The Chelsea City Council certainly isn’t easing into things during the new session, scheduling three major meetings this month on topics that include casino mitigation, crime fighting strategies and increased liquor licenses.
Starting on Jan. 21, the Council will hold two Subcommittee on Conference hearings concerning the new 10-point crime plan, and also a proposal from City Manager Jay Ash to increase the number of liquor licenses in the city.
Council President Matt Frank said it will be heavy lifting, but that the issues are mostly left over from last year and he wants to get them addressed quickly.
“I’m ready to really get things moving,” he said. “We’re looking to get things like this wound up so we can move on to newer business.”
The liquor license situation requires a Home Rule Petition sent to the State Legislature, and looks to increase the numbers of liquor licenses in the city so that new entities coming to the city have a chance to get a license. There is also the desire to head off the emergence of a secondary license market that can make such licenses very expensive to obtain when there are too few.
“You don’t want a situation where a liquor license requires a $200,000 mortgage like it does in some cities,” Frank said. “We are trying to get restaurants to come into the city. We want to have restaurants here that people want to come to, but also not create a market where liquor licenses are so expensive that people sit on them.”
City Councillor Leo Robinson said he will support the liquor license increase only if such licenses come back to the City when not being used.
“I can support it if the licenses are going to revert back to the City and not going to create a license they can sit on and parlay a windfall for themselves,” he said. “If licenses come back, I can support this.”
Frank said the flip side will be to make sure more licenses don’t end up equalling more liquor stores and more dive bars.
“You also want to have guidelines so that a liquor store or bar room is on every corner,” he said. “We really will have to keep track of this.”
The 10-point crime plan is likely to be far more controversial, and Frank said Jan. 21 would likely be the first of two meetings. He said he wants to get the matter decided, though, so that Ash can formulate any version of the plan into the upcoming City Budget.
“I know the city manager really wants to get grant applications in and he also has a budget process to get started on,” said Frank. “That’s why it’s one of the early ones we’re addressing because there’s a lot to talk about and we need to find out what we want to do sooner rather than later. We have to do something and can’t put that one off for a month.”
The discussion is likely going to be a continuation of the public safety stalemates that took place during the last session of the Council between one faction calling for more walking patrols and residency restrictions on hires, and another faction that tended to favor the professional opinion of Police Chief Brian Kyes.
Councillor Leo Robinson said the residency situation for officers – especially new hires – will be part of the discussion for him.
“We have to address public safety and we’re looking to put five more policemen on and implement this plan,” he said. “My question is are we going to make them live here. I think we have to look at having them live here for a time like all the other cities are doing. That’s the bottom line. We just can’t keep saying ‘Nobody wants to live here.’ We’re going to have all this new development, so there are plenty of nice, affordable places here. How will we build a middle class in Chelsea if we don’t require some of the city workers who make a nice salary to live here? When I grew up in Chelsea, the police lived here and it helped. If people knew an officer lived on your street, they went elsewhere to do crime. I don’t know if everyone is on the same page with me though.”
Frank has said in the past, and continues to hold fast, that he is dead set against residency requirements.
The final Committee meeting is on Jan. 27 and will address the newly-unveiled Surrounding Community Agreement (SCA) for Chelsea with the Mohegan Sun casino proposal in Revere.
Among other things, that agreement calls for $2.5 million to be paid to the city annually once the casino opens. The entirety of the agreement will be discussed.