City Hall

Citizens provide feedback for future of city’s waterfront

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The public will have another chance to share their vision for the city’s waterfront on Monday.

Hosted by the Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp., the city’s development bank, and Brown, Richardson + Rowe, the Boston landscape architect firm, it’s an opportunity to suggest ideas for locating potential new parks, public spaces and a promenade along the waterfront.

This is the second in series of forums for residents to create a Waterfront Open Space Master Plan.

Last month, more than 100 people attended the first public meeting at City Hall. Among the suggestions for the waterfront included a drive-in movie theater, soccer fields, playgrounds, a bike path, kayak and roller skate rentals, and locally-owned boutique shops.

Brown, Richardson + Rowe’s role is to gather ideas and discuss opportunities with the community. The master plan is expected to result in open space along the waterfront to enhance the nearby neighborhoods with green space and playgrounds.

One of the goals is creation of a continuous, accessible waterfront promenade from the General Edwards Bridge to Nahant Beach that would will link these new parks and to the downtown.

The session will be held at the Lynn Museum at 6 p.m.

Check Revere’s latest move

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Amya Conn checks out the chess set in front of Revere City Hall.

By MATT DEMIRS

REVERE  A royal family moved to the city on Monday.

The king and queen, two rooks, two bishops, two knights, and eight pawns now live on the sidewalk outside City Hall, waiting for someone to make their next move.

The Revere Recreation Department opened an outdoor chess and checkers for residents to play for the summer.

The pop-up park meets a pair of the city’s goals, according to Joseph Gravellese, a spokesman for Mayor Brian M. Arrigo

“Our first goal is to create vibrant public spaces for the community,” he said. “It is a unique use of unused space. Nobody really walks behind the monument so we wanted to do something with it.”  

The second goal, Gravallese said, was to give Revere residents something to do.

He said the games are just the beginning of creating these kind of spaces. The library plans to open a small branch at the pop-up station where people can read books and magazines. They are also looking to create a chess club to not only answer student interest, but to educate and involve others and use the space.

After admitting he was the first person to lose a game, Gravellese said the feedback has been positive on the board game. He saw three different games being played in the first few hours.

The chess and checkers pieces, filled partly with sand, weigh about 20 pounds. The weight will make it more difficult for anyone thinking of stealing them.

Gravellese said Revere is planning to create more of these pop-up park stations throughout the city to transform dead space into vibrant attractions for people to get outside.


Matt Demirs can be reached at mdemirs@itemlive.com.

Time to pause to Peabody

Is there any harm in suggesting the Peabody City Council take a breath and step back from plans to raise hourly parking rates downtown by 300 percent?

The increase in the 25 cents hourly rate coupled with plans for requiring paid parking in the vicinity of City Hall needs more consideration for several reasons. Councilors voted on changes to downtown parking rates last year. But now is a good opportunity to assess improvements made in Peabody Square and on Main Street and ask if parking rate increases are compatible with those improvements.

Councilors should also ask if efforts to make downtown an easier place to shop fit in with a proposed parking rate increase. Delaying a rate increase is not detrimental and any delay is certainly not going to trigger objections from drivers.

Another specific reason to delay a rate increase centers on the maintenance concerns raised last week by Councilor-at-Large David Gravel. Any and all questions about maintenance should be asked and answered before rates are hiked.

Gravel’s concerns focused on downtown meters and the potential “nightmare on Main Street” related to meter maintenance. But his concerns could be extended to the pay and display kiosks proposed for City Hall and Railroad Avenue.

City officials should be able to clearly forecast parking equipment maintenance costs and weigh them against revenue generated by a rate increase before an increase is implemented. They should also visit Lynn and other cities where display kiosks are in use before the council finalizes a rate increase.

The council and Mayor Ted Bettencourt have worked hard to enhance Peabody’s status as a place to visit, dine and shop. Parking rate hikes may make sense when viewed from different vantage points. But a rate increase carries a negative perception that can outweigh the advantages achieved with a rate increase.

Maybe city officials should explore going in the opposite direction on municipal parking and eliminate paid parking in all or parts of downtown? How does the potential revenue loss triggered by eliminating paid parking balance against meter maintenance and replacement and salary costs associated with parking patrols? In addition, how does the attraction of free parking downtown weigh against revenue lost by not having meters in the city’s center?

Government agencies get criticized for talking and deliberating in instead of acting on proposals. But the good reasons for spending more time talking about a parking increase outweigh quick action on a hike. Peabody is on the path to improvements, especially downtown, and councilors should spend more time asking how parking fee hikes fit into those improvements.

KIPP charters a course for graduates

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Valedictorian Rachana Chau speaks at the graduation.

By MATT DEMIRS

LYNN — Constant commotion from the audience didn’t stop KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate graduates from celebrating proudly Thursday night at City Hall.  

The Class of 2014 was asked to look back at freshman orientation by Drea Jacob, KALC school leader.

“That day you signed your commitment to be the best you can be,” she said. “And you are.”

Graduates will be moving on with an impressive achievement: 90 percent of the class will be moving onto higher education.

“The class of 2017 submitted 1,340 college applications and received 550 acceptances,” said Jacob, who also spoke of other accomplishments such as the record setting basketball team, the impressive cast of the musical In the Heights, and the poetry club Indigo Society, who won the state championship this year, and even performed at the graduation ceremonies.

“You have made the path and continue to make the path for students to follow since you were in kindergarten,” she said.

Valedictorian Rachana Chau spoke on how thankful she was for the memories shared between her classmates, friends and teachers, yet managed to still keep things real for the class moving forward.

“It doesn’t get better,” she said. “There will be setbacks, there will be tears but everything is temporary.”

Yesenia Bandoo, the class elected speaker, had similar encouragement in a speech reaping plenty of laughs.

“No matter what happens in life, it won’t last,” she said. “That means the happy times, like today, won’t last forever, but so won’t the bad. Aye?”

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High school was difficult for Bandoo. During her junior year she wanted to drop out and give up on everything, she said. She was told she wouldn’t make it and began doubting her own abilities.

But it was that guidance and encouragement from the community at KIPP giving her the confidence to make strides. Now, she’s graduating and off to college.

“Change I can’t to I just did,” she said. “Push other people like someone pushed me.”

Graduates cheered loudly for their keynote speaker and his relationship to them and their school.

Damian Ramsey, a former teacher, delivered fond memories and sound advice, many from his own experience.

“Remember having to earn your chair and desk in the fifth grade or writing persuasive essays to get your teacher to eat insects?”

These were just some of the memories shared by Ramsey who also spoke of the potential they developed at such an early age.

“From the day you first came you were destined for greatness.”

In addition to making the Class of 2017 chime into a sing-a-long of the theme song from Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Ramsey asked the graduates to set goals past college.

“Getting to college or even getting through college is not the end goal,” he said. “It is about accomplishing one goal and pursuing the next.”


Matt Demirs can be reached at mdemirs@itemlive.com

 

 

 

 

Fecteau-Leary class receives mayoral salute

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Cristian Delgado gets embraced by friends after graduation.

By MATT DEMIRS

LYNN — Cheers from proud families and guardians carried throughout City Hall Memorial Auditorium on Wednesday for the 24 students graduating from Fecteau-Leary Junior/Senior High School.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy delivered the opening words to an eager audience.

“It’s always a very special day when Fecteau-Leary graduates,” she said. “We are happy and proud the city of Lynn has another arena for kids to be able to graduate and and earn their diploma.”

The alternative school serves students who struggled in a traditional school setting for a variety of reasons, such as chronic absences, behavior issues, or the need for smaller class sizes with specialized attention. Nonetheless, these students are moving forward with a degree that speaks volumes.

“High school graduates over their lifetime earn half a million dollars more than someone who doesn’t graduate,” Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said. “Sixty percent of job opportunities are tied to your high-school diploma.”

Latham offered advice for the Class of 2017.

“Take shots, dare to fail, and don’t be discouraged when things don’t turn out how you planned. Success is in each and every one of you.”

Fecteau-Leary alumna, Kiki Cromwell ’13, told of her personal experiences when she was in high school that showcased her ability to overcome adversity, something a lot of students could relate to.

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“During part of my high school career I was homeless. I slept in the Lynn Commons and almost lost my brother in a shooting,” she said.

Like the students sitting in front of Cromwell, she graduated and earned her associate’s degree in fire science from Bunker Hill Community College. She attends Salem State University now, all while raising an 11-month-old child.

“Don’t let anyone dull your shine or tell you that you can’t do it,” she said.

Lucy Pecina, a proud member of the Class of 2017, shared a list of thank-yous on behalf of her class.

Pecina, along with almost every speaker, thanked the faculty at Fecteau-Leary for their unwavering support.

“Thank you for the teachers for believing in us and making us laugh to make the days a little less gray,” she said. “The memories I made here will never be forgotten.”

Soon after, the Class of 2017 moved their tassels and strode out of the auditorium to a song by The Script, “Hall of Fame,” which best fit the graduates’ futures.

“You can be the greatest. You can be the best. You can be the King Kong banging on your chest …”


Matt Demirs can be reached at mdemirs@itemlive.com

Viewing JFK through a friend’s eyes

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Former Lynn Mayor Thomas P. Costin Jr. recalls his friendship with President John F. Kennedy.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — History was brought to life Thursday night in a crowded room at the Lynn Museum.

In honor of what would have been President John F. Kennedy’s centennial birthday, former Lynn Mayor Thomas P. Costin Jr., told hundreds of listening ears about their unique and loyal friendship.

“Jack told me to make sure that, in the days leading up to an event, to make sure you get a little tan,” said Costin. “And on the night of the event, to make sure you wear a blue shirt. And so I did.”

The 35th president of the United States would have celebrated his 100th birthday on Thursday, May 29, 2017.

The event was hosted by the Lynn Museum/Lynn Arts and Essex Media Group (EMG) and moderated by EMG publisher Ted Grant.

In a forum called “Jack and Tom: The Friendship of President John F. Kennedy and Mayor Thomas P. Costin, Jr.,” Costin, 90, described how he formed his longstanding friendship with Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963, while Kennedy was taking a bath at his Bowdoin Street apartment on Beacon Hill.

The year was 1947 and the then-U.S. Representative was planning to expand his base beyond the 8th Congressional District.

But it was his father, Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., who was responsible for their initial meeting. Shortly after Costin was elected, the youngest serving City Councilor of Lynn, he received a call from the Ambassador, who requested to meet with him over lunch.

“I said ‘I’m awful busy, I was just elected,’” said Costin, then 21, who eventually gave in and arranged to meet with him.

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Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. wanted to build an organization around his son for young people, like Costin, who had ambition, he said. It wasn’t long before Kennedy and Costin were bantering over ice cream drinks and tie clips.

“Jack would call me at City Hall and say ‘Tom, I’m coming in. Can I drop in and see you?’ and before he hung up, he would say ‘I’d like to get a frappe and a chicken salad wrap at that place across from City Hall.’ He always wanted a frappe. And of course I always had to pay,” he said.

During one such visit, Kennedy left behind his tie clip. He called the next day and requested Costin send it to him in the mail, but Costin refused, claiming finders rights.

“I said ‘Jack, someday in the near future you’re going to be president of the United States,’ and he said ‘you’re nutty,’ and hung up,” he said.

The tie clip was eventually given back to Kennedy, who gifted it to Costin outside the White House while looking at the new, navy blue presidential limousine with a plastic, bulletproof top, said Costin.

“He said, ‘no one I talked to in those days thought I could be president,’” said Costin. “He said ‘I’m the president now and I’m giving you a present.” I haven’t worn it since that day until now.”

In the days leading up to Kennedy’s assassination, Costin mentioned the president would soon visit Dallas, Texas, and was greeted with a common, unexpected response that should he arrive in Dallas, he would be killed. He spoke to cab drivers who repeated the same warning.

On Nov. 11, 1963, Costin rushed to the White House to tell Kennedy he could not go to Dallas. The president was visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and had plans to share lunch with members of the military who were guarding the tomb. Costin was assured that the president would be using the new clear top for the first time, and would bring the first lady with him.

“I went home for lunch on the (22nd) and I made a sandwich and turned on the TV,” said Costin in tears. “I heard three words: Dallas, Kennedy, shot. I wept. He was my personal friend.”


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Killing a beast in Malden

ITEM FILE PHOTO
A plan for a new development in Malden.

Malden has launched a sweeping downtown renovation project that is bold in its scope and redefining in its ability to shape the city’s downtown.

At the center of of the $100 million-plus project is the demolition of the “Beast That Ate Pleasant Street.” That is the name local wits gave City Hall with the nickname referring to the unfortunate decision 40 years ago to have the seat of city government straddle one of Malden’s most vibrant streets.

The six-story municipal building and the former police station will be replaced with a transit-oriented, mixed use development that will reopen Malden Square’s primary retail street — Pleasant Street — and reconnect it with the Malden Center MBTA Station at Malden Center.

Dubbed “Jefferson at Malden Center,” the massive project will rise not only on the former City Hall and police station lots but also on the site of First Church. Construction plans call for constructing

320 residential units in two buildings, a 45,000 square foot office condominium shell (to be built out by the city for a new city hall), more than 22,500 square feet of ground floor retail, and approximately 330 parking spaces.  

The two buildings will be connected by a sky bridge. The development will have 30,000 square feet of amenities for its residential tenants including a pool, three-season deck and a yoga lawn. City officials are touting the project as the new “front door” to Pleasant Street.”

State Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash called the development “the definition of a bold move.” Finding a comparison to Malden’s vision for its downtown requires traveling to neighboring Revere where the city’s beachfront, with help from the state, is being transformed into new residential towers with a parking garage nearby and skyway connecting the beach to the Wonderland Blue Line station.

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Always one to shy away from mundane language, Ash credited Malden officials for “knocking the knock” in addition to walking the walk when it comes to making a bold urban development decision.

The Jefferson project is also a study in political will with Mayor Gary Christenson carrying on the legacy of former Mayor Richard Howard who, in Ash’s words, fought the “good fights” to get his city focused on downtown redevelopment.

“Malden is doing something here that every other community wants to do or should be doing in their downtown,” Ash said.

It is not surprising to hear Ash so excited about Malden’s transformation. After all, he helped guide the city of Chelsea’s resurgence with state help and the same progressive approach to working with developers that Christenson has demonstrated.

One of those developers, Jefferson Apartment Group Vice President Sandi Silk, called his firm’s plans for Malden, working in partnership with the city and state, “a first — anywhere.”

“Reconnecting Pleasant Street will dramatically change how residents and visitors perceive and use Malden, how they shop and dine in this community,” Silk said.

That is strong language and it underscores the transformative power of political will and community cooperation when it is focused on change and harnessed to the goal of making life in a community better.

Mulling a school move in Peabody

By ADAM SWIFT

PEABODY — The City Council is supporting the lease of downtown office space for school administration, but some councilors question how that move will affect long-term plans for the district.

Thursday night, the council voted 7-3 to enter into a lease for 6,000 square feet of office space at 27 Lowell St. With the lease, about 18 school administrators will move from their current offices at the otherwise unused Kiley Elementary School in West Peabody.

“This will benefit the city in a number of ways,” said Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. Having the office for the superintendent, assistant superintendent, finance director and other administrators downtown puts them closer to a greater number of students and families and should help spur local businesses, the mayor said.

The new offices will also provide a more professional setting.

“The conditions at the Kiley School are subpar,” said Bettencourt. “It is a substandard building that we have concerns about and not a professional space worthy of the talent working in the school administration offices.”

The office space at 27 Lowell St. is owned by Luciano Dinis of Peabody. The rent for the first year of the lease, according to the agreement, is $6,000 per month. That rate rises to $6,500 per month in July of 2018, and $7,000 per month in July of 2019.

The majority of the lease costs will be offset by energy saving costs at the Kiley School, Bettencourt said. The city currently spends about $90,000 per year on utilities at the Kiley, he said.

While a number of councilors supported moving the administrators out of a subpar building and closer to City Hall, there were questions about how the move would play into the potential future renovation of the Kiley School.

Ward 1 Councilor Jon Turco said the city sent a statement of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for the renovation of the Kiley School. If the MSBA gives the okay, the state could reimburse up to 56 percent of the potential $15 million in renovations needed to bring the school back online as classroom space.

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Using the Kiley School for some special education and early childhood education programs would free up space at other elementary schools in the district and help ease overcrowding, according to Bettencourt.

If the reimbursement is not approved by the MSBA, Turco said the district could be faced with larger redistricting issues.

“The issue I have is that we are moving the school administration out of the Kiley in hopes of getting the MSBA loan to renovate the Kiley and maybe move some kids out of the Brown and other schools,” said Turco. “If that doesn’t happen, I’m asking (Bettencourt) as the chairman of the School Committee and the mayor to look at redistricting and see what we can do to alleviate overcrowding in the schools.”

Council President Joel Saslaw suggested the council hold off voting on the lease for 60 days to see if the MSBA approves the Kiley proposal. The state agency is expected to make a decision on the statement of interest in July, according to Bettencourt.

Turco also questioned why the city was looking to lease the former Lowell Street law offices when the building was up for sale just over a year ago for about $550,000.

“You had said you were looking to relocate for several years,” said Turco. “The total lease amount over five years is approximately the same amount as the purchase price for the building. Why didn’t we just purchase this building so we would have something to show for it after five years?”

School administration and the mayor considered purchasing the building, but Bettencourt said there were several factors that played into making leasing more desirable. He said the cost of upgrades to the Lowell Street building would significantly add to the cost, and that he also did not consider the move a long-term solution to housing the school administration. Future renovations or additions to the high school could include space for district administration offices, the mayor said.

Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz voted against the lease, saying he would rather see the schools utilize existing space at the high school or another school rather than leasing new office space.

Saslaw and Councilor-at-Large Anne Manning-Martin also voted against the lease agreement.

Peabody and Lynnfield clear the air

By ADAM SWIFT

PEABODY — There will be no border battle over medical marijuana along Route 1.

Earlier this week, the Lynnfield Board of Selectmen sent a letter to Peabody Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. opposing a proposed medical marijuana zone along the highway that would include a parcel abutting the Green Street neighborhood in South Lynnfield.

But Wednesday morning, Bettencourt spoke to Lynnfield selectmen Chairman Christopher Barrett, telling him he would withdraw that parcel from the proposed zone at Thursday night’s joint hearing with the City Council and Planning Board.

“I had the pleasure to speak with Mayor Bettencourt about our concerns and applaud him for proposing an amendment to eliminate the parcels in the zoning change that would be directly accessed from Green Street,” said Barrett. “The mayor was responsive to the neighbors’ concerns and his efforts showed the people of Lynnfield why Peabody is so fortunate to have a mayor like him leading the city.”

Bettencourt said the proposed zone for the sale of medical marijuana along Route 1 North will include several parcels along the highway, but will not include the area that can be accessed through Green Street.

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“We agreed that it would be a hardship on that neighborhood,” said Bettencourt.

The hearing on the proposed medical marijuana zone is scheduled for Thursday at 7 in the Wiggin Auditorium at City Hall.

Allowing medical marijuana sales would reverse course for city officials, Bettencourt and several councilors said there were several reasons to make the change now. The mayor said the city could face legal action if it continues to prohibit the sale of medical marijuana. And at a recent council hearing on the subject, several councilors said they have seen the positive impact medical marijuana can make for those who need it.

While Peabody is on the cusp of allowing medical marijuana, city officials are backing a ballot initiative seeking the prohibition of recreational pot sales.

Both Peabody and Lynnfield officials have said they are doing their best to look out for the concerns of their residents.

“One of the main goals of the Board of Selectmen is to be a strong voice for all of the neighborhoods of Lynnfield,” said Barrett.  

 

Up in arms over Peabody pot district

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
A proposed medical marijuana zone that runs along four parcels on Route 1 North from Bertucci’s to Don’s Power Equipment and includes a large parcel of undeveloped land is being met with opposition from Lynnfield residents.

By ADAM SWIFT

LYNNFIELD — A Peabody plan that could bring medical marijuana sales to their doorsteps is upsetting some South Lynnfield residents.

The Peabody City Council and Planning Board are holding a joint hearing Thursday night on a proposed medical marijuana zone on a stretch of Route 1 North. The zone, proposed by Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr., would be tucked away from residential neighborhoods in the city.

But Lynnfield residents on Green Street said they are afraid that what’s best for Peabody isn’t what’s best for them. Those residents have support from selectmen, who sent a letter to Bettencourt and the council opposing the proposed zoning change.

“That area can only be accessed through Green Street, a Lynnfield residential street,” said selectmen Chairman Christopher Barrett. “I’ve asked (Town Administrator) Jim Boudreau to draft a letter of strong opposition from my fellow selectmen to approve to bring to the (meeting) on Thursday night.”

Barrett said the residents of the Green Street neighborhood have dealt with a lot related to development on the Peabody stretch of Route 1, including a billboard that practically sits in their backyards.

“From the viewpoint of Peabody, it is the perfect place to put something if you don’t want it near your neighborhoods,” said Boudreau. “But it can only be accessed through a Lynnfield neighborhood. I don’t think they are fair to Lynnfield, they are asking our residents to bear a burden that they are trying to spare their residents.”

Green Street resident Danielle Berdahn said the zoning change would impact more than just her road.

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“This will affect other neighborhoods in the area, Munroe, and Fairview and Witham Street,” she said. “We have 31 residents who have signed a petition for this not to go forward with the Peabody City Council. We will also be going to the meeting on Thursday. I also don’t think Lynnfield taxpayers should have the burden for policing this area, which is inevitably what would happen if this goes forward.”

The letter to Peabody officials asks them to find a medical marijuana zone that does not adversely affect residential neighborhoods in their city or any abutting communities. Town Counsel Tom Mullen will also be working with Boudreau to look at any other potential steps Lynnfield could take if the zoning change moves forward.

State Rep. Brad Jones (R-North Reading), also sent a letter to Peabody leaders making Lynnfield’s opposition to the zoning change clear.

The proposed zone runs along four parcels on Route 1 North from Bertucci’s to Don’s Power Equipment and includes a large parcel of undeveloped land behind the businesses, according to Bettencourt.

Peabody Councilor-at-Large Anne Manning-Martin cast the lone council vote against supporting the medical marijuana zone in April.

“I do agree we need to have a zone,” Manning-Martin said in April. “My concern is that we seem to be rushing into it while there is a lot of information out there that seems to be unknown. I think we’re headed in the right direction, but we need more time to know what the laws are and where we are headed.”

The joint City Council/Planning Board hearing is Thursday at 7 p.m. at Peabody City Hall.

No re-election plans for Trahant

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — In a stunning announcement at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, Ward 2 City Councilor William Trahant said he would not seek re-election.

Citing health reasons, including a recent heart attack, the nine-term councilor said his heart has been out of rhythm and he needs rest.    

“I’ve done a lot of soul searching and spent many hours talking to family, friends, colleagues, my cardiologist, my surgeon and everybody else,” he said. “They don’t think it’s the right time to run a campaign. I run a full-time roofing business in the city and that has to come first. But I will get better and will still be here if you need me.”

Trahant said he is most proud of construction of a new police station and middle school and the election of Darren Cyr as council president.

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He thanked fellow councilors, the law department and the City Clerk’s office for their hard work.

“Everyone at City Hall has been like family,” he said choking back tears.

Cyr praised Trahant and noted that saying goodbye will be the hardest thing to do.

“Billy can be counted on and puts more time in than anyone in helping this community,” he said.    

Councilor-at-Large Daniel Cahill, who will also be leaving the council at the end of this term, said Trahant will deservedly take his place among the greatest city councilors who ever services this city.


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

 

Haitian flag raised outside City Hall

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
The Haitian flag flies at Lynn City Hall.

By MATT DEMIRS

Spenser Hasak

Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy addresses the crowd.

LYNN The red and blue Haitian flag soared at City Hall on Friday as Haitians celebrated Flag Day.

About 100 people marched through the Lynn Commons onto the gazebo, where the flag was hung and festivities continued, including music and feasting on a variety of homemade foods.

“We will never be ashamed of being Haitian,” said Fré William, pastor at St. Mary’s Chapel in his opening prayer.

William Joseph, executive director of the Senior Action Center and organizer of the celebration, spoke of Lynn’s support for the Haitian community.

“We are a group of very active people who take part in the development of Lynn and enjoy the community,” he said. “I can see and feel the progress in Lynn.”

Joseph, who has lived in the city for 17 years, said Lynn residents stepped up when Haiti suffered a catastrophic earthquake in 2010 which killed more than 200,000 people.

“Lynn did everything to help Haiti, from medical supplies to wheelchairs and money, a $251,000 value,” he said.

Joseph thanked Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy for providing much needed assistance to his people during a difficult time.

“We are proud to be under your leadership,” he said. “Mayor Kennedy is one of Haiti’s best friends.”

Haitians from every generation attended the celebration.

Sagine St. Paulin came with members of St. Mary’s Church. The 20-year-old said Haitian Flag Day strengthens the Haitian presence in the city.

Spenser Hasak

Kimberly Felix, left, and Astrid Walsh attend the ceremony.

“Lynn carries a large Haitian community although we are not really connected,” she said. “This holiday brings the different groups together to celebrate our background.”

Ann Romelus, 14, told the crowd of the history of the Haitian flag, which has undergone numerous changes in the past 200 years that reflect the country’s social and political divide. Adopted in 1986, the two colors on the flag symbolize the unity of black and mulatto Haitians. The blue stripe is dedicated to black Haitians while mulatto Haitians are represented by the red stripe.

Ginette Louis was born in Haiti and became a U.S. citizen in the 1980s and has come to the celebration every year.

“Ever since I was a young girl, Flag Day has always been my favorite holiday,” she said

Three Haitian students from the Lynn English High School’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps joined the procession and helped raise the flag at City Hall.

Vanessa Volny, a Lynn English senior, said she was happy to celebrate with her people, far away from her country.

“In Haiti, everybody goes where the flag is,” she said. “It is nice to be able to join together and do that here.”


Matt Demirs can be reached at mdemirs@itemlive.com.

Colella left ‘tremendous impression’ on Revere

By MATT DEMIRS

REVERE —  A plaque dedicated in memory of former Mayor George V. Colella will be unveiled at 10 a.m. Saturday at City Hall.

He was the longest-serving elected official in the state’s history after 50 years in public offices, according to Mayor Brian M. Arrigo.

Ward 5 Councilor John F. Powers, a colleague for 14 years, said Colella, who died in 2010, made an indelible mark on the city.

“He has left a tremendous impression on the city of Revere while serving in public office,” he said. “As mayor, his primary concern was to keep taxes low for people who relied on fixed incomes because he realized their struggle.”

Councilor-at-Large and former Mayor Robert J. Haas Jr., who worked with Colella for more than three decades, said residents respected him.

“He kept the city moving forward in the right direction,” he said. Haas agreed there is no better place than City Hall for Colella’s bronze plaque.

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“It is a great tribute to his daughters and will serve as a beacon for his dedication to Revere and its people” he added.

Powers said the plaque will “serve as a reminder to those who know George, and even those who didn’t. It shows how important his leadership was to our city.”

Born in 1927, Colella grew up in Revere. A longtime lover of his seaside city, Colella graduated from Revere High School in 1945, where he served as class president. During World War II, he joined the U.S. Navy. After returning home, he graduated from Boston University in 1952.

His first stint in office was when he was elected mayor in 1953 where he served for 20 years. He then did 25 years as city councilor and four years as a member of the Revere School Committee.

Colella was also involved in a number of local organizations from youth sports to senior citizen clubs including St. Anthony’s Holy Name Society, Soccorso Club, Elks, Loyal Order of Moose, Patriot Civic Club, VFW and the Revere League for Special Needs.

Colella’s family will be present for the ceremony.


Matt Demirs can be reached at mdemirs@itemlive.com.

For Colucci challenger, youth are priority

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is Eliud Alcala, who is running for Ward 4 City Councilor.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Eliud Alcala has launched a campaign to unseat the city’s longest serving city councilor.

The 41-year-old family counseling doctoral candidate is making his first bid for public office against Ward 4 Councilor Richard Colucci, who has served on the panel for 15 years.

“I want to represent all of Ward 4 and offer voters an alternative,” he said.

Alcala, the former campaign manager for School Committeewoman Maria Carrasco, said if elected his first priority will be to implement youth programs.

“We should provide career pathways and programs that engage youth in our community,” he said.

He was unsure about the cost of the new initiatives such as an English as a Second Language program he would like to see relaunched at the Ford Elementary School.

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“That program helped lots of people and we need to seek grants and be creative to pay for it,” he said.

He has also proposed that the city hire an interpreter to assist Spanish-speaking residents seeking services at City Hall.

“As I knock on doors in the ward, people tell me translators are not available at City Hall,” he said.

Alcala said he did not know how much such a position would cost or how the new post would be paid for amid the city’s budget crunch.

He does favor implementation of the .0075 percent meals tax option under consideration by the City Council that would add about $700,000 to the city’s coffers annually. In addition, he voted to support construction of two middle schools in the special election last month which was defeated.

The West Lynn resident was born in the Bronx neighborhood of New York City where he was raised by his parents who immigrated from Puerto Rico. The family moved to Lynn in 2000.  


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

Goodbye to ‘The Beast that Ate Pleasant Street’

PHOTO BY STEVE FREKER
Officials watch the start of demolition of the 40-year-old building.

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — With a resounding crash of a cherry picker demolition truck knocking the first bricks down from one of its most well-known fixtures, the city bade goodbye to “The Beast that Ate Pleasant Street.”

Malden Mayor Gary Christenson on Friday joined a group of city staff and officials, local state legislators, developers and financiers and Mass. Secretary of Housing and Development Jay Ash for a historic ceremony commemorating the start of the demolition process of the 40-year-old former Malden Government Center building,

“When we began this project with an idea years ago, it was perhaps a situation where you  could not see the forest because of the trees. Today we are going to see some bricks come down and it will be very clear we have reached our goal,” Christenson said. “We are so grateful to each and every person and official at the state and local level who has contributed to this project, which will transform and revitalize our community  for years to come.”

The six-story edifice, built in 1977, will be razed, along with the former police station to its west side, and replaced with a $100 million-plus transit-oriented, mixed-use  development that will reopen Malden Square’s primary retail street — Pleasant Street — and reconnect it with the Malden Center MBTA Station.

The “Jefferson at Malden Center” will encompass the property which served as Malden City Hall and the Malden Police Station at 200 Pleasant St. Jefferson Apartment Group (JAG) purchased the city-owned properties and also the First Church in Malden at 184 Pleasant St.

According to the Malden Redevelopment Authority (MRA) officials, the project is a “ground up development planned for 320 residential units in two buildings, a 45,000 square foot office condominium shell (to be built out by the city for a new City Hall), more than 22,500 square feet of ground floor retail and approximately 330 parking spaces. The buildings will be connected by a sky bridge. The development will have 30,000 square feet of amenities for its residential tenants including a pool, three-season deck and a yoga lawn.  It will be the new “front door” to Pleasant Street.”

Ash, who has been instrumental in shepherding the last steps of state grant assistance to help fund the project through Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration, called the project, “the definition of a bold move to create revitalization in the downtown area.

Gunshots in Peabody

“I was just with Gov. Baker today and we were talking about this project today and we agreed that other communities in the Commonwealth should be bold and follow the example Malden has set and be bold,” Ash said. “Malden and Mayor Christenson must be congratulated for having the vision initially, and then having the courage to see it through.

“This is a perfect example of how a community can truly make a difference in downtown revitalization,” Ash said. “It is no small task or decision to knock down and replace your City Hall and creating such a historic mixed-use development in its place. Not only is Malden walking the walk, they are literally ‘knocking the knock’ by tearing this building down.”

Ash also praised the efforts of former Mayor Richard Howard, who also attended Friday and current Mayor Christenson in their work on this project, which essentially began eight years ago when Christenson sat on the City Council.

“Mayor Howard fought the first fights — good fights — to get this project started and laid the groundwork for finding the resources to see it through. Then it was Gary Christenson’s vision about making Malden what you all want it to be,” Ash said. “Malden is doing something here that every other community wants to do or should be doing in their downtown. Trust me, other cities are in awe of what Mayor Howard and Mayor Christenson have accomplished here.”

Malden City Council President Peg Crowe spoke on behalf of the present and former City Council members, whom the mayor lauded for their diligence. “By taking down this leaky, drafty, outdated building, we will be replacing it with a truly mixed-development and breathe fresh, new air into our downtown. We on the Council look forward to helping write the next chapter in Malden city history.”

Sandi Silk, vice president for development at Jefferson Apartment Group, said it is “the beginning and the future of Malden Center.”  

“The mix of uses here is a first — anywhere,” Silk said. “It’s taken a long time to get here, but the short 3½ years since we finalized the deal, we are very pleased with the benefits that have already begun. Reconnecting Pleasant Street will dramatically change how residents and visitors perceive and use Malden, how they shop and dine in this community. Reinvigorating and creating  diversified retail mix will pay dividends long into the future for Malden.”

 

Students get a taste of the Real World

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Danielle Coughlin and Devin Lofton register to vote.

By ADAM SWIFT

PEABODY — Students from the Peabody Community High School are getting a taste of the real world this week.

Nearly two dozen students from the school met with Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. in his corner officer at City Hall Thursday morning to hear about the challenges and successes of running the city.

“I’ve been mayor now for about five years; it’s a wonderful job but it can be very difficult,” said Bettencourt. “I know things haven’t always been easy for you, you’ve had some challenges. I’m very happy to talk to you about what we do in the city and my responsibilities and what I do on a daily basis.”

The Peabody Community High School educates students with social emotional disabilities in a public day school, and each year, the school holds a Real World Week, according to Craig Macarelli, the program administrator. There are currently 27 students in grades 9 through 12 in the program.

“We set up a week where we talk about life transitions into adulthood, from financial literacy to even car maintenance,” said Macarelli. This week, the students even went into Boston to learn about local history.

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At City Hall, the focus was on civic responsibility and what it takes to effectively run a municipality with a $170 million budget and 1,400 employees.

“My job as the mayor is to try to move the city forward to make it a better place for everyone, and there are a lot of different parts to that,” said Bettencourt. “My job as the mayor is to be the CEO. I oversee all the different departments, and of course, the biggest one is the schools.”

Bettencourt talked about several current projects in the city, including the revitalization of the downtown and the dredging of Crystal Lake. He also answered several questions from students and teachers about those projects, as well as why he wanted to run for mayor.

“With this job, you can really make things happen, and not all jobs can give you that good feeling that you are contributing,” Bettencourt said.

Community high school student Bryanna Burgess said she looks forward to the Real World Week every year, adding that this year was the first time they have visited the mayor. She said she especially appreciates the opportunity to get out of the classroom and into the community.

 

Talking the talk about walking the walk

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — A plan for crosswalk improvements and the installation of bike lanes in three sections of the city ran into opposition on Tuesday night.

About two dozen residents attended a Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) hearing at City Hall to question the $100,000 state project.

At the city’s request, MassDOT has proposed to upgrade crosswalks with pavement markings, signs, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant ramps, and curb extensions on Essex Street adjacent to Ingalls Elementary School; install a pedestrian crosswalk, curb extension, and two ADA-compliant ramps at the intersection of Central Avenue and Sutton Street; and install bicycle lanes and signs along O’Callaghan Way.

Daniel King, the owner of 102 Central Ave. and the Sign Store, said he objects to the city taking his loading area for the project.

“I’ve been at this location since 1979 and we use that area daily for shipping and receiving,” King said. “The easement comes right to the front of my main entrance and I oppose it. I don’t see how it makes it safer for pedestrians.”

Several residents questioned whether the improvements made sense.

Pamela Laramie and Patricia Pfeiffer, who live on O’Callaghan Way, agreed the biggest problem along the busy road is speeding. They contend enforcement of speed limits is essential before the state creates a bike lane.

“It’s like a war zone out there,” said Pfeiffer.  

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Laramie questioned how installing a bike lane on O’Callaghan Way would decrease speeding.

“We’ve had a couple of deadly accidents on that street in years past and we were looking to get raised crosswalks to slow cars in either direction,” she said. “Cars don’t even stop at stop signs and that needs to be addressed before you make a bike lane.”

State officials said enforcement is the job of the city.

Andrew Hall, Department of Public Works commissioner, said the improvements are designed to make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists. But if there’s opposition, the project will not go forward.  

At least one person favored the trio of proposals.

Alex Freedman, who works with the city’s health department, said he supports all three plans.

“Having the improvements at the Ingalls Elementary School is crucial, it’s a very precarious street,” he said. “Having a safer crossing with a bump out and full striping of the crosswalk is a crucial improvement. At O’Callaghan Way, it’s a place where cars zip around really fast. There have been accidents. These changes are important and there has to be a creative solution to the Central Avenue improvements.”


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

 

Lynn teachers step up on May Day

FILE PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Brant Duncan, president of the Lynn Teacher’s Union, says that this year at the May Day March there will be a focus with regards to their contract.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

 

LYNN — Lynn teachers will participate in today’s May Day March in support of their students and for a fair contract.

The “May Day March for Immigrant and Worker Rights” is scheduled for 4 p.m. at City Hall. Activists are inviting people from all backgrounds to celebrate Lynn’s history as a home for immigrants and as a leader in the fight for dignity, respect and a living wage for workers. The annual event takes place in cities nationwide.

Brant Duncan, president of the Lynn Teachers Union, said Lynn teachers have marched annually in the event, but this year, there’s some focus with regards to their contract. The union has been in contract negotiations with the School Committee since September. He said their contract expired in Aug. 2016.

“It’s been a difficult time for kids and we want to reaffirm our love for teaching all of our students, from across the world,” said Duncan. “Diversity is one of our many assets here in Lynn, so it’s two-fold. We march in support of our students and for a fair contract.”

The Lynn Teachers Union, in their notice for the event, said “our students and their families deserve safe, welcoming schools, and educators deserve a fair contract to support the work we do with our students.”

“Our teachers and support staff are proud to work with students from all over the world,” reads the notice. “We believe our schools should be safe havens for children and their families, and we deserve a fair contract to support our work with all children.”

Duncan said contract negotiations will be conducted with the School Committee in executive session, and would not share the terms publicly, but reiterated that the union was looking to reach an agreement that is fair.

Coinciding with the march is the “Build Schools, Not Walls,” Campaign, as part of The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, which describes itself as fighting to reclaim the promise of public education as the nation’s gateway to a strong democracy and racial and economic justice. “Every community deserves quality public schools where immigrants are welcome and kids and families are safe, respected and loved,” reads a description of the campaign.


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

 

A monumental move in Peabody

ITEM PHOTO BY ADAM SWIFT
This monument will be relocated.

By ADAM SWIFT

PEABODY — A monument honoring the city’s women veterans will soon take its place next to three memorials in front of City Hall recognizing male veterans.

“I recently notified the City Council that the Women Veterans monument would be relocated to an adjacent area of City Hall grounds where all other veterans are recognized and honored per the council’s unanimous request,” said Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. “The plan is for the monument to be in its new location for our annual Memorial Day ceremony at City Hall.”

Last year, Councilor-at-Large Anne Manning-Martin proposed moving the existing monument in front of City Hall to the opposite side of the building, next to the three monuments honoring those who died in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

“When we have ceremonies, it is noticeable that the (women’s monument) is over to the left side,” said Manning-Martin when the original motion was made. “I want it to be more inclusive.”

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Although the council unanimously approved the monumental move last year, the request wasn’t without controversy.

At a council Human Service Committee meeting last year, then veterans’ agent Christopher Tighe read from a letter that said the Peabody Veterans’ Council “strongly oppose any attempt to relocate the monument from the current location of honor in front of city hall.”

While the letter did not specify any specific reason for the opposition, Tighe said the dividing line between the monuments is because those on the right honor Peabody veterans killed in action, while the women’s monument honors females who served in the military.

But Manning-Martin, and several other councilors said Tighe’s reasons to keep the monument where it was were insufficient.

Shortly after the monument dustup, Bettencourt fired Tighe as veterans agent, although no official reason for letting him go was ever given.

Immigrant-worker march set for Monday

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Days after a federal judge blocked President Donald Trump’s effort to withhold funding from sanctuary cities, nearly two dozen groups are organizing a May Day rally.

The “May Day March for Immigrant and Worker Rights” is scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday at City Hall. Before the march, organizers plan a teach-in at 1 p.m. at 112 Exchange St.

Activists are inviting people from all backgrounds to celebrate Lynn’s history as a home for immigrants and as a leader in the fight for dignity, respect, and a living wage for workers. “People from other parts of the state are bringing their own histories of resistance,” said the invitation. “Let’s all come together to carry the struggle forward.”

Dozens of members of the coalition, which includes labor, community and faith organizations from the North Shore, are expected on the downtown march.

The annual event, which will take place in cities nationwide, comes on the heels of a federal judge’s ruling in San Francisco that rejected the administration’s argument that the executive order applies only to a small amount of money. The judge ruled Trump cannot set new conditions on spending approved by Congress.

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The president has targeted sanctuary cities, ones that refuse to cooperate with U.S. immigration officials. But the judge rejected the order.

“Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the president disapproves,” said U.S. District Judge William Orrick.

The injunction will stay in place while the lawsuits work their way through courts, which could include the U.S. Supreme Court.

Reince Priebus, the president’s chief of staff described the ruling as another example of the “9th Circuit going bananas.”

“The idea that an agency can’t put in some reasonable restriction on how some of these monies are spent is something that will be overturned eventually, and we will win at the Supreme Court level at some point,” Priebus told Associated Press.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.comMaterial from Associated Press was used in this report.

 

A son finds purpose after father’s murder

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Edwin Woo wipes away a tear as he speaks about the 2011 murder of his father, Shui Keung “Tony” Woo.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

PEABODY — More than five years after Shui Keung “Tony” Woo was murdered in his family-owned restaurant, his grieving son addressed a room full of law enforcement officers about their impact.

“I never felt like it was just a job or just a murder case to any of you,” he told a room full of police officers, detectives, assistant district attorneys, and victim advocates at Peabody City Hall Tuesday.

Edwin Woo reflected on Sept. 27, 2011, the day his dad was brutally killed at the Majestic Dragon by three men who broke into the Route 1 restaurant intending to rob it.

Assistant Essex County District Attorney Maureen Wilson Leal said Tony Woo and his wife Annie Woo moved to the United States from China to pursue the American dream. They worked hard for many years, their son said. Tony Woo worked three jobs and his wife worked as a seamstress while they were raising Edwin and his brother Adam. They saved their money to buy the restaurant in 1987.

“Despite their tireless efforts, their dream was shattered,” Leal said.

While Tony Woo was sleeping on a cot in a back room of the restaurant, which he sometimes did when he felt too tired to drive home to Quincy, Cheng Sun, Sifa Lee, and Jun Di Lin broke into the restaurant through a skylight at about 3 a.m.. They attempted to rob him, tied his hands and feet and beat and strangled him to death. After five long years of court proceedings in Salem Superior Court, they were all convicted of murder.

Edwin Woo said one of the murderers was a former employee of the restaurant whom his father tried to help get on his feet.

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After his father’s murder, pursuing a career in law enforcement felt right for him, he said. He has traded in his career in finance for a pair of handcuffs and now works as an outreach officer for the Braintree Police Department.

“In the aftermath, Adam and my mom stepped up with the restaurant,” Edwin Woo said. “The little ones (Tony Woo’s three grandchildren) at some point are going to find out what happened to their grandfather. I don’t want that to be the end of his story. I went into policing to continue the story.”

Edwin Woo thanked a state police officer for advising him not to see his father on the day of his murder, public relations officers for keeping the media at bay when talking to reporters was the last thing his family wanted to do, and Leal for becoming a part of his family. He said it was easy to forget that most of the people who worked on the case had never met his father.

“Speaking on behalf of my mother and brother, know that what you do generally does make a difference,” he said. “It takes a special person to do what you do and go home and have a life and a family.”


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte

Transforming the city’s waterfront

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — It will take more than shops and high-rise apartments to transform the city’s waterfront, it will require parks and boardwalks.

That’s the word from James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp., the city’s development bank.

“You can’t just develop every single inch of waterfront,” he said. “You need to have open space and guarantee that the public will have access, those are state rules.”

Next month, a public hearing will be held at City Hall to share ideas for locating potential new parks, public spaces and a promenade along the waterfront.

Police and fire chiefs ask for more resources

While a shovel has yet to get in the ground for any of the proposed projects to bring housing to the Lynnway, Cowdell assured members of the City Council’s Economic & Workforce Development Committee Tuesday that the former Beacon Chevrolet site is ready to go. It will feature 348 apartments with sweeping water and city views. The $80 million development is expected to break ground this year, he said.

“The open space meeting will ask questions like: Where should we put the green space, where is the public access and how will the city guarantee it?” Cowdell said. “It’s a chance for the public to let us know what they would like to see.”

The hearing will be Tuesday, May 2, in the City Council chamber.


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

Getting Revere in the pipeline

It will be interesting to see how much effort Mayor Brian Arrigo and City Council members put this year into ending Revere’s water pipe breaks. It seems like a break has occurred every month since last December, forcing the city to shut off water service for varied time durations and inconvenience residents.

To the city’s credit, Public Works crews responded quickly to breaks, including a major one downtown in February, and pushed to get repairs completed. But the frequency of breaks and the nuisance involved for residents points to a significant problem requiring a well thought-out solution.

Arrigo knows the tools he needs to run an efficient city department. He claims his administration has been successful in reducing wasteful spending and has “rooted out systemic abuses,” including overtime that didn’t need to be paid and city spending unregulated by financial oversight.

He has taken aim at past city spending practices and said millions of dollars were spent on major projects without proper planning and budget calculations. The Arrigo administration used a state grant to contract with the University of Massachusetts to assemble what Arrigo called “a realistic list of long-deferred projects.”

By late May or early June, according to a statement released by the mayor’s office, a five-year capital plan for undertaking major investments aimed at improving the city will be unveiled.

The statement lists upgrading City Hall technology and street and sidewalk repairs as some of the items to be included in the plan. Water pipe repairs should be on the list, beginning with Suffolk Avenue and the section of Broadway where businesses and residents endured a major break Feb. 22.

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It is easy to say water pipe breaks are to be expected during cold weather months. But that explanation does not offer much in the way of assurance for local property tax and water and sewer ratepayers who have to go hours without service.

Revere faces several challenges in undertaking major water pipe repairs. Like most older cities, it has an aging pipe network. A major section of the city is hilly, providing additional expensive challenges to repair planners.

Replacing water pipes is not the type of municipal service initiative that captures the public imagination. The city’s water service system is out of sight and, by definition, out of mind until a break inconveniences residents.

Replacing pipes means tearing up streets, disrupting traffic and water service, and prioritizing pipe repairs over more eye-catching projects like fixing up schools or buying new public safety equipment.

Spruced-up parks put smiles on kids’ faces and shiny fire trucks are a great photo opportunity. Torn up streets and mud-covered pipes tend to make people gripe and grumble.

But Arrigo has already staked his claim to being a progressive mayor and he wants to build on it by fixing up Revere. It’s a worthy goal and a smart one for a mayor who wants to get reelected, and Arrigo will be wise to remember to include water pipe replacement on the to-do list.

Do you recognize this vintage concert flier?

COURTESY PHOTO
A vintage concert flier for a Lynn concert by The Kingsmen.

By BILL BROTHERTON

The oddest things other than the Features editor have a habit of finding their way into The Item’s headquarters.

For example, take this vintage concert flier of a Lynn concert by The Kingsmen, the 1960s garage rock band that recorded the scandalous rock ’n’ roll classic “Louie Louie,” that has come into our possession. And check out the opening act: Barry Tashian and the Remains, the Bay State band that opened for The Beatles on their final U.S. tour in 1966, including their August 18 date at Suffolk Downs.

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You’ll notice that the show took place on a Sunday afternoon in May at Lynn Memorial Auditorium. And tickets a whopping $2, $2.50 and $3 were available at the City Hall box office and at Ben Brown’s Music at 136 Munroe St., just down the street from the current Item HQ.

You’ll also notice that the year of this show is missing. Does anyone remember it? Were you there? Please help us fill in the blanks.

 

We need more police on the streets, Ford says

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Rick Ford is running for city councilor at large.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN  — Rick Ford, the former city councilor who gave up his seat two years ago, wants back in.

“I miss being involved,” he said. “I got three calls from constituents during the last snow storm who don’t even know I’m out.”

Ford, who served as the Ward 7 councilor from 1998 to 2016, chose not to seek re-election following a foot injury. On Tuesday, he pulled papers from City Hall to run for councilor-at-large.

The 60-year-old is co-owner of the Little River Inn, the popular diner on Boston Street where the McNulty sandwich a fried egg with bacon, ham or sausage, topped with cheese on an English muffin is a customer favorite.

He joins a field that includes incumbents Buzzy Barton, Brian LaPierre and Hong Net. Daniel Cahill chose not to seek re-election, leaving one at-large seat open.

Additional candidates include Taso Nikolakopoulos, owner of John’s Roast Beef & Seafood, Jaime Figueroa, a 28-year-old Suffolk University student, Brian Field, who works at Solimine Funeral Homes, and John Ladd, president of Precision Property Brokers.

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The top issues facing the city, Ford said, are police protection, building new schools, and development of the city’s waterfront.

“I’d like to help police,” he said. “We don’t have enough officers on the street and anything I can do, like finding grant money would be good. The waterfront development is key to the city’s economic growth.”

On last month’s school election, Ford said he voted for the controversial $188.5 million project to build a pair of middle schools. But the measure failed by a lopsided margin.

“My son is a teacher at the Thurgood Marshall Middle School,” he said.

Ford’s proudest accomplishments as councilor, he said, included constituent work helping to get homes built on the former Lynn Convalescent Home site on Boston Street, supporting construction of a new Washington Street police station, keeping the Ward 7 fire stations open, and ensuring environmental cleanups at the former Empire Laundry and Carr Leather sites.


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

Survey: Lynn should confront finance issues

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — A team of consultants told the city what they already knew: Confronting Lynn’s fiscal challenges will hurt.

In a stark report presented to the City Council Tuesday, a Philadelphia financial advisory services firm that specializes in advising municipalities, said the city should not issue raises after union contracts expire, freeze hiring, contract EMS services to a private company, and eliminate 35 city jobs.  

“Lynn now faces a critical moment,” said The PFM Group in the 18-page survey. “Absent corrective action, the city’s general fund is projected to have an $8.6 million deficit in 2017 and in each of the next five years … the longer it takes Lynn to confront its fiscal challenges, the harder and more painful it will become to implement viable solutions.”

Vieen Leung, a PFM senior managing consultant and one of the study’s authors, said to close the gap the city should consider increasing fees annually, raise taxes and implement a local meals tax.

“The deficits are real and they are daunting,” she told the Council.

Leung also said the city lacks long-term planning for capital improvements. Lynn must figure out a way to determine a city building’s life expectancy and how to fund new construction.

“The city has underinvested in its infrastructure over the last decade,” she said.

The team also recommended the city control employee pay and benefits and increase the amount city workers pay for health insurance.      

A day for optimism

Last winter, the state Department of Revenue provided Lynn with a $75,000 grant to hire PFM and help City Hall create a five-year plan toward better fiscal responsibility.

A team of three municipal finance experts combed through the city’s books over the last few months and presented the council with an outline of how to get the city back on track.

PFM said while revenues are projected to grow at an annual rate of 2.9 percent annually driven largely by property taxes and state aid, operating expenditures are expected to swell by 3.2 percent.

In at least one exception to the no-new-hire rule, PFM recommends the city hire a full-time chief financial officer (CFO) and potentially a city manager.

Today, Peter Caron, the city’s CFO, spends half of his time managing the city’s finances and the other half as head of assessing.

“While this arrangement has allowed the city to save salary costs, CFO duties should not be held by an employee who already leads one or more other departments,” the report said.

In a brief interview on Tuesday, Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she questioned some of the recommendations on how to close the budget gap.

“Some of the assumptions they used are completely unrealistic to implement, such as no wage increases through 2022,” she said.


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

 

‘No one deserves to be sexually assaulted’

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Every 98 seconds someone is sexually assaulted in the United States.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Now in its 15th year,  it is held to educate the public about sexual violence and how to prevent it.

At City Hall on Friday, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy called attention to sexual violence as a critical public health issue.

“I am a mother of an 18-year-old daughter and a 21-year-old son,” she said. “It’s important for them to understand what a healthy relationship is.”

Lt. Marie Hanlon, a 31-year veteran of the Lynn Police Department, encourages victims to report the crime and seek medical attention immediately.

“No one deserves to be sexually assaulted,” she said. “With the variety of services offered in our community, we should promote safety and encourage everyone to speak out against sexual violence.”

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Brittny Maravelias, a 23-year-old teen health adviser at Girls Inc. of Lynn, knows more about this issue than most. As an eighth-grader at Pickering Middle School, she dated someone who became her abuser.

“It took me nearly two years to leave and another two years to figure out what happened to me was actually abuse,” she said. “It was the beginning of a long and and difficult journey to healing.” While she is encouraged that youngsters are more aware of sexual violence, it is often not a conversion between youth and adults.

“These conversations need to be started at an early age,” she said. “As much as we’d like to think these cases are rare, unfortunately they are not.”


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

Lynn artist turns trauma into triumph

PHOTO BY DALIA SHILAS
Dr. Eleanor Ruth Fisher’s art adorns the walls of her Lynn home and studio.

By DALIA SHILAS

BOSTON — The first thing you see as you enter the Canvas Fine Arts exhibit on the fifth floor of City Hall is “Red Sky In The Morning,“ a glass shard painting by longtime Lynn resident Dr. Eleanor Ruth Fisher. Three of her glass shards paintings are displayed here.

Her mentor, Georgia O’Keeffe, once said: “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else.” I first met Fisher, a joyful woman with blue eyes that shine like glass shards, at an art fair in Nahant. She explained her creations. “Glass shards and mixed media over acrylic on canvas, it’s unique.”

She’s unique as well, and it’s somewhat remarkable that Fisher’s art talents have come to light.

Fisher’s brain tumor had been growing since childhood. She knew she was limited in what she could do. “I loved to dance, yet my coordination was completely off in sports. Precise movements and activities seemed to escape me. I never knew why, until after my brain surgery, that I was capable of learning everything. It is amazing how the brain compensates. I went on to get a doctorate in psychology. I had a full-time private psychotherapist’s practice, became a supervisor and consultant, while continuing my education as a lifelong learner.“

Her physical deterioration started happening quickly. She began losing her ability to speak in January 1991. By that August, she had to place her hands on the chair arms to lift herself up when her patients left the office. That October, the brain tumor was removed. In four weeks, she returned to her psychotherapy practice fully recovered.

With brain trauma, strange behaviors started developing. One thought kept recurring: Paint. She bought art supplies and began to paint. After the brain surgery, the process of expressing other forms of creativity started. “When I think back, it was almost like an explosion of what I had tucked inside that needed to emerge. The art has a life of its own and is like one of the elements of my high-test gasoline. The other element is my husband, Dennis, who is my partner in all that we do.”

“Thoughts are energy and represent the energy force of the universe,” her husband, Dennis Patrick Treece, former director of Security for Massport, quotes Fisher in his recently published book, “A Million Monkeys.”

“What do you want to be known as?” I asked. “A lover and an artist who paints the voices and pictures that communicate with me,” Fisher quickly answered.

“I have two goals in life. As an artist, I may be able to influence people to develop their unique creativity without looking for others for approval. I tell people, ‘I bestow approval upon you. You do not need anybody else’s approval. Celebrate your creativity, no matter what it is.’ Through my art and therapy, I help people identify and develop step by step. What inspires me in other people, is their journey, their courage to place one foot in front of the other and show up, speak up and be counted. Everyone hits the wall at some time, and each person chooses what is intolerable and finally says ‘No’ because the cost of going along to get along kills their soul. Many of my paintings have stairs in them. Stairs represent enlightenment. I realized that each painting is me, how I feel about my life. For many years I was unable to express me.”

Afterschool program a social space for girls

Fisher lives in a grand Victorian house in the Diamond District of Lynn. It has two names: “Garden by the Sea“ and “Deer Cove Light.“ Her maternal grandparents came from Lithuania and the family, Fisher and her parents included, settled in a two-family house on Commercial Street in Lynn’s Brickyard section.

Her art subjects are mostly women, strong, confident, romantic, erotic and free-spirited. “I don’t do men very often,” she said. “I don’t understand them the way I know women. Look at the ‘Mermaid Princess.’ She is a mermaid, deciding to be a woman, and everybody says ‘No no no!’ Stay a mermaid. You don’t know what it’s like here!’ ”

Fisher’s pastel pink studio, with its ocean view, natural light, easels and boxes of glass, jewelry and seashells, is where art is born. She puts on safety glasses, a long work shirt, an apron and gloves, and turns on a machine to show how she slices Murano glass. Here, she explains the process of creating one glass shard painting that takes about 720 hours to complete.

“Each piece of glass that I carve is pointed at both ends,” she said. “Then I take them in my hand and cut several curves on each side. No lines are straight. The shaping and carving of each piece of glass are why the glass shard paintings feel alive and beautiful, and evoke emotions.”

Glass shards wound hands, bring back memories and magnify the pain of the past. Sometimes, like a vase shattered into pieces, we feel like there is no hope. What we do with the broken pieces, that’s what matters.

The work of Canvas Fine Arts artists Eleanor Fisher, Winifred Breines, Tally Forbes, Sidhartha Pani and Janice Williams can be seen at Boston City Hall, 5th floor, through May 30. For more info: suzanne@canvasfinearts.com.


Dalia Shilas, a freelance journalist and photographer from Nahant, can be reached at daliafoto@gmail.com.

 

School spending ‘thorn in our side,’ mayor says

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Five months after the state threatened to withhold millions in school funds, the city is on the hook again as they face a spending shortfall, The Item has learned.

On Thursday, the Department of Education is expected to tell Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy that following a review of the city’s finances, school spending is off by about $826,000. As a result, the state may withhold that amount from Lynn’s $11 million monthly allocation of Chapter 70 school payments in June.

Peter Caron, Lynn’s chief financial officer, said the city is again working to get school spending back on track.

“It’s challenging,” he said. “We are trying to guess how much money we will spend on schools, but the state doesn’t do the accounting until six months after the fiscal year is over. It all goes back to the health insurance; we don’t know in May how much we will spend on it. It’s a crap shoot.”

Kennedy said she expects the school spending issue to be resolved, but she’s not sure how.

“Overall, net school spending has been a thorn in our side for a number of years,” she said. “When you increase the number of students in the schools by nearly 20 percent over the last six years, it causes problems on how to pay for it.”

Harbormaster files lawsuit to save job

Lynn is the fifth largest district in the Bay State with more than 16,000 students.

“Until we can slow the increase in school population or look to possible federal assistance, we will not be able to meet the threshold spending for the foreseeable future,” she said.

The city’s finances came into focus last year when the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education told the mayor that the city’s contribution to school funding was short by $7.5 million and the state threatened to withhold its $11 million November payment in school funds until City Hall came up with more cash.

Since then, the school deficit has been reduced to less than $1 million and the state money was released to the city.

John J. Sullivan, DOE’s associate commissioner, declined to comment until the letter is issued to the mayor.


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

 

Setting an example in Revere

Revere’s revived Commission on Disabilities is proving there is plenty of work to be done in the city and across Massachusetts to address accessibility and inclusion for all residents.

The Commission’s March agenda included a discussion on programming and activities for youth with special needs, and continued conversation about pedestrian safety and accessibility around the city.

It’s worth stepping back for a minute and pondering the magnitude and significance of those two topics. In 21st century America, strong programs for youth and adults with disabilities should be in place and receive the money they need to expand.

The same benchmark should apply to safety and access in public locations for disabled residents. Federal requirements — in other words, the law of the land — strictly outline public access and safety mandates. But the street, sidewalk or public building that is accessible in one community to someone who is disabled may not be as accessible in another community.

Mayor Brian Arrigo and city officials have made the Commission on Disabilities a priority and matched that commitment with a promise to conduct a detailed survey assessing the needs of residents with disabilities.

The commission meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chamber.

To its credit, Revere’s commission is not just a deliberative body talking about a limited agenda of ideas generated by its members. Its stated goal is inclusion and its agenda notices invite residents to add to the commission agenda and contact members with any ideas or suggestions.

Progressive thinking demonstrated by the commission can easily be matched with a regional and statewide approach to focusing on disability concerns. Arrigo’s forward-thinking approach to government makes Revere City Hall or an even larger location a perfect forum for bringing together disability advocates and residents for overarching discussions and planning.

Even a weekend-long disability forum could barely tackle priority disability reform topics. Uniform and fair compliance with federal and state laws; disability mobility and enforcement and conformance concerns.

Another major topic is ensuring disability commissions are in the mainstream of governance at the city and state levels.

Disability commissions sometimes get pegged as annoyances by public officials who don’t want the headache of spending money on enforcement and expensive compliance requirements.

“Yeah, we’ll get to it,” is an excuse commission members hear too often. Those excuses are disappearing in Revere where the disabled have a voice and priorities are getting the public airing they deserve.

Edward Blake sworn in as new deputy chief

LYNN POLICE DEPARTMENT
Edward Blake is sworn in as deputy chief in a picture posted to the Lynn Police Department’s Facebook.

The Lynn Police Department offered a congratulations to new Deputy Chief Edward Blake in a Facebook post Wednesday.

Blake is a 31-year veteran of the department, the post said. He was sworn in to his new position at City Hall with family and friends in attendance.

Lynnfield’s Hashian gave beat for Boston

Lynn says no; so what now?

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Cathy Rowe posts early returns Tuesday night at Lynn City Hall.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — One day after a ballot question to build two middle schools lost in a landslide, proponents are reeling from the outcome.

“We knocked on doors and got great feedback from folks, so we were surprised and saddened by the outcome,” said Brant Duncan, president of the Lynn Teachers Union. “I don’t know why there was such large opposition.”

In a special election on Tuesday, voters rejected two ballot questions that would have authorized a $188.5 million plan for a 652-student school on Parkland Avenue and a second school to house 1,008 students on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the schools, managed to get the no vote out. They argued that the 44 acres near the proposed Parkland Avenue school site should be reserved exclusively for future burial grounds and open space.

At a meeting of the Pickering School Building Committee at City Hall on Wednesday, Lynn Stapleton, the school project manager, thanked the panel for their hard work and acknowledged the sadness in the room.

“It was an overwhelming no vote,” she said. “And the votes came from well beyond where the school was to be located. The outcome was really upsetting, but we will move on.”

Schools out in Lynn

Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, said he plans to meet with the mayor in the coming weeks.  

“We want to give everyone time to consider the results,” he said.  “I extended an olive branch to the mayor and the committee to pick another site. And we ask the City Council to keep the 44 acres for the cemetery.”

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the quasi-independent government authority that funds school construction projects, which agreed to fund a portion of the Lynn project, gives the city 10 days to explain why the vote failed and how the city wants to proceed. Under the agency’s rules, the city could withdraw or modify its plan and re-apply for funds by April 7 or meet next year’s April deadline.

One of the options is to build just one school, Stapleton said. Or the city could consider a phased option where construction begins on one school and then another. The other possibility is to simply add more classrooms at the Thurgood Marshall Middle School. The city could also withdraw from the competitive funding process.

Given MSBA’s timelines, if the city decides to go forward with a new plan, nothing will happen until 2020.

Full results of Lynn school vote

But Stapleton suggested this was not the time to make any decisions.

“Emotions are a little raw right now,” she said. “Let’s think about it, schedule another meeting and see what we might come up with for alternatives. We don’t have lots of time. But if you think that you have any kind of plan that might conceivably work, I recommend that we submit it to the MSBA within 10 days and see if we can get them to work with us. Otherwise, your only other option is to withdraw from the program and submit next year and try to get back in.”

Following the meeting, Dr. Catherine Latham, superintendent of Lynn Public Schools, said she was heartbroken for the school children and the city.

“I don’t think the vote was about the money, but I just don’t know,” she said. “I wish I knew.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she needs time to consider the vote.

“I need to figure out why they voted no,” she said.

Duncan, the union president, said the vote doesn’t resolve the need for more classroom space or the condition of school buildings.

“The Pickering’s roof was leaking significantly on election day from the melting snow,” he said. “It’s the city’s responsibility to come up with a solution.”


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

Trump cuts could bleed North Shore nonprofits

Photo by Leise Jones
James Wilson, assistant director of conservation, examines a furnace for needed repairs or replacement. The program could be axed if President Trump’s budget is approved.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — President Donald Trump’s proposal to scrap more than $50 billion in federal funding for social programs would have a catastrophic impact on residents, according to nonprofit executives and City Hall.

“These cuts will be devastating,” said Birgitta Damon, CEO of Lynn Economic Opportunity Inc. (LEO), a North Shore community action agency that provides fuel assistance, home energy measures and daycare. “If these cuts come, it would jeopardize the safety of thousands of Greater Lynn residents.”

In what Trump calls his “Budget Blueprint for 2018,” the president proposed increases in the federal budget for immigration enforcement at the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, additional resources for a wall on the Mexican border, immigration judges, expanded detention capacity and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The president also pledged to boost defense spending by 10 percent to $571 billion, a $54 billion hike, without increasing the debt.

But to do that, Trump has recommended reductions in non-defense spending totaling $54 billion.  

“We are going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people,” Trump said in his budget plan. “This includes deep cuts to foreign aid. It is time to prioritize the security and well-being of Americans and to ask the rest of the world to step up and pay its fair share.”

Charles Gaeta, executive director of the Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development, whose mission is to provide low- and moderate-income tenants with safe and affordable housing, said the proposed cuts will have a significant impact on the nonprofit’s $40 million budget.

“If Congress goes along, these cuts will be disastrous to our residents, clients and staff,” he said. “We don’t know exactly how much will be cut, but rental assistance is threatened, so are  community development block grants and HOME funds which can be used to rehab housing. For an urban community like Lynn, this is devastating. It will hurt neighborhood revitalization, as well as first-time homebuyer and lead paint programs.”

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) said candidate Trump promised to create good-paying jobs, invest in the nation’s infrastructure and ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to thrive in the new economy. But the president’s budget fails to mention jobs, rebuilding roads and bridges or expanding economic opportunity for all Americans.

“For a president who talks about ‘America First,’ this budget puts Americans last,” Moulton said in a statement.

Swampscott pulls plug on yacht club

A spokesman for the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, an agency of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, said they were still trying to determine how the proposed cuts would impact the state.

“The commonwealth relies on various federal funding sources to support important programs … and the Baker-Polito administration will continue to advocate for federal funding,” the agency said in a statement. “As the budget process plays out in Congress, the administration urges the Massachusetts congressional delegation to work toward keeping these critical funding sources intact.”

Donald Walker, director of project operations for the city’s Department of Community Development, said Lynn would take a $2.2 million hit if the White House eliminates the block grant program.

“We use that program to rehabilitate parks and playgrounds, housing rehabilitation, fund first-time homebuyer and small business loans,” he said. “We also provide $366,000 to 30 public service agencies that provide Meals On Wheels, a community minority cultural center, special needs and arts programs. We are concerned about the impact the cuts would have and hope there will be some give and take before this is over.”

If approved by Congress, $7 million of LEO’s $10.3 million annual budget would be lost. Low-income heating assistance and home energy/weatherization programs would end and Head Start, a program that prepares young children for success in school, would also cease.

“Trump has decided to increase defense spending and, as a result, he must cut domestic programs that families and communities rely on,” said Damon.

Material from Associated Press contributed to this report.

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

In Revere, no school Weds.; parking ban stays

REVERE — Due to treacherous, icy conditions, the Revere Public Schools will be closed Wednesday, according to a news release.

All city offices, including City Hall and all school department offices, will be open for regular business hours.

The snow emergency and parking ban remains in effect until further notice so the Department of Public Works can complete cleanup. Follow the city’s accounts on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

Residents should be aware of the list of emergency arteries (http://reverepolice.org/snow-emergency-parking/) and not park on these streets until the ban is lifted. Vehicles parked on emergency arteries will be towed for the duration of the ban.

Parking ban up at 12 a.m.; no school Wednesday

Parking ban up at 12 a.m.; no school Wednesday

LYNN — The snow emergency and parking ban will be lifted at midnight Tuesday, according to a news release from the city of Lynn.

All vehicles parked in public school lots must be moved by 10 a.m. Wednesday or risk being ticketed and towed, the city says.

City Hall will be open for business Wednesday, but Lynn Public Schools will be closed. Trash and recycling pickup will remain on a one-day delay for the rest of the week.

Thousands without electricity during storm

Point of Pines prepares for pounding

PHOTO BY SCOTT EISEN
Richie Sarro moves a grill in preparations for the heavy snow and high winds.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

With dangerous weather conditions expected during today’s winter storm, many communities are taking precautions.

Current forecasts project 12-18 inches of snow across most of the state, high winds and coastal flooding. Snow is expected to fall at a rate of 2-4 inches per hour, causing whiteout conditions.

A snow emergency has been declared in Revere and a parking ban will start at 6 a.m. today. Revere Public Schools and all city offices will be closed.

Ward 5 city councilor John Powers, who represents many of the city’s waterfront neighborhoods, said flooding typically depends on the tide.

“My understanding is that we’re probably going to have a 13-foot tide (today) and that’s above normal, but hopefully not too much above normal,” Powers said.

A tide gate near the train tracks and a system that involves catch basins for storm water and two pump houses are in place to prevent flooding during large storms like today’s, he said.

“Under normal conditions, the gate opens and closes automatically,” Powers said. “It’s closed now for the storm.”

Rice Avenue residents Nicole Capozzi and Richie Sarro said their home hasn’t been flooded in years. Howling winds, however, are another issue.

“The wind here is very very strong,” said Capozzi. “It’s very loud. During the last storm, I looked out the window and the grill was in the neighbor’s yard.”

To prepare for storms, they move their lawn furniture and grill to an alcove where it’s protected from the wind.

Sarro, who grew up in the Point of Pines neighborhood, said he believes the addition of dune grass helps keep the flood water at bay.

“Years ago, I was here during the 1978 storm,” he said. “I remember my mom was putting on her makeup. I looked out the window and there was a wall of water coming down the road. There was a helicopter on the roof asking ‘are you people alright?’ and I remember holding the dog. But we haven’t had anything like that in a long time.”

Cheryl Rebholz, a Rice Avenue resident, said she hasn’t had water in her basement for a few years, but still errs on the side of caution.

“We checked the pump in our basement yesterday,” Rebholz said. “All we can do is hope for the best.”

Lynn school election snowed out

A list of emergency arteries can be found on the Revere Police Department’s website. Cars parked on the emergency roads will be towed. The MBTA Wonderland Garage will be available to residents who don’t have off-street parking for a $5 rate from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In a statement, The Revere Department of Public Works, Police Department and Mayor Brian Arrigo’s office asked residents to avoid travel. In addition to high rates of snow, MEMA has advised residents to be aware of the potential for coastal flooding, particularly during high tide at 1:29 p.m.

The city advised residents of the Beachmont, Point of Pines and Oak Island neighborhoods to be cautious.

A parking ban in Lynn began at midnight and all Lynn Public Schools are closed today, according to the city’s website.

All cars are required to be removed from the city’s streets and sidewalks until the ban is lifted. Residents without off-street parking can use the school’s parking lots starting at 5 p.m. on Monday.

Parking is also available at the Ellis Street Municipal lot on the School Street side and at the MBTA parking garage at Broad and Market Streets.

Trash and recycling will not be collected today. Collection will run on a one-day delay for the remainder of the week.

An emergency parking ban went into effect in Peabody at 3 a.m. today. During a snow emergency, blue lights on the city’s traffic poles will flash, indicating that parking on the streets is prohibited.

For residents who do not have off-street parking, alternative parking options may be available. For more information, contact 978-538-6312.

Peabody Public Schools, City Hall and other municipal offices are closed today.

Saugus Public Schools are also closed.

Saugus will  have a parking ban, effective today at 6 a.m., until 8 a.m. on Wednesday morning.  Motor vehicles must be moved from streets in order for the town to have roadways cleared, plowed, salted and sanded for public safety and emergency vehicle access. Any vehicles remaining on the streets may be ticketed and towed, according to Town Manager Scott Crabtree.

Parking is available in the Saugus High School lot, located at 1 Pearce Memorial Drive. The upper lot on the left has been designated as parking space for emergency overflow parking.

Crabtree said he’s urging residents to be safe and to check on family members and neighbors during the storm.

Trash and recycling collection will be delayed by one day from Wednesday through Saturday, March 18. Residents can contact solid waste and recycling coordinator Lorna Cerbone at 781-231- 4036 for more information.

Trash pickup is canceled in Marblehead, Peabody, Swampscott and Lynnfield today. In Revere, collection will begin early at 5 a.m. and remain on schedule throughout the week.

The town of Nahant has a winter parking ban that extends from Dec. 21 to March 20. The ban prohibits on-street parking from midnight until 6 a.m. Residents can apply for a parking waiver to be exempt from the ban.

In the event of a snow emergency, all cars must be removed from the street, including those with a parking waiver, or they will be ticketed and towed at the owner’s expense.

The Johnson Elementary School is closed.

A parking ban, beginning at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, will last for 24 hours in Swampscott, according to Department of Public Works director Gino Cresta.

Swampscott Public Schools and Swampscott Town Hall are closed.

School is canceled in Lynnfield. The town will follow its normal winter parking ban, which prohibits cars from being parked on the road from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Keolis Commuter Services, operator of the MBTA Commuter Rail, said Monday that it will be operating at “Blue” level of service today. This means the normal weekday commuter rail schedule will be reduced by one-third and express trains will make local stops. Passengers should expect delays of between 15 and 25 minutes across the system.

“Extremely fast snowfall rates will create dangerous roadway conditions and we urge everyone to be prepared to stay off the roads, take public transit if necessary and work from home if possible,” said Gov. Charlie Baker in a statement.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Lynn parking ban starts at midnight

A snow emergency and parking ban goes into effect at midnight Monday, according to a news release from the city.

No vehicles may park on a public street or sidewalk. All vehicles must be removed.

Vehicle owners can face a $150-tow fee and $35-a-day storage fee in addition to parking tickets. All Lynn Public School parking lots will be open for residents to store their vehicles. Parking is also available at the Ellis Street municipal lot (School Street side only) and the MBTA garage at the intersection of Broad and Market streets (parking charge applies).

Vehicles must be removed promptly at the end of the parking ban, or risk tow.

Lynn Public Schools and City Hall offices will be closed Monday. Trash and recycle pickup will be delayed one day this week.

Storm postponements, cancellations

 

Honoring a legacy in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
At 96, Margaret Connelly is the oldest-living retiree from City Hall.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Margaret Connelly, 96, will be informally honored as the oldest living City Hall retiree next week at the Porthole Restaurant, where her 48-year career with the Department of Public Works will be celebrated.

A celebration will be held for Connelly, a lifelong Lynn resident and St. Mary’s High School graduate, at the pub on March 16 at noon. Some of the attendees will include former City Hall employees, with most of them from the DPW department.

“I don’t think I deserve it,” said Connelly. “I loved my job.”

Connelly began her City Hall career in 1942 as a junior clerk in the DPW department after taking a civil service exam. At the time, she said it was just a street department. She studied business in college. She retired in 1990 as the senior clerk of the DPW.

She was recognized by former Mayor Albert DiVirgilio in 1990, when she was given a key to the city and a plaque for her 48 years of dedicated service to Lynn.

Gary Brenner, executive director of the Lynn Retirement Board, said it was safe to say Connelly was the oldest living City Hall retiree. He said he worked with her for awhile.

“She helped everyone,” Brenner said. “She was a great, great woman … I knew her for like 13 years when she was working. She was the head clerk in the DPW office. Everyone knew her. She was just a very, very nice woman.”

A great plan for Lynn

Doris Harewood, 88, said she worked with Connelly for more than 20 years. The two have remained friends. She joked that having Connelly as a boss wasn’t easy.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better boss,” Harewood said. “I don’t think there was anyone (else) that I would have liked to have worked with.”

Connelly credits her late mother for her success. She said she had the greatest mother in the world, who she called the hardest worker she knew. She said she had a good family that made due with what they had, despite not having an awful lot growing up.

Many of her family members worked for the DPW, with Connelly’s caretaker, Laurie Mignault, 41, joking that nepotism was rampant at the time. Both her husband and only son, each named James, worked for the department. Her husband died after working in the blizzard of 1978, and her son died seven years ago.

Throughout the years, Connelly said the DPW grew. She went from running the department without any technology to adapting her skills when computers were introduced. She said she especially loved doing the word processing on the computer, as space was saved with the paper’s margins. Before computers, Connelly ran the city from a filing cabinet, Mignault added.

“I loved my job,” said Connelly. “I love the people I worked with. They were the greatest bunch of girls. We were like one big family … You’re only as good as the people who work for you.”

In her retirement, Connelly spends her days listening to Irish music and dancing. She also loves big band music. She follows a physical therapy regimen. Mignault said her client has made a full recovery from being disabled after the 14 strokes and 19 seizures she’s had in the past two years. She said Connelly has worked really hard at recovery.

“She refused to be the way she was,” Mignault said. “She said she had to get back to work.”


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

Let the transformation begin in Malden

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — The new owners of City Hall and the former police station will begin demolishing the buildings in mid-April with the former Pleasant Street station razed first to make way for new development.

Jefferson Apartment Group deposited $10 million with the city toward the site purchase. The former seat of city government and public safety has been fenced off and closed to pedestrian traffic, and demolition is expected to take about two weeks.  

With an August 2019 completion date, Jefferson’s transit-oriented development across the street from one of the busiest MBTA stations on the North Shore will include 325 apartments, retail space, more than 300 parking spaces and more than 40,000 square feet of condominium-based office space for city hall operations.

Jefferson plans to transform the site into a $30 million residential/commercial mixed-use development that will eventually include a permanent home for City Hall operations. Construction is scheduled to start in the spring.

Malden’s temporary seat of government now operates on Pleasant Street, four blocks from City Hall. The renewal project will build on other recent city achievements, including construction and opening of a new, state-of-the-art police station on Eastern Avenue.

The project clears the way for reconnecting Pleasant Street to create unimpeded traffic flow for the first time in 43 years.

Malden fire displaces six families

Another building on the site development site, First Church of Malden, will be demolished last with the razing slated to take place during the summer.

Near the end of this year, construction will begin on the new development and Jefferson officials said it will take 16-18 months. The first residential units planned at the site will be ready for use in April 2019 and the long-awaited reopening of Pleasant Street to through traffic will be realized.

Mayor Gary Christenson made the relocation of Malden City Hall and the reopening of Pleasant Street to vehicular traffic a major campaign pledge when he first ran for mayor.

Study: Revere needs human resources department

By THOMAS GRILLO

REVERE — A new University of Massachusetts study calls on the city to create a Human Resources Department, saying it’s critical to the operation of a large municipality.

In its 17-page report, the Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management recommended Revere adopt a centralized personnel department, with a director, benefits coordinator and a secretary. It does not say how much it will cost.

The report was embraced by Mayor Brian Arrigo, who has argued a personnel department is essential.

“An interim HR consultant is now in place to begin implementing those recommendations, and a permanent HR director will be hired this year,” said Arrigo in a statement.

The Society for Human Resource Management said HR is the formal structure within an organization responsible for all the decisions, strategies, factors, principles, operations practices, functions, activities and methods related to the management of people.

The study also said the recruitment and selection processes should be centralized; a comprehensive pay and classification system including job descriptions should be adopted; policies governing conflict of interest, ethics, criminal offenders records inquiries, Family and Medical Leave Act procedures, absenteeism, discrimination prevention and discipline should be implemented; training should be provided to department heads and supervisors on critical policies.

In what will be one of the more controversial aspects of the survey, researchers said the residency requirement should be scrapped in favor of a preference to employ city residents.

The Collins Center team conducted interviews with City Hall staff including the mayor and department heads.

In addition, ordinances, collective bargaining agreements, budgets and policies were reviewed.

Revere has 425 employees. The School Department employs 1,375. The city has 506 benefited retirees. The city’s operating budget is more than $170 million.

Pickering principal states case for new school


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

Kennedy plans to hire a city planner

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy speaks with The Item in her office at Lynn City Hall.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Starting this summer, Lynn will no longer be the state’s largest municipality without a city planner.  

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has proposed to fill the planning position that has been vacant for nearly 25 years.

“I’ve wanted to get a planner for a long, long time and now’s the right time,” she said. “A planner will update zoning citywide and determine land usage as we plot the city’s future.”

The job, which is expected to cost up to $100,000 annually, comes as a recent study by RKG Associates Inc. in Boston called on the city to improve planning, regulatory and zoning functions by creating a planning office led by a professional to institute permitting that is transparent, streamlined and fair. Other consultants have called for the establishment of a centralized planning division that would lead the city’s redevelopment efforts.

Kennedy said the impetus to create the job followed a conversation with James M. Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corp. (EDIC), the city’s development bank. The two discussed how the city once employed a grant writer that was paid for by EDIC and the city’s Department of Community Development.

“We thought maybe we could do that for the planner,” she said.

Kennedy has asked EDIC and the Community Development office to each come up with 50 percent of the salary.

Cowdell said the addition of a planner to City Hall is a positive step that he supports.

When he was hired in 1987, Cowdell said there was a full planning department. Since it disbanded in 1990, the city has  spent money on consultants to fill the void.

“The department dissolved when the planning director retired and the agency’s functions were integrated into other departments,” he said. “It makes sense to hire a planner. It will be a welcome addition to the city.”

While the job description has not been written, the new hire will be responsible to determine land use, he said.

“Our zoning ordinances are outdated and the planner will take that on as a project,” he said.

New era begins for Lynn police

Jason Denoncourt, economic development director for U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), praised the city for the decision.

“A planner is an essential piece of the puzzle,” he said. “It’s great they are considering it and smart planning will pay for itself.”

Gordon R. Hall, president of The Hall Co., and chairman of the Lynn Business Partnership who also serves as a director of The Daily Item, said, “This is something we’ve wanted for the city for a long time; we applaud the decision by the mayor.”

James Marsh, community development director, said he welcomes the chance to add to his team and fill the planning role in-house.

“Whether it’s assisting us in laying out public space around a new development, participating in design review or working on transportation concepts, we will lean on a city planner from day one.”


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

A new way to walk in Malden

COURTESY PHOTO
A bird’s-eye view of walking changes in force for 12-18 months once work gets underway on Malden Square’s renewal.

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — Immediate changes to pedestrian traffic are being made in Malden Square around the former Malden City Hall/Police Station slated for demolition to clear space for new development.

Construction site fencing around the 3.2-acre City Hall and old Police Station and First Church means pedestrians no longer have access to the walkway through City Hall Plaza or alongside the Heritage Apartments while work is underway.

Pedestrians on Pleasant Street will be required to access Abbot and Exchange streets or Washington and Florence streets for access to the MBTA station. Signage at the site will help guide pedestrians.

Residents will have to adapt to the walking restrictions — they will be in place for the 12- to 18-month-long demolition and construction period.

Malden coaching its way to recovery

Jefferson Apartment Group plans to transform the site into a $30 million residential/commercial mixed-use development that will eventually include a permanent home for City Hall operations. Construction is scheduled to start in the spring.

Malden’s temporary seat of government now operates on Pleasant Street, four blocks from City Hall. The renewal project will build on other recent city achievements, including construction and opening of a new, state-of-the-art police station on Eastern Avenue.

The project clears the way for reconnecting Pleasant Street to create unimpeded traffic flow for the first time in 43 years.

Hailed as a modern seat of city government, the City Hall building gradually developed a reputation as a nuisance straddling Pleasant Street. Mayor Gary Christenson made the relocation of Malden City Hall and the reopening of Pleasant Street to vehicular traffic a major campaign pledge when he first ran for mayor.

 

Lynn mayor offers tax cuts to seniors

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Trying to head off opposition to a $188.5 million school construction project, City Hall is offering more tax relief for seniors.

Under a plan proposed by Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy to offset the cost of building two new middle schools, the city plans to boost the real estate tax exemption to seniors by $200 and reduce the eligibility age to 65, from 70.

“We believe adopting these options will provide the necessary relief to seniors who would be most affected by a tax increase,” Kennedy said in a statement. “I have spoken to many seniors who are supportive of the new schools’ proposal, but understandably concerned about the impact on their taxes. Hopefully, this will make them feel more comfortable about a ‘yes’ vote.”

On Tuesday, March 14, voters will be asked to approve a tax hike to pay for a 652-student school to be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

If approved, voters will be responsible for $91.4 million of the project cost. The Massachusetts School Building Authority, the quasi-independent state agency that funds school projects, said it will contribute $97.1 million.

School officials said $11 million in contingency funds are included in the overall cost. If those monies are not used, it would reduce the taxpayer portion by that amount, making the taxpayers’ bill about $80 million.

The city said the average homeowner will pay an additional $200 in taxes per year for 25 years.

If voters reject the tax hike, the increased tax exemption would be dropped.

Kennedy said she’s heard the concerns of seniors who are worried about a $200 tax increase if voters approve two new schools. The mayor asked the Board of Assessors to explore options for providing additional tax relief.

The tax exemption is available to income-eligible seniors. A couple can earn no more than $29,804 and have assets of less than $45,974, not including a home and car. A single senior can earn up to $23,792 with assets no more than $42,908.

Today, about 100 seniors receive the $500 deduction, according to Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer.

Caron said most seniors who receive the exemption have homes valued around or under the average single-family value of $273,600. As a result, he said, the $200 additional exemption would mitigate the tax increase required to pay for the city’s share of the school building project.

“We have made a concerted effort to answer questions and address concerns related to the new schools,” Kennedy said. “It is critical that we build these schools in order to have the space required for the 20 percent increase in enrollment we will see in the next two years.”

Gary Welch, a member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the location of the Parkland Avenue school, declined comment. Donald Castle, a founding member of the group, could not be reached for comment.


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

Committee to study custodian calculations

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has signed off on a plan to transfer management of the school’s maintenance staff to the school department from City Hall.

“Overall, this move accomplishes my intention of putting the custodians back to the school department where we will capture $1 million in healthcare costs toward net school spending,” said Kennedy.

The next step is approval of a home rule petition by lawmakers on Beacon Hill, typically a formality.

Kennedy’s signature caps a drama that unfolded last month, when the School Committee rejected the mayor’s request to move accountability of the school custodians from the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) to the schools by a 6-1 vote. Only the mayor, chairwoman of the committee, voted for it.

While the school committee can recommend to the Lynn delegation on Beacon Hill to reject the change, they are powerless to stop it on their own.

“The schools are never, ever affected the way the city side is,” said the mayor at a school committee meeting Thursday, calling it an accounting move to increase flexibility within the city budget and avoid layoffs.

“The city does not pocket any money whatsoever because the city pays all of the health insurance,” said Kennedy.

Other committee members expressed hesitation out of fear that the transfer will have unanticipated consequences on the school budget.

“We don’t have numbers,” said committee member Maria Carrasco.

Restaurant owner announces city council bid

Member Patricia Capano asked attorney John C. Mihos whether the committee could stop or rewrite the petition if it was found to be unfavorable.

Mihos said the next avenue of action would be to request the state legislature not move it forward at the state level.

Capano successfully made a motion asking the committee to write to the state delegation, ensuring their awareness that the vote on the Home Rule Petition was lopsided.  

The movement of custodians, which was approved by the City Council last month, has been controversial. In 2006, then-Mayor Edward “Chip” Clancy shifted the janitors and maintenance staff from the school department to the city. The transfer came, he said at the time, because the schools were dirty and the janitors lacked supervision.

It was Michael Donovan, ISD’s director, who took the added responsibility of monitoring the workers.

When he inherited the 166-employee unit in 2007, it included 120 permanent custodians, 20 substitute contract workers who filled in for absentees and 26 maintenance technicians for 26 schools.

Changes were implemented, Donovan said, that required more accountability. They instituted attendance and timekeeping policies, employees punched time cards, vacation rules were tightened, staff was moved and lots of maintenance project work was outsourced.

Today, the streamlined department has 57 custodians, a dozen maintenance workers and the afternoon staff is outsourced with a budget of $14 million.

In a quirk in state law, while salaries for the janitors as city employees count toward school spending, their health insurance premiums do not. By moving them, the city can add health insurance and reduce the deficit.

Kennedy said she hopes the change will take place by July 1. But City Councilor and state Rep. Daniel Cahill, who supports the change, said it could be months until the Legislature acts.


Item staffer Leah Dearborn contributed to this story. Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Mayor, super make case for new schools

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham talks to a crowded room at Stadium Condominiums in Lynn.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is taking no chances when it comes to passing a controversial ballot question to fund a pair of new middle schools.

On Wednesday night, the mayor and her City Hall team made the case for the $188.5 million project to more than three dozen seniors who packed the recreation room at the Stadium Condominiums.

“Right now, the library at Pickering consists of two rolling carts with books and there are no science labs,” Kennedy said. “When you contrast that with what we see at the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School, the kids are simply not getting the same educational experience.”

In a passionate plea, Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said every child who attends a middle school should have the same opportunity as every other child.

“Our beautiful new Marshall has cooking, sewing, wood shop, a TV studio, three-dimensional art rooms, music rooms and they should be available to everyone in Lynn,” she said.

Latham said there is lots of misinformation about the project. The city looked at more than a dozen sites, she said.

“We’ve heard people suggest a site on Federal Street near the fire station,” she said. “But it’s contaminated land and that is not a possibility. Magnolia Avenue has flood plains and an MWRA water line. Some have told us to use the Union Hospital site; we don’t own it.”  

The building committee also considered renovating the existing Pickering and that would cost $44 million without any state reimbursement, Latham said.

If approved by voters on March 14, the Pickering Middle School on Conomo Avenue would be replaced with a school on Parkland Avenue near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir that would house 652 students, while a larger school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

Residents will be responsible for an estimated $91.4 million or 51.5 percent of the total $188.5 million project cost. The city said the average homeowner will pay an additional $200 in taxes per year for 25 years. The rest of the cost will be picked up by the  Massachusetts School Building Authority, a quasi-public agency that funds school construction.

But Donald Castle, a Stadium unit owner and founder of the Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization that opposes the Parkland Avenue school site, urged the crowd to vote no.

“Your taxes will go up above and beyond the legal limit for 25 years,” he said. “The land should be preserved for a cemetery. We ask the city to protect our cemetery and protect our reservoir.”

James Lamanna, the city’s assistant city solicitor, said the school will use about a dozen acres of the 44-acre site. The rest, he said, will be preserved for cemetery expansion. In addition, he said, the project will fund a $1 million road and bridge that the Cemetery Commission could not afford. Without the school, the land could not be accessed for new graveyards.

City Council President Darren Cyr said he favors construction of the two schools.

“No matter where kids live in Lynn, they should have the same opportunities as kids get in Swampscott, Marblehead and Lynnfield,” he said. “Every one of us has a chance to change kids’ lives and by voting yes on March 14, you will give those kids a chance that they will not get otherwise.”

School Committee member Lorraine Gately said a yes vote is essential for the city’s children.

“If we don’t support this, our future is larger class sizes and double sessions,” she said.

Moving on time in Lynn


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

Layover in Zürich: The downtown dash

PHOTO COURTESY OF ZURICH TOURISM
The Lucy Christmas lights brighten up the Bahnhofstrasse and add some holiday magic.

By STACEY MARCUS

While reviewing the itinerary for our trip to Barcelona, we noticed that on the journey home we had a long layover in Zürich, Switzerland. Although we were tempted to park our weary bodies at the airport and consume massive amounts of Swiss chocolate while discussing the concept of time, we opted to embark on a whirlwind tour of downtown Zürich. When would our family again be able to spend a blustery winter afternoon in the heart of Switzerland looking down at birds pirouetting on the Limmat River and peering up at the snow-capped Alps?

The friendly staff at Switzerland Tourism suggested we experience the efficient and speedy train system, noting that there is a train every 10 minutes from Zürich Airport to downtown Zürich. And the station is right at the beginning of the world-renowned Bahnhofstrasse, an entrance to the old, historic city.

We hopped on a train and in just 13 minutes were in the heart of Zürich’s Old Town with its iconic Grossmunster and Fraumunster churches, winding streets, quaint houses and intriguing architecture. It was exhilarating to breathe in the fresh winter air and walk across the Mühlesteg pedestrian bridge and see Switzerland’s homage to love locks.

With just a few hours to spend in Zürich, we had to make some tough choices. We strolled along Bahnhofstrasse, the city’s famous high-end shopping boulevard. It was tempting to visit the myriad shops and the renowned Globus department store, but my family wisely elected not to spend our treasured time shopping, for fear I would get lost in a sea of shops and we would miss the plane.

We unanimously voted to choose a restaurant and relax. So many good choices. Should we enjoy one of the 500 dishes of the world’s first vegetarian restaurant, Hiltl, which opened in 1898? Should we taste the famous Zürich-style sliced veal served with rösti or other culinary delicacies at Zunfthaus zur Waag, an elegant restaurant that dates back to the 19th century.

We decided to pop into Café Restaurant Mohrenkopf in Old Town. It looked authentic and inviting with a menu boasting such Swiss specialties as schnitzel and sliced veal. I selected a simple salad bowl (yes, I am that predictable), Rachel enjoyed a Dörfli club sandwich, Emily selected meatloaf à la maison and Mitch enjoyed the sliced veal. We were very happy with our choice for lunch.

Berkshires bliss: A slice of winter wonder

As with most European trips, the best part of our dash through Zürich was waltzing through the winding streets and taking photographs. Lindenhof is a fabulous spot to see a panoramic of the city and enjoy Old Town, Grossmünster Church, City Hall, the Limmat river, the university and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

Way too soon Europe’s largest clock face at St. Peter’s Church (OK, it was really my iPhone clock) announced it was time to head back to Zürich Airport and say a fond farewell to this beautiful city. We look forward to returning in the near future when we have more than a small slice of time to explore this world-class locale.

Malden mayor looks to the future

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is Malden Mayor Gary Christenson.

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — Mayor Gary Christenson opened his sixth “State of the City” address Tuesday morning declaring Malden is “on the move.”

Christenson greeted an audience of 300 gathered at Anthony’s by holding up a set of keys to symbolize city action to pass ownership of the former City Hall to developer Jefferson Apartment Group. With city government temporarily relocated to new quarters, the 1970s-era building has been sold to Jefferson and will be demolished this spring to make way for residential-commercial and retail mix development.

“Malden is strong, vibrant and on the move,” the mayor asserted.

Relocating City Hall and the Malden Police Station, redeveloping the City Hall site and reopening Pleasant Street to traffic after 43 years has been a major focus of Christenson’s mayorship.

During his speech sponsored by the Malden Chamber of Commerce, Christenson stressed Malden’s diversity and the ways in which he and his staff strive to reach and include all in the fabric of the city.

“One of Malden’s greatest strengths is our concern for each other. In this city we care about each other,” the mayor said, adding “with the divisiveness around the country it has become even more important for us to consistently let it be known we value all members of our community. We in Malden have been on the path of inclusiveness long before it has become a goal of other communities and for that we are very proud.”

The Item welcomes 3 new communities

Christenson spiced up his speech by using a digital assistant “bot” named “Tornado” to present his video-enhanced address. “Tornado,” named after the Malden High School athletic teams’ mascot, introduced the mayor.

In addition to detailing city government’s relocation over the past year and the construction and opening of the new police station on the lower Eastern Avenue corridor, Christenson announced a downward trend in crime and said the city will introduce a Citizens Police Academy this year.

He highlighted the swearing-in of new Fire Chief Kevin Finn this year and, in the context of last month’s fatal fire on Perkins Street, explained city efforts to distribute free smoke detectors. Christenson reviewed Malden public school successes from the past year, including leadership changes with Dr. Charles Grandson as interim Superintendent and Ted Lombardi as Malden High School principal.

The mayor praised the accomplishments by students and staff in all of the schools and said the School Committee endorses promotion of these achievements.

Other speech highlights included:

— Grants obtained by the Board of Health to partner with other agencies and groups to help fight opioid and substance addiction

— Gold Medal status from the state for the City Clerk’s office and retiring Clerk Karen Anderson for their successful introduction of early voting in the city this year.

— Improvements to several parks including Coytemore Lea (an all-inclusive, fully accessible playground to those with disabilities); Pearl Street tot lot and basketball court; and Forestdale Park.

— Malden’s designation as a “Green Community” and its subsequent $330,000 state grant which will lead to making all 3,400 streetlights in the city LED as well as a complete, energy savings-guaranteed energy audit of all city buildings.

— The addition of many new businesses to the community including a first-in-the-city brewery and taproom (Idle Hands on Commercial Street) and the designation of Malden, on equal footing with Boston and Cambridge as “platinum certified” in siting biotechnology companies.

Malden City Hall demolition to start revitalization

PHOTO BY OFFICE OF MAYOR GARY CHRISTENSON/PAUL HAMMERSLEY PHOTO
Malden Mayor Gary Christenson, left, talks with former Mayor Richard C. Howard, center and U.S. Sen, Ed Markey, D-Mass., a lifelong Malden resident, at Friday’s farewell ceremony at Malden Government Center, which is slated for demolition.

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — After a year of planning and the relocation of municipal services, the city is ready to demolish City Hall and launch the revitalization of Malden Square.

Demolition starts soon, weather permitting, and sets the stage for the sale of City Hall and former police station buildings to a developer who will be transforming the site into a $30 million residential/commercial mixed-use development that will eventually include a permanent home for City Hall operations. Construction is scheduled to start in the spring.

“It’s a great day for Malden and its residents,” said Mayor Gary Christenson.

Malden’s temporary seat of government now operates on Pleasant Street, four blocks from City Hall. The renewal project will build on other recent city achievements, including construction and opening of a new, state-of-the-art police station on Eastern Avenue.

City Hall’s demolition clears the way for reconnecting Pleasant Street to create unimpeded traffic flow for the first time in 43 years.

Hailed as a well-planned ode to modern architecture when it was built in the mid-1970s, City Hall’s luster and allure wore off quickly with residents labeling the building a white elephant. For the last 15 years, the building has been blamed for many ills associated with Malden Square. Two years ago one local newspaper colloquially referred to Malden Government Center as “The Beast that Ate Pleasant Street.”

“At the time many embraced the idea of the Malden City Hall and its placement, but through the years it had been viewed as an obstacle,” said U.S. Sen. Edward Markey.

Christenson made the relocation of Malden City Hall and the reopening of Pleasant Street to vehicular traffic a major campaign pledge when he first ran for mayor. He credits Markey and former Mayor Richard C. Howard among local officials who share his vision of demolishing City Hall and envisioning the renewal project.

“There are a lot of memories from that building, lots of good ones,” said Howard.

Howard, who was mayor for 16 years, initiated proposals to relocate City Hall and reopen Pleasant Street 10 years ago. It is an initiative Malden City Councilor at large Debbie DeMaria supports.

“The (building) served its purpose, it’s an exciting time in the city of Malden and this change will be very beneficial to Malden Square and the city overall,” she said.

Christenson last Friday credited a host of city officials for supporting the renewal plans, including Former Mayor Jim Conway, state Reps. Paul Donato, Steve Ultrino, and Paul Brodeur;  Malden Redevelopment Authority (MRA) Executive Director Deborah Burke and colleague Ron Hogan, Council President Peg Crowe; Councilors Craig Spadafora (at large), Paul Condon (Ward Two); Ryan O’Malley (Ward Four); Barbara Murphy (Ward Five); Neil Kinnon (Ward Six); Neal Anderson (Ward Seven); and Jadeane Sica (Ward Eight) and School Committee members Catherine Bordonaro and Emmanuel Marsh.

Mayor weighs custodian transfer

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy will take the rest of the week to decide whether to transfer management of the school’s maintenance staff from City Hall to the school department.

In a drama that unfolded last week, the School Committee rejected the mayor’s request to move accountability of the school custodians from the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) to the schools by a 6-1 vote. Only the mayor, chairwoman of the committee, voted for it.

The change, which requires approval from the mayor, City Council and the Legislature, was Kennedy’s idea as a way to capture $1 million in additional school spending and avoid a state penalty. But the mayor said she needs to review the Home Rule Petition in its entirety before she makes a decision.

“I plan to take most, if not all of this week, to read through the complicated nine-page document,” she said. “I am fully committed to the move, but I want to make sure nothing has been inserted to the home rule petition before I sign it.”

The draft of the change was straightforward, the mayor said, as simple as shifting the management to the schools. But there are other questions as to who will do the hiring, scheduling and disciplining, she said.

“The devil is in the details,” she said. “I’ve heard the School Committee making comments about hiring as many as seven new people and I need to read the amendments to see how they got that number.”

A review of the document found two positions created under the new ordinance, a supervisor of school custodian and ground services and an assistant.

“My intention is to get the custodians over to the school side so there’s a net zero impact on the budgeting and not spend another dime to do the same job ISD has been doing for years,” she said.

There has been some talk by School Committee members to end the practice of privatizing afternoon janitor services that cost the city $1.5 million. If schools hire their own workers, the cost would soar to $2.8 million in salary and benefits for 40 custodians.

“I am a member of the School Committee as well, and I don’t want to see teachers laid off in order to make room for 40 new custodians.” Kennedy said. “That would be a bad move financially, I want to provide direct services to kids.”

The move was approved by the City Council last week. If the mayor fails to sign it, she could send it back to the council for amendments. While the School Committee would be asked to reconsider any changes, officially they do not have a say in the move. They can only recommend to the Lynn delegation on Beacon Hill not to support the change.

Showdown over Lynn school custodians


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

CFO accuses school committee of ‘fuzzy math’

By THOMAS GRILLO and BRIDGET TURCOTTE 

LYNN  — One day after the School Committee overwhelmingly rejected a move to transfer management of the school’s maintenance staff from Inspectional Services to the school department because of the costs, the city’s chief financial officer blasted the panel’s fuzzy math.

“There was a lot of bad information spewed by the School Committee Thursday night,” said Peter Caron. “If the schools take over custodial operations as they exist today, the only cost to them is $1 million in health insurance. All the other talk about it costing another million here and another million there is baloney.”

The controversy began last month when in an attempt to capture $1 million in additional school spending and avoid a state penalty, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy engineered a plan to transfer supervision of school custodians from City Hall to the school department. Earlier this week, the city council voted unanimously for the change.

But in a 6-1 vote Thursday, the School Committee rejected the home rule petition that would make the transfer a reality. The panel asked the city’s Beacon Hill delegation to deep six the proposal when it reaches the State House. Only the mayor, chairman of the school committee, voted for the change.

“There are far too too many questions for us to support this change,” said Patricia Capano, a School Committee member. “We still don’t know what it will cost us, we want answers. Can we afford it without depleting our budget? It would be shortsighted.”

Showdown over Lynn school custodians

State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn), who also serves as a City Councilor at-Large, supported the measure at the council meeting.

“I hopes the issues get resolved in a way that benefits everyone in the city,” he said.

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said he will wait to see the home rule petition arrives on Beacon Hill before he makes a decision on how to vote.

Sen. Thomas M. McGee (D-Lynn), through a spokeswoman, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Michael Donovan, ISD director, said half of his $14 million budget pays the salaries for 57 custodians, a dozen maintenance workers as well as for supplies and maintenance.

Caron insists that portion of ISD’s budget, or $7 million, would go to the schools, and it will not cost the School Committee a dime more to do the same job.

Still, Capano said she has no idea what it costs for the afternoon shift of custodians that are privatized. She wanted to know how much it would be for the schools to hire their own custodial staff.

“We want to make an intelligent comparison if it would benefit the citizens of Lynn to have 40 new employees, but can we afford it?” she said.

Donovan said the cost of the private company for the p.m. shift is $1.5 million. But it would increase to $2.8 million in salary and benefits if the schools hire their own workers.

But Caron insists such an added expenditure is unnecessary.

“If they choose to fire the private company and hire new custodians, that’s on them,” he said. “But if they continue to use the private afternoon service, I would take the cash out of ISD’s budget and put it into the school budget. The net result is zero extra costs for the schools.”

Technically, the School Committee has no say in the transfer. They can only make a recommendation.

The mayor has until Thursday to decide whether to sign the home rule petition request and send it along to the State House.

Kennedy could not immediately be reached for comment.

Despite the custodian transfer, the city is still dealing with other school spending issues. Caron reported a clerical error that resulted in a significant underfunding to the schools of about $1.6 million.  He anticipates a similar shortfall next year.

The health insurance portion of the net school formula was miscalculated using a head-count method, he said which only includes individual health insurance plans, not the added costs of covering families.

“I’ve recommended to the mayor that the city seriously consider moving away from a self-insured plan to a premium-based plan,” he said. “We would know what the cost would be for each employee every year. We would know exactly how much money we would expect for insurance costs for the coming year.”

Of the $8.9 million in debt the city is committed to repaying in a four year period, Caron said. About $900,000 has been repaid, leaving two years to repay $8 million, he added.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.comBridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com.