Massachusetts

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 THOMAS GRILLO

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.

Profiles in courage

COURTESY PHOTO
Breed Middle School student Ksena Gaskin (glasses, blue shirt, front row) served as a Project 351 youth organization honor guard during a Boston ceremony awarding President Barack Obama the John F. Kennedy Profile In Courage Award.

By THOR JOURGENSEN

Middle school student by day — honor guard at night: It’s all just a normal week for Lynn’s Ksena Gaskin.

The Breed Middle School student was among Project 351 youth organization participants who provided an honor guard at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston where President Barack Obama was honored last Sunday night.

Wearing blue and white Project 351 T-shirts, Gaskin and other students selected from around the state were on hand as black-tie gala attendees mingled and applauded as Obama accepted the Centennial John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.

“President Kennedy built a vision of public service, based on a foundation of courage and inclusion,” said Carolyn Casey, executive director and founder of Project 351. “For seven years, Project 351 has been committed to lifting up young people as the best example of kindness, compassion, and generosity. We are honored to be included with other nonprofit organizations who carry forward President Kennedy’s legacy of service.”

A new approach to fighting opioids

Project 351 is a statewide, youth-driven service organization that convenes an eighth grader from every city and town in Massachusetts for a transformative year of development, enrichment, and impact through unique service opportunities

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award™ is presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences.

The award is named for President Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage, which recounts the stories of eight U.S. senators who risked their careers, incurring the wrath of constituents or powerful interest groups, by taking principled stands for unpopular positions.

The opening lines state: “This is a book about that most admirable of human virtues – courage. ‘Grace under pressure,’ Ernest Hemingway defined it.”

Project 351 is supported by private sector and civic leaders including Carob Tree Foundation, John Hancock, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Martin Richard Foundation, Converse, HYM Investment Group, the Carmen Family, and the O’Brien Family.

A new approach to fighting opioids

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN The city and Medford will fight opioid addiction with a pair of first-in-the-nation financial settlements engineered by state Attorney General Maura Healey.

Medford Public Schools this week announced they would be using their $18,000 grant for an opioid education program designed as a curriculum addition in the schools. Malden officials are still formulating plans for use of the $21,000 grant they received through the program.

Medford Public Schools and the Malden Public Schools are two of 40 school systems or public service agencies receiving grants to fund two-year programs in conjunction with the attorney general’s newly-formed Youth Opioid Prevention (YOP) program.

Healey announced the formation of the program shorty after a  landmark $1.4 million settlement with CVS in November 2016 over opioid dispensing policies.

At that time Healey said $500,000 of the settlement funds would be seed money for the YOP program. Two months later, a second first-in-the-U.S. agreement on a $200,000 settlement with Walgreens was announced. All of those funds were designated for the YOP program, Healey said.

“Supporting youth opioid education and prevention programs is a top priority for my office and we are seeing an incredible unmet need for funding across the state,” Healey said. “That’s why we decided to structure these settlements to put as many resources into local communities as possible. This won’t allow us to fund every great proposal, but it’s an important step toward beating this epidemic.”

A representative from Healey’s office said the successful Malden and Medford grant applications were among 125 applicants who sought close to $4 million to fund proposals to educate youth on the dangers and consequences of opioid use and addiction.

Former PTO treasurer charged with larceny

Medford Public Schools plan to implement a multi-step program called The Michigan Model.

A report prepared  by the Medford High Health and Physical Education Department and Director Rachel Perry, is a “nationally-recognized comprehensive and skills-based health curriculum that is aligned to national health education standards” that has “consistently  shown effectiveness … including declining numbers in alcohol and drug use, unhealthy eating and other risky feelings such as anger and stress.”   

Medford School Superintendent Roy Belson noted the adoption of The Michigan Model system is intended to fortify opioid education from the ground up, not just at the high school level, on a schoolwide basis.

“Making good decisions is at the heart of any viable effort to prevent addiction … Our goal is to build resiliency and coping skills in our elementary and middle school students by providing them with strategies for healthy decision making,” Belson stated in a recent report to the Medford School Committee as it announced acceptance of the grant.

Malden city officials also welcomed the funding. “We are very pleased to receive this grant and it will be used to enhance our ongoing effort to educate our youth in our community,” Malden Mayor Gary Christenson said.

One of the most recent initiatives announced recently by activist group Malden Overcoming Addiction (MOA) and President Paul Hammersley, parallels Medford’s anti-addiction strategy by initiating an educational model on opioid addiction at the earliest levels in the school system.

“We will never get control of this epidemic until prevention becomes a priority,” Healey said in a statement. “With these grants, we will partner with schools and community organizations to empower young people and protect the next generation from falling victim to this public health crisis. But, these grants are only a start, we must continue to address this unmet need.”

 

Riding the idea circuit

Judges once “rode the circuit” from courthouse to courthouse to dispense justice. The practice has largely gone the way of the horse-drawn plow, but Massachusetts legislators and state officials continue to see the merit of crisscrossing the state to hear constituents’ ideas.

That practice will bring legislators to Melrose on May 15 to hear residents’ concerns about climate change, global warming and clean energy. The Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change’s mandate is to do more listening than talking. The comments the committee receives will give legislators an opportunity to work on enhancing Massachusetts’ status as a leader in energy efficiency.

The key question legislators will put before Melrose residents is, “Do you think the state legislature should monitor or regulate energy use and related issues to help keep Massachusetts healthy, sustainable and strong?”

State Sen. Thomas M. McGee and legislative colleagues hit the road this year and asked residents across the state to define their concerns about transportation and other topics. Commonwealth Conversations traveled to Lynn and Peabody in April.  Previous Commonwealth Conversation tours helped build legislative consensus on expanding the state’s earned income tax credit and on crafting a college savings plan.

Swampscott means business on licenses

Legislators are elected by constituents who expect results from them. But crafting and passing legislation on Beacon Hill also means striking a balance between interests stretching from the Berkshires to Southeastern Massachusetts to Cape Ann.

McGee has consistently advocated for a clear vision that equates transportation improvements across Massachusetts and the United States with long-term economic improvements. His vision received reinforcement Tuesday night when state transportation officials brought their own road show to Lynn to hear residents’ views about increased pedestrian and bicycle access across the city.

A first glance at local roads suggests motorized vehicles have won the battle for supremacy, leaving little or no room for bicyclists and pedestrians. But streets laid out a century, in some cases, two centuries ago cannot sustain increased vehicle traffic forever. Increasing safe opportunities to move on two feet and two wheels may shift the transportation balance to a variety of modes including increased public transportation.

The greatest benefit of putting legislators and state officials out on the road to hear what people have to say is not the new law or programs that are the product of listening tours. The real lasting benefit is the opportunity to have Massachusetts residents use legislators as a sounding board for how each and every person in the state can help improve its quality of life.

 

Revere wants to close grocery gap

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
“Too many Revere residents have limited opportunities to buy fresh, healthy and affordable foods,” said Mayor Brian Arrigo.

By THOR JOURGENSEN

REVERE — Mayor Brian Arrigo is worried about a new study that ranks the city fifth on a list of 10 Massachusetts communities suffering a “grocery gap.”

Newly released data by the Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA) reported that 2.8 million Massachusetts residents face transportation difficulties in getting to and from grocery stores in their communities or lack sufficient stores to provide competitive food pricing.

Chelsea ranks first on the grocery gap list and Lynn is ranked eighth.

Arrigo wants to work with the Massachusetts Food Trust Program, established by state law in 2014, to provide a flexible financing tool to help establish, renovate, or expand grocery stores and other fresh food retailers.

“Too many Revere residents have limited opportunities to buy fresh, healthy and affordable foods,” Arrigo said in a statement released by his office.

MHPA and other hunger prevention organizations worked with state legislators in 2015 and 2016 to secure $6 million in capital funds for use by the Trust as a financing source for efforts to increase available markets and grocers in communities.

Research cited by the mayor’s office shows that access to grocery stores is linked to lower rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases.  New food enterprises can address those challenges, while also creating good paying jobs for people with varying levels of skills, education and language proficiency.

Math changes add up in Malden

Arrigo pointed to the Revere Farmers’ Market as a success story “serving as a vital access point to fresh, healthy produce not only for low-income families, seniors, and veterans, but also for students who can get a free lunch through the Summer Meals Program.”

Funded by the MGH Revere and Chelsea Health Centers over the past two years, the market bolsters business development in the city and provides a valuable space for small business incubation.

“Through the support of the Massachusetts Food Trust Program, the Revere Farmers’ Market could become a year-round provider of fresh, local food for Revere residents, while creating job opportunities and spurring economic growth. The Massachusetts Food Trust would also encourage investment in other food businesses,” Arrigo said.

The market is preparing to launch a new Massachusetts Healthy Incentives Program to match Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients’ purchases of local fruits and vegetables.

To support the city’s request for Food Trust assistance, Arrigo has commissioned a “Community Food Assessment.”

Revere on the Move, a local community organization, is working with the city’s Healthy Community Initiatives, with the MGH Revere CARES Coalition, Tufts University students and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, to conduct the assessment.

Their research includes data collection through a city-wide business survey and public workshop.

For more information on the MHPA study, visit https://mapublichealth.org/priorities/access-to-healthy-affordable-food/ma-food-trust-program/.

 

Local reps vow to fight cuts to vets

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
“There are uncertain times,” state Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) said.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — As the Trump administration cuts health and transportation programs to local veterans, the region’s elected officials said they are ready to combat the White House.

“This came out of nowhere,” said Dennis Magnasco, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton’s veterans liaison. “We plan to fight it.”

In a recent email from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to adult day health care providers, the memo said the budget for these services has been exceeded this year and services must be trimmed.  

At the annual legislative event at the Pondview Lodge, lawmakers stressed the importance of adult day health services.

Elders are provided transportation, a hot meal, therapeutic activities, nursing care and a chance to socialize with friends.

“It’s much more cost effective than having to go to a nursing home,” said Frank Romano, president of the Essex Group Management Corp., the Rowley-based firm whose family business provides elder care. “No one wants to go to a nursing home.”

Adult day care costs an average of $25,000 annually compared to nearly $86,000 for nursing home care, according to the National Adult Day Services Association.

Providing for elders is essential given that 10,000 people turn 65 daily in the U.S, Romano said.  

State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) said the service provides needed relief for families. He noted that lawmakers are working on the state budget services for elders and adult day care.

Land of A Thousand Hills hosts fun night

State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) noted that lawmakers everywhere are facing tough choices.

“These are uncertain times,” he said. “But in Massachusetts we seem to be staying the course in making wise investments in our elders and hopefully our partners in the federal government will see this is money wisely spent.”

State Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) said his mother is 89 and his siblings take turns caring for her.

“Seniors are the invisible people,” he said. “But we must have the insight to assist them. They looked after us and now it’s our turn to look after them.”

State Rep. Brendan Crighton said his grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s, but at the time his family didn’t look to the option of adult day help.

“Having that support system would have made it a lot easier,” he said.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the city’s senior center has been able to add a part-time social worker that has made a difference.

“My 85-year-old mother lives alone in the house where I grew up,” she said. “She gave up her license to drive a few weeks ago. I was happy she did that on her own, so I didn’t have to have that talk with her. She recognized there was something wrong when I pointed out she missed a red light. The services offered here are of great benefit to elders.”

Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi said he has spoken to families that have benefited from the adult day program.

“We need to work with our legislators to see these good programs continue,” he said.


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

 

       

 

GE + NSCC = A bright future

IMAGE COURTESY OF GENSLER ARCHITECTURE
A rendering of the new GE building and location in Boston.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — If General Electric Co. is looking to partner with the region’s schools to further innovation, they need not look farther than North Shore Community College (NSCC).

As GE broke ground on Monday for it new corporate headquarters in Boston’s Seaport District, the $130 billion company is strengthening its Massachusetts ties.

“When GE creates products, we are here as a community college to be of service by creating a skilled workforce and to upskill their existing workforce,” said Dianne Palter Gill, the school’s dean of corporate and professional education. “We and our sister community colleges can provide them with skilled workers and they can help us with curriculum and scholarships.”

Over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled. The skills gap is expected to result in 2 million of those jobs going unfilled, according to The Manufacturing Institute. There are two major contributing factors to the widening gap: baby boomer retirements and economic expansion.

GE’s new global headquarters in Boston is scheduled to open next year and will be the home for 800 employees.

Local reps vow to fight cuts to vets

As part of the project, the company will restore two historic brick buildings and build a 12-story building on a 2.4-acre campus.

Gill said GE has said they want to partner with local schools including universities, technical schools and community colleges.

Among the many programs NSCC offers include the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Certificate Program which provides an introduction to the manufacturing industry and prepares students for entry-level employment. In addition, electives allow students to focus on technical courses that align with individual educational and career goals in manufacturing, according to the school’s program description.

“We offer a machining program and it would be great to have more connections around that and a partnership with GE would be great,” said Gill.


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

 

Land of A Thousand Hills hosts fun night

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Jaileen Malave, front, James E. Austin, left, Sokhan Prak, and Esther Summersett enjoy the open mic event.

By DAVID WILSON

LYNN — It’s only about 10 minutes into the Finals Week Breather + Open Mic at Land of A Thousand Hills Coffee Company, and Emily Urbina is hopeful for a good crowd.

The event, hosted by the The Haven Project, was open from 5:30-8 p.m. Monday for students and young adults. “Take a break; vibe out with us; enjoy great talent,” said a small flyer for the event.

Urbina, program director for The Haven Project, said the talent could include poetry, hip-hop performances, and more. Her hope for the event was that it engages the community in a greater way, she said.

Inside the coffee shop is a mural, titled “Our story.” It says, “In 2012, The Haven Project opened a center for high-risk young adults without a safe, stable place to live.

“By purchasing coffee and food at this social enterprise, Land of a Thousand Hills, you are supporting our program which offers vital services such as access to education and job training.

“Most importantly, you are building a path to success for a vulnerable population in our community.”

Can’t keep a good (fire)man down

Inside the shop, on a counter, was a two-sheet, double-sided survey: The 2017 Youth Count Housing and Homelessness Survey.

Over the past two years, the results of similar surveys have helped the state legislature to invest $3 million in housing and services for young people who have experienced housing instability, it said.

The survey asked questions such as, “Where did you sleep last night?” and “Do you have a safe place where you can stay on a regular basis for at least the next 14 days?”

The answers to the survey remain confidential, it said, and are “a key contribution in helping Massachusetts better understand housing instability among youth and young adults.”

In addition, respondents to the survey were handed a ticket for a complimentary drink: A cold brew iced coffee, a peach Italian soda, or an iced green tea lemonade.

Visit  https://www.mahomeless.org/images/Youth_Count_2017_Survey_4-6-17.pdf  to find a copy of the survey.

Contact massachusettsyouthcount@gmail.com for more information about the work to expand housing and resources for youth and young adults experiencing housing instability.


David Wilson can be reached at dwilson@itemlive.com.

Senate committee wants local views on climate

By STEVE FREKER

MELROSE — State Sen. Jason Lewis wants to give local residents a chance to suggest how Melrose can do its part to continue making Massachusetts a national leader in energy efficiency.

Lewis, a Democrat who represents Melrose and Malden in the state Legislature, is hosting a Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change hearing Monday, May 15, at 6 p.m., in Melrose Memorial Hall.

The third of nine committee hearings statewide, the Monday session focuses on the question:

How do you think the state legislature should monitor or regulate energy use and related issues to help keep Massachusetts healthy, sustainable and strong?

Billed as a “future tour,” the hearing and others across the state seek out residents’ views on climate, energy, and the environment.

“The communities in our region have taken great strides at the municipal level to advance energy efficiency,” Lewis said, adding, “This tour stop (in Melrose) will be an invaluable opportunity for community members to discuss local best practices on energy and environmental issues, as well as share concerns regarding the impact of climate change and related issues.”

An evening full of laughter in Peabody

Medford was one of the first in the area to be designated a “Green Community” in Massachusetts 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.

City officials and staff members tasked with monitoring and promoting clean energy in Malden, Medford and Melrose are expected to attend the hearing.

Massachusetts is now the national leader in energy efficiency, according to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, first among all 50 states. Local communities have certainly done their part to contribute to this ranking.

The Center estimates 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.  

The Senate committee holds hearings on Cape Cod and in Sudbury this week.

“My Senate colleagues are eager to hear the stories that our local communities have to tell,” Lewis said.

 

Saugus to give streets a facelift

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SAUGUS Town Meeting members zipped through most of the warrant on Monday with little to no discussion.

Town Meeting members voted to raise and appropriate $642,035 for street resurfacing, handicapped ramps and sidewalks, which will be reimbursed by the state under Chapter 90.

Town Meeting also authorized the treasurer, with the Board of Selectmen, to borrow $662,100 at 0 percent interest from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) Local Pipeline Assistance Program for designing and constructing improvements to the water pipelines.

Members voted to appropriate $224,212 from the premium paid to the town upon the sale of bonds issued to repair the Belmonte Middle School, which is the subject of a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion, to pay costs of the project being financed by such bonds and to reduce the amount authorized to be borrowed for the project, but not yet issued by the town, by the same amount.

An article requesting that Town Meeting vote to create a study committee that would evaluate benefits and costs associated with Saugus Public Schools providing free, all-day kindergarten was referred back to the School Committee.

Nowicki a circular sensation for St. Mary’s

A revolving fund was reauthorized for supporting recreational programs for the community. Revolving funds were also reauthorized to support the water system cross-connection program, programs and activities at the Senior Center, the Senior Lunch Program at the Senior Center, and the Town of Saugus Compost Program.

The only debate was centered around whether a nonbinding resolution, not listed on the warrant, should be read and voted on. Town Meeting members were torn on whether the resolution, made by another member, Albert DiNardo, should be read.

Ultimately, a vote allowed the resolution to be read by DiNardo, which says that the cost of health insurance for Saugus employees and retirees is increasing at a double digit percentage rate.

“The projected FY18 cost of health insurance for Saugus is $13.3 million of an approximately $90 million Saugus annual budget,” the resolution reads. “Let it be resolved that the Saugus Finance Committee provide the Saugus Town Meeting with an analysis of past health care costs, trends, and provide a three- to five-year future forecast of costs and report back to the Town Meeting.”

The resolution passed after a roll call vote.

Town Meeting will reconvene on Monday, May 22, to take up the rest of the articles on the warrant.


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

Bringing a good thing to Lynn

General Electric is bringing good things to life by breaking ground on its new headquarters in the former warehouse district near Boston’s South Station. Gov. Baker, quoted by the State House News Service on Monday, called the groundbreaking “one more step forward in the continuing evolution of Massachusetts as a global player.” What does GE’s big plans for Boston mean to the North Shore, specifically, Lynn?

A GE executive on Monday said the firm is looking forward to forging collaborations with area community colleges. Thinking about that comment in the context of North Shore Community College and Salem State University spurs excitement and inspiration.

General Electric’s aviation manufacturing presence in Lynn helped write the city’s history and the River Works plant is still a major city employer. Imagine if GE’s 21st century commitment to evolving technologies takes on life in Boston and expands outward, swamping the North Shore and Lynn with brilliant minds and the economic ramifications of their inventions?

GE Vice President Ann Klee employed high-tech jargon Monday when she was quoted by the News Service praising Boston’s “great innovation ecosystem.” She used that phrase to explain why it made sense for GE to move its headquarters.

That explanation can be interpreted in different ways. The most obvious interpretation is that GE finds Boston to be an attractive location because of the large number of universities and associated research facilities in the city.

GE + NSCC = A bright future

By extension, Cambridge and Route 128 for decades have attracted research and development manufacturers tapping into Boston’s academic brainpower to fuel their production. Lynn’s River Works, at first glance, conjures up images of skilled factory workers making jet engines. But a deeper look at the West Lynn plant reveals engineers designing next-generation engines and facilities potentially becoming future sites for the “innovation ecosystem” highlighted by Klee.

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton has talked about the River Work’s value as a possible location for technology-oriented businesses incubated in Boston and searching for affordable space where they can grow and prosper.Congress

Moulton is an imaginative thinker but his ideas are rooted in a business background; before winning a seat in Congress, the Marine veteran focused his boundless energy on the high-speed rail industry. Rail transportation is an industry GE has helped to expand and it is an important component of the type of transportation-driven economy Moulton and state Sen. Thomas M. McGee frequently highlight.

The News Service on Monday reported how state Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash, worked with other top officials under the codename “Project Plum” in 2015 to woo GE to Boston.

Ash is well aware of Lynn’s economic potential and it is not a stretch to imagine him pointing GE in Lynn’s direction once company executives decide how communities around Boston can benefit from the headquarters relocation.

With North Shore Community College stepping onto the technological cutting edge by expanding its Lynn campus and Lynn schools working for years with River Works volunteers, Lynn is poised to benefit from GE’s decision to make Boston the center of its corporate universe.

 

Moulton rips ‘terrible’ health care bill

ITEM FILE PHOTO
U.S. Rep Seth Moulton is pictured in a file photo.

By THOMAS GRILLO

All nine Democratic Massachusetts congressmen voted against the GOP’s bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, but President Donald Trump muscled the health care bill through the House Thursday.

“It’s a terrible bill,” U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) told The Item. “It takes away health care from millions of Americans, gives a tax cut to the wealthy, shifts the tax burden onto middle class families and worsens the deficit.”

Trump’s victory comes six weeks after the Republicans failed to pass the measure amid disagreements with the White House that sank the measure.

The legislation passed the House by a 217-213 vote, as all voting Democrats and 20 mostly moderate Republican holdouts voted no. A defeat would have been politically devastating for Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, (R-Wisconsin).

The bill now faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, where even GOP lawmakers say major changes are likely.

Republicans have promised to erase President Barack Obama’s law since its 2010 enactment. But this year, with a Republican in the White House and control of both houses in Congress, is their first real chance to deliver. But polls have shown a public distaste for the repeal effort, instilling fear among Republicans who could pay a price in next year’s congressional elections.

Deadline Friday for Lynn Youth Summer Jobs

The bill would eliminate tax penalties of the law which has charged people who don’t buy coverage and it erases tax increases in the Affordable Care Act on higher-earning people and the health industry. It cuts the Medicaid program for low-income people and allows states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. It transforms Obama’s subsidies for millions buying insurance based on people’s incomes and premium costs into tax credits that rise with consumers’ ages.

It would retain Obama’s requirement that family policies cover grown children until age 26.

But states could get federal waivers freeing insurers from other Obama coverage requirements including charging people with pre-existing illnesses higher rates than healthy customers, boost prices for older consumers to whatever they wish and ignore the mandate that they cover specified services like pregnancy care.

The bill would block federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year, considered a triumph by many anti-abortion Republicans.

U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.) said he was disappointed in the vote.

“TrumpCare codifies a worldview that divides America by fate and fortune,” Kennedy said in a statement. “A worldview that scapegoats the struggling and suffering and that see illness as inadequacy. The ultimate test of our country’s character is not the power we give the strong, but the strength we give the weak.”


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

 

Malden could limit pot shop locations

By STEVE FREKER 

MALDEN — City councilors are taking a swing at recreational marijuana with an eye toward trying to keep pot outside city limits.

Massachusetts voters approved legalization and taxation of recreational margin by a 52-45 margin last November. Language approved by voters outlines ballot votes and other measures cities and towns can take to limit recreational marijuana distribution.

Councilor Neil Kinnon previously urged city officials to determine if Malden can stave off potential marijuana vendors with an edict disallowing such establishments unless or until marijuana was declared legal at the federal level.

Joined by council colleagues, Kinnon voted Tuesday night to stall potential siting of recreational marijuana retailers in Malden until pot is legalized by the federal government. Ward 3 Councilor John Matheson authored the siting resolution.

Federal law at this time prohibits both possession and sale of marijuana. Some supporters and opponents are wondering if the Trump administration will approach legalizing it at the federal level over moves by individual states to legalize medical and recreational marijuana.

House burns in Saugus

Councilor Craig Spadafora, the council ordinance committee chairman, wants to create a new business category called “Adult Speciality Retail Sales” for alcohol, tobacco and marijuana retailers.

Spadafora said creating the new category sets the stage for zoning changes restricting where businesses defined under the category language can be located.

“We need something on the books to deal with (marijuana sales) if the issue should arise,” Spadafora said. “Right now there’s nothing there for this category.”

Permits, Inspections and Planning Services Director Chris Webb confirmed the need for a new regulation.

Zoning changes require Planning Board approval, as well as a public hearing process. The Planning Board could hear the matter as soon as June.

Specific discussion on potential zoning changes will resume at the next ordinance committee meeting.

 

House passes balanced FY18 budget

By THOMAS GRILLO

The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a $40 billion 2018 budget which provides investments in local aid, early education, substance abuse, homelessness, job training, and economic development.

“Our budget reflects a strong commitment to our cities and towns by funding local aid and education at historic levels,” Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said in a statement. “These along with funds for key local programs will go a long way to improving our neighborhoods, schools, economy, and quality of life in our community.”

The Lynn delegation, which also includes Reps. Lori Ehrlich, Donald Wong, and Daniel Cahill collaborated to secure funding for a number of local programs including:

  • $100,000 for Red Rock Park maintenance
  • $50,000 to support algae removal from Lynn Beach
  • $40,000 for Lynn Fire Department equipment
  • $20,000 for arts and cultural programs

“We were pleased to have the support of House Speaker Robert DeLeo and House Ways & Means Chairman Brian Dempsey in securing critical funding for public safety, arts and culture, economic development, and our local environment in Lynn,” said Cahill in a statement. 

Moulton rips ‘terrible’ health care bill

Recognizing that municipalities have unique and diverse needs, the House continued to fund local aid at historic levels. The fiscal 2108 budget increases so-called unrestricted aid by $40 million and local education aid by $106 million.

The increase to Chapter 70 guarantees every school district will receive a minimum of $30 per pupil next year. The budget also provides school employee health benefits through a $31 million investment. It also adds $4 million to the special education and increases our investment in regional school transportation by $1 million.

“As we all know, we are in a deficit, and no one wants more taxes,” said Wong in a statement. “But we are hopeful that we will generate more revenue to do more for our cities and towns.”

Ehrlich said the algae funding is crucial to combatting the longstanding problem for beachgoers because of the annual buildup and the noxious odor it releases.

The budget will now go to the Senate for consideration.


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

 

After 52 years, a coach calls it a career

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Frank DeFelice coached baseball, football and other sports for 52 years.

By STEVE KRAUSE

SWAMPSCOTT — One of the longest-standing and most illustrious eras in Massachusetts coaching history will end this spring when Frank DeFelice steps down as an assistant baseball coach at Endicott College in Beverly.

DeFelice, who told Coach Bryan Haley of his decision to retire Wednesday, will close the book on a 52-year career as a coach in various schools in both football and baseball that took him from Christopher Columbus High School in Boston all the way to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

Along the way, DeFelice, of Swampscott, coached two of the best athletes the state has ever seen — Dick Jauron and Doug Flutie — and was inducted into the Massachusetts State Baseball Coaches’ Hall of Fame.

“I felt it was time,” said DeFelice, who is 76. “It was awfully tough making the decision. (Endicott) is a great school, and it’s a great (baseball) program.”

He’s not quite ready to ride off into the sunset. He just wants to be able to do what he does on his own terms.

“I’ll still be around the program,” he said.

DeFelice spent the majority of his coaching years — 40 — at Swampscott High. He had two stints as a baseball coach (1966-71 and 1977-2005), winning 465 games while losing 257 (.644 percentage). In the state tournaments, his teams were tougher, with 45 wins in 65 games (.692). And in 1993, the Big Blue won the Division 3 state championship.

But baseball only tells half the story. He was an assistant football coach during Swampscott’s golden era, working alongside the likes of fellow assistant Dick Lynch and under the legendary head coach Stan Bondelevitch. Included among the players he coached was a who’s who of the town’s athletic luminaries — Bill Adams, Tom Toner, Mike Lynch, Sandy Tennant and Jauron (who became an all-pro safety with the Detroit Lions, and NFL Coach of the Year with the Chicago Bears, and a college football hall of famer).

Summoning up Swampscott’s yesteryears

Later, he was an assistant at Boston College, a job that took him to Miami in November 1984, where he had a sideline view of Flutie’s “Hail Mary” pass to Gerard Phelan that defeated the Hurricanes. On Jan. 1, 1985, he was in Dallas to help coach the Eagles to their Cotton Bowl victory over Houston.

“I consider myself very fortunate,” DeFelice said, “to have been around two of the greatest athletes you will ever see — Dick Jauron and Doug Flutie.”

DeFelice considers himself fortunate for a lot of what has come his way in life.

“I had great mentors, beginning with my brother, Bobby,’’ he said. “I coached with him in 1965 at Christopher Columbus High School in Boston.

“Then, I went to Swampscott and became associated with Dick Lynch and Stan, both outstanding men, and great mentors. They were hard-nosed men who preached discipline, and they were smart.”

DeFelice also had plenty of admiration for the students he coached.

“I think the words ‘student-athlete’ are tossed around way too much,” he said. “But in Swampscott, back then, we had real student-athletes.

“Dick Jauron went to Yale. Carl Kester went to Amherst and he’s now a professor at Harvard. Sandy Tennant went to Harvard. Mike Lynch and Andy Rose, Harvard. Bill Adams went to Holy Cross. There were so many from that era.”

There was a similar situation with DeFelice’s 1993 baseball team that won a state title.

“Peter Woodfork, who was an underclassman, knew more about baseball at his age than most of us, and he went to Harvard,” said DeFelice. “We had two pitchers (Kevin Rogers and Brian Hayes) who didn’t lose a game.”

Other players on that team went onto have successful college careers, such as Brendan Nolan (BC) and Traeger DiPietro (who played at New Hampshire until the school discontinued baseball).

DeFelice also served as head football coach at Swampscott (1977-81) and Xaverian (1972-76). He was also an assistant basketball and track coach at Swampscott. He had been on the baseball staff at Endicott for the past six years.

 

Australian developer: ‘We see value’ in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Chirag Savaliya purchased the former Lynn Item building, 38 Exchange St.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN  — It didn’t take long for Chirag Savaliya to see the city’s potential.

On his first visit to Massachusetts last month to tour the former Lynn Item building that was for sale, the Sydney, Australia developer said the downtown caught his eye.

“Lynn is slowly gentrifying,” he said. “We see value here.”

That trip led his company, Be Developer Group of Atlanta, to pay $900,000 in a cash deal last week for the 35,000-square-foot property.

While Savaliya envisions the 117-year-old building with commercial space on the ground level and about two dozen condominiums on the upper floors, he wants to hear from the community before any plans are finalized.

“We are seeking the highest and best use and we think Lynn knows what that is,” he said.

After 52 years, a coach calls it a career

Savaliya said he plans to take three months to consult with the city and its residents. This summer he will make a proposal to the city. Construction is expected to take about 14 months, he said.

Whatever decisions are made about the development, some of the printing press machines will remain in the building that will be renamed “Landmark” to reflect its new identity.

“We are mindful of the history of the building and want to keep the presses as a salute to the city’s past,” he said.

Azeez Khan, Savaliya’s partner and a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway, said the team has more than a dozen projects underway in Atlanta that include new home construction and the renovation of small office buildings.

“We like what we see in Lynn,” he said.   


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

Shooting suspect added to state’s ‘Most Wanted’

MASSACHUSETTS STATE POLICE 
Double shooting suspect William A. Cash is pictured in a 2015 photo.

LYNN — A 44-year-old man believed to have shot two men Easter Sunday on Exchange Street has joined 11 others on Massachusetts State Police’s “Most Wanted List.”

Of the 12 men, William A. Cash is one of six outstanding. According to a Facebook post by state police, authorities are seeking Cash in connection with an April 16 double shooting that left 46-year-old Leonardo Clement dead and 41-year-old Prince Belin wounded.

Cash, 44, is described by police as a black man with black hair and brown eyes. He is 5 foot 10 inches and around 330 pounds. Cash has a lengthy criminal record in Massachusetts, police say, including convictions for armed robbery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and drug trafficking.

Cash has ties throughout Boston and the Lynn area, as well as Florida, police say. He may be driving a silver-gray 2005 Chrysler 300 with Massachusetts plates 3FS819.

This appears to match a recollection by Belin, who told The Item April 24 the shooter was driving a Chrysler that “came from nowhere and cut us off” as he, his fiancee, and Clement were walking downtown.

Threat didn’t deter victim, eyewitness says

Cash was added to the most-wanted list on Tuesday. Information on the state’s website says “the people on this (list) are wanted for serious and often violent crimes. If you believe that you know the location of one of these fugitives, do not attempt to take any action on your own.”

Instead, anyone who has information on the April 16 incident or Cash’s whereabouts is asked to call the state police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section at (1-800) 527-8873.

 

In Lynn, the emphasis is on the waterfront

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
This shot of the master plan was on display during the first of four public hearings.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Picture this along the city’s waterfront: A drive-in movie theater, soccer fields, playgrounds, a bike path, kayak and roller skate rentals, and locally owned boutique shops.

These were among the suggestions that came from more than 100 residents who filled the City Council chamber Tuesday night to make their voices heard in the first of four public meetings designed to complete a waterfront Open Space Master Plan.

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

Kathy Wrynn encouraged a pedestrian overpass to link the non-waterside of the Lynnway to the waterfront.   

“Connection to the waterfront is key,” she said.

Rolf Flor said art must be an essential part of whatever is done along the water.

“We don’t just need green space,” he said. “Just look at the artwork that was done in the downtown. It’s lasted a long time and it’s become part of the city’s fabric.”

Joan LeBlanc, executive director of the Saugus River Watershed Council, said Lynn has an opportunity to become a blueprint for public access to water for the rest of Massachusetts.

Shooting suspect added to state’s ‘Most Wanted’

Isaac Simon Hodes, who said he was a member of Lynn United for Change but was representing himself as a longtime resident, cautioned against too much luxury housing on the water.

“If all the housing is for wealthy out-of-towners, the open space will be perceived as privatized,” he said.

Jonathan Feinberg, also of the New Lynn Coalition, said the waterfront needs to be a place for families and should include picnic tables, green space, and venues for social events.

Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi said while his district is farthest from the ocean, he still remembers a time as a boy when he saw drive-in movies on the Lynnway.  He said he was thrilled to hear the suggestions of what can be done to activate the waterfront.

“It’s awesome where we’re headed and we still have a long way to go,” he said.

Ward 6 City Councilor Peter Capano, whose district includes the Lynnway, said while these ideas are years away, he had a suggestion to get something started this summer. He said the vacant Lynn ferry parcel and its parking lot be could be used now and until the ferry returns.

“We don’t have to wait,” he said. “We can do a drive-in movie theater right there, right now on city-owned land.”

State Sen. Thomas McGee, (D-Lynn) and candidate for mayor, said while he was encouraged by the crowd, everyone should reach out and invite others to the next meeting

“The more input the better,” he said. “Let’s make sure we reach out to other community groups and have a larger crowd next time.”


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

 

Bettencourt announces re-election bid

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Peabody Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. is pictured in a file photo.

By ADAM SWIFT

PEABODY Recent Peabody mayors have a habit of sticking around awhile.

Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. recently announced that he is seeking a fourth term as the city’s leader.

Bettencourt is only the fourth mayor Peabody has seen since Nicholas Mavroules was elected in 1966. Since then, mayors’ tenures have been more likely to be measured in decades than terms, with Peter Torigian serving for 23 years followed by a decade of leadership by Michael Bonfanti.

Bettencourt said he is proud of what he has helped the city accomplish in his first three terms and looks to continue to move the city forward.

“Our focus on economic development, education, public safety, quality of life and affordability has helped make Peabody one of the most desirable cities to live in all of Massachusetts,” Bettencourt said.

In a re-election statement, Bettencourt pointed to several accomplishments that have taken place during his administration, including the construction of the new Higgins Middle School and the redesign and beautification of Peabody Square.

Do you recognize this ID theft suspect?

Other highlights of his first three terms include the completion of the South Peabody Trail Network, the dredging of Crystal Lake, taking over the management of Tillie’s Farm on Lynn Street, and an increase in the number of firefighters assigned to the city’s neighborhood stations from two to three.

“I am committed to maintaining Peabody’s affordability while still investing in our future and delivering the core services that residents expect,” Bettencourt said. “I love this city and I love this job. If the voters see fit, I will continue to give it my very best every single day.”

Bettencourt, who ran unopposed in 2015, has yet to see any challengers take out papers to run against him this year. Potential candidates have until July 21 to take out nomination papers, and those papers must be filed by July 25 with at least 50 certified signatures. The preliminary election is slated for Tuesday, Sept. 12 and the final election is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

There’s already been a good amount on interest in City Council seats, both in several of the six wards and for the five at-large positions. There will be at least two new faces on the council come 2018, as Councilor-at-Large Tom Walsh will be focusing on his position as a state representative, and Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz has said he will not be running for re-election this year.

Potential at-large council candidates who have taken out nomination papers as of Monday morning include incumbents Tom Gould, David Gravel, and Anne-Manning Martin. School Committee member Tom Rossignoll, Ryan Melville, Stephen Collins, and Peter Bakula have also taken out papers.

In the wards, incumbents who have taken out papers include Ward 1 Councilor Jon Turco, Ward 2 Councilor Peter McGinn, Ward 3 Councilor James Moutsoulas, Ward 4 Councilor Ed Charest, and Ward 5 Councilor Joel Saslaw. Michael Geomelos and Margaret Tierney have taken out papers to replace Sinewitz in Ward 6. Other potential challengers for the incumbents include Bukia Chalvire in Ward 4 and James Jeffrey and Andrew Diamond in Ward 5.

 

No sign of woman believed behind threats

PHOTO FROM THE BURLINGTON POLICE DEPARTMENT
Pictured is Sarah Curran, the woman believed to have made internet threats.

PEABODY Local police are searching for a woman who allegedly made internet threats to shoot a random person.

Sarah Curran was reportedly driving a gray Jeep Cherokee with Massachusetts plates 491VE1. Anyone who sees the vehicle should call 911 immediately.

Burlington schools were placed on lockdown early Monday afternoon after Merrimack, N.H. police contacted them about a potential online threat by Curran.

The lockdown was lifted shortly afterward, according to Burlington police, when it was determined she was not in the area.

A further ping of Curran’s phone indicated that she may have been in Peabody, but according to Peabody scanner reports, the area was checked and the information was unfounded.

Happy Khmer New Year

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Sokhema Chhorn waits to perform onstage as a bridesmaid.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — The year of the monkey is out and thousands are expected to gather at Lynn Common today to bring in the year of the rooster.

The Khmer Cultural Planning Committee is throwing the 10th annual Khmer New Year Community Fair from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The New Year is traditionally celebrated in Cambodia over three days on April 13-15, but more commonly celebrated during the weekend in present-day United States, said City Councilor Hong Net, who is also a member of the committee.

Net, a Cambodian native, said the holiday is a celebration of the changing seasons and that farmers can finally harvest their crops.

“They plant rice and crops, so now that the monsoon season is over, they start to harvest,” said Net. “They celebrate and consider it a new year.”

Light at the end of the tunnel on Lynnway

To kick off the day-long event, at about 8 a.m., a parade of people dressed in angel and other traditional costumes will arrive. Starting at 10 a.m., there will be tables with popular Cambodian food offerings, including beef sticks, coconut and cane juice, fried rice and chicken, said Net.

James Cowdell, executive director of Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC), will be the featured guest speaker. Net said Cowdell will talk about attracting small investors and people who want to open small businesses to the city.

The afternoon will be filled with traditional dances, games, music, a fashion show, and live bands. In Cambodia, residents celebrate by filling the streets with dancing and games.

Lynn has the second largest Cambodian population in Massachusetts with roughly 7,000 people, said Net. Lowell takes the lead with about 35,000 people, or about 30 percent of its population, being Cambodian, he said.


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

City seeking student sanctuary

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — The School Committee adopted a policy to protect students from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“It would be bad if we turned our backs on these kids,” said Oscar Ross, who has a daughter in Lynn Public Schools who dreams of being both a police officer and a cook. “If we don’t give them the chance to be what they want to be.”

Mary Sweeney, a retired teacher, said that during her career, students had to worry about getting their homework done.

“I never faced situations of kids being deeply afraid,” said Sweeney. “I think with the issues of immigration and ICE — it’s a reality.”

The panel voted unanimously to adopt a policy that affirms the schools are safe and welcoming sanctuaries for all students, regardless of their immigration status. The document said the resolutions are intended to ensure that all Lynn Public Schools students have the same right to a free, public education and will be treated equally.

“The mission of Lynn Public Schools is to maintain a multicultural school community dedicated to the realization of the full intellectual, physical, social and emotional potential of its students,” reads the resolution. “The city is enriched and strengthened by its diverse cultural heritage, multinational population, and welcoming attitude toward newcomers.”

Committee member John Ford pointed out that while he agreed with where the resolutions were coming from, he believed they were only reaffirming what the district already does. Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham agreed.

“I believe we have welcoming schools and that our teachers are wonderful and welcoming,” said Latham. “We have not had a case where ICE has come into our schools.”

She added that she believes ICE is restricted from taking immigrants into custody at schools and churches.

“Rather than us saying we already do that, we’ll be able to say that we have a policy for that,” said committee member Donna Coppola. “I think it would be a huge reassurance to our students. Let’s be upfront and be what we are — a proud community — and show others that we care.”

Immigrant-worker march set for Monday

Latham and committee members expressed concerns about a resolution included in the original draft that prohibited federal immigration law enforcement officers, or personnel assisting them, from entering a school building.

“I worry about training teachers not to allow law enforcement to come into the building,” she said.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy added that she was “very uncomfortable” with the section of the resolution because it should be recognized that federal law supersedes local law.

“It seems to me that it’s not a valid exercise of a city’s rights in the presence of federal government,” she said.

The panel amended the resolution to state that law enforcement can enter the building, but must remain in the main office until his or her credentials are verified and the superintendent is notified. The vote will be subject to final approval of the language.

Under the policy, the district will not inquire about, record, or request information intended to reveal the immigration status of a student or their family members. They will not disclose private information without parental consent, and staff will refuse to share all voluntary information with immigration agencies to the fullest extent permissible by the law.

All requests for information from a student’s education record will be immediately forwarded to the School Department’s attorney. The motion also noted that the district does not ask for immigration status when families register children for school.

A letter will be sent to parents and staff summarizing the resolutions in simple language. A list of all available resources, including community-based organizations and legal service organizations, will be provided to each student and made available at each school. It will be translated when necessary. Teachers will be trained on the policy before the start of the school year, when they become familiarized with all other policies.

In the next 90 days, Latham will be expected to develop a plan for training teachers, administrators and other staff on the new policy and best practices for ensuring the wellbeing of students, who may be affected by immigration enforcement actions. The plan will be implemented within five months.Legis

A copy of the resolution will be submitted to the Massachusetts Attorney General and to Lynn’s federal, state, and local legislative representatives.


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

 

Commonwealth loss could be Medford gain

By STEVE FREKER and THOR JOURGENSEN

MEDFORD — Sale of a two-acre state sign shop could set the stage for economic development locally, state officials said Thursday.

The state Department of Transportation (DOT) is moving forward with the sale of a parcel located at 300 Mystic Avenue with bids due by June 9.

“Our administration is proud to promote local economic growth and opportunity through the redevelopment of underutilized state properties,” said a DOT statement quoting Gov. Baker. “By ensuring the Commonwealth is “Open for Business” with the sale of properties such as the Mystic Avenue parcel, we can continue strengthening our cities and towns and allowing our resources to provide benefits and jobs to citizens throughout Massachusetts.”

Currently used as a DOT sign shop, the site is an example of the Baker administration’s “Open for Business” initiative launched in 2015.  The initiative seeks to develop state-owned vacant or underutilized assets so they may have more productive uses to benefit the local economy, including office space, retail and housing.

To date, 24 state-owned assets have been sold or leased and when fully executed, will generate $428 million in revenue, more than 2,000 new housing units, 600 new jobs, 450,000 square feet of commercial space, and $12.3 million in annual, local property tax payments.

“This location is in the immediate vicinity of several local businesses, transportation options, and notable attractions and is a prime piece of real estate within the City of Medford,” said Highway Administrator Thomas J. Tinlin. “By leveraging our existing state assets in innovative ways that put them to the best use, we can continue supporting our local communities and facilitating growth and opportunity across the Commonwealth.”

The effort to convert the state site into a local economic opportunity comes after a nearly eight-month-long drive to build a multi-story residential development at the site of a former auto repair shop on Salem Street has come to fruition for  Boston-based developer.

Taking a pulse in Swampscott

The Medford Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday night unanimously approved the site plan submitted by developer Milan Patel of HHC One Salem LLC to build a three-story, 16-unit residential building at 236-240 Salem St.

The vote concludes what had been a largely contentious process in which neighbors and abutters of the site, as well as a Medford City Councilor, balked at several other previous proposals for the site submitted by the developer, all of which called for bigger projects in both units number and stories.

All of the objections raised by locals at neighborhood meetings and board meetings were directly related to the size of the structure. Concerns were also raised on increased traffic in the densely populated neighborhood located a block from the Route 93 overpass, just before Medford Square.

The original plan, first floated in August, 2016 was a five-story, 25-unit complex. When objections were raised, the developer came back with a four-story, 19-unit plan, then the present three-story change which was ultimately approved. The developer had tried to sell the idea of the larger structure because of the cost of cleaning up contaminated soil left over from the former brake shop.  According to records given to the Zoning Board, that cleanup came in at just under $500,000.

“I want to thank everybody – the team, the community – we all pitched in and I think this was a great effort. Their voices were heard,” Patel said.

There is still an appeal process for those who remain opposed to the decision. If no appeal is filed in the 20-day period now under way, or if one is filed and then denied,  the developer will seek to acquire a building permit and be allowed to start  construction.  

A number of those in attendance at Monday’s meeting were seen shaking their heads and heard murmuring after the vote was taken. No public comment was requested nor made before the vote.

 

Child-abuse scars not always visible

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN  —  Michael Satterwhite was never physically abused by his mother, but he still bears the scars from his childhood.

“Child abuse is not always visible,” he said. “My mother never laid a hand on me, but she was one of the biggest drug dealers in Lynn and was a user as well. I didn’t get hit, but I was put in positions a child should never be in.”

Satterwhite spoke Wednesday at the Lynn Community Connections Coalition’s (LCCC) 16th annual Child Abuse Prevention Community Breakfast. The nonprofit’s mission is to strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect.

In 2014, the most recent data available, Massachusetts reported the highest rate of abused and neglected children in the nation. There were 31,863 victimized children in the Bay State, or 23 victims per 1,000 children statewide, making it the highest per capita rate in the country, according to  the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Nationally, 702,208 children were reported to have been abused and neglected during 2014, or 9 victims per 1,000 children, less than half the Massachusetts rate, the report said. The rise in cases has been spurred by the opioid epidemic and human trafficking, experts say.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy welcomed the four dozen attendees by quoting David Pelzer, author, activist and a survivor of childhood abuse.

“Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living in the darkness of the soul,” she said. “It’s up to all of us to break away the clouds and bring that sunshine to the children of Lynn.”

Bellavance has a plan

Kate MacDougall, who heads the Family Crimes Unit of the Essex County District Attorney’s Office, said she is grateful for the programs offered in the county that offer hope to families.

“Thank you for the work you do,” she said.

State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) praised LCCC for its efforts to end child abuse. He said the challenges faced in different neighborhoods are bringing the community together. “Child abuse starts with parents who haven’t had a shot, who are struggling to put food on the table, with substance abuse, with finding a job or getting an education,” he said. “We have to recognize that parents are really struggling to make ends meet, particularly in communities like Lynn.”

Daniel Richards, a member of LCCC’s Father’s Nurturing Program and a Colombian native, said he was born to a single mother who put him up for adoption.

“That one decision changed my life forever,” he said.

He was adopted by French Canadian Irish parents in Lynn and lived near two Colombian families who taught him about his culture.

Choking back tears, Richards said he struggled with his identity as a child.

“Being from a different country was tough growing up and I started to feel lost,” he said. “But having those Colombian families nearby showed me life was better in the U.S. I started to realize I was in this country for a purpose.”


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

 

Medford representative has a special goal

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is state Rep. Sean Garballey.

By STEVE FREKER

MEDFORD — When he was first elected to the Massachusetts House in 2007, state Rep. Sean Garballey was one of the youngest elected officials serving at the State House at the age of 23.

Now a nine-year, fourth-term veteran, Garballey is seeking new challenge — a campaign for the special election to fill the vacant 4th Middlesex state Senate seat. The seat became open earlier this month after the April 2 death of long-time Sen. Kenneth J. Donnelly.

The 4th Middlesex includes Garballey’s hometown of Arlington, along with the city of Woburn, the towns of Billerica, Burlington and part of Lexington.

By today’s standards, Rep. Garballey, 32, would still be considered “young” if he wins the scheduled July 25 special election. He now represents most of Arlington and three precincts in Medford: Two in the city’s West Medford neighborhood and a third immediately adjacent to Arlington.

Garballey is the first candidate to formally announce his candidacy. He said he wanted to continue the work he began nine years ago.

“I know the impact that you can have as a legislator when you care enough to have an impact and, for me, the priority has always been the most vulnerable in our communities who need help and the opportunities that can come from good public policy,” he said.

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Two other names have surfaced as potential challengers for the Senate seat. But Cindy Friedman, a Democrat and Marc Lombardo, a Republican, have not formally stated any intentions. Friedman, an Arlington native who now lives in Cambridge, has served as Donnelly’s chief of staff since 2009 and indicated a move back to Arlington if she decides to officially throw her hat in the ring.

Billerica state Rep. Lombardo said he has been urged to run by his colleagues and supporters.

A special primary election is set for June 27 for the open seat. Since this is not a state election year, sitting state legislators such as Garballey and Lombardo or any other potential candidates would not have to surrender their House seats to run in the special election.

Coincidentally, Garballey first won a House seat also by special election in 2008 when he bested a then-fellow Arlington School Committee member in a close Democratic primary and cruised in the final.

Garballey replaced former longtime Rep. James Marzilli, a Democrat who had vacated his House seat after winning a special election for the same Senate seat Garballey now seeks.

Garballey in a statement Thursday noted his close relationship and legislative “partnership” with Donnelly.

“For those of us lucky enough to have called Senator Ken Donnelly a friend, this has been a sad time. Ken put everyone else first — as a fireman, a legislator, and a husband, father, and grandfather — and we in Massachusetts are forever indebted to him for his lifetime of service and sacrifice. He gave us his all, and no one will fill the space he left in his passage,” Garballey said.