Rep. Brendan Crighton

Sheriff Coppinger ready to plug budget hole

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Secretary of the Commonwealth William Francis Galvin administers the oath of office Jan. 4 to Kevin Coppinger during his swearing-in as Essex County Sheriff at Lynn Auditorium.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN The first priority for the new sheriff of Essex County is to fix an $18 million budget deficit.

In a presentation to the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce Wednesday, Sheriff Kevin Coppinger said his first days on the job have been spent meeting with the House leadership and the Lynn delegation including Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) and Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) to supplement his $70 million budget.

“Right now, my payroll will cease in about the second week of March,” he said. “Obviously we need some money pretty quick. If we don’t get the money what will we do?”

Coppinger also fielded a question about the number of halfway houses in Lynn. While the sheriff said he did not know how many such homes operate in Lynn, he stressed that the burden of these facilities, typically in residential neighborhoods, should be located throughout the county.

He agreed that Lynn should do its fair share of providing supportive networks to recently released prisoners, “But they should be equally distributed across Essex County.”

Coppinger pins on a new badge

Coppinger said his goals include strengthening skills training and improving and expanding detox, opiate and mental health counseling programs.

During the campaign he touted his skills in law enforcement as a police officer and chief, budgeting and communications and the support he received from fellow law enforcement officials nationwide.


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

Partnering to help homeless youth

By THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Local school superintendents are turning to homelessness prevention advocates to help high school-age students who need to stabilize their lives after they graduate.

Lynn School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham and Saugus Superintendent David DeRuosi Jr. discussed the problems arising from the lack of realization among youth that they are actually homeless.

“Students think that because they have a place to stay tonight at a friend’s house that they aren’t homeless. They don’t consider couch surfing an issue or sign of homelessness and, therefore, don’t report,” Latham said.

Latham and DeRuosi outlined their concerns in a meeting last week with North Shore Housing Advocacy Group (NSHAG) members, including NSHAG co-chair and state Rep. Brendan Crighton.

“Hearing these accounts and these stories from the superintendents and the people on the front line in the agencies that deal with this issue are exactly what I need be effective at my job on Beacon Hill,” Crighton told the superintendents and about 40 NSHAG members.

DeRuosi said school officials have a very limited amount of time that they can identify and assist students affected by homelessness because school-based assistance is available only while the student is in school.

“Once they graduate, we have no way of assisting them,” DeRuosi said.

$1.5M partnership with Lynn Community Health

Linn Torto, executive director of the Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness (ICHH), said agencies and communities can combine resources to do a better job helping homeless youth and adults. She said assistance must be tailored to the homeless individual or family.  

NSHAG administers the state’s funding for homelessness prevention in Essex County and has maintained its focus on assisting each city and town evenly. To date, NSHAG has assisted 33 individuals and families and 29 youth with funding related to housing prevention, startup costs or arrearages.  

North Shore Community Action Program Executive Director Laura McNeil said pooling resources to fight homelessness provides participating NSHAG agencies with “new resources and information about services that could help their clients.”

“Each agency brings something to the table that could assist a family or individual,” she said.

Anyone interested in learning more about programs or funding for homeless youth, individuals or young families offered by NSHAG are directed to contact Sara Johnson at LHAND’s Family Success Center at (339) 883-2342.


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

Lynn legislators reflect and project

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
State Rep. Brendan P. Crighton, state Sen. Thomas M. McGee and, state Rep. Daniel F. Cahill, left to right, during an interview at The Item last week.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The city’s Beacon Hill delegation are celebrating their legislative accomplishments in the 2016 session and looking ahead to next year.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Item, Lynn Democrats Sen. Thomas M. McGee, Rep. Daniel  F. Cahill, and Rep. Brendan Crighton noted a list of laws they supported that passed the Legislature.

For the first time in nearly two decades, the Earned Income Tax Credit for income-eligible families was increased to a maximum of $1,459, up from $951, a 50 percent hike. The measure  supports more than 400,000 working individuals and families in the Bay State.

In this year’s budget, the Legislature overrode Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto to guarantee $12 million for families on the waiting  list for early childhood education services.

An initiative to improve job prospects for the unemployed and low-wage workers won approval which helps employers train workers.

They won approval for the Training Resource and Internship Networks which partners with community colleges to provide training and internships for the long-term unemployed.

“We had pretty good success on these important items,” said McGee.

The Legislature also passed landmark legislation to address the deadly opioid and heroin epidemic plaguing the state.

The bill includes multiple provisions including a new program that allows the state to bulk purchase the anti-overdose drug Narcan. It allows communities to buy the antidote at a much lower cost and save lives. Last year 44 Lynn residents suffered fatal overdoses, double the number reported in 2012, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

The rainy day was increased by $120 million.

While the delegation was unable to win Massachusetts Department of Transportation support to operate the ferry last summer, the Water Transportation Advisory Council was created over the governor’s veto. The panel plans to devise a regional water transportation system. While they lack budgetary powers, they can recommend steps to the Legislature.

“We missed the boat on the ferry,” McGee said. “Lynn is a key piece of a regional water transportation system that benefits Boston’s Seaport District, UMass Boston and the Convention Center.”  

Crighton said helping to combat the opioid crisis was one of his best votes of the year.

“Even if you don’t know anyone who has died from an overdose, the impact on the society is significant,” he said. “You have parents who are addicted and can’t care for their kids and the children wind up having issues. Home and school lives are interrupted.”

The biggest battle facing Beacon Hill next year is between healthcare providers and insurance companies, according to Cahill.

“Providers say they need more funding to treat mental and behavioral health because those are the expensive patients they are seeing in emergency rooms,” he said. “But insurance companies are having a hard time paying for it because it’s a huge cost. You will see legislation filed next year that will mandate certain coverages or increase reimbursement rates for hospitals that serve those populations.”


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

Rowe elected city clerk

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Janet Rowe is congratulated by her son Chris after she is elected the new city clerk. Her daughter Kay is pictured on the right.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — It only took a minute.

In a 6-5 vote, Janet Rowe, the Lynn’s assistant clerk for more than a decade, was elevated to city clerk by the city council on Tuesday night.

She replaces Mary Audley, who has held the position since 2001 but plans to retire at the end of January.

Rowe bested Andrea Crighton who has worked as a clerk in state Senate on Beacon Hill for 11 years and is married to state Rep. Brendan Crighton.

Just minutes before the vote, City Council President Daniel Cahill announced a third candidate, former city councilor and attorney Timothy Phelan, had withdrawn from consideration. Sources said he lacked the votes to get the position which pays about $100,000.

Lynn clerk leaving on a sour note

“I am so happy,” Rowe told The Item following the vote. “I’m just surprised that Tim Phelan dropped out. So it came down to the two of us and I’m really just so thrilled.”

Rowe will take over the job at a time when Mayor Judith Kennedy Flanagan and the council are at odds over the hiring of a deputy election commissioner to augment the city clerk’s office. Last summer, the panel hired Michele Desmarais for the new position in time for this fall’s elections. But the mayor refused to fund the job, saying the city doesn’t need and can’t afford it. Desmarais was later named to head the city’s health department.

Looking ahead, Rowe said there will be a smooth transition as she takes over the clerk’s office.

“I pretty much know what’s ahead of me,” she said. “I’m ready for the challenge. I think I can take it on. I love the people I work with, I love the office so I’m not afraid of it and I’m looking forward to it.”

Lynn mayor, council crunch the numbers

Ward 7 City Councilor Jay Walsh said Rowe was the logical candidate to fill the position.

“She’s been there, doing the job and I think she’s a good fit,” he said.

At-Large Councilor Brian LaPierre said Rowe has had many years to prepare for the job.

“Janet will serve our city very well as city clerk, she’s done the job as an assistant, she’s got huge shoes to fill in replacing Mary Audley,” he said. “Her selection was in the best interest of the city and she’s a hard worker.”


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

Lynn mayor, council crunch the numbers

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy delivered some good news to the city council Tuesday night on the state of the city’s finances.

“We will avoid any layoffs and tax increases for the rest of this fiscal year,” Kennedy told the council and a packed chamber.

In a rare appearance requested by the 11-member panel earlier this month, Kennedy spent more than two hours explaining that she has the city’s budget woes under control. Much of the problem, she said, was an accounting error over the number of school retirees who receive health care benefits.

Lynn mayor prepares for council questioning

In response to questions posed by the council, Kennedy said while she didn’t create the financial problem, it is her responsibility to fix it. She acknowledged the frustration by the council who have heard wildly varying estimates of the deficit from $1.3 to $7.5 million from administration officials.

Her most recent calculations put the deficit at $1.8 million and the mayor outlined a series of steps on how to fill the hole. About $1 million will be shifted from the so-called overlay account, the $400,000 for a new fire truck that has been purchased can be moved to the 2017 fiscal year budget; there will be a $250,000 savings for a lower cost liability insurance; and $50,000 has been saved on fuel costs given the lower price of gasoline.

Kennedy said a hiring freeze will be kept in place. The only new employees will be paid from grant money, she said.

“We will not approve any new hires from the general fund until we are back on solid ground,” she said.

Kennedy also noted that every purchase order — even amounts under $25 — must be approved by her office or by Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer. Any overtime for City Hall employees must receive prior approval, she added. Overtime for public safety employees will also be monitored.

“We will keep a close eye on every dollar being spent,” Kennedy said.

Lynn’s budget gap not as bad as expected

The mayor also asked the council to reconsider an earlier vote for an election commissioner.

She cautioned that arbitration is underway that will decide the contract for the firefighters with International Association of Firefighters Local 739. She said if the Joint Labor-Management Committee comes up with raises that are higher than the ones recently given to the police union, she may be forced to close a firehouse.

Earlier this year, the police union settled on a retroactive agreement that provides a 1 percent boost for 2014, a 2 percent increase for 2015, 2016 and 2017 and a 1 percent raise for 2018.

Councilor-at-Large Buzzy Barton, a retired firefighter and former president of the firefighters’ union, objected to the closing of a firehouse. “The public and the firefighters will be at risk,” he said.

Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi praised the mayor for coming to the council and explaining the city’s financial situation. Still, he raised a question as to why previous school budget surpluses prior to her becoming mayor were as much as $10 million.

“A month ago, the financial picture wasn’t rosy and I’m glad you came here to explain,” he said. “But you detailed a lot of steps you intend to take and that’s what a mayor needs to do.”

In other matters, the council’s five-member Personnel Committee chose three finalists to replace Mary Audley as city clerk. The full city council is expected to make its choice next Tuesday.

Former city councilor and attorney Timothy Phelan received three votes, Andrea Crighton, who has worked as a clerk in state Senate on Beacon Hill for 11 years and is the wife of state Rep. Brendan Crighton, received one vote and Assistant City Clerk Janet Rowe, who has worked for a dozen years under Audley, received one vote.

The other candidates included Mary Gokas, head clerk in the City Clerk’s office, Karen Richard, administrative assistant in the clerk’s office, Paul G. Smith, a Nahant attorney, and Stanley Slepoy, a Massachusetts Department of Transportation employee.

In addition, attorneys for four medical marijuana companies presented their plans to open a clinic in the city.

The applicants include New England Patient Network Inc. of East Boston, Marblehead-based Old World Remedies, NS AJO Holdings Inc. of Colorado and the Massachusetts Patient Foundation, which operates facilities out of state. Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and the council have said the city will accommodate one or two clinics.

The Massachusetts Patient Foundation said they hope to open a dispensary at either 475 or 487-491 on the Lynnway. They promised the city 4 percent of gross revenues, with a minimum of $100,000 and a maximum of $750,000.

The New England Patient Network Inc. proposed a 12,700-square-foot facility at 497 Lynnway and to turn the Lynnway Sportscenter into a medical marijuana clinic. They did not provide details on the full amount they would pay the city in a host agreement. The application said they would contribute $50,000 annually to the police to offset the cost for patrols.

NS AJO Holdings Inc., which has a clinic in Colorado, plans to open a 6,000-square-foot facility at 1069 Western Ave. Under a proposed host agreement, the firm would provide the city with $200,000 annually or 6 percent of gross revenues, whichever is greater.

Marblehead-based Old World Remedies plans to open a shop at 953 Western Ave. Under the terms of the application, all profits would be donated to Trouble the Dog, a local nonprofit that benefits children. They dd not detail potential payments to the city.

Massachusetts voters legalized medical marijuana in 2012. Marijuana for recreational use was approved in November’s elections.


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

City starts search for two replacements

ITEM FILE PHOTO
City Clerk Mary Audley, pictured, is preparing to retire from a 45-year-career.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Wanted: a city clerk and a police chief. The pay is north of $100,000.

As Mary Audley prepares to retire from the city clerk’s office and Chief Kevin Coppinger leaves the police department to be the next Essex County sheriff, Lynn is seeking to fill their shoes.

City Council President Daniel Cahill posted an ad for a city clerk. The council, not the mayor, chooses the clerk, according to the city charter.

“Lynn is seeking to appoint a knowledgeable and experienced person … duties include recording vital statistics, issuing licenses, supervising staff, and serve as election commissioner,” the post said.

Lynn clerk leaving on a sour note

Resumes are due on Thursday and the city council’s Personnel Committee is expected to make a recommendation to the full council on Tuesday, Dec. 20.

A City Hall source said the race to succeed Audley is down to state Rep. Brendan Crighton’s wife, Andrea, a clerk in state Senate on Beacon Hill, and former City Councilor Timothy Phelan, a failed candidate for mayor in 2013.

City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre, who chairs the Personnel Committee, said the panel will select someone who has experience, a strong education background and a person who will be a good public face to the clerk’s office.

“I know all the candidates well and it will be a difficult choice,” he said. “This will be a down-to-the-wire race.”

Picking up the pace on important city hires

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the process to replace Coppinger begins next month.

Among the candidates eligible to apply from the department are Deputy Chiefs Leonard Desmarais and Michael Mageary, as well as Capts. Mark O’Toole, Christopher Reddy, Edward Blake, William Borders and Michael Vail.

MMA Consulting Group Inc., a  Plymouth-based company provides a so-called Assessment Center to be held in mid-January comprised of an expert panel that interviews the candidates, asks their responses to real-life situations, grades them and recommends the top three to the mayor, who makes the selection.

It won’t be a long process and I should know the top candidates by late January,” Kennedy said. “In the meantime, Leonard Desmarais will be the acting chief when Kevin leaves on Jan. 3.”


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

City Clerk capping 45-year career

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
City Clerk Mary Audley will be leaving her 15-year position in January.

LYNNWhen City Clerk Mary Audley got her first job at City Hall, Richard Nixon was in the White House and gasoline was 55 cents a gallon.

The Lynn native, 19 and just out of high school, took temporary jobs in the building and assessors department. After proving her worth, she later landed a permanent gig in the city solicitor’s office.

After nearly 45 years as a city employee, 15 as city clerk, Audley is planning to call it quits in January.

ALSO: Tillies Farm gets budget approval

The clerk’s job is a high profile position appointed by the city council. A handful of names have been floated as a possible replacements including state Rep. Brendan Crighton’s wife, Andrea, a clerk in state Senate on Beacon Hill, former City Councilor Timothy Phelan, who failed in a bid to defeat Kennedy for mayor in 2013, assistant clerk Janet Rowe and Theresa Young, the city council’s executive assistant.

At 63, Audley earns $144,000 and is expected to collect about $114,000 annually in retirement benefits. But she is not going quietly.

Audley is angry at Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy who declined to fund a $100,000 deputy election commissioner. Audley argued that the clerk’s office, which took over the duties of the Election Department in 2003, needed the new hire to manage elections that have become increasingly complex.

“I would not be leaving if the mayor had funded the election commissioner job,” she said. “I think this job is too much for one person and I’m not enjoying it anymore.”

In the past year, Audley said she handled 11 days of early voting and elections in March, April, May, September and November.

“That kind of election schedule makes it very tough to deal with work on the city clerk’s side,” she said

In response, Kennedy said the cash-strapped city is in no position to add another six-figure job to the budget.

“Mary has been an exemplary city employee,” she said. “I wish her well in retirement.”

City Council President Daniel Cahill said he’s known Audley for a long time and she will be missed.

“It’s a big loss for the city and I wish her the best of luck moving forward,” he said. “She’s been an amazing person for the council to rely on and she’s become a friend of my family. There are lots of folks in Lynn who care deeply about her. I’m hopeful that she will have a great time in retirement.”

James Cowdell, Economic Development and Industrial Corp. executive director, who was city council president when she was selected city clerk in 2001, had high praise for Audley.

“She’s a success story who started in City Hall and worked her way up,” he said. “Mary earned a college degree attending night school while working full-time. She will be hard to replace and will be missed.”

For Audley, retirement means more time with her grandchildren and at her vacation home at Point Sebago in Casco, Maine.

“I didn’t get to spend much time there this year, but next year will be a different story,” she said.


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

Question 2: 2 answers

Kathy Paul, with Mass. Senior Action, leaves the podium after speaking against Partners Healthcare during a rally at Union Hospital, after the company contributed $100,000 to expand charter schools. Participants at the rally oppose the ballot initiative to expand charter schools. (Item photo by Owen O’Rourke)

By Gayla Cawley

LYNN–Opponents of a ballot initiative to lift the state’s cap on charter schools argue that the schools are a drain on funding from traditional public education, while proponents say expansion will provide more opportunity for parents and their children.

When voters go to the polls on Nov. 8, their ballots will feature Question 2, which, if passed, will authorize up to 12 new charter schools or enrollment expansions in existing charter schools annually by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Priority would be given to applicants who seek to open a charter school in public school districts performing in the bottom 25 percent. If it doesn’t pass, the existing charter school cap will be maintained.

A WBUR poll released last week, which surveyed likely Massachusetts voters, showed 52 percent oppose the ballot initiative, up from 48 percent last month. Support is at 41 percent, roughly the same as last month.

State Rep. and City Council President Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) said charter schools are a drain on public schools. Last spring, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution opposing the lifting of the cap on charter schools, arguing that the city can’t afford it.

With the resolution, the council estimated that more than $17 million of Lynn’s budget for its public schools is being diverted to charters, and that public schools are losing more than $408 million to charter schools statewide.

Over the last three years in Lynn, Cahill said, more than 100 students have left charter schools to come back to traditional public schools.

“Charter schools will tell you that they have a 100 percent graduation rate and they have a 0 percent dropout rate,” Cahill said. “Well, isn’t that confusing? Isn’t that confusing when 100 plus kids leave? Well, of course you have those statistics and they’re lies. We’re left in the public schools to pick up the pieces for those students and educate them at a loss. All we’re asking for is a level playing field. That’s all we’re asking for and we’re not getting it, and until we get that, we can’t afford any more charter schools.”

But Caleb Dolan, executive director of KIPP Massachusetts, said KIPP Academy in Lynn, the city’s only charter school, has 1,000 students on its wait list, made up of families who have made the choice to attend the school and should have the ability to do so.

“There’s nobody who wouldn’t want more choice for their own child,” Dolan said. “I think it’s a pretty simple proposition for us that this helps give families the choices they want and deserve.”

Cahill joined others opposing the ballot initiative including Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre, state Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) and Brant Duncan, president of the Lynn Teachers Union, last week for a “No on 2” and “Save Union Hospital” rally at Union Hospital to denounce a $100,000 contribution from Partners HealthCare to the “Yes on 2” campaign, or Great Schools Massachusetts, a staunch supporter of charter school expansion.

Officials questioned why Partners is donating to the charter school initiative when they have argued that they can no longer financially support Union Hospital.

Over the summer, the Public Health Council of the state Department of Public Health unanimously approved a $180 million expansion of North Shore Medical Center that will close Union and move the beds to a new Salem campus in 2019. The medical facilities in Lynn and Salem are part of Partners HealthCare.

“What a shame,” said LaPierre of the donation. “You know, I call it educational malpractice because what they’re doing is quite simply, they’re following all of the dark money patterns that we’ve seen throughout this campaign.”

Rich Copp, a spokesperson for Partners HealthCare said the company supports a wide range of efforts that create educational and economic opportunity in all of the communities it serves.

“We have committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to support students in the Lynn Public School system through school-based health services, job training and summer jobs,” Copp said. “These investments in public education help ensure that the students of today have the skills and training needed to care for the patients of tomorrow. Our one-time contribution to the ballot initiative is aimed at creating even more educational opportunity and choice for young people.”

On Sunday, the “No on 2” campaign rallied near Gov. Charlie Baker’s Swampscott home on Monument Avenue. Baker is a supporter of the ballot initiative and did not make an appearance for the rally.

“Gov. Baker is proud to be part of a broad and bipartisan coalition of elected leaders, educators and families that supports expanding access to high quality public education for all children by lifting the cap on public charter schools in Massachusetts,” said William Pitman, his press secretary, in an email.

Natasha Megie-Maddrey, a Lynn resident and 2015 School Committee candidate, said two of her children attend KIPP. Her daughter attends private school, but previously attended the charter school, and although her youngest son goes to Cobbet Elementary School, she plans on sending him to KIPP next year when he reaches fifth grade.

Megie-Maddrey said that the communication is totally different at charter schools. She likes the longer school days and feels that public schools failed one of her sons. She said he also went to Cobbet from grades K to 4 and when he reached KIPP in fifth grade, he was only at a first grade reading level.

She said her son has special needs and has an individualized education program. He is now in the eighth grade and is reading at a seventh grade level, which Megie-Maddrey attributes to his charter school education.

“Lifting the cap will give the 33,000 kids that on the waiting list (statewide) hope so they too can have options and a great education,” she said. “I want other people to have the opportunity I’ve had.”

But Lynn public school educators are not swayed, including Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham.

Latham said the most common objection involves funding. If a student leaves the traditional public school system to go to charter schools, state funding follows that student. Another issue, she argued, is to gain support for charter schools, advocates have repeatedly attempted to demean the reputation and destroy public confidence in local public schools.

Despite standardized test scores that may be a bit lower than suburban communities, which may qualify Lynn as a district that would receive new charter schools, Latham said, “we educate all, turn away none, have a spectacular teaching and support staff and meet the needs of all of our students.”

“I would guarantee that the experiences and the educational opportunities provided to all of our students, including the over 300 who have returned to us from charter schools in the past five years, far surpass any that may be available in any charter school in the Commonwealth,” Latham said.

Sheila O’Neil, a teacher at Shoemaker Elementary School, opposes the ballot initiative and said that the funding that goes towards charter schools could be better spent on programming. At Lynn English High School, she said, some Advanced Placement (AP) classes have been cut.

“If this passes, I could see schools closing,” she said. “Five years down the line, I could see us with 40 kids in a class.”


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

 

Mayor and council making noise in the library

Lynn City Hall. Item File Photo

By Thomas Grillo

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

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

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

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

The dispute began last month when the the mayor blocked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Art speaks in One Voice

Lisa Wallace, right, and Angel Garcia, 13, setup the next panel to be mounted on the blue wall in the background at the Community Path of Lynn Mural. Photo by Paula Muller

By Leah Dearborn

LYNN — One Community, One Voice is building a path to a better neighborhood by drumming up support for a new trail in Lynn’s South Street area.

During a Community Day Bash held on Saturday at the end of Neptune Street Court, a 16-foot painted mural was unveiled above unused train tracks residents plan to convert into a pathway.

The mural was painted by nine participants in the Raw Art Works Good 2 Go program. It depicts images of the Underground Railroad and of famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who moved to Lynn in 1841, according to the Frederick Douglass Organization’s website.

Bruce Orr, art director at RAW, said the mural is a celebration of Lynn’s history. It’s also part of a broader movement to bring new life into the area of the city sometimes known as the Brickyard.

Lisa Wallace, founder of One Community, One Voice, said the group was formed out of a perception that the neighborhood was being neglected and losing a community standard of living.

Wallace said that her fear is that with all the development happening in downtown Lynn, not enough attention or money is going into the older neighborhoods.

The multi-use path Wallace hopes to create would be designed to connect the area with the downtown to form a mutually beneficial relationship between the community and local businesses.

Wallace said her preference is for a paved path for easier accessibility and maintenance.

There are 11 miles between the Mystic River Watershed and the Nahant Causeway, said Ward 7 Councilor Jay Walsh. The trail One Community, One Voice wants to build contains three miles of that stretch inside the borders of Lynn.

“It’s not just a nature trail,” said Walsh. “It’s about transportation.”

With a new Market Basket being built up the road on the General Electric Factory of the Future site, Walsh said the path could become a an important byway for shoppers.

While Wallace said the path project hasn’t received direct financial assistance from the city, a number of local dignitaries including Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and state Rep. Brendan Crighton were at the mural unveiling showing their support.

Anyone in Lynn who wants to make an improvement to their neighborhood can become a member of One Community, One Voice, said Wallace, regardless of where they live in the city.

Crighton adds incentive to vacancies

FILE PHOTO
Rep. Brendan Crighton

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — Officials hope to use the city’s strengths to encourage economic development.

The House passed legislation last week that included language from a bill filed by Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) that would expand eligibility criteria for the Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP).

The program aims to increase residential growth, expand diversity of housing supply, support economic development and promote neighborhood stabilization. It provides tax incentives to developers who are willing to take on substantial rehabilitation projects in gateway cities. At least 80 percent of the resulting housing units are required to be market rate.

“Lynn, at its height, was a manufacturing city with a lot of jobs,” said Benjamin Forman, research director of Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC), a public policy think tank. “It was also a place with a destination. People wanted to come downtown to do their shopping. We desperately need that, and the commonwealth as a whole needs more places for people to live.”

Giving economic development professionals more flexibility to complete the first development project is what leads to a second and third project, Forman said.

The incentives include a local option property tax exemption that is negotiated between the developer and the city, and a state investment tax credit.

A gateway city is a municipality with a population between 35,000 and 250,000, a median housing income below the state average and an education rate below state average. There are 26 Massachusetts communities that fall into this category, including Lynn.

HDIP is administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development. Today, only properties with existing structures are eligible for the program.

Crighton’s bill expands the eligibility criteria to include new construction on vacant parcels, such as those on the waterfront and former General Electric Co. site along the commuter rail. He said it could include hundreds of acres in the downtown and on the waterfront.

“We have some good stock downtown near the transit that would be very marketable to a lot of folks that are being priced out of the Greater Boston area,” Crighton said. “Right now these vacant or underutilized properties aren’t contributing to taxes to the fullest potential. Those taxes translate to the city’s services that everybody cares about like the schools, police, fire, keeping the streets clean.”

Providing more market rate housing will bring in more residents, who will take advantage of the city’s restaurants and businesses and add to downtown foot traffic, Crighton said.

Forman said the first piece of legislation that included the HDIP program passed in 2009, but included regulations that made it a difficult tool to use.

Crighton said potential developers have shown an interest in the past year, but haven’t chosen to use the program in Lynn.

“Downton Lynn has great urban culture,” Forman said. “There are some buildings that need to be revitalized or reused, but also it has vacant properties that are in the middle of it all.”

The real issue is that the city has a “long pattern of disinvestment” and it’s difficult to get the investors back, he added.

“Affordable housing is good in its own right,” Forman said. “We need affordable housing for people whose incomes are low. But we need to have development that’s going to bring in tax revenues, with businesses on the ground floors. This is a really good step in the right direction.”

The bill must first be approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Charlie Baker before it goes into effect.


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

A conventional approach

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
From left, Andrea and Rep. Brendan Crighton, their son Nathaniel, being held by Beth Garry, and Isaac Bantu at the 7th annual Lynn Democratic Committee picnic. In the background is Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger, a candidate for sheriff.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — With the Democratic and GOP conventions coming soon, leaders from both parties weighed in on the candidates.

“I’m not prepared to endorse anyone because they’re both horrible candidates,” said John Krol,  chairman of the Lynn Republican City Committee. “It’s like having to choose between Ebola and malaria. That’s how I feel about Clinton and Trump.”

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is “not even a real Republican,” he said. Trump has changed party affiliation five times in the past 25 years, he added.

The Republican National Convention is set for July 18 to 21 in Cleveland while the Democrats will meet a week later from July 25 to 28 in Philadelphia.

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) is a superdelegate for Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. He criticized Trump last week for praising Saddam Hussein, the former Iraq dictator. He echoed those sentiments, while also praising Clinton, Sunday at the Lynn Democratic City Committee’s family cookout and food drive at the Lynn Museum & Historical Society.

“I’m excited,” Moulton said. “We have one of the most experienced presidential candidates that America has ever seen. She’s going to win this election, but we’re going to work hard every step of the way. The stakes of this election are very high…On the other hand, we have a racist who admires dictators and will be dangerous for our country and for our troops.”

Still, Trump trounced his GOP opponents in Essex county in the primary with a whopping 43,629 votes. His closest competitor was John Kasich, who trailed with just 14,629 votes.

Stephen Zykofsky represents the third Essex senatorial district for the Republican State Committee, which represents Lynn, Saugus, Lynnfield, Marblehead, Swampscott and Nahant. He said Trump will be nominated in Cleveland.

“Whoever the convention nominates is the individual I will support,” Zykofsky said.

Trump has a “strong chance” of winning the general election in November, he said, because the Democrats will likely nominate Clinton. Clinton’s reputation is “so bad,” and she has “brazenly lied to the American people,” he added.

A U.S. Department of Justice investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State yielded no criminal charges. But the U.S. State Department is reopening its internal investigation.

“I can’t see the people supporting her,” Zykofsky said.

He praised Trump as a successful businessman and said his message of unhappiness with the Obama administration will resonate with voters.

In the Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders won Essex County by 815 votes, beating Clinton with 66,494 votes to her 65,679.

Democrats took an opposite tack, commending Clinton, while expressing unease about Trump.

That list included Secretary of State William Galvin, and a pledged delegate for Clinton.

“I think, we as a party, have to promote the success of the ticket because obviously the alternative would be very bad for the country: Mr. Trump,” Galvin said.

State Rep. and City Council President Daniel Cahill said he was more focused on Massachusetts and Lynn, but will vote for Clinton.

“She’s the most qualified candidate and I think she’ll be the next president of the United States,” he said.

Lynn Police Chief and candidate for Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger and Drew Russo, vice-chairman of the Democratic City Committee, support Clinton. Russo is also a Clinton delegate. Lynn Democrats Sen. Thomas McGee and Rep. Brendan Crighton are backing Clinton. McGee is a superdelegate for Clinton.

“I’m looking forward to Democrats from all over the country coming together to build a strong Democratic victory in November,” McGee said.

Crighton said there are a lot of Massachusetts Democrats that are enthused about the race.

“We need to make sure everyone is tuning in and staying engaged despite all of the nasty rhetoric surrounding this campaign,” he said.

Lynn Republicans will have their turn to gather on Saturday, when the Lynn Republican City Committee holds its cookout and auction at Krol’s home from 1 to 5 p.m.


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

Roca changing lives in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Hakeem Hall talks about his experiences in Roca.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Hakeem Hall lives in Lynn. He has been to jail and he is one of 100 young local men a Chelsea-based program wants to nudge away from crime and substance abuse and into a productive life.

Roca workers said that process will take months and will be marked by successes as well as setbacks. Founded in 1988, the organization (Roca means rock in Spanish) reached out in 2014 and 2015 to 659 young men across Eastern Massachusetts, including Hall and 50 others in Lynn.

In their bid to reach another 50, Roca Lynn project coordinator Emily Fish and three youth workers have the support of Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, Police Chief Kevin Coppinger, state Sen. Thomas M. McGee and state Rep. Brendan Crighton.

“We’ve known (Roca CEO) Molly Baldwin for a while and Tom and Brendan are big proponents,” Coppinger said.

Police identified for Roca 100 “high-risk” men and secured $251,000 in state grant money to support the Lynn outreach program. The funds have enabled the organization to open an office on Andrew Street where they are working specifically with the Lynn men. Baldwin said Roca’s goal is to change behaviors in young men who grew up in homes where many were exposed to substance abuse, domestic violence and lack of structure or guidance.

Former Florida resident Tristen Lovett, 23, moved to Lynn when he was 16 and got involved in criminal activity, accumulating “quite a few bad charges.”

“Since then my life has been going downhill. I didn’t care if I died the next day,” he said.

A Roca worker reached out to Lovett a year ago. After hearing about the organization from other young men, Lovett made a decision.

“I looked at my past and said, ‘This could be a new opportunity for my life,’” he said.

Hall has also been involved with Roca for a year and his initial contact with the organization came while he was incarcerated in the Essex County Correctional Facility in Middleton. He said behavior that included “causing havoc wherever I was” put him in jail.

On Friday he recalled the words he said to end his initial conversation with the Roca worker who visited him in Middleton.

“I said, ‘I don’t know you.’”

That rebuff didn’t prevent Roca workers from continuing to reach out to Hall. Baldwin and Fish said gradual, persistent contact with men like Lovett and Hall defines the way Roca works.

“We meet young men where they are and we show up over and over again,” Fish said.

Roca defines its method of working with men as intensive engagement and relationships geared toward long-term behavior change. Baldwin said workers spend months stretching into a year or more trying to become a consistent presence in a young man’s life. They don’t work alone. Baldwin said mental health workers, probation officers and workers with Lynn Youth Street Outreach Advocacy assist Roca to reach these men.

Hall eventually decided to meet with a Roca worker and, like Lovett, he credited Roca supervisor Henry Thai with convincing him to give the organization a second look.

“He’s a very down-to-earth-type of guy. He’ll make sure you’re in the right state of mind before he leaves you,” Hall said.

Hall, 25, got involved with Roca and entered a culinary program, but ended up in jail again for six months. Fish said Roca kept in touch with Hall while behind bars, contacting him and sending him literature. After his release, he renewed his Roca acquaintances and his goal is to become an understudy to a chef. He said the “genuine care — the love I got” from Thai and other Roca workers kept him interested in the organization.

Lovett is involved in a Roca program that includes park cleanup work and Baldwin said Roca’s goal is to get the young men its workers contact in Lynn into jobs they can keep.

“If I can get a young person to go to work for a few hours then that is how many hours he is not hurting anyone or hurting himself,” Fish said.

Coppinger said Roca’s track record underpins police department support for its outreach.

“You can’t argue with their success,” he said.


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

 

West Lynn railbed draws inspiration

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Jeremy Cheam, of RAW Art Works in Lynn, works on the mural that is headed for Neptune Court.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — Nine teen artists are working to restore pride in the city, one mural at a time.

The teens involved in the Good 2 Go program at Raw Art Works are creating a piece to be displayed at Neptune Court, along the route of the former Saugus Branch Railroad.

Big names, including City Councilor Peter Capano, Sen. Thomas McGee and Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), support transforming the retired railroad into a continuation of the Northern Strand Community Trail bike path.

The project would be aligned with the Complete Streets Initiative adopted by the Lynn City Council last year. The policy formalizes a commitment by the city to have streets that are accessible and safe for all users. It could also mean additional state transportation money for the city.

Stephen Winslow, president of Bike to Sea, the organization working to extend the Northern Strand Community Trail from the Charles River to the Lynn waterfront, said the project fits the mission of the initiative. The trail is unique to each community it passes through.  

“Traditionally, we’re trying to make the canvas for other people to paint,” he said.

Raw Art Works is an organization that works to get children and teens involved with art and keep them off the streets.

The Good 2 Go artists, who specialize in public art, worked closely with Lisa Wallace, a Neptune Street Court resident and founder of the One Community, One Voice community group, to devise a design for the art. Wallace received a grant from the Lynn Cultural Council to fund the project.

The artists worked together to come up with a locomotive theme, showcasing the history of the tracks and other iconic elements of the city.

“This is the first piece that will start an initiative to bring back our neighborhoods,” said Wallace. “The path is going to be a big part of our neighborhoods, not just a bike trail. It will service the community and connect us right to the waterfront.”

City Councilor Peter Capano said the city neighborhoods feel isolated and the path would provide access to the new Market Basket and the waterfront.

“It will provide access to what’s going on with the rest of the city,” he said. “There has been a lot of neighborhood discussion. People want this. We tend to focus so much on attracting people here when the people who are here haven’t taken advantage of what the city has to offer.”

Projects like this create more pride for the community, Wallace said.

“They’ll feel more connected with the city,” she said. “There are buildings along there that have been tagged (with graffiti). If it’s good graffiti, (vandals) don’t touch it. People have respect for it.”

People won’t destroy what they’ve helped to create. You don’t need to have a lot of money to make something nice. Clean goes a long way.”

The artists have been working on the mural for more than a month, said Bruce Orr, director of the Good 2 Go program.

“This feels like it’s going to be a good way of renovating Lynn to make it more beautiful,” said 18-year-old Raymond Carela, who has been involved with Raw Art Works for four years.

Joshua Bonifaz, 17, who has been involved with the program for two years and has worked on three other murals, said, “Lynn is filled up with a whole bunch of different people with different causes. Art can be manipulated in a way we can help amplify their messages.”

The mural will also feature a blank section that children can fill in with paint. The section was designed by 16-year-old Austin Jagodynski.

“We wanted something that the kids could do so they feel like they’re a part of the project too,” Jagodynski said. “It has a train track design, which is keeping with the theme.”

The mural is expected to take three more weeks to complete.


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

A new chief for Nahant

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
New Nahant Fire Chief Michael Feinberg is sworn in by Town Clerk Peggy Barile at Nahant Town Hall Thursday as Feinberg’s wife Christina looks on.

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

NAHANT — The Board of Selectmen held a swearing-in ceremony for new Fire Chief Michael Feinberg at Town Hall Thursday night.

Sen. Thomas McGee, Rep. Brendan Crighton and Carolyn Kirk, representing Gov. Charlie Baker, also attended the meeting to present the town with a Seaport Economic Council grant.

Feinberg, who most recently served as fire captain of the Lynnfield Fire Department, was sworn-in by Town Clerk Peggy Barile.

Feinberg was recommended by Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren to the Board of Selectmen at a meeting earlier this year. Board members then voted to proceed and send Feinberg a hire letter.

“(Feinberg) was chosen from a candidate list of 50 people,” said Chelgren. “He was our first-ranking (candidate). We ranked them by resume.

“He has a master’s, bachelor’s, and associate degree in fire science and over 20 years of experience. We look forward to him being our fire chief.”

“I went through the whole interview process and you surely stood out among all (of the candidates),” said Richard Lombard, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, of Feinberg. “I’m so proud of you and I’m so happy that you will receive the chief spot. Congratulations.”

Feinberg served with the Lynnfield Fire Department for the past 16 years. Prior to that, he spent 30 years as an EMT and paramedic, he said.

“I did a brief period of four-and-a-half years with the Amesbury Fire Department as a firefighter, then the total of 16 years with Lynnfield, and now I’m moving on to Nahant,” Feinberg said.

Members of the Nahant Fire Department, the police department, town government and several members of the fire departments of surrounding towns attended Thursday’s ceremony to see Feinberg sworn in.

“I want to thank the chiefs of the surrounding communities (who are here),” said Lombard. “When the town of Nahant needs help — Lynn, Swampscott, Marblehead, Lynnfield, Reading — the mutual aid that you (all) send to us, it’s an unbelievable response.

“I’m glad you’re here. Don’t be a stranger to the town of Nahant, and I appreciate you very much for coming out tonight for Mike.”

“I’d like to thank Mike and his family for being here tonight,” said Selectman Enzo Barile. “It’s really impressive to see all the chiefs here from surrounding communities (and) all the cops here. We came together as a team to welcome you.

“I’m so happy that we have you.”

Town administrators also thanked McGee, Crighton and Baker’s office for their hard work in helping the town receive a $410,000 Seaport Economic Grant.

The grant will benefit a project to repair the town’s seawall, surrounding walls and pier.

“This is great news for our approximately 45 to 50 lobstermen,” Lombard said. “It’s in dire need of repair down there.

The total project cost is estimated to be about $645,000, he said.

“It’s a pleasure to be here on behalf of Gov. Baker and the lieutenant governor,” Kirk said. “When this project came forward, a very compelling case was made by the town. The case has to be made that there’s an economic benefit.”

Kirk said the administration saw the impact the grant could make for the local lobstermen.

“It’s very hard for those guys to land their lobsters here,” she said. “We felt very good about the award (being given to Nahant). It was a unanimous vote among the council.”

“Those dollars that we allocate really could make a difference in communities like Nahant,” McGee said. “To make sure the wall is repaired means so much to the town and the lobstermen that work here.”

McGee, Crighton and Gov. Baker’s office were each presented with a certificate of appreciation from the town.


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

Residents T off on fare hikes

Photo/video production by CASSIE VITALI
Jeanne Marie Cabe, a resident of the Commonwealth who spoke to the MBTA at their hearing in Lynn last night.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Residents and legislators had their chance to speak out about proposed Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) fare hikes and schedule changes at a public hearing Monday night with displeasure as the common theme.

Residents had a chance to weigh in on proposed changes at a hearing held at Breed Middle School, located at 90 O’Callaghan Way.

The MBTA was seeking public input on two fare options. The first option would increase single-fare rides by approximately five percent. There would be a system-wide average increase of 6.71 percent. The option would generate $33.2 million more in money from riders. The estimated ridership loss is 1.2 percent.

The second option would increase single-fare rides by approximately 10 percent. There would be a system-wide average increase of 9.77 percent. The option would generate $49.4 million more in money from riders. The estimated ridership loss is 1.6 percent.

With the first option, a monthly $75 Link Pass for the bus and subway would rise to $82.50, while the second option would see that amount raise to $84.50.

Nine of the 12 commuter rail lines would be undergoing changes. Corey Lynch, MBTA deputy director of railroad operations, presented goals of the commuter rail schedule changes. His goals included creating reliable and resilient commuter rail schedules to help ensure on-time performance, reducing overcrowding on trains and maximizing convenient arrival/departure times at North and South stations for commuters.

The final decision on proposed changes will be made in March and rests with the Fiscal and Management Control Board. Fare hikes would go into effect July 1 and new schedules are planned to take effect on May 23, according to an MBTA presentation.

Kathleen Paul, a Mass Senior Action Council member, said public transportation is a lifeline for seniors. A lot of times, she said it is their only transportation option. She said there is a proposal to raise the senior pass again, which seniors depend on to go to the doctor, visit friends and family and run errands.

“Please do not make the senior pass unaffordable,” Paul said.

Caroline Casey said the upcoming MBTA budget can be balanced without fare hikes. She urged the MBTA to stop attacking riders with fare increases.

Linda Bruce said the middle class is getting squeezed. She said five percent isn’t a lot for an increase, but she doesn’t see herself getting anything out of paying more money.

“If I felt like I was going to pay some more money and get better service, I would do it,” Bruce said.

However, Bruce said nothing changes with fare increases and she is tired of politicians telling her things are going to change.

Jeanne Marie Cabe and Nancy Houghton both expressed disappointment at what they called an inconvenient meeting place.

“I believe this should have been held at North Shore Community College,” Cabe said.

Cabe said a majority of people attending the meeting got there by taking public transportation. She said she was interested to find that Lynn and Swampscott are paying higher zone fares. She said “something should be done about that as well.”

Houghton questioned who was behind scheduling the meeting “at such an inconvenient place.” She said she is disabled and terminally ill and the doctors that are keeping her alive are in Boston.

Houghton uses the Paratransit system and said a raise to those fares would be an extreme hardship.

“You would be killing us,” Houghton said.

Judy Bower said she has been commuting for the last 26 years into Boston. She said she remembers when the commuter rail fare was low and she could use it five days a week.

Bower said she has received hundreds of text alerts from Dec. 1 to present day saying the train has been delayed 20 to 25 minutes due to mechanical problems. She also proposed a compromise for raising rates.

“Show us something in return so we can get to work on time,” Bower said.

Gregg Zoske said the latest version of the commuter rail schedule is “far superior to what we were introduced to in December.”

Zoske is a Gloucester resident and said she has taken the commuter rail into Lynn for the past six years. She said there are two Newburyport/Rockport train departures that bypass Lynn. She said some trains are an express from Boston to Salem. Her routine is to take an outbound Newburyport/Rockport train to Salem, where she waits another 13 minutes to take a Gloucester train home. Her other option is to wait another hour at the Lynn station.

Zoske said the new schedule would extend that wait to an hour and 17 minutes. She advocated for adding a Lynn stop to the 5:30 p.m. express train.

“It would only take two minutes to add Lynn to that northbound express train,” Zoske said.

Rep. Brendan Crighton said he has heard from countless constituents who oppose fare increases. He said he believes it was the intent to cap fare increases at 5 percent in 2013 with prior fare hikes. He said fare increases are “a very big deal” to families trying to get to work, students on fixed incomes and senior citizens trying to get to doctors’ appointments.

“(I would) oppose any increases greater than that five percent threshold,” Crighton said.

Dan Cahill, city council president, said he relies on the MBTA to get to work everyday so he empathizes with everyone who has difficulty getting to work on time. He said he would be willing to pay more money for his pass so other people can also use a system that works. Cahill said the first option of a five percent single-fare increase seems to be the better system for the residents of Lynn.

Sen. Thomas McGee said there’s a need to find the dollars to make the transportation system “work for all of us.”

“I hope we come up with a fair and reasonable proposal,” McGee said.


 

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

Lynn on PATH to growth

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — Intent on building on the zoning changes it implemented earlier this year, the city is harnessing a $25,000 state grant from the Planning Assistance Toward Housing (PATH) program to plan residential growth, said state Rep. Brendan Crighton.

The grant helps communities identify and implement strategies to increase the production of multi-family housing. It will contribute to the creation of three Chapter 40R Smart Growth Districts, which will facilitate the construction of dense residential or mixed-use development near existing infrastructure, said Crighton.

“This is a great opportunity for the city to build on our recent zoning improvements,” said Crighton. “We will continue to use all of the tools available to encourage economic development and we appreciate this assistance from the administration.”

Major zoning changes were made by the Lynn City Council this past year. After approving the changes, the Council began working with the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development to look into other ways to make improvements.

That search led to the state’s 40R Zoning program, which provides incentives for housing density and transit-oriented development, aligns well with the economic development goals of the city.

The areas the council would like to target are the waterfront, downtown, and Boston Street corridor, Crighton said.

The goal of Chapter 40R is to provide more housing and decrease its cost by increasing the amount of land zoned for dense housing, according to the state housing website. It also requires that affordable units be included in most private projects.

When cities and towns adopt the special zoning overlay districts, they may be eligible for funding from a Smart Growth Housing fund as well as other financial incentives.

PATH, which is administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), replaces the Priority Development Fund (PDF), which successfully operated for 10 years and has depleted its funds, the website states.

The goal of PATH is to increase the number of multi-family houses across the state for a range of incomes. In total, it has $600,000 in funds available to assist communities.

PATH also takes on a broad range of planning activities, the website says, including “community initiated activities on municipally-owned sites; changes to land use and zoning; planning for housing/mixed-use development in specific geographic areas; and the implementation of strategies identified in DHCD-approved Housing Production Plans (HPP).”

“Preparing communities for success is a crucial part of our economic development plan, and ensuring municipalities address local housing needs is a vital part of the process,” said Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash.

“Effective local development requires supporting and empowering communities working to find innovative solutions building on community strengths, previous investments, and regional specialties,” Ash said.

Lynn will work with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to hold public meetings, research the policy, and submit an application to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).

The goal is to have the zoning and application both approved in the new year, said Crighton. When the application is approved by DHCD, Lynn will be eligible for additional funding.

“This state grant will help the city continue our efforts to improve our housing stock,” said Council President Dan Cahill. “We look forward to working with local partners, state officials, and MAPC to make 40R Smart Growth Zoning a reality in Lynn.”