By Seth Daniel
From promoting the Chelsea Public Schools to renewing his pledge to fight the Trump Administration’s targeting of Sanctuary Cities, City Manager Tom Ambrosino laid out a path for the coming year in his State of the City Address to the City Council on Monday, March 13.
At the outset of the 15-minute speech, Ambrosino tackled the situation with the federal government and the City’s lawsuit against the Trump Administration’s executive order aimed at potentially defunding Sanctuary Cities. Chelsea has been an official Sanctuary City since 2007.
Ambrosino said Chelsea has the largest foreign born population in the state, with 44 percent of its residents having been born in a foreign country and many of them here as illegal immigrants. That, he said, brought about the desire to fight against the executive order.
It was with that perspective of maintaining a safe community for all of our residents that we sought judicial protection from the Executive Order targeting Sanctuary Cites.
“But there is a further principle at stake, and it is one which tends to drive most of these kinds of municipal policies, and that is an overriding public safety concern,” he said. “Communities are safest when all of its residents feel comfortable interacting with and cooperating with police. If some subset of residents, such as newly arrived immigrants, is fearful of alerting the police when they see or suspect a crime, or when they themselves are victims of a crime, all of us are left less protected…And, when the federal government looks to punish a community for taking that common sense approach to public safety that is not just contrary to our bedrock constitutionally protected principle of separation of powers between federal and local government, it is also just plain bad public policy. And, that is why the City filed our lawsuit in Federal Court.”
Ambrosino also highlighted his Capital Improvement Plan that intends to spend $19 million on infrastructure in the City this year alone. That also includes around $5 million dedicated to the downtown Broadway Business District.
As you know, I made a commitment when I first arrived as City Manager that I would utilize the City’s strong financial reserves to invest in projects that would enhance the quality of life for our residents,” he said. “This CIP is a downpayment on that promise.”
Additionally, he detailed that planning for the Broadway corridor began in January and will continue this spring. He said that by summer, he expected a comprehensive plan to be in place.
He also added that he has hired a Downtown Coordinator to give the project a jump start. Mimi Graney comes to the City from Somerville, where she was a Main Streets coordinator for Union Square.
“This was a position created by this Council to ensure that not just residents, but local businesses as well, are kept fully informed, and have a real say, in the improvements that take place in the Corridor,” he said. “With funds available to the Coordinator for technical assistance, storefront improvements, and cultural events, we hope to not only create a Broadway with a better physical environment, but also one with a much more vibrant ‘Main Street’ experience.”
He cautioned that it would not likely all fall in place in this first season, but would be something where a true “Renaissance” is three or four years down the road.
He also addressed the public schools, most importantly saying he would call on the City Council to fill an expected budget gap this coming year.
“We actually have here in Chelsea a good urban school system,” he said. “Yes, it has tough challenges, particularly given that we are often seeking to teach a population of children and young adults that are newly arrived in this country with very limited prior education. I know the Chelsea School System is up to this challenge. But, what it needs to succeed is support, especially at a time such as now that the Commonwealth seems to be backing away from its financial commitment to urban districts. In this environment, it is the City that needs to step up and fill the financial gap, and I’ll be asking this Council to do just that in the FY18 Budget.”
In conclusion, he noted that Chelsea’s civic pride is noticeable and he is proud of that aspect of the community. He said that is particularly what inspires him every day at City Hall.
“So let me conclude by saying that you have my solemn word that I will continue to work each and every day throughout this coming year, and for my entire tenure here, to contribute to that community pride and to make Chelsea a place where everyone feels safe, healthy and welcome,” he said.