1. BITTERSWEET DEPARTURE
City Manager Jay Ash announces on Nov. 11 that he will leave his post after 14 years to take a cabinet position in Gov.-elect Charlie Baker’s administration. Ash will be the new secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. After the announcement, Ash reveals that he has received offers from other administrations, but has always declined due to a feeling of not having all his work finished in Chelsea – his hometown. Ash’s effect on the City in his 14 years has been immeasurable, and he says that the key moment of change was when the Wyndham Hotel agreed to come to Everett Avenue. He also said he would have never thought that such successes would have come to Chelsea, but he always planned for it.
2. ALL-AMERICAN CITY PART 2
Delegates prepare for several months, and come out a winner in June, as Chelsea collects its second All-American City award in Colorado. Scores of Chelsea residents, young and old, of all ethnicities and races, attend and participate in the presentation. Chelsea ran away with the award, taking a completely different tack in its presentation. The City’s presentation relied upon non-government presenters, including an inspiring singing presentation by Chelsea High student Amber Rodriguez. The award was a major milestone for the City, which also won the award in 1998. Those who attended the ceremonies said it was incredible once Chelsea was announced as the winner. The momentum from the award and the collaboration between local delegates was still being felt well into the latter part of the year. Many said connections made in Denver during the award presentation have led to numerous other positive changes in the city.
3. MARKET BASKET MANIA
More than 1,000 employees, customers and store managers gather in the parking lot of the Chelsea Market Basket on June 24 as the Demoulas Company ownership spirals out of control. The rally followed the removal of CEO Arthur T. Demoulas and several key executives by the Board of Directors and Arthur S. Demoulas. The controversy in ownership ignites many more rallies throughout the region and is the story of the summer. In Chelsea, the giant store on Everett Avenue is transformed into ghost town, with few employees and even fewer customers. The shelves are largely empty and there is nearly no produce for sale. Many local officials and customers engage in an unofficial boycott of the store. Employees from Chelsea find it hard to eek out a living during the turmoil, with many turning to a community school supply drive to help employee’s children returning to school. In a late night meeting in late August, a new agreement is pounded out and Arthur T. takes back the reins of the company. All returns to normal, and Arthur T. makes a visit to the Chelsea store on Labor Day – drawing quite a crowd.
4. FED CHAIR COMES TO CHELSEA
Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve Bank, visits the Chelsea CONNECT Center at The Neighborhood Developers (TND) on Gerrish Avenue in October. Yellen tours the facility, participates in a roundtable discussion with City Manager Jay Ash, TND Director Ann Houston and other local leaders. After that, she participates in a roundtable discussion with clients of CONNECT and several Chelsea residents tell her of their difficulties in finding jobs and training for jobs. Yellen asks several questions of the participants. National media covered the event and noted that it was quite a departure from typically sterile Fed events. Yellen was drawn to Chelsea due to the fact that it had won the Boston Federal Reserve’s Working Cities Challenge in January. CONNECT and its community partners were instrumental in helping Chelsea win that grant.
5. WYNN IS IN
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) awards the Greater Boston casino license to Wynn Resorts in Everett, leaving the Revere-based Mohegan Sun proposal high and dry. Chelsea was right in the middle of both proposals, but had heavily favored Mohegan Sun, mostly because of a lucrative Surrounding Community Agreement. In giving the casino to Wynn, Chelsea lost a $2.5 million per year mitigation payment from Mohegan Sun. Wynn’s agreement with Chelsea was far less, coming to $600,000. That came only after an intense arbitration process with the MGC. City Manager Jay Ash said he was extremely shocked at the decision and preferred the Mohegan proposal because they had been far more cooperative in recognizing the effects of a casino on Chelsea. Wynn had been far less cooperative in negotiations, but Ash says he will move forward and work cooperatively with Wynn.
6. SURGE OF ILLEGAL MINORS CHALLENGE SCHOOLS, SERVICES
The City, its schools and its support structures struggles to get a grip on hundreds and hundreds of illegal immigrants and unaccompanied minors pouring into the City from Central America. Hundreds of new students have enrolled in the schools, particularly in the high school and middle schools. City officials, the Chelsea Collaborative and the Chelsea Public Schools attend a packed Summit on July 10 to hear about the issues and to hear from two people who recently arrived from El Salvador. They talked about a “War Tax” that had to be paid to violent street gangs or else they would harm or assault victims. The crisis in Chelsea corresponded to a crisis on the Texas border with Mexico, and many of the students coming to the Chelsea schools have arrived via the Border.
7. CLARK AVE SCHOOL GETS OK
The City Council took a final vote in November to go forward with the building of a new Clark Avenue Middle School. The school has been in the works for several years, and took an unexpected and expensive turn in the summer when the state revealed several costs not covered under a grant. Most of the project is financed by the state, but Chelsea taxpayers will fund around $18 million of the project. With enrollments swelling, the new school will fill a gigantic need in the public schools.
8. EXECUTIVE ORDER GIVES RELIEF TO MANY
An executive order in November by President Barack Obama to defer deportment of millions of illegal immigrants brings indescribable relief to thousands of Chelsea residents. At the same time, though, many others were not covered by the order and still find themselves in limbo. In some cases, wives might be covered and husbands are not. The news is joy for some and pain for others. The controversial order is still up in the air nationwide as opponents have talked about blocking it.
9. PUTTING OUT FIRES
Chelsea Firefighters record a tremendously busy year. The CFD fought dozens of working house fires – including a 5-alarm fire on Arlington Avenue during Labor Day. Fire crews also delivered four babies and rescued a man who had jumped from the Tobin Bridge and helped to iron out the year-long closure of the Washington Avenue bridge. During a fire on County Road last summer, Lt. Arthur Caissie saved the life of one woman, and in October, collected one of the state Firefighter of the Year Awards for his brave efforts.
10. OVER THE BRIDGE
State Reps. Gene O’Flaherty and Kathi-Anne Reinstein resign their seats one week apart in January, sparking a special election in February and another regular election in November. Candidates campaigned throughout the Polar Vortex winter, and then turned around and began campaigning once again for the much-more-seasonable November election. Charlestown’s Dan Ryan bests Chelsea’s Roy Avellaneda in both elections, marking the first time in decades that the seat has belonged to a non-Chelsea resident. Revere’s RoseLee Vincent takes over Reinstein’s seat.
11. POSITIVE MOVES FORWARD, FBI BREAKS GROUND
The City comes alive with development and positive changes. In April, the One North development opens its first phase and welcomes residents, while the award-winning PORT Park opens officially in July on Marginal Street. Work on two hotels commences and job fairs for construction and permanent jobs draws hundreds to City Hall. On the drawing board this year are at least one more hotel near the Revere line and park projects at Voke Park and Highland Street. The Box District breaks ground and builds out several units of market rate housing at 22 and 44 Gerrish Ave. – completing the full-build out of the award-winning market-rate and affordable housing redevelopment project. The big cahuna, though, that being the FBI, finally breaks ground and begins site work and construction work in the fall at its future Everett Avenue home.
Movies come back to Chelsea during the summer. ‘Black Mass,’ with star Johnny Depp, makes numerous stops in Chelsea, including a very eventful three-day filming near Quigley Park. Also, ‘Ted 2′ returned to Chelsea and filmed for several days in Bellingham Square – particularly in Compare Supermarket. In September, the Equalizer,’ which was filmed throughout Chelsea in 2013, debuts in theatres nationwide. The movie had transformed Chelsea Floor Coverings on Everett Avenue into a dingy coffee shop. Movies are expected to continue coming to Chelsea in the coming years.
13. A TEMPORARY NEW YEAR
The City ended 2014 in an interim situation, as Assistant City Manager Ned Keefe took the reins as interim city manager on Dec. 19. Keefe will act as manager for six months into 2015 as the City Council and the new search committee – the Collins Center – begins the search for a permanent city manager.
14. MCLAUGHLIN TROUBLE CONTINUES
Michael McLaughlin, former Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) director, pleads guilty to another federal crime regarding fixed housing inspections during his tenure. He receives an additional year of time in jail via a plea agreement. A few days later, McLaughlin pleads guilty to state charges of unlawfully soliciting campaign contributions for former Lt. Gov. Tim Murray. The Chelsea Retirement Board also sees a lot of controversy regarding McLaughlin’s pension. CHA attorneys had called for the pension payments to be given to them as restitution. However, after months and months of deliberation, the Board rules that the CHA has no right to the pension. The matter continues to be an issue before the Board. It is estimated that the matter will not be resolved until McLaughlin gets out of jail and appears in person.