Sen. Thomas McGee

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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

City takes the LEAD with developers

Charlie Patsios talks about the future of the land that used to house the old General Electric gear plant site during the economic development tour today. Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — Jay Connolly admits he is “somewhat of a stranger to Lynn,” but the vice president of Beverly-based Connolly Brothers Inc. registered for Tuesday’s city development tour of Lynn to find new opportunities.

“The city seems to have lots of potential, proximity to Boston and waterfront opportunities, so it’s exciting to see it,” Connolly said.

More than 100 investors, developers, lenders, brokers and contractors like Connolly boarded three buses for a glimpse at the city’s development opportunities.

“It’s encouraging to see so many new faces looking at Lynn,” said Matthew Picarsic, managing principal of RCG, a Somerville-based real estate firm whose Lynn projects include the Boston Machine Lofts building on Willow Street. “Lynn has lots of opportunities … and it seems ready to go.”

Hosted by the Economic Development & Industrial Corporation of Lynn (EDIC), MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development agency, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton and the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) team, the tour showcased acres of waterfront land and more than a dozen underdeveloped properties in the downtown.

Charles Patsios, the Swampscott developer who is preparing to build a $500 million complex on the 65-acre former General Electric Co. Gear Works property that will feature 1,200 apartments adjacent to the train stop, met the tour on his site.

“Lynn has the best of the best and it’s been hidden in plain sight for so long,” he said. “Lynn is the next Charlestown, East Boston, South Boston, North End, Somerville, Cambridge, Kendall Square, all of those components can be found in Lynn. The future is Lynn … the opportunities abound.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy welcomed the visitors at the ferry terminal parking lot on Blossom Street extension, telling them that few people know there are 200 acres of undeveloped land available in the city, much of it on the waterfront. She urged them to let their imaginations stay open throughout the event. “Hopefully, you will come back with some ideas to transform Lynn,” she said. “All of us are standing by, ready to make that happen for you.”

Jay Ash, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development and a member of a LEAD team, said he’s excited about Lynn’s present and future. He said the response he’s received about investing in Lynn has been encouraging.

“For those of you who are thinking about development in Lynn, I can’t think of a better place to make an investment,” he said. “It’s a jewel along the water. This place is happening. We are prepared to work with you to help make your development successful. We know that together there are great days ahead for Lynn and we are happy to be a small part of it.”

Gregory Bialecki, who held Ash’s job in the Patrick administration and is now a principal at Redgate, the Boston-based developer who is considering Lynn, said as housing prices soar in places like Somerville and Chelsea, Lynn is the next logical place to build apartments.

“Twenty years ago, people said Chelsea was not on the list of where people with choices would want to live, but they’ve turned the corner,” he said. “The conditions are ready for it to happen in Lynn.”

Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) sang the city’s praises to the potential investors, telling them Lynn has a vibrant sense of community that is unmatched.

“Our waterfront offers one of the most beautiful sites on the East Coast and there are regional water transportation opportunities,” he said. “I know I’m biased living here in Lynn, but people in this city really care about this community.”

State Rep. and City Council President Daniel Cahill said so many elected officials gathered for the tour because they believe in the city.  

“We have done lots of rezoning, so you will see lots of build as-of-right possibilities, a very exciting phrase to developers, and we have expedited permitting,” he said. “You will find some great parcels and great investments.”

Just before the tour, James Cowdell, EDIC’s executive director, said the downtown has been rezoned to allow for conversion of industrial buildings into housing. As a result, he said, more than 300 new residents live downtown.

He provided a preview of the stops along the trek including 545 Washington St., the five-story former home of Prime Manufacturing Co. that is zoned for commercial use on the first floor and residential above; 11 Spring St., a six-story building across the street from the MBTA that has been used for location shots for Hollywood movies; 40-48 Central St., vacant buildings with adjacent parking which comprise a site for multi-story, market rate housing above commercial space; 38 South Common St., and the 1893 state-owned Lynn Armory that is on the National Register of Historic Places and is available for sale.

In addition, Cowdell noted there are multiple sites available on the waterside of the Lynnway including 40 acres owned by National Grid that could be developed.

“The sky’s the limit,” Cowdell said.

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said the city is finally getting noticed, in part, because they have a full set of tools in their toolbox to help developers.

“We want to show off the city and get feedback to see if there are things we can do better,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton met the tour at the Lynn Museum & Historical Society and compared the proximity of Lynn to Boston in the context of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

“Think about how Brooklyn has taken off in the last 10 years and it’s not just the Brooklyn of 50 years ago” he said. “There are a tremendous number of start-ups, a great tech scene and all sorts of things that are very much relevant to today, not just the economy of old. That’s the kind of thing we want to see in Lynn.”

At the start of the tour, about two dozen members of Lynn United for Change, a community organization that supports affordable housing, used the gathering to advocate for low- and moderate-income units. They held signs that read “Lynn Says No To Gentrification” and “Lynn Families Before Developer’s Profits.”  

“In this city, we need affordable housing that’s accessible to the working people of our city,” said one protester through a bullhorn.  

City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre, who was present during the protest, said the developer’s tour was not the time or place to air their grievances over housing.

“I would not go along with 100 percent of the units in a new development being affordable. But I am sympathetic to their cause. But the details are subject to them talking to the developers to see how many affordable units, if any, developers are willing to do.”

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Lynn will take LEAD with investors

Joseph Mulligan, from MassDevelopment, during his tour of downtown Lynn in June. Item File Photo

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — For the first time in anyone’s memory, more than 100 developers, lenders and investors will tour the city next week to learn about its investment and development opportunities.

“It’s getting the stars to align,” said Jason Denoncourt, economic development director for U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), one of the tour’s hosts. “There’s so much opportunity here. The city just needs the right mix of strategy, experience and capital to make something happen.”

Sponsored by the Economic Development & Industrial Corporation of Lynn (EDIC), the nonprofit development arm of the city, MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development and finance agency, Moulton’s office and the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) team, the four-hour tour scheduled for Tuesday will showcase acres of waterfront land and more than a dozen properties that are poised to be revitalized as apartments or mixed-use commercial development.  

“This represents the coordination of federal, state and local resources to bring awareness to a location that has been overlooked by the industry for many years,” said Joseph Mulligan, a MassDevelopment fellow who is working to transform the downtown. “It’s a good chance to get people to look beyond their comfort level for opportunities.”

Among the registered attendees is HYM Investment Group, the Boston developer of the $1.5 billion Bulfinch Crossing project that promises to transform the Government Center Garage into a 3 million-square-foot mixed-use project.

“We are excited to see what Lynn has to offer,” said Thomas O’Brien, founding partner.

Also on the list are Cruz Development, the Roxbury-based developer that has built more than 1,500 apartments and Boston-based Trinity Financial that has constructed several large residential development projects on the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

The tour guides include Denoncourt, Mulligan and the EDIC’s Bill Bochnak. There will be 20 stops along the way to examine 14 properties and more than 100 acres of available land on the waterfront. Some of the properties include the former Lynnway Auto Auction, the Mass Merchandise site on the Lynnway, Anthony’s Hawthorne, the former General Electric Co.’s gear plant property and the former Daily Item building.

“I’ve been with the city for 30 years, we’ve never had a developer’s tour,” said James Cowdell, EDIC’s executive director. “Lynn’s time is now. There are people with very deep pockets who are looking to invest in Lynn. This is awesome. To get these types of investors here is proof that Lynn is on the radar and that it’s a great place to invest.”

Denoncourt said the idea of the tour is to invite new people to look at Lynn differently or bring new ideas.

Scott Kelley, vice president of development at New England Development, the Boston firm founded by Stephen Karp that boasts more than 50 million square feet of retail, commercial, and hospitality space, got a sneak peek this week when Denoncourt gave him a private tour of the city.

“Lynn has lots of raw potential,” he said. “It’s got the critical components of a compelling story: adjacency to transit, proximity to Boston, it’s amazing location on the water and the backdrop of a historic downtown New England city. As an organization, we are always looking at opportunities.”

Among the elected and appointed officials who intend to be on the tour include Moulton, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), State representatives Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn), Brendan Crighton, (D-Lynn), Donald Wong (R-Saugus), Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead) and Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash.

“We want to show the investment world that everybody is working together to move Lynn forward,” said Cowdell.

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Union study addresses impact of closing Union

Union Hospital.


LYNN — Union Hospital may not close for three years, but a new study lists more than a dozen ways to safeguard patient care and preserve jobs after it is shuttered.

Among the solutions include: develop plans for a freestanding emergency department; ensure affordable, accessible transportation to access care; increase community benefits spending; and improve access to care and capacity.

The survey, commissioned by United Healthcare Workers East, the nation’s largest healthcare union, and conducted by NextShift Collaborative, surveyed the public and private sectors and focus groups comprised of residents and hospital employees.

While many public officials and residents worry about the impact of Union Hospital closing, the study allowed a broad range of people to address the health needs of Lynn residents, said Tyrek Lee, the union’s executive vice president.

“Our priority has always been to advocate for policies that build a stronger, healthier future for working families,” Lee said in a statement.

Kevin Ronningen, North Shore Medical Center (NSMC) spokesman, said he hadn’t seen the study until contacted by The Item. He agreed there are many complex healthcare issues facing Lynn due to the hospital’s closing.

He said NSMC has increased the amount of primary care physicians and is working to develop a plan to make emergency services available for Lynn residents.

“Many of the concerns in the study we’re concerned about as well,” he said.

The study concluded that there’s an opportunity to restructure the health care system to better serve the region’s needs and improve overall health by addressing the social and economic factors of healthcare, said J. Phillip Thompson, NextShift Collaborative principal and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, in a statement.

Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) said the report provides an important framework for how the community can move forward to address the city’s unmet health needs.

“We are at a critical point in our work to ensure that healthcare needs of Lynn residents are met going forward,” McGee said in a statement.

Dillon Durst can be reached at

A conventional approach

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baker won’t move on ferry



In his first public comments on the stranded Lynn to Boston ferry, Gov. Charlie Baker defended his administration’s decision not to fund it.  

“At this point, it didn’t generate the ridership that people had hoped it would generate, and the price tag associated per rider is extraordinary,” Baker told The Item.

Baker made the remarks following his appearance at “The Future of Transportation: Paving a Path to Progress” in Boston on Thursday with Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack and other experts.

The governor said Lynn’s two-year demonstration project to launch the ferry on the state’s dime was an opportunity to examine whether the service made sense.

“We agreed to work with folks and support it for a couple of years to see what happens,” Baker said. “Our message to people is: let’s look at what happened over the short, two-year demo period… see what’s possible with respect to how it might be organized going forward and paid for. And let’s come back and have a conversation again, after people do some homework on that review. I personally think that’s a reasonable approach.”

Earlier this month, the Baker administration rejected Lynn’s request for about $700,000 in operating expenses for the ferry to sail for a third summer. As result, former ferry riders are back on the commuter rail, taking the bus to the Blue Line or driving to Boston.

Pollack said the comparisons of the Lynn ferry to the MBTA’s ferry services in other Bay State coastal communities is unfair.

“The MBTA ferries cost half as much, and riders cover 70 percent of the cost,” she told The Item. “The Lynn ferry costs twice as much per passenger and riders cover less than 10 percent. There has to be subsidy in Lynn, like there is subsidy at the T, but the question is: what level of subsidy?”  

But Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) said he disagrees with Baker that Lynn failed to attract enough riders to prove the service makes economic sense.

“Even the provider of the ferry service anticipated many fewer riders,” he said. “For us to have 15,000 riders last year in a three month period was a message that viable ferry service from Lynn is legitimately a real opportunity for the North Shore to have an important transportation option.”

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said the state has already invested $8.5 million to build the pier and a parking lot and without the ferry it’s going to waste.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development & Industrial Corp. of Lynn, said he hopes that when the governor reviews the two-year pilot program that he don’t look at it as a Lynn ferry, rather as a  regional ferry.

Cowdell insisted that none of the commuter ferries make money. But given time, ridership on the Lynn ferry would increase while the cost would drop. In 2014, the service attracted 13,136 riders and 15,230 last year.

“We are just starting out building ridership,” he said. “The best marketing is our passengers. You can’t compare us to Hingham. They have been in operation for a decade. If the ferry ran this summer, we would have exceeded 15,000 passengers.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she was disappointed with the governor’s decision not to fund the ferry, but declined to criticize him.

“I can’t think of a time when I’ve ever reached out to state government to reverse a decision they’ve made,” she said. “That would be stepping over a boundary. If I want to have a say in how the state budget gets spent, maybe I should run for governor. I do understand his decision. It’s disappointing. People enjoyed the ferry and maybe the allocation will be available sometime in the future.”

On Tuesday, the City Council voted 7 to 0 to ask Baker to reconsider his decision not to fund the ferry service.

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

No sail? Maybe no sales

The gate to the ferry dock still remains closed.


LYNN — The lack of ferry service on the North Shore this summer is not only an inconvenience to riders but is sure to hurt home sales, according to brokers.

Real estate agents selling downtown condominiums say without the ferry potential buyers could be deterred from making a purchase.

“Not having ferry service this year is serious because it hurts efforts to enhance the downtown and attract buyers,” said  Annemarie Jonah, of Annmarie Jonah Realtors in Lynn. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a bad decision that hurts us in Lynn and hurts everyone.”

Earlier this month, the Baker administration denied Lynn’s request for about $700,000 in operating expenses for the ferry to sail for a third summer. As result of the controversial decision, about 15,000 former ferry riders are back on the commuter rail, taking the bus to the Blue Line or driving to Boston.

But real estate salespersons say the impact is much larger. They say one selling point for condos, the 30-minute ferry to Boston, has to be removed from their MLS Property Information Network listings.

Sharon Toner, an agent at Toner Real Estate, who is listing a one-bedroom unit on Lynn Shore Drive for $174,900, said having a ferry nearby was a big selling point.

“It takes so long to get anywhere, especially in downtown Lynn, even to the commuter rail,” she said. “It would obviously be very helpful to have another means of transportation to get out of the city.”

Laura Previer, an agent at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, and a Lynn resident, who has the listing for a $214,900 condo on Munroe Street, said the unit is especially good for someone without a car since the unit does not come with a parking space.

“I think the ferry will help sales,” she said. “Any type of transportation other than taking your own car is a plus. The commuter rail right behind the building is a big selling point and so would the ferry.”

Arthur Pappathanasi, the co-developer of the former Beacon Chevrolet site on the Lynnway where plans for the 14-acre site include 355 waterfront apartments steps from the ferry landing, said he hopes the service can be saved.

“The ferry is something that will enhance our project and be beneficial to tenants since its is just a few minutes away,” he said.  

Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) has been an advocate for the ferry and can’t understand why the state refused to come up the money to operate the boat given its two-year record of success.

“Why not a ferry to Boston?”

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Lynn delegation launches into Baker

Lynn Ferry.


BOSTON — Lynn lawmakers chastised the Baker administration at a Beacon Hill hearing Monday for stranding the city’s ferry riders.

“One of the top priorities for the LEAD (Lynn Economic Advancement and Development) group was the ferry service for very short money,” said State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), referring to Gov. Charlie Baker’s high-powered team that includes U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, James Cowdell of Lynn’s Economic Development & Industrial Corp. and others who can cut through the bureaucracy.

We have been working on it for more than a decade, and this ferry extension for more than a year, only to find out now that the ferry is dead,” Crighton said.
Carolyn Kirk, deputy secretary of the state’s Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development, who also serves on the Seaport Economic Council, delivered the bad news to lawmakers at the hearing before the Metropolitan Beaches Commission.

She said that the state denied Lynn’s request for about $700,000 in operating expenses for the ferry to sail for a third summer. She said the application came too late, and the funds were exhausted for this fiscal year. The state originally had about $14.5 million available.

Sen. Thomas McGee was visibly angry and scolded Kirk and Astrid Glynn, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s rail and transit administrator.

“We are missing the boat on an unlimited potential for access to this region,” the Lynn Democrat said. “I would argue that ferry service from Lynn is a critical piece of public transportation, it’s not fluff. It’s very frustrating that we are not running a ferry service this year because it is contingent on it being sustainable.

Communities are not paying for the Green Line to get service that’s being expanded. They are not paying for commuter rail service, so I don’t understand why public transit, in terms of ferry operation, should be any different.”

Baker’s decision not to fund the ferry service comes on the heels of a $4.5-million federal grant in April for a new 149-passenger ferry with help from Moulton. The vessel is under construction, but could be lost to another community if Lynn cannot raise the cash to operate the boat.

More than two years ago, the EDIC rebuilt the Blossom Street Extension pier, where ferry passengers board, with $7.65 million in taxpayer funding. The bulk of the money, $5 million, came from the Seaport Economic Council, and another $2 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The EDIC invested $650,000.

Proponents say the ferry was a success for the last two summers,  attracting about 15,000 riders each season.  

McGee said if the money isn’t available, then there should be a conversation about finding a way to make it happen. “Why aren’t we having a discussion about what services we should be providing in the region to grow our economy?” he asked.

Kirk and Glynn did not respond to McGee’s comments.

But, in an interview with The Item following the hearing, Kirk, the former mayor of Gloucester, put the blame on Lynn.

“I think the administration has to get our arms around how this service can be sustainable and paid for … without relying on the state subsidy every year,” she said.

The original premise of the ferry service, Kirk said, was that the first year would be a pilot and subject to the city of Lynn putting together a marketing, ridership and outreach plan. But that was never done, she added.

“Some responsibility belongs to the city of Lynn. They are a very important partner in this, and they didn’t offer up a business plan.”

But, the EDIC’s Cowdell said he received the request for a business plan in March, and said he was told it would take at least six months to complete.
“That’s just an excuse,” he said. “Our responsibility was to show ridership and we’ve done that. We had two successful years and asked the state to fund the operation. All of a sudden, the state is running for cover and has decided not to help out at all. There’s not a commuter ferry in the state that does not receive some form of financial assistance.”

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Lt. governor sees initiative in lynn

From left, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, Lt Gov. Karyn Polito and EDIC Director James Cowdell look over the downtown area from the train tracks.


LYNN — Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito toured buildings and places in need of rejuvenation in the downtown Tuesday.

Polito was in Lynn to witness the Transformative Development Initiative (TDI), a redevelopment initiative for gateway cities designed to enhance public-private partnerships, improve the quality of life for residents and spur investment and economic activity.

The partnership, comprised of City Hall, the Economic Development & Industrial Corp. (EDIC), Lynn Housing Authority and Neighborhood Development and the Hall Co., has been studying how to remake the downtown.

Joseph Mulligan, a MassDevelopment fellow, who is coordinating the effort on behalf of the Commonwealth’s economic development and finance agency, conducted the tour. Included in the excursion was the shuttered former Lynn Item building on Exchange Street, the Grand Army of the Republic Museum on Andrew Street and other vacant properties with potential near the MBTA’s Central Square station.

James Cowdell, EDIC’s executive director, said the buildings included in the initiative are those that need help to be developed, including major renovations and tenants.

“What we want is market rate housing in most of these buildings,” Cowdell said.

Polito said Mulligan has been asked to plan for the transformation of the district into a more lively place. She said the initiatives are important in transforming places like Lynn, especially given the high costs of living in Boston. It will help make Lynn an attractive alternative to the Hub, by improving the quality of life, the arts and cultural district, she added.

“Lynn is ready for that opportunity,” Polito said.

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) called the TDI another tool in the city’s toolbox.

“It really takes a lot of work to put together the pieces to make a successful downtown,” he said.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said city officials were excited to show Polito some of the buildings that needed to be renovated.

Also on hand for the tour was Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), a strong advocate to extend the MBTA’s Blue Line into the city.

“It’s a very exciting time for the city of Lynn,” he said.  

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

Swampscott celebrates its fallen heroes

World War II veterans Jack Freryor and John Di Pietro reflect on their service Monday at Swampscott Cemetery.


SWAMPSCOTT — Memorial Day services were held on Monday in the newly-restored Andrews Memorial Chapel at the Swampscott Cemetery.

The event was the first for the church in 15 years following a $320,000 renovation. Built in 1923 in memory of Isaac A. Andrews, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The ceremony is typically held in the veterans section of the cemetery. But weather conditions prompted services to be moved inside, said John Sacherski, VFW Post 1240 commander.

Still, flags were placed at the grave marking of each veteran by Steve DeFelice, a Marine Corps veteran, and a group of others.

“The flags are all measured to a certain standard,” Sacherski said. “It’s very well done. It’s beautiful.”

Captain Rev. Dean Pederson, who was ordained 50 years ago and sent to Vietnam, led the ceremony and said he was honored to be using the space.

“It’s not a celebration in the sense that we celebrate the Fourth of July,” Pederson said. “But we do celebrate the lives of those who have gone before us.”

While many in attendance were not veterans, Pederson said some of them may have lost family members or been “touched by the fire of war.” He thanked those who lost their lives fighting for our freedom.

“To those, who in our mind and in our hearts are forever young, for their life and their legacy, we give thanks,” Pederson said.

This Memorial Day was extra special for Selectman Peter Spellios, who remembered his father, Cpl. Louis T. Spellios, who was drafted at 18 to serve in World War II.

Spellios said his father died this year. He reflected on playing catch in the backyard with his dad, and said that unknowingly, his children brought back the memory Monday morning by playing ball in the backyard.

He stressed the importance of making sure future generations understand the sacrifices the military makes daily.

“Today and everyday, thank you to all who have served and all that have sacrificed,” Spellios said.

The U.S. Marine Corps Junior ROTC presented the Colors, Frank Rowe played the bagpipe and VFW members and Marine Corps Legion fired rounds outside the chapel.

A crowd gathered at the VFW for lunch following the event.

Sacherski said that despite a recent incident when a $276 donation bucket was stolen from an elderly World War II veteran, Boy Scouts, veterans and volunteers raised more than $4,000 for the VFW and organizations that it supports.

“The money goes to helping the veterans,” Sacherski said.

Last year, 72 food baskets were put together and distributed to World War II veterans, he said.

The stolen cash was quickly recovered by the Swampscott Police Department, Sacherski said.

“We raised more money this year than we’ve ever raised in 10 years,”he said. “We have an amazing bunch of officers and I’d like to thank them for their response.”

Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), who attended Memorial Day ceremonies in Nahant and Lynn, said he was impressed by the number of people who braved the weather.

“Even in the rain, this is a great crowd,” McGee said. “It’s a nice chance to see the different towns and cities and the ways that they celebrate.”

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

Cahill is ready to represent

Dan Cahill won the East Lynn legislative race to become a State Representative.


LYNN — City Council President Dan Cahill added state representative to his titles Tuesday by winning 320 votes out of 331 cast in the East Lynn legislative race.

With 1.5 percent of registered voters casting ballots, Cahill won 97 percent of the vote.

“I’m very honored to be the new state representative,” he said. “It wasn’t a high profile election but we worked hard.”

On Wednesday, Cahill said he spoke to Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) who “expressed the possibility” of him being sworn in next week. Gov. Charlie Baker, who congratulated Cahill during a visit to Lynn Wednesday, will administer the oath of office.

The Lynn Democrat ran unopposed for the seat vacated by Robert Fennell, who served as state representative for more than two decades before he resigned to join the Lynn Water & Sewer Commission.

Cahill intends to serve out the remainder of his council term, which expires in January, 2018 and he plans to practice law part-time. He is no longer affiliated with former employer and Boston law firm Locke Lord.

Cahill said he is excited about the new position and looks forward to working with state Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) and Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn).

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

West Lynn railbed draws inspiration

Jeremy Cheam, of RAW Art Works in Lynn, works on the mural that is headed for Neptune Court.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new chief for Nahant

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m so happy that we have you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Residents T off on fare hikes

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You would be killing us,” Houghton said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Gayla Cawley can be reached at