Downtown Coordinator Position Questioned in Budget Debate

It seems every time the City Budget is up for discussion each June, Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney becomes a recall for all that’s wrong with the downtown corridor.

Monday night was no different, but the tables were turned a bit.

Graney has been the Downtown Coordinator and in charge of Chelsea Prospers about four years, and has shown great initiative in bringing in things like the Night Market and several arts programs. However, there have been long-standing allegations that she has not fulfilled her role in working with businesses, particularly connecting with Spanish-speaking businesses.

Traditionally, Councilor Damali Vidot has called for her to be defunded, and Council President Roy Avellaneda has called to give her more time.

This time, though, it was the other way around.

“I want that position to be cut,” said Avellaneda. “I stood up for this position and said it was too early and not enough time had been given to make inroads…I see a lack of relationship building with our downtown merchants and it’s been three years without success. I’ve even heard complaints from downtown stakeholders there is no connection between the coordinator and the businesses…I think we’re doing a lot more double spending on things that should be done by this individual.”

However, Graney has just come off of a massive effort to assist the City, residents and businesses during COVID-19. Most have cited her dedication as extraordinary and she is credited with bringing everyone together on a daily phone call to coordinate efforts.

Vidot said after she saw how much Graney cares about the residents and the City during COVID, she could never call for her to be cut again – even if there has been a disconnect with some businesses.

“I’m speechless we are trying to cut the person who held up the Chelsea Pandemic Response Team and I am disgusted we would treat an employee that dedicated 18 hours a day to help our residents…in the middle of a pandemic…I am absolutely not supporting this. This is not how you treat employees, particularly when they show up in the darkest days of our community.”

Ambrosino said her dedication was extraordinary during the pandemic, and he would often have to tell her to go home and rest when she was still at City Hall late into the night.

That said, he indicated that her strengths have shown in arts programming and events – as well as repurposing areas like Division Street and Luther Place. He said that maybe she hasn’t been as effective at the business portion of the job as they had hoped, but he was looking at redefining her role anyhow.

That, and she’s a union employee that cannot be cut.

Said Councilor Leo Robinson, “I think I enjoyed not having to leave our City to go to events they have in other places like the Night Market. There were some businesses that complained, but not all businesses. I don’t know if there maybe was a communication issue with our Latino brothers and sisters.”

In the end, the amendment by Avellaneda was defeated 2-9.

Avellaneda and Councillor Enio Lopez voted against Graney.

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