Rep. Brendan Crighton

Plane route protest takes off in Nahant

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

NAHANT Nahant residents are worried flights to Logan International Airport are getting closer, and louder, to the one-mile stretch of land they call home.

Robert Damico, a Nahant resident on the Logan Airport Advisory Committee, said noise complaints from aircrafts flying overhead have drastically increased over the past few years. While it’s difficult to pinpoint a time when it began, he estimates it has been about three- to three-and-a-half years.

“A whole town doesn’t imagine the noise much worse than they did before,” said Damico. “Everyone knew where the planes used to be for seven to eight years. In the blink of an eye, something changed. Now they’re turning closer to Nahant than they did before. I thought it was temporary but it hasn’t changed.”

“We’re three miles from the airport, we know we’re going to hear airplanes,” said Damico. “But if you’re at the Tides (Restaurant) and see the way they’re turning, its very very loud to the point that you have a hard time talking to one another. When you have a two-mile causeway, why are you turning so close to a thickly-settled island? We want to get to the bottom of it.”

But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) maintains it has not made any changes to flight patterns over Nahant.

Lots of honks for anti-Trump protesters

“The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not changed or modified any flight patterns related to  air traffic operations for Runway 4 Right – 22 Left at Boston Logan International Airport, the runway that brings flights over the Nahant Causeway,” a statement issued by the FAA said.

“The FAA advised the Town of Nahant that requests for changes to air traffic control procedures for noise abatement must come from the Massachusetts Port Authority, in accordance with the agency’s noise abatement policy.”

More than three decades ago, Damico said he helped create and worked in MassPort’s Noise Abatement office for seven years. While there, he said he helped create the flight tracks. He went on to represent Mayors Thomas Menino and Raymond Flynn on all aviation matters, he said.

“There are two kinds of waypoints these points in the sky where pilots turn,” said Damico. “They can see it on their instrument panel, which is line a dashboard, and they know where these waypoints are and they know where to turn. If the air traffic controller tells them to turn prior to that, they do. We tried to work with them but we’re getting no place fast.”

Damico and the Nahant Board of Selectmen will hold a public forum at Nahant Town Hall on June 21 at 7:30 p.m. to discuss the issue. The Town Administrator’s office, where most of the complaints are received, has invited a representatives from MassPort and the FAA, State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), and State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn).

Lots of honks for anti-Trump protesters

ITEM PHOTOS BY DAVID WILSON
Protesters proudly display their signs at a protest. 

LYNN — You could say every day, something new happens under a President Donald Trump.

“— Something awful,” one protester interjects, Friday afternoon outside the Nahant rotary.

More than 15 men and women, including state Rep. Brendan Crighton, waved as passing cars honked with what sounded like approval.

The protesters held signs with issues ranging from health care, to “Tax Fraud Trump,” to one that plainly said, “Make America Sane Again.”

The protests are to continue at the same location, the first Friday of each month.

David Wilson | Item Live

Kathy DiVittorio of Nahant holds a sign urging Trump’s impeachment.

David Wilson | Item Live

Jane Casler of Marblehead says no to Trump.

David Wilson | Item Live

Steve Rogers and wife Rosemie Leyre, of Lynn, hold signs for health care.

Tech students cap off high school careers

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Jennifer Lopez cheers on her fellow graduates as they parade into the field house at graduation.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Graduates of Lynn Vocational Technical Institute received a rousing send off Thursday as they grabbed their diplomas and headed into the next chapter of their lives.

“No one can tell us what lies ahead,” said graduate Ashley Pimentel. “But there is one thing I am sure of: high school graduation is just the beginning of the long journey that lies ahead.”

The class valedictorian was one of 179 graduates who took center stage before an excited audience in the school’s gym.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy kicked off the afternoon with a congratulatory message of hope and inspiration.

“I wish everybody congratulations and much success on your future whether you are going on to higher education, joining the military, the workforce or taking time to figure out your next step,” she said. “I wish you much happiness on behalf of the city of Lynn.”

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said high school graduates earn more than $500,000 more over a lifetime than those who fail to complete school.

She invoked the name of Canadian hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, who played 20 seasons in the National Hockey League.

“Gretzky was right when he said, ‘You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,’ so take your shots and don’t be afraid to try,” she said.

A rapid endorsement

Principal Robert Buontempo Jr., gave graduates three pieces of advice: take chances; use your words to bless yourself and others; and wished they always be surrounded by people who love them.

“Don’t listen to doubting voices,” he said. “The saying is true that doubt has destroyed more dreams than failure.”

Salutatorian Taylor Seger said the day everyone has worked towards is here.   

“I’m still in shock graduation day has arrived,” she said. “Look at us now, four years gone in a blink of an eye. We are going our separate ways, whether attending college in the fall, joining the armed forces, or going straight into a trade. Some of us will become nurses, pharmacists, electricians and much more. No matter what we do, we can say Lynn Tech helped us in figuring it all out.”

Marissa Colon, class president, who received the loudest applause, said Tech students gave back to the community during their four years at the high school.

“We raised more than $9,000 for My Brother’s Table,” she said. “We also helped victims of the New Year’s Day fire on West Baltimore Street, and honored the first responders of 9/11.”

In his commencement address, state Rep. Brendan Crighton drew laughs at his acknowledgment that he is the least tech-savvy person of anyone at the ceremony.

The Lynn Democrat also drew a few tears when after introducing his parents and praising them for always being there for him, he asked graduates to rise and turn to the parents, grandparents, siblings, faculty, and friends and thank them for their encouragement.

“Their support has helped you get where you are today,” he said.


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

 

State OKs $150K for algae cleanup

By THOMAS GRILLO

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

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

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

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

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

Marblehead resident pledges $5M to NSMC

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

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.

Student ‘super excited’ to intern for Warren

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

By GAYLA CAWLEY

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

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

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

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

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

“I was super excited,” she said.

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

Celebration time for North Shore students

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

North Shore gets money for road repairs

By GAYLA CAWLEY

Several North Shore communities were among the state’s towns and cities allocated Chapter 90 funding for local road repairs and resurfacing for FY18, according to an announcement from state legislators.

“Chapter 90’s annual allocation of state funds allow municipalities to continue to invest in local roads and bridges,” state Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) said in a statement. “This continued investment into infrastructure helps improve the quality of life for citizens.”

Lynn received more than $1.5 million in Chapter 90 funding. Other communities also receiving Chapter 90 funding include Saugus with $642,035, Marblehead with $455,615, Lynnfield with $417,697, Swampscott with $295,854, and Nahant with $92,135.

Gino Cresta, Swampscott department of public works director and assistant town administrator, said Town Meeting members will also be asked to approve $200,000 in non-Chapter 90 road repair funding on Monday, for the town’s road service management system.

Cresta said the Chapter 90 and non-Chapter 90 funding will go strictly toward paving streets, including Sampson Avenue, Eureka Avenue, Fairview Avenue, Pleasant Street, Greenwood Avenue, Bay View Avenue, Cedar Hill Terrace, Sunset Drive, and Lawrence Terrace.

Getting the lead out in Malden

“It’s important to our communities that we are able to provide this helpful funding just as the road construction heats up,” state Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead) said in a statement. “Nobody likes potholes, so it’s good for everyone for road work to get underway.”

State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) said in a statement “we worked tirelessly as a delegation to ensure the city of Lynn received more funding this year than last, because without this money, the city would not be able to pave or repair any of our roads or sidewalks.”

“I’m very pleased that the state continues to provide these much-needed funds for our local transportation infrastructure,” state Rep. Brendan Crighton said in a statement. “This investment will help people safely get to where they need to go, while at the same time benefitting our local economy.”

State Rep. RoseLee Vincent (D-Revere) said in a statement she was “particularly pleased at the funding Saugus will receive for its roads, and I’m sure the town will direct these funds in needed areas.”


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

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.

 

       

 

House passes balanced FY18 budget

By THOMAS GRILLO

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

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

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

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

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

Moulton rips ‘terrible’ health care bill

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

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

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

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

The budget will now go to the Senate for consideration.


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

 

Nahant shows up and speaks out

By LEAH DEARBORN

NAHANT – It was a busy day for voters in Nahant on Saturday, with residents turning out to speak their minds at a lengthy town meeting and to cast ballots for several board positions.

An article regarding the parcel of land known as the Coast Guard Housing project was one of the more contentious issues raised at the meeting. The article, which called for the creation of a plan of action for the property, passed after significant discussion and more than a half-dozen amendments to its language.

Its passage will result in the formation of a committee to oversee the process of determining the 4-acre parcel’s future. The new committee will include members of the finance committee, planning board, zoning board of appeals, and an abutters list.  

Nahant purchased the property at the corner of Castle and Gardner roads in 2004 from the U.S. government for $2.1 million. The 12 existing homes date back to World War II when they were used to house soldiers who worked at a nearby bunker. Today they are leased to tenants.

Several current tenants took the podium to ask how the article would impact their living situation. They were reassured that its passage would not immediately determine anything along those lines.  

“This is just to get a committee going to find a solution to a liability,” said selectman Francis “Enzo” Barile about the property. “The plan right now is nothing.”

Three recent town sewer pipeline breaks were addressed at the meeting, including one on the Lynnway that held up traffic earlier in the week near the Clock Tower Business Center. It serves as the only line from Nahant to Lynn Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, and Nahant is expected to foot the bill for its repair, said Barile.

Barile said the full cost of the most recent break on the Lynnway is still being tallied, but he estimated it to be upwards of $500,000. No action was taken on the breaks at the meeting, but Richard Lombard, chair of the selectmen, said the topic might come up again at a Special Town Meeting in the fall.

“We’ll keep you informed,” said Lombard, who added that the town will be reaching out to the offices Sen. Thomas McGee and state Rep. Brendan Crighton for possible help from the state.

When the ballots were tallied at the end of the day, Lombard managed to hold onto his seat as a selectman incumbent, achieving victory in a 479-260 vote against 31-year-old competitor Stephen Viviano.

Viviano called the race a good experience, and acknowledged that it might not be his last.

“Life permitting, I would do it again,” said Viviano after the votes were tallied.

A day for optimism

PHOTO BY SCOTT EISEN
Lynn District Fire Chief Stephen Archer talks with student Gabby Graham.

If it’s spring it must be Student Government Day, with bright-eyed young men and women from Lynn high schools filling the City Council Chamber on Tuesday to hear speeches about how they can make a difference in the world.

Student Government Day serves the admirable dual purpose of highlighting young people who want to aim high with their aspirations and celebrating the best and most noble aspects of city government.

City department heads, City Councilors and school officials step back from their jobs for a few hours and pair up with student councilors, student fire chiefs, a student mayor, and a student school superintendent.

Student Government Day is partly an opportunity to reward some of the city’s best students with a glimpse at careers in government. It is also an opportunity for public service employees to provide insights into how government at the local level works.

There is value in giving young people an understanding of why a career in public service is a goal worth pursuing. People who work in government are consistent targets for critics who claim public servants are underworked, overpaid, and less than honest. These attacks have probably been around for as long as human beings have organized governments.

‘Welcome to Student Government Day’

The people who start Student Government Day off by talking about their jobs are, in many cases, familiar to the students sitting in the Council Chamber and listening. They are neighbors, parents of friends, couches and scouting leaders.

Some of them are city leaders only slightly older than the students. State Reps. Brendan Crighton and Dan Cahill have stood in the Council Chamber and told students about how they pursued public careers to make a difference and improve life for their neighbors.

Part of Student Government Day is dedicated to giving student councilors the opportunity to debate topics they consider important to their peers. In past years these debates centered around school topics such as giving students more latitude in leaving school grounds. Sometimes the debates center on topics that hit close to home for young people, including violence and addiction.

The mock debates are typically five minute-long exchanges bearing no resemblance to the Lincoln-Douglas debates. But they may provide a student interested in civic life with an opportunity to speak out loud about a topic of interest in a place where important city business is debated and decided.

The greatest part of Student Government Day is the way, if only for a day, optimism in government replaces cynicism and people who only see possibility and potential stand at center stage and talk about the future.

ECCO advocates for justice reform

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
A crowd applauds at the at the Essex County Community Organization meeting.

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNN — Criminal justice reform was the topic for several hundred residents of North Shore communities who gathered at St. Stephen’s Church Thursday evening with several of their legislative representatives.

In an event sponsored by the Essex County Community Organization (ECCO), legislators and guest speakers were invited to address the crowd, specifically about support for the Justice Reinvestment Act and bail reform.

State Reps. Brendan Crighton, Daniel Cahill, Paul Tucker, a representative of Tom Walsh’s office and state Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) attended.

One of the first topics was mandatory sentencing minimums. Rev. Annie Belmer of Zion Baptist Church in Lynn told about her son Elijah, who was incarcerated following a $200 robbery in 1999.  

She said her son’s bail was set too high for the family to pay, and they were pressured with a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years. He served seven years in prison as a result.

“By the way, Massachusetts, I want you to know — time served,” said Belmer as she walked off the stage to applause.

Beyond Walls bringing electricity downtown

Other speakers advocated raising the felony threshold from $250 to $1,500 and cited the damage caused by the accrual of fees during incarceration.

“A conviction is a lifelong rejection stamp,” said Rev. Sarah Van Gulden from St. Stephen’s, who argued that many young people make mistakes that alter the course of their entire lives.

Speaker Sean Ellis introduced himself as “W59259,” the number he was given while imprisoned on a conviction that was later overturned.

He said funds to pay witnesses following his trial came from the pockets of family members. Ellis referred to others on parole who pay $80 per month to be monitored, but struggle to find employment because of their record.

“We need a system that evaluates,” said speaker Prince Berlin, who was there to advocate for the elimination of pre-trial incarceration. “Our jails should not be modern debt collections facilities.” 

Lynn Tech students show off their Skills

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Shaneil Nelson from the SkillsUSA team asks a question during the tour of the State House. She is surrounded by team members Marissa Colon, Lucia Gonzalez Keoni Gaskin, Jose Najera and Noelani Garcia.

By THOMAS GRILLO

BOSTON For a dozen Lynn Vocational Technical Institute students, it was their first time under the golden dome on Beacon Hill, but it may not be their last.

Some of these participants of SkillsUSA, a national program to improve the nation’s workforce through leadership and employability training, might return as members of the Legislature someday.

Dressed in bold red jackets, white shirts and black pants, the teens toured the State House with legislators. But not before they talked about the work they’ve done.  

Jose Najera, 17, said they raised more than $7,500 for My Brother’s Table, one of the largest soup kitchens on the North Shore. They also helped victims of the New Year’s Day fire on West Baltimore Street that left 65 people homeless by organizing the massive clothing donations.

David Barrios, 16, said the group, which has more than six dozen members, devised the idea to honor the first responders of 9/11.

“We solicited food items and made more than 100 bags and distributed them to police and fire departments as well as emergency rooms,” he said.

Marissa Colon, 17, said the close-knit group honored veterans with a sit-down dinner at the school.

“We thanked them for their service,” she said. “To see grown men crying was really something. I think we made a difference.”

Jason McCuish, the group’s leader and a teacher at Lynn Tech for more than a decade, said SkillsUSA is an after-school program whose focus is community service.

“That’s what we pride ourselves on,” he said.  

Bringing back the R&B beat

Hosted by state Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), Reps. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) and Donald Wong (R-Saugus), the legislators provided them with a glimpse into the work they do.

McGee explained how he was inspired to do public service by his father, the late Rep. Thomas McGee, the former speaker of the house, and his grandmother, who helped unionize factory workers during the Roosevelt administration.

“You’re doing the same thing, by making a difference in your community,” he said.

Wong, whose family owns Kowloon Restaurant in Saugus, said he never imagined a career in politics. But in 2005 friends pulled nomination papers for him to run as a Town Meeting member. He’s been an elected official ever since.   

Cahill said it was an honor to have the students visit the State House.

“These future leaders continue to make positive contributions to the city of Lynn and we are proud of them,” he said.

Crighton said he got interested in public service because he wanted to give back. He worked for McGee and focused his energy on constituent services.

“That’s how I saw how one person can impact people’s lives in a positive way,” he said. “You’ve presented yourselves so well today … I hope some of you decide to run for office.”


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

 

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.

‘Incredible’ kids bask in Camp Fire glow

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Pauline Sabino and her daughter, Joslin, read letters together.

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNN — Students at the Sisson Elementary School found out how incredible they are on Tuesday afternoon.

Dubbed Absolutely Incredible Kid Day, more than 225 youth across the North Shore received letters of recognition from parents, teachers and other community leaders.

The event was organized by youth development nonprofit and after school program, Camp Fire, as part of a 20-year-old national letter-writing campaign.

Kerry Salvo, program director, said each young participant received two personalized letters; one from Camp Fire staff, and the other from a parent or guardian.  

“(The program) gives kids a safe place to be after school,” said Salvo. “Parents really value having caring adults around to make sure (the kids) feel loved and appreciated.”

Salvo said 35-40 students attend the Sisson branch of the after school program, making it one of the largest in the city’s schools.

State Reps. Brendan Crighton and Dan Cahill, City Councilor Brian LaPierre and State Sen. Thomas McGee made appearances for the event at Sisson. A number of the local leaders read letters to the students as well.

“I know how hard you work at school, at home and in the community,” said LaPierre. “I want you always to remember to be kind to each other, your teachers and our earth.”

In his letter, McGee told the students how much they inspire him to work hard for the community.

Adam and Trisha Carritte wrote a letter to their daughter, Delaney Carritte.

“You’re amazing. Have been since the day you were born,” Adam Carritte read aloud.  

Classical doesn’t dance around prom safety

The young participants had positive things to say about the program.

“I like that we can play with each other and go outside,” said Benjamin Patrick, 10.

Johan Plaza, 8, said he enjoys all the after school activities.

The Harrington and Tracy elementary schools also celebrated Absolutely Incredible Kid Day on Tuesday. The Aborn, Brickett, Callahan and Shoemaker schools will have their letter-reading events today.


Leah Dearborn can be reached at ldearborn@itemlive.com.

Lombard runs to add to record

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Chairman of the Board of Selectman Richard Lombard is running for re-election.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

NAHANT — Richard Lombard holds the record for the longest-serving selectman in Nahant’s history and is running for reelection.

Lombard, who serves as chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said he needs one more term to finish what he set out to do 38 years ago.

“I have one more project to do and that’s the beautification of the town’s entrance,” he said. “That is one of my major projects.”

Town Clerk Margaret Barile said Lombard has served longer than any other selectman, including Charles Kelley, who was a selectman for 33 years until he died at the age of 61.

Kelley led an effort to revitalize the town’s golf course and develop remedies for a flooding problem on the property. After his death, it was named Kelley Greens.

“He was one of the longest-serving selectmen in the Town of Nahant,” Lombard said. “He served with me, and the things that happened, I wish I wrote a book. He was hysterical. He was quick witted and very, very smart. I learned a lot from him.”

Their time on the board overlapped for about a decade, while Lombard was starting out.

Lombard said establishing The Charles Kelley Memorial is one of the accomplishments he is most proud of from his tenure. He also headed efforts to create Veterans Park in 2008 and the Richard Davis Memorial on East Point overlooking the ocean. Davis, a U.S. Marine, was the only Nahant resident to be killed in the Vietnam War, he said, though more than 70 were wounded.

Lombard, a veteran himself, served in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years. He was stationed in North Carolina and spent 14 months in Dong Ha, Vietnam.  

A day of reading in Saugus

Until the 1992 Town Administrator Act establishing the position of the town administrator for the town of Nahant, the Board of Selectmen was responsible for running the town, said Lombard.

“Without volunteers, this town wouldn’t function,” he said. “The Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee, Conservation Committee and Board of Assessors — they’re all volunteers.”

Lombard initiated beautification efforts immediately after joining the panel, he said. He’s proud to have been a part of the revitalization of the Causeway. Sen. Thomas McGee, state Rep. Brendan Crighton and Rep. Seth Moulton helped secure a $22 million grant for the project.

Now that the Causeway has been enhanced, Lombard is on a mission to change the look of the entrance to town.

The Short Beach Master Plan includes burying above ground electrical wires in Little Nahant from Seaside Pizza on Nahant Road to the Nahant Police Station and eliminating poles on the ocean side. Overgrown weeds behind the park will be cleaned out. A Memorial Pond will be uncovered. The road leading into town will be lined with trees and benches. Gas lamps will replace existing light poles.

He hopes to find grants to help fund the project, he said.

But his experience ranges further than his selectman duties. Lombard has served on the Advisory Finance Committee, Memorial Day Committee, Nahant Lions Club, Short Beach Master Plan Committee, as commander of the American Legion, the Little League Committee, as a Babe Ruth coach, and had an unexpected 15-year stint as chairman of the 4th of July Committee when the former leader stepped down a week before the holiday.

“I’ve enjoyed serving the people in the town of Nahant — they’re just great people,” Lombard said.

Resident Stephen Viviano has taken out papers to run against Lombard, but has not yet returned them, according to Barile.

The election will be April 29, the same day as the Annual Town Meeting.


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

Classical graduate goes to Congress

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is Lynn Classical High School graduate Tiba Faraj.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tiba Faraj, a recent Lynn Classical High School graduate and a refugee from Iraq, will accompany U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) to President Donald Trump’s address to the joint session of Congress on Tuesday.

Faraj, 22, came to Lynn in 2010, along with her parents and siblings. She became an American citizen last year.

“Like many before her, Tiba came to America seeking a better life,” said Warren in a statement. “Since arriving in Massachusetts, she has become a valued member of her community, through her commitment to volunteer work and academic excellence. Tiba’s courage, resilience and optimism embody the very best of the American spirit. Our strength as a country is rooted in our diversity, and Tiba’s many contributions have made us that much stronger.”

Faraj was unavailable for comment on Monday.

Warren’s decision to bring Faraj as a guest comes after Trump’s recent executive order, which temporarily banned entry to the United States by refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations. The order has since been blocked by a federal judge. Trump is reportedly expected to release a new executive order on immigration this week.

Faraj’s journey to the United States began in 2006, after her father was shot and left permanently disabled while working for an American-backed development organization in Iraq. The Faraj family fled to Jordan, and began the process of applying for refugee status. After a screening process, the family was granted admission into the country in 2010 and settled in Massachusetts. They now live in Boston, according to information provided from Warren’s office.

She graduated from Lynn Classical in 2014 and is a junior at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.

“We are so proud of Tiba for pursuing her own American dream while overcoming the challenges she and her family have faced,” said UMass Dartmouth interim Chancellor Peyton R. Helm in a statement. “Her success is an inspirational testament to her own perseverance and to the enduring values of our university, Commonwealth and our country.”

Faraj spent time interning with state Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn).

“It is fair to say that I learned more from Tiba than she did from me during her time with my office,” Crighton said in a statement. “Tiba truly represents who we are as a nation and we are so proud to have her join Senator Warren for this speech before Congress.”

ICE rumors send chill through North Shore


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

Jolene Kelly leaves LynnArts

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Jolene Kelly accepts praise from Lynn Museum Director Drew Russo at her goodbye party.

By STEVE KRAUSE

LYNN — Jolene Kelly only worked as operations manager for LynnArts for three years. But judging from the response from people who stopped by the Exchange Street building to say their goodbyes, she touched a lot of lives positively.

Kelly will be leaving next month to go to Wyoming, where her husband, Ken Coder, will be working at Laramie County Community College. Her departure will leave a tremendous void, friends and co-workers say.

“Aside from the absolute dedication to everything that went on at LynnArts, Jolene is the sparkle of the downtown area,” said Drew Russo, director of the Lynn Museum, which encompasses LynnArts. “She was such a vital part of the downtown community, and she added so much to it.”

Though Kelly worked officially for LynnArts, she was known just as much for what she did outside the building — such as walking dogs, getting to know people from all walks of life (including some of the homeless people in the downtown area), and, last month, helping to organize a clothing drive after a large apartment building on West Baltimore Street.

“The downtown area is in every fiber of her being,” said Russo. “Sometimes, it amazes me that she didn’t grow up in Lynn because she seems to be such a large part of it.”

For her part, Kelly, who did everything from supervising building maintenance to planning and scheduling exhibits, isn’t one to take credit.

“I like to think I do what needs to be done,” she said after accepting citations from Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, Lynn City Councilor Brian LaPierre and State Rep. Brendan Crighton.

She’s a firm believer that nothing gets done without lots of help. For example, she says she’s indebted to Joe Scanlon and Steve Babbitt of the Lynn Museum and the Friends of Lynn Woods for their help during the winter of 2015.

“So many things went wrong with the building,” she said. “And they were invaluable.”

Kelly has lived in many places, “but Lynn is one of the few places that I really consider home,” she said.

City plays Quincy in Manchester film

Annette Sykes, chairwoman of the Curatorial Committee at the museum, worked closely with Kelly and called her “a very inviting person who creates a true sense of community. She brings people together, and that’s a true gift.”

And Yetti Frankel, a longtime artist in residence at LynnArts, said Kelly was “a character in her own way, and she really cares about the people in the building.”

Haley Sullivan will serve as interim operations director when Kelly leaves.


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

Finding left from right on the streets of Lynn

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Pictured are what appear to be conflicting street signs off Ocean Street in Lynn.

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNN — The City of Lynn was settled more than three centuries ago; more than enough time for streets and buildings to develop some unusual nomenclature.

There’s the baffling intersection of Ocean Park and Greenleaf Circle, where two signs are posted on top of each other, making it difficult to determine where one street ends and the other begins.

“So where’s Greenleaf?” asked service professional Bruce Vining as he walked up the street, squinting at the signs. “It’s confusing. People should be aware of this.”

“We get a lot of people lost here,” said State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), who explained that Greenleaf, which connects to Nahant Street, is the name of the original cul-de-sac that existed before the development of Ocean Park.

The city also boasts Lover’s Leap and Dungeon avenues. In East Lynn, resident John Nicholson said he doesn’t know anyone named Patty on Patty’s Way.

There’s a presidential theme going on near the Saugus line, with streets named for Washington, Hayes, Harrison, Cleveland and Garfield.

Real estate agent Steven White was holding an open house for a property in the Diamond District on Tuesday, an area named for the wealth of its inhabitants, many of whom made their fortunes in the shoe industry.

A Marblehead resident, White said his town has its share of interesting names, like Gingerbread Hill.

Without leaving the eastern part of Lynn, residents can visit the Great Lakes as well; at least Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie. Ontario Street is located farther inland, near Gallagher Park.

The question is whether the names have anything to do with the flooding that has historically occurred on the lake-themed streets, or if it’s merely a coincidence.

“I’ve lived in the area for 60 years and they’ve always had those names. I really don’t know why,” said Richard Coppinger, a former Ward 3 councilor.

Coppinger said a trek through Pine Grove Cemetery reveals a correlation between gravestones and street names.

The surnames of city pioneers such as Breed, Mudge, Newhall and Chase can be found on street signs as well as in the older areas of the cemetery, he said.

Coppinger said that of the names the city has to offer, however, he’s particularly fond of condo and apartment complexes with classic titles like the Breakers and the Biltmore.

Swampscott courts Marian purchase


Leah Dearborn can be reached at ldearborn@itemlive.com.

CFO accuses school committee of ‘fuzzy math’

By THOMAS GRILLO and BRIDGET TURCOTTE 

LYNN  — One day after the School Committee overwhelmingly rejected a move to transfer management of the school’s maintenance staff from Inspectional Services to the school department because of the costs, the city’s chief financial officer blasted the panel’s fuzzy math.

“There was a lot of bad information spewed by the School Committee Thursday night,” said Peter Caron. “If the schools take over custodial operations as they exist today, the only cost to them is $1 million in health insurance. All the other talk about it costing another million here and another million there is baloney.”

The controversy began last month when in an attempt to capture $1 million in additional school spending and avoid a state penalty, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy engineered a plan to transfer supervision of school custodians from City Hall to the school department. Earlier this week, the city council voted unanimously for the change.

But in a 6-1 vote Thursday, the School Committee rejected the home rule petition that would make the transfer a reality. The panel asked the city’s Beacon Hill delegation to deep six the proposal when it reaches the State House. Only the mayor, chairman of the school committee, voted for the change.

“There are far too too many questions for us to support this change,” said Patricia Capano, a School Committee member. “We still don’t know what it will cost us, we want answers. Can we afford it without depleting our budget? It would be shortsighted.”

Showdown over Lynn school custodians

State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn), who also serves as a City Councilor at-Large, supported the measure at the council meeting.

“I hopes the issues get resolved in a way that benefits everyone in the city,” he said.

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said he will wait to see the home rule petition arrives on Beacon Hill before he makes a decision on how to vote.

Sen. Thomas M. McGee (D-Lynn), through a spokeswoman, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Michael Donovan, ISD director, said half of his $14 million budget pays the salaries for 57 custodians, a dozen maintenance workers as well as for supplies and maintenance.

Caron insists that portion of ISD’s budget, or $7 million, would go to the schools, and it will not cost the School Committee a dime more to do the same job.

Still, Capano said she has no idea what it costs for the afternoon shift of custodians that are privatized. She wanted to know how much it would be for the schools to hire their own custodial staff.

“We want to make an intelligent comparison if it would benefit the citizens of Lynn to have 40 new employees, but can we afford it?” she said.

Donovan said the cost of the private company for the p.m. shift is $1.5 million. But it would increase to $2.8 million in salary and benefits if the schools hire their own workers.

But Caron insists such an added expenditure is unnecessary.

“If they choose to fire the private company and hire new custodians, that’s on them,” he said. “But if they continue to use the private afternoon service, I would take the cash out of ISD’s budget and put it into the school budget. The net result is zero extra costs for the schools.”

Technically, the School Committee has no say in the transfer. They can only make a recommendation.

The mayor has until Thursday to decide whether to sign the home rule petition request and send it along to the State House.

Kennedy could not immediately be reached for comment.

Despite the custodian transfer, the city is still dealing with other school spending issues. Caron reported a clerical error that resulted in a significant underfunding to the schools of about $1.6 million.  He anticipates a similar shortfall next year.

The health insurance portion of the net school formula was miscalculated using a head-count method, he said which only includes individual health insurance plans, not the added costs of covering families.

“I’ve recommended to the mayor that the city seriously consider moving away from a self-insured plan to a premium-based plan,” he said. “We would know what the cost would be for each employee every year. We would know exactly how much money we would expect for insurance costs for the coming year.”

Of the $8.9 million in debt the city is committed to repaying in a four year period, Caron said. About $900,000 has been repaid, leaving two years to repay $8 million, he added.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.comBridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com.

Lynn Tech gets career-building help

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — The city will be awarded $75,000 to support vocational technical education.

The money is part of the federally funded Career and Technical Education Partnership Implementation Grant. It will support the expansion of existing programs and develop new ones to increase access to career and technical education opportunities for students.

“Technical and vocational education has proven to be one of the best ways to close the skills gap in the Massachusetts workforce,” said state Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn). “We must continue to make these investments to improve programming, expand access and prepare our students for the 21st century economy.”

Lynn Vocational Technical Institute offers 15 vocational programs varying from culinary arts, to plumbing, to graphic communications and design.

In addition to their chosen trade, all students complete core curriculum classes. All academic courses are aligned with the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks and are designed for success on standardized exams including the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).

“Our continued investment in vocational and technical education is preparing Lynn students for a future in gainful employment opportunities,” said state Rep. Dan Cahill (D-Lynn). “We are thankful that Commissioner Chester recognizes the advantages of supporting local vocational and technical schools such as Lynn Tech.”

State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) said it’s important to continue to invest in our vocational and technical schools, like Lynn Tech, which has provided a quality technical education to its students for many years.

Driving toward healthy senior services


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

Sky’s the limit at Lynn Tech

Lynn Vocational Technical Institute is again proving under Director Robert Buontempo’s leadership that it isn’t just a school — it is a springboard launching students into high-paying jobs.

By expanding its machinist training and health services professional courses, the Neptune Boulevard school has linked Lynn teenagers to jobs in firms where there is a demand for young and well-trained students.

Machinist shops across the North Shore are anxious to fill jobs and make up for the exodus of middle-age machinists who are retiring or who are poised to retire. General Electric remains a major North Shore employer and many shops subcontract specialized and extremely high-tolerance machine work with the aviation engine maker.

With world-class hospitals nine miles away in Boston and medical facilities located across the North Shore, health services is an expanding field that needs new talent at all work skill levels. Students trained as health professionals at Tech, like their counterparts in machinist training and the school’s other shops, are ready to hit the ground running with high-paying jobs.

Special Olympics program returns to Revere

The state this week recognized Tech’s strong link to skills training, academics and careers by awarding the school $75,000 to expand the network of career opportunities available to Tech students. Buontempo’s stated goal has always been to instill in the mind of employers the belief that Tech is a great place to go to find enthusiastic skilled young people who want to work.

Through its SkillsUSA program participation, Tech has already proven itself on a national stage as a school training students to excel in organizational and leadership skills. Its SkillsUSA proficiency also reflects Tech’s strong commitment among Lynn public schools to community service work.

Lynn’s state legislators are enthusiastic supporters of the state’s renewed commitment to strengthening the link between vocational education and skilled trade careers in Lynn. Like Buontempo and his faculty, state Sen. Thomas M. McGee and state Reps. Brendan Crighton and Dan Cahill know a strong skills foundation positions 21st century high school graduates to realistically analyze how higher education can increase their skills.

Vocational education students trained in a trade can save money toward college and assess from a perspective of work experience if they can improve their careers through higher education. By setting the bar higher for their students, Buontempo and Tech’s faculty are showing students the sky is the limit for someone with vocational and technical training.

A ferry good chance of service returning

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Ferry service was halted by the state last summer.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN A private consulting firm was confident Tuesday that ferry service could return to the city’s waterfront. But a timetable and a way to pay for it remain uncertain.

“There’s hope,” state Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn). “It was positive in terms of a number of things we can do to continue the progress on getting a year-round ferry service out of Lynn.”

Lynn officials met with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) staff as STV, a national consulting firm with offices in Boston, unveiled the “Lynn-Boston Water Transit Sustainability Analysis.” The presentation focused on what it would take to relaunch the ferry service to the Hub and its two-year history.

The ferry from the Blossom Street Ferry Terminal in Lynn to Boston’s Seaport operated a pilot program in 2014 and 2015. But the service was decommissioned last summer by Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration, which argued it didn’t generate enough riders to justify the $700,000 in state funds annually to operate it.

The 90-minute meeting, which was closed to the press and the public, was shrouded in secrecy. MassDOT declined to allow Astrid Glynn, the agency’s transit administrator who hosted the session, to talk with The Item. A spokeswoman would not answer questions about the study’s cost or why the meeting was private. Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she was instructed by Glynn to allow the agency to issue a press release instead of granting an interview.

In a statement, MassDOT said: “We had a productive discussion of some of the variables surrounding future seasonal ferry options from Lynn to Boston and why they would benefit people on the North Shore. MassDOT used a PowerPoint presentation that contains information which is part of the internal deliberative process and will be able to provide a copy of this at a future date.”

The Item obtained a copy of the report which outlined how ferry service could be viable if the city owned the vessel; received more riders from new waterfront residents; partnered with another North Shore community; developed new revenue from terminal parking fees; received contributions from waterfront developers; raised fares; and made connections to harbor cruises and trips to Cape Cod for leisure travelers.

On the plus side, last spring the Federal Transit Administration awarded a $4.5 million grant to the city of Lynn for the purchase a new 149-passenger vessel to support the service. But the grant comes with strings. The city must contribute a 20 percent match, or $900,000 to build the ship at a time when the city is struggling to fill a budget gap.

In its analysis of the pilot project, STV found that while the ferry could accommodate 250 passengers, it attracted fewer than 100 per trip, only 5 percent of riders paid full fare and fares covered just 4 percent of operating costs. In conclusion, the report said fare-paying ridership was too low and costs were too  high.

Still, McGee saw a bright side. He said owning the vessel, which would take up to three years to build, will reduce operating costs to less than $500,000. He said if the city follows the consultant’s recommendations, they could get closer to covering 65 percent of operating costs.

“We are trying to get to the point where the subsidy is more like what’s happening in other communities, like Hingham which have been operating since 1978 and their subsidy is about 35 percent,” he said. “That’s the best return of any mode of transportation. The commuter rail is subsidized at 50 percent.”

McGee said he has been exploring sharing the ferry service with the University of Massachusetts/Boston, who along with the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum, are hoping students and visitors will use it.

“The report reinforces what we all think is untapped potential,” he said.  

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said construction of more than 300 apartments at the former Beacon Chevrolet site that is expected to break ground later this year, will add more riders.

“These market rate apartments will be 200 yards away from the ferry,” he said. “Lots of pieces that could come together in the next few years will make the ferry a success.”

State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) said the consultants provided a roadmap on how to make the ferry profitable.

Still, James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp., said he has been working on the ferry for a decade.

“I want the ferry in the water today and I think the long-term prognosis for the ferry is good,” he said. “But in the short-term, the prognosis is not good.”

What happened to the ferry?


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

Safety grants for local fire departments

BOSTON — The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security Department of Fire Services has announced the FY2017 grant funds for Student Awareness of Fire Education (S.A.F.E.) and Senior Safe programs.

Fire departments from Lynn, Lynnfield, Marblehead, Nahant, Saugus and Swampscott all received funding.

The S.A.F.E. program teaches students in grades K-12 about the dangers of smoking and other fire safety hazards. The Senior Safe program educates seniors on the topics of fire prevention, general home safety and how to be better prepared for a fire.

“It is tremendously important that we continue to education citizens, in particular our children and seniors, on the importance of fire safety in an effort to prevent fire-related tragedies,” said Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) in a statement.

The Lynn Fire Department has been awarded $10,643 for the S.A.F.E. Program and $3,396 for the Senior Safe Program.

“With the recent number of significant fires impacting families in the city of Lynn, this state grant could not have come at a better time,” said state Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) in a statement. “Educating seniors and children on fire prevention safety saves lives.”

The Nahant Fire Department was awarded $1,970 for the S.A.F.E. program and $2,295 for the Senior Safe program.

“The SAFE program has prevented countless fires and saved many lives since it began 22 years ago,” said state Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) in a statement. “It has a proven record of making communities safer and we are very thankful for this funding.

The Swampscott Fire Department has been awarded $3,951 for the S.A.F.E. program and $2,596 for the Senior Safe program. The Marblehead Fire Department has been awarded $4,540 and $2,796 for each program respectively.

“With a vital focus on prevention and preparedness, this grant will raise awareness among seniors and children,” said state Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead) in a statement. “When seconds count, this program can be the difference between life or death.”

The Saugus Fire Department has been awarded $4,540 for the S.A.F.E. program and $2,796 for the Senior Safe program.

“We are very grateful to be receiving these funds from the S.A.F.E. program,” said state Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) in a statement. “Fire-related tragedies seem to be happening more frequently, so anything we can do to educate the citizens in our communities, especially seniors, is welcoming,”

The Lynnfield Fire Department will receive $3,951 for the S.A.F.E. program and $2,596 for the Senior Safe program.

“The S.A.F.E. program and the Senior SAFE program together help educate our children and seniors about the importance of preventing fires and how to react in a dangerous situation,” said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones Jr. (R-North Reading) in a statement. “I am proud to support this important program and I know the town of Lynnfield will put this grant money to good use.”

Since the S.A.F.E. program was created 22 years ago, there has been a 70 percent reduction in  average annual child fire deaths. The program was expanded to seniors four years ago, who are among the most at-risk population for fire-related deaths, according to a press release.

 

Lynn has a Complete plan for streets

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The city has received $400,000 to make Lynn’s streets safer.

Issued under “Complete Streets” by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the program provides money for safe and accessible access to roadways for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit and vehicles.

The construction funding contained in the governor’s new budget will be used to reconstruct sidewalks along South Common Street, a heavily-traveled pedestrian road that connects to a park and six senior citizen housing developments, and making the handicapped ramps Americans with Disabilities Act compliant. It will also fund so-called traffic calming measures on O’Callaghan Way, such as building bump-outs which extend the sidewalk and reduce the pavement width and installing a flashing light to signal a crosswalk.

“The sidewalks out there are in really tough shape and we are budget-challenged to make all the repairs,” said Andrew Hall, commissioner of the Department of Public Works. “It’s a great thing for the city.”

Complete Streets was authorized by the Legislature through the 2014 transportation bond bill. The city council adopted the program a year later and it was subsequently recognized as one of the best in the nation by the Smart Growth America’s National Complete Streets Coalition.

“This program offers much-needed resources to municipalities to address their unique infrastructure needs,” said Sen. Thomas M. McGee (D-Lynn) in a statement.

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said the city must continue to improve streets and sidewalks to make sure they are safe and accessible for all.

State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) said there was lots of input and assistance from many stakeholders in the city to ensure that they would secure this grant for much-needed infrastructure improvements.

Lynnway McDonald’s one big, happy family


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

Legislators salute veterans agents

COURTESY PHOTO
Lynn Veterans Director Michael Sweeney, center, is pictured at the State House with, from left, state Reps. Dan Cahill and Lori Ehrlich, state Sen. Thomas M. McGee and state Rep. Brendan Crighton.

BOSTON — More than 100 veterans service officers from across the state gathered at the State House this week for the Massachusetts Veterans Service Officers Association (MVSOA)  annual legislative luncheon hosted by House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop).  

Lynn Veterans Director Michael Sweeney played a central role in organizing the event.

The MVSOA lobbies to protect the state’s Chapter 115 program, which last year provided more than $100 million to assist veterans and their dependents. Lynn’s legislative delegation including state Sen. Thomas M. McGee and state Reps. Brendan Crighton, Dan Cahill, Donald Wong and Lori Ehrlich attended the lunch along with Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and other state leaders.  

“Veterans agents are on the front line in every city and town assisting our veterans,” said McGee in a statement. “They are the backbone to providing services and advocacy, and Lynn is extremely lucky to have Mike Sweeney leading the way.”

“I’d like to thank the Legislature for recognizing our nation’s moral responsibility to care for those who’ve worn the uniform,” said Sweeney. “The Lynn delegation has walked the walk by ensuring that our budget will not be balanced on the backs of veterans.”

A long view on an immediate problem

No one was surprised on Wednesday to find state Sen. Thomas M. McGee listening attentively as a state long-range transportation planner talked about Massachusetts’ transit spending goals over the next 23 years.

McGee has sounded the alarm about insufficient statewide transportation spending for years and called on state, federal and local officials, as well as Massachusetts residents and business owners, to get serious about improving roads, bridges, rail networks and other infrastructure.

“We can’t just continue to play catch-up,” McGee says when he talks about the cost to the economy and public safety of delaying or pushing off to the next generation the billions of dollars needed to be spent on transportation.

State transportation officials are touring the state, with Wednesday’s stop in Lynn, to get ideas about how to shape a transportation investment plan for 2040. Looking ahead 23 years on transportation investment is fine with McGee. But he says now is the time to plan and adopt serious spending strategies.

McGee said Gov. Baker didn’t spend a lot of time talking about transportation in his Tuesday night State of the State speech to McGee and fellow legislators. Not one to wait around for others to grab the reins and get the horses galloping, McGee has filed legislation creating a Metropolitan Transportation Network focused on improvements in the region lying inside Route 128.

Baker states his case

The big highway circling Greater Boston is an antiquated testament to the days when cars were king and climate change wasn’t a household phrase. McGee’s vision for the Network includes looking at opportunities to add more tolls and generate the money that must be spent on infrastructure work.

No one wants to pay tolls but McGee consistently points out how North Shore drivers pay an unfair share of tolls while suburban drivers, with the exception of ones who use the Massachusetts Turnpike, are not burdened by tolls.

Tolls and other spending answers like gasoline tax hikes are not popular. But Massachusetts, in McGee’s view — and ours — cannot wait a quarter century to get highways, rail networks and bridges in a state of good repair.

There are short term improvements that can be tackled. State Rep. Brendan Crighton on Wednesday said existing rail networks, like the Rockport-Ipswich commuter line, could conceivably run lighter train cars at more frequent intervals to handle ridership more efficiently than existing commuter lines.

The long-term answers lie in a Blue Line extension to Lynn similar to the extensions to Somerville that helped revive that community. No innovative transportation idea can be discounted, McGee said, if the state and its residents want to avoid gridlock and even catastrophe.

Baker states his case

PHOTO BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, center, greets lawmakers and guests as he enters the House chamber at the Statehouse.

By THOMAS GRILLO

BOSTON As partisan battles rage nationwide in the wake of President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker emphasized compromise in his State of the State speech Tuesday.

“It’s one thing to stand in a corner and shout insults at your opponents,” said Baker. “It’s quite another to climb into the arena and fight for common ground … Wedge issues may be great for making headlines, but they do not move this commonwealth forward. Success is measured by what we accomplish together.”

Baker’s speech to the Legislature’s packed House Chamber comes as he begins the second half of his term. It followed a weekend of anti-Trump protests where more than 1 million protesters gathered nationwide 175,000 in Boston and 50 in Lynn.

Did you attend one of the women’s marches?

In a speech that was interrupted more than 40 times with  applause, the governor praised legislators for working with his administration to pass legislation that will reduce the state’s carbon footprint; for their shared commitment to fund schools to a record high level; for creating a pathway for students to earn a bachelor’s degree from a state university for half the price; updated and eliminated obsolete state regulations; reduced the number of opioids prescriptions by 15 percent; lowered the population of homeless families in hotels to 100; switched to an all electronic tolling system.

“With a shared sense of purpose we’ve made real progress … We built a bipartisan team, worked in partnership with the legislature and looked for common ground.” Baker said.

The governor gave a shout out to Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, whom he credited with helping to convince General Electric Co. to locate its world headquarters in Boston.

He reiterated his opposition to new taxes which could become an issue this year as lawmakers debate a controversial measure to raise taxes on those earning more than $1 million and use the new cash to invest in education and transportation.

Baker, a Swampscott resident, is one of the most popular politicians in the state. In a recent poll of 508 Massachusetts voters conducted by WBUR, liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) received a 51 percent favorably rating while the governor’s 59 percent favorability rating put him ahead by 8 percentage points.

State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) said it was a positive speech that touched on a number of initiatives where the Legislature and the governor worked collaboratively.

“We’ve seen the unemployment rate drop thanks to the work we’ve done since the recession, the best MCAS scores in the last six years and reducing the opioid crisis,” he said.

Still, McGee said he was disappointed that the governor did not talk more about transportation, K-12 and public higher education.

“He talked in a positive way, but there are many challenges and there was not enough specifics on how to get to where we need to be,” he said.

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said he agreed that in contrast with Washington, D.C., the Legislature and the governor have been able to work together.

“But I wish there was more about his vision in terms of investing in our infrastructure, early education, community colleges and the student loan crisis,” he said. “But we are committed to working with his administration to move things forward.”

The governor will launch the state budget season today by releasing his 2018 budget proposal. He gave a sneak peak by saying the new budget will propose more than $130 million in new funding for cities and towns, including increasing Chapter 70 support for K-12 education by more than $90 million.

“And we’ve done all of that and more while closing a $1 billion state budget gap without raising taxes,” he said. “We can and do disagree. But we listen, we learn and we make the best decisions we can. Our team looks forward to working with you on the challenges and opportunities of the next two years.”


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

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.”