Council President calls Council to fight for justice in 2021
When Council President Roy Avellaneda had his coffee shop open and thriving in Cary Square, there were a number of meaningful quotes on the ceiling from world thought leaders like John F. Kennedy, Gandhi, Bob Marley and William Faulkner.
He would often talk to customers about which quote stood out to them and why, but a quote from Winston Churchill always stood out to him, he said. That quote was about making enemies, and it read, ‘You have enemies, good. That means you stood up for something some time in your life.’
It’s a quote he was reminded of last weekend, he said, when watching a television show that quoted a Charles McKay poem about enemies.
Avellaneda, who was elected to his second term as Council President Monday night in an 8-0 vote of his colleagues, said he struggled to think about what to say after being re-elected. He said with the new year, he wanted to avoid talking about COVID-19, which has had more than enough discussion over the past year. Instead, he called the Council to rebuild the City from COVID-19’s relentless thrashing by fighting for justice in many forms – perhaps having to make enemies along the way.
“What does McKay’s poem and Churchill’s quote say about me?” he asked. “That I have come to accept enemies in the fight against perceived injustices. Chelsea is a community where you don’t have to dig too deep to see and fight for injustices. And along this career here I was told several times by mentors and friends that if you choose this fight or this cause you may lose votes, supporters, or business – maybe friends. I don’t know. Maybe it’s in my DNA because I have chosen to fight.
“I look at this Council and I see Councillor Recupero,” he continued. “I know he doesn’t always say things the right way, but be sure he’s a gentleman that fights – absolutely. My colleague Councillor Vidot. We don’t get along, but I’d be lying if somewhere in me I didn’t admire a bit of her for the times she has come up here and fought. She has stated she doesn’t care what the fallout will be – she’s going to fight. There are others up here that do the same. If I have one message for my colleagues, it’s that we’re here to fight for our residents. Let’s be sure in 2021 this Council goes out and makes enemies.”
Avellaneda’s speech was well-received by his colleagues after his re-election, and especially after a year where he has been an out-front and visible leader of the Council and the City’s efforts to provide aid and resources to residents. Mentioning Vidot was a surprise to many, especially given the years-long fight they have had about campaign finance, local issues and election campaigns. It was ever more surprising in that Vidot did not vote for Avellaneda for President, and in fact voted ‘present’ and then, for some reason, exited the meeting abruptly and didn’t return.
Councillor Giovanni Recupero was absent from the meeting due to the sudden death of his daughter, Liz, over the holidays. Condolences from his colleagues were extended.
Also in attendance were State Sen. Sal DiDomenico, State Rep. Dan Ryan, State Rep. Jessica Giannino, Supt. Almi Abeyta, City Manager Tom Ambrosino and a host of City Department Heads.
DiDomenico was the featured speaker of the night, and he thanked the Council for their willingness to work with the state delegation – and for the generous and timely relief approved for residents suffering from the health and economic effects of COVID-19.
“I want to congratulate President Roy Avellaneda, Vice President Judith Garcia and Delegate Leo Robinson…I know we’ll have renewed energy in 2021 and like Councilor Garcia said, rising up and being that Phoenix that we are in Chelsea,” he said over Zoom. “I also want to thank the Council and School Committee and the City Manager and Superintendent. We are one team and working as one to make sure Chelsea gets all it needs from the state and the federal level…If we splinter as a community and aren’t unified, we can’t come together to get what we need. Chelsea has always been known as being unified. I always say Chelsea should be getting more than their fair share because we need more in Chelsea.”
He also took time to thank the front-line workers and essential workers from Chelsea, who he said went out to work every day and kept things moving.
“Chelsea has kept our economy going in this region,” he said. “Many of our essential workers going to work every day putting themselves at risk riding trains and buses and getting to their jobs and keeping the economy going so the rest of us can stay home. I want to thank the many, many workers in Chelsea who have kept things going.”
Councillor Judith Garcia was also re-elected to her position as vice president of the Council, returning for a second term after an 8-0 vote. Vidot was absent from the vote after having left abruptly in the first 15 minutes of the meeting.
She said the Council has been focused on response efforts to COVID-19, and would likely continue on that path.
“I know and have faith we’ll continue to do amazing work this 2021 year that continues to carry these negative externalities of this 2020 COVID situation,” she said. “I know that together we can continue to do amazing work and continue to rise like the Phoenix to be this amazing resilient community we have proven to be so many times. I look forward to working alongside of you as we navigate and move forward with faith and, hopefully, the hand of God.”
Following that, Councillor Leo Robinson was re-elected as the School Committee Delegate in another 8-0 vote, with Vidot absent.
“Many of our residents – renters and homeowners – are at-risk in these times,” he said in a speech at the outset of the meeting. “The City Council can play a role in helping relieve these conditions. This past term, we voted rental relief funds for renters, and mortgage relief funds for homeowners. Relief for small business owners, and food relief for those in need. This is the kind of immediate response to local needs that our City Council has been effective in delivering. So I want to personally express my commitment to listening to the needs of our community, and working with all of you to continue to respond and move this community forward.”
The meeting concluded after a State of the City speech by City Manager Tom Ambrosino (see accompanying story) and Moments of Silence for many lost recently to COVID-19.