Richie Voke

Chelsea lost one of its greatest all-time public servants with the passing this week of former State Representative Richard A. Voke, who served as our state legislator for 10 terms from 1977 to 1996.

Richie was a Chelsea boy through-and-through. He knew every nook and cranny of our city and knew everyone by name — and everyone knew Richie.

He was first elected to the legislature at the age of 29, following in the footsteps of his father, Al, who also had served as mayor of Chelsea in the early 1960s.

Richie Voke’s tenure as our State Representative occurred during a turbulent time in our city’s history, which was rapidly transforming in many ways, eventually culminating with the city being placed into state receivership in 1991 after a succession of four Chelsea mayors had been charged with various crimes for corruption in office.

However, during this period Richie Voke stood head-and-shoulders above what was going on at City Hall, rising to the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee in 1985 and then Democratic Majority Leader a few years thereafter, a testament to the high regard in which he was held by his Democratic colleagues.

It was during his tenure as an influential  member of the House that Richie achieved so much to help bring our city back from the depths of bankruptcy.

Most significantly, it was solely because of his intricate knowledge of state finances that Chelsea was able to construct all new schools in the 1990s to replace our aging and decrepit buildings. Chelsea had not built a new school since the 1920s, but Richie Voke helped city officials find a loophole in the state’s reimbursement for new school buildings, which the city otherwise would not have been able to afford. (Essentially, the construction of the new schools was delayed for a year during which time the funds were placed into an interest-bearing account, with the end result that the schools were built at no cost to the city’s taxpayers.)

Richie appeared destined to be elected the Speaker of the House in 1996, having secured the support of a majority of his Democratic colleagues, but a Democratic rival (who subsequently was convicted on federal charges) partnered with Republicans in an unprecedented move to deny Richie the Speakership.

Richie Voke decided, to the dismay of all of his constituents in Chelsea and Charlestown, not to seek reelection, and instead concentrated on his private law practice and real estate investments.

Richie Voke was as dedicated a public servant as ever has served our city. His legacy laid the groundwork for the thriving Chelsea that we know today, despite our many challenges.

We know we join with all of our fellow residents who were fortunate to have known this intelligent, honorable, and genuinely kind man in offering our condolences to his family. May he rest in peace.

The holidays are over — now it’s back to reality

The holiday season may have provided the usual respite for all of us from the strife and turbulence that has been assaulting us daily for the better part of the past decade, but despite the arrival of the New Year, we still have to face our same old problems.

The war in Ukraine continues to grind on, with Vladiimir Putin targeting primarily civilians in cities far from the battlefront. The Israel-Hamas war likewise has no apparent end in sight, with civilians on both sides suffering greatly. In addition, with other Iranian-backed terrorist organizations threatening to expand the war not only against Israel, but also against the United States and world-wide commercial shipping, the potential for a much-larger conflict increases with each passing minute.

China, the other member of the Axis of Evil, continues to encroach its military bases and fleet on the sovereignty of other nations and threatens to launch an invasion of Taiwan at any time.

Scientists have confirmed that 2023 was off-the-charts for being the warmest year in the history of mankind, with the trend looming for an even-hotter 2024, promising to bring more devastating storms and climate change-related catastrophes in the year ahead.

Despite the strong economy, homelessness in the United States grew by 12 percent in the past year, with no imminent solution at any level of government. The increase in homelessness is a direct result of the lack of housing that has accumulated over the past decade to the point where it is estimated that the country is five million units short of what is needed to keep up with our growing population.

The situation at the border with Mexico represents a complete failure on the part of Congress and the White House, with the result that the situation for migrants is dire and American cities are being overwhelmed. Even Democratic governors and mayors are feeling besieged by the influx of immigrants for which our local and state governments are ill-equipped to handle.

The lack of meaningful gun legislation to stop the proliferation of deadly military-grade weapons all but assures that 2024 will see more mass shootings throughout the country.

Drug and alcohol abuse also shows no signs of abating and will continue to claim the lives of tens of thousands of Americans in the year ahead. American life expectancy continues to trail the rest of the industrialized world.

And last but not least, the political turmoil in the coming presidential year promises to be the most turbulent not only in our recent history, but since 1861 — the start of the Civil War.

The prospects are overwhelming for a grim 2024. About all we can say is that we are living in an era that brings to mind the title from the Kevin Costner movie from the late 1980s — No Way Out.

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