Massachusetts

Suffolk Downs packed for weekend racing

PHOTO BY SCOTT EISEN
Horses bolt out of the gate during one of Sunday’s races at Suffolk Downs.

Suffolk Downs

EAST BOSTON — The Massachusetts breeding industry was the highlight of Sunday’s 10-race card at Suffolk Downs with a pair of $50,000 stakes races restricted to horses bred in-state.

The races concluded the final day of the first of three food truck and live racing festival weekends scheduled this summer.

Dr. Blarney, a homebred for local owner and breeder Joseph DiRico, romped by nine-lengths as the heavy favorite in the 6-furlong $50,000 Rise Jim Stakes to earn the ninth win and fifth stakes victory of his career. Trained by Karl Grusmark, the four-year-old son of Dublin was ridden by Tammi Piermarini who went on to win a total of three races on the day.

“It always feels so nice to win at home,” said Piermarini. “The minute you get into Massachusetts, nothing beats the feeling of being at home.”

Piermarini also won the second race with Smokin Red Hot ($8) for trainer William Downing and teamed up with Antonio Arriaga to win the seventh race with Banner Bill ($8).

In the ninth race, the $50,000 Isadorable Stakes for fillies and mares, Jonathan Buckley saddled Princess Dream to an 11½-length romp in the 6-furlong contest under jockey Joel Sone. The 4-year-old daughter of Freud carried the colors of owner and breeder Patricia Moseley who won the stakes in 2013, 2015 and 2016 with local champion mare Navy Nurse.

“It is just wonderful to win this race,” said Moseley. “We did not even know if we would get a chance to be here. This horse is special to us – she was kind of like our pet. We brought her up ourselves on the farm and you just never know how they will turn out.”

Also on the card, apprentice rider Jenn Miller notched two victories and lit up the toteboard with Redeem Me ($88.60) in the fourth race. She closed out the card with a 2-length score aboard Likeagirl ($4.40). Miller began her career as a jockey this past fall after previously competing successfully as a Grand Prix dressage rider.

Saturday, a crowd of 10,219 was on hand as D’Boldest went gate-to-wire to win the $75,000 Jill Jellison Memorial Dash.

“It is gratifying to get such a great turnout from local fans and such solid support from horsemen shipping in for the weekend,” said Chip Tuttle, the Chief Operating Officer at Suffolk Downs. “We’re appreciative of the dedicated staff here who put in a ton of work over the last few weeks to make these days happen. Congratulations to Antonia Noonan and the connections of D’Boldest.”

Trained by Jose Camejo and owned by Antonia Noonan, the 7-year-old daughter of D’Wildcat broke sharply and secured the early lead. From there, she made every call a winning one under jockey Abel Lezcano and drew off to win by 4¼ lengths to earn the 10th victory of her career.

“I have won stakes races all across the country,” said Lezcano. “But, I have never won one at Suffolk Downs and it was great to win this one. She ran a fantastic race. Even though my saddle slipped, she went right to the front and just kept going.”

Also on the card, the entry of Saint Alfred and Frosty Nurse finished one-two for prominent longtime local owner and breeder Joseph DiRico in the $50,000 African Prince Stakes. Saint Alfred, ridden by Piermarini, prevailed by three-quarters-length over his entry mate to earn the second stakes victory of his career.

The live racing and food truck festival will continue Aug. 5-6 and Sept. 2-3.

Looking to stay Whole: Lynnfield, Swampscott shoppers are hopeful

ITEM PHOTO | SPENSER HASAK
Nathaniel Parker of Portsmouth, N.H., reacts to the sale of Whole Foods to Amazon.

By MATT DEMIRS

LYNNFIELDWhole Foods Market customers didn’t have anything bad to say after the Internet giant, Amazon, purchased the grocery store Friday morning.

They did raise one concern, however. They don’t want change.

“I’ll keep shopping here,” said Nathaniel Parker of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, “as long as they don’t mess up the formula.”

Amazon purchased the grocery chain at $42 a share, or $13.4 billion, making it the largest deal in company history. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos is reportedly paying a 27% premium on Whole Foods shares.

Whole Foods, which opened its first location on September 20, 1980 in Austin, Texas, has 30 locations in Massachusetts, according to their website.

The purchase raises shoppers’ concerns as to what might change in their beloved Lynnfield and Swampscott locations.

Carol Herdic, who is visiting her daughter from Miami, wasn’t aware of the purchase but is very familiar with Amazon and its services.

“I order from it almost every day,” she said. “I own Echo and Alexa and buy certain groceries on there, although I don’t use Amazon Pantry. I do, however, use the subscribe and save feature.”

She too hopes Amazon doesn’t have any plans to change Whole Food’s current product.

“I find it very interesting because I heard Amazon cuts its price in order to get to its customer,” she said. “And you don’t think of that when you think of Whole Foods since it is more of a premium market.

Although Herdic said she’s unsure of what might become of the two companies, it might mean that Amazon is changing its business model, or that Whole Foods might becoming cheaper, she said. She’s interested to see what will happen.

The news comes after Amazon expanded into the brick and mortar industry earlier this year as the Internet legend opened eight bookstores across the country, with more set to come.

The store manager at Amazon Books in Lynnfield declined to comment on the purchase of Whole Foods, citing restrictions placed on employees regarding talking with the media.

The manager of Whole Foods in Lynnfield was not available for a comment at this time.

Emily Brengle of Ipswich said she doesn’t really have any idea of what might become of the store as she loaded her car with groceries at the Lynnfield location.

She uses Amazon for online shopping and really enjoys Amazon Prime, the company’s two-day shipping service.

“The only thing I care about is whether Whole Foods is going to change,” she said.


Matt Demirs can be reached at mdemirs@itemlive.com

Lynn will box for a cause

FILE PHOTO
Front row left, to right: Enis Huskic, Jodie Adams, Charles Espinal, Aramis Maldonado, Adalberto Zorrilla. Blue shirt, Alex Sepulveda, owner and trainer at Private Jewels. Back row: Carolina Trujillo. Antonio Gutierrez, Ruben Holguin, John Ford, Pete Capano, Valerie Deland, Rob Smith and Fred Hogan.

By HAROLD RIVERA

Lynn native Alex Sepulveda has made it clear that he believes his hometown is a boxing city. Sepulveda, a Tech grad who trains young boxers with a similar belief, will have a chance to showcase Lynn’s boxing talents next weekend at the first annual “Boxing For Hope” fundraiser.

The event, which will be held in conjunction with Lynn’s “Stop the Violence” organization, will take place next Saturday afternoon, June 24, at the Lynn Tech field house. It’ll include a dozen bouts, 11 of which involve Lynn boxers. The other bouters hail from areas from all over New England and range in ages from 10-33.

Sepulveda, who trains the 11 Lynn fighters at his gym, Private Jewels Fitness, is a former boxer himself. He said that although the showcase gives his fighters a chance to perform in their hometown, there’s a positive message attached to the event as well.

“This is going to be a fundraiser that helps kids stay off the streets,” Sepulveda said. “It’s about helping kids stay focused on academics. We’re looking to raise money to keep this program alive. This going to be a day when the city of Lynn is coming together to focus on this cause.”

“This event is about progressing for a better future,” Sepulveda added.

The opportunity to perform in front of their friends and families in an Olympic-style boxing setting,  however, has given Sepulveda’s boxers an added incentive as they prepare for next Saturday’s event.

“They’re all excited,” Sepulveda said. “Their friends and families are all excited. They have so much pride for themselves and the city, so they’re overly excited. I have to thank the city for helping us make this event.”

One of the event’s major goals, besides coming together to raise money for a positive cause, is to prove that Lynn has a bright future in the sport of boxing. Sepulveda noted that Lynn hasn’t hosted a boxing event in a while and “Boxing For Hope” is seeking to change that.

“We have 11 kids that have a lot of talent,” Sepulveda said. “Nine of these 11 kids have already been Golden Gloves champions. This is why we’re doing this, because Lynn is a boxing city. We haven’t had fights in a while so we’re looking to bring them back. We want people to see the talent that we have in this beautiful city.”

The boxers representing Lynn throughout the showcase, Sepulveda said, have all bought in on setting their sights towards a positive future. Sepulveda’s boxing program at Private Jewels opens its doors to high-risk youth and preaches positive values, such as the importance of academics, to those who participate.

“A lot of my kids are high-risk kids in high-risk programs,” Sepulveda said. “A lot of cities don’t like to work with kids that are high-risk. A lot of my kids are showing results and changes not just in boxing but academically. In doing so, they’re representing Massachusetts and New England at national levels. Our program is working for these kids and that’s what we’re here for, to create a better generation for the kids in our future.”

Tickets for “Boxing For Hope” cost $10 and can be purchased in person at Private Jewels, over the internet at the gymnasium’s website (www.privatejewelsfitness.com) or at the door on the day of the event. All proceeds go towards Private Jewels and “Stop the Violence.”

The first of the 12 bouts is scheduled to start at 3 p.m.

“This is all about seeing growth in these kids,” Sepulveda said. “I have kids here that earned scholarships for USA boxing. They’re learning how to be men and great citizens for the Lynn community.

“The name says it all, ‘Boxing for Hope.’ This is the hope for our kids and for the new generation.”

Lynn students want jail in suicide text case

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Lynn Classical junior Louis Brooks reacts to the trial of Michelle Carter.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN If it were up to students at Classical High School, Michelle Carter would be found guilty and sent to the slammer for life.

The 20-year-old is accused of urging her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, to commit suicide in 2014. Prosecutors are seeking a conviction of involuntary manslaughter based on a series of text messages she sent the teen before his death.

“Encouraging someone who is suicidal to kill himself is pushing them off a cliff,” said Louis Brooks, a 17-year-old junior. “He was close to the edge and she could have told him ‘I don’t want you to die’ and got help. Instead she told him to do it and she’s the reason he’s dead.”

Carter was 17 when the 18-year-old Roy died of carbon monoxide poisoning in his pickup truck at a store parking lot in Fairhaven. Her lawyer has argued that the texts are protected free speech.

She was indicted in 2015 and appealed, and took the case to the Massachusetts Supreme Court. The court ruled that she could stand trial for her alleged role in Roy’s death. She faces up to 20 years in prison.

In the ruling, the court found that Carter’s “virtual presence” at the time of the suicide and the “constant pressure” she had placed on Roy, who was vulnerable, were enough proof for an involuntary manslaughter charge.

Peabody may lack guidance

Jess Cahill, 17, and a junior at Classical, said the involuntary manslaughter does not go far enough. “Manslaughter is when you accidentally kill someone,” she said. “This was not an accident, it was purposeful, she told him to do it. She should be charged with murder one because this was premeditated. It’s the same thing as taking a knife and stabbing someone.”

Seventeen-year-old Brandi Conlon agrees.

“It was so wrong,” she said. “Telling someone it’s OK to kill himself gives them the power to do it. It’s so sad. How could you encourage someone to do that? She should have tried to stop him.”

On Friday, a forensic investigator who examined computers owned by Roy testified that the teen searched suicide methods.

Steven Veronneau, a defense witness, said Roy visited a website that explained, “Easy, quick and painless ways to commit suicide” and Googled, “suicide by cop.”

The defense also called a police officer to the stand, who said he found Roy with a swollen and cut face while responding to an assault report. The defense said Roy was depressed, in part, because of family abuse.

A judge denied the defense’s request for a not-guilty verdict.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.comMaterial from Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contractor pleads to not paying workers

By ADAM SWIFT

LYNN – A Lynn painting contractor who was criminally charged with intentionally not paying workers has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to probation, debarment, and a fine.

A hearing will be held to determine the amount of restitution owed to workers, according to a news release from the office of state Attorney General Maura Healey.

On Wednesday, Derek Sullivan, 46, owner of Sullivan Commercial Painting, Inc. in Lynn, pleaded guilty in Lynn District Court to charges of willful failure to pay wages in a timely manner (14 counts).

After the plea was entered, District Court Judge James L. LaMothe Jr. sentenced Sullivan to three years probation, one-year debarment, and a $2,500 fine. A hearing will be held Sept. 12 to determine restitution owed to employees.

Peabody man among oxycodone guilty pleas

“This defendant has a history of cheating his workers,” Healey said in the release. “In Massachusetts, workers must be paid what they are owed in full and in a timely manner. We will use our enforcement powers as appropriate to hold accountable any employers who do not abide by those laws.”

Sullivan Commercial Painting serves apartment complexes and major retail establishments. The Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division began an investigation after receiving a referral from the Chelsea Collaborative.

The investigation revealed that Sullivan routinely did not pay his employees in a timely manner. In many instances, employees received no compensation for weeks of work or only small partial payments. Under state law, employees must be paid all of their wages within six days of the end of each pay period.

Sullivan was previously charged and pleaded guilty in 2009 to five counts of failing to pay wages timely, five counts of failing to pay overtime, and one count of failure to keep payroll records. He was sentenced to two years probation.

 

Marblehead police are lifesavers

COURTESY PHOTO
Officers Adam Mastrangelo, left, and Andrew Clark.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

MARBLEHEAD — Two Marblehead police officers were honored with statewide lifesaving awards on Thursday after they were able to save a man in full cardiac arrest earlier this year.

The awards were presented to Officers Andrew Clark and Adam Mastrangelo at Bentley University during a ceremony where 92 police officers from across the state were recognized, Marblehead police said.

Clark and Mastrangelo responded to Abbot Public Library on Jan. 31 shortly before noon on a disturbance call regarding a man yelling on the first floor. While responding, they were told that a person suffered from a seizure, police said.

Also responding were crews from the Marblehead Fire Department and paramedics from Atlantic Ambulance.

Malden gets green to go green

But both Clark and Mastrangelo arrived just two minutes after the 911 call, ahead of other emergency responders, and found that a 66-year-old man had not suffered a seizure, but was in full cardiac arrest, police said.

Clark performed chest compressions while Mastrangelo set up the defibrillator. One shock from the device was delivered and stimulated a light pulse while the man was taken to the waiting ambulance, which took him to Salem Hospital. He survived and is enjoying life again, police said.

“I think these officers exemplify the importance of our training and used that training to make a real difference in someone’s life,” Marblehead Police Chief Robert Picariello wrote in an email. “I couldn’t be prouder of these officers and the department as a whole.”

Clark has been in law enforcement for 13 years and has been a state certified EMT for 16 years. Mastrangelo has been with the department for 11 years, and has been a member of its Mountain Bike Patrol Unit for the past five.

Daniel Bennett, secretary of public safety and security presented the awards on behalf of the Municipal Training Committee, the agency that oversees the state’s police academy system.


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

Ferry will float again this summer

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Limited ferry service to and from Boston is returning.

BY THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — All aboard.

After rejecting ferry service for more than a year, Gov. Charlie Baker has reversed course and will fund a weekday excursion from the city’s terminal to Boston’s Long Wharf.

The boat is expected to launch on Tuesday, June 20, and run until Friday, Sept. 22. It will consist of one departure from the Blossom Street Extension at 7:45 a.m., arriving in Long Wharf at 8:20 a.m., and one evening return from Boston at 6 p.m., arriving in Lynn at 6:35 p.m.

The cost for the 35-minute trip is $7 each way, $3.50 for children and seniors.

“We are pleased to provide the needed additional resources for Lynn to once again offer this seasonal ferry service, which will give residents and visitors yet another transportation option,” said State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, in a statement.

This represents a change in direction for the Baker administration and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT).

Last summer, the governor said Lynn’s two-year demonstration project in 2014 and 2015 to launch the ferry on the state’s dime was an opportunity to examine whether the service made economic sense. He concluded it didn’t generate the ridership and the price tag per rider was too expensive.

On Thursday, a spokeswoman for Pollack said the state is providing a Highway Division grant of up to $200,000 for ferry service this summer to mitigate the impact of Route 1A and Sumner Tunnel construction projects.

“We don’t expect the city will need all of the $200,000 since the ferry generates fares,” said Jacquelyn Goddard.

During the 2014 season, the estimated total number of rides was 13,322 and during the 2015 season, the estimated number of rides taken totaled 14,577.

Nicholson seeks 2nd school committee term

But in 2016 the Baker administration halted service and blamed the city for failure to come up with the $700,000 in operating expenses needed to operate the ferry.

That disagreement appears to be over for now.

State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), who has been a champion of the ferry and criticized Baker for failing to fund it last summer, praised Pollack for her leadership.

“Residents of Lynn and the North Shore will certainly benefit from an affordable and stress-free commute this summer,” McGee said in a statement.  “This significant momentum is not just beneficial for the continuation of service in Lynn this summer, but for advancing the long-term vision of water transportation, with Lynn as a key component, in the entire Massachusetts Bay.”

James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development and Industrial Corp., the city’s development bank said he’s excited that the ferry is back.

“The two year pilot program proved that there is a demand on the North Shore for a commuter ferry out of Lynn,” he said in a statement.

Last spring, in an effort led by U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and in partnership with state and local leaders, the Federal Transit Administration awarded a $4.5 million dollar grant for Lynn to purchase a vessel to support ferry service.

“The ferry will provide access to higher-paying jobs, housing, and opportunity for Lynn,”Moulton said in a statement.

Additionally, MassDOT provided technical assistance resources last winter for the city to develop a long term sustainability plan for ferry operations, and is currently assisting with the purchase of the boat.  

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy could not be reached for comment.

Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com

 

Malden gets green to go green

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — This city has $332,540 in state money to spend on expanding its status as a Green Community.

The state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Department of Energy Resources credited City Councilor Craig Spadafora, who also serves as the chair of the Energy Efficiency Commission, and Public Facilities Director Eric Rubin, for meeting the Green Communities Designation and Grant Program’s five criteria.

The standards include creating a research and development zoning in place for light manufacturing or renewable energies; setting an energy baseline with a plan to reduce energy usage by 20 percent and developing a fuel efficiency vehicle policy.

Meeting the criteria has Malden poised to reduce its energy costs, improve the local environment, and implement energy efficiency and renewable energy projects with funding through the Green Communities Designation and Grant program.

The designation comes a month after the state Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change had a hearing in Melrose to get input from citizens on pressing issues in clean energy and climate.

Words to live by

Committee members posed this question to hearing attendees: How do you think the state legislature should monitor or regulate energy use and related issues to help keep Massachusetts healthy, sustainable and strong?

Massachusetts is now the national leader in energy efficiency, according to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. Local communities have certainly done their part to contribute to this ranking.

Medford was one of the first in the area to be designated a “Green Community” in the state and also among the first to establish a specific agency in its municipal government to embrace and promote “green”/clean energy.

Malden quickly followed suit and also has attained the “Green Community” designation, as has Melrose.

According to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the clean energy sector now employs 105,212 workers across the Commonwealth, an increase of 75 percent, or 45,000 jobs, since 2010. The clean energy sector has become an important part of the overall Massachusetts economy, contributing $11.8 billion in economic activity in 2015.  

 

Nicholson seeks 2nd school committee term

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Cindy Rodriguez and Jianna DeFranzo chat with Jared Nicholson after he announced his bid for a second term.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Jared Nicholson, a member of the School Committee, is running for a second two-year term, and officially kicked off his campaign on Wednesday.

Nicholson, 31, an attorney, laid out his reasons for running for reelection to a crowd of supporters and other elected officials at Rincon Macorisano.

“I plan to raise a family here and I want to send my future kids to great public schools, and I want to be a part of the effort to make sure that our city has great public schools to offer,” he said.

Nicholson said he believes in the potential Lynn has, and in order “for us to reach that potential, we need to make sure that all of our kids reach their potential,” which has to take place in the public schools. He said that would be achieved by getting the kids in schools now the skills they need to thrive, and attracting and retaining families who have a lot to contribute and are looking at the schools and deciding where they want to live.

Barking up the right tree

Nicholson said the district needs to continue to find more opportunities for kids to find their passion after school, highlighting its achievements with the wrestling program at Thurgood Marshall Middle School, the early college program with North Shore Community College, and important programs in IT and healthcare added at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute.

Some challenges the district faces, he said, include the dropout rate (listed as 4.9 percent for all grades in the 2015-2016 Massachusetts Department of Education report), sorting out the budget, and finding the space needed for schools.

Including Nicholson, 13 people have taken out papers to run for school committee, including incumbents, Donna Coppola, John Ford, and Lorraine Gately, and challengers, Jordan Avery, Cherish Casey, Brian Castellanos, Gayle Hearns-Rogers, Sandra Lopez, Natasha Megie-Maddrey, Jessica Murphy, Michael Satterwhite, and Stanley Wotring Jr.

Long-time incumbents, Maria Carrasco and Patricia Capano, vice-chair, are not seeking re-election.


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

 

Stop playing name game

COURTESY PHOTO
Saugus High School could be in need of a new mascot.

COMMENTARY BY STEVE KRAUSE

Native American logos are nothing new to me. From the time I was old enough to know what a baseball was, I knew who the Cleveland Indians were, and thought nothing of it when I started following football and started hearing about the Washington Redskins.

I didn’t know until much, much later, that a Brave was a Native American, as was a Chief and a Blackhawk and many others.

I took it for granted that the Sioux had a propensity for fighting, and that was why the North Dakota hockey mascot was a Fighting Sioux (though not anymore).

Of course, that also meant that the Irish were a contentious lot, that they drank to excess as a matter of cultural heritage, and there was nothing untoward about an American university with a French name calling its mascot the Fighting Irish.

I’m surprised the Irish haven’t lobbied to get that changed. After all, it’s not very complimentary to the Irish. At least the Boston Celtics do not attach anything pejorative to their nickname. The Leprechaun might offend some people, though not me. And despite my last name, I have plenty of Irish in my family.

Earlier this week, there was a hearing at the State House on whether public schools should be prohibited from using Native American mascots. This casts a pretty wide net around the state of Massachusetts, as just within the Boston area there are at least five schools that use them. One of them is Saugus.

There is nothing inherently evil or racist about the use of the word Sachem. A Sachem is described as a chief or an elder. It is a position of respect. If that were the only issue, I doubt people would have too many objections over the use of the word.

But that’s not the whole issue, is it? And therein lies the problem. From the Trail of Tears to Wounded Knee to many other incidents, our history with Native Americans is not a happy one. So it is reasonable that Native Americans now should have the final say on what they consider offensive. And it’s just as reasonable to expect us to accept that.

Saugus rallies around the Sachems

All you have to do is look around to see how slippery the slope is when you allow patronizing nicknames into the mainstream. Is there anything more offensive than the Tomahawk Chop — a cheer that began at Florida State (whose athletic teams still call themselves the Seminoles) and gained more fame and traction during the 1990s, when the Atlanta Braves became one of America’s great baseball teams?

How about the pounding of drums in Cleveland when the Indians are rallying? How about just the name Redskins? It’s bad enough to use the name, but it’s worse that it’s on a team that represents the nation’s capital.

All of the above represent stereotypes — few of them respectful — and relics of a time when there was serious enmity among early American settlers and various tribes. And when it gets to that point, when the slope becomes this slippery, it’s impossible to differentiate and to establish levels of disrespect.

This is happening all over the country with college teams. We’ve already discussed the aforementioned Fighting Sioux (now they’re the Fighting Hawks — at least until Audubon Society starts a movement). The University of Massachusetts used to be the Redmen. Now its teams are called Minutemen. It’s now the Red Storm, and not the Redmen, at St. John’s University in New York.

UMass Lowell used to be the Chiefs. Now it’s the Riverhawks.

This isn’t just limited to Native Americans. Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes used to play for the Baltimore — then Washington — Bullets. Now they’re the Wizards. Life goes on.

I’m sure the town of Saugus’ pride in how it honors its Native American heritage is sincere and justified. I can’t see any rationale that suggests that the town in any way intended to insult or demean Native Americans by making the Sachem its mascot. That goes for Winchester, the Pentucket school district (both Sachems), Amesbury (Indians), Andover (Warriors) Braintree (Wamps), Masconomet (Chieftains) and so many others.

But it’s long past time to understand the point of view of the people for whom these teams are named. We’re always talking about how we can unite in this country rather than divide.

Understanding the Native American point of view on this issue would be one very big way.

 

DeLeo speaks out on taxes

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo addresses the North Shore Chamber of Commerce Breakfast.

By THOMAS GRILLO

MARBLEHEAD House Speaker Robert DeLeo signaled his support for the millionaire’s tax and perhaps one on short-term rental housing, but would not commit to raising the minimum wage to $15.

In a question and answer session from reporters following his speech to the North Shore Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, the Winthrop Democrat said while he is opposed to any broad-based tax hikes, a tax on millionaires and Airbnb are fair game.

“I will vote for the millionaire’s tax,” DeLeo told The Item as more than 200 executives were in attendance at the Tedesco Country Club breakfast. “… And when you have new businesses like Airbnb, with a new industry like that may come new taxes, new fees … on the minimum wage, that’s something that will be talked about and we’ll go from there.”  

Under the proposal that is expected to be on the ballot next year, the tax rate will rise by 4 percent on incomes of $1 million or above. It has been endorsed by Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst).

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) estimated the tax hike could generate as much as $2.2 billion annually.  DOR said fewer than 20,000 taxpayers, or less than 1 percent of tax filers, would be affected by the change.

Ribbon cutting held for Bucchiere Park

DeLeo’s pivot to opposing broad-based taxes represents a switch from 2009 when he backed raising the sales tax to 6.25 percent, up from 5 percent as part of a plan to raise more than $1 billion for the state’s general fund.

On taxing Airbnb, the Senate and Gov. Charlie Baker have floated proposals that would extend the state’s hotel tax to short-term rentals as a way to expand a tax credit for low- and middle- income families. But so far, the governor and the Senate have not been able to agree on the language in the measure. Baker has said he wants to create a level playing field between the hotel industry and Airbnb.

The Bay State’s minimum wage is $11 an hour.

On raising the minimum wage, DeLeo said he wants any increase to be tied to helping business, but he was not specific.

“There will be a public hearing,” he said. “I think we should not only have a discussion relative to increasing the wage, but also have a discussion of what we can do to help business as well as part of the equation,” he said.


Thomas Grillo can be reached tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Revere puts a ribbon on progress

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
State Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, left, helps Budge Upton, partner at Upton & Partners, Mayor Brian Arrigo, and Xander Dyer, V.P. T.A. Associates Realty cut the ribbon at Ocean 650 Apartments.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

REVERE — Ocean 650 Apartments, a new luxury apartment complex on Revere Beach, was christened by city and state officials on Wednesday, who hailed it as setting the standard for future development in Revere.

Jay Ash, state secretary of housing and economic development, joined Mayor Brian Arrigo and other city officials for a ribbon cutting on the rooftop of the apartment complex on Ocean Avenue, which holds 230 market-rate units, ranging from $1,750 to more than $4,000, according to the developer, Budge Upton, partner with Dedham-based Upton & Partners.

“This is awesome,” Ash said. “To the city council, congratulations on what you’ve been able to accomplish here. This is really something that you should take a great deal of credit for. Lots of communities (would) be very happy to have what you have here and are very envious here today. To be able to deliver such quality development to the community and a community that very much wants to have development … take place is really something you should be proud of.”

Upton said the building opened about five months ago, on a budget of $50 million, and is 61 percent leased. He declined to say how much he paid for the property, which he acquired from the master developer, Joseph DiGangi in late 2014. Online records show the sale price was $2.47 million, and the property value is $31.4 million. Upton said construction began 26 months ago.

Upton said he liked the location for the complex because of the public transportation, the beach, proximity to downtown Boston and a supportive government. Amenities include a fitness center, roof deck views of the Boston skyline, garage parking, and its location adjacent to the MBTA Wonderland Station.

“I think it’s a great place setter for future development in Revere,” Upton said.

Boston-based Arrowstreet was the architecture firm for the project. David Bois, principal of Arrowstreet, said the design was trying to be a modern interpretation of the New England beach house. He said 70 percent of the units have water views.

Medford sends off its seniors

Ash said he was very impressed and that the project is important to the entire Commonwealth. He said there’s a housing crunch in Massachusetts and each of the state’s 351 municipalities are needed to solve that problem.

He said housing in the Greater Boston area is critically important “to all of our economies,” and there is a need for developments such as Ocean 650 to take place in places such as Revere to continue to attract talent and income. Municipalities such as Revere and Chelsea also need to be creating the housing necessary to support all of the jobs that want to come to Massachusetts, added Ash.

“The good news for all of us right now is that Massachusetts is in a great place,” Ash said. “The great place is that we actually have more jobs than we have people. We have jobs that are chasing after people instead of people that are chasing after jobs. In order to make sure that we continue to retain those people that are here and attract others, we need to have quality housing and what you have here is quality housing.”

Arrigo said the building and the oceanfront view, are beautiful, but “at the end of the day, this sets a new standard (for) the city of Revere and that’s what’s so exciting about tonight.” He said there is a new standard in terms of development and the developer’s interest and the project is really a testament to the city’s vision, a vision that has been going on for a number of years.

Arrigo said there had been 15 to 30 years of work that went into making the project a reality. He credited former Revere mayor and current city manager in Chelsea, Thomas Ambrosino, for having the vision of a waterfront square.

Arrigo said it was exciting to hear Upton say the project was only the beginning for the city, because it couldn’t be more true, as there are “great things” happening in terms of developments at Wonderland and Suffolk Downs.

“Those are all part of the further vision, the bigger vision, and the bigger things that are going to be happening in the city of Revere,” he said.


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

Lynn caterer serves up language lessons

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Marcos Torres gets his diploma for finishing workplace-based English classes.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — Sidekim Foods, a Lynn-based catering company, is partnering with World Education, Inc. to teach Spanish speaking employees basic English at the workplace.

World Education, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides training and technical assistance in literacy, workplace, and HIV and AIDS education around the world.

Sidekim is owned by Peter Mikedis, who said teaching his entry-level employees English is beneficial to his staff and business.

“For us, it’s important (the employees) learn because it helps us as a company,” Mikedis said. “Maybe in six months, their English will be better and they will qualify for a supervisor position. They already know Sidekim foods. You can teach someone how to operate a machine but you can’t teach them values like dedication and loyalty.”

His father, who immigrated from Greece, spent time learning English in a classroom after working a factory job to provide for his family, he said. To make learning the language more convenient, he is allowing his employees to take a two-hour class twice a week while getting paid.

The 28-week program, which will be offered three times in three years, is paid for with a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education totaling about $120,000, said World Education coordinator Kathleen O’Connell. The money covers the cost of educating 10 employees during each session.

Nonprofit awards doctors, students

“Every adult ESL program in the state, if it’s any good, will have a 100-person waiting list,” said Silja Kallenbach, vice president of World Education. “So this is really special.”

Teacher Dakota Robinson said a lot of the lessons centered on vocabulary and grammar that may be used in the workplace.

“They’re learning names and words for things that are helpful for the job,” said Robinson. “To be able to say in English ‘I’m having a problem with this packing machine’ is very important.”

Robinson also taught the students about workplace safety and the reasons behind wearing hair nets, gloves, and taking other safety precautions, she said.

Mildred Escobar, a student who moved to the United States from Guatemala, said she enjoyed the class most because she now has “a little more confidence speaking and writing.”

The class will begin again in the fall with 10 students.


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

Saugus rallies around the Sachems

COURTESY PHOTO
Saugus High School could be in need of a new mascot.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — The beloved Sachem that represents many of the town’s athletes may be going away.

“I just think it’s kind of weird to change the mascot now because it’s been with the high school for so long,” said Catie Sheehan, a senior who plays field hockey and softball. “I don’t think it’s derogatory. I think everyone in Saugus really takes pride in being a Sachem.”

The Massachusetts Joint Committee on Education held a forum at the State House Tuesday to hear opinions on whether a bill should be passed that would prohibit the use of Native American mascots by public schools in the state.

Saugus High School has used the Sachem, a Native American chief or leader, as a mascot since long before the current school opened more than half a century ago. Should the proposed legislation pass, the school may be in need of a new symbol.

“The town takes great pride in the name of its mascot and what its mascot represents,” said Elizabeth Marchese, a School Committee member who has coached baseball, football, and other sports for more than a decade. “The Sachem is a leader and our children are the leaders of our future. I don’t see anything derogatory about it. In fact, I see it as an honor and a privilege for our children to call themselves Sachems.”

Marchese said she has heard from several parents who are up in arms over the possibility of changing the mascot.

“It’s an expensive change to boot,” she said. “I can’t even imagine the expense. Just think about the expense of changing every uniform, every jersey, every hat and helmet. It would affect everybody.”

Is the Swampscott rail trail worth it?

State Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) said the committee is now left to make a decision. Wong attended the hearing and submitted a written statement of opposition for the committee to review.

“I think that each town and city, especially the schools, should have the say,” Wong said. “At the High School, we have it to honor the (Native Americans). I can see them not wanting something that was undermining the Indians but we’re there to honor the Indians who have lived in Saugus before us. How far do we want to go with this? Don’t forget, the State symbol is of an Indian. Are we going to take the Indian off the State symbol?”

The mascot is representative of the rich Native American heritage in Saugus, said Marilyn Carlson, the vice president of the Saugus Historical Commission. The Woodland tribes were the most prominent, she said.

Montowwampate, or Sagamore James, was born in 1609 and was the Sachem of Saugus. He was the leader of the region called Saugus, which is pictured on the town seal, until he died of smallpox, she said.

The Saugus High School yearbook is also called the Tontoquonian and is named for a Native American named Tonto Quon who lived in the late 17th century in eastern Massachusetts. The name was chosen by the Saugus High School Class of 1929.

While excavating near Vinegar Hill, Round Hill, and the Saugus Iron Works, several artifacts, including arrowheads, were found. A Native American quarry was discovered at Vinegar Hill when developers began digging up the land, and Red Jasper stone has been found surrounding the Saugus River.

“In Saugus, we’re trying to preserve and accent our Native American heritage,” said Carlson. “The group that’s trying to get it removed from the mascots — maybe they’re looking at it from a different angle.”


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

Is the Swampscott rail trail worth it?

COURTESY PHOTO
A map of the proposed Swampscott rail trail.

YES: Alexis Runstadler, pro-trail abutter and co-chair of Yes for Swampscott Campaign

Love Swampscott — Vote Yes for the Rail Trail.

Courtesy photo

Runstadler

The Swampscott Rail Trail is about community. It is about a 2-mile linear park throughout our town for every neighborhood, every resident.  After 30 years of discussion and debate, now is the time to move this project forward.

Last month, Swampscott Town Meeting overwhelming approved (by a vote of 210 to 56) ($850,000 in) funding for the Rail Trail to move forward with design and engineering of the trail and acquisition of easement rights.  

The Rail Trail is unanimously sponsored by the Selectmen and endorsed by the Finance Committee, Capital Improvement Committee, School Committee, Planning Board, Open Space Committee and Conservation Commission.  However, as is too familiar in Swampscott, a small group of abutters to the National Grid utility corridor want to prevent progress by overturning Town Meeting’s overwhelming vote for the Rail Trail.

A recent letter from these abutters to voters included a lot of inaccurate information. Here are the facts:

The Rail Trail will be solely within the existing National Grid utility corridor, which only National Grid maintains and pays taxes on.

Title examinations on the corridor confirm ownership by National Grid, the Town, and Tedesco Country Club.

No abutter along the corridor has established any ownership to the utility corridor.  The abutters’ own attorney has stated that abutters have completed no title examinations to support a claim of ownership.

The Town is working with National Grid to secure recreational easements using eminent domain – a common way for towns to acquire easements as it cures potential title defects.

Many Massachusetts communities have used eminent domain to create rail trails.

Only property within the utility corridor will be impacted.  No homes will be impacted.

Multiple appraisals establish the value for the recreational easement at not more than $430,000.

Over $175,000 in private donations have already been secured for construction of the trail.  As in other towns, state funding will also be secured to construct the trail.

A lot of good things are happening in Swampscott right now.  Let’s keep it going.  Swampscott deserves the Rail Trail.  Please vote ‘yes’ on Thursday, June 29.


NO: Charles Patsios, Swampscott Town Meeting member and developer

Courtesy photo

Patsios

He wants the rail trail, but not without knowing what the costs are to the town and what the impacts are to other residents.

No other community in Massachusetts has created a trail like this using eminent domain — (it is) a human rights violation to take property against the will of a homeowner for something that is not a great public need. All others have been able to do the hard work of building community consensus.

Approximately 90 abutters have title to the land.

The $850,000 is just a down payment. The full cost to make this project happen will be north of $4 million.

The average price of a home in Swampscott is almost $500,000. To take land from a home will require that the town pay at least 10 percent of the value of the home. This is compensating the homeowner for the diminished value of their own land, as well as paying them for the actual property. Ten percent is a low estimate. It is the estimate used in class action suits that always result in lower payments than to individuals who fight the taking by themselves. Using 10 percent, that means each homeowner will need to be paid $50,000. With 90 homeowners, that is $4.5 million. Add $850,000 and you are north of $5 million — it will increase taxes and is better used elsewhere.

Our elementary schools are falling apart: At some time, we will need a new school. Swampscott taxes are some of the highest in the state. Taxpayers are not going to keep paying and paying. We need to prioritize and we should not prioritize a trail over a school.

This project is being pushed through by the Board of Selectmen using the same tactics they used on the Machon School, the Greenwood Avenue debacle, and the failed elementary school: marginalize and demonize those that oppose it; tell the public it won’t cost that much (but never discuss the full costs); bring the issue to Town Meeting, but not the town at large; and rig the debate at Town Meeting so that proponents have as much time as they need to make their case.

 

Swampscott awarded for use of green power

SWAMPSCOTT — Swampscott has been recognized as a top user of green power, as only one of two Massachusetts municipalities to appear on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Communities list.

The town appears for the first time on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) list at No. 37, town officials said. Wellesley is the other Massachusetts town.

Swampscott is using nearly 17 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually, which represents 24 percent of its total power needs. Swampscott’s choice to use green power is helping to advance the green power market and support clean renewable energy alternatives, officials said.

“I’m extremely proud of the direction our town is taking to move toward a greener future,” said Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, in a statement. “It’s exciting to not only see Swampscott gain this recognition, but more importantly that we’re leading the way. Swampscott is currently one of only two communities in Massachusetts to receive the designation.”

The town’s green power use is through the community’s electricity aggregation program, Swampscott Community Power. The program was developed with support from the consulting team of Bay State Consultants and Peregrine Energy Group, approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities in 2015, and the first electricity supply agreement to provide greener power to residents and businesses started in January 2016, officials said.

Let’s hear it for Jim Hughes

The program, a town electricity program that gives residents and businesses an electricity supply alternative to National Grid, while also helping to support the town’s sustainability efforts, provides 100 percent green energy and ensures that customers have choice because of a three-tier structure and transparency in the supply costs, officials said.

The community power program is an electricity aggregation, a form of group purchasing where a municipality selects an electricity supplier on behalf of its residents and businesses. The program impacts the electricity supply charges on their National Grid bill, officials said.

“Swampscott is proud to be recognized by the U.S. EPA for our green power use,” said Peter Kane, director of community development, in a statement. “Town Meeting members agreed with our desire to bring price-reliable electric supply in 2012 and we married that with the community’s focus on greenhouse gas reduction by developing the aggregation program.

“By making the choice to use clean, renewable energy, our community becomes more sustainable, while also sending a message to others across the United States that using green power is a sound business and community decision. It’s an important tool in reducing one’s carbon footprint in the fight against climate change.”

Green power is zero-emissions electricity that is generated from environmentally preferable renewable resources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, biogas, eligible biomass and low impact-hydro. Using green power helps build demand for the development of new renewable energy capacity nationwide and helps users reduce their carbon footprints, officials said.

Town officials cited stats from the EPA that shows Swampscott’s green power use of nearly 17 million kWh is equivalent to the electricity use of nearly 2,000 average American homes annually.

Looking at Lynn from a different perspective

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Koeun Neak flies his drone.

By MATT DEMIRS

LYNN — From the ocean shores to the treetops of Lynn Woods Reservation, Koeun Neak captured it all on video with his new drone.

Since it was uploaded to YouTube last week, his pictorial dubbed “DJI Mavic Pro, Lynn, Massachusetts” has been seen by more than 500 viewers.

“Lynn gave my family an opportunity,” he said. “Without the city, we wouldn’t be here today. I wanted to capture Lynn’s beauty since it sometimes has a bad name associated to it.”

Neak, 28, was born in Cambodia and has lived in the city since he was 2 and is a graduate of Classical High School. He said he hopes the video allows outsiders to see the city in a different light.

While this is Neak’s first production to hit the Internet, his talent for taping didn’t develop overnight. In 2013, he graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design with a degree in video production.

He wants to make money from doing work with his drone and travel to locations such as Bolivia, a place he admires, to capture some of its beauty, he said.

“I want to go to Bolivia because of the landscape,” he said. “I want to capture the countries’ salt flats and the Laguna Colorada, Bolivia’s famous red lake.”

The footage was shot on Neak’s $1,000 DJI Mavic Pro, a two-pound drone equipped with flight autonomy, a stabilized camera, and a 27-minute maximum flight time, according to the company’s website.

Lynn 4th grader wins national art contest

It took Neak about a week to operate the drone. He practiced on Lynn Beach and spent two days filming the different spots before editing the final product.

In order to operate the small aircraft, he purchased a hobby and recreation drone registration for $5, he said. That’s just one of the laws affecting those who want to operate drones.

On Monday, Bay State lawmakers were scheduled to consider a bill to impose limitations on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

The proposal seeks to stop governmental use of drones to “track, collect, or maintain information about the political, religious or social views, associations of activities of any individual, group, association, organization, corporation.”

While the measure won’t directly impact Neak’s projects, he said there are precautionary measures that must be taken. To fly in Boston, he said, you must call the FAA control tower for clearance before flying.

In the meantime, Neak is interested in pursuing smaller projects. His goal is capture all of Massachusetts’ landscape for people to enjoy. But it will take a while, he acknowledges.

One thing Neak hopes his video will showcase is a different side of Lynn.

“On social media, people always comment how Lynn is such a bad place,” he said. “I made that video for the people of Lynn, and the haters too.”


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

A Memorial Day low point for veteran

COURTESY PHOTO
This 2016 Suzuki DRZ-400SM was stolen.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — A U.S. Navy veteran’s motorcycle was stolen right out of his driveway on Memorial Day, the holiday that honors fallen armed service members.

Jeff Dahlberg, 36, lives in Lynn with his wife, Lindsay. The pair spent much of Memorial Day weekend away from home, but returned Monday evening and Jeff’s motorcycle, a 2016 Suzuki DRZ-400SM, was still in their driveway. He said in a phone interview that the bike was stolen sometime between 6-7 p.m. on Monday and 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, when he went to take it to work.

“I would just like to find the person who took the bike and have it returned, no questions asked,” 35-year-old Lindsay Dahlberg wrote in a Facebook post. “We can’t afford to buy him another one, but we can ask for it to be brought back. Please help. I think since he has done so much for the country already, this is just a horrible, nasty thing to do on Memorial Day, of all days — a day when he should have been resting and remembering those he lost.”

Lindsay said there are multiple ways people would know their house belongs to a veteran, including a family car that touts the ship he served on, the USS Denver, along with his machinist mate status on the windows.

Jeff said he thought someone was playing on a joke on him when he noticed his bike was missing, but then he realized that it was really gone. He said there hadn’t ever been any issues in their neighborhood. They live around the Diamond District, right off of Eastern Avenue.

The pair said packages often get delivered to their home and have never been taken. Neighbors help dig each other out during snowstorms, Jeff added.

“It’s just a really strange situation for us,” Lindsay said. “We were really surprised.”

No holes barred: It’s National Donut Day

Jeff served for eight years in the U.S. Navy. His oldest of three daughters was born the day before 9/11, and he didn’t come back until she was walking. He has PTSD, arthritis, back problems, leg problems, hearing issues, and even fought paralysis to get to walking again, Lindsay said. Jeff said he has been deployed three times, including time spent in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“However, this past Monday, someone decided to steal his motorcycle he had been working on for months to get into condition to enjoy this summer,” Lindsay wrote on Facebook. “This is his only real joy in life besides his children. He was supposed to travel with my brother for a weeklong trip on Friday, which he has now canceled. We would love help in figuring out who would do this.”

She said her husband and brother were preparing to leave for Tennessee, on a motorcycle trip her brother goes on every year, to the Tail of the Dragon.

Jeff said there was a time period when he didn’t own anything besides a bike, adding that motorcycles seem like an odd hobby for New England. He lived in San Diego for 10 years, where he was based.

The couple, who have been together for a decade and married for five years, met in San Diego, when Lindsay was in law and graduate school. She later returned home to Massachusetts after finishing school, and the pair eventually settled in Lynn.

They are hopeful the bike will be returned. They’ve shared their story on social media and there is a Craigslist posting for the stolen bike. Anyone who has seen or found the motorcycle is urged to respond to the ad or contact the Lynn Police Department.

Jeff said he’s hoping for the bike to show up and not be in horrible shape. He filed a police report and has contacted his insurance company. He said a friend of his recommended sending an email to local motorcycle shops to give them a heads-up about a stolen bike, and one of the New England motorcycle dealers responded that they had shared the information with all of their chains.

“Hopefully, it turns up,” Jeff said.


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

 

A rapid endorsement

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Newton Mayor Setti Warren speaks with The Item in this February 2017 file photo.

During his regular morning commute to Boston from his Swampscott home today, Gov. Baker will have a chance to glance to his left along the Lynnway where the city’s abandoned ferry landing is located and to his right where the MBTA commuter garage sits half empty.

Baker pulled the state financial plug last year on the ferry, ending two years of summertime water-transit service from Lynn Harbor to Boston. Ferry riders loved their scenic and stress-free commutes, but Baker and his aides said pouring money into the ferry no longer made sense.

Never filled to capacity except during blizzards, the commuter garage is a concrete testament to why commuter rail is, at best, a mediocre public-transportation connection between the Lynn and Boston.

Newton Mayor Setti Warren evidently understands why the commuter ferry worked and why commuter rail doesn’t. He also understands that we have reached the point where the cost of not building mass transit exceeds the expense of building it.

Warren is a Democrat running for governor, and if the Democratic primary election were held tomorrow, this newspaper would endorse Setti Warren as the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nominee in 2018.

We would endorse his vision, his common sense, his fortitude, and his ability to listen to what Lynn needs.

Warren campaigns on transportation promise

Warren came to Lynn one week ago to underscore why he thinks a Blue Line extension running from Wonderland to Lynn makes sense. Riders can board a Blue Line train and travel to downtown Boston in the same way Revere and East Boston residents currently utilize the Blue Line.

The Blue Line extension has been supported and endorsed by Lynn business leaders and elected officials, as well as officials in other communities, for 70 years. The Blue Line isn’t just a  simple and straight-forward solution to pulling people off increasingly crowded highways; it is a litmus test for the willingness on the part of public officials to map out a better future for Lynn.

Commuter rail does not work for Lynn. With its limited connection points to other destinations and costly inefficiency, it is an example of how one governor after another has come to Lynn and touted commuter rail as efficient transportation instead of listening to Lynn talk about the transit option we need.

Setti Warren is listening. He is also stating an indisputable fact when he points out the costs to the Massachusetts economy and to commuters if alternative transportation options are not available.

Building new roads isn’t the answer. Warren knows this, and he is not afraid to say new tax revenue is the only way to pay for needed transportation improvements. He is ready to run for and win the Democratic nomination by boldly saying, “We need more revenue.”

Like Setti Warren, we realize the time for alternative transportation solutions has arrived and the economic future of Lynn and other cities depends on those solutions.

State OKs $150K for algae cleanup

By THOMAS GRILLO

Lynn and Nahant’s beaches should smell a lot sweeter this summer, thanks to a decision by the Baker administration to spend $150,000 for algae cleanup.

In an effort to balance the state budget, Gov. Charlie Baker trimmed the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s  (DCR) budget in December by nearly $6 million. He also vetoed $50,000 in spending that was earmarked for the weed removal. As a result, it appeared the deadly smell that has plagued the area’s beaches would return.

But lobbying by the Lynn and Revere delegation and advocacy groups caused Baker to reconsider.

“The governor is very supportive of algae removal and we will continue to do it and figure out a way, as a department, to cover the cost,” said Susan Hamilton, DCR’s director of park operations.

On the chopping block was a DCR-funded algae removal program that has been in place for more than a decade. It  operates from April through November in Lynn and Nahant. DCR trucks collect the algae from the beaches and deliver it to a landfill.

Marblehead resident pledges $5M to NSMC

At a packed hearing at Lynn Museum/LynnArts Tuesday, the Metropolitan Beaches Commission co-chairs Sen. Thomas M. McGee (D- Lynn) and Rep. RoseLee Vincent (D-Revere) hosted an evening to discuss beaches in Lynn, Swampscott, and Nahant.

In an interview prior to the session, McGee said he is certain that lobbying and meetings with Baker administration staff was essential in getting the administration to reverse course.

State Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead) who had joined McGee to secure annual funding for beach cleanup, said the algae removal is a quality of life issue.

But not all the news was good. Kelly Coughlin of Stony Brook Partners reported the findings of King’s Beach in Lynn and Swampscott for water quality to be among the lowest in the region with a grade of 83 percent for swimming. In contrast, two South Boston beaches consistently scored at the top of the list with perfect scores of 100 percent.

Bruce Berman, a spokesman for Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, credited McGee, Vincent, the Friends of Lynn & Nahant Beach, state Reps. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead), Dan Cahill (D-Lynn) and Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) for working to maintain DCR’s budget.


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

 

Lowell Gray dies at 57

COURTESY PHOTO
Lowell Gray leaves behind a wife, brother, and four daughters. 

Funeral services will be held on Friday at 10 am in Temple Emanu-El 393 Atlantic Avenue, Marblehead, MA.  Burial will follow in Temple Emanu-El Cemetery, Danvers Memorial Contributions made in Lowell’s memory may be made to the Appalachian Mountain Club 5 Joy St., Boston, MA 02108 or you may visit www.outdoors.org/tribute.

The family will receive friends at the Swampscott Yacht Club 425 Humphrey St., Swampscott immediately following the funeral service and also on Saturday from  2-4 and 7-9 p.m. The family will receive friends on Sunday from 2-4 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore 4 Community Rd. Marblehead, MA Arrangements have been entrusted to Stanetsky Hymanson Memorial Chapel, Salem, MA.  For more information or to register in the online guestbook, please visit Stanetskyhymansonsalem.com.

Born in New Rochelle, N.Y., Gray graduated from Harvard University in 1982.

Early in his career he held positions in the then-fledgling technology sector, at Cap Gemini, Bell Laboratories and Price Waterhouse before heeding the call to go out on his own.  

He was drawn to online services and founded an Internet service provider, located in Lynn called Shore.Net.  Working closely with city of Lynn officials, Gray built Shore.Net into a regional powerhouse employing over 100 people and helping to revitalize downtown Lynn.  He sold Shore.Net in March, 2000.  

He then turned his attention to real estate development, turning an old rooming house next to Shore.Net headquarters into residential condominiums. When the old run-down bar next door became available, he bought that as well and started another career as the owner of the award-winning Oxford Street Grill.

“Lowell believed in Lynn. He started Shore.Net there and it was headquartered on Oxford Street. He also started a restaurant on Oxford Street, The Oxford Street Grill, that he originally envisioned as a Kosher steakhouse. That restaurant is now the Blue Ox. We fought about the facade, which was very expensive for a start-up restaurant in an unproven location, but he let me win. In the end he was proud of it, if a little bit poorer,” his friend, architect Glenn Morris, recalled.

Lowell married Elizabeth Shaw in 1989 and they had four amazing daughters that they cherished and loved.  He was active and philanthropic in the North Shore Jewish Community and was a past President at Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead.

After divorcing his first wife Elizabeth in 2010, he married his current wife, Lina Hristova. Together, they bought and renovated an old farm in Woodstock, Vermont.  Lowell was a member of the Woodstock, Vermont Volunteer Fire Department and a planning commissioner for the town of Woodstock.  

Deciding he had had enough of the IT world, he moved to the farm in 2015 and started working there full-time. In his class report for his 35th Harvard Reunion, he noted, “I have found that my priorities are not complicated: take care of myself and Lina, take care of my kids, love and help the people around me and take care of the land. We need to repair our divided world, trust one another and cooperate. I still believe that we can work together in peace and the world will restore itself.”

At various times in his life he was a member of Common Angels, a trustee of North Shore Community College, and a trustee of the Salem State Enterprise Center. He was the 1999 Business Person of the Year of the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce, the United States Small Business Administration’s 2000 Small Businessperson of the Year for Massachusetts, and received numerous other business awards.  

His Oxford Street Grill was named “Best of the New,” by the Boston Sunday Globe in 2005 and “Best of Boston- New Restaurant North of Boston” by Boston Magazine in 2006.

He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by Salem State College in 2000.

Besides his wife, Lina, he leaves his daughters: Rebecca, Samantha, Josephine and Alexandra. He also leaves a brother, Adam Gray. He was predeceased by his father, Stephen; his mother, Jessica; and his ex-wife, Elizabeth.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Stanetsky Hymanson Memorial Chapel, Salem, MA.  For more information or to register in the online guestbook, please visit www.stanetskyhymansonsalem.com.

Danvers Memorial Contributions made in Lowell’s memory may be made to the Appalachian Mountain Club, 5 Joy St., Boston, MA 02108 or visit www.outdoors.org/tribute.

 

 

Community gathers to remember the fallen

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Kenneth J. Marrin, post commander 507 Lynn VFW 1993-1994 walks the parade.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — A little rain isn’t going to keep the city of Lynn from honoring the fallen.

Those were the words of Michael Sweeney, director of Lynn veterans services, at the second of two Memorial Day services in the city on Monday. He spoke at a rain-soaked outdoor ceremony in the Pine Grove Cemetery Sunken Garden, following a parade that started at Market Street and ended at the cemetery on Boston Street.

Sweeney stood at a podium in front of a field of 605 flags, representing the fallen from Lynn.

“There’s a flag for every person we’ve lost since World War I,” Sweeney said. “There’s 605 flags, each representing a person, a family, and a story, and that is what Memorial Day is about. It is not about parties. It certainly isn’t about sales at the store … The boots you see in front of us remind us that we’re still a country at war.”

Five pairs of the boots in front he pointed out represented Lynn’s five fallen service members lost since 9/11 — SPC Antonio Syrakos, LCpl Walter O’Haire, PO2 Andrew Clement, SPC Gabriel Palacios, and SPC Justin DeArco.

“In a day like today, we remember the fallen, but we also need to remember that we’re a country at war, whether people want to believe it or not,” Sweeney said.  

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she was curious as to the number of flags that were set up, which she thought must have been done deliberately.

“Knowing Mike Sweeney as I do, I was quite sure he would give us an explanation, and the explanation is that 605 Lynners went off to serve their country and 605 Lynners never had a chance to come back and enjoy civilian life again, and 605 families were left to grieve,” Kennedy said.

“So, Mike, thank you for honoring them. Thank you for all you do for our veterans and to everybody who’s here today, I appreciate that you know and will recognize the true meaning of Memorial Day.”

State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) said putting together the flags and boots to represent what has been lost in the city was really powerful. He said that veterans and those that have served reflect that “uncommon valor was a common virtue.

“That’s what it’s all about — putting your lives on the line to make sure that your friends and family continue to live in the greatest country in the world, and I want to thank you for your service, thank all of the veterans here for their service, and make sure everybody here understands that, that we never forgot the sacrifice and struggle and commitment that people that have served this country have done,” McGee said. “And Memorial Day is the day to remember it.”

City councilors eye EpiPen plan

Earlier in the day, the Polish Legion of American Veterans (P.L.A.V.), Post 56 & Auxiliary also hosted a Memorial Day ceremony, where names of the fallen from West Lynn who served in World War II and the Korean War were read. The remembrance was pushed inside from Breed Square, where the names appear on the monument, to the basement of St. Michael’s Hall.

“Everyone in this room knows war has a cost,” Sweeney said. “It hasn’t changed. In the last 100 years, the city of Lynn has given more than its share of blood and its young men and women. When we see that cost, it’s up to us to redouble our efforts to make sure that days like today are not forgotten, that we remember the fallen, that we remember their names, we say their names.”

Also honored at the ceremony was James DePhilippo, the event’s MC and former president of P.L.A.V. Post 56. Sweeney said for 30 years, DePhilippo has been a fixture of every event honoring veterans in Lynn.

Peter Capano, city councilor and chairman of the veterans committee, said the ceremony was about honoring those in Lynn “who have given their lives for our country so that all of us can enjoy the freedoms we have here today.

“I want to emphasize, as I do every year that it is because of the veterans that we enjoy so many of the freedoms in this country that others around the world just do not have — the right to vote, the freedom of assembly, religious freedom — all freedoms that are protected by the men and women of the armed forces, and today we honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in protecting those freedoms,” Capano said.

State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) asked those present to join him in a challenge.

“Every time a name is spoken today, or you drive by a memorial and you see a name on it, think of what that person would think about this country and this community, and what you are doing to make it better, and whether or not their sacrifice was truly worth it,” Cahill said.

“And if you feel, if there’s any inkling that you think, well, you know what, I can do more, then we have to do more because those folks did the ultimate. So, that’s something to think about and carry with you all year.”

A prepared statement from U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass) was also read, who said he couldn’t attend because he is in Southeast Asia traveling with members of the House Armed Services Committee to study the nuclear threat from North Korea and the rise of China.

Moulton said he served in Iraq with some of the best Americans he would ever meet, those who put their lives on the line for a better Iraq and a safer America. As he travels through Southeast Asia, specifically Vietnam and Korea, he said he “can’t help but reflect on the brave men and women who sacrificed everything here on behalf of our freedom.”

He also acknowledged the men and women the country has lost in current conflicts — more than 6,700 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, including more than 130 from Massachusetts.

“The veterans and heroes that we remember today put serving their country — their countrymen, and our future — before themselves,” Moulton said in a statement. “They gave that last full measure of devotion so that we could have the rights and freedoms that we enjoy today.”


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

 

Saugus ready to leap

The town is wasting no time in launching one of the most ambitious local public school building projects undertaken in Massachusetts in recent years.

With a price tag of $186 million, the three-school project rivals the unsuccessful attempt by Lynn public officials three months ago to build two new middle schools. Like their Lynn counterparts, Saugus officials are asking town voters to approve the school projects and the spending associated with them.

Unlike Lynn officials, Saugus leaders hold an ace when it comes to convincing town residents why the massive school project makes sense. Saugus has a AA+ bond rating that local officials claim “will save the taxpayers of Saugus an estimated $7.2 million” in borrowing costs.

But that estimated savings is only part of the equation officials are presenting residents in their bid to win voter approval for the school projects on June 20.

Town leaders are asking voters to endorse a school building plan that harnesses the town’s advantageous borrowing position with a state reimbursement formula that has residents investing 30 cents on the dollar into school construction.

Meeting to consider Saugus school vote

The city of Lynn’s uneasy financial situation, including worries about layoffs, put city leaders behind the proverbial eight ball even as they attempted to show voters why building two new middle schools made sense.

A small fraction of Lynn residents went to the polls in March and squashed the two-school proposal and a tax increase to pay for it. Saugus town leaders aren’t showing any signs they are worried about bringing their three-school plan with its mix of state and local funding and new construction and renovations to the voters.

It’s not a huge stretch for municipal leaders sitting on a stellar bond rating to tell voters top-notch schools will improve their town’s already-rosy financial picture. The easiest analogy is spending money on a home in anticipation of bolstering the property’s market value.

School spending critics — and it’s never hard to find a critic in Saugus — will crow about tax hikes and spending money on a school megaproject. But Saugus isn’t just planning to build a new middle-high school and renovate Belmonte and Veterans Memorial schools. The town construction plan is based on a bold concept for realigning public education in the town.

The plan calls for a pre-kindergarten to second grade school and a grade three to grade five school called an “upper elementary” school. Those primary school education ideas combined with the middle-high school concept give Saugus a chance to tailor education programs to the phases children and adolescents go through on their way to young adulthood.

The message town leaders are delivering to residents in advance of the June 20 vote is that Saugus stands on the threshold of becoming a top-flight school district. They are asking residents to take a quantum leap into the future and it’s a safe bet town residents will make the jump.

Nahant students reel in Aquarium award

COURTESY PHOTO
Students at the Johnson Elementary School complete field studies as part of the school’s Marine Science program.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

NAHANT — The Johnson Elementary School is the recipient of this year’s Ocean Stewardship Award, which is granted annually by the New England Aquarium to a program that aspires to take an active role in protecting the ocean.

Science teacher Meredith Tibbo and Nahant Education Foundation president Elizabeth Carlson will attend the New England Aquarium’s World’s Ocean’s Day to accept the award on June 4.

“Having the Johnson School teachers and Northeastern University’s outreach staff recognized in this way is a true honor,” said Principal Kevin Andrews in a statement. “Many in the community have worked hard to connect the students’ learning to the many natural resources in their town.”

Last year, Tibbo was awarded the Massachusetts Marine Science Educator of the Year award by Massachusetts Marine Educators.

The school has partnered with Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center to develop a schoolwide academic focus on marine science, ocean literacy, and maritime history, promoting the use of these areas in all disciplines and activities.

A spin of a lifetime for ‘Wheel of Fortune’ fan

Each class participates in three or more marine science lab activities annually, ranging from learning how marine animals use their senses, to food webs and adaptation on rocky shores.

Classes take full advantage of their coastal surroundings and visit sites with their teachers and Northeastern’s outreach educator, Val Perini. The Council on Aging supports the effort by providing a bus for travel.

Perini and the university have brought programs to the classroom, including a Skype session with a scientist in Antarctica.

The school also uses a community garden behind the building to bring lessons outside. Each grade level maintains a garden bed and students learn about everything from growing to plant anatomy and the social studies connection between gardening and native inhabitants of the area.

The Nahant Education Foundation provides a marine science program with a different focus at each grade level, ranging from Pre-K through grade 6 and provides funding for much of the marine science programming at the school.


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

Warren rides the Blue Line into Lynn

ITEM FILE PHOTO
This February 2017 file photo shows Newton Mayor Setti Warren on a visit to Lynn.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Democratic candidate for governor Setti Warren promises to extend Blue Line service into the city and have millionaires pay for it.

The two-term Newton mayor will make the case for the MBTA project at Central Square Station at a campaign stop Friday morning.  

Warren, who is running to unseat Gov. Charlie Baker, is facing a challenge for the Democratic nomination from environmentalist and entrepreneur Robert K. Massie and former Gov. Deval Patrick administration budget chief Jay Gonzalez. Whoever wins, they will battle Baker, who was recently named the country’s most popular governor in a nationwide poll.

Warren, an Iraq War veteran, said he did not know how much it would cost to extend the Blue Line 4.5 miles above ground from Wonderland Station in Revere into Lynn.

“Here’s what I do know,” he asked. “The cost of not doing it is the loss of access to high-paying jobs, not getting cars off the highway and more congestion because that’s what’s happening right now.”

In 2013, the MBTA conducted a Blue Line Extension study and estimated the cost from $737 million to $1 billion.

Warren said there are at least two ways to pay for the T project. First, as governor he pledged to examine $12 billion in state tax credits that are lost to the treasury.  

“I’d look at exemptions that are in the tax code right now that gives revenue away to special interests,” he said.

Warren candidacy could connect in a blue state

The second method to raise revenue is to implement the so-called millionaire’s tax.  If approved by voters next year, the proposal would amend the state constitution by imposing a 4 percent surtax on incomes over $1 million. The money would be designated for schools and transportation.

About 20,000 or 0.5 percent of households in the state would be hit by the new tax and it would raise $1.9 billion annually, according to the state Department of Revenue.

“Transportation is a critical part of moving people back and forth to work,” Warren said. “It’s critical to get people off the roads and out of their cars. If we are not making smart investments in things like transportation and we are giving away revenue through tax exemptions, we are not being honest about how we are spending money.”

The Newton mayor also endorsed the Lynn to Boston ferry which was cut last summer amid budget problems.

“The longer we wait to make investments in things like the ferry and Blue Line, we are growing economic inequality because we are not providing Lynn with the chance to grow economically,” he said. It’s essential for the vitality of the city for these projects to move forward so Lynn can meet its full potential.”

Jacqueline Goddard, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, declined comment.

But in a visit to Lynn last year, state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said given the T’s budget troubles, the T was not building new stations on the state’s dime.


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

Hats off to St. Mary’s grads

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
The St. Mary’s graduating class of 2017 celebrates.

By MATT DEMIRS

LYNN Rain didn’t stop the 84 St. Mary’s High School graduates as officials, teachers, parents, and friends gathered at Lynn Memorial Auditorium for the Class of 2017 commencement.

“People say time flies when you’re having fun,” said Katie Cadigan, salutatorian. “Time flies during the good and the bad. It has the power to rob you, and the power to give.”

Grace Cotter Regan, head of school, advised students to look at time as it flies by and find grace moments.

Those moments provide spiritual and personal growth, she said.

“Ask yourself what lights you up as you move forward and go with what that is,” she said.

Valedictorian Michael Cerulli, who will attend Boston College in September, compared the graduation from St. Mary’s to an interview he watched with former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant.

The reporter asked Bryant if he missed playing in the National Basketball Association.

“No, the NBA is always a part of me,” he said.

Cerulli’s said graduation from St. Mary’s is a lot like Bryant’s exit from the NBA.

“Although we are leaving St. Mary’s, we should never think of St. Mary’s leaving us,” he said “Everything we know stems from what we learned here.”

He went on to list the accomplishments and milestones he and his classmates achieved, such as state championships, an award-winning drama production, and the outstanding college selections of his peers.

“I’d like to think all these remarkable achievements aren’t a coincidence,” Cerulli said.

Alumnus John J. Green, who graduated in 1967, spoke to the Spartans after being in their position 50 years ago.

“Today, you join a very special club of 12,000 members,” he said. “You are an alum.”

Green discussed the changes at the school since he graduated, including the cost of St. Mary’s tuition, which was just $50 dollars in the 1960s.

“What hasn’t changed is the amount of students moving on to higher education,” he said. “In my day, we had about 95 percent of our class moving on to higher education. The same goes for today, with over 95 percent of graduates moving on to colleges and universities, a percentage that is higher than the Massachusetts average of 75 percent and the 65 percent national average.”

Regan said the environment at St. Mary’s has impacted graduates and prepared them for their next adventure.  

“There’s a culture of care, compassion, and love that differentiates St. Mary’s from any other school,” she said.


Matt Demirs can be reached at mdemirs@itemlive.com

First-graders salute Memorial Day heroes

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
First-grade students from the Aborn Elementary School perform at the Bethany Congregational Church.

By MATT DEMIRS

LYNN — First graders at Aborn Elementary School put on a patriotic show in honor of Memorial Day at the Bethany Congregational Church on Thursday.

Donna Amico and JoAnn Sweeney’s Grade 1 classes dressed in their red, white, and blue and performed the 20th annual show in front of parents and faculty.

Teachers and parents cried tears of joy as they watched the children sing “God Bless the USA.”

Amico enjoys producing the show annually with her classes and Sweeney. She hopes they will remember all they learn for the years to come.

“We want the children to understand why we celebrate the different holidays and traditions throughout the year,” said Amico, who has taught at Aborn for 20 years.

Between singing the classics like “Yankee Doodle” and “This Land is Your Land,” students learned about our country, the national landmark, the flag’s history and the national symbols.

Justin Stackpole, a first grader, said he learned a lot of about his country he didn’t know prior to the show.

“I never knew the first Thanksgiving was in Massachusetts until we started practicing the show,” he said.

Warren rides the Blue Line into Lynn

Ava Howard, another first grader, said she learned the meaning of the different symbols by practicing the show.

“I now know about things like the bald eagle and the Statue of Liberty which are both some of our country’s symbols for freedom,” Howard said.

Students said not only how fun the show was and how much they learned, but how helpful their teachers were in putting the patriotic show together.

Nicolas Morgan credited his teachers for their hard work.

“They’re really helpful,” he said. “On a scale of 1-10, they are a 5 million.”

Like many other students, Morgan said he enjoyed having the support from his family in the crowd and knowing they were having fun.

“My favorite part of the show was singing ‘God Bless the U.S.A.,’” he said. “It made all the parents happy and it put a smile on my face.”

For Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham, the show was a breather from the stresses of the job.

“If things get tough, it’s always nice to come down here and watch something like this,” she said.   


Matt Demirs can be reached at mdemirs@itemlive.com

Walking the line on pot

The border war between Lynnfield and Peabody this week was over almost before it began but the tussle between two neighbors has wide implications for the medical and recreational marijuana siting decisions.

Peabody Mayor Edward Bettencourt is no fan of marijuana sales in Peabody and he made sure the city’s medical marijuana zone got stuck out on Route 1 North. The border war ignited over a parcel in the zone abutting South Lynnfield’s Green Street neighborhood.

The town’s Board of Selectmen fired off a letter to the mayor and Bettencourt — a savvy elected official who is fast on his feet — quickly labeled the offending parcel a “hardship” from Lynnfield’s viewpoint and yanked it out of the zone.

Medical marijuana advocates and the coalition that campaigned for recreational marijuana last year understood that successful cannabis sales and marketing depends on saturating local markets. Language barring cities and towns from banning marijuana is a key element of the legislative language included in the 2016 pot legalization ballot questions.

Local officials retain control under the legislative language to regulate marijuana. Some communities, including Peabody and Lynnfield, have made it clear they don’t want recreational marijuana within their borders but their resistance is going to have to withstand marketplace demands.

Peabody and Lynnfield clear the air

In other words, communities resistant to marijuana sales locally will find their position increasingly difficult to hold once recreational marijuana follows on the heels of medical marijuana and pot dealers set up shop in cities and towns.

But their inability to keep marijuana beyond city and town limits won’t prevent local officials from consigning pot zones to municipal borders. Highways skirting communities and industrial zones on the edges of communities are often havens for strip clubs and other businesses deemed undesirable by the local powers that be.

But Bettencourt can attest to the friction created when one community’s pot zone becomes a neighboring community’s hardship. Border wars like the one this week between Lynnfield and Peabody are going to spark and ignite and the flames might incinerate some political career and the goodwill shared by the feuding communities.

Of course, money changes everything and legal marijuana dealers may find the best way to avoid making enemies in one community — maybe two — is to talk dollars and cents with local leaders. Legal pot is here to stay in Massachusetts but the disputes rising from its presence loom on the horizon.

Baker: I like Tom — but I’m with Judy

By THOMAS GRILLO

SALEM — Popular Gov. Charlie Baker could make the difference in re-electing Republican Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy in what could be a close race in November.

“I have known the mayor for quite a while and I will certainly support her re-election,” the Republican governor told The Item on Wednesday. “That said, I have a good working relationship with Sen. McGee … they are two fine people and that’s good for the city of Lynn.”

Last week, state Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) kicked off his bid for mayor at the Knights of Columbus. The senator told the crowd he was running because he loves the city and the values Lynn represents. Kennedy launched her bid for a third term last month and pointed to dozens of accomplishments.

The race comes amid financial troubles for the cash-strapped city. The 2017 and 2018 budgets continue to pose challenges for Kennedy’s administration. She has asked department heads to make cuts. Some managers may have to trim up to 8.5 percent in their personnel budgets, a request that could lead to layoffs.

I am the best person for the job, McGee says

Kennedy and McGee were behind the failed measure in March to build a pair of middle schools. Voters overwhelmingly rejected increasing their real estate taxes by $200 or more annually for the next 25 years to pay for them.

But they are on opposing sides of an added meals tax that would go into the city’s general fund. McGee supports the idea of adding .0075 to the state’s 6.5 percent meals tax, while Kennedy vetoed the plan last week.

Baker is the most popular governor in America, according to a poll by Morning Consult, a Washington, D.C. research firm. The survey ranked him No. 1 with a 75 percent approval rating. The governor’s disapproval rating is a modest 17 percent, the survey said.

When asked how he would help Kennedy win, Baker declined to be specific.

Consider the progress we’ve made, Kennedy says

“I have a day job, which is pretty busy and chews up lot of my time,” he said. “But if Mayor Kennedy would like me to support and help her, we will do what we can. As I said, I have a lot of respect for Sen.  McGee and those two folks bring a lot to the table for the city.”

While Baker and McGee are native sons of the North Shore, the governor acknowledged he and the senator do not have the same close relationship shared with Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh.   

“Mayor Walsh and I talked every day for more than a month during those snowstorms shortly after I took office,” he said. “That cemented the relationship, it’s just different.”


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

 

Warren candidacy could connect in a blue state

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Newton Mayor Setti Warren speaks with the Item in this February 2017 file photo.

Newton Mayor Setti Warren is running for governor and political handicappers are unlikely to pick him as an odds-on favorite to beat Gov. Charlie Baker in 2018. But Warren, a Democrat, has a track record and a perspective on government that makes him an interesting candidate.

An Iraq War veteran who worked for the federal government and has served as Newton’s mayor for two terms, Warren is blunt about how well state government serves Massachusetts residents: “There is a case to be made we can do better.”

He will make that case during the gubernatorial campaign he officially launched on May 20. For now, Warren is talking frankly and not worrying about being branded a pro-tax candidate or another free-spending Democrat.

He supports a “millionaire’s tax” and said his campaign for governor will be matched by the stance he takes in favor of a proposed ballot question advocating the tax.

“We need more revenue,” he said in a February Item editorial board interview, adding: “Now is not the time to nibble around the edges.”

That is bold talk for someone wading into a big-time political arena like the governor’s race. But Warren has the bona fides to back up his statement. He said his record as mayor includes transforming an empty city reserve fund into a $20 million rainy day account.

When he walked into the mayor’s office for the first time in 2010, Warren made finances a priority. He worked with 17 public service unions to align city government health care costs and instituted management practices.

Comparing Massachusetts’ state government to Newton’s municipal government is like comparing Jupiter to Pluto. But Warren is kicking off his campaign for the state’s top office by sticking to a big-picture view of Massachusetts’ needs.

Warren sets sights on governor’s job

“We’re not making the investments that matter,” he told Item editors. He pointed to transportation infrastructure to make his point.

“We have a complete, utter failure in transportation,” he said.

The primary example he uses to illustrate this statement is the decades-long push by Lynn business and political leaders to extend Blue Line rapid transit to Lynn. Long looked upon as an economic development spark for Lynn, the Blue Line extension, in Warren’s, view is a way to make the North Shore’s gateway city a regional transportation hub.

The implications of that perspective are significant. Mass-transit alternatives are taking on heightened importance at a time when aging roadways are becoming more congested and clogged with traffic. Providing a Boston-Lynn transit link sets the stage for forging an economic bond between the cities.

Warren sees the logic behind the Blue Line extension and other long-term projects aimed at enhancing Massachusetts’ economy. The difference between Warren and a lot of people running for office or serving in public office is he is not afraid to talk about spending tax dollars in order to make a difference in Massachusetts.

He thinks a millionaire’s tax could generate an estimated $2 billion annually. Plenty of critics will line up to criticize the tax. But how many will offer constructive solutions aimed at fixing Massachusetts’ roads and bridges and modernizing aging housing?

“This is about economic stimulation,” he said, “and the courage and honesty to raise revenue.”

That’s a tough position to argue against and Warren is sure to state his case all the way to the ballot box next year.

Ehrlich: Tax credit will earn income for state

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

BOSTON — State Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead) believes a budget recommendation she co-sponsored for Fiscal Year 2018 will benefit working families and domestic abuse survivors.

The bill draws on legislation filed by Ehrlich and Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge), making nonresidents of the state ineligible to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit.

According to the Department of Revenue, there are more than 20,000 nonresidents who earn income tax in the state and claim the state EITC each year. With the former federal match rate of 15 percent, these claims have been estimated to cost more than $6.5 million in revenue each fiscal year. At the new match rate of 23 percent, the cost would be about $10 million in revenue each year, according to House Ways and Means estimates.

“This credit is a scarce state resource available to assist struggling working families, so it makes little sense that we are allowing people who do not live in Massachusetts to claim the credit,” Ehrlich said in a statement.

The changes also clarify eligibility for taxpayers who live in Massachusetts for part of the year and expands access to the survivors of domestic abuse by allowing them to claim the credit while filing their taxes as “married, filing separately.” In the past, an individual could not claim the EITC unless taxes were filed jointly with a spouse.

Wheelabrator Saugus being taken to court

By supporting the changes, Ehrlich said the state takes the lead by enabling victims of domestic violence, who courageously flee their batterers.

The proposed budget also included a $150,000 allocation for Self Esteem Boston, a nonprofit that supports Lynn-based Project Cope, an organization that helps women in transition through homelessness or recovery from substance abuse.

The amendment was previously filed by former Rep. Gloria Fox but filed by Ehrlich in this session.

Self Esteem Boston provides essential psychological counseling and training for women in recovery from substance abuse problems.

During budget deliberations last month, the House of Representatives approved an amendment made by Ehrlich to dedicate $50,000 of the $40 million budget to clean up the odorous Pilayella algae on King’s Beach and Long Beach in Lynn.

Ehrlich called the funding crucial for combating the algae and its odor, which is a quality of life issue.


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

Wheelabrator Saugus being taken to court

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Wheelabrator Saugus is pictured in this file photo.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — Conservation Law Foundation is taking Wheelabrator Saugus, Inc., to court for failure to monitor and track water quality in the area surrounding the company’s ash landfill.

In a letter dated Monday, May 22, staff attorney Heather Murray wrote on behalf of the foundation that it intends to file suit against Wheelabrator in federal court. Monitoring the water quality is required by the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Murray wrote.

“The Saugus ash landfill sits at the heart of a thriving community, yet landfills of this type are infamous for releasing lead, mercury, and other cancer-causing chemicals in our air and water,” said CLF attorney Kirstie Pecci in a statement.

Wheelabrator’s approximately 140-acre site is located at the confluence of the Saugus River and Pines River and within the boundaries of the Rumney Marshes Area of Critical Environmental concern.

Peter Kendrigan, general manager of Wheelabrator Saugus, said the company complies with state and federal regulations.

Lynn woman asks ‘When is enough enough?’

“The assertions by CLF are false, demonstrate a lack of understanding of the regulations, and appear to be designed only to interfere with Wheelabrator Technologies’ application with the state Department of Environmental Protection to continue operating the monofill,” he said in a statement.

The CLF notice states that because the landfill was originally used for solid waste, soil acidification has likely already taken place and could continue to take place, increasing the risk for leaching. It adds that the landfill is the only unlined landfill in the state and that its coastal location makes it “extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts such as sea level rise and damaging storm surge.”

“Despite this significant hazard, the landfill has operated for decades without monitoring its impact or creating an adequate barrier from the families and businesses that call Saugus home. It’s time for Wheelabrator to answer for its years of neglect and finally commit to water quality monitoring as the law requires and the community demands.”

“Wheelabrator is an environmental services company that processes post-recycled solid waste from eastern Massachusetts municipalities and businesses into clean, renewable energy,” said Kendrigan in a statement. “Protecting public health and the environment is our highest priority and we operate in a manner that is protective of the environment. We are in full compliance with stringent state and federal air, water, and solid waste regulation, and our operating permits have been maintained and renewed without excepting in Saugus.”

A copy of CLF’s notice is available at www.clf.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/2017-05-22-FINAL-Wheelabrator-Saugus-Notice-Letter.pdf


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

A crisis in care

State Sen. Thomas M. McGee deserves praise for working to address large-scale financial problems plaguing Massachusetts’ nursing homes.

McGee filed a budget amendment increasing the state Senate allocation for the nursing facility Medicaid rates account to $362.9 million from $345.1 million now budgeted by the Senate and Gov. Baker.

Nursing home advocates are begging for help to close a $37 a day gap between the cost of care and the state MassHealth reimbursement rate. They say Massachusetts nursing homes are facing a crisis. It is hard to call that claim an exaggeration.

Half of the state’s nursing homes have less than four days cash on hand, according to a State House News Service report quoting advocates. To worsen the problem, nursing homes face a staff shortage that has more than doubled during the past six years.

Nursing homes are dependent on state money with the News Service reporting that two-thirds of nursing home residents depend on state MassHealth payments for their care. Those sobering, even frightening, revelations point to the need to make nursing homes a top legislative priority this year.

The nursing home crisis affects every Massachusetts resident except, perhaps, the very wealthy who can afford to pay out of pocket for private care. Every family in the state has an elderly member and everyone knows someone who is elderly and trying to make ends meet or who is caring for an elderly loved one.

McGee nurses senior health spending

Nursing home advocates have already highlighted challenges faced by senior care workers to earn a living wage that will attract more talented people to the senior care and personal care professions.

The shortage of qualified workers is a problem related to nursing home finances. It will only worsen as the financial crisis deepens. McGee’s answer to solving the problem by boosting the Medicaid rate account makes sense. But as a veteran legislator, McGee knows his amendment is barely a stop-gap measure to address the overarching problem.

Just as he has advocated for long-term instead of short-sighted approaches to increasing spending on transportation infrastructure across the state, McGee realizes the daunting financial challenges involved in resolving the nursing home spending crisis.

MassHealth costs are the largest spending area in the state budget and identifying the dollars to cover rising healthcare costs is a challenge for legislators and Baker. Solving the problem requires elected officials to look over the proverbial policy horizon and imagine new financial models for nursing care. That vision may require a firm grasp on private sector solutions for nursing home management.

With baby boomers aging into nursing care, broad-minded solutions for keeping senior care solvent are needed now more than ever.

 

Meetings to focus on beaches, state funding

COURTESY PHOTO
A child enjoys King’s Beach.

By MATT DEMIRS and THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Summer is still a month away but a meeting scheduled for next Tuesday and another for June will focus on area beaches and their state funding.

The Metropolitan Beaches Commission’s (MBC) May 30 hearing at the Lynn Museum, 590 Washington St., starts at 6 p.m. and is scheduled for two hours. A second hearing is scheduled for June 12, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the State House, room 222.

Topics will include water quality improvements throughout local beaches this summer, as well as algae removal. According to an MBC press release, the hearings will also focus on potential budget cuts affecting free events and state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) beach operations in Lynn and Nahant.

The hearings overlap state Rep. Lori Ehrlich’s push to spend $50,000 to eliminate beach algae — an annual source of odor complaints.

“This funding is crucial to combatting the algae, a long-standing problem for residents and visitors to the beach because of the annual buildup and noxious odor it releases,” Ehrlich said. “The algae is unique to our beaches and just one beach elsewhere in the world, and needs to be dealt with promptly each spring to prevent the smell from worsening through the summer and fall, when it becomes unbearable.”

MBC lead consultant Bruce Berman said legislators are playing lead roles in restoring beaches, especially state Sen. Thomas McGee, who Berman said “has saltwater in his blood.” Created in 2006 by the Massachusetts Legislature, MBC is co-chaired by McGee of Lynn, and Rep. RoseLee Vincent of Revere.

Ehrlich’s push to fight beach algae comes as beach-goers face potential parking fee hikes.

The State House News Service reported that DCR plans to double the fee for parking at Nahant Beach to $10. The Baker administration is hiking the parking fees for non-Massachusetts residents at Nahant and Nantasket Beach south of Boston to $20, the News Service first reported in March.

Gruesome details emerge in double killing

Though he publicly opposes tax and fee increases, Gov. Charlie Baker did not move to reverse DCR fee increases after taking office in 2015.

The News Service reported DCR’s fee hikes were pushed through more than two years ago by the outgoing Patrick administration.

“The previous administration actually raised the rates just before we came in, and so we’ve been rolling out that increase,” DCR Commissioner Leo Roy told the News Service.

He said, “We’re using the rate increase that was previously done by the previous administration, but it hadn’t been rolled out across the state and that’s what we’re doing.”

By July 1, Roy is hoping “we’ll have the whole state on the new rates.”

Roy told the News Service the fee hikes will help his agency increase its retained revenue to an estimated $20 million in fiscal 2018, up $2.3 million over the amount expected in the fiscal 2017 budget. The department is also seeking to make more money from permits issued for use of state parkland, Roy said.

DCR is allowed to keep 80 percent of the revenue it raises, said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton, who told the News Service he expects DCR will raise a total of $25 million — including $5 million for the General Fund — and some estimates indicate the department could bring in a total of $27 million.

Beaches in Nahant, Lynn, Revere, Winthrop, East Boston, South Boston, Dorchester, Quincy and Hull are among coastal recreation areas Save the Harbor/Save the Bay and MBC seek to protect.

According to its website, Save the Harbor/Save the Bay’s current programs are “designed to restore and protect Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay, and share and reconnect all Bostonians, the region’s residents, and especially underserved youth and teens and low-income families to the harbor, waterfront, beaches and islands we have worked so hard to restore and protect.”

The Lynn and State House hearings will precede publication of a beach water quality study by the Beaches Science Advisory Committee.

McGee nurses senior health spending

By KATIE LANNAN, STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

BOSTON — State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) is pushing to increase state spending to help pull Massachusetts’ nursing home industry out of a budget crisis.

One of every seven direct care staff positions in Massachusetts nursing homes is vacant, the number of deficiency-free homes has dropped since 2013, and half of the facilities have less than four days of cash on hand, according to advocates seeking more state support for nursing homes.

“We are seeing an erosion of financial support for nursing facility care that is beginning to impact staffing as well as quality resident care,” said Tara Gregorio, president of the Massachusetts Senior Care Association.

McGee wants the state Senate to match the $362.9 million appropriation in the Massachusetts House’s budget to fund nursing facility Medicaid rates. The Baker administration and the current state Senate budget plan allocate $345.1 million for the account. McGee has filed an amendment to match the House amount.

Gregorio, whose organization represents 417 nursing homes that care for an average 40,000 residents on a given day, said strained finances have brought the industry to a “crisis point.” Around two-thirds of nursing home residents have their care paid for by MassHealth, leaving nursing homes dependent on state funds, she said.

The gap between the cost of care and the MassHealth reimbursement rate is $37 per day, according to the association, which is backing bills (S 336/H 2072) that would bump up rates based on the size of a facility’s MassHealth population. The bills, sponsored by Sen. Harriette Chandler and Rep. Thomas Golden, also fund leadership training and scholarship programs for nursing home staff.

Saugus in the zone

The effort comes as the state is facing a $462 million revenue shortfall so far this fiscal year, and as Gov. Charlie Baker and lawmakers are seeking to rein in rising MassHealth costs — the largest spending area in the state budget — that crowd out other priorities.

“We sink and swim together, and the state hasn’t been able to make the investments needed to really ensure investments in staff as well as resident care programs,” Gregorio told the News Service. “It’s been a difficult fiscal recession for Massachusetts and so during that time we were either cut or level-funded, yet at the same time costs went up for nursing facilities, and we weren’t able to make investments in staff wages.”

The vacancy rate among registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants in the state’s nursing homes has more than doubled in the past seven years, rising from 6.4 percent in 2010 to 15.8 percent in 2016, according to a senior care association survey.

Gregorio said funding and staff levels affect the quality of care a facility can provide, pointing to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data that show 32 percent of Massachusetts nursing homes scoring deficiency-free on annual inspections. That number has since fallen to 16 percent, she said.

According to an analysis by the association, 18 percent of Massachusetts nursing homes have enough cash on hand to cover more than a month of operating expenses, while 43 percent have enough cash for two days of expenses, and 7 percent have between two and four days worth.

“If they suddenly cease to have any payments from government, they have no more than four days of cash on hand. That’s an indication of a distressed system,” said Gregorio, who said an “optimal number” for cash on hand is anywhere from 60 to 90 days or more.

An outside section in the Senate’s fiscal 2018 budget, teed up for debate this week, calls for the Center of Health Information and Analysis to “examine the cost trends and financial performance” of nursing homes in the state, including revenues, costs, trends in payer mix, and operating margin.

 

Malden school suspends hair extension ban

SCREENSHOT FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
“Even if I get expelled, I don’t care; the policy is inappropriate,” Mya Cook said.

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — A Malden-based charter school has suspended its policy ban on students wearing hair extensions for the remainder of the school year following a directive from state Attorney General Maura Healey’s office  on Friday that the policy “appears to be … clearly unlawful.”

Mystic Valley Regional Charter School’s (MVRCS) board of trustees met in a closed meeting Sunday night to review the school’s Uniform Policy regulations, which include the hair policy. Following the nearly three-hour meeting, interim Director Alexander Dan announced the action.

“The Mystic Valley Regional Charter School board of trustees unanimously voted tonight to suspend the hair section of the uniform policy for the remainder of the school year,” Dan said to some media members outside the meeting Sunday. “The school will continue to work with the attorney general’s office to ensure that the uniform policy reflects our long-standing commitment to the rights of all of our students.”

Dan also said students who were facing consequences for violating that policy may now also resume all school activities.

On Monday morning, the school released a detailed letter, where it stood by its overall Uniform Policy and cited its value and results.  “Our Uniform Policy is central to the success of our students. It helps provide commonality, structure, and equity to an ethnically and economically diverse student body while eliminating distractions caused by vast socio-economic differences and competition over fashion, style and materialism.”

The letter went on, “Our formula consistently delivers top results. Our African-American students have higher MCAS and SAT scores than African-American students from all other districts in our region, and nearly all attend college. Our dropout and attrition rates for African-American students are not only lower than those from our sending district, but they are lower than Caucasian rates. The role that our Uniform Policy plays in our results, and those of all our students, is not insignificant.”

The MVRCS dress code policy regarding hair extensions, where two sisters, who are black, received before and after school detentions and other punishments for refusing to remove hair extensions from their braids, has been at the center of a recent controversy which has been reported nationally.

School responds to hair policy uproar

The mother of the two MVRCS high school students contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), NAACP and state AG’s office asking those agencies to investigate the situation, citing what she called discrimination based on her daughters’ race.

The mother and her daughters were among a contingent of protesters who were present at the start of Sunday’s MVRCS Trustees meeting, a number of whom waited until the end of the meeting for news.

A letter sent to the school Friday after a meeting at the Malden Square headquarters of the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education (DESE) stated: “State law prohibits discrimination by public schools, including charter schools, against students ‘on account of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin or  sexual orientation.’” The letter, obtained by NECN, reads: “We are concerned that MVRCS’s Hair/Make­Up policy violates state and federal law … by subjecting students of color, especially black students,  to differential treatment and thus denying them the same advantages and privileges of public education afforded to  other students.”

In its letter, Mystic Valley stated the school administration had already started implementing changes to its hair policy before the recent controversy, specifically to the provision against hair that is more than two inches in height.

“This change was made well before any outside interest group or government agency raised a concern, for the first time earlier this month, that our state-approved policy might be impacting any class of students unfairly,” the letter reads. “It should also be noted that in cases where a student had a substantiated religious or medical conflict with our policy, the school adjusted its policies to accommodate those concerns.”

Mystic Valley officials also stated they believed the existing policy would stand up in court, despite the AG’s assertions. “While we believe there is precedent confirming that our policy could stand a legal challenge … we do not wish to engage in a legal battle that would divert the focus and energy of our faculty and students, siphoning financial resources from the school and the students it serves,” the letter said.

The school will now work with the AG’s office on a Uniform Policy, and hair regulation, that “is consistent with our long-standing commitment to the rights of all our students,” stated the school’s letter.

School responds to hair policy uproar

SCREENSHOT FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Mystic Valley Interim Director Alex Dan speaks with the media.

Response from MYSTIC VALLEY REGIONAL CHARTER SCHOOL

As you may know, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Attorney General’s office has reviewed our uniform policy in response to a parent complaint about the policy’s prohibition on artificial hair extensions. That review included a meeting on Thursday, and has led to a preliminary course of action that is described below.

We wish to thank Attorney General Maura Healey for the productive clarity and guidance provided by her office. In prompting students to focus on what they have in common, our uniform policy is central to the success of our students.

It helps provide commonality, structure,and equity to an ethnically and economically diverse student body while eliminating distractions caused by vast socioeconomic differences and competition over fashion, style or materialism.

The uniform policy compels students to train their attention inward, on character and core competencies that allow students to pursue rich, happy lives.

Mystic Valley’s uniform policy has remained largely unchanged since the school was founded. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the school’s governing body, has reviewed it at least six times in the last 15 years, as part of each of the school’s three renewal visits and for three consecutive years while the school was on conditions.

In each of its reviews, DESE identified no concerns. Our formula consistently delivers top results. Our African-American students have higher MCAS and SAT scores than African-American students from all other districts in the region, and nearly all attend college.

Our dropout and attrition rates for African-American students are not only lower than those in sending districts, but they are lower than Caucasian rates. The role that our uniform policy plays in these results, and those of all our students, is not insignificant.

Of course, despite the vast importance of the uniform policy on the performance of our students, the policy must comport with our long-held commitment, as stated in our parent-student handbook and on our website, to offer the same advantages, privileges and courses of study to all students, regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin or sexual orientation.

Malden school suspends hair extension ban

Some have asserted that our prohibition on artificial hair extensions violates a “cultural right,” but that view is not supported by the courts, which distinguish between policies that affect a person’s natural “immutable” characteristics and those that prohibit practices based on changeable cultural norms.

You should know that we categorically rejected an order from the DESE, which was influenced by media reports, to cease all disciplinary actions associated with our entire uniform policy. We believe that following this directive would have disastrous consequences on our ability to create the structure and equity central to the success of our students, and that it would fundamentally alter the nature of the environment you chose for your children.

Attorney General Healey’s office did not assert the existence of a “cultural right” and, instead, based its opposition to the hair policy on its concern that the policy’s impact may fall disproportionately on African-American students.

To remedy its concerns, the attorney general’s office requested that the school stop disciplining students for violations of three specific components of the uniform policy’s hair section.

The school had already determined, eight months before the current complaint, that we would not enforce the provision against hair that was more than two inches in height, based on productive conversations with members of our community, according to our standard internal complaint procedure.

This change was made well before any outside interest group or government agency raised a concern for the first time earlier this month, that our state-approved policy might be impacting any class of students unfairly. It should also be noted that in cases where a student had a substantiated religious or medical conflict with our policy, the school adjusted its policies to accommodate those concerns.

While we believe there is precedent confirming that our policy would withstand a legal challenge and data showing that we have implemented the policy in an equitable manner, we do not wish to engage in a legal battle that would further divert the focus and energy of our faculty and students, siphoning financial resources from the school and the students it serves.

For these reasons, the board of trustees of the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School has voted to suspend enforcement of the hair section of its uniform policy for the remainder of the school year.

As we undertake our annual review of the uniform policy for the coming school year, we will work collaboratively with the attorney general’s office to make sure that the policy is consistent with our long-standing commitment to the rights of all our students. Mystic Valley remains committed to implementing the mission of the school and all of its underlying principles.

 

Moulton: Trump, honor our commitment to Haiti

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Pictured is U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.).

Commentary by SETH MOULTON

The United States has always stood as a place of refuge in times of crises, especially for our neighbors.

This week, as we honor Haitian Flag Day and the Trump Administration considers whether or not to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to the tens of thousands of Haitians living and working in the United States, we must honor that commitment to our neighbors.

Haitians have a long history here in the United States, from fighting alongside American soldiers in the Revolutionary War, to explorer Jean Baptiste Point du Sable who founded Chicago, to the tens of thousands of Haitian refugees across America, including 84,500 in Massachusetts, who have built their lives here, and contributed to our communities.

This week, the Trump administration will announce whether or not they intend to currently extend TPS for 50,000 Haitian refugees in the United States to enable them to stay while their country tackles insecurity, economic desperation, and health crises.

In the past several years, Haiti has suffered from a series of catastrophic disasters: a devastating earthquake that destroyed 50 healthcare centers and crippled an already-overwhelmed medical system; a cholera epidemic, which killed over 7,000 Haitians and infected at least 530,000, or 5 percent of the population; and Hurricane Matthew that killed 546 Haitians, resulted in nearly $2 billion in damages, and rendered nearly 200,000 Haitians homeless. One of these natural disasters would have crippled Haiti’s already-vulnerable population. Taken together, they have been devastating.

RAW celebration hits close to HOME

Since the program launched in 2010, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has extended TPS benefits to Haitians multiple times, most recently in August of 2015 — before Hurricane Matthew. The merits of doing so again are apparent — we must allow people to live and work in the United States while Haiti continues to heal.  

Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has not only delayed the process, but taken the unusual step of directing DHS to compile evidence of crimes committed by Haitians and sought to obtain evidence of Haitians with TPS taking advantage of public benefits. Given the sheer disregard for immigrants that this Administration has shown, this is sadly not surprising.

The reality is that applicants for TPS already undergo exhaustive criminal background checks and are required to be fingerprinted and re-checked against criminal databases again when the status is extended. Furthermore, Haitians with TPS are simply not eligible for federal benefits such as SNAP, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or other assistance programs.

There is bipartisan support for the extension of TPS for Haitian refugees, including from Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Republican Congresswoman Mia Love. During a September 2016 campaign stop in Little Haiti, then candidate Trump said to citizens and refugees there: “Whether you vote for me or not, I really want to be your biggest champion.”

I urge the president to keep his promise to the Haitian community and extend TPS. It is not only a responsibility to the Haitian people, our neighbors, but in keeping with the values we uphold as Americans.


Seth Moulton represents the sixth district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

Help is on the way for Lynn startups

COURTESY PHOTO
Kevin Oye and Trish Fleming mentor an EforAll entrepreneur assistance at their Lowell headquarters.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN In the 1960s, the city’s downtown was a bustling center of activity and there’s at least one person who is convinced it can be again.

Kevin Moforte, executive director of Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll), a Lowell-based nonprofit whose mission is to assist startups, has turned his attention to Lynn.

“The downtown used to be an economic powerhouse and it  offers lots of potential for startups to thrive,” he said. “Lynn is surrounded by many high-end communities, and if the city was revived, could attract them as customers.”

Launched in 2010 by Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, a billionaire businessman, the center has been responsible for the launch of 200 startups in Lowell, Lawrence, Fall River and New Bedford. Now, it’s Lynn’s turn.

“We want to help people in Lynn kick off businesses with a local touch so they’re in tune with the community,” Moforte said.

The nonprofit offers a small business accelerator to foster entrepreneurial growth. The intensive 12-week program promises to prepare entrepreneurs for the many responsibilities they will face, with mentors who have lived the startup dream and made it a success. There are also small cash grants up to $5,000 to help businesses get off the ground.

“Entrepreneurs are talented people with hopes and aspirations, but need help,” he said. “Our training offers the nuts and bolts of running a business: How to define your product, find customers, pricing, when to hire a lawyer,  how to register the business, how to budget and project cash flow.”

North Shore Comic Con on Saturday

In addition, the participants work with mentors, successful local business people who have done well and want to help the next generation of entrepreneurs.

The second way to get help from EforAll is to win a “Pitch Contest” like the one scheduled for June 14 at KIPP Academy at 6 p.m. Set up like “Shark Tank” without the teeth, three winners will receive cash prizes, mentoring and expert training.

Thomas L. Demakes, CEO of Old Neighborhood Foods and William Mosakowski, CEO of the Public Consulting Group, which was founded in Lynn, provided an undisclosed amount of money to bring EforAll to the city.

“Starting a company is complicated,” Demakes said. “So many people take the plunge, but they’re simply not prepared to do what it takes to make a new business thrive. This is our opportunity to give something back.”

Former state Treasurer Steve Grossman, who serves as CEO of Inner City Capital Connections, the nonprofit that assists small businesses, including those that are minority-, women- and immigrant-owned, said EforAll has made a difference bringing startups to life in the Bay State’s older cities.

“They are smart, have lots of resources and they bring together thought leaders,” he said.  “They will help accelerate the startup culture in Lynn.”

Moforte is no stranger to the startup community. Before immigrating to the U.S., he opened a soap company in his native Dominican Republic.

“We made high-end soap by hand with coconut oil, cocoa butter, rum and sugar cane and sold them to tourists for $4,” he said. “But making the soap was only a fraction of what I did, the rest of the time I was chasing lawyers, trying not burn out and sometimes chasing the rabbit down the wrong hole. I wish I had an EforAll.”


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

ADL continues to push for change

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg addresses the crowd.

By THOMAS GRILLO

SALEM — Days after the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) questioned a Malden school for disciplining black students who wear hair extensions, more than 300 police, educators, and students packed the group’s Essex County Law and Education Day Breakfast on Wednesday.

“The school’s policy led to the student’s removal from participating in after school sports, banned from the school prom and numerous detentions,” said Melissa Garlick, ADL’s civil rights attorney about the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School which has faced criticism for its decision to punish African-American female students who wear braid extensions.  “ADL will continue to push for change at the school to ensure equal education opportunities and treatment for all.”

The 25th annual Law and Education Day at the Kernwood Country Club gathered legal, education, law enforcement, and interfaith leaders to honor individuals who have made contributions to the North Shore.

State Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem) and Peter Quimby, headmaster of The Governor’s Academy, a Byfield private school, were recognized.

This year’s theme is “Gender and Bias: Building an equitable future for all.”

In her keynote address, state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg said it appears not much progress has been made when it comes to equal pay for equal work.

A 5K to end human trafficking

“We have been talking about equal pay since almost before I was born,” she said. “In fact, in the 1970s my mother was talking about equal pay. I thank ADL for being on the front lines for combating discrimination in so many different ways and fighting for fair treatment and bringing people together.”

Goldberg cited data that in Massachusetts women earn 82 cents on a $1 compared to men, Asian women earn 80 cents, African American women get 62 cents and Latina women just 50 cents.

She said pay equity is not just a woman’s issue. Goldberg recalled as a candidate for treasurer she was approached by a blue collar worker.

“What’s your issue and why are you running, the man asked me,” she recalled. “I told him it’s wage equality. He said, ‘That’s my issue because I have a wife and three daughters and none of them get paid what they’re worth and it all falls on me.’ You could have knocked me over with a feather.”  

In closing remarks, Rhonda Gilberg, the North Shore Advisory Committee chairwoman, thanked participants for their contribution to the event.

“We are honored to have you as partners to stand together against bias and hate, working to build an equitable future for all,” she said.


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

 

Student ‘super excited’ to intern for Warren

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Dulce Gonzalez, a rising junior at Lesley University, will be interning for Sen. Elizabeth Warren in Washington D.C.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Dulce Gonzalez, a 20-year-old Lynn resident, and her family came to the United States from Guatemala 15 years ago, fleeing violence and seeking the American Dream.

This summer, Gonzalez will be interning for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). A graduate of KIPP Academy, she was only one of eight alumni selected this year for the KIPPtern National Fellowship Program, and the only person chosen from Massachusetts.

Steve Mancini, director of public affairs for KIPP nationally, said KIPP supported eight alumni to find internships in congressional offices, including Gonzalez.

Through the program, interns have their costs covered in Washington D.C. for the summer. Caleb Dolan, executive director of KIPP Schools in Massachusetts, said the program pays for room and board, and provides a generous stipend for the interns. He said the program is highly competitive, with 10,000 KIPP alumni across the country.

Gonzalez, a junior at Lesley University, said she applied for the program in early November, and found out she was accepted the following month, but didn’t learn that she had been accepted into Warren’s office for the summer until the end of March.

“I was super excited,” she said.

As a political science and global studies major, she said the internship is very aligned into her career path. She said she’ll be focused on Capitol Hill tours and working with constituents and their issues they bring to the table. She said she’ll be specifically focused on immigration and educational issues, which will include research.

Celebration time for North Shore students

Gonzalez said she is excited to get to know the team in Warren’s office, as “they’re doing incredible work across the country.”

Her past internships have included stints for U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), state Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) and the United Nations Association of Greater Boston. She said she plans to go to law school after graduating and plans to study human rights law.

Gonzalez said she is passionate about human rights, and her goal is to work for the International Criminal Court in Switzerland. She has volunteered for the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace, which has an office in Lynn, since her senior year of high school, and works as a project coordinator. Her father, Juan Gonzalez, is a representative for the organization, and also volunteers.

Gonzalez said her family came to the United States fleeing violence from the civil war in Guatemala, which included gang members and extortion. She said her family also came seeking the American Dream, which means different things to lots of people. For them, she said it means progressing. She said being “part of this amazing opportunity,” through the internship aligns with that.

Juan Gonzalez said he was proud of his daughter. When he left Guatemala 15 years ago, he said many of the immigrants were looking for the American Dream, so he thinks Dulce’s success is kind of that dream not just for him, but for her and the entire family.

“Dulce is an accomplished young woman already, as only still a junior at Lesley,” said Mancini. “Dulce is the child of Guatemalan immigrants who fled the civil war to come to America. She was an honors student at KIPP Lynn Collegiate, who (was) working through high school in her family restaurant … Dulce is a real go-getter.”


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

 

Gonzalez says Gov. Baker OK with status quo

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Jay Gonzalez speaks with The Item’s editorial board.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Democratic candidate for governor Jay Gonzalez isn’t shy about saying what’s needed to fix the Bay State’s troubled transportation system and underfunded schools: new taxes.

“I support the fair share tax on incomes in excess of $1 million,” he said. “This is the fairest way to raise meaningful new revenue, about $2 billion annually, to be used for transportation and education.”

In a wide ranging interview with The Item’s editorial board Tuesday, Gonzalez, 45, said he’s running to unseat Gov. Charlie Baker because the Republican’s no new taxes pledge is unacceptable.

“Our governor’s core operating principle is no new taxes and we’re going to make it work with what we have,” he said. “I don’t think he’s being honest with people about the fact that it won’t work. We starved the MBTA for way too long and the condition of our roads and bridges is one of the worst in the country and getting worse under this administration.”

Gonzalez, who served as the budget secretary for former Gov. Deval Patrick and resigned last year as president and CEO of CeltiCare Health, could face competition from Democratic Mayor Setti Warren of Newton.

In March, Warren set up a finance committee to explore a run for governor. The panel includes former Treasurer Steven Grossman, former Gov. Michael Dukakis, former Democratic Party chair Phil Johnston, former Boston City Councilor Michael Ross and is chaired by Josh Boger, the former Vertex Pharmaceuticals executive.

Whoever takes on Baker, won’t have it easy. In a WBUR survey earlier this year, Baker was more popular than liberal Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Only 44 percent said Warren deserves reelection, while 51 percent view her favorably.

A taxing decision for Lynn council

In contrast, Baker’s favorability rating is 59 percent — 8 points better than Warren. Even more striking is that only 29 percent of poll respondents think someone else should get a chance at the governor’s office, the survey said.

But Gonzalez dismissed the suggestion that Baker will be hard to beat.

“I’m less concerned with the polls and more concerned with what I’m hearing from people around the state that they are very concerned about issues that are holding them back,” he said. “I think it’s very easy to be popular when you don’t do anything, when you don’t take stands on big issues, when your entire approach to the job is about political caution instead of political courage.”

One of the core issues in his run for governor is support for the so-called millionaires’ tax. If approved by voters next year, it would amend the state constitution by imposing a 4 percent surtax on incomes over $1 million. The money would be designated for schools and transportation.

About 20,000 or 0.5 percent of households in the state would be hit by the new tax and it would raise $1.9 billion annually, according to the state Department of Revenue.

Gonzalez said he’s running because he cares about people and wants to make a difference.

“Government plays a really important role in moving us forward to improve people’s lives,” he said. “I think Gov. Baker sees the job differently. He’s been way too satisfied with the status quo, too often sitting on the sidelines when we need him. I’ve been frustrated by how little he’s accomplished, but I’ve been more frustrated by how little he’s even tried.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com. Material from State House News Service was used in this report.

 

McGee: Every morning I’ll wake up determined

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Maria McGee listens to her husband, state Sen. Thomas M. McGee, speak as he signs his papers March 27.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — State Sen. Thomas M. McGee (D-Lynn) will kick off his campaign for mayor from 6-9 p.m. Friday at the Knights of Columbus on Lynnfield Street.

“I will be a mayor who works hard, always listens, and wakes up every morning determined to create a better future for all Lynners,” McGee said in a statement.

McGee announced he would run for the position about two months ago. A lifelong Lynn resident, he has represented the Third Essex District in the Massachusetts State Senate since 2002. The district encompasses Lynn, Lynnfield, Marblehead, Nahant, Saugus and Swampscott.

“Lynn is on the cusp of something big,” McGee said in a statement. “We have always had the assets: talented, hardworking, diverse citizens; amazing natural resources like the woods and the waterfront; a downtown that’s coming alive with the arts and culture; neighborhoods that reflect the best of America. This race is about who can best bring our city together and realize our incredible potential at this pivotal moment in Lynn’s history.”

I think I can make a difference, McGee says

McGee is running against Republican Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, who kicked off her campaign for a third term last month at the Porthole Restaurant. Kennedy was elected mayor in 2009 when she beat Mayor Edward “Chip” Clancy by 27 votes. In 2013, she beat Timothy Phelan by a 59 to 41 margin.

As senate chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation, McGee has been an advocate for improving the state’s transportation system and fighting for regional equality. He also advocates for quality education and extended learning opportunities for children, ensuring accessible and affordable childcare and health care for working families, and expanding workforce training and development.

Before his election to the senate, McGee served four terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives representing West Lynn and Nahant. Prior to holding office, he practiced law as an assistant district attorney for Essex County. He was elected to the Democratic State Committee in 1976 and served as chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party for three years from 2013 to 2016.

A taxing decision for Lynn council

By THOMAS GRILLO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stilian noted that many other communities have adopted the tax.

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

Meals tax could set table for a Planner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blueprint could help close ‘achievement gap’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

Blueprint could help close ‘achievement gap’

COURTESY PHOTO
Legislators want to help increase third grade reading proficiency rates.

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — A group of  state senators have launched what they believe is a strategic blueprint to raise reading proficiency in third graders statewide, and enhance their lives overall.

Two local legislators, Sen. Jason Lewis, D-5th Middlesex, Malden, and Sen. Sal DiDomenico, D-Everett, Cambridge,  are among the Senate’s Kids First working group, commissioned last October by Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst.

To dramatically increase third grade reading proficiency rates and support the whole child, the Senate’s Kids First initiative has established four broad areas to focus specific strategies: Access, Quality, Readiness, and Integration.

“I am proud of the comprehensive vision put forth in the Kids First blueprint,” said Lewis.  “In it, the Senate makes a vital commitment to the fundamental integration of services in critical areas including mental health and social-emotional learning.  

“The social-emotional learning component of Kids First is essential to strengthening the critical thinking, communication, and interpersonal skills of our young people.  Kids First will serve as an invaluable guide, and it was a privilege to serve on the working group.”

Man sentenced for oxycodone distribution

Lewis said the Kids First working group invited experts in diverse fields including early childhood development, health, education, housing, and nutrition, among others, to share their knowledge through questionnaires, meetings, and presentations.

Kids First announced it has tackled the challenges of the fact 40 percent of Massachusetts third graders are not reading at that grade level, with the number sharply rising to 60 percent among low-income students.

According to the Kids First report, the lack of reading proficiency creates “a growing achievement gap” for the future and action is needed immediately. The group proposes to reduce by half the number of third graders lacking grade level proficiency by the year 2027.

DiDomenico, chairman of the Kids First initiative, said the plan laid out in Kids First is not meant as a blueprint for a series of legislative initiatives or any piece of legislation in particular.  “It is offered as a statement of the Senate’s vision for children and a statement of budgetary priorities in the years to come,” DiDomenico said.

Man sentenced for oxycodone distribution

A Medford man, and co-defendant of former NHL player Kevin Stevens, was sentenced in federal court on Tuesday in connection with an oxycodone conspiracy.

U.S. District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. sentenced Christopher Alonardo, 36, to 18 months in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $10,000.  In December 2016, Alonardo pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and possession with intent to distribute oxycodone.

Budget cuts end Summer Police Academy

Co-defendant Stevens was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay a fine of $10,000 on May 4.

From approximately August 2015 through March 2016, Stevens and Alonardo conspired to distribute oxycodone in southeastern Massachusetts and the Boston area.  Stevens supplied wholesale quantities of oxycodone to Alonardo who resold the drugs.  On Nov. 5, 2015, Stevens was stopped by police and found in possession of 175, 30 mg pills of oxycodone that were intended for redistribution by Alonardo.

AG: Company violated state wage laws

BOSTON — A Peabody construction company has been cited by the state Attorney General’s office for failing to pay the proper prevailing wage rate to employees for work performed on public projects, as well as other violations of state wage laws.

DANCO Management, Inc., of Peabody, and its owner, Daniel Tremblay, were issued four citations totaling $293,812 in restitution and penalties for failure to pay the prevailing wage, failure to make timely payment of wages, failure to submit true and accurate certified payroll records, and failure to keep true and accurate payroll records, according to a release from Attorney General Maura Healey’s office.

“Our prevailing wage laws ensure a level playing field for contractors who perform work for public entities, including municipalities, schools, libraries and housing authorities,” stated Healey in the release. “When contractors skirt these laws, they not only cheat employees out of their wages, they undermine the competitive business environment of Massachusetts.”

Now’s your chance to tour Lynn’s waterfront

The attorney general’s Fair Labor Division began an investigation after receiving a complaint from an employee who claimed he was paid below the prevailing wage for work he performed for DANCO on a public works project. The investigation found that DANCO and Tremblay failed to pay 14 employees the proper prevailing wage rate for carpentry work performed over a 13-month period in four Massachusetts counties. Tremblay also deducted money from employees’ hourly prevailing wage rates for fringe benefits (i.e. health and welfare and pension contributions) that were not provided to the employees.

The attorney general’s Office issued citations against Ronan Jarvis, former owner of MC Starr Companies Inc., and R&A Drywall, LLC and owner Allan S. Vitale for similar violations.

Contaminated factory site up for sale

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Waste and wetlands violations were found at 143 Lynnfield St. during an investigation by the city and state.

By ADAM SWIFT

PEABODY — Just when city officials were starting to breathe a sigh of relief over cleanup efforts at the former L. Fine Factory property on Lynnfield Street, new questions are being raised about the possible sale of the 12.58-acre property.

Earlier this week, the property was advertised with a $3.1-million asking price by Engel and Volkers, a high-end real estate company out of Boston. The property is currently owned by Kevin Hoag/143 Lynnfield St. LLC, which bought the property for $600,000 in 2013.

But Ward 1 City Councilor Jon Turco is asking for a legal opinion as to whether the real estate company can advertise the potential for up to 120 multi-family units on the property.

“The problem that you have with this is that the advertisement states that they are going to develop 120 multi-family homes,” said Turco. “I’d like to refer that ad to the city solicitor and have a ruling on whether the city can prevent that from being advertised because this is actually an IL (light industry) zone and housing is not allowed.”

Friends who walk together, talk together

Turco said he doesn’t understand how the realtor can advertise the parcel falsely and said he wants the city solicitor to rule whether the ad is legal or not.

“The site consists of (three) parcels totaling 12 acres with a 96,000 (square foot) former mill building located on site that is ideal for a multi-family conversion into brick and beam style apartments, one of the most sought after types of product by today’s renters,” the real estate ad states.

Rodney Scott, the Engel and Volkers agent listed on the real estate ad, could not be reached for comment.

The contaminated property has caused consternation for city officials for years. In March, a state-ordered cleanup of debris piles and oil tanks got underway. An Administrative Consent Order (ACO) issued by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection required the owner to remove more than 99 oil tanks from inside the building and several dozen more from outside the building within 90 days.

As cleanup of the site progresses, the property owners will have to continue to meet certain benchmarks throughout the year. Turco said that if the property is sold, the new owners would have to continue or complete any necessary cleanup efforts, but that a sale could delay the efforts to decontaminate the property in a timely manner.

Mother says daughters punished for hairstyles

By STEVE FREKER

Update: Jennifer Rosenberg of Howell Communications, an agency representing Mystic Valley Regional Charter School, responded Monday with the policy outlined in the 2016-2017 student-parent handbook. She said hair extensions are prohibited, but braids are not. The school’s hair / makeup policy reads below:

“Students must keep their hair neat and out of their eyes. Students may not wear drastic or unnatural hair colors or styles such as shaved lines or shaved sides or have a hairstyle that could be distracting to other students (extra-long hair or hair more than 2 inch in thickness or height is not allowed). This means no coloring, dying, lightening (sun-in) or streaking of any sort. Hair extensions are not allowed. Hair elastics must be worn in the hair and not on the wrist. No make-up of any sort is allowed. Nail polish or artificial nails are not allowed. Tattoos are not allowed. Students are not allowed to write or draw on themselves. Bandanas or hats are not allowed during school hours. Headbands may be worn, but must be functional in nature and not worn over the forehead. Facial hair is not allowed. Unshaven young men will receive a warning in the first instance and detentions thereafter.”

MALDEN — The mother of twin 15-year-old African-American girls says officials at Mystic Valley Regional Charter School lack sensitivity to diversity after she claims her daughters were punished for wearing braids and hair extensions.

Colleen Cook has filed complaints with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Massachusetts Anti-Defamation League, according to televised reports. Her daughters are named Deanna and Mya.

Other African-American and biracial students who have worn braided hair have been punished with before- and after-school detention for refusing to remove the braids or extensions as well, reports say.

In response, the following prepared statement was released by a representative on behalf of Mystic Valley Interim Director Alex Dan.

Lynn man indicted in trafficking scheme

“The Mystic Valley Regional Charter School serves a diverse student population from surrounding communities that include Everett, Medford and Malden, among other cities. The school consistently ranks among the top schools in Massachusetts in MCAS testing, SAT testing and college admissions.  

“We send students from all walks of life, including those of color and those from limited means, to the best colleges and universities in the nation.  One important reason for our students’ success is that we purposefully promote equity by focusing on what unites our students and reducing visible gaps between those of different means.  

“Our policies, including those governing student appearance and attire, foster a culture that emphasizes education rather than style, fashion or materialism.  Our policy on hair extensions, which tend to be very expensive, is consistent with, and a part of, the educational environment that we believe is so important to our students’ success,” the statement said.

School officials were not able to be reached for further comment.

 

Lynn man indicted in trafficking scheme

SALEM  A Lynn man was indicted Wednesday in connection with allegedly trafficking more than a kilogram of cocaine as part of an operation that brought drugs from Mexico and the Dominican Republic into Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Euclides A. Lopez, 51, was indicted by an Essex County grand jury on charges of trafficking more than 200 grams of cocaine and conspiracy to violate the Controlled Substances Act, according to a news release from state Attorney General Maura Healey’s office.

Law enforcement officials seized in December more than a kilogram of cocaine, $10,810 in cash, jewelry, and a scale to measure cocaine from Lopez’s Lynn apartment.

North Shore gets money for road repairs

His arrest was part of a larger operation by state police assigned to the attorney general’s office and the New England Division of the Drug Enforcement Agency with the help of the Lynn Police Department.

On Dec. 13, Lopez was one of 20 people arrested.

In all, authorities seized more than $500,000 in cash, luxury vehicles, firearms, cocaine, and heroin.

The investigation is ongoing.