Daniel Cahill

$300,000 LEADs to a cleaner Lynn

The city will be little cleaner thanks to a $300,000 Brownfields grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

U.S. Rep Seth Moulton (D-Salem) and the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) team worked to secure the cash.

“This grant is yet another testament to the strength of the LEAD team,” said Moulton in a statement. “These sites, saddled by years of oil and chemical contamination, are an albatross around the neck of Lynn, and pose a serious threat to the city’s environmental and economic health.”

Brownfields funds help transform dirty, dormant properties into new businesses and homes, stimulating much needed jobs and tax revenue for Lynn, he said.

These competitive awards will be used for assessment and partial clean up. A $200,000 grant will determine what hazardous substances are located on six sites across Lynn, and prepare a cleanup plan.

Among the sites included is the former Whyte’s Laundry. The EPA estimates that it will cost about $350,000 to remove contaminants from the 15,000-square-foot parcel.

In addition, there’s a $100,000 remediation grant to clean 870 Western Avenue, a former gas station and automotive service facility.

Initial testing by the Economic Development and Industrial Corp., the city’s development bank, found soil and groundwater at the site are contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons.

James Cowdell, EDIC’s executive director, worked with Moulton’s office in applying for these two EPA grants.

“We are very appreciative to receive these critical grants,” said Cowdell in a statement.

In addition to Moulton, members of the LEAD team include Gov. Charlie Baker, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton, Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, state Sen. Thomas M. McGee, and state representatives Daniel Cahill, Brendan Crighton, Lori Ehrlich, and Donald Wong.

Council overrides mayor’s meal tax veto


LYNN — Days after Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy vetoed the local option meals tax, the City Council overrode the mayor’s action by a 10-1 vote.

In a special council meeting Tuesday, the panel quickly dispensed with the mayor’s veto saying the city needs the money and they need it now. By taking the action this week, it ensures the tax will go into effect on July 1.

“This is a necessity, this budget deficit is enormous,” said Brian LaPierre, city councilor-at-large, in an impassioned speech. “Statewide, $60 million has been raised by this commonwealth and I’m tired of these games where a few cents on a cup of coffee warranted a veto.”

City Councilor-at-Large Daniel Cahill said every Lynn resident pays this tax when they leave the city to eat out. He chided Kennedy for her willingness to raise fees and the cost of parking ticket, but not support a modest increase in buying a meal.

“The citizens of Lynn deserve proper public safety,” he said. “It’s a no brainer.”

In her veto letter to the council, the mayor said she is well aware the city is facing a structural deficit in the budget.

Learning a family affair in Lynn

“The council leadership and I are working diligently to craft a package of measures that will close this deficit at minimum cost to taxpayers with an aim to preserve jobs by everyone employed by the city,” she wrote. “But I do not support the creation of a meals tax as one of the remedies to the deficit.”   

Earlier this month, the council voted 10-1 to impose a .0075 percent tax on top of the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax on meals. The new levy would add 75 cents to a $100 dinner bill, about 19 cents to a $25 meal and raise $700,000 annually for the city.

The Legislature authorized communities to add the new fee on meals in 2009. While the sales tax goes to the general fund, the local option is given to the community to spend as it wishes. About half of the state’s cities and towns have adopted the change and have raised nearly $652 million.

Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi was the sole vote to uphold the veto. He had argued that the new revenue be designated toward public safety.

“But the city said they can’t do that and I can’t support it,” he said.

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


As Trahant steps down, others step up

“I’ll still be around,” longtime City Councilor William Trahant says.


LYNN William Trahant knew something was wrong last fall when he was boating on Tripp Pond at his camp in Poland, Maine.

“I could feel pain in my chest, started sweating and had all the symptoms of a heart attack,” said the Ward 2 City Councilor.

Minutes later he was rushed to a local hospital where doctors confirmed his instincts. He was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital and underwent successful triple bypass surgery.

It was a life-changing moment for the 57-year-old contractor who has served on the Council for nine terms. He knew it was time to quit and not seek reelection.

“I’m not a quitter and I’ll still be around, but I need to do this for my health and for my family,” he said.

It didn’t take long for candidates to line up to replace him.

Alexander Zapata, a former candidate for state representative who couldn’t get enough signatures to run against Daniel Cahill, had already pulled papers. He could not be reached for comment.

Mac gets a city salute

Last week, Gina O’Toole, a 51-year-old teacher’s aide in the Lynn Public Schools, joined the race.   

“Over the years, I’ve noticed lots of things that needed to be done in the neighborhood and people always tell me to call the ward councilor,” she said. “As a councilor, I will be able to contribute to the community in a way that I can’t as a regular citizen.”

O’Toole said her neighbors are concerned about the lack of traffic lights on Eastern and Western avenues, road conditions in the ward and Floating Bridge Pond needs to be cleaned.  

Rick Starbard, 53, owner of Rick’s Auto Collision in Revere, also tossed his hat in the ring.

“I didn’t plan on running,” he said. “But when Billy decided not to seek re-election, that promoted my phone to ring off the hook with people encouraging me to run and I decided to do it.”

Starbard, a former School Committeeman who was defeated in a bid for an at-large councilor seat two years ago, said experience as a business owner will benefit the council.

“The key to balancing our budget is to expand our commercial tax base and fund public safety,” said the former teacher at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute. “We need to do more to attract business and industry to the city.”

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

No re-election plans for Trahant


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.

Swampscott voters to decide rail-trail fate

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.


A taxing decision for Lynn council


LYNN — Five surrounding communities have raised nearly $20 million since 2009 by adopting the local option meals tax and the City Council wants a share of it to keep layoffs at bay.

Some restaurant owners say they favor the tax because it will fund services at a time when the city is cash-strapped, while others are not so sure and some won’t say.

In a lopsided 10-1 vote last week, the panel opted to impose a .0075 percent tax on top of the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax on meals. The new levy would add 75 cents to a $100 dinner bill, about 19 cents to a $25 meal and raise $700,000 annually for the city.

In 2009, the Legislature authorized communities to add the new fee on meals. While the sales tax goes to the general fund, the local option is given to the community to spend as it wishes. About half of the state’s cities and towns have adopted the change and have raised nearly $652 million.

Like other Massachusetts cities, Lynn has struggled to pay for schools and public safety. The Council said the time has come for the small increase that could do so much good.

“We are hurting financially, this will bring in some good revenue and the measure is long overdue,” said City Councilor-at-Large Buzzy Barton. “If I have breakfast at Brothers’ Deli, my $10 meal will only cost me another 8 cents.”

Robert Stilian, owner of the Old Tyme Italian Cuisine, said while no one is wild about a new tax, the amount is so small that it shouldn’t discourage anyone from eating out.

“At first I was quite upset, but I don’t think most people will even notice and I doubt it will have much of an impact on people’s decision to dine out,” he said.

Stilian noted that many other communities have adopted the tax.

“If it’s something that will benefit the city I understand why they’ve proposed it,” he said.  “For restaurant owners, unfortunately we have to pass on the cost to customers.”

Meals tax could set table for a Planner

Taso Nikolakopoulos, owner of John’s Roast Beef & Seafood and a candidate for an at-large seat on the City Council, said he’s for it.

“Given the city’s financial crisis, I favor it,” he said.

George Markos, owner of Brothers’ Deli, said if the city adopts the new tax, he hopes they will use the money for public safety and schools.

“I will contribute to anything that is good for the city,” he said.  “But I would rather see the money spent on police, fire and schools because nothing is more important than safety and education.”

Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer, said the added revenue will reduce the chances of layoffs among city employees amid a budget crunch. He said Lynn is the only city in Essex County that has not opted to impose the additional tax.

Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano said he favors the hike, and the sooner the better, as a way to restore cuts to the police and fire departments.

“We heard testimony from public safety officials at the last meeting of the necessity to fund police and fire,” he said. “I favor this.”

Councilor-at-Large Daniel Cahill said Lynn residents are already paying the tax when they eat out of town.

“Every other surrounding community has levied this tax upon us and we are just catching up,” he said. “We are under significant time constraints to implement this program to stave off layoffs in our police and fire departments.”

Blueprint could help close ‘achievement gap’

But Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is expected to veto the plan, setting the stage for an override.

“I can’t in good conscience agree to impose a new tax on Lynn residents less than two months after voters resoundingly rejected a proposed tax increase for two new schools,” she said.  “I heard them loud and clear. To approve it is being tone deaf and not listening to what the voters clearly told us.”

Kennedy is not moved by the fact that the amount of the increase is so small.

“A tax is a tax,” she said. “We have to show the people of Lynn we are trying to live within our means as much as possible,”

Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi agreed and was the sole vote against the new tax.

“I am not inclined to support any tax,” he said. “In this instance, I was willing to support it if they designated the money towards public safety. But the city said they can’t do that and I can’t support it.

James Roumeliotis, owner of Superior Roast Beef, agrees. He  said while the city may be hurting for cash, he’s not sure diners should be asked to pay more.

“I’d rather not have it, people are already being taxed enough,” he said.

Not everyone was willing to discuss the possible change. Thomas Dill, owner of the Lazy Dog Sports Bar, did not return a call seeking comment. Chris Rossetti of the Rossetti Restaurant declined comment and chef Matt O’Neil of the Blue Ox did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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


We need more police on the streets, Ford says

Rick Ford is running for city councilor at large.


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.

Weighing in on possible Kennedy v. McGee race

Basil Manias speaks about the mayoral race; “McGee will win,” he predict.


LYNNFor now, most of the city’s elected officials are not ready to take sides on what is expected to be one of the most contentious mayor’s races in recent memory.

On Monday, state Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) announced plans to seek the corner office in November.

Political observers say the race would pit popular Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, who has often been underestimated, against McGee, whose family name is legendary.

City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre said the senator has strong leadership skills and the ability to bring people together. “Right now that’s paramount,” he said. “He is very well-respected and will be a formidable candidate for mayor.”

Still, LaPierre stopped short of an endorsement.

“I have to focus on what I think is an extreme issue with the city budget and that’s where a lot of my energy will go right now,” he said. “I’m not entering into the McGee/Kennedy race.”

Councilor-at-Large Buzzy Barton said his choice is simple.

“I’m choosing Buzzy Barton for councilor-at-large,” he said. “I have to worry about my own election.”

State Rep. and City Councilor-at-Large Daniel Cahill, who works closely with McGee on Beacon Hill, said the race will be one to watch. But he didn’t choose sides.

“It appears this year’s municipal election will be more active than any recent race,” he said.

Councilor-at-Large Hong Net said he has not made up his mind.

“I don’t know yet to be honest,” he said. “I have to think about it and hear where the candidates stand on the issues.”

I think I can make a difference, McGee says

Ward 6 City Councilor Peter Capano said it’s too early to choose.

“What’s the rush?” he asked. “Let it settle in with everyone for a bit.”

But state Rep. Brendan Crighton (D- Lynn), who served on McGee’s staff for nearly a decade, said he’s backing his former boss.

“We really need new leadership in the city of Lynn,” he said. “I believe that Tom’s leadership abilities, his vision for the city and his proven track record make him a great candidate for mayor. We have lots of issues that need a strong, hard-working chief executive who can follow through.”

At local restaurants and coffee shops, the talk was all about the race.

James Welsh, a Stop & Shop retiree who was sipping a beer at the Lazy Dog Sports Bar, said while McGee’s name is well-known, Kennedy is popular and has a stronger base of support.

“She seems very well-established and can hold her own,” he said. “I put my money on Kennedy.”

At the Dunkin’ Donuts on Boston Street, Basil Manias, Richard Wall and Theodore Paragios, three old friends, were drinking coffee and talking politics.

“The mayor is doing a fine job, but Tom has a good chance because his father was House Speaker years ago, everyone knows that name,” said Manias. “She’s popular, but with his family name, McGee will win.”   

Wall said while Kennedy is doing a great job, the McGee name goes a long way. But he wasn’t so sure the Democrat would win.

“It would be a close race,” he said.

Paragios, the former owner of Brothers Auto Repair, praised McGee and Kennedy and said they were both once customers of his shop.

“They are both good and I like them both,” he said. “I can’t decide.”

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

Cahill will not seek re-election to City Council

Lynn City Councilor Daniel Cahill.


LYNN — After serving on the City Council for nearly a decade, Daniel Cahill will call it quits at year’s end.

The 38-year-old councilor who was elected to the Legislature last fall and works as an attorney, said it’s time for someone new to join the 11-member panel.

“I loved being on the council,” he said. “But having three jobs became a little bit much. It’s right for me to step down and focus on the Legislature. It’s hard to do both.”

But not everyone understands his need to relieve the pressure of being a citywide councilor, enduring a demanding courtroom schedule, being a member of the Democratic majority on Beacon Hill and raising two young children.

“My wife wants me to stay on the council,” said Cahill. Angela Cahill is a sixth grade teacher at the Thurgood Marshall Middle School.  “She’s a resident too and likes what I bring to the table.”

Cahill said he is proudest of being part of the city’s rezoning.  

“It became apparent in order to create an environment where people want to invest in Lynn, we had to do the zoning,” he said. “There was coalition building with the Chamber of Commerce, developers, businesses and the neighborhood. It was lots of fun.”

Construction of the $67 million Thurgood Marshall Middle School is also a highlight of his tenure, as is a $4 million bond to refurbish parks and playgrounds, renovate City Hall and the addition of air conditioning to the Lynn Auditorium.  

“In some jobs, you don’t get to see the product of your work, but on the council you do,” he said. “If a constituent has a problem with a sidewalk, a tree, or their utility company, we solve it.”

In 2003, while a 24-year-old graduate student in a master of political science program at Suffolk University, Cahill launched his first bid for office. He sought the School Committee post vacated by Loretta Cuffe O’Donnell.

“I always enjoyed politics since I was young and decided it was time to run for office. I just got the bug,” he said. “I was single and living with my parents. I gathered my friends, family and put a campaign together.”

But he wasn’t exactly sure how to do that. Cahill sent an email to the mayor’s chief of staff that read: “Hi, I’m Dan Cahill and I am thinking of running for office, how do I do it?”

“One of my first mailings featured a picture of me in my parents’ dining room with jeans and a suit top,” he said. “Instead of getting a shot of me from the waist up, you can clearly see a little of the jeans, it was funny.”

Despite the slow learning curve, the bid paid off. Cahill placed sixth and won by about 80 votes. He sought re-election two years later and scored a second term.

“School committee was a great place to learn things,” he said. “I learned about contracts, hiring, and budgets.”

In 2007, he saw an opportunity to run for councilor-at-large. He  won and later served as council president.

Last year, the Northeastern University and Suffolk Law School graduate sought the legislative seat vacated by state Rep. Robert Fennell in the 10th Essex District. He ran unopposed.

“The Legislature was the most logical step for me to use my expertise as a municipal elected office and bring it to the state level,” he said.  “Since college I wanted to be a state representative. It’s the best place to make change.”

More recently, he joined the Lynn law firm of Bradley Moore Primason Cuffe & Weber LLP.

Charles Gaeta, executive director of Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development, said he counts Cahill as one of his best friends.

“His strong work ethic and community involvement were modeled after his parents,” he said. “He will be missed on the Council. I’ve learned a lot from him. My staff routinely praise him for the many initiatives he’s helped on.  It will be sad to see him go, but we are fortunate he will be at the State House.”

Frances Martinez, president and CEO of the North Shore Latino Business Association, said while Cahill will leave a void on the Council, he will be better able to perform his duties on Beacon Hill.

“It’s best for him to wear one hat and not two with that level of responsibility,” she said.

Several candidates have already pulled papers to run for the open seat including Taso Nikolakopoulos, owner of John’s Roast Beef & Seafood and Jaime Figueroa, a college student, who hopes to be the city’s first Latino councilor.

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

The 6 ‘alternative facts’ of school no-voters


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Restaurant owner announces city council bid

Taso Nikolakopoulos is the latest candidate for councilor-at-large.


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

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

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

“The key is economic growth,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

Figueroa for stronger community connections

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

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

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

“I am voting yes,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figueroa for stronger community connections

Pictured is Jaime Figueroa, 28. He is running for City Council.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Rights and responsibility in Lynn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I can do it,” he said.

Nomination papers will be available starting March 20.

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

Lynn council has new leaders for new year


LYNN There’s new leadership on the Lynn City Council. Ward 3 Councilor Darren Cyr was unanimously elected president while Councilor-at-Large Buzzy Barton notched the vice president post.

In a short speech, Cyr recalled his father, the late David Cyr, a former city councilor who served in the 1970s.

“I wish my dad were here,” he said. “I’ve tried to follow in his footsteps. He was the kind of guy you could always depend on. He taught me to stand by your word.”

Cyr also praised outgoing president Daniel Cahill, and called him an “extremely unbelievable” council president.

“Me and Dan have had some rocky times over the years, like in a marriage,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from Dan, I hope he’s learned some things from me. I’ve come to respect him and call him a friend. He’s done the council and the city proud and always strives to do the right thing.”

A new direction for the arts

Cyr presented Cahill with a framed watercolor of City Hall on behalf of the council.

“Darren Cyr is a perfect example of how a councilor should do his job, and it’s really touching that he mentioned his father,” Cahill said. “I hope one day my son could say something like that about me. Congratulations.”

In other business, the council amended an ordinance that will increase fines for false alarms for the first time in seven years.

Under the new measure, the first two false alarms are forgiven. But a third will cost home and commercial property owners $100, up from $50. And it increases from there with $200 for the fourth, up from $150, and $300 for five or more.

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

City Council facing question of leadership


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nahant splits the plots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayor: Lynn won’t touch Prop 2 1/2

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayor vetoes council on giving YMCA land

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy (Item file photo)

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has vetoed the sale of city land to the YMCA that the nonprofit needs for its expansion, citing a city council error.

The $75,000 purchase of an acre of open space at Tremont and Wheeler streets in front of the Y was approved by the Ways and Means Committee earlier this month.

Kennedy said while she supports the plan to build a new $26 million facility, the council order erroneously wrote that the sale was a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT).

“My understanding is the order was a misstatement of the council’s intention,” she said. “The council wanted that to be the purchase price, not a PILOT. It was a transcription error that needs to be corrected.”

Only the mayor and the city’s chief assessor can make PILOT agreements, the mayor added, not the council. Typically, nonprofits, which are tax exempt, draft accords with municipalities to pay something in lieu of real estate taxes.

While the mayor said she supports the Y’s expansion, one $75,000 PILOT payment is insufficient.

“That won’t pay for ongoing services provided by the city to the YMCA,” she said.

Kennedy noted that the city should examine PILOT agreements with other North Shore YMCAs to see how much the Lynn Y should contribute annually.

While the city determined the parcel was worth about $215,000, the mayor said the $75,000 was a fair price given that the YMCA has promised to do more than $300,000 worth of road work around the new building.

City Council President Daniel Cahill said the council will take up the veto at a later meeting.

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

Nov. 8 comes early

Mary Jane Mulholland takes advantage of the first day of early voting at Lynn City Hall Monday. Item photo by Owen O’Rourke.

By Gayla Cawley

LYNN — Early voting kicked off in Massachusetts for the first time on Monday, bringing 289 people to the polls in Lynn.

Massachusetts joins more than 30 other states voting early this year.

The top reason Lynn voters cited for taking advantage of early voting, which runs until Nov. 4, was avoiding long lines they might encounter on Nov. 8 for Election Day.

They also cited an eagerness to vote for presidential candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, in what has been a contentious race.

“It’s a first time thing,” said Mary Jane Mulholland, who voted Monday afternoon. “I’m eager to vote for my candidate, Hillary. She’s been around for a long time and so have I … I trust her to do the right thing.”

Lynn was one of about 170 municipalities recognized by the Massachusetts Election Modernization Coalition, with a silver medal for its early voting. State Rep. and City Council President Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) said he will be presenting the award to City Clerk Mary Audley, who runs the election, at tonight’s city council meeting.

To receive the silver medal, the city had to have at least one early voting site for every 35,000 residents, at least one weeknight of voting per week and at least four hours of weekend time for people to cast their ballots prior to Election Day.

The coalition awarded 34 municipalities with the gold medal, for those cities and towns offering one voting site for every 35,000 people, at least two evenings of weeknight voting per week and at least six hours of weekend time.

In Lynn, early voters can cast their ballot at City Hall on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Voting will take place this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

At Lynn Museum, residents can cast their ballots on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Paul and Jean LeBrasseur voted at City Hall on Monday, saying they wanted to avoid the lines. Paul LeBrasseur said he saw an opportunity to cast his ballot early, rather than get up early on Election Day and vote before work.

Janet McGann agreed, saying she came for the convenience and to avoid the lines she would encounter in two weeks.

“This is great,” she said. “This is great for the people. I wanted to come out. I’ve never been in an election like this one. This is really unreal.”

George Banos said he voted early because he’s going to be out of town on Election Day. He was a civics and history teacher for 34 years and said he is glad he is retired because the election would be difficult to cover with students this year. He said he always tried to keep kids focused on the issues.

“I’m just so glad that I don’t have to teach about that this year because of the way the election process has been so far,” he said.

Rick Borten said it’s great to be able to vote early. He voted for Clinton because he said he feels very strongly and negatively about Trump. He said he finds his policy and aggressive nature scary, but was a little wistful about having to find something else to watch after the election ends.

“It’s absolutely been unbelievable,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do for entertainment after this.”

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

Driving toward a new plan for Western Ave.

By Thomas Grillo


LYNN — After more than a year of study on how to improve traffic along Route 107, the state has issued recommendations that will cost more than $26 million.

Among the suggestions in the draft study to the Lynn portion of the road include reduction of the lane width to 11 feet, the addition of left turn lanes, coordination of traffic signals, a new light at the Eastern Avenue intersection, north and southbound bicycle lanes, consolidation of bus stops that are ADA compliant and new sidewalks and crosswalks.

The 206-page survey commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is the result of a series of surveys and public meetings that began in June seeking improvements to the areas between Chestnut Street in Lynn and Boston Street in Salem.

“The problems we have on the Route 107 corridor are some of the worst in the commonwealth in terms of dangerous intersections, lack of public safety features for pedestrians, motorists and bicyclists, so we are pleased the state conducted a comprehensive study,” said City Council President and state Rep. Daniel Cahill, who lives on Belleaire Avenue. “Obviously, the suggested price tag is significant and every year that goes by the cost most likely will rise.”

One of the biggest trouble spots is the intersection at Western Avenue at Stanwood Street and Eastern Avenue. Under the proposal, a southbound left turn lane would be installed to improve traffic flow and safety. The new traffic signal would significantly improve the level-of-service, the study said. Under the reconfiguration, the westbound approach to the road would be restricted to right-only and promises to improve the level-of-service especially at rush hour.

The study also recommends that the curb be extended at the end of the parking lane northbound approaching Eastern Avenue to create a so-called “gateway” effect and to reduce the pedestrian crossing. Bicycle lanes and bike boxes are also proposed at the intersection. A bike box is an intersection safety design to prevent bicycle and car collisions. It is a painted green space on the road with a white bicycle symbol inside. The box creates space between motor vehicles and the crosswalk that allows bicyclists to position themselves ahead of motor vehicle traffic at an intersection.

In terms of short-term transit improvements, the inbound and outbound MBTA bus stops at the intersection would be removed to improve traffic flow.

Not all of the recommendations have gone over well. For example, there is opposition to bike lanes because residents say the roadway is dangerous enough for cars and is especially unsafe for bicyclists. In addition, the elimination of some parking spaces along the roadway has also brought resistance from retailers and homeowners.

In order for full implementation of the study’s recommendations, lawmakers would have to float a transportation bond bill or attach the Lynn and Salem improvements to an existing bond bill, according to Cahill.  

Cahill said he is exploring ways the city could take some of the low-cost suggestions from the study and implement them immediately.

“Other communities have put down temporary striping to see how traffic flow improves instead of permanent reconfiguration of intersections,” he said. “I’m very interested in doing that on Route 107.”

Earlier this year, local lawmakers proposed a measure that gives MassDOT up to $150,000 which can be used for infrastructure improvements and studies along Route 107.

“Now, it’s up to the state delegation and city officials to advocate for funds to mitigate the severe traffic issues in Lynn and Salem,” Cahill said.

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

Mayor and council making noise in the library

Lynn City Hall. Item File Photo

By Thomas Grillo

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

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

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

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

The dispute began last month when the the mayor blocked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City takes the LEAD with developers

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

By Thomas Grillo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The sky’s the limit,” Cowdell said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lynn will take LEAD with investors

Joseph Mulligan, from MassDevelopment, during his tour of downtown Lynn in June. Item File Photo

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — For the first time in anyone’s memory, more than 100 developers, lenders and investors will tour the city next week to learn about its investment and development opportunities.

“It’s getting the stars to align,” said Jason Denoncourt, economic development director for U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), one of the tour’s hosts. “There’s so much opportunity here. The city just needs the right mix of strategy, experience and capital to make something happen.”

Sponsored by the Economic Development & Industrial Corporation of Lynn (EDIC), the nonprofit development arm of the city, MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development and finance agency, Moulton’s office and the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) team, the four-hour tour scheduled for Tuesday will showcase acres of waterfront land and more than a dozen properties that are poised to be revitalized as apartments or mixed-use commercial development.  

“This represents the coordination of federal, state and local resources to bring awareness to a location that has been overlooked by the industry for many years,” said Joseph Mulligan, a MassDevelopment fellow who is working to transform the downtown. “It’s a good chance to get people to look beyond their comfort level for opportunities.”

Among the registered attendees is HYM Investment Group, the Boston developer of the $1.5 billion Bulfinch Crossing project that promises to transform the Government Center Garage into a 3 million-square-foot mixed-use project.

“We are excited to see what Lynn has to offer,” said Thomas O’Brien, founding partner.

Also on the list are Cruz Development, the Roxbury-based developer that has built more than 1,500 apartments and Boston-based Trinity Financial that has constructed several large residential development projects on the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

The tour guides include Denoncourt, Mulligan and the EDIC’s Bill Bochnak. There will be 20 stops along the way to examine 14 properties and more than 100 acres of available land on the waterfront. Some of the properties include the former Lynnway Auto Auction, the Mass Merchandise site on the Lynnway, Anthony’s Hawthorne, the former General Electric Co.’s gear plant property and the former Daily Item building.

“I’ve been with the city for 30 years, we’ve never had a developer’s tour,” said James Cowdell, EDIC’s executive director. “Lynn’s time is now. There are people with very deep pockets who are looking to invest in Lynn. This is awesome. To get these types of investors here is proof that Lynn is on the radar and that it’s a great place to invest.”

Denoncourt said the idea of the tour is to invite new people to look at Lynn differently or bring new ideas.

Scott Kelley, vice president of development at New England Development, the Boston firm founded by Stephen Karp that boasts more than 50 million square feet of retail, commercial, and hospitality space, got a sneak peek this week when Denoncourt gave him a private tour of the city.

“Lynn has lots of raw potential,” he said. “It’s got the critical components of a compelling story: adjacency to transit, proximity to Boston, it’s amazing location on the water and the backdrop of a historic downtown New England city. As an organization, we are always looking at opportunities.”

Among the elected and appointed officials who intend to be on the tour include Moulton, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), State representatives Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn), Brendan Crighton, (D-Lynn), Donald Wong (R-Saugus), Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead) and Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash.

“We want to show the investment world that everybody is working together to move Lynn forward,” said Cowdell.

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

Problems on Parkland Avenue

Drivers headed down Parkland Avenue can be forgiven if they catch a whiff of bleach rising from the Water & Sewer Commission’s hilltop headquarters.

The smell might simply be symbolic, an olfactory hint at the troubled relationship between Commission Director Daniel O’Neill and the five-member commission, specifically Commissioner David Ellis.

O’Neill said the commission, prompted by Ellis, overstepped its bounds and waded into the daily management of Lynn’s water supply by insisting chlorine gas be replaced with a liquid treatment substitute.

The switch was billed as a security measure intended to minimize the terrorism risk associated with the gas. But O’Neill said the switch is a $2 million commission expense that could diminish Water & Sewer’s award-winning ability to supply local residents with quality water.

The gas fracas is more than a workplace fight over territory because it involves lots of ratepayer money and accusations of appointed commissioners meddling where they are not wanted.

The commissioners, as O’Neill pointed out, “govern the Commission.” But Water & Sewer is really operated by the commission’s appointing authorities: The mayor and the City Council.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy appointed Ellis to the commission in 2011 and, as a former councilor, she can remember when Ellis was a Ward 6 councilor. When it comes to Ellis rubbing people the wrong way, she has made a practice, unlike her mayoral predecessors, of staying out of the commission’s affairs.

Not so former Mayor Edward J. Clancy Jr. He waded into the commission’s affairs in 2004, scrapping a contract with a private firm in a move that saw Ellis leave the commission. The late Patrick J. McManus all but took over the commission in the 1990s to create a long-term plan to save ratepayers money.

Big dramatic interventions or reorganizations do not appear to be Kennedy’s style. But it might be time for her to take a closer look at Water & Sewer and ask “who is minding the shop?”

Is O’Neill out of line to complain about commission actions? Is Ellis a chronic boundary overstepper who thinks he knows more than he does? These are important questions for the mayor to ask in conjunction with Council President Daniel Cahill.

With a giant sewer project looming carrying a potential cost to the ratepayers measurable in millions of dollars, Kennedy and Cahill might want to examine the Water & Sewer operations or at least call the principals into a room and get down to brass tacks. No less than the ratepayers’ hard-earned dollars are at stake with the latest tempest atop of Parkland Avenue.

Few takers show up at toll hearing

Sen. Thomas McGee said the state’s tolling system is inequitable. Item File Photo

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — The auditorium at North Shore Community College was mostly empty on Wednesday night when state officials briefed a handful of residents on how electronic tolling will impact North Shore commuters and more importantly, their wallet.

The good news for drivers is that with travel over the Tobin Bridge or through the Sumner/Callahan and Ted Williams tunnels, tolls will not rise when the state ends toll booth collection and goes electronic on Friday, Oct. 28.

The proposed changes that will replace toll booths with so-called overhead gantries will keep the Sumner/Callahan and Ted William Tunnel tolls at $3.50 for Pay by Plate and out of state E-ZPass customers and $3 for Massachusetts E-Z Pass customers. To use the Tobin Bridge, all EZ Pass users will still pay $2.50 and Pay by Plate customers $3.

The only change that will impact North Shore commuters is that these routes will be tolled in both directions, with the toll split ½ and ½ so customers pay the same roundtrip amount as today if they use the Massachusetts EZPass.

Under the proposal, passenger vehicles with a Massachusetts EZ Pass driving from Boston to the New York border on the Turnpike will pay 45 cents less than they do today.

As soon as the system goes online, demolition work will begin on the toll plazas.

“The three guiding principles of this project is to increase air quality, decrease congestion and increase public safety,” Thomas Tinlin, the state’s highway administrator, told the sparse gathering. “Everything else we do is with that in mind.”

The public hearing was the second in a series of seven that are being held by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). The  agency’s board of directors is expected to vote on the final price structure in early October.

One of the few speakers, Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), said he did not object to the change over to electronic tolling. Instead, he said the state’s toll system is inequitable.

“I am not standing up here to oppose tolls, I am standing up here to say we need to find a fair way to address the transportation deficit we have in the commonwealth,” he said.

He called upon the Baker administration to consider expanding tolls to other areas of the state including routes 93, 95 and 128.

“We are boxed in on the North Shore, we don’t have transportation investment here and we continue to be asked to pay for tolling to cover other areas,” McGee said. “It’s not fair. If we put up tolling in other areas of the commonwealth, we can do it in a way that’s fair for everyone.”

State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) said while he is pleased rates will not rise for North Shore commuters, it’s still more than residents in Billerica, Andover, Whitman and Taunton pay.

“I don’t see this as a revenue issue, it’s a reform issue,” he said. “We have to expand our electronic tolling. Massachusetts is always a leader … and we need to be a leader in transportation.”

Jim Smith of Swampscott said while some Bay State residents get a free ride without tolls, Lynn does not.

“We subsidize everyone else,” he said.

Cindy Regnier of Lynn, who said she does not have a transponder, objects to higher rates charged to commuters who do not have an E-ZPass.

“The whole thing feels like it’s jammed down people’s throats without an option,” she said. “We are being penalized if we don’t buy into the E-ZPass transponder thing.”

The transponders, which are free, will also be used as part of the new gantry system.

Talk about going to electronic tolling was introduced in 2010. Following a feasibility study, the decision was made to convert to an electronic tolling system. The Tobin Bridge was converted to electronic tolling two years ago. MassDOT awarded a $130 million contract in 2014 to Raytheon for the construction of gantries and 10 years of system maintenance. That same year, the board also awarded a 10-year, $201 million contract to TransCore for the back office and the operation of seven customer service centers.

More than 500 toll taker jobs were eliminated to make way for electronic tolls. But Tinlin said MassDOT is committed to training these workers to take new jobs at the agency or elsewhere.

On the issue of privacy, Tinlin said the state is only capturing data on cars to collect tolls.

Of the 21 people who attended the hearing, four were local residents, two were legislators, two were State Police officers and the rest were MassDOT staffers.

“If we were talking about increasing tolls for this region we would have a much larger crowd,” Tinlin said. “For the people in Lynn, their cost of doing business is not changing.”

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

LWSC commissioner wades where he’s not wanted

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — The executive director of the city’s Water & Sewer Commission wants his governing board to stop micromanaging the agency.

At issue is a vote the five-member panel took last summer that required the department to replace chlorine gas that purifies the city’s drinking water with chemicals. The issue caught the attention of the city council two years ago who took a rare step of sending a letter to the commission noting safety hazard concerns around gas use at the waste water treatment facility.

David Ellis, one of the commissioners, introduced the idea without consulting the nine-member staff and managed to convince the other commissioners of the idea, according to Daniel O’Neill, executive director.  

“It’s insane,” he said. “Dave Ellis just created more work for us by changing our drinking water. He shouldn’t be making motions to change the chemical composition of the water.”

Ellis did not return a call seeking comment.

O’Neill insists no change was needed, that in 24 years the department never faced a safety violation. In addition, he said the state Department of Environmental Protection has praised its operation with awards in eight of the last 10 years.

Under the new program that is expected to be implemented next year at a cost of nearly $2 million, the gas will be replaced with  liquid sodium hypochlorite, the main ingredient in laundry bleach.
“The gas was safe and doing the job,” O’Neill said. “Now we’re worried about acids and PH balances under the new configuration. We have great water that we have been using more than 27 years. Now, we will have to add more acids and they aren’t the safest thing to handle either.”

Walter Proodian, a commissioner member, agreed.

While he did not recall his 2015 vote to switch from gas to chemicals in the drinking water, Proodian said decisions about such things should be up to the staff.

“We should leave everything up to the professionals that are running the plant, not Dave Ellis,” he said. “He doesn’t even know what he’s talking about. In my estimation, Mr. Ellis is not a professional and I will not go against staff recommendations.”

Wayne Lozzi, a former commissioner and Ward 1 city councilor, said he’s not surprised that Ellis is micromanaging the Water & Sewer Commission.

“It’s not David Ellis’ role as a commissioner to dictate what type of chemicals should be added to the city’s drinking water supply,” he said. “That’s meddling into staff affairs. When I was a commissioner, there were complaints that he was looking over the shoulder of employees and telling them he was their boss.”

The role of the commission, he said, is to have broad oversight, not day-to-day management of the operation. The commission’s role is to review staff reports and act on them, he added, not make policy.

“While they have broad power does not mean they should be setting policy on technical matters,” Lozzi said. “They can ask the engineers to examine the possibility of using chemicals and report back to us, not to bamboozle the other commissioners to do his bidding. I support Dan O’Neil as the executive director knowing what to do and how to do it. This is outrageous.”

Commissioners William Trahant and Richard Colucci were unavailable for comment.

Peter Capano, a commissioner and Ward 6 councilor, said it was news to him that O’Neill thought the commission was meddling.

“I have never been told we were micromanaging,” he said. “Over the last year we have been working well together especially with the staff.”

Ellis initially raised concerns about chlorine gas use in Water & Sewer facilities during an October 2013 commission meeting.

Chlorine gas used at the Commercial Street waste treatment plant poses “potential dangers,” including domestic terrorism, to plant workers and residents in surrounding neighborhoods, according to city councilors who wanted its use phased out.  

At the time, Council President Daniel Cahill and Capano said chlorine gas not only poses a danger to plant workers but also to “significant portions of Lynn and Nahant” in the event of an accident.

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

Where have all the Republicans gone?

Donald Trump may be the national electoral lightning rod and the boon or bane of the Republican party, but the oasis of Republican party politics this primary week in Massachusetts is the North Shore and, specifically, the race for Essex Sheriff.

No fewer than five candidates will compete for votes on Thursday to become the Republican finalist facing off in the Nov. 8 final election with the Democrat nominated on Thursday and two unenrolled candidates.

Five candidates on the Republican ticket for sheriff in Essex County is almost twice the number fielded in any other GOP race across the state. One of those candidates and the only woman running for sheriff is Peabody political stalwart Anne Manning-Martin. A corrections professional, Manning-Martin has more political experience than the 10 men running for sheriff.

Jim Jajuga Jr. is a well-known “up county” political name. But the rest of the Republicans, like most of the Democratic candidates, are law enforcement professionals who didn’t have much use for running for election until Sheriff Frank Cousins decided to retire.

Interestingly, Cousins was a state Republican leading light through the first 10 years of his tenure. Easy going and bright, Cousins has made the sheriff’s job look easy and speculation about Republican politics in the era of Republican governors in the 1990s inevitably turned to Cousins’ future political prospects.

He never took the dive into political waters to run for the 6th Congressional District even though campaigning across Essex County is basically a political blueprint for mounting a congressional race.

Even though Trump won the Republican presidential primary in March in Massachusetts, his larger-than-life political presence failed to translate into Republicans interested in striding onto the political stage and seeking out a seat in county office or the General Court.

Somehow Gov. Baker’s popularity has not been able to plant the seeds necessary to grow Republican candidates capable of challenging local legislators like state reps Brendan Crighton or Daniel Cahill or U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton.

In their failed bids to scare up sufficient candidates to run this year, Republican leaders can take some solace in the fact that Daniel Fishman of Beverly is the United Independent Party’s only candidate running for office in Massachusetts this year.

Early childcare educators present a case for change

Lynn City Hall. File Photo

By Leah Dearborn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remembering a former Lynn City Councilor

Charlie O’Brien.

Item Staff Report

LYNN — Former City Councilor and longtime East Lynn resident Charles T. O’Brien died Tuesday at 79.

O’Brien’s daughter, Kerry Calnan, said O’Brien had been treated at Union Hospital since Saturday morning.

“His health had been deteriorating,” she said.

O’Brien is survived by his wife, Janice, a dozen children, 39 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

His wake is scheduled at Cuffe-McGinn Funeral Home on Friday from 4-8 p.m. His funeral will be held at St. Pius V Church on Saturday at 11 a.m.

A Malden native, O’Brien taught in Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational Technical School’s culinary arts department. He was active in local youth athletics including East Lynn Little League.

He earned a degree from Fitchburg State College at 48 and won a four-way contest for the Ward 3 council seat in 1995.

Council President Daniel Cahill grew up with O’Brien’s children and helped distribute campaign literature during O’Brien’s 1995 campaign.

“He was a great guy,” he said.

Subsequently elected councilor-at-large, O’Brien was not afraid to stand alone on issues debated by the council.

“Charlie was Charlie,” said dean of the council Richard Colucci. “He was a gentle soul.”

Calnan said her fondest memory of her father is his love for his grandchildren.

“He was just so dedicated,” she said.

Lynn sees nothing ‘super’ in new charter

Frank DeVito.


LYNN — If Frank DeVito opens the city’s second charter school next year, it will be greeted by hundreds of parents seeking to place their child in the new facility but it will get a frosty reception from officials.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and the City Council may have their disagreements, but they’re on the same page when it comes to the controversial alternative public schools. While they claim it’s great for parents to have choice, they say it’s not so great that charter schools “rob” money from traditional schools.

“I agree with giving parents a choice and it makes everyone perform to their highest level, but I don’t like the formula for funding because it takes more than $1 million from our school budget,” said Kennedy. “We are still required to serve every child that comes through our door, but we lose money to the charter school when they take away children whom they have selected.”

DeVito, 51, and his group are in a national competition to redesign the American high school and win $10 million towards opening the Equity Lab Charter School in Lynn. DeVito and his 22-member team of educators are one of 50 finalists in the XQ: Super School Project, the California-based nonprofit chaired by Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs. She is president of the Emerson Collective, sponsor of the $50 million competition.

DeVito is a member of Waltham-based Education Development Center’s National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools team, where he develops, implements and tests new ways to boost effective practices in high schools.

Even if DeVito succeeds in bringing a second charter school to Lynn, City Council President and state Rep. Daniel Cahill said there won’t be a welcome mat.

While charters offer an alternative to traditional public schools, he said they are not subject to local controls or approvals, unlike other Lynn schools where the school committee has a budget process to make sure the money is spent properly.

“They operate outside any local control, often not by residents,” he said. “If a charter school student becomes a disciplinary or academic problem, they are turned back into public schools and we accept every child who come to our doors.”

If DeVito’s group does not win the $10 million competition, he vows to still open the new school next year. If his proposal for a new school is accepted by the state, they will provide him with $800 per student to lease or purchase space. He anticipates 160 students for a total of $128,000. In addition, they would receive $2.1 million from Lynn Public Schools or $13,223 per student who switches schools.

In addition, DeVito said he would still have to raise about $250,000 for the school to launch.

DeVito said he understands the hostility from most public officials, but noted that he has already received 300 inquiries from families who want to send their child to the new school.

“Our goal is to return to the original charter school mission where they were supposed to be places to rethink how to work with kids where regular schools are not working,” he said.

If Equity Lab wins approval, they will face competition from the only other charter school in the city, KIPP Academy.

Still, Cahill is not convinced.

“Are charter schools doing innovative things? Absolutely and the whole issue they were going to be an incubator to try new innovative things for schools. So when do we get some of that? Extended day? We don’t have it. I don’t blame parents for trying to get the best education for their kids. But we should be educating all of our kids to the best of our ability and not have a separate but equal system.”

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

Death knell for Union Hospital


LYNN — Despite pleas from Lynn health care advocates and the city’s Beacon Hill delegation to spare Union Hospital, the state approved a plan to consolidate care in a new Salem facility.

The Public Health Council of the state Department of Public Health unanimously approved a $180 million expansion of North Shore Medical Center (NSMC) that will shutter Union and move the beds to the new Salem campus in 2019.

Michael Sinacola, interim deputy bureau director, recommended to the 10-member panel on Wednesday that they support the project and added conditions including that NSMC continue to evaluate the health care needs in Lynn, ensure that the hospital’s board be representative of the people they serve and provide progress reports during and after construction. But the state did not require that NSMC keep emergency services in Lynn.

In an interview following the hearing, Robert Norton, NSMC president, said they are exploring what kind of emergency service will be provided to the region when construction is completed.

“What we come up with has to meet the needs of the community,” he said. “Whether it’s a formal condition or not, we have committed to continue to provide emergency services to the community. The only question is what form of that will be.” He said the possibilities range from continuing what’s there today or a different model such as an urgent care center.

“We are committed to a full and open process of exploring those options,” he said. “Nothing is off the table.”  

The medical facilities in Lynn and Salem are a part of Partners HealthCare.

Prior to the vote, Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), speaking for the delegation that included Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) and Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) said it is the elected official’s responsibility to prevent negative impacts to quality and access of medical care that their constituents and the region depend on.

“The service consolidation proposed by NSMC will leave the city of Lynn as one of the largest cities, if the not the largest city in Massachusetts, without a full service hospital, it will have substantial and dramatic ramifications,” he said. “We request that the Public Health Council consider a condition that maintains access to emergency service in some capacity in Lynn.”

Philip Crawford, chairman of the Lynnfield Board of Selectmen,  testified that the closure of Union Hospital will create a hardship for the people of the region.

“The changes in services will have significant adverse effects on the quality of and access to medical care for the town of Lynnfield and surrounding communities,” he said.  

Leslie Greenberg, chairwoman of the Lynn Health Task Force, said while she is saddened that Lynn will become the largest city in the state without an acute care hospital, she recognizes the financial realities and changes in the health care system.

She urged the council to require NSMC to broaden its board of trustees so that Lynn has a seat at the table.

“There is simply no representation for Lynn’s diverse ethnic, linguistic and socio-economic population,” she said.

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

Kennedy taking shot at pot plan

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy


LYNN — After months of debate, the City Council finally determined where to locate medical marijuana dispensaries in the city this week, but Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is set to veto the ordinance.

While Kennedy supports the idea of limiting the clinics to specific parts of the city, which the measure does, she is opposed to an amendment which gives the 11-member panel the power to decide how money received from the marijuana clinics would be spent.

“If that language is contained in the ordinance, I will veto it because that provision of the ordinance is unenforceable,” said Kennedy, who just returned from a European cruise with her family. “The city charter dictates that the mayor determines where the city’s finances are directed. I will be more than happy to consult with the council on spending priorities, but I do not believe they have the ability to control incoming city funds.”

The mayor said she has asked the city attorney for a legal opinion, but seemed convinced she is on solid ground.

If the mayor vetoes the amendment, the council has 10 days to override with a two-thirds vote or a minimum of eight votes.

“I think I can provide compelling and convincing arguments to change the minds of three councilors,” Kennedy said.

City Council President Daniel Cahill said he agrees with the mayor that the council can’t determine how the city spends revenue.

“There’s no need for a veto,” he said. “If the law department says the portion of the ordinance giving the City Council  oversight over where the money is appropriated is unenforceable, then it’s unenforceable. If it’s vetoed, then we start from square one.”

On Tuesday, the City Council approved a plan to bring two medical marijuana clinics to the city. Under the ordinance, the treatment center district would include the non-waterfront side of the Lynnway from Market Street to the General Edwards Bridge, two sites on Commercial Street and all properties on Route 107 from the Belden Bly Bridge to the intersection of Western and Murphy avenues.

The clock was ticking on a deadline for approving a location policy for the pot outlets. The council faced a state-imposed Aug. 3 deadline to pass an ordinance that would designate the marijuana dispensary districts. If the panel failed to amend its zoning, the city could have faced lawsuits from potential clinic operators.

On a separate matter, Kennedy said she also plans to veto a reorganization plan adopted by the council last month that would create a separate department to oversee elections. It would add a department head with a six-figure salary to the city’s budget, she said.

“We can’t afford that,” Kennedy said. “I’ve been clear that I would like to create a planning department. So why would I add to an existing department when I could use that money to start a department that is needed?”  

But on this issue, Kennedy and Cahill disagree.

The intent of the ordinance and home rule petition, Cahill said,  is to encourage more candidates to run for office, allow minorities access to important voter information and have a department dedicated to handle new voting methods being imposed on municipalities.

“The council proposed creation of a level-two department head that is paid less than $100,000 and there is state money available to fund that position,” he said.

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

State throws cold water on ferry commuters


LYNN — It’s going to be a cruel summer for Karl Reynolds and thousands of North Shore commuters.

For two years, the Northeastern University research professor boarded the 35-minute ferry to Boston from the city’s Blossom Street Ferry Terminal and loved it.

But the service has run aground due to lack of funding. Now, he’s back on the MBTA’s commuter rail.

“The ferry was a more beautiful way to get to work,” said Reynolds as he waited for the train at the Central Square Station on Friday. “When I arrived, I was more relaxed. It was wonderful.”

But the Baker administration and local officials are battling over who should pay the $700,000 annual tab to operate the ferry. While the state, under former Gov. Deval Patrick, contributed $8.5 million to build the pier and a parking lot and U.S. Rep Seth  Moulton (D-Salem) recently secured $4.5 million in federal money to purchase a 149-passenger vessel, the state has drawn a line in the sand.

State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack has said while she supports Lynn’s efforts for the ferry, it is not an MBTA service and the cash-strapped state can’t afford it.

But for Reynolds and others who took the ferry during its two-year trial run, that decision is frustrating.

Susan Solomon, an MIT science professor from Nahant, who described herself as a devoted ferry rider, said the Baker administration’s insistence that Lynn pay the boat’s operating expenses ring hollow since the Hingham and Hull ferries get state subsidies.

“Surely we need and deserve some relief from the congestion that is clogging our North Shore roads, too,” she said. “Getting people off the road and onto the ferry saves money in many ways, such as road maintenance costs, that is conveniently neglected when ‘user pays’ is the only mantra. Baker and his people should be ashamed of themselves, and they should step up to their responsibilities to serve the North Shore instead of trying to weasel out of them.”

The MBTA subsidizes three ferry services that serve Hingham-Boston, Hingham-Hull-Logan and the Charlestown Navy Yard-Long Wharf. For fiscal year 2015 the subsidy totaled about $3.7 million, according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). But MassDOT spokeswoman Jacquelyn Goddard said while Salem pays “some financial support for a ferry” she refused to provide the amount and the total, if any, that Winthrop pays. Hingham and Hull do not financially support ferry operations, she said.  

Christopher Whitlock of Nahant was a loyal ferry rider for the past two seasons. He rode his bicycle from his home to the terminal, packed the bike on board and upon arrival, pedaled to the World Trade Center where he worked at Fidelity Investments.

“Before the ferry, I tried every commuting option: a bus from Nahant to the commuter rail or a bus to Blue Line’s Wonderland stop because driving and parking are out of the question because it is crazy expensive,” he said “Even if you take the bus on Route 1A to Wonderland, the traffic is just insane. Door-to-door, it was a 75-minute commute.”

Whitlock is convinced that the North Shore must find more computing capacity through public transportation and the ferry seems to be one answer.

“This is such a no-brainer,” he said. “If Lynn is trying to become the next economic center outside Boston, the state has to invest in public transportation. When you factor in that the Seaport is expanding with more jobs and businesses, the unwillingness to expand public transit does not make sense.”

City Council President and state Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn), who took the ferry a few times, supports the service for the North Shore. He has received a number of calls from constituents asking whether the ride will continue.

“The ferry was a great ride and we’ve had a taste of success with it,” he said. “Not having the ferry is a big blow to the city of Lynn. It feels like a speed bump in the progress we’ve made. It really slows the momentum in the city’s economic development.”

Thor Jourgensen contributed to this report.

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

Cahill to run for House seat

Lynn City Council President Dan Cahill 


City Council President Daniel Cahill announced his candidacy Thursday afternoon for the special election to fill the legislative seat being vacated by veteran state Rep. Robert Fennell hours after the Massachusetts House of Representatives approved a May 10 special election to fill the 10th Essex District seat.

“Having served the residents of Lynn over the past 12 years as a School Committee member, Council at large and Council president, I can continue my service as your next state representative by hitting the ground running and advocating on behalf of the 10th Essex residents,” Cahill wrote in a Facebook posting.

The Water and Sewer Commission in December hired Fennell, a 21-year House veteran, to be deputy director. Fennell is recovering from hand surgery and is scheduled to start working at Water and Sewer in a week.

“You don’t replace 21 years of seniority and experience but I feel I am the candidate who can hit the ground running,” Cahill said. Elected to the School Committee in 2004 and to the council in 2007, Cahill has been Council president since January, 2014.

Nomination papers for the special election were sent by the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s election division to the City Clerk’s office on Thursday. Candidates must obtain 150 certified signatures of voters by March 1. Democratic and Republican primaries are scheduled for April 12.

Fennell is the fourth area legislator in three years to leave office for other pursuits. Peabody state Rep. Leah Cole announced her exit last year and former state Reps. Stephen Walsh and Kathi-Anne Reinstein departed the House in 2014.

Stage set for Lynn inauguration

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

School Committee members will also meet following inaugural ceremonies.


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

Proposal on block for charter school at former Item site

LYNN — Lynn City Council President Daniel Cahill said Dec. 8 is the scheduled date for a hearing to discuss a charter school proposed for the old Item building located at 38 Exchange St.

The school, tentatively named the Central Square Charter School, has been in the planning stages since May of 2012. Lynn resident Frank DeVito is spearheading the planning.

“There are two levels why I’m doing this,” DeVito said. “The first level is I have huge concerns over what is going on in public education. There is a huge divide in what it can offer poor and minority students. Wealthier cities and towns have more options to bring the kids the kind of programs that will prepare them for a career and college.”

When Essex Media Group purchased the Item in 2014, the deal did not include the building at 38 Exchange St. The building was subsequently sold at auction on July 15 and the transaction was completed in late September.

Winchester-based US1 Ventures was the buyer listed at auction and company President Christine Diarbakerly on Thursday said the charter school proposal is one of several options for the Item building’s re-use.

“We have a wide variety of options. We still do not know what direction we are going with the building,” Diarbakerly said.

The State Department of Education’s website on Wednesday listed a Nov. 23 Lynn City Hall hearing on DeVito’s proposal, but Cahill said local officials’ preference is to schedule a hearing on a Tuesday in December when City Hall is open after 4 p.m.

Initially, the proposed school will serve grades 5-6, with a total student enrollment of 160 students. Officials plan to expand the school each year by a grade, and by the seventh year it will reach full enrollment serving grades 5-12, with 640 total students.

DeVito said the Item building is part of the school’s proposed larger mission of educating students in the city’s center and making them aware of the neighborhoods around Central Square.

“The whole premise of the school is that it is engaging kids through social entrepreneurship,” DeVito said. “Kids will look at community issues and problems and learn math and science through solving these problems.”

The school has sent a final application to the Department of Education, and its founding team will be meeting with the DOE in January. A final decision on the school will be made by the Department in February.

DeVito says he hopes after approval from the DOE that the school will open in 2017.