Tim Gens, executive vice-president at Mass Hospital Association, a trade group that represents hospitals statewide.

If approved by voters, the ballot initiative would require insurance companies to limit provider reimbursement to no more than 20 percent above or 10 percent below the average price for that service.

“The ballot proposal that’s been put forward by the union won’t work,” Gens said. “It creates more problems than it claims to resolve. It’s not workable. It does not align with the reform system that we’ve been developing in Massachusetts. We don’t believe that a political campaign is the best way to establish sound public policy regarding this issue.”

Rich Copp, vice-president of communications with Partners HealthCare, said Partners is aligned with MHA, and is also opposed to the ballot initiative.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Councilors: Mayor calls shots on city negotiations

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Despite acknowledging Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy’s status as the sole voice at the bargaining table, City Councilors said they stand ready to voice views about ongoing city labor union negotiations.

Seven out of 11 councilors are active or retired union members and last November’s city elections sent two active union members  City Councilor at large Brian LaPierre and Ward 7 Councilor Jay Walsh to the council.

Along with ward councilors Wayne Lozzi, Darren Cyr and Peter Capano; and Councilors at large Hong Net and Buzzy Barton, they form a council majority voice for organized labor. But councilors differ on how loud they will raise their voices when it comes to offering opinions on city bargaining.

“It is well-settled through the (city) charter that the mayor has sole discretion over contract negotiations. At the end of the day, the decision is made by the mayor,” said Council President Dan Cahill.

Kennedy and Lynn Police Association and International Association of Firefighters Local 739 members have exchanged bargaining proposals and Kennedy said she and Cahill have discussed the importance of her voice being the only one heard during bargaining.

“I told him how difficult it would be to have 12 voices at the table,” she said.

Capano and Walsh said the council has taken a consistent pro-labor stance, passing resolutions in support of billboard painters, caregivers and Logan Airport workers.

“The council has always sided with working people,” Capano said.

The two are top union officers representing International Union of Electrical Workers Local 201 at the General Electric River Works plant. Net, Cyr and Lozzi are state union members. Barton is a former Local 739 union officer and LaPierre is an American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts organizer.

Councilor Richard Colucci acknowledged strong union support on the council but said it does not equate to council interference in city bargaining. But Colucci said councilors monitor bargaining progress and pay increased attention when negotiations become protracted.

“We want her to get a contract as soon as she can,” he said.

LaPierre agreed.

“We have to get employees under agreement and not languishing. This will be under the microscope as we go forward,” he said.

Without interfering in bargaining, Lozzi said councilors can urge speedy resolution to negotiations. Ultimately, councilors will vote on a budget that will provide money to pay costs associated with city bargaining.

“It’s up to the mayor to negotiate contracts. I don’t know how loud a voice we can have. The only time we do is when it comes time for the budget,” Cyr said.


Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com.

Council may make itself heard in emerging city labor talks

City councilors have always been passive third-party spectators to negotiations between sitting mayors and city unions, but there is mounting evidence indicating the current council is poised to weigh in on bargaining talks.

Several councilors got an ugly glimpse Tuesday night into existing city-labor relations when Richard Germano, a city union vice president, claimed, in a public meeting, that Public Works employees are “beaten like dogs” by city Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan.

The topic at hand, during the meeting, was a proposed raise for Donovan and at least one councilor quickly praised the ISD chief for hard work and accountability. Other councilors adopted a more skeptical tone and, by the end of the evening, councilors made it pretty clear the verdict is decidedly out on changing a city ordinance to grant Donovan’s request.

Most councilors think Donovan does a good job, but labor has a louder voice on the current council in the wake of last November’s city elections. Veteran teachers union member Brian LaPierre swept into office with a councilor at large win and Ward 7 Councilor Jay Walsh is a rank-and-file labor leader at the River Works, along with Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano. Add to that contingent retired firefighter and one-time labor leader Buzzy Barton.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy calls the shots on negotiations with city unions, including police, firefighters and teachers, and a half decade in office has highlighted her negotiating skills.

She quickly unraveled personality and leadership problems hamstringing the fire department by working with fire union leaders in 2010. She followed up that success by sorting out city residency law disagreements to the satisfaction of union leaders.

Make no mistake about it, city unions have sounded death knells for Kennedy’s predecessors. Former mayors Albert V. DiVirgilio and Edward J. Clancy know the price tag that comes with battling the firefighter’s union. The late Patrick J. McManus called the firefighters allies and Kennedy has taken a similar stance.

Unlike McManus, who saw federal public safety money pour into city coffers during the Clinton administration, Kennedy must make tough decisions when it comes to union negotiations and price tags associated with them.

Her success in resolving the vexing net school spending problems means the city must dedicate millions of dollars to meeting state educational spending demands. An annual city budget surplus, called free cash, will help her make that end meet, but where will it leave the mayor when she needs to dig into the city budget to pay union contract price tags?

Kennedy is flirting with a 2017 run for another mayoral term. Nailing down city contracts could be an important benchmark along the way to election success.

Lynn seniors will park for free

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Seniors made their voices heard and their efforts were rewarded by the Off-Street Parking Commission, which voted Tuesday night to provide free parking for those who use the senior center.

Pam Edwards, community organizer for the Mass Senior Action Council, said for about a week and a half, seniors who used the senior center and cared about the issue — the Ellis Street parking lot next to the senior center had recently started charging seniors $5 a day — made over 100 phone calls to Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy’s office.

Edwards said Kennedy, Ward 5 Councilor Dianna Chakoutis, City Council President Dan Cahill and Jamie Cerulli, chief of staff for the mayor, made a proposal seniors felt was fair and “would keep in the past practice.” She said the proposal would also mirror what other communities were doing with their senior center.

Edwards said at the Off-Street Parking Commission meeting, which was attended by about 75 people, Kennedy and Chakoutis spoke and adopted the proposal of the Mass Senior Action Council “to have a special sticker for those who attend the senior center.” She said that a sticker would allow seniors to park for free when attending the senior center, including the Ellis Street lot.

Edwards said the new stickers would be issued for seniors 60 and older or for disabled seniors 50 and older. She said seniors would be allowed to park for free with the sticker during regular senior center hours. She said that most of the volunteers with the senior center would also qualify for the parking sticker, as most of the volunteers are seniors.

“It appears that all of the current volunteers will be covered under the policy that was adopted at the meeting,” Edwards said.

Edwards said if there is a special event at the senior center, the center will let the Parking Commission know that vehicles will be there past hours. Those seniors will possibly receive free parking during those events.

“Everyone walked away feeling that their voice was heard. They were very excited that they were able to have a voice in the policy that the city was establishing,” Edwards said.

Chakoutis, who said the parking charge issue was brought to her attention about a week ago, said as long as the seniors attending the senior center are Lynn residents, the Parking Commission will go down to the center to help them fill out their parking papers and get a sticker. She said the seniors won’t have to go to the parking department to fill out any forms. She said the sticker allows for  free parking during senior center hours only.

Chakoutis said she spoke on behalf of the seniors at the Off-Street Parking Commission meeting. She said she also spoke on behalf of Cahill, Ward 4 Councilor Richard Colucci and councilors Buzzy Barton and Brian LaPierre. She said Barton couldn’t be at the meeting but wanted it to be known that he was backing the seniors.

“Some of these seniors, basically, this is the only time they get out,” Chakoutis said. “[For some], it’s the only well-balanced meal they get each day. If they start charging, they’re not going to be able to afford it.”

Chakoutis said the senior center is also a well-being check on some seniors. She said the center provides social hours for seniors. She said she told the commission to consider that the seniors fighting this battle for free parking could be our parents or even us one day.

“We need to fight for them because we need someone to fight for us,” Chakoutis said.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com.

 

Harrington School goes Green as Wally visits students

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Christina Colella looks on as students raise their hands to answer a question from Wally the Green Monster at the Harrington School on Tuesday.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Spring’s a long ways away, but Red Sox fever gripped Harrington School on Tuesday as Wally the Green Monster helped Principal Debra Ruggiero and the school’s teachers kick off the annual “Reader Leader” project.

Wearing a number 97 jersey and introduced by City Councilor Brian LaPierre, the mascot bounced and skipped into Harrington’s gymnasium to a chorus of cheers and delighted screams.

Wally danced around the gym floor and high-fived young admirers while LaPierre, a Lynn former teacher, read “Crazy Hair Day.” Focused on fun, Tuesday’s Red Sox-themed assembly underscored a serious subject: Encouraging at-home reading among Harrington’s 600 students.

“It’s the core of everything and Reader Leader promotes kids’ need to love reading,” said Ruggiero.

Reader Leader is intended to motivate Harrington students to earn up to 100 points based on their appetite for reading. Younger students read short, age-appropriate books and older ones dig into longer books to earn points.

The reward for 80 percent of the school achieving reader leader status is the opportunity to send Ruggiero, teachers and even parents splashing at the end of the school year into a dunk tank.

Harrington’s principal said she is a dunk tank veteran with the school’s students hitting the 80 percent Reader Leader mark four out of the last five years.

“It says a lot about my teachers and my families,” she said.

Reader Leader is a well-established Harrington reading incentive program thanks to school librarian Carole Shutzer, who makes an annual effort to kick it off by inviting someone to the school who will thrill the students. Wally, said Shutzer, fit the bill perfectly this year.

“I reached out to the Red Sox and they responded,” she said.

Ruggiero said she made Reader Leader one of her priorities when she was named Harrington’s principal in 2010. Shutzer said the program’s success is anchored in helping students encourage parents to read with them over a sustained period of time.

“We need a partnership with parents. Reading at home is so important — it improves vocabulary and achievement,” Schutzer said.

LaPierre enlisted Wally’s help on Tuesday to quiz the students about baseball basics and recite the exploits of legendary players like Babe Ruth, Kirk Gibson and Jimmy Piersall. The morning event ended with Wally leading a rendition of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”

Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com.

Marshall plan coming to its conclusion

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Catherine C. Latham, Marshall Middle School Vice Principal John Pavia, Marshall Vice Principal Stephine Doucette and Lynn School Committee member John Ford, from left, look at one of the new science rooms in the school during a tour on Tuesday.

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — A Tuesday tour of the new Marshall Middle School, located on Brookline Street, underscored the extensive progress made toward the building’s completion.

“The new school is going to make faculty, students and the community feel better about the education they are receiving,” said Superintendent of Lynn Public Schools Catherine Latham. “New things give people good feelings. The new school will also give our students so many more opportunities to learn.

“The students will be thrilled with the cooking class, sewing class, TV studio, new carpentry shop, graphic design class, computer classrooms, library/media center, well-equipped science labs, bright art rooms and vocal and instrumental music rooms,” Latham said.

The new school building has four floors and is 18,647 square feet, said Owner’s Project Manager Lynn Stapleton of NV5.

Comprised of three buildings (buildings “A”, “B” and “C”), which are all connected, the school is designed for 1,100 students in grades 6 through 8,”  Stapleton said.

The project is moving along and developers are expecting a spring completion, rather than the originally anticipated fall completion.

“The project started in the Fall of 2012 and will be finishing April 2016,” Stapleton said.

Building “A” will be the first to be completed, then building “B” and building “C” will follow suit, she said.

Stapleton led Tuesday’s tour accompanied by architect Gene Raymond of Raymond Design Associates.

Raymond said when working with the city to come up with a design for the building, emphasis was placed on the importance of making the large school feel more quaint.

“Just to put it in perspective, Pickering (Middle School) holds 650 students,” he said.

“We wanted to take a big school and (separate it) into smaller clusters,” he said. “Students most of the time will stay within their cluster. It will help students and teachers get to know each other” and will be beneficial for “positive reinforcement.”

Science labs, math, english and other core classes will be located on the second, third and fourth floors, he said. There will be specialized spaces on the first floor.

“The most important thing was trying to break it up so it felt smaller,” he said.

The new school will offer students new classes they weren’t offered before, including home economics classes, sewing, culinary arts programs and updated life skills facilities that include laundry rooms with washers and dryers, storage rooms and separate culinary areas.

Lynn schools “used to have these programs and now we’re bringing them back,” said Latham. “We’re putting in things that make kids want to go to school.”

“By restoring the culinary arts and sewing programs we’re providing more of a well-rounded education,” said City Councilor Brian LaPierre. “It’s (a good balance) of more rigorous classes with fun and interesting skill sets.”

Culinary classrooms feature station sinks, ranges, cooktops, dishwashers and ample storage. They also have demonstration areas.

The window glass on the building is sound attenuating and blocks out the majority of the outside noise. The decision to use the glass was prompted by trains that frequently pass the school, generating a lot of noise.

“The train goes by every 15 minutes but you wouldn’t know it,” said Stapleton.

Several acoustic studies were conducted to find a solution, said Raymond.

“You will hear it but it’s very low level,” he said. “It won’t disturb things.”

“I could not be more thrilled to see the project nearing completion,” Latham said. “It has been a long time coming, but it is just the first of a series of new schools for Lynn.”


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com.

Lynn’s inauguration takes a much lighter turn

Photo By PAULA MULLER
From left, Peter L. Capano, Hong L. Net, William R. Trahant Jr., Brian P. LaPierre, Darren P. Cyr and John Walsh Jr., at the City Council and School Committee inaugural exercises at the Lynn City Hall Auditorium.

By THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Monday night’s city inaugural ceremonies passed over pomp and circumstance in favor of humor as two new City Councilors and two new School Committee members joined veteran elected officials in taking oaths of their respective offices.

After being sworn in by Lynn District Court Judge James Lamothe, City Councilors Brian LaPierre and John “Jay” Walsh Jr. and School Committee members Jared Nicholson and Lorraine Gately received some gentle ribbing from Mayor — and former councilor and committeewoman — Judith Flanagan Kennedy.

She recalled how her children, Colin and Mia, raved about former Pickering Middle School science teacher Gately’s use of m&m’s in her classroom lessons. She marveled at LaPierre’s campaign work ethic and said LaPierre trotted out a twin named “Ziggy” to help him meet voters.

She drew parallels between Nicholson’s law career and early interest in politics and her successful run for a committee seat in 1991.

“Keep on this path and you will be mayor in about 2025,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy praised the Walsh family’s contribution to the city and called the newly-minted Ward 7 councilor a Generation X addition to the council who “I can get earring tips from.”

Not to be outdone by Kennedy, Ward 4 Councilor Richard Colucci brought a Frosty the Snowman doll onto the Veterans Memorial Auditorium stage and offered $20 to anyone in the roughly 600-person audience who could sing a verse of the song by the same name.

There were serious moments during Monday’s inauguration with Pastor Kurt Lange recalling a 19th-century description of Lynn as a “… a beacon of light and civil liberty.”

“More today than ever our leaders need our prayers to lead this great city,” Lange prayed.

Kennedy reminded the audience that Lynn “is changing and changing for the better” with police logging a 1-percent crime drop in November and new schools and development projects in the planning stages.

Cindy Rodriguez sat near the auditorium stage with college student Jeleana DeFranzo and said she attended the inaugural for two reasons: She supported Nicholson during last fall’s campaign and she wanted to give DeFranzo, 19, a bird’s eye view of democracy in action.

The inaugural featured an array of Lynn talent, including singer MaryBeth Maes, the Mak’n Step Squad and Dance Team and the Angkor Dance Troupe.

Following the inaugural, councilors elected Council President Daniel Cahill to another, two-year term and elected Ward 3 Councilor Darren Cyr vice president and Colucci to be council delegate to the Water and Sewer Commission.


 

Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com.

Lynn to swear by its new officials

Photo By PAULA MULLER
From left, School Committee members-elect Lorraine Gately and Jared Nicholson; and City Councilors-elect Jay Walsh and Brian LaPierre meet at Old Tyme Italian Cuisine in Lynn.

By GAYLA CAWLEY 

LYNN — Four newly-elected officials, two School Committee members and two City Councilors, will be sworn in tonight, with each looking forward to the challenges their new positions will bring.

Brian LaPierre will take the oath of office as a Councilor-at-Large, while John “Jay” Walsh Jr. will be sworn in as Ward 7 Councilor.

Jared Nicholson and Lorraine Gately will be sworn in as new School Committee members.

The ceremony takes place at 7 p.m. in Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium.

“I’m excited to be a part of it,” Walsh said. “I’m looking forward to the future.”

LaPierre said it is an important time to be an elected official. He said people are excited for change and want to see the city change faster. He said there’s a lot of pride in the city.

Nicholson and Gately agreed. Gately said she believes “Lynn is going to be the best place in the state.”

“The citizens of Lynn believe this is Lynn’s time,” Nicholson said.

After officially taking office, the four plan on getting started with issues they see facing the school system and city as a whole.

Nicholson said one of the biggest issues is the opioids crisis. He said the rise in the use of opioids is a pressing health issue and there needs to be collaboration to work towards lessening the problem. He also said that addiction needs to be brought into the conversation. Gately, LaPierre and Walsh all agreed.

“That’s on everyone’s mind,” LaPierre said.

Walsh said a friend of his recently lost a son to opioid addiction. He said Lynn Economic Opportunity (LEO) has some programs to combat opioids and addiction, but a lot of times people aren’t even being seen by available programs until they hit bottom.

LaPierre said when he was campaigning and “going door to door,” he met a struggling addict.

“He said, ‘I’m not a bad person trying to become good,’” LaPierre said. “(he said) ‘I’m a sick person trying to become well.’”

Collaboration on addressing the issue is a strategy, with the four suggesting working with police, state Attorney General Maura Healey’s office and Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office, among others.

Gately said resource officers already do a good job of keeping opioid problems out of the schools, but the issue is when those students graduate and no longer have that support.

The four agreed the city is going in the right direction, but want to see movement on several other issues.

Nicholson said he saw a void at Thurgood Marshall Middle School that needed to be filled and decided to start a wrestling team there. He said that program is starting this week and the cost for it is going to be low because the mats were donated.

“It’s going to be a great fit for the city,” Nicholson said.

Walsh is focused on improving infrastructure. He said he took a drive and put together a list of potholes that need to be filled.

“I want to see the rail trail completed, if possible,” Walsh said, adding, “A lot of the other cities and towns have done it.”

LaPierre discussed the importance of a new Marshall Middle School, which is set for a spring opening. He said his focus will now be directed towards getting a new Pickering Middle School. The Pickering project is currently in its feasibility stage and goes to Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) this month.

“I would love to have a shovel in the ground for a new Pickering,” LaPierre said.

The politicians also discussed rising student enrollment, highlighting the importance of new schools. Walsh said a balance also needs to be found with new development and how many more students are coming into the school system. He said that might be addressed with building more one and two bedroom residences.

Also discussed were after-school programs. Gately said she would like to see such programs added, with a kindergarten to eighth-grade component that would teach students how to study. She said it will better prepare them for high school and college, when that skill becomes necessary.

Stage set for Lynn inauguration

Item Photo By OWEN O’ROURKE
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy’s Chief of Staff Jamie Cerulli walks across the stage at the Lynn Auditorium with a poinsettia for Monday’s inauguration ceremony. 

By THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — The City Council and School Committee inauguration ceremony next Monday night will be a homegrown affair featuring elected officials and a local judge, musician and pastor.

Scheduled to start at 7 p.m. in Veterans Memorial Auditorium, the evening’s formalities will be presided over by Council President Daniel Cahill and represent the first time two new councilors and two new committee members take the oath of office.

Cahill took the oath of office as a committee member in 2004 and was first sworn in as a councilor in 2008.

“No matter how many inaugurations you participate in, each is very special. It’s an honor to be elected by the voters,” he said.

Lorraine Gately and Jared Nicholson won committee seats in November and join Patricia Capano, Maria Carrasco, Donna Coppola and John Ford on the board. Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy serves as committee chairman.

Councilors-elect Brian LaPierre (at-large) and John “Jay” Walsh Jr. (Ward 7) join Cahill and councilors Buzzy Barton, Peter Capano, Dianna Chakoutis, Richard Colucci, Darren Cyr, Wayne Lozzi, Hong Net and William Trahant Jr.

Escorted into the auditorium by Lynn police and firefighter honor guards, the elected officials will take seats on the auditorium stage and watch as the English High School Marine Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps cadets present the colors.

Local musician MaryBeth Maes will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” followed by an invocation delivered by East Coast International Church Pastor Kurt Lange. Following a performance by the Mak’n Step squad and dance team, Lynn District Court Judge James Lamothe will administer oaths of office to councilors and committee members.

Although Cahill will be the evening’s master of ceremonies, Kennedy will deliver the inaugural address. The evening will conclude with a performance by the Angkor Dance Troupe, with councilors meeting after the inauguration to pick a president, vice president and Water and Sewer Commission representative.

Cahill is seeking another term as president, but the other two leadership seats are up for grabs with Council Vice President Rick Ford’s decision not to seek reelection last year and Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi declaring he does not intend to seek another term representing the council on Water and Sewer.

“I’m proud that in 12 years we helped hold (water and sewer) rates down,” Lozzi said.

School Committee members will also meet following inaugural ceremonies.


 

Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com.