Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy

Public hearing requested on future of Union ER

FILE PHOTO
View of Union Hospital.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Six community organizations and unions have asked the panel deciding the fate of emergency care after Union Hospital closes to make their deliberations public.

In a letter to the Urgent/Emergent Care Planning Group, which includes hospital executives and public officials, the groups suggested a hearing be held at an accessible location in the evening, and publicized in advance, with notices in English and Spanish.

“We want our voices and concerns about care to be heard,” said Pamela Edwards, an organizer at the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, a grassroots organization that encourages its members to address policy issues that affect their health. “Many seniors believe Partners HealthCare is not listening to them and don’t care about us.”

The New Lynn Coalition, North Shore Labor Council, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, Neighbor to Neighbor, Massachusetts Education Fund, and the Senior Action Council are in agreement that the panel has lacked transparency. They said it’s been very hard to get information about the discussions since the sessions are closed to the public.  

“We are writing because it is critical that the Urgent/Emergent Care Planning Group share its findings and recommendations with Lynn as soon as possible by way of a public forum,” the letter said.

Last year, the state Department of Public Health approved a $180 million expansion of North Shore Medical Center (NSMC) that will close Union and move the beds to the new Salem campus in 2019. The medical facilities in Lynn and Salem are a part of Partners.

Dr. David J. Roberts, NSMC’s president, said the city’s only hospital will be shuttered in the fall of 2019 and sold. The sale could be sooner if the need for service continues to dwindle, he said.

While Roberts has pledged to maintain ER services in Lynn, it’s unclear where they would be housed.

“It would seem that events are accelerating faster than originally anticipated. Union Hospital patients, as well as 1199SEIU members and the Lynn community deserve to know what is being planned to provide for their emergent healthcare needs, on how emergency care will provided once Union Hospital closes,” according to the letter.

At its most recent meeting last month, the public and the press were barred from the working session at City Hall. At the time, Laura Fleming, a hospital spokeswoman, could not explain why the public was excluded.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy did not respond to a request for comment. State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) declined comment.

Fleming declined to be interviewed. In a statement, she defended the Urgent/Emergent Care Planning Group’s private  meetings.

Once the planning group has completed its preliminary review,  it will bring forward data and options for broader discussion and community input,” she wrote in an email.   Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

I am the best person for the job, McGee says

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
State Sen. Thomas McGee stands with his brother, Shawn, and former babysitter Mae DeLuca.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) launched his bid for mayor Friday night before more than 300 enthusiastic supporters at the Knights of Columbus.

“My name is Tom McGee and tonight I proudly kick off my campaign for mayor of Lynn,” he said. “I am running because I love our city and the values the city of Lynn represents.”

The 61-year-old senator will face incumbent Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, a Republican, who kicked off her campaign for a third term last month.

Consider the progress we’ve made, Kennedy says

McGee’s daughter, Katherine, 19, introduced her father.

“He never missed a softball game, a dance recital, a golf match or a swim meet and I know if I really needed him he would jump in his car and make the six-hour drive to Villanova,” she said. “One of the things I admire most about my dad is his love for Lynn. He has lived here his whole life and always showed Thomas and me all the wonderful qualities Lynn has. I don’t think it’s possible for his heart to hold more love for this city.”

McGee was elected to Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1994 to represent West Lynn and Nahant. After four terms, he won a seat in the Senate in 2002 in a district that includes Lynn, Lynnfield, Marblehead, Nahant, Saugus and Swampscott.

Lynn teacher joins the march

Michael O’Connor, a Lynn firefighter for 22 years, said he is a strong McGee backer.

“He’s been a lifelong friend,” he said.  “I think he’ll move the city in the right direction.”

Janet Dolan, a Nahant resident, said McGee has always represented the district, including Nahant, very well.

“He’s very visible, very open to help, if anyone is in difficulty I think he’s very reliable,” she said.

David Condon, chairman of the Massachusetts Motorcycle Association, said his group has been a longtime supporter of McGee.

“We’ve had a very good working relationship over the years and he will make a difference as mayor of Lynn,” he said.

McGee said this is a critical time for the city as it faces an enormous budget challenge.

“Our city is at a crossroads and the next four years will be critical in determining Lynn’s future,” he said. “Under current leadership, our city is faced with an emerging fiscal crisis that threatens public safety and erodes people’s confidence in Lynn’s ability to manage its own affairs and jeopardizes our potential for attracting new families and businesses. We need to harness all that Lynn has to offer.”

McGee said he’s the right person for the job.

“I believe I am the best person to lead our city at such a critical time,” he said. “I ask you to join me in working for the betterment of this city.”

In the race for cash, McGee is way ahead. In the most recent filing with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign Finance. McGee reported a balance of $69,170 while Kennedy had less than $13,000.


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

Entertainment, education at ‘Harrington Reads’

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Amanda Kennedy’s K-2 class looks on as Lynn Museum Executive Director Drew Russo reads “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle.

By STEVE KRAUSE

LYNN — There’s something unnerving and empowering standing in front of a room full of fifth-graders telling them about the joys of reading.

That would seem to be a conflict of emotions, but it’s true. It’s unnerving because you see all these faces, and all these people of different shapes and sizes and nationalities just waiting to hear the pearls of wisdom coming out of the mouth of a man upon whom they’ve never laid eyes. You can only hope you don’t disappoint.

And it’s empowering because children from one generation to the next don’t change very much. Their minds are like sponges. They absorb a tremendous amount and they retain it. They may all look at you with blank faces, but the wheels are turning inside.

It was into this maelstrom of humanity I walked Friday morning at the Harrington School. It was “Harrington Reads” day, in which people with a certain degree of visibility go into the classrooms and read to the students. The idea is to reinforce to them the value of reading, not only as entertainment but for education as well.

I got a fifth-grade class — a great age. And before we got down to it, I wanted to give them my view of why I think it’s so important to develop good reading habits. It’s because beyond entertainment or education, books provide a portal into the hearts and minds of their characters much better than television and movies. I asked how many of the fifth-graders understood what “portal” meant, and no one answered. Rather than tell them, I had them write it down and then told them to look it up in the dictionary. Perhaps I should have told them to Google it, but the subject of the day was books, not computers!

I was able to read them three books. The first was called “Horn for Louis,” and it was about legendary jazz trumpet player Louis Armstrong. In the book, young Louis, who hung around dance halls so he could listen to jazz, pines for a cornet hanging in a pawnshop window. He dreams of nothing more in life than to play that cornet.

Louis scrimps and saves to raise the $5 he needs to buy it, but just when he’s finally earned the money, his mother comes to him looking for some of it so she can give his sister a proper birthday party. Crushed, and almost certain he’ll never get that cornet, he gives his mother the money she needs.

In return, she gives him enough money to buy the cornet.

What was nice about reading this story to the kids in the class is that quite a few of them knew that Louis Armstrong sang the ever-popular “What a Wonderful World,” which means that could relate to the story a lot better.

I think it also resonated with them that I told them I was old enough to remember seeing Louis Armstrong on TV.

Haitian flag raised outside City Hall

Next, we tackled the moon landing in “The Moon over Star.” A little girl on a farm pretends she and her cousins are the ones speeding toward the moon in July 1969, and then watches the landing on TV with interest while her cynical, hardened grandfather scoffs at the notion of a space program in a time when so many people on this planet are needy.

But when she tells him she, too, wants to be an astronaut, he switches gears and tells her that it would really be a great honor to the family if she could achieve that dream.

Finally, it was time to learn about Ted Williams and the year he hit .406.

The book went into great detail about how Williams was his own taskmaster when it came to practicing hitting. He wanted to be known as the greatest hitter who ever lived, and knew hard work was the only way that was going to happen.

But the crux of the book is that going into the doubleheader on the last day of the season against the Philadelphia Athletics, Williams’ average stood at .39955. He could have sat out and technically been recognized as a .400 hitter (a little math exercise in the midst of all the reading).

Williams wanted none of that. He played the games, went 6-for-8, and ended up with his .406 average.

It was probably not intentional on the part of Carole Shutzer, the wonderful Harrington librarian who organizes this day, to have the three books present a unified theme. But they did. All three speak to dreams and how important they are to children; and of how important it is to work hard to achieve your dream. And in the case of the Armstrong book, there was the added attraction of being faced with a real difficult choice, and despite every inclination to make the wrong one, Louis made the right one.

There is always a large contingent of city officials who take part in “Harrington Reads” day, including Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, Sen. Thomas McGee, Reps. Brendan Crighton and Dan Cahill, City Councilor Brian LaPierre, Joe Gill of Cahill’s staff and North Shore Navigators, funeral director David J. Solimine, Item CEO Beth Bresnahan, Taso Nikolakopoulos of John’s Roast Beef, District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, former Lynn mayor Thomas Costin, Drew Russo of the Lynn Museum, Lynn attorney Charlie Gallo and Lynn Teachers Union official Brant Duncan.

Fox Channel 25 reporter Kerry Kavanaugh read to an assembly of children, and reinforced the theme — accidental or not — that it’s important to have dreams, to go after them, and, especially in her case, embrace all assignments even if it means moving around (a Medford native, she’s been in Montana, Iowa, Florida and Atlanta before coming to Boston).  

Best of all from my perspective, my son Andrew is a Boy Scout troop leader in Lynn, and Eagle Scout, and someone Carole Shutzer felt was worthy of joining us. So along with everything else, it was a father-son bonding experience. Not to mention the perfect way of giving back to all the people who made our lives what they are.


Steve Krause can be reached at skrause@itemlive.com.

Haitian flag raised outside City Hall

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

By MATT DEMIRS

Spenser Hasak

Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy addresses the crowd.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haitians from every generation attended the celebration.

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

Spenser Hasak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Beyond Walls neon art lighting on Wednesday

ITEM PHOTO BY JIM WILSON 
Lighting technician Brian Bourgeois completes wiring on one of the many neon art pieces that will be lit downtown.

LYNN — Wednesday night will be bright.

Outside the Prime Manufacturing Co. building, 545 Washington St., pieces of neon art will be lit as part of the Beyond Walls project.

Beyond Walls founder and executive director Al Wilson, speaking Tuesday with The Item, said this is an important step in the fundraising efforts.

Wednesday’s lighting will show that this is not just vision and a plan; it will show the vision is being implemented, he said.

“We are excited for this aspect of the project to be seen,” Wilson said “The vintage neon will illuminate the neighborhood at night, increase the walkability of downtown Lynn and help improve downtown for residents, businesses and visitors.”

Since March, the project has raised about $181,000 of its $255,000 goal. Reaching $50,000 on April 6 put Beyond Walls on track to receive a matching grant from Commonwealth Places, an effort between MassDevelopment and Patronicity.

Lynn police warn of latest phone scam

This leaves about $74,000. Wilson wants to see that amount raised by June 15; “Timing-wise, now’s the time (to donate),” he said.

Three pieces of neon art are already placed. It has yet to be determined where nine others will go.

The lighting on Washington Street will be attended by Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and state Sen. Thomas M. McGee. The art will be lit at 8 p.m., Wilson said.

Other elements of the Beyond Walls project include LED underpass lighting connecting Central Square and Washington Street; 10 murals reflecting the cultural makeup of Lynn; and a sculpture paying homage to the city’s industrial history.

On Saturday, Bent Water Brewery will host its second annual “Bent Water Blast Off.” It’s a free event, but a $5 donation is suggested to benefit the “totally awesome” project, their Facebook page says.

The Bent Water Blast Off will take place from 3-10 p.m. at its location, 180 Commercial St.

Visit https://www.beyond-walls.org/ to learn more about the project. Visit https://www.patronicity.com/lynn to donate.

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.

 

Meals tax could set table for a Planner

We wholeheartedly endorse the Lynn City Council’s decision to approve a .0075 percent local option meal tax.

The 10-1 vote on May 9 for the tax adds 75 cents to a $100 meal, and about 19 cents to a $25 meal. It would generate an annual estimated $700,000 in new revenue for the city.

Those additional tax dollars, in our view, should be dedicated and directed to supporting a new city Planning Department. Lynn desperately needs a creative, autonomous city planner who identifies opportunities to enhance the city and who can set a vision for the city.

Success stories in Salem and Somerville and, more recently, Saugus, where Town Manager Scott Crabtree spurred the creation of a two-person planning department, point to the need for independent planning in Lynn.

Dedicating meal tax revenue to the Planning Department will ensure the individual hired to serve as planner can act independently and hire competent assistants.

To their credit, City Councilors used common sense in discussing the meal tax against the backdrop of city financial problems. Councilor and state Rep. Dan Cahill pointed out Lynn residents already pay a meal tax when they dine in communities surrounding Lynn. Buzzy Barton and Peter Capano called the meals tax a way to avoid city layoffs and ensure public safety is funded. We invite them and Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi, the only councilor to vote against the meals tax, to evaluate the merits of using money generated by the tax to pay for a Planning Department.

Lynn’s time is now. The city has the tools and opportunities to help make development a reality downtown and on the city’s waterfront. Those tools include the local, state and federal resources making up the Lynn Economic Advancement Development Team and the expertise of MassDevelopment Fellow Joe Mulligan and downtown visionary Al Wilson, whose project is Beyond Walls.

Not having a planner doesn’t simply leave the city without a vision, it also leaves Lynn shortchanged when it comes to assigning a city point person who can engage residents in discussions on the direction Lynn should be going in.

Civic engagement is important. But a planner can also help the city stay the course as it sets planning priorities and takes stock periodically to assess progress in achieving those goals.

To her credit, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has acknowledged the need for a planner. But Kennedy has structured a job under the title of planner that is defined within the city’s existing economic development structure. That structure denies a planner the critical ingredient of  independence with a budget on par with other city departments.

We encourage Kennedy to not veto the council vote on the meals tax. She is quoted as saying a new tax is a bad idea in the wake of the voters’ March rejection of a debt exclusion to pay for new schools.

“To approve it is being tone deaf and not listening to what the voters clearly told us,” Kennedy said.

It is important, the mayor added, to show residents the city can live within its means. That is a sound and sober viewpoint and no one can fault the mayor for prudently managing the city. But we urge Kennedy to act boldly on hiring a planner. She should state in no uncertain terms that a planner can set a course for the city.

Kennedy will deserve applause if she declares her support for an autonomous planner and backs that support by dedicating the meals tax to a new Lynn Planning Department.

 

Work continues for Market Basket access

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Construction continues on the new Market Basket on Western Avenue.

LYNN — Work is underway to improve access around the new Market Basket under construction at the General Electric Factory of the Future site.

The $2 million project, funded by DeMoulas Super Markets Inc., the Tewksbury-based chain store, will reconstruct and upgrade Boston and Federal streets and Western Avenue.

It is intended to support the city’s Market Square revitalization, which includes the redevelopment of the 22-acre former GE site. Market Square will feature an 84,000 square foot state-of-the-art supermarket and 50,000 square feet of retail and office space.

Contaminated factory site up for sale

“We have been working on this project for three years and are excited that we are on schedule to open Aug. 1,” said James Cowdell, executive director of the city’s Economic Development and Industrial Corp., the city’s development bank.

The $25 million store is expected to employ 75 full-time employees and 400 part timers. Market Basket will join Shaw’s, Stop & Shop and PriceRite in the city.

Shuttered since 1988, the once state-of-the-art factory sat empty until Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy met with high-level GE executives to discuss redeveloping the parcel.

Charles Patsios, a Swampscott developer, bought the property from GE in 2013 for $4 million.


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

Push for 2nd charter school renewed in Lynn

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Frank DeVito still has to raise about $250,000 for the school to launch.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The prospect of the city’s second charter school gained traction this week thanks to funding from some big name donors.

While the Equity Lab Charter School has yet to receive state approval, the proposed alternative school received a $215,000 grant from the NewSchools Venture Fund. The California-based foundation boasts a group of wealthy benefactors, including Bill and Melinda Gates, known for Microsoft Corp., and Facebook’s Mark and Chan Zuckerberg, who vowed to fund educators who launch innovative public schools.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Frank DeVito, the school’s founder. “The money will make a huge difference in making this a full time effort, and help pay for staff and consultants to get the school up and running next year.”

The 5-12 school, which would start with 160 fifth and sixth graders, will eventually have 640 students. So far, there’s a waiting list of more than 150 families, DeVito said.

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

Last year, DeVito and his 22-member team of local educators was one of 50 finalists to win $10 million toward opening the new school in the XQ: Super School Project. Emerson Collective, chaired by Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs, sponsored the $50 million competition.

While DeVito and Equity were chosen among 700 teams from 45 states that submitted applications for new or redesigned high schools, the Lynn proposal lost.

But that hasn’t slowed DeVito. He said the NewSchools cash revitalized the effort to bring another charter school to the city.

Drug charges for Lynn man who ran

DeVito, a 52-year-old Lynn homeowner and father of two, said he is focused on finding space for the school. He has looked at the former St. Michael’s Church, school and rectory on Summer Street, but can’t ink a deal until his school receives approval from the state Department of Education (DOE). A decision is expected to be made in February. If he gets the green light, the school is expected to open in the fall of 2018.

If his proposal for a new school is accepted by the state, they will provide $800 per student or $128,000 to lease or purchase space. In addition, they would receive $2.1 million from the state or $13,223 per student who switch from the Lynn Public Schools to the charter.

DeVito, a former teacher at Chelsea High School, said he would still have to raise about $250,000 for the school to launch.

“The state really wants the school to open in Lynn,” he said. “They have been very supportive and have offered coaching in order for us to succeed.”

If it does get the go-ahead from DOE, there will be no welcome mat from the city.

While Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and the City Council have sparred over a number of issues this year, they are united in their fight against any new charter schools. They argue such schools take much needed cash from the public schools.

While proponents insist charter schools are public schools, Lynn’s elected officials say they don’t like the formula for funding because it takes more than $1 million from the regular school budget.

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


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

 

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.

 

       

 

City Council has new businesses on tap Tuesday

Tuesday’s City Council meeting in the Council Chamber includes a public hearing on a request by Rachel Bennett for Lightning Coffee Roasters, 271 Western Ave., to sell coffee beans and drinks on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi brought the request before the council for a public hearing.

Businesses requesting public hearings include Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen seeking a sign permit at 180 Boston St., and Pie and Pint at 23 Central Ave. requesting a sign permit. Ward 5 Councilor Dianna Chakoutis is bringing the hearing requests before the council.

Koula Kamarinos is requesting a public hearing on a request to replace an existing two-car garage at 84 Moulton St. with a three-car garage. Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano is bringing the request before the council.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is nominating Harry Janice to be assistant harbormaster with a term expiring in December, 2020.

There is a Verizon petition before the council Tuesday seeking to place approximately 150 feet of underground conduit in the vicinity of Greystone Park and Ocean Street. The request is forwarded to the council by Council President Darren Cyr.

New business requests before the council this week include a request for a public hearing on a home rule petition transferring custodial and maintenance employees to the School Department.

There is also a request by city Chief Financial Officer Peter Caron to discuss a meal tax with the council.

The meeting begins at 8 p.m., on the top floor of City Hall.

Signs of the times in May Day march

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Marchers move down Andrew Street.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — In what was described as the city’s biggest May Day rally in years, more than 200 protesters lined City Hall Square on Monday to support immigrant and workers rights.

As Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” blared over speakers, activists held signs that read: “Everybody is an Immigrant,” “Nobody is Illegal,” “Housing is a Human Right,” and “No to Gentrification.”

“We have an administration in Washington who does not treat us with respect,” said Maria Carrasco, a Lynn School Committeewoman. “Silence is not an option. We must demand respect with dignity. We are human beings who are here and we are staying here.”

The annual May Day celebration had its roots in Chicago in the late 19th century, as unions lobbied for fair working conditions, better wages, and the eight-hour work day with strikes and demonstrations nationwide. People from all backgrounds celebrated Lynn’s history as a home for immigrants and as a leader in the fight for dignity, respect and a living wage for workers.

Carrasco said without immigrants, many service industry jobs would go unfilled.

“Nobody will do the jobs that we do,” she said. “Nobody will clean hotels or work in restaurants if we don’t do it. At the same time, we must demand that employers respect us with good pay.”

Jeff Crosby, president of the North Shore Labor Council, told the crowd that today’s worker challenges are about fair wages and embracing immigrants.

“In Chicago in 1886 workers dreamed of justice and eight-hour day so they could have time for their families and church,” he said. “Today, workers dream of a $15 minimum wage and a city without hatred where everyone is welcome regardless of where they’re from. We dream of fair pay for our teachers who educate our kids. They should not have to compete with police and firefighters for crumbs.”

Bettencourt announces re-election bid

Among the marchers were dozens of Lynn teachers who protested the lack of a contract.

The three-year deal, which expired last summer, called for a two percent raise annually for the last three school years.

“We are celebrating our students and protesting the lack of progress in the negotiations,” said Brant Duncan, president of the Lynn Teachers Union.

He acknowledged that these are tough times for the city as Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has asked department heads to trim their budgets.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing different organizations in the city being pitted against each other,” Duncan said. “The city is obligated under law to meet the minimum spending requirements and we are very mindful that the city has reached agreement with other unions this year with raises of between 2 and 2½ percent.”

In February, the firefighters reached a $2.5 million deal that provides a retroactive 2 percent raise for each of fiscal years 2015 and 2016, a 2.5 percent hike for 2017, another 2 percent for 2018 and on June 30, 2018 they will collect another 1 percent.

Last year, the $2.2 million four-year police contract called for an 8 percent retroactive pay, a 1 percent boost for 2014, a 2 percent increase for 2015, 2016 and 2017 and a 1 percent raise for 2018.


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

‘Bullied’ ISD retiree seeks cash from city

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN —  A former Inspectional Services Department (ISD) employee is seeking $150,000 from the city, alleging she was forced into early retirement after being bullied by management, The Item has learned.

In a letter to Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy last month, Jane Webber wants her monthly retirement benefits increased from $1,031 to $2,030, or the one-time cash settlement. She retired last year as head clerk after nearly 15 years as a city employee.

“After being berated, mentally beaten down, harassed and bullied by ISD supervisors for many years, my client was forced to retire last summer at age 58,” according to the letter from MariElizabeth McKeon, a Clinton attorney representing Webber.

McKeon said that if Webber had been allowed to work until age 65, her monthly retirement payout would have been nearly $1,000 per month more.  If the mayor approves the request, it will cost the city about $300,000.

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In the letter, McKeon said the final straw in her client’s retirement came last August when Webber suffered a “severe anxiety attack.”

“In the midst of the attack, one of her supervisors, Michele Desmarais, informed Ms. Webber that if she left, she would be fired … Desmarais told Ms. Webber that she should go sit in her car for an hour and she would be fine.”

Absent a settlement, Webber said she may take her case to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and assert her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act because of alleged discrimination toward her age and hearing disability, the letter said.

McKeon said she has not received a response from the city and declined further comment. Webber did not return a call seeking comment.

Kennedy, ISD and James Lamanna, the city’s attorney declined comment.


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

 

Future of ER care at Union uncertain

ITEM FILE PHOTO 
The future of emergency care remains uncertain at the soon-to-close Union Hospital.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — No decisions have been made about the future of emergency care at Union Hospital after it closes in 2019.

Members of the Emergent/Urgent Care Planning Group, which includes hospital executives, public officials, and residents, met at City Hall on Monday in a two-hour meeting that was closed to the press and public.

Dr. David J. Roberts, president of the North Shore Medical Center (NSMC), said the meeting was one of many to determine the scope of emergency room services NSMC will provide in Lynn after Union shutters its campus.

“Our goal is to keep some form of emergency care, hopefully at the Union campus, but that will depend on who buys it,” he said.

It could be located in another Lynn location, he said.

Last year, the state Department of Public Health unanimously approved a $180 million expansion of NSMC that will close Union and move the beds to the new Salem campus in 2019. The medical facilities in Lynn and Salem are a part of Partners HealthCare. They recently posted the biggest annual operating loss in its 22-year history when it reported $108 million in losses on operations in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2016.

Lynn lays down the law for students

The panel has been discussing whether to provide full emergency room services or urgent care, Roberts said.

A complete ER accepts ambulances and all comers no matter how sick, embedded into a hospital that provides other services, such as surgery, he said. Urgent care is where patients go when they are not desperately ill, but have an acute condition that must be dealt with immediately.

“Having an emergency room absent all of the support services may not be the way to go,” Roberts said. “But this committee is evaluating all of this and no decision has been made.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, a member of the panel, said they are making progress toward consensus about what the future of health care in Lynn will look like.  

State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), who also serves on the committee, said these are ongoing meetings that discuss options for when the hospital closes.

When Roberts was asked why the meeting excluded the public, he referred the question to Laura Fleming, a hospital spokeswoman.

“These sessions have always been closed to the public,” she said. “I don’t know why and I don’t have a well thought out answer. No one has ever asked me that question before.”


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

 

Lynn lays down the law for students

ITEM PHOTO BY THOR JOURGENSEN
Juvenile Court Chief Justice Amy L. Nechtem welcomes more than 50 students and educators.

By THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Students from three Lynn schools got a detailed look at the judicial system Monday during annual Law Day events held in several locations.

Founded nationally by President Eisenhower in 1958 and marked annually in Lynn Juvenile Court for 15 years, Law Day shows students how the courts work and engages them in discussions on the law and what it means in their lives.

“Hopefully, they walk out of Juvenile Court saying, ‘This is somewhere I might want to work,’” said Associate Justice Garrett J. McManus.

Juvenile Court Chief Justice Amy L. Nechtem welcomed students from three local high schools — English, St. Mary’s and Fecteau-Leary — to the Essex County Juvenile Court session on Sutton Street and urged them to contemplate the liberties protected by laws in the United States.

“These liberties must be guarded,” Nechtem reminded the students.

Law Day’s value

Retired Chief Justice Michael F. Edgerton focused his remarks on Law Day 2017’s topic — The 14th Amendment and how it transformed American democracy.

With its roots in post-Civil War years, the amendment laid out legal standards of due process and equal protection that became the battleground for landmark cases initially institutionalizing and, later, striking down segregation and laws upholding separate but equal racial barriers.

“The Supreme Court has relied on the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. It provides tangible protection against state and local laws that discriminate,” Edgerton said.

Lectures on the law were only part of Law Day. Students submitted essays and Fecteau-Leary students presented Law Day organizers with the seventh Law Day mural they created featuring a three-dimensional design.

Law Day participants, including Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, state Sen. Thomas M. McGee, state Rep. Dan Cahill and School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham,  participated in other Law Day events Monday scheduled at Classical High School and Connery Elementary School.

Hands-on education at Connery tree planting

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Hoda Britel is framed by one of the two new trees.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Arbor Day tree planting at Connery Elementary School kicked off Lynn’s participation in the Greening the Gateway Cities Program.

The program is administered by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The program targets the state’s gateway cities, including Lynn, or more specifically a section of the downtown and West Lynn, by providing free trees to residents and other partners.

Two dogwood trees were planted during the Arbor Day celebration at Connery School on Thursday, helped along by eager students. The school is within the area benefited by the program.

Fifth grader Ariana Camilo said she was looking forward to the trees growing nice and strong.

“I like it because it helps me breathe,” Camilo said.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy joined in the tree planting.

“What this means to me is it’s a great chance to show these kids the importance that trees play in our lives, in all of our lives,” Kennedy said. “It gives them a chance to really care for and nurture a growing, living thing, and it gives them pride to be able to look back in many years from now and say: I helped to make that tree the beautiful thing that it has become.”

School deputy superintendent Patrick Tutwiler said the excitement the planting generated underscores how hands-on environmental studies is every bit as important as reading, writing and arithmetic.

“Arbor Day is about 140 year tradition,” Tutwiler said. “They’re taking part in history.”

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The grant Lynn received through the Department of Conservation and Recreation for the program totals $1.5 million over three years, according to Andrew Hall, city Department of Public Works commissioner. During that time frame, he said 2,400 trees will be planted during fall and spring.

“The whole point of this is to increase tree canopy in areas where there is a marked lack of tree canopy,” said Hall.

The environmental and energy-efficiency initiative is designed to reduce household energy by planting trees ranging from six to 10-feet tall with the goal of adding 5 to 10 percent of tree canopy cover in targeted neighborhoods. Trees are planted by local crews and those from DCR.

The additional tree canopy is meant to have a larger benefit over an entire neighborhood by lowering wind speeds and temperature, in addition to providing direct shading.

The majority of trees planted through the program will be on private property. Those living in the targeted area can request trees through the DCR. A property visit will be scheduled by the agency to determine the best location for the trees. Residents and other partners must agree to a two-year watering program to ensure the trees’ survival.

The area in Lynn that will be part of the program includes Washington Street from the Lynnway to Western Avenue; Boston Street from Western Avenue to Summer Street; Summer Street from Boston to Western Avenue; Minot Street from Western to Bennett Street; Bennett Street to Commercial Street; and the Lynnway from Commercial to Washington.

The program targets areas with a small tree canopy, older housing stock, higher wind speeds and a larger rental population.

“We are very excited to be part of the Greening the Gateway Cities Program,” Kennedy said in a separate statement. “To be able to save energy while beautifying neighborhoods in the city is a win-win.”


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

 

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.

 

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.

 

Time to prioritize in Lynn

It’s been a tough two months for city Police Chief Michael Mageary who has seen his officers and detectives respond to four homicides, including two deadly daylight shootings. To be sure, the four incidents were unrelated and some arrests have been made, with the suspect in the Central Square shooting on Easter still at large.

With recent violence in mind, City Councilors invited Mageary and Fire Chief James McDonald to council committee meetings on Tuesday to discuss “recent public safety issues.” It is not surprising the exchange between the elected officials and the public safety leaders focused on spending.

Mageary said the Police Department has 181 officers today compared to 193 in 2010. McDonald, a career public safety officer like Mageary, said Lynn’s eight aging fire stations need to be replaced.

In a perfect world, public safety gets top priority and somehow tax dollars pay to put a police officer on every corner and a firehouse in every neighborhood. That is not reality and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy made it clear she is struggling to make sure the city complies with burdensome state school spending formulas even as she tries to spend more money on police and fire departments.

There was a time 25 years ago when the federal government opened the spending spigot and sent a flood of money into Lynn and other cities. The money paid for police officers and firefighters and innovative policing programs that put cops on bicycles and on foot in neighborhoods.

Immigrant-worker march set for Monday

In the last 15 years, public safety departments in communities across the state have turned to grant money to hire new officers and firefighters. The problem with grants is that communities eventually have to incorporate the hires into their salary budgets once the grant money runs out.

Putting a cop on every corner could not have guaranteed a murder-free March and April in Lynn. But a heightened sense of police protection helps residents feel they are safe and gives them more opportunities to work with police to point out potential problems, including properties where drug dealing might be taking place, or playgrounds where gangs may be trying to stake out turf.

Mageary knows all about police work and he has seen budget shortfalls come and go during his career. He knows that some of the most effective police work often takes place behind the scenes and out of public view. Coordinated efforts to crack down on drug dealers and gangs can take months to plan with multiple law enforcement agencies involved.

Efforts to pull guns off streets and reduce violence also involve agencies working in many different communities and, sometimes, across state lines to get results.

It is often said that spending less means working smarter. Kennedy, Mageary, McDonald and the council should meet often during the next several months and develop a city budget for the spending year that starts on July 1 filled with strategies for addressing Lynn’s public safety priorities.

Mother to mayor: Your comment was hurtful

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Muriel Clement enters Zion Baptist Church for a remembrance ceremony April 19.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The mother of a shooting victim wants an apology from Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy.

The mayor recently said the recent rash of violence in the city was committed by people who knew each other.

“Her comment was so hurtful,” said Muriel Clement. “My son has never been arrested or involved in gangs or drugs; he has always been an outstanding citizen. He was sheltered and protected by his family and his church community; he didn’t know the person who pulled the trigger.”

Lenardo “Lenny” Clement, 46, was fatally shot Easter Sunday on Exchange Street. His friend, Prince Belin, 41, was struck by bullets moments later.

The two men and Belin’s fiancee were walking downtown following services at the Zion Baptist Church when they were approached by a man driving a Chrysler. The alleged shooter, later identified by police as William A. Cash, had stopped in the crosswalk and threatened them before shots rang out. Belin is recovering from bullet wounds. Police are still hunting for Cash.

In an interview with The Item about the five homicides so far this year — there were four in all of 2016 —  Kennedy said, “It’s been terrible, but these are not random acts of violence … people in our community should not worry about their safety because these victims and perpetrators are known to one another.”

Davin Clement, Lenny’s brother, said the mayor has yet to reach out to the family to offer condolences or apologize for her remarks.

The Clements say the controversy has been a distraction from letting people know who Lenny was.

“My brother never saw the bad in people,” Davin Clement said. “He took people in even when I didn’t agree with the people he let into his life.”

Violent acts terrible but not random, mayor says

Blind since the age of 2, Lenny was not supposed to live, his doctors told the family.

“But he continued to grow, got stronger, confident and more hopeful about the future,” Muriel Clement said. “Len truly was a miracle child.”

Trevor Clement, Lenny’s father, said he’s brokenhearted over the loss of his son.

“I will miss his love,” he said.  

Muriel Clement said despite his lack of vision, Lenny managed to roller skate and ride his bike all over Lynn.

“He fought against his many challenges and obstacles and finally reached an independent place,” she said. “And on Easter, it was all taken away from him.”

Kennedy stood behind her words that the violence was not random.

“I wanted to reassure the public that the city of Lynn is safe; this is not some random criminal going around,” she said. “I have written a letter to Muriel and we are reaching out to get an appointment to see the family.”

The family has launched a $20,000 GoFundMe campaign to help pay for Lenny’s final arrangements. So far, the effort has raised $900. To donate go to: https://www.gofundme.com/clementvictimfund.


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

Police and fire chiefs ask for more resources

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN —  The city’s police and fire chiefs sounded the alarm Tuesday night about the budget crunch that is impacting public safety.

“The police and fire departments have been ignored money-wise for years,” said Fire Chief James McDonald.

“The schools are not the only city department experiencing growth, what about us? We are doing what we can with less, but it’s not safe.”

Police Chief Michael Mageary said his department is operating with 181 officers, down from the peak of about 193 in 2010. Based on next’s year’s budget that include contractual obligations for raises, he said they will continue to move in that direction.

“We’ve already had to absorb $1 million worth of cuts, reduced many of our preventive programs, cut our investigative services to the bone and reduced patrol officers to maintain our budget,” he said. “There’s no money to be found. Given retirements coming up this year, we could be down 24 officers and that’s significant.”

The chiefs appeared before the City Council’s Public Safety and Public Health Committee.

McDonald said the cuts are not just impacting firefighters. He said Lynn’s eight fire stations need work and some must be replaced. The most recent fire station was built in 1968 and the oldest was constructed in 1898, he said.

“Any repairs or improvements that have been made in the stations, like fixing leaky roofs, have been done by the firefighters on their own dime,” he said.

Mother to mayor: Your comment was hurtful

McDonald said he has sent letters to Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer, about the state of the fire stations, and has not received a response.  

“It’s time for them to get off their ass and do the right thing,” McDonald said. “Someone has to say we can’t fix the city’s financial troubles by taking from public safety.”

In response, Kennedy said she has been urging lawmakers to change the rules on Beacon Hill about school spending to allow more money to go to police and fire.

“Every department head in the city has know for years that I have been asking for support to put an effort together to get the net school spending formula changes because it’s inequitable in the way it impacts cities like Lynn that have a growing school population,” she said. “This year, I am required by law to commit another $3.4 million to the schools. I can’t spend it on any other department. It is beyond my ability to give more money to public safety.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com

 

A city of two tales

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Hoana Cortez and Robert Miller stand April 17 at a vigil for the two men shot on Exchange Street.

To paraphrase Dickens, it was the best of times and the worst of times in Lynn this week.

The worst was first. An Easter Sunday shooting in Central Square that left one dead and another hospitalized.

Then came the best. Bookended by a Monday night vigil at the shooting site and Thursday night’s gathering at Zion Baptist Church to show solidarity for Prince Belin and remember the late Leonardo Clement, four unrelated events took place simultaneously Tuesday:

Friends of the late Wendy Meninno Hayes gathered to remember a woman who defined her life with charity and friendship; the city Humans Rights Commission hosted a City Hall forum entitled, “Focus on Asian Americans;” the committee behind the successful April 6 kickoff of “Beyond Walls” met to plan the next steps for a downtown revitalization effort that envisions murals and classic neon signs lighting up the city’s center by July; while experts who make a living out of reimagining cities converged on the Lynn Museum and let their imaginations roam free in the “Visions for Lynn” discussion.

One night in Lynn.

Perhaps the most startling was the Visions discussion. Designers and academics let their minds wander on a long leash and imagined the city’s waterfront becoming a sort of futuristic Venice with canals. They conceived a pedestrian-friendly wastewater treatment plant, the Lynnway Learning Lab — a futuristic high school with rooftop gardens — and a public safety facility doubling as a community gathering place.

Visions and Beyond Walls demonstrate the imagination that is the fuel propelling a new vision for downtown.

Beyond Walls hits $50K goal at fundraiser

All of this might sound like so much idle speculation by academics and hopeful residents — until state Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash’s perspective is factored into the equation.

Commenting in the Boston Globe’s Sunday Magazine on April 16, Ash called Lynn one of those “gritty blue-collar North Shore communities that are poised to move up a notch or two or three.”

Ash’s comments merit close examination, especially when they are spotlighted against the backdrop of Beyond Walls and Visions.

Lynn could be one of the ‘top spots to live’

The former Chelsea city manager knows what it takes to revive a city. As the state’s top development chief, Ash joined Gov. Charlie Baker, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, Mayor Judy Flanagan Kennedy, Lynn’s state delegation and city development officials in creating the LEAD (Lynn Economic Advancement Development) team in November, 2015, to bring federal, state, and local resources to bear on revitalizing Lynn.

His remarks to the Globe are proof positive he feels that commitment is ready to pay off.

By accenting all that is positive about their city, Lynn residents are drawing a map for success and they are narrowing the focus on the city’s problems. Lighting downtown and adorning it with murals and sculpture offers an opportunity to step back and ask, “OK, what needs to get fixed downtown?”

The answer may come in the form of public safety proposals, revamped zoning ideas or other innovations rivaling the ideas offered by the academics who gathered on Tuesday at the Lynn Museum.

During her life, Wendy Hayes helped provide the answer through the selfless charity she showed Lynn residents. A Saugus native with a brilliant smile who died last August, her legacy and memory lives on with friends who knew her as the co-owner with her husband, Rolly, of Rolly’s Tavern on the Square.  

Lynn’s diversity can also provide the answer. More than 10 percent of people who live in the city are of Vietnamese, Khmer and Laotian descent. They built businesses, bought homes and Tuesday’s commission meeting is a first step to giving them the chance to contribute positive ideas.

The great news about positive ideas is that they spur imaginations and generate additional ideas. The energy that filled downtown and the city this week is proof that only imagination defines the realm of possibility for Lynn.

Violent acts terrible but not random, mayor says

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Lynn police close off Exchange Street while they investigate the scene of a double shooting April 16.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Despite the recent rash of violence in the city, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said Lynn is safe.

“It’s been terrible,” she said. “But these are not random acts of violence.”

Kennedy assured residents that police are working to solve these crimes and city dwellers should not be fearful.

“People in our community should not worry about their safety because these victims and perpetrators are known to one another. One may be attributed to road rage.”

The most recent incident occurred on Easter Sunday when two men were shot in front of the LynnArts building, leaving one dead and the second hospitalized.  The man killed in Sunday afternoon’s double shooting in Central Square has been identified as Leonardo Clement, 46, of Lynn.

Rev. to shooter: You came to the wrong place

Also this month, two men were charged with raping and beating a man, leaving the victim critically injured. The Lynn resident underwent surgery for his injuries at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Lynn residents Darrin Stephens, 50, and John Michelin, 31, were charged with aggravated rape and assault and battery with a baseball bat in a Chase Street apartment, police said.

Documents detail scene of sexual attack

Last month, a New Hampshire man was charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a 24-year-old pizza deliveryman. Brian Brito, 21, of Manchester, N.H., pleaded not guilty to murder during his arraignment at Lynn District Court. Brito is accused of killing Mohammadreza Sina Zangiband, an employee of Atha’s Famous Roast Beef.

Police say road rage may have spurred shooting

Also in March, Tomas Barillas, 20, of Lynn, was held without bail following his arraignment on a murder charge in connection a stabbing death of Jason Arias-Amador, 20, of Boston.

Evidence seized from murder suspect’s phone

On Monday night, a community vigil was organized by Lynn Museum/LynnArts where residents lit candles for the victims and stood against violence.


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

 

Consider the progress we’ve made, Kennedy says

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Donna Coppola, left, and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy have a word during Kennedy’s re-election kickoff.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy kicked off her campaign for a third term Wednesday night at a crowded fundraiser in the Porthole Restaurant.

Kennedy, a Republican, will face state Sen. Thomas McGee in what is expected to be a hotly contested race.  Last month the Lynn Democrat, who has served in the state Senate since 2002, announced his intention to seek the corner office.  

In mentioning McGee in her remarks, Kennedy said the two of them have been in public life for more than two decades and each of them have records that should be scrutinized.

“I hope all of you will base your vote in this election, not on personalities, not on political parties, not on family connections, but on who has done the most to bring improvements to our great city,” she said.

Kennedy became mayor in 2009 when she beat Mayor Edward “Chip” Clancy by 27 votes of the more than 16,000 ballots cast. In 2013, she bested Timothy Phelan by a 59 to 41 percent margin.

The mayor reminded the crowd what Lynn was like in 2010, the year she took office. She said Sluice, Flax and Goldfish ponds were infested with invasive weeds, several parks lacked lights for night games, there were few options for seniors to save on their real estate taxes, the General Electric Factory of the Future site had been vacant for more than 10 years, the Thurgood Marshall Middle School was in need of replacing, the Lynn Auditorium had just three shows a year, the downtown was filled with litter, and if teens wanted a summer job, they needed help from an elected official.

“Today, the ponds are clean, Barry Park and Wyoma Baseball Field have lights, there’s a nightly street sweeping schedule in the downtown, we implemented a way for income-eligible seniors to work off $600 from their property tax bills, there’s a lottery for summer jobs, the Lynn Auditorium is air conditioned and booked, the Factory of the Future is the new home for Market Basket, and we built a new middle school,” she said. “I ask for your support as we continue this progress for the next four years.”

I think I can make a difference, McGee says

The event attracted many of the city’s elected officials and candidates for office, as well as supporters.

Elaine Letowski, an insurance writer who moved to Lynn in 2003, said she attended the event because she strongly backs Kennedy.

“She’s good for our city, she says no when you have to say no,” she said. “We don’t have enough money for everything. She’s working on the budget, makes good decisions, keeps our taxes down, and is making Lynn a better place to live.”

Eileen Spencer, a real estate broker at Annmarie Jonah Realtors, said Kennedy has helped revitalize the downtown.

“Judy has done a phenomenal job for the city,” she said. “What I like most of all is what’s she’s done to improve the Lynn Auditorium and that is bringing business to the downtown.”

The mayor’s fundraiser comes one day after a team of consultants told officials that without corrective action, the city’s budget is projected to have an $8.6 million deficit in 2017 and in each of the next five years.

The PFM Group, based out of Philadelphia, provided a grim prescription to City Hall: No raises for city employees, freeze hiring, contract EMS services to a private company, and eliminate 35 city jobs.

Kennedy did not ignore the city’s financial troubles in her speech.

“I want to be real, not everything is rosy and, of course, we have some difficulties, such as balancing the budget,” she said. “But I’ve been quietly looking to officials at the federal level … and I expect to return to Washington in the coming months to meet with the new Trump administration to see what I can do for my city.”


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

 

Survey: Lynn should confront finance issues

By THOMAS GRILLO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A day for optimism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

‘No one deserves to be sexually assaulted’

By THOMAS GRILLO

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

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

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

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

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

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

High school students sample life at NSCC

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

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

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


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

Kennedy expected to announce third run

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Mayor Judith Flanagan is pictured in this March file photo.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, who is expected to announce her candidacy for a third term next Wednesday night, can expect a spirited campaign this year with the entry of state Sen. Thomas McGee.

The 61-year-old Lynn Democrat declared his intention last month. Without mentioning the Republican mayor by name, McGee said he will make a difference for the city.

James Smith, a Boston attorney who served as a Lynn state representative, said it will be a close race.

“She is not perceived as a big spender and taxes are relatively affordable,” he said. “But the mayor has a very strong challenger in McGee. He’s not your average opponent. He has built up lots of loyalty. This is a very good race.”

If the election were held today, Smith said it would be a toss-up.

“The shelf life of a Lynn mayor can be very short, but I’m not sure hers is over,” he said. “She doesn’t have huge negatives, which mayors tend to build up because it’s the nature of the job. You can’t please everybody and sometimes you can’t please anybody. It’s a very tough job.”

Weighing in on possible Kennedy v. McGee race

Former Mayor Edward J. “Chip” Clancy Jr., who lost to Kennedy in 2009 by fewer than three dozen votes out of more than 16,000 cast, said he’d put his money on McGee.

“I think McGee, the Democrat wins,” he said. “Look at the referendum on building two new schools that lost; all the no-voters will turn out against her.”

Former Mayor Albert DiVirgilio said it’s too soon to handicap the race.  

“Competition is great and that’s what’s missing in this country,” he said.


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

 

Protect-Preserve needs to produce

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Don Castle motions at the “no-vote” victory party in this March file photo.

The founder of the “no new schools” movement pledged following the March 21 referendum vote to reach out and work with school officials.

Almost three weeks have passed and that conversation between Donald Castle and the officials he wants to speak with has yet to take place.

Mr. Castle and his Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove campaign defeated the city’s request to fund an $188.5 million plan for a middle school on Parkland Avenue and a second one on McManus Field.

Give Mr. Castle credit; he tapped into voter anger over taxes and tallied a 64 percent to 36 percent win.

He told The Item’s editorial board before the March 21 special election that he opposed construction of the Parkland Avenue school because the city’s forefathers wanted the 44-acre site to be reserved to expand the Pine Grove Cemetery.

He argued that the parcel is too close to Breeds Pond Reservoir, the buildings were too expensive, and the process failed to be inclusive.

Insisting his group is not anti-education or anti-new schools, Mr. Castle said he would reach out to city officials after the school vote and say, “We want to work with you.”

He kept up that refrain the day after the election, saying, “I extended an olive branch to the mayor and the committee to pick another site.”

Schools out in Lynn

Mr. Castle and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, a school construction supporter, each say they made post-election efforts to reach out and meet, but missed each other’s post-election calls. Castle got a chance to state his case last week during the Pickering Middle School Building Committee meeting. Kennedy made a motion to suspend the rules and allow Mr. Castle to speak.

He declined.

“It was a bag job,” he said following the meeting, “They wanted to pick a fight with me, I’m not going to get into an argument with the superintendent that would make me look dumb. The proponents never sat down with us or called us once. I feel bad for the kids, but now they want to talk to us in the 11th hour. No thanks.”

Sorry, Mr. Castle, you can’t have it both ways. Protect-Preserve won a stunning election victory. But the middle-school enrollment tidal wave threat still looms.

Maybe Mr. Castle wants to hold on to that no new-schools anger and see if it converts into a possible City Council bid.

Maybe he got tongue tied when the opportunity came to actually present city decision makers with his school construction suggestions.

Or maybe it’s time for Mr. Castle and Protect-Preserve to make good on his pre-election statement and offer specific and positive ideas for solving the city’s school space crunch.

Unless they never had any ideas to begin with.

School spending ‘thorn in our side,’ mayor says

By THOMAS GRILLO

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harbormaster files lawsuit to save job

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

Lynn fire stations burned by budget cuts

ITEM PHOTO BY JIM WILSON
A woman passes by the front entrance to the Hollingsworth Street station.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN For the first time since the city settled the firefighters’ contract, several stations have temporarily gone dark because of budget constraints and more cuts are expected.

On Monday, Engine 1 on Hollingsworth Street in the Highlands neighborhood was shuttered, Ladder 4 in the Broadway station was out of service Saturday, while the safety officer’s post at the Fayette Street station went unmanned Sunday night.

“When anything is out of service the city is not as adequately protected as if everything was in service,” said William Murray, deputy chief. “But it all comes down to money. The only easy way to save cash is to take engines out of service.”

This is the first of what could be many brownouts. Starting today, the department expects to shutter two shifts per day at least until June 30, the end of the fiscal year, according to Chief James McDonald.

The Fire Department must cut $1.3 million from the department’s $16.6 million payroll. One way to do that, without laying off a firefighter, is to trim the overtime budget, Murray said.

Swampscott zones in on housing

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the brownouts stem from the firefighter’s $2.2 million arbitration award to fund retroactive raises and increased pay for this year.

“The money had to come from somewhere,” she said. “We transferred a lot of money from other accounts, but some of the money must come from overtime accounts to keep our budget in shape for the remaining three months of this fiscal year.”

The $2.5 million deal was settled in February by the Joint Labor-Management Committee, a quasi-public agency that negotiates collective bargaining disputes between municipalities and public employees. Under the terms of the agreement, the firefighters will receive a retroactive 2 percent raise for each of fiscal years 2015 and 2016, a 2.5 percent hike for 2017, another 2 percent for 2018 and on June 30, 2018 they will collect another 1 percent.

Ward 4 City Councilor Richard Colucci said the city has to find some way to pay for fire protection.

“It’s devastating,” he said. “It’s the only fire truck in the Highlands and it’s never been closed in recent memory. I plan to discuss this with the chief.”  


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

 

Lynn stands tall for Vietnam veterans

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Vietnam veterans Bud Klasner, Marty Robichaud, and Ross Gilchrisc watch as Walter Gutherie accepts an award.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — Forty-four years after the last United States combat troops departed Vietnam, a small crowd gathered at City Hall to honor about two dozen local Vietnam War veterans.

“I get misty-eyed,” said Marty Robichaud, who served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam for a year. “Vietnam vets were not treated well. We were treated like crap. It was a lousy war, but hate the war, not the warrior.”

He was sent to war to be a truck driver in transportation convoys but five months later, the then-21-year-old became a gunner. Robichaud is a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America, a national nonprofit corporation that works to promote and support a full range of issues important to all veterans and change the public perception of Vietnam veterans.

City Councilor Peter Capano read a proclamation from Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, dubbing Wednesday Vietnam Veterans’ Day in the city of Lynn.

“As we walk around today, let us try to remember the freedoms we have in this country  whether it’s the freedom of religion, freedom of the press — they don’t come without a price,” said Capano.

Setting an example in Revere

Mike Sweeney, director of the Lynn Veterans’ Council, read the names of fallen military members, followed by a moment of silence.

“Reading those names every year, like Peter (Capano) said, freedom isn’t free. That’s what he means,” said Sweeney. “This audience, many of them know these names.”

Sue Ann Wood is the Gold Star mom of Lcpl. Mathew Puckett, who was killed in action while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq on Sept. 13, 2004.

“This is important to me,” said Wood. “I have so many friends who are Vietnam vets. If they can’t be here, I want to be here for them.”

Veterans from the Essex County Detachment fired a 21-gun salute from the front steps of City Hall. Cpl. Lee Coddens, a Marine Corps veteran, played taps on the bugle.


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

Schools out for the time being in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is pictured at a discussion on schools.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — No new schools will be built in the city anytime soon.

That was the decision of a city panel Tuesday that orchestrated a plan for construction of two middle schools to ease overcrowding and replace a dilapidated facility.

Following last Tuesday’s special election where voters resoundingly rejected a request to fund an $188.5 million plan for a school on Parkland Avenue and a second one on McManus Field, the Pickering School Building Committee withdrew its application for state funding.

In addition to taking itself out of consideration for funds, Lynn Stapleton, the city’s project manager for the school proposal, said Lynn had a number of options. They included a plan to split the project into two and build one school first and then a second; build one school and renovate the Pickering Middle School; or build one school and use Pickering as an elementary school.

But the panel seemed in no mood to consider them.

Before the vote to end the city’s bid for school dollars, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy invited Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, the grassroots organization that campaigned against the schools, to speak to the committee. The mayor said he had an alternative plan. But he declined.

School Committeewoman Donna Coppola voiced concern about where new students would be placed.

“We have kids coming in that will not have seats,” she said.

Edward Calnan said the committee did their job and despite the vote against the schools, the members should be proud of the work they did.

“We were told we needed to provide space for 1,600 students and that’s what we did,” he said. “We did an exhaustive search for sites in the city and came up with the best ones that were the least expensive to make the project viable.”

Off and running in Lynn

Kennedy said it’s clear the voters have no appetite for more taxes and she will honor their wishes.

“The people spoke loud and clear,” she said. “The problem was the price tag and I’m just ready to drop the whole thing. They say insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results. That’s what we would be doing if we did anything but drop it.”

With that, the 16-member group voted unanimously to tell the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the  quasi-independent government authority created to help pay for the construction of public schools, that Lynn won’t be seeking funds.

At the close of the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham choked back tears as she expressed her disappointment in the failure of the vote for the new schools.

“Our new Thurgood Marshall Middle School is a model for the entire state and I was hoping that just viewing that could carry an equalized opportunity for all our students,” she said. “But it was not to be.” 

In an interview following the meeting, Castle defended his position not to speak to the committee.

“It was a bag job,” he said. “They wanted to pick a fight with me, I’m not going to get into an argument with the superintendent that would make me look dumb. The proponents never sat down with us or called us once. I feel bad for the kids, but now they want to talk to us in the 11th hour. No thanks.”


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

Mayor: All departments should be level funded

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Chief financial officer Peter Caron appeared before the City Council’s Budget Committee Tuesday night to explain how the city found itself $8 million in the hole.

“The fiscal year 2017 budget was about $4 million out of balance because expenditures exceeded projected revenues,” he said. “That budget did not reflect pay raises. So we started the fiscal year 2018 budget with a structural deficit in that expenditures exceeded revenues.”

The bottom line, he said, was that to fully fund all city positions with raises would be a 7 to 8.5 percent increase in payroll line items.

“We are not in a position to do that,” Caron said. “So, the mayor has asked all departments be level funded. We are encouraging managers to be creative and we’re looking for suggestions. Once we get those budgets, we’ll see how the department heads will address their shortfalls.”

Hallmark Health: We’ll ‘work with’ Malden

Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi wanted to know why Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy failed to anticipate the pay hikes and figure out how to pay for them.

Earlier this year, firefighters won a new four-year contract with a 9.5 percent raise, costing $2.5 million. Last summer, the police received $2.2 million over four years.

“These raises were anticipated,” Lozzi said. “When you settle a contract, it calls for pay raises in a certain time frame with retroactive pay.”

Lozzi asked what assurances the city has if department heads overspend and ask for supplemental cash later.

Caron said, “There is no additional money for supplement budgets.”


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

Off and running in Lynn

PHOTO BY MARK LORENZ
State Sen. Thomas McGee, with his wife Maria, signs his nomination papers as election coordinator Mary Jules watches.

State Sen. Thomas M. McGee’s decision to take out nomination papers Monday and declare his candidacy for mayor kicks off the 2017 municipal election season in Lynn.

It would be easy to call the matchup between Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and McGee a Lynn mayors race for the ages. But doing so might prompt Kennedy to point out how she essentially ran a write-in campaign in 2009 to defeat two-term mayor Edward J. Clancy Jr.

She beat Clancy only after a recount, but Kennedy received electoral vindication in 2013 by soundly trouncing former City Council President Timothy Phelan, a popular councilor who made the Council Chamber a stage for his agenda during the 2013 campaign season.

The late Patrick J. McManus also did his share to make Lynn political history. In his first run for mayor, McManus took on not only Mayor Albert V. DiVirgilio, but another popular local political figure, John L. O’Brien Jr.  McManus won the election and the only political hiccup he faced during his 10 years as mayor came when he finished second in the 1993 preliminary election behind former Councilor Joseph Scanlon III. McManus went on to beat Scanlon in the final.

McGee hasn’t run a tough, knock-down campaign since 2002 when he won election to succeed Clancy in the Senate. But the 61-year-old Pine Hill resident combines a quiet deliberative manner with an outspoken passion for the the city of Lynn. McGee will surround himself in the coming weeks with smart, experienced campaigners.

Weighing in on possible Kennedy v. McGee race

Like Kennedy, he supported the failed proposal to build two new local middle schools. But McGee and Kennedy kept fairly quiet in the weeks leading up to the March 21 special election that saw the school proposal and a proposed property tax debt exclusion get squashed by the voters.

Both candidates will examine the school vote with a practiced eye and calculate its political ramifications. The strong “no” vote sent a message about city finances and voter anger over a city demand for additional taxes to build new schools.

It also prompted a negative reaction to the city’s newest arrivals. More than one “no” voter took to social media to oppose building new schools and provide educational opportunities for immigrants. Kennedy and McGee are both above this sort of rhetoric, but that does not mean they will not be asked to address it during the mayoral campaign.

McGee in his first comments as candidate for mayor took the smart approach in analyzing the school vote. Now is the time, he said, for the city to “step back and take a deep breath” and then begin a dialogue over “what new schools mean to the community.”

Kennedy, meanwhile, is wrestling with the realities of what it means to be mayor by asking city department heads to make across-the-board cuts.

City finances, schools and a host of other issues, including development, will be on the agenda when McGee and Kennedy face off in campaign debates. Long before the first debate is scheduled, people who like both candidates and have relationships with them will have to pick someone to support or declare themselves neutral. Let the campaign begin.

Weighing in on possible Kennedy v. McGee race

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

By THOMAS GRILLO

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

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

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

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

Still, LaPierre stopped short of an endorsement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think I can make a difference, McGee says

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It would be a close race,” he said.

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

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


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

I think I can make a difference, McGee says

PHOTO BY MARK LORENZ
Election coordinator Mary Jules greets state Sen. Thomas McGee and his wife, Maria, prior to McGee pulling his nomination papers.

By THOMAS GRILLO and THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — The city’s worst kept secret that state Sen. Thomas McGee would seek the corner office became official Monday, when the Lynn Democrat pulled his nomination papers from the City Clerk’s office.

“I am excited to … start a discussion on where we can go and build a vision,” McGee said. “I think I can make a difference for the city.”

McGee is expected to face Republican Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy next fall in what would be a no-holds-barred race to lead the city for the next four years.

McGee, 61, was elected to represent West Lynn and Nahant in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1994. After serving four terms, he won a seat in the Senate in 2002 in a district that includes Lynn, Lynnfield, Marblehead, Nahant, Saugus and Swampscott.  

He said his years in the Legislature has made him a unifier who can help bring this city together. In addition to “building consensus,” he said his legislative service has been marked by honing budget crafting skills and pursuing initiatives. He said economic growth and neighborhoods will be the focus of the campaign.

McGee called last week’s school referendum that sought taxpayer support for a pair of new middle schools “polarizing.” He said it’s time to take a deep breath and start a new conversation about the need for new schools.

“It means engaging people,” he said. “We need to talk about what new schools mean to the community.”

Benny Coviello: ‘The mayor of Stop & Shop’

McGee supported the ballot question that sought approval for a 652-student school to be built on Parkland Avenue and a  second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. The $188.5 million project cost would have been offset by a minimum contribution of $97.1 million from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. But voters rejected the measure by a wide margin.

He is the son of legendary state Rep. Thomas W. McGee who served in the Massachusetts House for nearly three decades and as speaker for 10 of those years.

Kennedy became the city’s first female mayor in 2009, when as city councilor-at-large, she unseated incumbent Mayor Edward “Chip” Clancy by a few dozen votes. She won re-election 2013 when she soundly defeated Timothy Phelan.

The mayor declined to be interviewed.

In a statement she said “I’m looking forward to running on my record. I’m sure the campaign will offer voters a choice between two very different types of elected officials. May the best woman win.”


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

Photo by Mark Lorenz

State Senator Thomas M. McGee to run for mayor

ITEM FILE PHOTO
State Sen. Thomas M. McGee.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Ending months of speculation, Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) will enter the race for mayor on Monday, The Item has learned.

A family friend familiar with the decision said McGee called elected officials and key supporters over the weekend to tell them he plans to pull papers in the City Clerk’s office on Monday to run for mayor.

McGee confirmed his intention to run, but declined comment.

Before his election to the Senate in 2002, McGee served four terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where he represented West Lynn and Nahant.

The race comes as the city’s fiscal year 2017 and 2018 budgets are in flux. Last week, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy asked her department heads to make cuts. Some managers may have to trim up to 8.5 percent in their personnel budgets, a measure that could lead to layoffs.

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

Kennedy declined comment on McGee’s entry into the race.


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

Lynn budget under the knife

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — On the heels of a bruising school election where voters overwhelmingly rejected a tax increase, the city faces the prospect of layoffs to erase a budget deficit.

Mayor Judith Flanagan has instructed department heads to level fund their fiscal year 2018 budget which begins on July 1. In addition, the email to senior managers asked them to “be creative” in absorbing a 5 percent retroactive raise to city employees and another 2 percent increase set to take effect this summer.

The city is short by $8 million — the combination of a $4 million deficit in the fiscal year 2017 budget and an additional $4 million in raises for 2018. Some departments face as much as 8.5 percent in cuts while others will have a much lower threshold.

“In order to maintain the current level of operation, the city must address the $4 million deficit from last year and up to $4 million in new salaries due to contract settlements,” said Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer. “To do so, the city needs to either find new revenue or reduce spending.”

Despite the cash crunch, the mayor insists Lynn is not in the midst of a financial crisis.

“To level fund the budget, accommodate the recent raises and increases in fixed costs, such as pensions and healthcare, we asked everyone to submit an initial budget with an 8 percent spending cut,” she said. “But this is just an initial step, we start at the bottom and build the budget up from there. I can’t speculate on layoffs right now, but we have some pretty big fixed costs that must be met.”

Still, it appears contract settlements with police, fire and other city employees has exacerbated the cash-strapped city’s ability to maintain its nearly $300 million budget without cuts. Some department heads say layoffs and service cutbacks may be inevitable. The schools will not be affected by the cuts.

Lynnfield’s Hashian gave beat for Boston

The $3.7 million payroll at the Department of Public Works must be trimmed by nearly $262,000, the potential loss of about three workers from the 50-person unit.

“Trying to do the same amount of work with less money is always a challenge,” said Andrew Hall, commissioner.

Hall said one of his workers is collecting worker’s compensation as a result of an injury on the job. If that person does not return to work, the city would not fill the position.

“I’m trying to avoid any layoffs,” he said. “It’s possible we could absorb work done by one of our contractors, but it may not be enough to avoid layoffs.”

In the city’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD), they are  looking at a $400,000 cut from its $6.8 million personnel budget or as many as eight positions from the department which employs 30 workers.  

Michael Donovan, ISD’s director, said his agency has three vacant positions that will go unfilled, there is the possibility of employees retiring, and there’s potential savings of up to $50,000 if the city defers scheduled improvements to city buildings.

“Even with those savings, I am looking at four more positions to trim,” he said. “If inspectors or clerical staff are laid off, it will impact the operations. This is serious. Our budget is so lean right now to cut back on personnel will lead to lower services.”

Police Chief Michael Mageary said it is too soon to say how the latest cuts will affect his department. Last year, they downsized to six patrol cars with two officers in each, down from six, one-person patrol cars and four, two-person cars.

“We are already running lean,” he said. “We have two officers less per division on the street right now.”

Cuts in the Personnel Department could lead to trimming one position, according to Joseph Driscoll, director. His $251,000 budget consists of three salaries and less than $5,000 in expenses.

“I understand the financial crisis the city is in,” said Driscoll. “I will do what the mayor and the chief financial officer ask me to do, as painful as it may be.”  

Fire Chief James McDonald said he’s hoping not to lay off anyone, but can’t guarantee it. He is looking at cutting $1.3 million from the department’s $16.6 million payroll.

“It will have a bad effect on us,” he said. “We do not have a lot of money to roll into payroll. There’s a chance a firefighter could be laid off.”

While McDonald has 17 unfilled firefighter jobs, he has been using some of that money to pay for overtime.

If the city lacks sufficient firefighters on a shift, he said they  can put that company out of service in what’s called a “brownout.” That’s where engines are removed from service when available staffing is thin.

“It’s Russian roulette,” he said. “We take them out for a day or night and hope nothing happens. That’s what happened in Holyoke on New Year’s Day. They had a fatal fire, there was a brownout and three people died.”


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

It’s all Greek in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy arrives with the Greek flag as Adam Varvounis, Giorgos Kopalidis and Paul Varvounis get ready to raise it.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — The city raised a flag to Greek Independence Day Thursday afternoon.

In a small ceremony outside Lynn City Hall, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and Rev. George Tsoukalas of St. George Greek Orthodox Church raised the Greek flag, where it will fly for the next week.

“I always said I would go to Greece and, during the Summer of 2016, I did,” said Kennedy. “It was more beautiful than I could have imagined.”

For Kennedy, raising the flag of different countries is a way to celebrate the diversity of the city.

“I like to show that there are so many different cultures in Lynn,” she said. “Everybody is a part of the fabric.”

The ceremony was held to commemorate Greek Independence Day, which is observed on March 25, the day the War of Greek Independence began in 1821. The holiday coincides with the Orthodox Church’s celebration of the annunciation to the Theotokos, when Mary was told she would bear the son of God by the Archangel Gabriel.

As the flag was lifted, attendees sang the Greek national anthem.

Swampscott gets look at plans for Machon

Students from the St. George Greek school wore fustanella, the traditional Greek formal dress for boys and men. The uniform became a symbol of rebellion during the revolution. The traditional dress for girls and women is red and white, said Lena Triantos, principal of the religious school.

Celebrations will continue at St. George Greek Orthodox Church on Saturday with the Feast of the Annunciation services at 9 a.m., divine liturgy at 9:30 a.m. and Doxology for the 25th of March at 10:30 a.m. Children will read poetry and sing traditional Greek songs, said Triantos. They will also sing the national anthems of Greece and the United States.

Following service on Sunday, the Greek School will present their Independence Day program of poems and songs to show their ethnic pride.


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

A bright future for Central Square

COURTESY PHOTO
The proposed lighted Central Square underpass.

By BILL BROTHERTON

LYNN — The future of the downtown may soon get brighter. A lot brighter, thanks to multi-colored LED lights under the railroad tracks, vibrant vintage neon art and murals that will cover entire windowless sides of buildings.

“Beyond Walls” is the name of a project adopted by a volunteer group of Lynn residents, business owners and public art enthusiasts working together to reinvigorate the city’s downtown. U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, city leaders and Lynn’s State House delegation support the project.

MassDevelopment and Lynn’s Neighborhood Development Associates will announce today a new campaign through the civic crowdfunding platform Patronicity and the Commonwealth Places initiative. Beyond Walls will use funds raised from the campaign to install lighting in train underpasses and 12 neon artworks in the city’s business district, a sculpture that pays homage to Lynn’s industrial roots and 10 murals in the heart of Lynn’s Transformative Development Initiative District.

If the campaign reaches its crowdfunding goal of $50,000 by May 22 at midnight, the project will win a matching grant with funds from MassDevelopment’s Commonwealth Places program.

“This campaign to change the public perception of Lynn through colorful lighting, murals and public art will illuminate the city’s rich cultural history and spur new business and economic activities,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones.

Courtesy photo

Proposed neon artwork near Capitol Diner.

“Investing in this revitalization of Lynn’s Central Square is really the first step in bringing the city back to a position as a leader,” said Al Wilson, founder and executive director of Beyond Walls.

Wilson and Amanda Hill of RAW Art Works, associate director of the “Placemaking” group, said the mission is twofold: to use culture and art to improve the quality of life for the benefit of those who work or live in the city; and to have millennials view Lynn as a viable alternative to living in South Boston, Allston, Cambridge or other traditionally attractive neighborhoods for young professionals.

“Placemaking” is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. It capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that cater to and attract people.

“The goal is to increase the walkability of downtown Lynn,” said Wilson. “Placemaking uses arts and culture to put a place on the map. Right now, three underpasses (Central Square, Washington Street, Market Street) in downtown Lynn are not lit, and with darkness comes a fear of danger. The 189 bays under the Central Square underpass would be illuminated by LED lights.”

“This brings the community together. This project will make Lynn a destination,” added Hill.

A local benefactor has donated 12 neon artworks. Street artists will be selected to create 10 murals and the GE I-A, the first jet engine manufactured in Lynn, has been donated to the project and will likely be displayed in front of the viaducts on Mount Vernon Street, across from the LynnArts building.

Some of the world’s top mural artists, including Shepard Fairey, who created the Barack Obama “Hope Poster,” have expressed interest in using Lynn’s architecturally-exciting buildings as blank canvases, said Wilson. Fairey has his eye on 545 Washington St., which he saw during a visit to Lynn two years ago.

Wilson said he was inspired by Wynwood Walls in greater Miami that was once a run-down, neglected industrial section of the city and is now an arts and cultural mecca. “It is filled with cool cafes, restaurants and market-rate housing for millennials and empty-nesters,” he said.

Boston-based Payette architects sent its senior managers to tour the city, and, Wilson said, “They were blown away. They saw beauty in the architecture and tall buildings.” He called Payette’s Parke MacDowell an unsung hero to “Beyond Walls.” Payette and Cambridge-based lighting design firm LAM Partners have offered their services at no charge.

Wilson and Hill praised the enthusiasm and work of Charles Gaeta, the Neighborhood Development Associates executive director, who has been a receptive, supportive, mentoring partner.

“This will help change the perception of Lynn,” said Wilson. “I look at Lynn and it’s half-a-cup of coffee away from Boston, but it’s not on (millennials’) radar … yet.”

Saugus reservation on display in Melrose

The group, registered as a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, has 60 days to raise $50,000 in order to secure a match from the state agency MassDevelopment. The total cost of the project will be approximately $255,000, and Wilson is confident that amount will be reached. “For now, the focus is in raising the $50,000 in 60 days so we can get the state match,” he said. “I’m a believer in the Bernie (Sanders) method, where everyone gives $20, $30, or what they can … and it’s tax deductible.”

If an additional $30,000 can be raised above the $50,000 goal, the project will be expanded to include the installation of three more murals, five more vintage neon artworks and the potential lighting of the Washington Street underpass.

Installations would occur in June and July.

Learn more and donate at www.patronicity.com/ynn.


A “Beyond Walls” fundraising party will be held at Lynn Museum, 590 Washington St., Lynn, the evening of April 6, 6-10 p.m. Lynn-based Bent Water Brewing and Short Path Distillery of Everett will provide adult beverages, and several area restaurants (The Blue Ox, Eastern Harvest Foods/Lynn Meatland, Old Tyme Italian Cuisine, Brother’s Deli, Tacos Lupita) will provide food. There will be music and celebrity bartenders. A video of the project will be shown at 8 p.m.

Al Wilson, founder and executive director of “Beyond Walls,” said there is no admission charge to attend the party, but a tax-deductible donation of $20 or more is suggested. One hundred percent of donations will go toward project costs.


Bill Brotherton is the Item’s Features editor. He can be reached at bbrotherton@itemlive.com.

 

Lynn says no; so what now?

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

By THOMAS GRILLO

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schools out in Lynn

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

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

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

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

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

Full results of Lynn school vote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Lynn moving forward with city planner job

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN —  Less than two weeks after Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy outlined the idea to hire a planner, the city has secured the cash to pay for the position.

On Tuesday, the Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corp. (EDIC) board of directors unanimously approved contributing $150,000 to fund the job for three years. The city’s nonprofit development bank has agreed to pay half the salary while the Department of Community Development offered up the other $150,000.  

Under the terms of the deal, the mayor in consultation with EDIC and Community Development will hire a planner at a salary between $75,000-100,000.

“Some people have called for having an entire planning department, which would be great, but I really don’t have the money to do anything like that,” said Kennedy.  “We will start small and simply get a planner who will centralize many of the functions that are going on already.”

The mayor said she hopes to have the job description written by month’s end and post the opening on a number of online job websites next month. She expects to hire someone by July 1.

“This person should have the biggest voice on any decision about planning, housing, economic and community development,” Kennedy said.  

The new hire will have a desk in the city’s Inspectional Services Department alongside the Planning Board and support staff.

James Cowdell, EDIC’s executive director, said his office typically spends $150,000 annually on consultants. The new planner will be able to do some of those functions and save the agency money.   

“A planner would be a great help to us to fulfill our mission,” he said. “It’s a much-needed position and overdue. Hopefully it will be someone with a master’s degree in planning.”

Full results of Lynn school vote

Charles Gaeta, EDIC’s chairman, backed the concept.

“I am glad you are doing this,” he told the mayor. “I’m not sure one person can do it, but as time goes on, we will reap so many benefits by having this position. It will strengthen what we have, but the person must be somewhat independent.”

The employee will be a contractor worker who must abide by the city’s residency requirement, Kennedy said.

Lynn has been without a planner for more than two decades.

“Now’s the right time,” Kennedy said.


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

 

Schools out in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Judy Odiorre, Jeanne Melanson, and Marie Muise celebrate the “Vote No” victory at the Old Tyme Restaurant.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN —  Voters said no to a nearly $200 million proposal to build two middle schools Tuesday, rejecting the measure by a decisive margin.

The controversial ballot asked voters to green light construction of the schools while a second question sought approval to pay for them. The first vote failed 63 to 37 percent, the funding question lost 64 to 36 percent.

“I am really proud of my neighborhood grassroots group that stood up for what they believe in,” said Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, an advocacy organization founded to fight the ballot question. “The city, and in particular, the mayor and the superintendent, really need to reassess how they do business with taxpayers.”

Castle said the vote turned on the process, financing, the site that includes land that the founding fathers intended as cemetery expansion, as well as wetlands.

It was a spirited campaign where proponents and opponents took their case to Facebook and in dueling op-ed pieces.  The Item editorialized in favor of the project on Page 1 twice in the final weeks of the campaign.

Of the 8,539 votes cast on the first question, 3,189 were in favor while 5,350 were against. On the second question, of the 8,454 votes, 3,014 were in favor while 5,440 opposed. The no vote was nearly unanimous in every ward and precinct across the city.  

Full results of Lynn school vote

The vote is a setback for Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, the superintendent, the Lynn Teachers Association and nearly all of the city’s elected officials who were in favor of the project.

“I’m disappointed for the students more than anything,” said Kennedy.  

As far as renovating the existing Pickering Middle School, Kennedy said that is not possible.

“We can’t afford it,” she said. “That would be $44 million out of the city’s budget … there is absolutely no way we can afford to renovate Pickering.”

Dr. Catherine Latham, superintendent of Lynn Public Schools, said she was greatly disappointed that the vote to build two new middle schools failed.  

“The greatest investment a city can make is for the education of its children,” she said in an email.  “Apparently our residents are unable to make such a investment at this time. I will continue to work with the state and the city to examine possible solutions to our school needs.”

If approved, the city would have built a 652-student school near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir on Parkland Avenue. A second school would have housed 1,008 students on McManus Field on Commercial Street. In making the case for the new schools, Latham said 3,100 students attend the city’s three middle schools. By 2020, enrollment is expected to soar by 20 percent, adding another 600 students to the mix. The new schools were needed to fix a problem of insufficient space and inadequate facilities.

The new schools would have added an additional $200 to the average tax bill for a single-family home each year for the next 25 years.

City Council President Darren Cyr, an enthusiastic supporter of the new schools,  said he was extremely disappointed in the vote.

“I feel sorry for the kids in our city,” he said. “They are the losers. There are no winners.”


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

Lynn school election snowed out

PHOTO BY SCOTT EISEN
Lynn City Clerk Janet Rowe, left, and election coordinator Mary Jules help Tim and Deborah Potter cast absentee ballots.

By THOMAS GRILLO

SALEM — As a late season blizzard threatens to shut down the Bay State with more than a foot of snow, today’s high stakes election on funding two new middle schools has been postponed.

Essex Superior Court Judge Peter Lauriat issued the ruling on Monday in response to a request from the city. Less than three hours later, in an emergency meeting, the City Council moved the election to next Tuesday, March 21.

Lauriat approved a request by Richard Vitali, the city’s assistant city solicitor, to delay the special election. While the city had hoped the judge would approve the March 21 date, Lauriat declined.

“The City Council set the date of the first vote, they should set the new one,” Lauriat said from the bench.

That set in motion a swift response from City Hall to call for an emergency council meeting

“I’m glad,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy. “I wanted to make sure we got into court today because it’s becoming more and more evident that it would be a real public safety hazard to have people attempting to go out to vote in a storm like this.”

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

Voters are being asked to pay for a 652-student school to be built near Pine Grove Cemetery on Parkland Avenue. A second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

If approved, property owners will be responsible for $91.4 million of the total $188.5 million project cost. School officials said $11 million in contingency funds are included in the overall calculations. If those monies are not used, officials said it would reduce the taxpayer portion by that amount, making the taxpayers’ bill about $80 million. City officials say the average homeowner would pay from $200-$275 a year extra on their real estate tax bill for the next 25 years.

Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the ballot question, said his group will spend the extra week before the election to convince residents to vote no.

“The fight continues,” he said. “We will keep organizing to oppose this.”

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

In a filing to the city on campaign spending, Two Schools for Lynn, the group organized to support the project, reported they raised $11,055 from Jan. 31 through Feb. 24. Much of the cash, $5,000, came from the Lynn Teachers Association. Public officials also made donations. City Councilor and state Rep. Daniel Cahill contributed $500, the mayor wrote a check for $200, City Councilor Brian LaPierre gave $450 and City Councilor Buzzy Barton donated $200.

The group opposing the ballot initiative, Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, failed to file on time. Castle said the report was in the mail and estimated the group raised about $7,000.


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

School vote moved to Tuesday, March 21

LYNN — Under the looming possibility of more than a foot of snow Tuesday, the special election on funding two new middle schools has been postponed a week to Tuesday, March 21.

The decision was made during an emergency meeting by the City Council.

Voters are being asked to pay for a 652-student school to be built near the Pine Grove Cemetery on Parkland Avenue. A second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. The polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

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

Lynn voters being put to the test

(Left) ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
This sign is on the corner of Lynnfield Street and Kernwood Dr.
(Right) PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Pat Burke (adult standing) and Mia Duncan (with sign), of Lynn, at the “Get the Vote Out Rally” for the March 14 vote for two new schools. The meeting was held at the Lynn Teachers Union on Western Avenue.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN After months of campaigning, it all comes down to a vote on Tuesday.

The March 14 special election has pit Protect Our Reservoir – Preserve Pine Grove which opposes the $188.5 million project to build a pair of middle schools against 2 Schools for Lynn, which includes parents, teachers and city officials who say the more than 100-year-old Pickering Middle School should be replaced.

As a powerful nor’easter threatens to shut down the region on Tuesday with more than a foot of snow, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is considering postponing the election. The city solicitor’s office will consult with the election division of the Massachusetts Secretary of State this morning and make a decision by 5 p.m.

On Friday, Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin, said if the city wants to reschedule the vote due to inclement weather, they would have to appear before a judge this morning to make the request.

If approved by voters, the Pickering on Conomo Avenue would be replaced with a school on Parkland Avenue near the Pine Grove Cemetery that would house 652 students. A larger second school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

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

Voters will be asked two questions: whether the city should borrow the money to build the schools and a second question on whether taxpayers are willing to exempt the plan from Proposition 2 ½.

On one side are the proponents who say every child who attends a middle school should have the same opportunity as every other child. They point to the gleaming Thurgood Marshall Middle School that opened last year which offers its students an ideal place to learn with lots of natural light, studios for art, music and television production, science labs and all the modern tools to learn home economics.

On the opposing side are some Pine Hill residents who say when they purchased their homes they expected their nearest neighbors to be in the graveyard, not school children and the traffic that comes with it. They say Parkland is not only the wrong site, but the project is too expensive and the city must protect the nearby reservoir.

Gary Welch, a member of the opposition, said he favors a plan that would build the West Lynn school first at the McManus site, move the Pickering students to the new facility, demolish the current Pickering School and build the new school at the Pickering site.

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham has been equally passionate in noting the building committee examined more than a dozen sites and concluded Parkland Avenue makes the most sense.

While people have suggested a parcel on Federal Street near the fire station, it is contaminated land, while another site at Magnolia Avenue is in a floodplain and has a water line, Latham said. The other location suggested at Union Hospital is not owned by the city and would exacerbate traffic on Lynnfield Street.

At press time, each group was planning to hold events on the weekend before the vote.

The 2 Schools for Lynn group scheduled a “Get Out the Vote Rally” on Saturday at the  Lynn Teachers Union. Among those expected to attend were state Rep. and City Councilor-at-Large Daniel Cahill, Rep. Brendan Crighton, City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre, Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi, School Committee members Maria Carrasco, John Ford, Lorraine Gately and Jared Nicholson.

Protect Our Reservoir – Preserve Pine Grove planned a walk-through of the Parkland Avenue site on Sunday at B Street Place and Basse Road.

The polls open at 7 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m.


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

Kennedy makes final push on school vote

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy speaks with the Item at her office.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy won’t say whether she will seek a third term this fall, but the city’s chief executive is sure acting like a candidate.

In a wide ranging interview with The Item this week, the mayor laid out her goals for 2017.

At the top of her list is winning Tuesday’s vote for construction of two new middle schools. The special election on March 14 asks homeowners to approve a property tax increase for 25 years for the $188.5 million project that would build a school on Parkland Avenue and a second in West Lynn.

“Next week will give us an indication of whether we will be able to move forward with providing our students with the same kind of education they receive at the new Marshall Middle School,” she said.  “I just hope there is no confusion that voters need to vote yes on both questions in order for it to pass. If you favor the new schools, vote yes for both or it will fail.”

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

While the mayor is optimistic that voters will approve the ballot initiative, she is considering Plan B should the vote fail.

‘We would go back to the Massachusetts School Building Authority and start over,” said the mayor, referring to the quasi-independent government agency that funds a portion of school construction projects. “And hope that within a few years we could turn the vote around.”

While opponents of the school site on Parkland Avenue say a better alternative is to renovate the Pickering Middle School, the mayor said the city lacks the $44.2 million it would take to gut the 90,000-square-foot facility and install new systems, classrooms, gym, cafeteria and labs.

“We simply can’t afford it out of the city budget,” she said.

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

Also in the planning stages is a marketing staffer for the Lynn Auditorium, the city’s 2,100-seat concert hall, that would be paid for by ticket sales.

“We could reach more people and expand if we had someone to do marketing,” she said.

Kennedy is also planning to spend $400,000 for a study to replace Engine 9 on Tower Hill and Engine 7 on Pine Hill with a fire safety building in West Lynn at a cost of $15-20 million.

“Those buildings are 100 years old and continuing to show signs of aging,” she said.  “We would build one facility and perhaps move dispatch into the new station and save on rent.”

The mayor also plans to seek $100,000 in grants to restore the Angell Memorial Fountain at Broad and Nahant streets. Built in the early 1900s  in memory of George T. Angell, the founder of Boston’s Angell Memorial Hospital, the fountain once served as a horse trough.

In addition, the mayor said summer job applications for teens are available at the personnel office in City Hall. Selection for the 120 jobs will be done by lottery.

While no one has declared their candidacy for mayor, local political observers say Kennedy will run. State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) and City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre have said they are exploring the possibility of running. McGee recently held a fundraiser in Boston and may have been the person behind a citywide poll on the race.

Kennedy and LaPierre said they had nothing to do with the poll. But a McGee spokeswoman did not respond when asked the question.


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

A great plan for Lynn

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

We support Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy in her decision announced on Tuesday to hire a city planner.

Hiring a planner will allow city officials to replace the blunt instrument they are now using to craft Lynn’s development policy with a laser capable of precisely defining city objectives. To his credit, Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC) Executive Director James M. Cowdell advised Kennedy on the value of hiring a planner.

Cowdell has played a major role since Kennedy took office in 2010 in propelling the city’s development goals forward. His fingerprints are on the progress made downtown and on the waterfront.

But Cowdell heads a local agency with a specific mandate just as veteran Lynn Housing Authority and Neighborhood Development Executive Director Charles Gaeta has a mandate for his agency and Community Development Director James Marsh has one for his office.

The exact parameters for the planning job are still to be defined, but we urge Kennedy to make sure the planning office is an autonomous city department. For her part, the mayor has made it clear the planner will be a different breed of cat than the city’s three directors.

Successful planners in other communities demonstrate an ability to understand the big picture when it comes to their community’s growth and development objectives. They also understand the tiny mosaic pieces that compose that picture.

A strong Lynn planner will have relationships with the agencies overseen by Gaeta, Marsh and Cowdell and he or she will also need to build deep community relationships.

Kennedy plans to hire a city planner

Former Planner Kevin R. Geaney, in a 1983 Item interview, discussed the relationship between planning professionals and local appointed and elected officials. The single word defining that relationship, in Geaney’s view, is “consensus.”

With that watchword in mind, a city planner can be viewed as a gatekeeper — someone who is an initial point of contact for a developer or business with a relocation or expansion plan. A skilled planner can assess how a development vision or business idea fits into the city’s overall development plan and also assess how a proposal conforms with or clashes with local zoning code and ordinances.

Lynn has benefited from the shared expertise and vision provided during Kennedy’s tenure by Gaeta, Cowdell and Marsh. But progress has been tempered by the lack of a single professional serving as a point person for someone viewing Lynn’s potential for the first time.

As Kennedy begins to define the planner’s job description, we invite her to research how communities such as Salem and Saugus, Boston and Somerville, have used planners and how they define the planner’s role.

The end result of that research is the successful hiring of a planner who can bring a laser focus to the task of enhancing Lynn’s future.

Kennedy plans to hire a city planner

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

By THOMAS GRILLO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New era begins for Lynn police

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

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

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

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

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


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