Sen. Thomas McGee

McGee never gave up on ferry

Passengers getting off the 6:30 pm ferry at the Blossom Street Extension dock.


LYNN —  The loss of ferry service to Boston’s Long Wharf last summer didn’t deter state Sen. Thomas McGee from lobbying the Baker administration to bring the alternative commute back.

The Lynn Democrat said two weeks before Gov. Charlie Baker did an about face on ferry funding, he called Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Secretary Stephanie Pollack and suggested the ferry be restored this summer in light of several North Shore construction projects.

A 28-day shutdown of train service along the Newburyport/Rockport Commuter Rail Line has been scheduled for July 16 through August 13 to repair Beverly Draw Bridge. Road reconstruction is also slated for Route 1A and the Sumner Tunnel.

“Given all the projects going on, I explained how important it was to mitigate the impacts and restore the ferry and she agreed,” McGee said.

But McGee said the administration’s decision was not the result of  a single conversation. In May, he made a presentation to the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, the agency responsible for conducting the region’s transportation planning process. He was seeking $200,000 to operate the service,  a partial payment toward the $700,000 to operate the service with multiple trips each way. But the request was rejected.

McGee said he was able to convince the MBTA’s Control Board, the T’s operating authority, to launch a ferry pilot program.

Last summer, the Lynn delegation supported creation of the Water Transportation Advisory Council over the governor’s veto. The panel plans to devise a regional water transportation system.

McGee said expansion of ferry service is not limited to Lynn. He said the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum and the University of Massachusetts at Boston are exploring ferry opportunities. The new Wynn casino in Everett is expected to offer ferry services for its customer.

“This is part of a long-term vision for regional ferry service,” McGee said.

A spokeswoman for Pollack did not return a call seeking comment.

After operating in 2014 and 2015, the ferry was docked last summer due to budget constraints. Baker and Pollack concluded it didn’t generate the ridership and the price tag per rider was too expensive.

The boat was relaunched last week with $170,000 in MassDOT funds to pay for the operation by Boston Harbor Cruises.

It departs at 7:45 a.m. from the Blossom Street Extension, arriving in Long Wharf at 8:20 a.m., and returns to Lynn at 6:35 p.m.

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

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Ferry will float again this summer

Limited ferry service to and from Boston is returning.


LYNN — All aboard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That disagreement appears to be over for now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy could not be reached for comment.

Thomas Grillo can be reached at


Classical grads chart new course

The family of graduate Ruben Ruiz lend their very enthusiastic support.


LYNN In his commencement address to Lynn Classical High School graduates Friday, Boston Globe sports columnist Christopher Gasper said the start of a news story is not unlike the student’s start on their new life.

“I’ve written thousands of stories, but they all start the same way: with a blinking cursor and a blank screen,” said the 1997 Classical graduate. “That moment is exhilarating and terrifying…it’s a moment where anything is possible, but nothing is certain…As graduates, you face that same moment right now…your story is waiting to be written.”

Principal Gene Constantino praised the 349 graduates for almost always doing the right thing. Aside from Senior Skip Day, he said, the class has been very cooperative.

“You lead by example, by making good decisions, for the most part,” he said. “You never failed to help your fellow classmates or others when needed.”  

He encouraged graduates to find a career they love.

“That’s the key to happiness, find a vocation you enjoy and embrace that job,” he said. “I found that happiness, I love my job, find yours.”     

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said more than 60 percent of employment opportunities are tied to a high school diploma.

“High school graduates are more likely to be employed, be financially secure, and have their children be at least as well educated, if not more. ”

She encouraged the 2017 class to keep an open mind as they make their way to the next phase of their lives.

“Take chances, continue to educate yourselves, pepper your professional and personal lives with acts of kindness, they are never forgotten,” Latham said. “Surround yourself with positive and encouraging people, it’s infectious.”

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Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she was wearing two hats on this graduation day.

“The first is that of mayor and on behalf of the city of Lynn we offer our sincere congratulations to the parents and graduates,” she said. “The other hat I’m wearing is that of a Ram who graduated in 1980. I welcome you into the proud and close family of Lynn Classical alumni.”

Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) invoked the name of President John F. Kennedy who would have celebrated his 100th birthday in May.

“In his inaugural address he talked about passing the torch to a new generation of leaders,” he said. “As you leave here today, you are becoming leaders as part of your future. President Kennedy said one person can make a difference and every person should try.”

Calvin Cheung, Classical’s salutatorian, thanked his family for their support and gave a shout out to his mother.

“Your love and endless support has always kept my spirits up whenever they are low and your kind and inspiring words brought light into moments where I felt disappointed,” he said.

Cheung, who was a member of the winning Northeast Conference Boys Tennis Team, quoted Mark Twain.

“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why,” he said. “Today, could be day number two.”

Valedictorian Emily Lao, soon to be a biochemistry major, said graduates should be very proud of their accomplishments.

“We did it,” she said. “We finally made it.”

Thomas Grillo can be reached at


English grads embark on new journey

Soon-to-be Lynn English graduates cram into a selfie with state Rep. Daniel Cahill.


LYNN — It was the end of one journey and the beginning of another for the graduates of Lynn English High School Friday.

Decades from now, it won’t be the speeches from the principals and politicians, or even ‘97 English graduate and state Rep. Dan Cahill’s (D-Lynn) first Instagram photo, that are remembered, but the bonds forged between students.

“When we talk about this ceremony, there are traditions that continue to live on,” said Christopher Cole, the senior class president and de facto host of the morning’s event. “But you will not be judged by your numbers, your GPA or your test scores, when you walk across this stage and your name is mentioned, that is the only thing that will be remembered … it’s you guys who will share the memories and keep them going.”

Cole told the 356 graduates that the road ahead would not be easy, but that he has seen what can happen when his fellow students have pulled together and that he expected them to continue to thrive in the years ahead.

Valedictorian Lily Vu and salutatorian Taylor Sullivan also offered up some words of wisdom for their fellow graduates.

“I can honestly say that I feel more prepared for college than I ever thought I would be, but I’m not prepared to leave Lynn English,” said Sullivan.

Vu said she would never stop showing her Bulldog pride.

“All of us have worked so hard,” she said. “I’m honored to be a part of the class of 2017.”

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For their part, the school and city officials knew the value of playing it short and sweet as they talked about their pride in the students.

“The only thing standing between you and a diploma is the people on this stage,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy. “I wish you all so much success and happiness in life, congratulations Bulldogs class of ‘17.”

State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) noted that the one hundredth anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s birth recently passed.

“In his inaugural address, he talked about passing the torch to a new generation of leaders,” said McGee. “He also said that just one person can make a difference, but that everyone should try. You are the leaders for today. You can be the person who meets that challenge for a better world.”

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham spoke about the benefits of earning a high school diploma and encouraged the graduates to never stop learning.

“As you go through the next phase of life, be open to new ideas, take chances, and continue to educate yourselves,” she said.

Cahill was the keynote speaker, and during his commencement speech he spoke of the unique challenges and opportunities the students will face.

Before the students crossed the English stage to get their diplomas and enter into the next phases of their lives, Cahill had one last favor to ask.

“Apparently, I’m on Instagram, but I don’t know how to Instagram; I want this to be my first Instagram,” the state representative said as he snapped a shot on stage with the graduating class behind him. “We live in a wild time. Best of luck, and please go change the world.”


Plane route protest takes off in Nahant


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.

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“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).

Community gathers to remember the fallen

Kenneth J. Marrin, post commander 507 Lynn VFW 1993-1994 walks the parade.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Baker: I like Tom — but I’m with Judy


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Grillo can be reached at


Meetings to focus on beaches, state funding

A child enjoys King’s Beach.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McGee nurses senior health spending


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Public hearing requested on future of Union ER

View of Union Hospital.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am the best person for the job, McGee says

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


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

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

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

Consider the progress we’ve made, Kennedy says

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

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

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

Lynn teacher joins the march

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Entertainment, education at ‘Harrington Reads’

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


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

North Shore gets money for road repairs


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 Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Local reps vow to fight cuts to vets

“There are uncertain times,” state Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) said.


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




In Lynn, the emphasis is on the waterfront

This shot of the master plan was on display during the first of four public hearings.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shooting suspect added to state’s ‘Most Wanted’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Grillo can be reached at


Future of ER care at Union uncertain

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Lynn lays down the law for students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Grillo can be reached at


Nahant shows up and speaks out


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.

Child-abuse scars not always visible


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bellavance has a plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Grillo can be reached at


Rev. to shooter: You came to the wrong place

The Rev. Annie Belmer of Zion Baptist Church holds a photo of shooting victim Leonardo Clement. She is joined by Drew Russo, executive director of Lynn Musuem/LynnArts, middle, and Pastor David Urbina of East Coast International Church.


LYNN — A day after a double shooting in Central Square claimed one man’s life and left another man recovering in the hospital, residents gathered for a community vigil.

“This is our city and we stand here tonight to stand with those who have been impacted by violence and we stand here tonight to gather to say we’re against any violence as we move forward,” said Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn). “This is a great city. We love this city and we’re not going to stand by when these random acts of violence occur in our community. It does not reflect who we are. It doesn’t reflect on what this city is about. It doesn’t reflect on the great things that are happening in the city and it doesn’t reflect on the great people that live in the city of Lynn.”

Police are investigating after two men were shot in front of the LynnArts building at 25 Exchange St. on Sunday around 3 p.m.

The community vigil was organized by Lynn Museum/LynnArts, headed by executive director Drew Russo. Residents gathered in front of the LynnArts building on Monday night to light a candle for the victims, and stand against the senseless acts of violence in the community.

Police are seeking a male shooter who left the scene. Police have not identified a suspect and no arrests have been made, authorities said.

The Essex County District Attorney’s office identified the man killed as Leonardo Clement, 46, of Lynn. Clement was taken to Union Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Another victim, a 41-year-old man was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital and is expected to survive.

Both men attended Zion Baptist Church and East Coast International Church, according to the respective pastors, Rev. Annie Belmer and Rev. David Urbina. The pastors identified the second victim as Prince Belin.

Belmer said that her last memory of the men is on Easter, when they were both dressed up and happy, at the service at Zion Baptist Church. She said Clement was legally blind and was very involved in the community. She said he was a nice, meek and humble person.

Urbina said the men attended East Coast International Church as well. They came to the church’s service on Sunday, right before going to Zion, he added.

“I remember Lenny had a very gentle spirit,” Urbina said. “He was very docile, very kind.”

Urbina said he visited Belin at the hospital on Monday, and that he was recovering well. “He’s just a very lively, very happy person,” he said.

Urbina said his heart was broken because he knew the two men who were assaulted, and struggled to find the right words to describe how he felt after he heard the news come in. His spirit was disturbed and he couldn’t believe it, he said.

“But there was also, the words of the people describing these events and these reports and the rumors, this overall sense of hopelessness, this overall sense of, well, this is just what happens in our city, and that began to disturb me even more,” Urbina said.

Businesses joining to help Saugus schools

Russo said he felt it was important “after violence visited our doorstep to pull people from the community together in consolation for the lives that were lost.” He said it was an opportunity to stand strong against the violence, console each other, and “move forward in the work that we’re all trying so hard to do to improve and make better the quality of life in this community, and the small part that we play in this downtown neighborhood in doing that through arts and culture.”

City Councilor Peter Capano said, “these senseless tragedies do not reflect on the work that’s being done down here,” and “this is our city. We’re going to take this city back.”

“One of the things, regardless of what goes on around us, what goes on in our city, what we do not expect, what we do not look for is violence, community violence to take place in our cultural district,” Belmer said. “This is a sanctuary in our city, so one thing that we will not tolerate here in the city of Lynn, and especially in the district where our young people come so that they can learn how to sing, they can learn how to dance, they learn art, they learn music.

“We will not have that cut off because parents are afraid to bring their children here. So, one thing that we will not have, we will not tolerate, is community violence. We will not tolerate that. What we want in our city is peace and we are going to do something about it. So, you really stepped in the wrong community. You came to the wrong place, because right now something is going to be done about it. It will not go unresolved. So, we want any and everybody that’s here to take that message back, that it will not take place in our city any longer.”

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


Consider the progress we’ve made, Kennedy says

Donna Coppola, left, and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy have a word during Kennedy’s re-election kickoff.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think I can make a difference, McGee says

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Grillo can be reached at


Budget cuts make waves for beach lovers


LYNN — An algae problem may be blooming along the Lynn shorefront.

In the first meeting of the year for the Friends of Lynn & Nahant Beach Wednesday night in a packed room at 169 Lynn Shore Drive,  the topic for discussion was the impact of budget cuts by the Baker administration on Lynn and Nahant beaches.

State Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Commissioner Leo Roy served as a guest speaker.

“We’re in challenging times. We’re trying to do the best we can with the funds we get,” said Roy. DCR budget cuts totaled almost $6 million for staff and operations.

The cuts may jeopardize a yearly algae removal program that has been in place for more than a decade.

He said funds for algae cleanup, which will begin within the next week, are available to cover the months of May and June. The budget for the new year is not yet finalized, but cleanup funds from July 1 forward have yet to be accounted for.  

The $150,000 price tag on algae cleanup comes from paying overtime for personnel to work along with the tides, as well as disposal services.

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Friends president and longtime resident Bob Tucker called the cuts a failure of the administration to serve the city of Lynn. He said if the algae isn’t cleaned up, it could possibly lead to the cancellation of outdoor events such as the Red Rock Summer Concert Series and the Kids’ Day Festival.

“This is a gem for us. This is truly the people’s beach,” said state Rep. Dan Cahill, referencing the days before the algae cleanup program. “People would come to Lynn and roll their windows up. It was embarrassing.”

State Sen. Thomas McGee said when he was first sworn into office, the grass along the beach was three feet high and algae was left rotting in the sun.

“I hope you understand the importance of this. It’s key to our economy, it’s key to our quality of life,” he said to Roy.

Roy briefly addressed other topics at the meeting, including the possible privatization of the DCR parking lot at Nahant Beach.

He said the department is considering sending out a request for proposal to determine whether there’s potential for the lot to generate more revenue under different management. No changes have been set in stone, however.

“Unless we can make more money, we won’t do it,” said Roy.   


Lynn talks transportation

Ideas about transportation are shared at a public forum in Lynn.

LYNN — Input from North Shore residents at a public forum on Tuesday at the Lynn Museum will help legislators and MassMoves create a statewide transportation vision.

As part of the state Senate’s 2017 Commonwealth Conversations, MassMoves, funded by the Barr Foundation, is facilitating nine public workshops across the state. Lynn was the eighth forum, according to a description of the event. MassMoves is an initiative to engage citizens across the state about their ideas for a 21st century transportation system.

Participants in the workshop were asked to weigh in on potential goals of a 21st century transportation, polling on their importance. Some of the goals were: It should be easier and faster to get around, whether by car, public transportation, walking or biking; transportation should be cleaner, producing far fewer greenhouse gases and other types of pollution than it does today; the transportation network should be resilient, meaning it can bounce back from severe weather; and transportation should use the latest technology to manage traffic and provide real-time information to help residents plan their trips.

“What we do, each event during lunchtime, is what we call MassMoves transportation event, where we talk to people about the current state of transportation in Massachusetts and in their region and then we have workshops where we invite people to tell us what they think about the policy issues and the values that they have,” said Jim Aloisi, former secretary of transportation and a consultant with MassMoves.

“What we hope will happen at the end of this is that there will be a report that will say here’s what we found across the state,” he continued. “What we’re hoping will come out of this is a way to inform the legislature to say here’s how you can advance improving transportation, based on the shared values people have and make those connections.”

Aloisi said preliminary poll data from the previous forums has showed that people have the same values in wanting to focus more on public transportation and a cleaner system. He said decision makers can know the information and then may be able to use that data when they decide to make changes or adopt new policies.

Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) said the forums are important for people to see the broader issues faced in transportation and have a wide range of discussion.

“I think what’s really important is getting the input from the people that came here that were interested enough in transportation to be at the forum at lunch and get their point of view and what they see as important, so it’s going to allow us to shape policy decisions we make, as we look towards creating legislation and a comprehensive plan to address transportation, both this region and around the state,” McGee said.

“When this is completed, we’ll have a complete report of all of input we got around the commonwealth, and then we’ll have a chance to really take a look at it and see where the common pieces are from different districts.”

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Stanley Rosenberg, Massachusetts Senate President, said right now, transportation is fossil fuel driven in terms of vehicles.

“But if we’re going to attack climate change the way we need to in Massachusetts, we have to think about how to move people in goods and other ways that are less impactful on the environment,” Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg said transportation is changing. For about 100 years, he said taxis were the standard for the demand response transportation system in the state and across the country. Recently, because of the vast amount of people carrying phones, people on the West Coast decided there was a better way, which created a new structure for demand response transportation. That would be Uber and Lyft, in which passengers  are picked up after they use an app on their smartphones.

Another transportation innovation is autonomous or driverless cars. In the future, Rosenberg said those Ubers might be autonomous.

“The 21st century transportation system has got to be a system that responds … to the changing demographics, to the fact that we have both an aging population and a younger population that has a very different opinion about how they want to get around, so we have to be responsive to both,” Aloisi said. “We need to embrace technology, because like technology or not, it’s here to stay. We also need to do so smartly and strategically so that we understand the implications of technology and we use it to our benefit, and that’s a work in progress because the technology is changing so quickly that it’s hard for people to keep up.

“And it’s only very recently that we’ve had legislation to have some regulation over companies like Uber and Lyft, which are quickly displacing the taxi industry,” he said. “So, we need to act quickly, but we also need to act thoughtfully when it comes to how we regulate and how we manage technology when it intersects with transportation.”

Steve Galante, 56, a Beverly resident who works in Lynn, said the forum was interesting.

“I think we need to improve our current system and then build upon it,” he said. “I don’t think the current one is terrible, but it can definitely use improvement.”

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


Beyond Walls bringing electricity downtown

A crowd attends the “Beyond Walls” fundraiser at the Lynn Museum.


LYNN — It was a party Thursday night at the Lynn Museum, with a colorful kickoff to fundraising efforts for downtown art project “Beyond Walls.”

“All aspects of the project are advancing,” said Al Wilson, founder and executive director of Beyond Walls.

The project will use funds raised from the campaign to install lighting in train underpasses and 12 vintage neon artworks in the city’s business district, as well as a sculpture that pays homage to Lynn’s industrial roots and 10 murals in the heart of Lynn’s Transformative Development Initiative District.

Wilson said they’re looking to raise $50-80,000 of the $255,000 minimum total needed for the project.

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

Lynn girls are strong, smart, and bold

Wilson said his inspiration for the project came from the Wynwood Art District of Miami, Fla., a warehousing area that was transformed through the presence of art. It was a success story that made him think more about the possibilities in Lynn.

“I think it will the give the area a real spark,” said state Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), who called the project an opportunity to take the arts and culture scene in Lynn up a notch.

“I love it. If I work late I get to walk that way,” said Wendolyn Gonzalez, an employee of Lynn Community Health Center.  

There are plans for future fundraising efforts at the Bent Water Brewing Company May 20 from 3-10 p.m. Wilson said another event will likely take place at the Blue Ox Restaurant sometime in May.

MassDevelopment and Lynn’s Neighborhood Development Associates announced the campaign through the civic crowdfunding platform Patronicity and the Commonwealth Places initiative.

Interested parties can learn more at or

McGee leading transit talk tour

State Sen. Thomas McGee speaks with The Item.


LYNN — It might be one of the few times when you talk and politicians listen.

Two dozen state senators are expected to attend the latest Commonwealth Conversations next Tuesday at the J. Henry Higgins Middle School in Peabody at 6:30 p.m.  

But don’t expect speeches, these Town Hall-style forums put the microphone in your hands.

“We don’t talk, we listen,” said state Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn). “You get two minutes to make a comment, ask a question or both.”

The Massachusetts Senate launched the statewide listening tour in 2015 designed to connect legislators with constituents to hear their ideas, concerns and suggestions.

“On that tour, we got input from the public that helped us develop our legislative priorities for the session,” McGee said.

Two years ago, legislators heard from the public about the cost of higher education, mounting student debt, college affordability and income inequality.

“As a result of those listening tours in eight Massachusetts regions, we passed legislation to create the college savings plan and expanded the earned income tax credit,” said Sen. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport).

Time for adult conversations

So far, the common denominator at forums in Greater Boston, the South Coast, South Shore, MetroWest and Western Massachusetts have brought out voters who are fired up about immigration issues, global warming and renewable energy.

“We’ve been surprised at how energized people are about what’s happening in Washington,” said Rodrigues. “We expected that in the more progressive parts of the state, like MetroWest, Northampton and Amherst, but we heard the same in Ashland.”

The sessions have had anti-President Donald Trump undertones, the senators said.

“There hasn’t been much speaking directly at the president, but clearly they oppose his policies on immigration and climate change,” said McGee. “That has been universal.”

A separate transportation forum will be on the same day from noon to 2 at the Lynn Museum. Sponsored by the Barr Foundation, the Boston-based nonprofit with assets of $1.6 billion, will explore ways to improve and increase investment in transportation.

“We need to transform our state so that it has a fair and equitable transportation system that benefits everyone,” McGee said.

The senators acknowledge the biggest challenge on transit and infrastructure improvements is raising the money.

“It all boils down to dollars,” Rodrigues said. “It’s difficult to have an adult conversation around taxes because there’s an innate mistrust of government that we don’t spend tax dollars wisely. Everyone thinks about tax policy on their own wallet … it’s challenging.”

Thomas Grillo can be reached at


ECCO advocates for justice reform

A crowd applauds at the at the Essex County Community Organization meeting.


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.” 

Kennedy expected to announce third run

Mayor Judith Flanagan is pictured in this March file photo.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Weighing in on possible Kennedy v. McGee race

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

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

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

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

Thomas Grillo can be reached at


Early in possible race, McGee ahead in funds


LYNN — Sen. Thomas McGee, the newly-minted candidate for mayor, is ahead in the campaign fundraising race against incumbent Judith Flanagan Kennedy.

The Lynn Democrat raised $27,813 from January 1 through the end of March, with more than $8,000 from unions, according to a report filed with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) the independent agency that administers the state’s campaign finance law.

McGee started the year with $58,247. He spent $22,695, including $3,000 for Christmas cards and $3,000 to pay MLM Strategies, a Boston-based consulting firm specializing in political fundraising, leaving the campaign with $63,366.  

Kennedy has not yet announced whether she will run. But political observers say she’s prepared to go for a third term.

The Republican began the year with $18,454, spent $750 on expenses and has a balance of $17,704, according to OCPF.

Thomas Grillo can be reached at


Lynn Tech students show off their Skills

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.


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


Off and running in Lynn

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weighing in on possible Kennedy v. McGee race

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weighing in on possible Kennedy v. McGee race

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


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

I think I can make a difference, McGee says

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benny Coviello: ‘The mayor of Stop & Shop’

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

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

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

The mayor declined to be interviewed.

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

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Photo by Mark Lorenz

‘Incredible’ kids bask in Camp Fire glow

Pauline Sabino and her daughter, Joslin, read letters together.


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.  

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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

A candid look at life on the streets

Lynn Shelter Association’s “Off the Grid” photography project is exhibited at the Massachusetts State House.


BOSTON The Lynn Shelter Association is using photography to give a close-up view of the struggles of homelessness.

The Lynn Shelter Association (LSA) , along with the Lynn delegation, and partner agencies, Homes for Families and The Haven Project, hosted a presentation of LSA’s “Off the Grid” photography project on Monday at the State House.

The photography exhibit displaying pictures of homelessness in Lynn will be on display in the State House this week.  

Karen Bowden, board vice-president of LSA, said the exhibit was an idea that she, Alison Brookes, board president, and Susan Ogan, also of LSA, had talked about for a while. She said they wondered how to use something through the arts that allowed the folks who were experiencing homelessness to express themselves and send a message.

Bowden said they were inspired by a New York Times picture and story piece, where homeless people in Paris were given disposable cameras and their pictures were collected, enlarged and placed around the Luxembourg Garden.

From there, Bowden said they applied for a grant through the Lynn Cultural Council and received $1,000.

“And with that $1,000, we bought 13 nice digital cameras,” Bowden said. “We weren’t going to use disposable. We were going to really invest in the people that we worked with. So, we took the 13 digital cameras and we really set out to make this happen.”

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Signs were put up around the Lynn Emergency Shelter to see if there was any interest in the people lodging there. There turned out to be lots of interest, Bowden said, and after interviews, 13 photographers from the shelter were selected.

Bowden said more than 6,000 photographs were collected and the challenge became selecting which ones to put in a show that was targeted for Lynn Arts last September. Messages also had to be selected, that were collected from meeting with the project’s photographers each week, where photographers talked about what their pictures meant to them.

“To the photographers, your artwork, and it is art, is just magnificent,” said state Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn). “You really captured the struggles of the city in a very beautiful way and I mean that. And I believe through your work, we’ll continue to showcase some of the great things the city has to offer, but at the same time, remind us that there’s so much work that has to be done.”

State Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead) said the LSA project was about giving the homeless a voice.

“But this project is doing more than giving them a voice,” Ehrlich said. “This project is humanizing people who are not getting the same respect on the federal level right now. And I think that’s really important.”

Ehrlich said one photo really spoke to her, a photographer who chose a self-portrait of shattered glass, which she interpreted as their sense that they were probably feeling shattered as well. She said the project gave the photographers a chance to express themselves, and a sense of purpose to maybe pick themselves up and better their lives.

One of the photographers, Joanne Paul-Joassainte, 48, provided insight into the daily life of homelessness to those gathered at Beacon Hill. She said she is currently homeless because she recently divorced her husband. She can’t afford market rent in Massachusetts by herself.

She said being homeless is a full-time job, with planning where to spend her days and nights, especially in the cold winter months.

One day, Paul-Joassainte said she would love to find affordable housing in Boston, which she considers her home. She’s grateful to the Lynn Emergency Shelter for providing her with a bed and now Rosie’s Place, for her current 21-day bed.

“Having my own home one day would definitely improve my quality of life,” she said. “I’d be able to take better care of myself and my health … I would be able to be part of the community again and truly have a place to call home. I’m homeless, not hopeless.”

Learn about ‘Being Mortal’ in Peabody

Tomoni Mwamunga, 23, a Lynn resident and client of the Haven Project, said before becoming homeless, he lived with family on his mother’s side. Because of family issues, including alcoholism and drug abuse, he had to leave that environment. His parents live in Kenya, and without a mother and father to support him and with his minimal income, he found himself at a low point.

He was directed to the Haven Project by a former local pastor of his, and the program helped him find temporary stable housing, and provided crucial resources, such as food and furniture. He aspires to return to college and one day have a successful career in neuroscience, but the stress of trying to secure stability through permanent housing has taken priority.

“I do believe that higher education will help me better my life and ultimately my community, so I hope to one day be back in school soon,” Mwamunga said. “I am young and full of hope and despite the bumpy road so far, I do believe positive things are ahead, and school, security, a career are among those, but first permanent housing.”

Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) said homelessness is “a challenge we all face together” and the photos are a way to humanize the issue. He said it was important to work together to make sure everybody has an option to have a good life and to have something better than what they might have right now.

Libby Hayes, representing Homes for Families, said a recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition showed that Massachusetts needs 180,000 units of affordable housing for households below 30 percent of the median area income. She said only 1.29 percent of the state’s operating budget is being spent on housing.

“We recommend spending more than that in the upcoming budget cycle,” she said. “If we want to address homelessness, we have to invest in housing.”

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

City put to test Tuesday

Brant Duncan, right, of Lynn, talks to Eric and Bibiana Rogers at their home on Glenwood Street. Duncan was campaigning for a “Yes” vote for new schools.


LYNN If early voting is any indication, Tuesday’s special election about funding a pair of new middle schools should bring more voters to the polls than the last time a new school was put on the ballot.

By noon Friday, the City Clerk reported 1,000 absentee votes have been cast in advance of the March 21 special election. Voters who can’t make it to the polls on Tuesday have until noon today to vote at City Hall.

While 1,000 votes may not seem like a lot in a city with more than 52,000 registered voters, consider that only 93 early voters came out before the 2013 vote to approve borrowing $92 million for design and construction of the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School.

The controversial initiative seeks approval to borrow $188.5 million to pay for a 652-student school to be built on Parkland Avenue and a second one to serve 1,008 students on Commercial Street. A second question asks voters to OK an exemption from Proposition 2½, the tax-limit law.  

In the high stakes election, parents of school children and educators are pitted against a coalition of Pine Hill residents who say they oppose the Parkland Avenue site because it should be preserved to expand nearby Pine Grove Cemetery.

“Both sides have gotten their message out and we expect a big turnout,” said Jane Rowe, City Clerk and Elections Chief. “People aren’t coming in and talking about they voted so we really won’t know how people voted until Tuesday night.”

The election was originally scheduled for March 14. But as a blizzard threatened to shut down the Bay State with more than a foot of snow, the vote was postponed by Essex Superior Court Judge Peter Lauriat. In an emergency meeting last week, the City Council moved the election to the 21st.

In a filing to the city on campaign spending, Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the ballot question, reported it raised $1,395 from Jan. 1 through Feb. 24.  Two Schools For Lynn, a group of residents and teachers who favor the new schools, reported $11,055 in donations, much of the cash from the Lynn Teachers Association and public officials.  Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) is the lastest elected official to say he will vote for the new schools. “I’m planning to vote yes,” he said. “The kids need the new schools.”

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Kennedy makes final push on school vote

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Lombard runs to add to record

Chairman of the Board of Selectman Richard Lombard is running for re-election.


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 Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Dominican pride flies high in Lynn

Frances Martinez leads the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance at Lynn City Hall.

LYNN — The Dominican Republic’s Independence Day isn’t until Monday, but that didn’t stop an early celebration in the city Friday.

More than 100 people, including Dominican natives, their families and officials packed the City Hall lobby to hear rousing speeches, enjoy dances by the Cultura Latina Dance Academy and see the raising of the Latin American country’s red, white and blue flag on City Hall Square.

Perhaps the biggest applause was reserved for Maria Carrasco, a member of the School Committee who immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic in 1982. She was introduced by Frances Martinez, president and CEO of the North Shore Latino Business Association, as “one of our own.”

“This means so much to us because we are free, we can rise and we are proud,” Carrasco said. ”We were able to fight for what we believe, but at the same time we are united, we don’t look to to the past, we just look ahead.”

On Feb. 27, 1844, independence was declared from Haiti, the culmination of a movement led by Juan Pablo Duarte, then in exile, the hero of Dominican independence, and one of its founding fathers, according to

Martinez, who is also a member of the Dominican Flag Committee, said while she was born in the U.S., she is proud of her parents’ country and culture.   

“This celebration is very important to us,” she said. “As a member of the first generation in the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, I want my children and my grandchildren to understand that just because we are here in the U.S. we cannot forget our backgrounds.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy spoke to the crowd in Spanish, which brought cheers.

“I welcome everyone and thank you for attending the flag raising ceremony,” she said. “I wish you a happy Independence Day. Long live the Dominican Republic.”

State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) hailed the crowd and congratulated them.

“The Dominican community is a strong and vibrant part of the city of Lynn,” he said. “I’m glad to be here with all of you to celebrate your Independence Day.”  

Jose Manuel Encarnacion capped off the hour-long event when he said “Keep that fire in your heart for Dominican independence.”

Former Lynn Item building up for auction

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

CFO accuses school committee of ‘fuzzy math’


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

Lynn Tech gets career-building help


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 Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

A ferry good chance of service returning

Ferry service was halted by the state last summer.


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

Lynn marina nets $1M from state

More than $1 million in federal funds made it possible to replace storm-ravaged docks B, C, D and E seen here at Lynn’s Seaport Marina, as well as install new wide cement docks, some new steel pilings and slender electrical boxes.


LYNN – The city has been reimbursed $1.3 million in federal money for repairs to the Seaport Landing Marina.

The cash, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Federal Disaster Aid Program, enabled the city to repair the marina damaged by a February 2013 winter storm.

Former Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency for Massachusetts as the blizzard approached, threatening the state with heavy snow and damaging winds. The declaration and one by the White House allowed for the federal dollars.

Dubbed “Nemo” by the Weather Channel, the storm dropped two feet of snow in the region and did lots of wind damage.

Fixes to the 165-slip marina included replacement of the B, C, D and E docks and the installation of wide cement docks, steel pilings and slender electrical boxes. They are expected to fare better in future storms.

“The 2013 blizzard did a number on the marina,” said James Marsh the city’s community development director,  whose office owns and manages the facility. “We’ve been seeking the federal money ever since.”

More work must still be done, Marsh said.  About $1.6 million is needed to repair the main gangway and A dock. But the federal money only comes once the city has completed the work and it is unclear when the repairs will commence.

“We are slowly piecing the marina back together,” Marsh said. “We are excited about the federal money, anything helps.”

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) said the federal dollars to refurbish the marina will support efforts to stimulate economic opportunity in the city.

“Lynn’s waterfront is integral to our Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) team’s work to create jobs and spur development,” Moulton said in a statement.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the waterfront has long been at the heart of the city’s master plan for redevelopment. “This will bring us one step closer in transforming one of the more underutilized areas of our city into an area of economic growth and opportunity,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Lynn is thrilled to receive this critical funding from FEMA to repair the marina.”

Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) said it’s another example of the continued collaboration with federal agencies resulting in much need needed resources to improve the city.

Peabody mayor seeks ban on pot sales

Thomas Grillo can be reached at


Lynn mayor gets a new helping hand

Outgoing Chief of Staff Jamie Cerulli gives papers to her replacement John Krol as Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy oversees.

LYNN  Ten months before what could be a knock-down, drag- out fight for the corner office, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has hired a new chief of staff.

John Krol, 38, a city license commissioner, replaces Jamie Cerulli in the high profile assignment.

“This is a dream job,” he said. “The mayor is a good friend whom I believe in … I’m thrilled to have a chance to work for her and the city.”

The lifelong Lynn resident is a graduate of Lynn Vocational Technical High School and North Shore Community College. He is chairman of the 80-member Lynn Republican Committee and ran unsuccessfully for school committee twice. Kennedy started out with a list of a dozen candidates to fill the $70,000 job, narrowed it to three and interviewed one person, she said. When she attended Donald Trump’s inauguration nearly two weeks ago, she ran into Krol, a fellow Republican. They had dinner and the two discussed the job. The mayor said she became convinced he was the perfect candidate.

“John has all the right qualities,” she said. “I am very comfortable with him, he has common sense, I trust him, I believe in him, his intuition, loyalty, his ability to run an office, and to be stern when he has to be and unfailingly pleasant at other times.”

Cerulli, who has been Kennedy’s chief of staff since 2011, has accepted a position as Inspectional Services Department coordinator.

“It’s going to be hard to replace somebody as talented as Jamie,” Kennedy said. “But I’m confident John will pick up all the nuances of the job quickly.”

Krol arrives at City Hall in an election year. While Kennedy has not yet declared her candidacy, she is expected to seek a third term. At least two other candidates have expressed interest in the office including Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) and City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre. If the matchup is between Kennedy and McGee, it could be a brawl pitting the popular mayor against the well-known senator whose family name is legend in the city.  

Until recently, Krol worked as an accounts manager at MCR Technologies in Wakefield.  

“The mayor has told me my biggest challenge will be being mean,” he said with a laugh. “I told the mayor, I don’t know about mean, but I can be stern.”

Miguel Funez, a fellow licensing commissioner, said Krol is smart and a good fit for the job.

“The mayor has made a great choice,” he said. “I wish him the best in the new job.”

Discussing the Trump administration

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

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.


Baker states his case

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, center, greets lawmakers and guests as he enters the House chamber at the Statehouse.


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

Helping dollars make sense in Lynn


LYNN — City officials entered into a community compact with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on Tuesday, a program designed to strengthen the partnership between local and state government.

“The idea of getting some technical assistance on our capital long-range planning was a really intriguing possibility to pursue,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy. “And after speaking with the CFO, Peter Caron, and understanding that we would be getting financial assistance to obtain the technical planning expertise, it seemed like a no-brainer to accept the offer from the commonwealth. So, with that, we contacted the governor’s office and arranged to become … the 254th community to sign onto the compact.”

Kennedy said there are two places where the compact will be especially helpful to city government. She said the city is in desperate need of modernizing its IT (Information Technology) department, which consists of only two employees. She said Caron also serves as head of that department, and would like to see that change, as IT and financial expertise don’t always go hand in hand.

Figueroa for stronger community connections

Through the compact, which city officials signed onto with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito at City Hall, Lynn will work with the commonwealth to implement three financial management best practices. The city will work to develop and use a long-range planning/forecasting model, prepare a capital improvement plan, and review and evaluate financial management structure to improve efficiency.

Also on hand for the signing was Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Mass) and state Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus).

Caron, the city’s chief financial officer, said Lynn secured a $75,000 grant through the consulting group hired by the commonwealth, PFM (Public Financial Management), to pay for the three best practices.

The mayor also spoke about the importance of long-term planning. Kennedy said the city is currently operating five schools that are more than 100 years old. She said officials have recently replaced one of the middle schools and have applied to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for a second middle school. But because of the large student population growth, she said the MSBA told officials that they would either need to build the largest middle school in the commonwealth or build two schools.

“So, this has obviously put some strains on our ability to focus on and capitalize (on) our long-term plans,” Kennedy said. “So, we are going out for a debt exclusion to the public on March 14 to try to fund those two middle schools.”

Polito said the compact program is not an unfunded mandate, but a funded, best practices voluntary program. She said the program grew out of conversations with municipal leaders on how state government can be a better, more reliable partner. Through the compact, she said, municipalities can apply to programs for IT grants, complete streets and for regionalization and efficiency.

“Every single compact is unique because you, as municipal leaders, decide what you want to work on,” Polito said. “In this case, the mayor and your CFO will talk about the best practices and why you’ve chosen them, but certainly around financial planning, capital planning, financial management.

“You’re at a point in time where the expertise from our office and others through the grant that we will provide you can really professionalize and update the policies that you want in place, as your city continues to grow, both population-wise, because I know you’re stretched out in your schools, and economic-wise, because you’re really starting to develop your economy here in a more meaningful way,” she continued. “So, this is like reset, and laying a solid foundation for you to then continue to build on in municipal government.”

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

Sheriff Coppinger ready to plug budget hole

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.


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

Lynn to receive $400K in PARC Grants

BOSTON — The state will provide $400,000 to complete  improvements to the Lynn Commons.

The second phase of the project will include the restoration of the curb and walkways on the western side of the park and new benches. The project will also include new trees, trash receptacles, granite mile markers and decorative lighting.

“It is great to see that Lynn is receiving PARC funding,” said Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) in a statement. “These public dollars will be key, not only in improving the Lynn Common but also in improving the quality of life for residents of Lynn.”

The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) provided the grant through the Massachusetts Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC) Program.

State Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead) said ensuring access to green space is an important part of community development.

“These funds will go to improve the Lynn Common in appearance and accessibility for all Lynn residents to enjoy,” she said in a statement.

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said it is essential to invest in the city’s infrastructure to provide safe public places for all to enjoy.

State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) thanked EEA Secretary Matthew Beaton and Lynn’s community development for continuing to rehabilitate and restore Lynn’s historic commons.

“These improvements will help to make the commons more accessible to seniors, families and the disabled,” Cahill said in a statement.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy was thrilled with the latest grant to advance the project. 

“We just finished up the small common and the work we will accomplish on the larger common will not only complement this work but also the work that is taking place down the street at the new Market Basket site,” Kennedy said in a statement. “The entire length of the common is truly a gateway to our downtown and its rehabilitation will do a lot for not only the aesthetics of the area but also the hundreds of residents that utilize it daily.” 

James Marsh, the city’s Community Development director, whose office applied for the funds, said design work will start immediately with a shovel in the ground this summer. 

“We will match the $400,000 with $180,000 in community development funding bringing the total funding to more than $500,000 for this historical green space,” he said in a statement.

Gateway project gets a HAND

PARC was established in 1977 to assist communities in acquiring and developing land for park and outdoor recreation purposes. To qualify for these grants, municipalities must develop projects that are suitable for outdoor recreation. Grants are available for the acquisition of land and the construction, or renovation of park and outdoor recreation facilities. Access by the public is required.

Earlier this year, EEA provided $730,000 to start the project.  

It’s the latest effort by the city to upgrade its parks. Among the open spaces already rehabilitated include Fraser Field, Flax Pond Park, Neptune Blvd. Park and Keaney Park. The improvements complement the $1 million restoration of the Lynn Common Bandstand.

You can’t get there from here: Part 3

State Sen. Thomas McGee, State Rep. Brendan Crighton and State Rep. and City Council President Dan Cahill are seen at the commuter rail station in Lynn.


Third in a four-part series
ALSO: You can’t get there from here: Part 1
You can’t get there from here: Part 2
You can’t get there from here: Part 4

Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) isn’t shy about saying what’s needed to fix the region’s transportation problems: raise the gas tax and add more toll roads.

It’s a bold proclamation considering the anti-tax climate on Beacon Hill.

In January, Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said the House will not propose any new taxes or fees in the new year. When then gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker ran for the office in 2014, he did not support raising taxes.

Voters seem to agree. While McGee supported a hike in the gasoline tax in 2013 that would have automatically adjusted gas taxes to inflation funds that would be used exclusively to pay for infrastructure improvements the measure was repealed the following year in a statewide ballot initiative.

“It’s more than just raising taxes,” he said. “It’s what services should we provide and how do we pay for them? Let’s have that discussion and then figure out the needed revenue.”

The legislation passed by the Legislature was the first time since 1991 that lawmakers had voted to raise the gasoline tax.

Still, DeLeo is not solidly in the no-tax camp. In 2009, he supported the increase in the sales tax to 6.25 percent, up from 5 percent, a move that boosted the state’s revenue by $900 million.

In addition, DeLeo has supported other tax hikes, including higher levies on cigarettes and gas. This year, DeLeo joined his Democratic colleagues to advance a 4 percent surtax on household incomes above $1 million that economists say could generate nearly $2 billion in new revenues annually.

While McGee and transportation advocates have suggested the possibility of installing tolls on some of the state’s other major highways, the idea hasn’t taken off. Baker implemented a “revenue neutral” switch to electronic tolling that will replace toll booths by the end of October.  

Another way to bring in transportation revenue is to assess a tax on motorists based on the number of vehicle miles traveled annually. But that proposal seems to lack traction on Beacon Hill.

McGee bristles at the suggestion that taxpayers refuse to pay more, as the repeal of the gas tax suggests.

“Without new taxes, you have to deal with a system that’s ready to implode; it’s imploding now,” he said.

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) agrees. He said taxpayers are willing to pay more if they can be guaranteed the money will be spent on transportation.

“Voters want to know that the money is going to the right place,” he said. “A bipartisan commission found that it would take $20 billion for infrastructure just to bring us up to the state of good repair and that was a decade ago.”

State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) said everyone agrees that public transportation is a critical part of our regional economy; it isn’t functioning well and a solution is needed. The difference of opinion, he said, is how to pay for it.

“The governor has said reform over revenue increases, but that will get us about a 10 percent saving and that won’t get us there  we need billions of dollars,” he said.  “He has also said there will be no discussion of tax or fee increases, but we have to have those conversations.”

One key investment McGee has sought is an extension of the Blue Line to Lynn. He acknowledged that the three miles from Revere’s Wonderland to downtown Lynn could cost as much as $700 million at a time when the governor says the state is cash-strapped.

Rather than build new tracks, McGee suggests the Blue Line could be placed on the commuter rail line. He did not know how much that would trim the project’s cost.

McGee, who serves as co-chairman of the Senate’s Joint Transportation Committee, is passionate about improving the region’s infrastructure and expanding service that would include ferry service and a Blue Line stop at the commuter rail stop in downtown Lynn.

Both investments would get some commuters off Route 1 South to Boston that can easily take more than an hour to go 10 miles at rush hour.

“We have a commuter rail that doesn’t work for us, by the time the trains arrive, they are packed,” said McGee. “It costs more to take the commuter rail from Lynn than it does to take the Blue Line from Wonderland, and the mostly empty MBTA garage is crumbling.”

He points to Somerville, a city of similar size, that has the Red Line to Davis Square, the Orange Line at Assembly Square and soon the 4.3-mile Green Line extension that will provide service beyond a new Lechmere Station to College Avenue in Medford and to Union Square and three other stations.

“What was Davis Square like before the Red Line?” McGee asked.

Not much, just a handful of mom-and-pop stores, certainly not a destination point. Today it’s brimming with a Starbucks and a bunch of great eateries like Redbones Barbecue, Foundry on Elm, Anna’s Taqueria and the Burren, not to mention the revitalized Somerville Theatre.

The biggest challenge is not finding a great place to eat but a place to park.

Still, Somerville had the benefit of support from the powerful House Speaker Thomas P. O’Neill who had persuasive powers in Congress and at the White House.

Today, the state’s delegation in Washington has limited power given their lack of tenure and the Republican control of Congress.  

While Lynn is one of the communities in the state to offer commuter rail service, McGee said it has never been a major piece of the city’s transportation system.

“It takes us to North Station, which means it’s another transfer point for most people,” he said. “It doesn’t take you to the inner core or connect our region to Logan International Airport, which is a key piece of future economic development and opportunity.”

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) said there’s no question that improved transportation access is the key to growing Lynn.

“I’ve made it clear that economic development is my number one district priority and transportation is critical to that,” he said.  “That’s why I recently secured a $4.5 million grant to purchase a ferry for the city.”

He said deep-sixing the Lynn ferry for this year flies in the face of every successful ferry service in the state, challenging the governor’s assertion that the boat failed to win enough riders to be sustainable. They all had modest beginnings, he said. The Hingham ferry started with one daily trip and now there are 15 with 4,000 riders, he said.

The impact of ferry service is not limited to getting cars off the traffic-choked highways, it’s the key to development on the Lynnway, Moulton added.

“The waterfront development around the Hingham ferry terminal is unbelievable,” he said. “That could be happening in Lynn today, but it won’t happen if we fail to even run the ferry we bought.”

Moulton also supports the Blue Line extension and the so-called North-South Rail Link, that would connect North and South Stations so passengers from north of Boston would not have to take other MBTA trains to get to their downtown destination. That proposed project has been championed by former Gov. Michael Dukakis who said it would unlock major development north of Boston.

Moulton said more than three dozen such links have been built in major cities around the world.

Still, there’s the question of whether Boston would be ready for another Big Dig, not to mention the cost. The bill would be about $680 million per mile to dig under the city of Boston that’s as much as $2.8 billion, Moulton said.

“The Romney administration said it was an $8 billion project, but others say it’s not that much,” he said.

One way it could be paid for, he said, was for the state to abandon the idea of expanding South Station with additional tracks and a new office building.

“If we do the Blue Line extension and North-South Link, you would see an absolute real estate explosion in Lynn,” Moulton said.

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Saugus rep candidates in final faceoff

Democrat Jennifer Migliore and Republican State Rep. Donald Wong answer questions at the Daily Item-sponsored state rep forum at Saugus Town Hall auditorium on Thursday. (Check back with the Item for a video recording of the debate).


SAUGUS — At Thursday night’s debate between State Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) and challenger Jennifer Migliore, the candidates faced off with just days until election day.

Supporters filled the Town Hall Auditorium, Wong supporters wearing T-shirts that read “So Wong, it’s right” and Migliore fans came equipped with cow bells for a more boisterous applause. Hosted by the Item, the forum offered candidates the opportunity to sound off on everything from experience to Wheelabrator Saugus to their views on the ballot questions and presidential candidates.

“Please consider my opponent’s background,” said Wong, who added that Migliore’s includes playing softball and being a staff member for a politician. “She has no experience working with any budget other than her own. I pay taxes. I balance budgets. I have a track record of proven leadership. I have a 100 percent voting record at the State House. I cross party lines for the best results.”

But in working with U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, who she said was also new to his position at the time, Migliore said she got extensive experience helping veterans and families, like those who live in the district.

“I’m 25 years old and I’m proud of the experience that I have,” Migliore said. “I started working for a freshman congressman. We solved over 800 constituent cases. I worked for a freshman and we got an incredible amount of work done. Don’t tell me that being a freshman is a negative thing. I view it as a positive thing. We need new blood, new energy, new ideas.”

The two candidates vying for the seat Wong has held since 2011 took the opportunity to hold each other’s feet to the fire with each rebuttal.

Wong, 64, served on Saugus Town Meeting and the Board of Selectmen. He has lived in Saugus for 40 years and is a third generation business owner of the Kowloon Restaurant on Route 1.

Migliore is a Saugus native. In her former job as a district representative for Moulton, she served as a liaison to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The 9th Essex District encompasses precincts 1, 2, 4-9 in Saugus; precincts 1, 2, 3 and 7 in Wakefield; and Ward 1 precincts 1 and 2 in Lynn.

When asked about what they did to try to prevent the closure of  Union Hospital, Wong said he was the first official to talk to the attorney general about saving it. He hopes to see the building used as a veterans hospital and for emergency services. Migliore said she attended Save Union Hospital meetings and worked with Sen. Thomas McGee and state representatives Dan Cahill and Brendan Crighton, all of whom have endorsed her.

Migliore said part of the reason she is running is she is not satisfied with the job Wong has done.

We need a state rep that is focused on Beacon Hill, instead of Saugus politics,” she said. “Donald Wong was heavily involved in the recall (election of the Board of Selectmen). There is clearly a divide between current Board of Selectmen and Donald Wong.”

But Wong argued that he supports all local officials in Saugus and that nothing would get done if both parties didn’t work together.

The recall was over a year-and-a-half ago,” said Wong. “We need to move on. There is an open line between my office and the town manager, I’m always available to the officials.”

Both candidates said residents’ health comes before money when asked about the financial contributions Wheelabrator Saugus makes to the town.

Wong said the most recent study found there were no adverse health effects as a result of the facility’s operations, but added that other reports have shown mixed results. He wants to look at the big picture and get to the root cause of common health problems, including plane fumes, General Electric, Wheelabrator and other pollutants.

Migliore called the number of miscarriages and residents suffering from cancer “uncanny,” adding that if she held Wong’s seat, she would have co-sponsored Rep. RoseLee Vincent’s bill opposing an expansion to the ash landfill.

“They pay less than $100,000 in taxes for a very large area,” she said. “I do not see $100,000 as making or breaking the town budget.”

Both were against the legalization of the sale and use of recreational marijuana and funding for additional charter schools. Migliore said she supports her party’s candidate for president; Wong only said he is disappointed with his choices.

The debate was moderated by Item News Editor Thor Jourgensen.

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

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