The Chelsea Collaborative hosted a lively question and answer forum Tuesday night for the candidates in the at-Large City Council and District 5 Council races that will appear on the ballot next Tuesday, Sept. 22, in the City Preliminary election.
For District 5, challengers Henry Wilson and Judith Garcia participated, but incumbent Joe Perlatonda could not participate.
For at-Large, none of the incumbents participated in the questions.
Incumbent Calvin Brown stayed briefly, but left before the questions were asked. Councillor Leo Robinson had a previous conflict. Councillor Brian Hatleberg is not running for re-election.
The at-Large Challengers that participated were Deborah Washington, Damali Vidot, Todd Taylor, John Cadiz, and Roy Avellaneda. Challenger James O’Regan did not participate.
The forum allowed each candidate to introduce themselves and then to answer questions that were pulled out of a hat, many of which were supplied by the standing-room-only crowd in attendance. Questions had to do with rats, being a Sanctuary City, public safety, youth involvement, Council visibility, overdevelopment and parking.
The Collaborative’s Roseanne Bongiovanni was the moderator, and members of the ECO Youth Club asked the questions. Collaborative Director Gladys Vega was the timekeeper.
On the issue of rats, Washington said it would be important to work directly with homeowners and tenants, as well as developers.
“With all the development going on, this is an issue,” she said. “The City does have a baiting program…If I have to sit with management and companies, I have no problem with that. If I have to sit with the City Manager and homeowners, I am ready to do that.”
Wilson said keeping the City cleaner would be a great start to eliminating some of the rat problem.
“A clean house is a healthy house,” he said. “Keep your neighborhood clean. I see ROCA out cleaning the streets, but we all need to do that. We all need to clean up our neighborhoods. I’m part of the neighborhood enhancement team at TND and we take out loads and loads of trash. We do the Earth Day once a year. We should probably do that more than once a year. We also need to have the City start enforcing the rules. If you have trash on your property, you get a fine.”
On the question of youth, Garcia said they are the best agents of change.
“I do believe youth in Chelsea are the strongest agents of change we can count on,” she said. “It’s our duty as candidates and city councillors to get them involved and get them motivated. They need to realize the importance of local government.”
On the issue of the arts, Cadiz – who is involved with the Apollinaire Theatre – lent his expert opinion.
“It would be nice to have a waterfront festival again,” he said. “We had the River Revel and that kind of fell off. That’s a part of the community we need to revive. That had a great impact. We need to promote our arts better. We need to get people from Boston coming to our theatre and to our galleries. We have a wonderful theatre. People have been calling it a hidden gem for 20 years. When is it not going to be hidden anymore.”
Roy Avellaneda led the candidates in calling for a master plan of Chelsea, something that has been talked about for the last few months.
“We do not have a master plan to develop the city,” he said. “I would support getting that process started to develop a master plan and I’ll help make it happen. We need to make sure the impacts of development are mitigated and we need to do more smart development.”
Vidot said she would be responsive to constituents because she is running so that there is no disconnect between City Hall and the people.
“I am Chelsea and grew up here, went to school here and became a mom here,” she said. “I know what it is to live at the top of Highland and to sometimes hear gunshots near my home. I know what it is to have a daughter in the school system. My best friends growing up were Cambodian, white and Spanish. We loved it and we danced in the streets together. I know what it is…to experience Chelsea in every way.”
Taylor said public safety was the most important issue in Chelsea, whether in Prattville or on Maverick Street.
“I think people might mischaracterize Prattville,” he said. “I had gunshots at 2 a.m. right outside of my house three weeks ago. Two nights later, gunshots in Voke Park. It’s all over and not just one part of the city and it’s bad. We need to take back our streets from the drug dealers and let them know they’re not welcome in Chelsea. We need to take back our public spaces from the criminals. If we walk these public spaces together, it sends a message.”
The Chelsea Collaborative held a question and answer forum on Tuesday night at its headquarters with a packed house in attendance. Those participating will be on the ballot this coming Tuesday, Sept. 22, in the Preliminary Election. It will feature the City Council at-Large candidates and the District 5 Council candidates. Seven of the 11 candidates on the ballot participated in the questioning.