Judith Flanagan Kennedy

$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.

Mayor Kennedy: Layoffs aren’t guaranteed

BY THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — With less than two months to go before the city budget is set, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said layoffs are not a sure thing.

“The budgets we’ve seen so far from department heads have not called for any city employee to lose their job,” she said.

Last month, the mayor instructed managers to level fund the 2018 budget which begins on July 1. In addition, she asked senior managers to absorb a 5 percent retroactive raise to city employees and another 2 percent increase set to take effect this summer to fill an $8 million budget gap.

The mayor’s remarks come on the heels of a financial report from a team of consultants who said the city should not issue raises after union contracts expire, freeze hiring, contract EMS services to a private company, and eliminate 35 city jobs.  

While Kennedy said her administration is already undertaking cost saving measures recommended by Philadelphia-based PFM Group in its 18-page review of the city’s finances, other suggestions won’t fly.

“Over the years, I have asked unions to take a zero increase, but it’s awfully difficult to do because they can appeal the Joint Labor-Management Committee for relief and they can impose whatever salary increases they think is fair,” she said. “The thought of people not getting a raise for five years doesn’t seem to be realistic.”

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

Focusing on violence

The stabbing death of a man on Chase Street on March 24 and a fatal shooting on Bowler Street last Monday represent a level of violence rarely seen in Lynn. Two violent deaths in one week is, thankfully, the exception to the rule and the murders traumatized neighborhoods and shocked residents.

Police officers can’t simultaneously patrol every street in the city or check every vehicle entering or leaving for a potential criminal. What they can do is work with other forces for good in society to plow over and reseed local breeding grounds for violence.

The Police Department’s gang unit has focused enforcement work leading to the imprisonment of violent individuals. After school programs and diversion efforts in schools help youth who are at risk of gang involvement. These programs mesh well with police efforts.

Lynn police have also worked with police in other communities, including Revere, to eliminate violence. Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo spoke to state legislators last week during “community safety day” about initiatives his city has undertaken to reduce crime.

Revere has used tax dollars to support the Police Activities League connecting at-risk youth through sports with positive role models.

Arrigo, during his State House visit, stressed the importance of programs reaching out to men ages 17 to 24 who are at risk of becoming gang involved. He endorsed the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative providing assistance to young men through job opportunity development and school and mental health support.

Youth outreach group Roca has come to Lynn with caseworkers committed to reaching out to young men who have troubled pasts and who have tried and failed through other programs to build crime-free lives.

Arrigo urged legislators to provide more tax dollars to pay for programs aiding police to prevent violence from taking hold in neighborhoods.

Any funding commitment at the state level must be matched at the community level as mayors in cities, including Lynn and Revere, craft budgets for the next year and prepare to submit them to councilors for review and action.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has supported police initiatives aimed at gangs. She has seen the benefits of police officers working closely with residents and workers in programs such as Roca and Lynn Youth Street Outreach Advocacy to make progressive approaches to ending violence.

We urge her to weigh the continued importance of public safety funding as she grapples with cuts in city spending and crafts a municipal budget for the next year.

Early in possible race, McGee ahead in funds

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Sen. Thomas McGee, the newly-minted candidate for mayor, is ahead in the campaign fundraising race against incumbent Judith Flanagan Kennedy.

The Lynn Democrat raised $27,813 from January 1 through the end of March, with more than $8,000 from unions, according to a report filed with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) the independent agency that administers the state’s campaign finance law.

McGee started the year with $58,247. He spent $22,695, including $3,000 for Christmas cards and $3,000 to pay MLM Strategies, a Boston-based consulting firm specializing in political fundraising, leaving the campaign with $63,366.  

Kennedy has not yet announced whether she will run. But political observers say she’s prepared to go for a third term.

The Republican began the year with $18,454, spent $750 on expenses and has a balance of $17,704, according to OCPF.


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

 

United in protest on the steps of City Hall

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Heidi Bethancourt of Lynn holds a sign protesting President Donald Trump during a rally on the steps of City Hall Friday night.

BY ADAM SWIFT

LYNN — Lynn says no to Trump.

Or at least that was the message unfurled on a banner in front of City Hall Friday night, as about 50 people gathered to protest the policies of the newly inaugurated president.

The event was organized by Lynn United for Change, and for many who attended, the evening was an opportunity to let the incoming administration know that their voices will be heard.

“I am here to support my community,” said Eliud Alcala, who was holding up one end of the Lynn Says No to Trump banner. “We need to hold (Trump) accountable.”

Alcala was one of a number of those who spoke against Trump’s proposed immigration policies, which he said are an insult to all who have, or have had friends, family and ancestors who have immigrated to the United States.

Others on the City Hall steps held smaller signs supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and offering sentiments such as “the election is over, but the struggle continues.”

Paula Phipps and Julie Letourneau said they felt compelled to come to the Lynn United for Change event because they are part of the community.

“We want to do something to be proactive and show our support,” said Phipps.

Letourneau said turning out to have her voice heard on inauguration day felt more productive than staying home and being silent.

In addition to the signs, there were several short speeches from members of Lynn United for Change, as well as some sporadic chants of “what do we do when Trump attacks? We stand up and fight back.”

Isaac Simon Hodes of Lynn United for Change said he understood that Friday was a tough day for many of those who oppose Trump and his policies.

“We also know from experience that we don’t mourn, we organize,” said Hodes, who noted that Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has been public about her support of Trump. “We want to show the mayor that she does not speak for the people of Lynn.”

Ella Thomas of Lynn United for Change said that no victories gained through political struggle or protest happened overnight.

“We have a way to go, but we know we can do it,” said Thomas.

While there were several people walking near City Hall voicing their support for Trump, there were a number of others who offered honks and words of encouragement as they drove by.

“I love you guys,” shouted one woman. “(Expletive) Trump.”

New schools would cost $200 per household

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The city council is set to put a question on the ballot in March that asks taxpayers to fund two new schools.

Voters will be asked to pony up an estimated $75 million, or $200 annually for the next 25 years on their tax bills for a pair of schools that would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn.

The school committee voted last week to request the council take the action. Under the city charter, the 11-member council is obligated to put the question on the ballot, according to James Lamanna, the city’s attorney. Voter consent is required for any bond in excess of $4 million. A special election is expected to be held Tuesday, March 14.

If approved, a 652-student school would 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.

Kane’s makes a tasty wager

Officials say the $188 million project is needed to accommodate the growing enrollment. Today, there are about 16,000 students in the Lynn Public Schools. But it has been increasing at a rate of 3 percent, or 500 new students annually, according to Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy.

“Enrollment continues to grow and we are out of space,” said Thomas Iarrobino, secretary of the Lynn School Committee.

“If voters reject the bond, we could be at a point where we were many years ago when we offered only a half-day kindergarten. Public schools are everyone’s right and everyone’s tax responsibility.”

The other factor in play is the contribution from the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the quasi-independent state agency that funds school projects. The department would contribute about 60 percent or $113 million of the project’s total cost. But if voters reject the bond authorization, the city stands to lose the state money.

The proposed construction has been controversial. Dozens of Pine Hill residents have expressed their opposition to the potential new middle school near Breeds Pond Reservoir citing traffic concerns. They have threatened a lawsuit.

But last month, the Pickering Middle School Building Committee reaffirmed its decision to locate the school off Parkland Avenue.


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

Four candidates in forefront for chief position

By THOMAS GRILLO

As the city’s former top cop settles into his new job as Essex County sheriff, the search for a new chief is on.

Four of the seven eligible candidates have applied to replace Kevin Coppinger. The hopefuls, including Acting Chief Leonard Desmarais, Deputy Chief Michael Mageary and Capts. Mark O’Toole and Michael Vail will face a team of interviewers on Jan. 23.

MMA Consulting Group Inc., a  Plymouth-based company provides a so-called Assessment Center comprised of an expert panel that interviews the candidates, asks their responses to real-life situations and grades them. They will recommend the top three picks to the Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, who makes the selection. The job pays upwards of $100,000 a year.

Kennedy could not be reached for comment. But Joseph Driscoll, the city’s personnel director, has said previous mayors have always selected the screening committee’s top-rated person.

Some say Coppinger, 59, a third generation cop, will be hard to replace. His father was a captain, his uncle was a detective and his great-uncle was a vice squad detective during Prohibition. He was popular among the rank and file who said his door was always open. He served as a police officer since 1983 and became chief in 2009.

Among the candidates contacted by The Item, only Vail consented to an interview. The 47-year-old captain has been a police officer for 23 years and is in charge of the department’s professional standards.

He listed a number of qualities the new chief must have to be a success.  

“A chief must possess leadership skills including patience, understanding and good judgment,” he said. “The chief needs to find out what the problems are and what’s important to Lynn residents by talking to them. The problems and concerns that are important to the community have to be the same problems and concerns that are important to the police department.”

Vail, who was selected by Coppinger, was set to leave for the FBI National Academy on Sunday.  The 10-week session is for law enforcement managers nominated by their agency heads because of demonstrated leadership qualities. The program, which provides courses in intelligence, terrorism, management, law, behavioral science, communication and forensic science, is intended to improve the administration of justice in police departments, according to the FBI.

Arlington Police Chief Frederick Ryan, who has served on Assessment Centers, said the panel will examine each candidate’s knowledge, skills, abilities and personal characteristics (KSAPs).

“High on the list of KSAPs is leadership, communication skills, problem solving and organizational sensitivity,” he said. “Assessment Centers create mock exercises that will elicit a response from each of the candidates to see if they have the KSAPs to do the job.”

It is far and away the most effective tool to select executive law enforcement leaders, he said.

“I’ve been through hundreds as a facilitator and it’s just amazing how the cream rises to the top,” Ryan said.


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

Passing the torch at the captains’ luncheon

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Matt Lauria, standing, kidding around with Liam Reddy, sitting, before the start of the captains’ lunch at the Porthole Restaurant in Lynn.

By STEVE KRAUSE

Thanksgivings come and go. The years roll by. People who were movers and shakers of their day step aside for varying reasons, and new people come along to carry the ball.

That’s the way it’s supposed to be. And that’s the way Dick Ruth, former Lynn Classical athletic director, hope it stays.

“This is why we have events like (Tuesday’s captains’ luncheon) every year,” said Ruth. “It’s important for kids to see that the adults in their communities care about them.”

Ruth took over this year as the director of the luncheon, which is hosted by the Lynn Lions and Lynn Rotary clubs.

Within the past year, Ruth became a rotarian, something he could never do as a teacher and administrator. But when the rotary club instituted a satellite organization that met at 7 a.m. on Tuesdays, Ruth was there. And when his good friend Jim Harris gave up the reins of the captains’ luncheon, Ruth was glad to take it over.

“You do this in hopes that the kids see it and understand that when they get older, it’ll be them running these functions for the next generation of kids.”

This has always been a central theme of the Agganis Foundation — to make kids aware that in the grand scheme of things, very significant and prominent adults served them, and that they will be expected to do the same when they get older.

If you looked around the room at the Porthole Tuesday, you saw evidence of this. All four Lynn football coaches were once captains of their teams. Three of them — James Runner (Tech), Matt Durgin (St. Mary’s) and Tim Phelps (Classical) — were at Classical while Chris Carroll is coaching at his alma mater, Lynn English. Athletic directors Bill Devin, Dick Newton and Joe Skeadas are now administering at their alma maters, Classical, English and Tech respectively.

Joan Wiendczak is now coaching the Classical cheerleaders, and will tell you gladly that she can still wear the same uniform she wore 45 years ago when she was a senior at the school.

All around that room were products of Lynn schools. State Rep. Brendan Crighton played football for Durgin at Classical. Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is a Classical graduate. School Superintendent Catherine Latham went to English.

Dave Solimine, who, at 80, may be the the standard bearer for Lynn philanthropy, graduated from Classical in 1953.

As Ruth said, there’s a lot out there to influence teenage boys and girls to go down the wrong path. The presence of adults in their lives, especially in times of crisis, can make all the difference in the world.

“Lots of times,” he said, “a kid will have a problem and the first person he’ll go to is a coach. Coaches and administrators see kids on different levels than teachers sometimes.”

So that’s why events such as Tuesday’s luncheon are so important. There’s nothing worse to young people than the feeling that they’re not being supported.

And there’s nothing better than when they are.

And since we’re talking about the presence of adults in the lives of the next generation, let us pause here and extend our gratitude to Matt Williams of Riverworks Credit Union; Adam Sherman of Brotherhood; and Dave Surface of St. Jean’s.

These are the people who sponsored the dinner — something they have been doing for more than a decade. So I’m sure I speak for all of the athletes, cheerleaders and band members for whom the luncheon was given. And for the adults, such as myself, who also had the opportunity to eat.

Thanks, too, to the folks at the Porthole for providing the venue.

Wiendczak said that little has changed from when she was a cheerleader in high school. She began coaching the football cheerleaders this year, and was struck by the similarities and the rituals.

“On Thanksgiving, when I cheered, we’d go to an early-morning blessing at Sacred Heart Church (by Msgr. Francis J. McDonnell, the longtime pastor at the church), and then to a pancake breakfast with the team.”

That didn’t seem like the most nutritious breakfast for a bunch of kids who were going to be running, hitting each other, or jumping around.

“It was OK,” she said. “We didn’t care.”

Wiendczak was looking forward to the Classical rally today, where she was going to put that 1972 uniform on.

In case anyone was wondering, Wiendczak works at this.

“I go the gym almost every day,” said the physical education teacher. “I work out all the time.”

The roster of students included: From St. Mary’s: coach Durgin, Marcus Atkins, Abraham Toe, Nic Colucitti, Anthony DelVecchio, Joey Silvestri, Brendon Donahue, Fred Blaise, Cam Sakowich, Liam Reddy; cheerleader coach Steffany Mihos, captain Jenn Watson, and Frs. Brian Flynn and Huan “Dominic” Ngo.

Tech’s contingent included coach Runner, cheerleading coaches Colleen Richards and Kim Kielty, cheerleading captains Malvelis Hernandez, Brianna Reynoso, Ivonne Ortiz and Makayla Anaya; and football captains Mike Brown, Brandon Lewis, Juan Vasquez and Adonias Ramirez.

Classical’s coaches and students included football coach Phelps, Wiendczak, football captains Matt Lauria and Marcus Rivera; and cheerleading captains Anna Marie Alukonis and Julianna McKanas.

The English group included football coach Carroll, football captains Jon Kosmas, Frank Perry and Chris Gomez; and cheerleading captains Kayla Reynolds and Kylie Moorehouse.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, and don’t eat too much. And as Dr. Latham said at Tuesday’s luncheon: “It’s easy to be graceful when you win; it’s tougher when you don’t win.” Please, if you win, heed her words. And if you don’t, please do your best to be graceful and, as she said, “don’t spoil your family’s dinner.”

Mayor: Lynn won’t touch Prop 2 1/2

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy.

By THOMAS GRILLO

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

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

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

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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.

Lynn poised to go upscale downtown

The historic flatiron building on Central Avenue will be home to an upscale pizzeria and cafe on the ground floor and 49 market-rate units on the upper six floors by 2017. (Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke)

By Bridget Turcotte

LYNN — Plans for the historic flatiron building on Central Avenue were unveiled on Friday.

As part of the $11 million investment, James Cowdell, executive director of Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corp., said the ground floor will be transformed into two new businesses: an upscale pizzeria and a cafe.

The six upper floors will be used for residential space. Plans include 49 market-rate units.

Cowdell said Pie and Pint will offer about 25 craft beers and seating for 105 people. The coffee shop, called The Brew, will be comparable to a Starbucks with high-end coffee and free wifi.

“This is exactly what we want,” Cowdell said. “The first floor is going to be something that draws people into the downtown. And we’ll have people living in the downtown that have disposable income.”

The property was sold to Union One Thirty Eight, LLC, managed by John McGrail, for $2 million in 2014.

The project is expected to be completed by April of 2017, with residents moving in and the businesses opening their doors at that time, Cowdell said.

It fits with the revitalized city that Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy described in her address to the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce on Friday morning. She said Lynn in a constant state of transformation.

From the recently completed work at Wyoma Square, which improved the northwestern gateway to the city, to the facelift for the Small Common, and the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School, she listed numerous improvements to infrastructure that were completed in the past year, and several that are in the works.

High-end eateries like Rossetti’s Restaurant, D’Amici’s Bakery and the Blue Ox reside in the same neighborhood. Bent Water Brewing Company has been so successful, it recently underwent a $2 million expansion, Kennedy said.

North Shore Community College has plans to open a free-standing book store on Broad Street, which the city currently lacks, she said.

“We have every reason to feel good about what we’ve done,” the mayor said. “Even more so for what’s to come.”


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

Success sparks smiles in Lynn schools

Under Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham’s direction and backing from Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and fellow school committee members, Lynn schools started spending $3 million beginning in 2014 on improving curriculums for reading and related subjects. Item file photo

Lynn School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham is a numbers person, and the latest numbers for student test scores and dropout rates give Latham plenty of reasons to smile.

The latest assessment scores for Lynn public school students tripled the number of schools ranked as Level One from two in 2015 to six this year. Thanks to improved student proficiency in reading and mathematics, schools like Pickering Middle School and Harrington Elementary School saw dramatic test score improvements from Level Three to Level One status.

Lynn is ranked as a Level Three district among large urban school systems grouped into their own category by state educators. But that mid-range ranking does not tell the story of improvements and academic strides made in Lynn schools.

Under Latham’s direction and backing from Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and fellow school committee members, Lynn schools started spending $3 million beginning in 2014 on improving curriculums for reading and related subjects.

Truckloads of boxes filled with books arrived at local schools with as many as 27 boxes dropped off in each classroom. Knowing that students for testing purposes need to be proficient in mathematics as well as English language arts, Latham and fellow administrators launched innovative math programs with names like “First in Math” and “Go Math.”

School officials didn’t simply throw shiny new books and fancy math study programs at students and turn their backs. They introduced a battery of academic intervention programs designed to closely monitor student progress. At the first sign of a student faltering or falling behind, teachers provided after-school help.

The payoff from spending millions of dollars and two years on academic improvement is measurably dramatic. Eight years’ worth of test numbers shows how Lynn public schools have narrowed the gap between local test scores and statewide average scores in all tested subjects.

The public school dropout rate for 2015 stands at 3.8 percent compared to 5.4 percent five years ago. Deputy School Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler said local dropout prevention programs are making strides in giving students a reason to stay in school. The reasons vary from student to student, but as Tutwiler noted, keeping students from dropping out starts well before high school.

The important point to never forget about the Lynn schools is that their hallways and classrooms fill up every September with children from countries around the world and from families with sometimes serious problems. People, not machines and books, educate these children and, hopefully, set them on the path to becoming productive adults.

Under Latham’s direction, the public schools also assembled a social and emotional education program built around social workers with help from the Essex County District Attorney, Lynn Police Department and local organizations, including Project COPE. At the center of the program stand teachers who draw on compassion and a love for their job to help kids overcome tough family situations.

The latest test score results tell a success story about student academic improvement, but the real success story in Lynn is about school leaders who took the time to design and execute a plan to improve local schools by improving student success.

Lynn parents have a lot to be thankful for when it comes to the schools their kids walk into every day.

Enough, already, in Lynn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get a shovel into the ground.

Lynn icon for sale

Robert “Tish” Muise, the manager of Fran’s Place, stands in front of the soon-to-be-closing bar. Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke 

By Bridget Turcotte

LYNN — Fran’s Place, the state’s oldest gay bar, will close at the end of the month.

“Everybody used to call Fran’s Place the Cheers of the North Shore,” said owner Jay Collins.

It was the first bar to enter a float in Boston’s gay pride parade, the first to start a fundraiser for AIDS, and among the first to host gay weddings in the state, he said.

“The hardest part for me is that in 34 years, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people,” said Robert “Tish” Muise, the bar’s manager and oldest employee. “I have a great group of employees. It’s emotional.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, who has known Muise for 30 years, called it “the end of an era.”

“Not only has Fran’s been a very welcoming place to everyone in the community but it is one of the last good dance clubs on the North Shore,” she said.

Kennedy first went to the club with her friends, who were gay, when it was still known exclusively as a gay bar. Muise stuck by her and made her feel comfortable to have fun with her friends, without worrying about getting involved with anyone.

“I will miss it and I hope that somehow, someway it will be able to be revived in the city of Lynn,” she said.

The property will be sold for an undisclosed amount by the end of the month. While details of the sale are uncertain, Muise has been told the upper floors of the building will be turned into apartments. Collins declined to name the buyer

Collin’s grandfather, John, first opened the business as a tavern around the 1920s. While he has been unable to find anything documenting the exact year or location, he knows it was located somewhere in the city.

“I remember my father distinctly saying it was there before and after prohibition,” he said.

In 1940, It was passed on to his parents, Fran and Robert. It reopened as The Lighthouse Cafe at its current Washington Street location. When Robert Collins died in 1975, his wife and children took over the business, calling it Fran’s Place.

A bowling alley next door, King’s Lynn Lanes, attracted ladies from a women’s bowling league to stop in for drinks. Many of the women were gay, Collins said.

“My mother treated them nice,” he said. “At first I don’t think she was even sure they were gay. They started inviting some of their male friends and they would all be dancing. Then we knew. They were always nice people and my parents respected them. That crowd dominated the straight crowd and it got bigger and bigger until it was known as a gay bar.”

Fran’s quickly became a haven for many people who had a hard time finding a place to be themselves.

“Fran’s Place has been like home,” said Muise, who started doing drag shows at the bar in 1982. “It really is a home for us. Before gay marriage and equal rights came about, on holidays when you would typically go home to your birth family, many people were not accepted by their families and would come to Fran’s.”

Muise has advocated for the LGBT community for decades, he said.

“I feel like we made so many accomplishment for the gay community,” Collins said. “When we took this over in 1976, there were no gay rights. We went through just as many hardships as some of my customers did with the abuse.”

The building  fell victim to vandalism and arson. When regulations changed to require smokers to go outside, people driving by would yell hateful things and throw eggs at customers, Muise said.

But as society became more accepting of the LGBT community, Fran’s place became popular with the community as a whole. It’s known for holding fundraisers and giving back to the city.

Each year the bar raises money for AIDS treatment and research. After a hate crime committed at Pulse Orlando killed 49 people and critically wounded 53, Fran’s Place raised money to send to the Florida nightclub.

A farewell party will be held next Saturday, Sept. 24 to thank the customers, Muise said. The event will run from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. and will feature a variety show and food.


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

Charter school looks to chart new course after contest loss

Frank DeVito. Item File Photo

By Thomas Grillo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Mayor Kennedy hosts story time at City Hall

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
The REAL Program of Lynn participants Andre Rodriguez, Ella Nijuga, Yonardy Baez, Joselyn Landaverde, Chris Chavez, Crystal Fernandez, and Stacy Mendez listen to Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy read from the book “Where’s There’s Trouble, There’s Hope” in Lynn City Hall.

By Michele Durgin

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy entertained youngsters at City Hall on Monday with a reading of “Where There’s Trouble, There’s Hope.”

The children, ages three to eight, are participants in Reading and Educational Assistance for Learning (REAL). The Lynn-based nonprofit’s mission is to to boost literacy by providing books, homework assistance and fun activities for children.

The book, co-authored by Sheila Duncan of Marblehead and Melanie Fleming and illustrated by Joan Samuelson, both from Lynn, centers around the notion of never giving up.

It tells the story of the star character, Trouble The Dog, and introduces a new puppy named Hope. Duncan created the character of Trouble the Dog in 2006 after her niece, Kendra, lost her dad, grandmother “Nonnie” and the family’s golden retriever “Irish,” all within a short amount of time.

The inspiration to write the series began when Duncan saw a TV show about children with cancer, and tried to change the station before her niece became upset. Instead, Kendra decided she wanted to do something to help the kids. She drew a picture of a small, grey puppy and named him Trouble.

Duncan took the image and turned it into the star character of her book “Here’s Trouble,” which is the first in the series. A big hit, she later turned the character into a plush toy to give to children in need of comfort.

Jan Plourde, REAL’s executive director, accompanied the group, along with their counselors, on their visit to the mayor’s office.

“This is an enriching experience and it’s important for the children to learn that there are many kind and helpful people in their city,” she said.

The mayor talked with her attentive audience throughout the reading session. She stopped often and asked questions about the plot, inviting the children to share their thoughts. The group was especially delighted when Kennedy fist bumped a few of the front row listeners during a post reading discussion.

“The book’s message is timeless,” the mayor said. “I’m so glad that we got to share this special story. The expressions on their faces were priceless, especially when each of them received a copy of the book and a Trouble the Dog stuffed animal.”

The books and stuffed animals were donated by Alan and Suzanne Rothenberg of Marblehead.

Alan and I are happy to sponsor today’s program,” she said. “We are big advocates of successful literacy programs and we love kids. It was a joy to be here.”

Noel Dirouche, 5, a pre-kindergarten student at the Washington School, said she was excited to tell her family about her trip to City Hall.

“I’m going to share my book with my brother, Isiah, and I can’t wait to learn how to read,” she said. “I want to read books for the rest of my life.”

Volunteer chaperone Kim Staples, 52, a Lynn teacher, said she is impressed with the REAL program.

“Jan’s program is terrific,” she said. “She is making so many connections with young children and their families. Literacy is an important issue in today’s world and people like Jan, who put their heart and soul into the cause, are making a difference every day.”  

Bridget Turcotte contributed to this report.

Lynn loss is Medford gain

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

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

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

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

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

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

“She wishes her well,” she said.

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

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

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

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

Her last day will be Friday, Aug. 12.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

City Council approves Leahy on Lynnway

BY THOMAS GRILLO

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

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

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

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

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

But Councilor Wayne Lozzi urged the members to vote no.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

St. Mary’s says farewell to seniors

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Graduates of St. Mary’s High School throw their caps in the air on the steps of Lynn City Hall at the end of the ceremony.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — St. Mary’s High School graduated 98 students on Thursday who were encouraged to continue being their authentic self.

Grace Cotter Regan, head of the school, opened St. Mary’s 134th commencement exercise with praise for the graduates.

“They are authentic,” she said. “Our students are not afraid to take risks or try something new.”

The class of 2016 is organically diverse and includes artists, thespians, scientists, athletes and leaders, she added.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she visited the school earlier in the year and was met with a sign that read “Be Yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” She couldn’t think of any better advice to give the graduates.

“Please always know that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is so proud of your achievements,” said City Council President and State Rep. Dan Cahill (D-Lynn).

William S. Mosakowski, chairman of the school’s Board of Trustees, told graduates to never forget where they came from. He said researchers recognize grit and resilience as important attributes for success, something that he said they have.

“To those who possess grit and resilience, they gain a tremendous competitive advantage,” Mosakowski said.

Valedictorian Christina Marie Hallisey talked about how success comes through sacrifice. She said that could mean only going out every other weekend in college to focus on studying. Success is nearly impossible to define because it differs for each person, Hallisey added.

“Today, I am happy to say we have all succeeded,” she said.

Salutatorian Aislinn Flaherty McCormack said she was supposed to be a nerd, but as St. Mary’s is a small school, it is scientifically impossible to get stuck in a stereotype while finding “your authentic self.” She said her class is full of survivors, starting off strong as lowly freshmen.

“You’ve shown every person in this room that you’re a survivor,” McCormack said. “And now you have to show everyone in the world that you can thrive.”

Also honored were members of the Class of 1966 for their Golden Jubilarian 50th Class Reunion.


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

Lynnway should be Lynn’s road to success

“There has to be the political will…”

Those words spoken by a former Framingham Planning Board member summarize the 1,500-word story on the Lynnway published in Wednesday’s Item.

With all its problems and promises, the Lynnway could not be better positioned to benefit from the political will if for no better reason than the fact that Monday marked the six-month anniversary of the formation of a joint city, state and federal effort aimed at bringing an economic renaissance to Lynn.

Some of the development opportunities underscored by the Lynn Economic Development and Advancement (LEAD) team are becoming realities, most notably, the $80 million residential redevelopment of the Lynnway’s northern end. But most of the road, from its gateway entrance to the city at the General Edwards Bridge to the Clock Tower Business Center, is buried beneath, to quote city Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC) Director James Cowdell, “every mistake that has been made over the last 75 years.”

How does Lynn dig its way out of those mistakes and transform the promises of the future into reality?

The work begins, as Framingham’s Susan Bernstein pointed out, with appointed officials on municipal boards demonstrating the will to make the Lynnway fertile ground for future development. That work begins by asking what developers want and need on the Lynnway before they put shovels in the ground.

The next step after those questions are asked and answered is articulating a vision for the Lynnway. Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy in her 2010 inaugural address set her sights on the Lynnway and the city’s waterfront. Now is the time for her to say the Lynnway will only host major development projects if the city begins changing the way the Lynnway looks. She must add: “I have the will and I will map out the way this transformation will take place.”

If Kennedy shares a vision and illustrates how it will unfold, then city appointed officials serving on the Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board and Site Plan Review Committee can make transformative changes.

They might borrow from Framingham’s experience and take a hard line on reducing sign sizes and adding more landscaping, specifically trees, to the Lynnway. This approach will require working with every business seeking to update a sign, rebuild or complete an addition or open a new business.

It will be slow work and it may encounter resistance. But it is work worth doing if local officials truly want to prime the Lynnway for promise.

Jay Ash, state Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, declared on June 16, 2015, “This is Lynn’s time.” He told his audience, including high-ranking local officials, that city leaders must be unified in their effort to push the city forward or face the prospect of another municipality grabbing his attention. He warned them: “The first sign of real difficulty and I’ll have to make a tough decision. Sometimes, you have to say no.”

Decision time is now in Lynn. With the Lynnway as their focus, city leaders must demonstrate the political will to articulate a clear way forward to turn past mistakes into fertile ground for a bright future.

Parkland, Summer in middle of school search

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Gene Raymond of Raymond Design Associates talks about building a new Pickering Middle School during a site-planning meeting at City Hall.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — General Electric field on Summer Street and land off Parkland Avenue are potential sites for two new middle schools designed to replace the Pickering Middle School and handle future enrollment increases.

City officials named the locations as the local choices for building new schools during a Monday meeting with design consultants. The meeting kicked off a four-month-long site selection process that will include public hearings.

With a new Marshall Middle School opening this month, school officials have set their sights on replacing the 99-year-old Pickering.

The school is likely to handle expanding elementary school enrollment. But meeting participants said severe traffic congestion around the school and Magnolia Avenue flooding problems rule out Pickering as a future middle school site.

City schools started the year with 3,000 students. But Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the city “needs to have room for about 4,500 middle school students.”

While design consultants have examined middle school locations citywide, GE Field and Parkland Avenue emerged as preferences for several reasons.

The Parkland Avenue land located behind the “Barkland” dog park is city-owned, said city Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan, and has not been built on.

The city faces challenges building off of Parkland Avenue if the site survives the selection review. Its proximity to Breeds Pond raises potential flooding concerns and the prospect of an extensive environmental review.

Kennedy acknowledged Pine Grove Cemetery commissioners are eying the land for more burial space.

“They have come to me and said, ‘We have no room to expand,’” she said.

Superintendent Catherine Latham said it makes sense to build a West Lynn middle school, stating, “It’s where the kids are.”

GE field is located in a floodplain. But Gene Raymond, lead architect for Lynn’s next round of school projects, said the field’s location off Summer Street poses fewer traffic problems compared to other middle school sites, including Pickering.

Kennedy said building a second school off Parkland Avenue also makes sense for what she termed political reasons. Building new schools requires bond financing approval by voters and Kennedy said Ward 1 residents who now look to Pickering as their middle school will “think they are going to get a new middle school.”

Plans to build two new schools could include changes at Breed Middle School designed to reconfigure the school’s layout to a more modern cluster concept. It would be similar to the one adopted for the new Marshall.

That change could potentially reduce Breed’s 1,300-student enrollment slightly, underscoring the need for additional middle schools.


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

Picking a plan for Pickering

BY PAUL HALLORAN

LYNN — Prospects for a new Pickering Middle School took a big step forward this week when the Massachusetts School Building Authority approved the selection of an architect as part of the feasibility study.

Raymond Design Associates, the firm that served in the same role in the construction of the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School, was chosen over three other companies by the MSBA’s Designer Selection Panel, which included Superintendent of Schools Dr. Catherine C. Latham, Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan, Jamie Cerulli, chief of staff to Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, and chair of the Pickering Building Committee.

The selection of Raymond Associates and its principal, Gene Raymond, was met with widespread approval by the Lynn contingent.

“We’re thrilled,” Latham said. “Working with Walsh Brothers (contractors) and Lynn Stapleton (project manager), Raymond has brought the Marshall project in on budget, ahead of schedule and without a single change order. We couldn’t want for anything else (with Pickering). The Marshall design is beautiful and speaks to the program that we feel will inspire and motivate our students. That design will influence the Pickering design with the intention that all middle school students in Lynn will have access to the same programs and the same opportunities.”

Donovan said Raymond is charged with exploring six options for Pickering: build a new school with capacity for 1,660 students; build two new schools with total capacity of 1,660; build a new Pickering and renovate Breed Middle School; renovate the existing Pickering building; renovate and build an addition; renovate and build a new middle school.

Donovan said the three options that include renovating Pickering will likely prove not to be feasible due to the poor condition of the building, a situation similar to what was encountered at Marshall.

“They have to look at all the options, but once you get a close look at the school, renovation would seem unlikely,” said Donovan, who added that there doesn’t seem to be much appetite for a 1,600-student building, either.

The City Council approved a $750,000 expenditure for the feasibility study, which is expected to take 12-18 months, according to Donovan. The total estimated budget for the building project is $132 million, which will include building capacity for more than twice the number of students than those currently attending Pickering, and will address future space issues. If the option with the Breed renovation is chosen, the cost of those repairs would be included in the total budget.

“The goal is to determine what is in the best interest of the city,” Donovan said, “and fit that into the estimated budget.”

In addition to exploring the various options, the feasibility study will include public meetings and site selection, as was done during the Marshall project. Ultimately, the School Committee will have to approve the preferred option, followed by the MSBA. Voters will likely be asked to authorize a bond to cover the city’s share of the cost of the project.

“This is a very positive step in a process that is thorough by design,” Kennedy said. “We have the benefit of having gone through the process for Marshall in the very recent past, and we are very pleased to be working with the same companies and individuals that have helped make that project an overwhelming success.”

The $750,000 for the feasibility study includes $450,000 for the architect, $225,000 for the project manager, $50,000 for environmental and site testing and $25,000 for other expenses.

“The feasibility really delves into the options and costs them out,” Latham said. “It gives us a very clear look at all the options.”

The Designer Selection Panel included a dozen members appointed by the MSBA as well as Donovan, Latham and Cerulli. Among the reasons cited for the selection of Raymond Associates were: excellent middle school experience and past performance with Marshall Middle School; only firm that included a HAZMAT consultant acceptable to the city; good conceptual ideas and middle school cluster development; same project management team as Marshall; credibility with the city and school district; and familiarity with the city and district.

 

Bad jokes and good people

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Jamie Cerulli and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy enjoy the jokes of comedian David Russo at the 19th annual St. Patrick’s Day Lunch at LHAND on Thursday.

BY THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — It was a sea of green Thursday as Lynn’s business and nonprofit community celebrated St. Patrick’s Day at a downtown lunch.

More than 200 people paid $15 each to feast on homemade corned beef and cabbage, boiled potatoes, carrots and Irish soda bread at the Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development (LHAND) charity event.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy welcomed the crowd and thanked them for their generosity.

“We always have a great time,” she said. “This is one of the high holy days on the Lynn political city calendar. And thanks to Joe Scanlon (the emcee) for going easy on me this year.”

Before introducing city council president and unopposed candidate for state representative Dan Cahill, Scanlon offered up an Irish prayer.

“May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sunshine warm your face and may you remember that you still have many phone calls to make. That was from St. Agnes the relentless.”

Cahill called the LHAND lunch the city’s favorite event of the year.

“It’s a who’s who and who’s not of the Lynn political scene,” he said. “Councilor-at-Large Buzzy Barton couldn’t make it here today and he sends his best. He had a doctor’s appointment. We thought it was because Trump keeps on doing so well that it put Buzzy in the hospital, but that’s not the case.”

Laurie Walsh, a member of the Democratic City Committee, who was described as very generous to Lynn for many years, received the Sullivan/Cronin Community Service Award.

Rick Ford, a retiree and former city councilor, received the Lyons/Muldoon Irish Person of the Year Award.

“I was shocked and almost started crying,” he said.

In an interview before the festivities, comedian David Russo, the lunch’s entertainment, said he would have to temper his act given the family-friendly crowd.

“Obviously this is middle America, so I have to switch it up,” he said. “There won’t be any of the usual cursing. We’re all adults and we’ve heard those words before, but maybe not in front of you grandmother. That’s the challenge. But it’s a cake walk for me because I’m well-trained.”

Still, he managed to make a few off-color jokes that the crowd appreciated.

“You know that expression Erin go Bragh?” he asked. “ I found out it was a guy who invented the bra. But I didn’t think it was possible that a guy could have invented it. If we did, we would have graded it differently, a ‘D’ would have been an ‘A.’ And we never would have waited 50 years to move the hook from the back of the bra to the front.”


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

 

Let’s hope Federal Street ignites a wildfire of hope

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and building owner Charles Patsios talk as the demolition begins on the Factory of the Future Building in Lynn.

Few sights could be more welcome than the giant excavator slowly chomping away at the big beige building on Federal Street.

Vacant since 1988 and saddled with the ironic name, Factory of the Future, the big plant has been hidden behind tall fences and formerly closed-off Federal Street until 2013 when Swampscott developer Charles Patsios and Lynn city officials gave the General Electric site a nice hard shove into the 21st century.

GE is still the biggest business in Lynn and city officials watching the Factory of the Future’s demolition begin this week were careful to ensure the excavator did not start its work by ripping down the signature cursive GE logo. The building’s outer walls will be stripped off over the next month and interior walls, wiring and floor will be removed to provide a sturdy skeleton for a new Market Basket store.

Bringing jobs and new commerce to a former vacant site in the city’s center is great news, but the Factory of the Future’s demolition is even more important as a symbol of change. Stagnancy is the worst barrier against progress and the former GE West Lynn site with its acres of depressingly empty asphalt embodied stagnancy.

Company officials, city leaders, Patsios and Market Basket deserve credit for bringing progress to Federal Street and it will be exciting to see how the empty land around the Market Basket site fills out with additional businesses or other uses.

The greatest hope for the Factory of the Future site is for it to become a spark igniting development and renewal across the city. Another former GE site where giant naval turbines were once built is poised to catch fire once Patsios and state transportation officials can reach an agreement on expanding use of the River Works commuter rail stop.

Once that detail is ironed out, it will be only a hop, skip and jump across the Lynnway to ignite development along what is arguably one of the most underdeveloped Eastern Seaboard waterfronts.

Progress — like hope — is infectious and here’s hoping Patsios’ and the city’s progress on Federal Street spreads across Lynn.

New future for Factory of Future

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Building owner Charlie Patsios and Mayor Judith Kennedy watch as the demolition of the Old GE building on Federal Street in Lynn begins.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — An excavator started demolishing the long-empty General Electric Factory of the Future building on Federal Street Monday to make way for a supermarket.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy smiled and clapped as the big machine took its first bite out of the building’s loading dock before proceeding to rip down part of a wall.

“This building has been vacant for so long,” Kennedy said. “It’s coming down for something new.”

Market Basket is scheduled to open a store at Federal Street and Western Avenue next spring, she added. New Hampshire-based Kidder Building & Wrecking Inc. crews will strip the 84,000-square-foot building to its foundation and steel frame.

“This is the day we begin to bring 400 jobs to this site,” said James M. Cowdell, executive director of the city’s Economic Development and Industrial Corporation.

The partial demolition will take 10 days — weather permitting — and sets the stage for a construction of the store to build the store and add 20,000 additional square footage.

“GE built a very solid foundation and we are adding to it,” said Charles Patsios, the site’s  owner and Swampscott developer.

Shuttered since 1988, the once state-of-the-art factory sat empty until the mayor met with high-level GE executives to discuss steering the site toward redevelopment. Patsios bought the 16-acre property from GE in 2013 for $4 million. Market Basket CEO Arthur T. DeMoulas joined city and state officials last year to announce $2.5 million in state money for road improvements around the site.

The work will start this summer with contractors creating turning lanes on Spencer Street. Additional road repair working and street lighting installation will be done on streets surrounding the site, including Marion and Waterhill streets.

Kennedy said the new Market Basket will attract Lynn shoppers and customers from Nahant, Saugus and other communities.

Lou St. Onge, Kidder’s project manager, praised City Hall for working with the demolition firm to prepare the site for excavation.

“You’re very good,” he said.


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

 

Stellar spellers fit to be tied

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Defending champion Mitchell Robson, an eighth-grader at St. John’s Prep, battled it out in the final round of the 31st Annual Daily Item Regional Spelling Bee Friday night in Lynn.

BY MICHELE DURGIN

LYNN — After four hours and more than 400 words, the 31st Annual Daily Item Regional Spelling Bee was called at 10:30 p.m Friday night, well past bedtime of the contestants — without a winner.

The two finalists, St. John’s Prep eighth-grader Mitchell Robson from Marblehead and Ashrita Gandhari, a third-grader at St. Michael School in North Andover, will resume the contest at a yet-to-be determined later date.

Held at Lynn City Hall Auditorium, the bee featured spellers from North Shore schools.

Before the event commenced, the 44 participants were anxious and excited as they ate pizza at the Pre-Bee Pizza Party sponsored by Fauci’s Pizza in Lynn.

Torin Anderson, a fifth-grader from Johnson School in Nahant, was happy to be in the competition and proud to represent his school.

“I would love to win and go to Washington, D.C.” he said.

Torin won the bee at his school when he spelled “splendid.”

Robson, from St. John’s Prep, punched his ticket to the bee with the word “unau” at his school’s contest in November and has been anxious for the night to arrive. A unau is a two-toed sloth.

“I’m feeling very prepared and I know I must be cautious and take my time,” he said.

This is Mitchell’s third year participating. “I’ve been studying for most of the year and I would love to go back to the Nationals in Washington and win,” he added.

First year participant and third-grader John Barry from the Beachmont School in Revere was excited to go on stage and represent his school and his family.

“Knowing that I’m one of the youngest kids here makes me nervous, but I’m excited and proud that I made it this far,” he said.

John was also happy that his parents and sister, Elizabeth, along with a neighbor, were in the audience to cheer him on.

Sofia Valencia, a sixth-grader from the Higgins Middle School in Peabody, earned her spot in Friday night’s bee with the word “paprika.”

“I hope I can do just as well as I did at my school’s bee,” she said. “I’ve studied a lot. My mom is proud of me. She said ‘Just do your best.’ I am so excited.”

Brady Bullock, a fifth-grader representing the Lynn Woods School, is one of the youngest competitors of the night.

“I’m happy to be here,” Brady said. “I hope I don’t get out on my first word. My parents, grandparents and my auntie are in the audience to see me. They told me to try my best and have fun.”

Judge Kathleen Shaughnessy, an eighth grade teacher at KIPP Academy in Lynn, was looking forward to the event and said,”I like to see excellence happen and that’s why I’m here. I am hoping to see a great competition.”

Judge Karen Hynick, vice president of academic affairs at North Shore Community College, said she was proud to be involved and added,”I am looking forward to seeing the academic promise of our youth.”

Fausto Cabrera, the father of 10-year-old speller Daileny Torres, was thrilled to be at the bee and proud that it is her second time at the event.

“We’ve been studying together and she’s ready, Cabrera said. “Last year, she placed in the top 20. I am so happy for her. She’s self-motivated and wants to be a surgeon. She’s been reading since the age of 2 and is an excellent role model for her two younger sisters.”

Phil Ouellette of The Item and host of the event, thanked the sponsors, judges, coordinators, teachers and parents who brought the participants to the contest. He also expressed gratitude to Mayor Judith Flanagan  Kennedy and the city of Lynn for hosting the bee.

Deputy Superintendent of Schools Jaye Warry told the spellers, “I am honored to be here on behalf of the superintendent. I wish each of you the best of luck and remember there are lots of people here who love and support you. Good luck.”  

Pronouncer William McGuinness, an AP social studies teacher at Lynn English High School, stepped to the podium and said, “You are already champions. Enjoy yourselves.”

Joel and Mary Abramson of Flagship Travel have sponsored the bee for the last three years.

“The participants have grown from 28 to 46 in the past three years and I hope it continues,” Joel Abramson said. “I would love these kids to spread the word to put down the mobile devices and pick up a book.”

Time is right for auditorium to dig into the grassroots

Under renewed city guidance, Lynn Veterans Memorial Auditorium has literally reached for the stars by putting performers onto its big stage who once filled arenas and stadiums with cheering fans. With the addition of air conditioning and strong allies among downtown restaurants, the auditorium is a proven success now poised to dig down into Lynn’s grassroots to find new talent.

There are plenty of different ways the auditorium, as a city and regional venue of choice, can showcase local talents. Why not line up an all-women’s show featuring local female performers with a well-known musician headlining the show? How about hosting festival-type shows featuring better-known performers and home-grown ones?

All performances cost money but the city Community Development department, under Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy’s direction, has shown it can bring performers and fans into the auditorium. With its established track record of attracting musicians, the time has come for the city to shine a brighter light on local talent.

Local musicians playing Celley’s Pub or Walnut Street Cafe or the summertime Red Rock Park concerts should know they have a shot at striding onto the auditorium stage, either to play with peers or music legends.

Performers honing their talents in local high schools or at North Shore Community College should also get a shot at playing the auditorium. The same goal should apply to the city’s many talented ethnic musicians who play clubs or get-togethers.

With the auditorium located in the city’s center, the big hall and its stage should serve as a beacon to talent across the city and a gravitational point for performers. The auditorium has already proven its worth in attracting diners and bar-goers downtown; now it’s time to amplify that attraction.

Why not host a downtown street fair on Sutton Street and Central Avenue running into City Hall’s Essex Street parking lot? It’s not too difficult to imagine people strolling past food vendors and visiting with friends on their way to a daytime or early evening auditorium show. The city has proven the possibilities are endless for the auditorium’s future.

City officials: Senior-center expansion is news to us

ITEM FILE PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy would not comment on Council on Aging Chairman Al DiVirgilio’s proposal to expand the Lynn senior center.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Expanding the Silsbee Street senior center is a concern city officials said has not been discussed with them.

“No one has brought that to my attention. It’s a surprise to me,” said Ward 5 City Councilor Dianna Chakoutis.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy offered a similar reaction and would not elaborate on her views concerning Council on Aging Chairman Al DiVirgilio’s proposal last Thursday to expand the center.

“I’m not going to comment on it,” said Kennedy.

Senior Center Director Stacy Minchello said the center is “maxxed out” of available space for activities and DiVirgilio last Thursday said the facility is 40 years old. Economic Development and Industrial Corporation Director James Cowdell said he has spoken with Greater Lynn Senior Services representatives  but only about parking needs.

“Outside of that, there has been no discussion with EDIC about GLSS expanding downtown,” Cowdell said.

The senior center is located across Ellis Street from a city-owned downtown parking lot. The city Parking Department, beginning in 2015, set stricter permit parking and “transient” parking rules for the Ellis Street lot and the lot on Buffum Street.

Department revenue records underscore how city lots are becoming increasingly popular for drivers seeking to park downtown.

The Andrew Street lot in the fiscal year that started July 1, 2012, generated $53,000 in parking revenue compared to $92,000 in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2015. The Buffum Street lot generated $140,000 in 2015 compared to $132,000 in 2014 and Ellis Street generated $61,000 in 2013 compared to $69,000 in late 2014 and the first half of 2015.

The department has taken a number of steps to enforce parking rates and make payment easier.

Parking scofflaws who ignore the dollar an hour or five dollars a day parking rate risk receiving a $20 violation ticket. Mechanical kiosks like the one installed in the city lot between Andrew and Liberty streets are also slated to be installed in other lots.

Employees working in 50 downtown businesses and organizations park in the 200-space Buffum Street lot and demand for monthly parking permits for the lot prompted the Parking Department to post the lot for permit parking only.

The department in 2015 also mapped out a plan to direct “transient” lot users  drivers who pay by the hour or day to park  to the Ellis Street lot located a block and a half off of Union Street and about three blocks from Buffum Street.


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

Bargaining table has no room for 12 chairs

Ongoing discussions between Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and city unions underscore why city charter crafters clearly defined the mayor’s executive duties and erected a high wall between mayoral and city council duties.

The charter states the “executive powers of the city shall be vested solely in the mayor.” Those simple and powerful words underscore the mayor’s job as custodian of the city, responsible for making sure municipal agencies do their job on behalf of Lynn’s citizens.

The word “solely” is a concise way to define the mayor’s role at the city bargaining table. Kennedy is responsible for negotiating contracts with unions representing teachers, police officers, firefighters and other employees.

A labor lawyer and city officials assist the mayor during negotiations, but the final decisions on city bargaining decisions lie with the city’s chief executive. Kennedy’s ability to negotiate contracts with city unions is tough this year because she has to dedicate millions of dollars over the next several years to making sure the city meets its net school spending obligations.

To her credit, Kennedy has stated that “the way I have to approach my budget relative to contractual obligations is to work to get schools fully funded first.”

If there were 12 voices at the bargaining table instead of only Kennedy’s, no spending priorities could be set and negotiations would continue without union leaders understanding the city’s financial constraints.

Most councilors know bargaining is Kennedy’s domain and respect a “hands off” posture when it comes to council involvement. But it would be tempting given that the council includes six union members and a retired union member.

Kennedy, as several councilors have pointed out, has stood with the council in supporting pro-union resolutions demonstrating city solidarity.

But union-friendly solidarity resolutions and a clear and concise city position at the bargaining table are not the same thing. Kennedy has to bargain fairly with city unions even as she bears in mind the burden borne by city taxpayers — including city employees who are represented by unions and own local property.

She does not need 11 councilors whispering agendas and viewpoints in her ear, and councilors will serve the city well if they bear that advice in mind in the event the going gets tough for Kennedy at the bargaining table.

Councilors: Mayor calls shots on city negotiations

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LaPierre agreed.

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

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

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


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

Viva La Republica Dominicana

PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Yasmiely Franco of the Cultura Latina Dance Academy dances during Lynn’s Dominican Independence celebration.

BY GABE MARTINEZ

LYNN — The cry was heard, loud and often, on City Hall Square: “Long live the Dominican Republic!”

Local politicians and residents honored the Independence of the Dominican Republic with a ceremony featuring dancing, speeches by local politicians and the raising of the Dominican flag on City Hall Square.

Frances Martinez (no relation to this reporter), executive director of the North Shore Latino Business Association, and a member of the Dominican Flag Committee, said that the flag raising has been an annual event for the last 15 years and is an important event for one of the city’s demographics.

“It’s important for us to do this because we are a nation of immigrants,” said Martinez. “(Immigrants) bring rich culture and that’s what we have here (today).”

The hour-long program featured speeches inside City Hall, in both English and Spanish, from Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, the General Counsel of the Dominican Consulate Carmen Milagros Almonte, School Committee member Maria Carrasco, a dance routine from local dance academy Cultura Latina, followed by the flag raising outside of City Hall.

“We do this for all of the cultures represented in Lynn,” said Kennedy. “The Dominicans choose to honor their Day of Independence.”

Kennedy said the city recognizes all of the different countries represented in Lynn by having their flag flown at City Hall. She believes it is important to recognize the different cultures of Lynn because they make up the fabric of the city.

Lynn resident Juan Antonio Gonzalez read a biography of one of the three founding fathers of the island nation, Matías Ramón Mella, whose birthday was on Thursday and celebrated at the event. Gonzalez also read an oral history of the founding of the country.

The unusually warm February day made the flag raising more comfortable for attendees. When  the indoor events were concluded, the guests moved outside to sing the Dominican National Anthem, followed by the raising of the flag.

The Dominican Republic will celebrate its 172nd Independence Day on Saturday.


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

 

Mayor gets a read on Sewell-Anderson

PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy reads “Amelia Bedelia 4 Mayor” to Julie O’Shea’s class of second-graders.

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanigan Kennedy visited the Sewell-Anderson Elementary School to read a story to Julie O’Shea’s second grade class Thursday afternoon.

The children gathered around and Kennedy read “Amelia Bedelia 4 Mayor” by Herman Parish, a story about a girl named Amelia who is encouraged to run for mayor after her employer complains about the mayor never doing what he is supposed to do.

In the story, Amelia intends to physically run to town hall, rather than run for the position, but soon finds herself on a political campaign. The Amelia Bedelia books are known for the main character’s literal-mindedness and quirky puns.

“I like the Amelia Bedelia books because they have these puns,” Kennedy said. “I stop and ask them ‘do you know what that means?’ and explain it to them.

“This particular book is good because she is running for mayor,” she said.

Kennedy also engaged in a discussion with the children about what her job is like, what some of her responsibilities are, and what the students want to become when they get older.

The second-graders told Kennedy that they want to become everything from artists to firefighters to sled-dog mushers.

Kennedy asked the students if they knew who is running for president. The students eagerly raised their hands to list off each candidate.

Kennedy said she enjoys visiting Lynn schools and finds it important for children to see adults having an interest in reading.

“I read to the students a couple of times a month at different schools across the city,” Kennedy said. “They need to see that the adults in their lives are lifelong readers. It doesn’t matter if they’re teachers, business people, elected officials, athletes. We’re all required to read.”

Before Kennedy arrived at the school, the 21 seven- and eight-year-olds excitedly asked O’Shea a slew of questions, she said.

“They loved it,” O’Shea said. “They were all excited. They wanted to know what the mayor looks like, the jobs she does. We had her picture pulled up on our SMART Board.

“They kept asking ‘how much longer’ and looking at the clock and saying ‘she will be here (soon),” she said. “It was like we had a celebrity coming in. They asked a lot of questions about a woman being the mayor of the city.”

Also in attendance was Brant Duncan, president of the Lynn Teachers Union, who informed the class that each child would be going home with a copy of “Amelia Bedelia 4 Mayor.”

The books will be provided by the Lynn Teachers Union and the Mayor’s office.

“We have been purchasing books through First Book, a national nonprofit,” Duncan said. “I was flipping through this particular book and showed it to the mayor and she loved it too.”

“She did a wonderful job,” O’Shea said. “I’m very pleased she picked our class. It’s an honor for our mayor to come read to our students.”


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

Fennell’s steady hand at State House will be missed

ITEM FILE PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Rep. Robert Fennell in the Capitol Diner.

It’s hard to believe state Rep. Robert Fennell is bringing the curtain down on a 21-year career in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Better known as the guy who owns the Capitol Diner on Union Street and always self-deprecating about his role as East Lynn’s state legislator, Fennell has been a reliable, if applause-shy, legislator who went to work, did his job and provided a steady partnership in the House to a succession of fellow Lynn legislators.

He delivers his swansong speech from the House floor today and it’s sure to be sprinkled with humility and gratitude for the trust Lynn voters placed in him.

It was Fennell, two years ago, who worked behind the scenes to start sorting out the school net spending crisis that threatened the city’s fiscal stability. Working with state Sen. Thomas M. McGee, Fennell brokered an agreement with initially-hostile state educators and an outraged Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy to take the first steps to iron out disagreements.

Applying the reasonable tone and calm approach that is his hallmark, Fennell convinced both sides to lay down their proverbial swords and work out an agreement that resulted in a manageable schedule for meeting net spending obligations.

Settling disputes with state agencies and keeping an eye on local aid and state transportation spending appropriations does not sound like the work of a towering political luminary, but Fennell never sought the limelight and he chuckled whenever someone sought to play up his status as a veteran legislator.

Catch up with him at the Capitol, between stints at the grill, and he preferred to talk about his family and efforts to expand local charitable endeavors he supports. When it came to patting someone on the back for a legislative accomplishment, Fennell was the first legislator to hand off the praise to colleagues.

Fennell faced few election year challengers during his House tenure and relatively few critics have materialized to condemn his hiring by the Water and Sewer Commission. It’s easy to point a finger at politicians, but, on the other hand, Fennell is not riding off into the sunset after leaving the Legislature — he is staying local — and his contacts and expertise in state government are sure to serve the commission in its continued pursuit of state money.

Lynn residents had a friend in Bob Fennell during his time in the State House and ratepayers will have a sure hand on Parkland Avenue during the next chapter of Fennell’s public service career.

Lynn Fire Department promotes three new officers

Fire Chief James McDonald, far left, and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy at a swearing-in ceremony for Capt. Timothy Leighton, Lt. David Hathaway and District Chief Michael McBride with Deputy Fire Chief William Murray.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — A veteran paramedic, a former police officer and a firefighter cited for heroism are the Fire Department’s newest officers promoted on Feb. 16 by Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, following District Chief Jack Barry’s retirement.

Kennedy, in a City Hall ceremony, swore in new District Chief Michael McBride, Capt. Timothy Leighton and Lt. David Hathaway in the wake of Barry’s Jan. 24 retirement.

“Jack’s retirement created a ripple down every rank in the department. He was probably one of the best district chiefs I worked for and with. It’s almost an experience you will never regain,” said Fire Chief James McDonald.

McBride brings extensive emergency medical service experience to the district chief’s job. The son of retired District Chief Richard McBride, he has risen quickly through department ranks, said McDonald.

Leighton worked as a Lynn police officer for 12 years, before taking the firefighters examination and joining the department 10 years ago. McDonald said it is relatively rare for former police officers to switch to firefighting.

“It usually goes the other way around,” he said.

McDonald said Leighton’s police background is valuable to firefighting because fire scenes are sometimes crime scenes and police officers gain experience working with “people from all walks of life.”

Hathaway was awarded the state Fire Marshal’s Medal of Valor in 2012 for working with fellow Lynn and Saugus police officers and firefighters in December 2011 to rescue a man from a car submerged in the Saugus River. Attempts to save the life of a woman passenger were unsuccessful.

Assigned to Engine 3 throughout his career, Hathaway is a fast learner, said McDonald.

“He’s very intelligent and personable,” McDonald said.


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

 

Rolling for a cause

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Patrick Cogan will organize a family walk, run and roll road race April 10 to raise money to battle Friedreich’s Ataxia.

By THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Undaunted by the wheelchair crash that sent him to Union Hospital during last year’s Project Wheels family walk, run and roll, Patrick Cogan hopes to attract 150 participants to this year’s five-kilometer event, scheduled for April 10.

The Lynn native, and aide to Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, founded Project Wheels in 2012 as a local initiative aimed at fighting Friedreich’s Ataxia, a neuromuscular disorder that restricts Cogan’s mobility to a wheelchair and customized vehicle.

“My muscles don’t respond to my brain well and it affects speaking and swallowing,” he said.

Working with his brother, Matthew Cogan, race co-director, Melissa Whiten and other Project Wheels supporters, including Christopher Pace and Joel Solimine, Cogan’s goal is to raise money to buy home wheelchair ramps, wheelchair-retrofitted vehicles and other equipment for people diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia.

Cogan said the disease receives little public attention and needs much more research and treatment funding. Working with his team, he organized the 2015 Family Walk, Run and Roll and drew 128 runners to the event.

“With no money, no one’s going to fight a disease that strikes one in 50,000 people,” he said.

During the race Cogan toppled his new racing wheelchair, breaking the orbital bone beneath his right eye and sustaining “a lot of good road rash.”

“Everyone was coming back for pancakes and I was laid up at Union Hospital,” he said.

Last year’s race raised $3,500, and that money, combined with other fundraising efforts, helped meet Cogan’s assistance goals.

This year’s walk, run and roll is scheduled to begin on April 10 at 8:30 a.m. at Rolly’s Tavern, followed by a pancake breakfast. For registration and fundraising information, visit projectwheels.org

“It is our hope to raise funds for Friedreich’s Ataxia patients and their families, as well as bring together the local community for the common goal of independence,” Cogan said.


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

Council may make itself heard in emerging city labor talks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First significant storm of season blankets region

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
A.J. Juwara cleans off cars on Newbury Street in Peabody Friday.

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

Falling tree limbs were the biggest challenge for city and town public works chiefs cleaning up local streets after heavy wet snow blanketed the region on Friday, cancelling schools with the exception of Lynn, and causing accidents.

Without a declared snow emergency, Lynn Public Works Commissioner Andrew Hall said clearing city roads was “tricky,” but crews and heavy equipment worked across the city even as students trekked home from school and tree limbs temporarily blocked roadways.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy late Friday explained the decision to open schools.

Dr. (Superintendent Catherine) Latham and I talked at length last night about opening school and, given that our last scheduled day is very late already, and we did not have a major storm forecast, we agreed that schools could open,” she said.

Kennedy said local streets, as of 6 p.m. on Friday, “are in very good shape.”

Revere officials also scrambled to clear fallen limbs with Public Works Director Donald Goodwin urging drivers to stay off the roads and be aware of limb cleanup work.

Towns like Swampscott extended their emergencies and parking bans, with Swampscott extending its ban through 8 p.m. Friday. The parking ban was initially put in place at 8 p.m. on Thursday, due to the impending snow.

Any vehicles left on public ways will be in violation of the parking ban and subject to a $50 parking ticket and will be towed.

The town of Saugus has also issued a parking ban, which began at 1 p.m. Friday and remained in effect until 8 p.m.

Nahant automatically declares a snow emergency and bans all on-street parking each time it snows, according to police.

Peabody has issued a parking ban, which is in effect until further notice. Vehicles parked on the street will be ticketed and towed.


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

Lynn seniors will park for free

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

Snow day decision a balancing act

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Snow covers the pier at Fisherman’s Beach in Swampscott on Friday.

The closing announcements started popping up before the first flake fell on Friday: “Marblehead schools are closed”…”Saugus Public Schools are closed today”…”St. Mary’s closed…stay warm.” The list continued to grow as a light snow turned into a coating, then an inch or two of snow with Lynn Public Schools absent from the list.

By noon Friday, the social media and word-of-mouth consternation over the omission could be heard above the grind of heavy plow blades clearing city streets. Why were kids sent to school? Isn’t it risky to have them negotiating clogged sidewalks from school to home?

Both questions are serious ones that lie at the center of any parent’s concerns for their child’s safety. But there are other important concerns that cannot be forgotten in the “close or not to close” equation.

Closing schools is a financial, as well as a safety decision that, when it comes down to decision time, gets weighed by a handful of people. Superintendent Catherine Latham, Public Works Commissioner Andrew Hall and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy have to balance several considerations when they decide to keep schools open or to close them.

Obviously, safety is concern number one. Snow had barely fallen on Friday when bells sounded signaling the start of another school day. Students leaving schools — the ones who were not pulled out by parents who showed up at schools during the day — walked home in a half-foot of wet snow, with visibility marginal on local streets.

Anyone who is quick to condemn city officials for opening schools on Friday should consider another important factor that goes into the “open or close” decision-making process. Like all parents, Lynn mothers and fathers must juggle work and childcare decisions in the event school is closed.

Sure, some parents can “work from home” and others can take a day off. Still others can take a child to work, to the amusement or aggravation of coworkers. But what about the parents who don’t have any of these options? What does someone working a second job following a night shift do if schools are closed?

Let’s face it: 21st-century schools aren’t just education institutions — they also feed, discipline and counsel kids — so before we condemn decisions to keep them open or closed when nature turns nasty, let’s remember the decision must be one that balances the considerations of all parents, not just the ones willing to gripe the loudest on social media.

Can’t miss Lynn’s new digital billboard

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Seattle-based firm Total Outdoor’s new billboard on the Lynnway.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — With a flash of pink and the sudden appearance of giant letters, the Lynnway’s newest digital billboard burst into life Wednesday at 12:19 p.m., signaling what city and sign company officials hope will be an ongoing relationship.

Total Outdoor’s 63-foot-tall sign, located opposite Dunkin’ Donuts, is capable of cycling up to eight electronic advertisements, but it is the Seattle-based firm’s new relationship with the city that may help catch passing drivers’ attention.

Total Outdoor representative Drew Hoffman said the company will allow the city to advertise upcoming Veterans Memorial Auditorium concerts on the sign.

“We’ll let the auditorium use it at their disposal,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman estimated 85,000 people will drive by the sign every week. Total Outdoor leases the sign’s site from a real estate trust. Workers removed the billboard’s giant support pole last November to refurbish it before reinstalling it and mounting the 14-foot by 48-foot billboard last month.

Total Outdoor has 200 signs in the United States. The Lynnway billboard is only the sixth digital sign the company has unveiled in Massachusetts. Each advertisement appears on the sign for 10 seconds before cycling onto a new ad or public service announcement.

Hoffman said advertisers pay $6,000 to run an advertisement for four weeks and the money is well spent.

“Lynn, demographically, is great for commuter traffic and the Lynnway is a great roadway for local and national advertisers,” he said.

Unlike traditional vinyl billboards, digital signs can be updated throughout a day to aid advertisers. For instance, a restaurant can post lunch or dinner specials on the sign and a bank can quickly post a favorable interest rate. The signs are also valuable for Amber Alert child abduction postings and providing a way to quickly involve the driving public in the hunt for an abductor.

“One great thing about digital billboards is they look so clean,” said Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce President Leslie Gould.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the Total Outdoor sign will greatly amplify the city’s ability to advertise auditorium concerts. Community Development Department Director James Marsh recalled how the city initially advertised concerts using wooden signs set up on main city routes. He said the first concert to be advertised on the digital sign will probably be Disney in Concert, scheduled for the auditorium on Feb. 26.


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

Cahill can balance state rep and council

It’s too early to anoint state Rep. Bob Fennell’s successor, but we think City Council President Dan Cahill — the sole candidate to date in the 10th Essex District special election — can convincingly argue, were he to be elected, that he could be a strong legislator while continuing to be a sound council president.

In a relatively short tenure, Cahill has proven to be one of the more effective presidents in recent council history.

Cahill brought experience as a School Committee member and as a City Councilor to the council’s top post in January 2014 when his colleagues picked him to be their president. In return, Cahill brought a modest, good-humored and open-minded approach to overseeing the city’s chief legislative body.

He pulled the Council Ways and Means Committee out of the president’s office and moved the meetings to City Hall’s room 402, where other council meetings are held on Tuesday nights prior to the 8 p.m. council meeting.

He gave fellow councilors credit for crafting a significant zoning-reformation project designed to go hand in hand with efforts to boost the city’s fortunes with sound development. The fruits of that effort are on display today with a proposal for a significant waterfront development undergoing city site plan review as a prelude to construction.

Cahill makes no pretense or apologies about working with Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy. He lives across Western Avenue from the mayor’s Buchanan Circle neighborhood and Cahill said he stops by her home on weekends to converse.

Cahill takes a similar approach to working with Fennell, state Sen. Thomas M. McGee and former council colleague and state Rep. Brendan Crighton. He made sure he attended a recent meeting at the Blossom Street extension ferry dock when McGee and Crighton were on hand to meet a New York ferry operator.

No meeting, no chance to say hello to someone, or exchange a few words, is too insignificant for Cahill to devote a few minutes to a problem or a concern. He is proud to call Lynn home and proud to say his parents live in Lynn.

Cahill says he is the 10th Essex District candidate who can hit the ground running and pick up where Fennell left off. He will have an instant working relationship with McGee and Crighton as well as other local legislators and be positioned to make sure council goals line up well with legislative objectives.

Other candidates may enter the race to succeed Fennell, but Cahill has set the bar high for potential contenders.

Should Cahill ultimately be elected state representative, we urge him not to resign from the council or its presidency. There is no City Charter prohibition against tandem service on the council and in the state Legislature. And once the 2017 city election rolls around, let the voters decide if Cahill — if he seeks re-election — should return to the council.

Lynn Fire has burning desire for school safety

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Juan Hernandez, of Harrington Elementary School, placed 3rd in the elementary school division in the Lynn Fire Poster to Billboard contest. Behind him are Lynn Superintendent of Schools Dr. Catherine Latham, left, and State Fire Marshall Stephen Coan.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — The Lynn Fire Department and Lynn Public Schools, along with the mayor and State Fire Marshal, awarded 10 students with iPads for being the top entries in a poster contest highlighting the importance of working smoke detectors.

Lynn Fire District Chief Stephen Archer said there were nearly 4,000 entries in the second annual “Poster to Billboard” contest. Nine winners were chosen — three students each from the elementary, middle and high school level — with one honorable mention selected.

The presentation was held Wednesday afternoon at the Lynn Fire Headquarters.

“This event is quickly becoming one of the highlights of the calendar year,” Archer said. “It’s helping us to get out the very important message of fire safety, particularly smoke detectors in homes.”

Each student was given an iPad, which was presented to them by School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham. Winning students also received a certificate of achievement from Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and recognition from the Fire Department.

The theme of the poster contest was “Hear the beep where you sleep,” with the phrase incorporated into each poster — referring to the importance of smoke detectors in homes.

At the elementary school level, Jeiry Robles, of Harrington Elementary School, Julissa Merida Zacarias of Brickett Elementary School, and Juan Hernandez, also of Harrington, were first-, second- and third-place winners.

At the middle school level, Ashley Christiansen, of Breed Middle School, Aaliyah Alleyne, of Pickering Middle School, and Nuria Perez, also of Breed, were first-, second- and third-place winners.

Christiansen, 11, said she was “so excited” when she found out she was a winner. She said her mother got the phone call and passed along the news.

At the high school level, Anthonie Cruz and Yen-Nhi Chit, of Lynn English High School and Kimberly Cruz, of Lynn Classical High School, were first-, second- and third-place winners. Ismailyn Portillo Mateo, also of Lynn English, received an honorable mention for her poster.

For his poster, Anthonie Cruz, 17, said he originally envisioned a bedroom, as every bedroom needs a fire alarm. He drew a Dalmatian, a signature fire symbol, in the bed.

“I was ecstatic,” he said, when he found out he had won.

In attendance in addition to Archer, Kennedy and Latham, was Fire Chief James McDonald, Deputy Fire Chief Bill Murray, State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan, Lt. Israel Gonzalez of the Fire Prevention Bureau and Cynthia Ouellette, public education manager with the state fire marshal’s office. Principals and teachers from local schools were also in attendance.

“I can’t say enough about the talent we have here,” Kennedy said about the students.

Latham said she was thankful students have showed such enthusiasm for the fire safety project. The contest is part of a partnership between Lynn Fire and the Lynn School Department with the goal of making Lynn families safer. The contest was designed as a fire-prevention campaign aimed at all school children in grades K to 12, according to a fire department release.

“If it weren’t for this program, we wouldn’t have at least one lesson every year on fire safety,” Latham said.

Coan said his duty as fire marshal is to prevent fires and invent strategies to do so as part of remarks commending the poster project. He said more than 50 people died from fire in the state last year, with four last month in Lynn on Bruce Place.

“It’s very tragic to see the depth of destruction that occurs by fire,” Coan said. “The vast majority of these fires are preventable fires.”

Coan said causes are typically from people who undertook risky behaviors or from electrical issues. He said the vast majority of those buildings were lacking working smoke detectors. To know for the sake of a modest investment — a smoke detector and battery — those outcomes could have been different, he said.

Through programs like the poster contest in Lynn and other education, Coan said there could be a decrease of annual fatal fire deaths.

Archer said the contest started around Thanksgiving and winners were selected just before Christmas. He said Latham was instrumental in putting the contest together and also thanked Gonzalez.

“We are just overwhelmed with the quantity of entries received and the quality of work,” Archer said. “It’s something we look forward to doing each and every year.”

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

Pros should set a better example

PHOTO BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
New England Patriots defensive lineman Chandler Jones warms up on the field during an NFL football practice, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. Jones was admitted to a hospital on Sunday and released the same day, the team said in a statement that did not elaborate on the nature of the medical issue.

At some point this past Sunday, Chandler Jones of the New England Patriots allegedly ingested some form of synthetic marijuana and got himself in a world of trouble. He managed to get himself to the police station in Foxborough, and ended up in the hospital.

Wednesday, Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and other city officials attended a training course to learn how to administer Narcan, the drug used to offset opioid overdoses.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has awarded $700,000 in grants to police and fire departments, including those in Lynn and Saugus, in efforts to fight this scourge.

We’re not here to indict or convict Chandler Jones, though we will note that when police visited his house, they say they smelled the distinctive odor of burnt marijuana.

And we’re also not going to try to convince anyone that there’s any similarity at all between whatever Jones is alleged to have taken and the heroin and other narcotic drugs that have claimed so many victims in the last few years.

But we do feel that people in public positions have a responsibility to act like responsible citizens. And that’s something that certainly applies to Chandler Jones. And it’s also the tissue that connects these seemingly disparate issues.

For every admonition, by every public official, educator, parent, coach, or anyone else, about the harm drugs can do to the system there’s some public figure out there making a mockery of the problem. No, marijuana isn’t heroin. Not by a long shot. But it’s a drug. And professional athletes, whether they want to admit it or not, are public figures and they bear some responsibility for the impression they make on young kids — especially the ones who want to follow in their footsteps and be athletes.

What does it say, for example, to a kid on the Lynn Classical basketball team when a star on the Patriots gets into a situation allegedly because of drugs? Isn’t Chandler Jones supposed to be 100 percent focused in on the Kansas City Chiefs and Saturday’s playoff game?

If there were better examples given to kids by the “heroes” in their lives, perhaps the state could use the $700,000 it is spending on opioid addiction for something else. And perhaps Mayor Kennedy could be doing something else other than learning how to administer Narcan.

We applaud her for taking the time. But she shouldn’t have to, and part of that falls on all the adults who set a bad example for kids.

 

New team plugged into Lynn cable

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Sean Donahue, director of operations, Richard Coppinger and Robert Tucker, from left, talk television in the control room of Lynn Community Television in Lynn City Hall.

By THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Lights, camera, action. Lynn Community Television hopes to be in full broadcast mode by mid-February, with local government-oriented programming and shows focused on interesting Lynn residents.

The cable public access provider has purchased equipment required to broadcast LCTV shows on Comcast channels 3 and 22 and Verizon channels 37 and 38. The four-month-old provider currently broadcasts on Lynn Educational Television channel 15 and on YouTube, with director of operations Sean Donahue and two coworkers working out of City Hall room 302.

“We are building resources and equipment and we are rapidly reaching the point where we will be broadcasting every night,” said former City Councilor and LCTV board treasurer Richard Coppinger.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy named Coppinger, former Councilor Robert Tucker, attorneys Michael Marks and Michael Cerulli and Fire Department veteran Joseph Carritte last September to a board charged with reviving local public access cable television.

Kennedy’s action came after months of claims, counter accusations and lawsuits naming Lynn Community Media Access, Inc. (LynnCAM), the city and state Attorney General’s office. Legal filings detailing financial mismanagement and misappropriation claims remain active in Superior Court, but LynnCAM is no longer broadcasting and cable access money paid to the city by Verizon and Comcast is going, at Kennedy’s direction, to LCTV.

Tucker and Coppinger said LCTV’s programming goals include interviews with local “people of interest,” expanded public meeting broadcasts and shows produced by local residents who sign up to be LCTV members.

LCTV broadcast the Jan. 4 city inaugural ceremonies and the Jan. 7 Union Hospital hearing in City Hall.

Coppinger and Tucker retired from their respective jobs in 2015, but both men said they are devoting a significant amount of time, along with fellow board members, to expand LCTV.

“We’ve made tremendous progress in the first three months,” Tucker said. “We basically started a corporation from ground zero.”

The board is drawing up membership guidelines and searching for a broadcast studio space.

“Our goal is to get out of 302 as soon as possible,” Tucker said.

Kennedy said board members are closely following LCTV’s bylaws to provide local residents with membership opportunities and give members a chance to elect board members.

Without local public cable access, Kennedy said “there is a void” in information resources for local residents.

“It’s the city’s voice. It can reach almost every diverse audience,” she said.

 

 

State approves Pickering School project manager

Plans to build a new Pickering Middle School took a “critical” step forward Monday, said City Council President Dan Cahill, when state officials approved a project manager to oversee construction of a new school.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Plans to build a new Pickering Middle School took a “critical” step forward Monday, said City Council President Dan Cahill, when state officials approved a project manager to oversee construction of a new school.

“This really starts the ball rolling. This is a good sign we will continue to keep this project on schedule,” Cahill said.

City Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan said LeftHand LLC is the right company to oversee the Pickering project because Lynn Stapleton, the chief person overseeing the Marshall Middle School project, works for LeftHand.

“She is very experienced — this is a very important step,” Donovan said.

With a project manager in place, the city will pick an architect in May to begin designing a new Pickering. Donovan said the process of narrowing down a site for the new school will be finalized sometime in September or October.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said land located off of Parkland Avenue near the “Barkland” dog park opposite Pine Grove Cemetery is a leading candidate for a new school site. Pickering student enrollment totaled 618 students last fall — five over its 613-student construction capacity when the school was built in 1917.

But Pickering — like the existing Thurgood Marshall Middle School on Porter Street — is showing its age and needs repairs. Built on a hillside, the building is frequently invaded by seeping water and paint is peeling off its ceiling and walls.

It lacks 21st-century technology and learning tools that will be standard in the new Marshall under construction on Brookline Street. The first new school built by the city since 1997, Marshall will be open to students in April.

Cahill said building new public schools fits into elected officials’ vision for new private and public sector development in Lynn.

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

 

Concerts make Lynn rock

Item Photo by OWEN O’ROURKE
Community Development Director Jamie Marsh, standing, and administrative assistant Joanna Mills are half of the team that gets the great shows for Lynn Auditorium.

By GABE MARTINEZ

LYNN — Jamie Marsh may have the most sought-after job in Lynn. He and a team of three others, including Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, choose the entertainment acts for the Lynn Auditorium.

Marsh and the group spends its time researching acts and making sure they will generate enough ticket revenue for the auditorium, and bring in enough money to positively affect the economic impact for the downtown area.

Last year, the team made its way to the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Conference in New York City.

“We did it as a one-day conference and that was really intense,” said Kennedy. “It’s a large exhibition hall with different talent agents and you see what bands they represent.”

Marsh and his team plan on attending the conference again this year, on Jan. 18 in New York.

They primarily look for classic rock bands such as Deep Purple, or acts that have a broad appeal like Cesar Millan.

“I think the ideal act would be Gloria Estefan,” said Kennedy. “She encompasses everybody that comes to shows here.”

Kennedy spotlighted Estefan’s ability to appeal to a broad audience, which includes Hispanics, people in their 30s, and older people.

In many cases, the auditorium team is approached by promoters who want to rent out the venue, such as Meatloaf, who will play City Hall in March.

Both Kennedy and Marsh spoke highly of Boz Scaggs,who has performed at the Auditorium three times.

Boz Scaggs is one of the most talented performers I’ve seen here and I’ve seen him twice,” said Kennedy. Scaggs will return to the auditorium later this year.

Marsh excitedly mentioned some of the shows for 2016, including Chicago, Get the LED Out (a Led Zeppelin tribute band), Alice Cooper, Happy Together, Brit Floyd (a Pink Floyd tribute band), a 1940s revue called “In The Mood,” a Janis Joplin tribute show and “Dancing in the Streets,” a Motown revue.


Gabe Martinez can be reached at gmartinez@itemlive.com.

 

Lynn’s inauguration takes a much lighter turn

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

By THOR JOURGENSEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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