City Council Adopts New Priorities

March 23, 2012
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The City Council has adopted a list of eleven goals for municipal government for its two-year term.  City Council President Leo Robinson said the exercise is meant to formally communicate to the Administration what the Council feels is important and to direct Council actions to contribute to the City’s success in addressing the goals.

“Most legislative bodies are reactive, taking action on matters offered by their city administrations or following up complaints of residents.  While those are important roles, our City Council also wants to be proactive, and especially not lose sight of the bigger picture,” stressed Robinson.

“We’ve attempted to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and let professionalism override politics in the conduct of the people’s business,” he added.  “Professional bodies take time to consider priorities, review policies and create visions.  Adopting goals is part of what we should be doing to help steer the ship of government in the direction we all wish to see for Chelsea.”

During the process that Robinson led, each of the Councillors offered up to five issues they believed were important for City government to address over the next two years.  Each of the issues was discussed in sub-committee, with Councillors then narrowing the list of items to be scoped-out to twenty-two.  From there, Councillors reviewed implementation steps and resources available to address the potential priorities, and eventually agreed upon eleven critical issues to focus City attention.

“This type of brainstorming will make sure that the needs of our residents and the views we hold for the future of our city get addressed in a more systematic and holistic manner,” said Council Vice-President Dan Cortell.  “Each of these items is critical for us to have success upon as we seek to promote a healthier and more livable community.”

Three of the 11 relate to policing; two each to capital improvements, neighborhood enhancements and economic development, and one each for greater inspectional services efforts and more youth activities.  Tops on the list are addressing youth violence in the community and increasing police visibility in neighborhoods.

“Policing should be our top priority; there is far too much crime in our community.  Even though we have already provided enough money to expand our police force to its largest ever, we can’t stop there,” stressed Councillor Calvin Brown.

“And we have to address drugs and make sure we’re getting our kids off the streets and away from the ills that street life can lead to,” interjected Councillor Giovanni Recupero, referencing the Council’s fifth and sixth priorities, drugs and afterschool programming, respectively.

Priority three is promoting even more aggressive Inspectional Service Department intervention into problem properties and overcrowded dwellings.

“Both are at the very root of our neighborhood enhancement needs.  We need to do more to get problem properties more in conformance with community standards and we need to come up with additional ways to encourage landlords to make sure their units aren’t overcrowded, or otherwise adopt new penalties for violating that important public safety goal,” proposed Councillor Clifford Cunningham.

Regarding neighborhood enhancements, priority seven is an overall improvement in the quality of life in the city’s neighborhoods, followed by priority eight being the cleaning-up of Bellingham Square.

“Yes, it’s a wide open topic (quality of life), as it can mean different things to different people.  We’ll work more on the specifics, but we need to do more on things like noise, trash, open space and speeding in our neighborhoods,” emphasized Councillor Paula Barton.

“It all starts in Bellingham Square as far as I’m concerned,” said Councillor Joe Perlatonda.  “We need to keep our main square cleaned-up, both in terms of trash and in low level criminal activity.”

The two capital improvement items, improved sidewalks (#4) and better roadway conditions (#9), if achieved, would certainly add to improving the quality of neighborhoods.

“Public infrastructure is incredibly expensive, but incredibly important as well.  We’ll continue to emphasize the adoption and implementation of an annual capital improvement program, but I’d also love to see us think strategically about how we can do more,” wished Councillor Brian Hatleberg.

The remaining two items deal with general economic development (#10) and preparing a plan for Chelsea’s waterfront (#11).

“Without economic development, our budgets won’t be balanced and everything else we want to do would be financially difficult to accomplish,” said Councillor Paul Murphy.

“We’ve done a great job in other areas of focus, but the waterfront redevelopment could be the real prize in the future.  I think we all want to see a strong community process that leads to a great plan that the City could then push forward for implementation,” added Councillor Matt Frank.

The goals have been presented to City Manager Jay Ash, who has already been working on many of them and is incorporating Council thinking into future action plans.

“A major reason why the City has been so successful is the contribution the City Council has made to its leadership.  That leadership is evident in the goal setting process, as Councillors have raised thoughtful concerns and worthwhile ideas that together should help all of us focus upon what we need to do in partnership to make the city an even better place,” Ash stated.

Ash said it won’t be easy to completely address each of the issues fully, but it will not be, as he stresses, “for a lack of trying.”

“We’d all like to have a police officer on every corner and all new roadways to drive over, but the practical implementation of those would require tens of millions of dollars that we just don’t have.

“Having said that, I can’t emphasize enough how the focus on these eleven issues will make sure that what funding we do have available gets targeted, and I do expect that our time and energies similarly focused will produce a great many successes on the Council’s priority agenda,” predicted Ash.

“I don’t think any of us believe we’re going to achieve all of these overnight,” acknowledged Councillor Chris Cataldo.  “The people have elected us, though, to indentify issues and come up with strategies to overcome them.  I feel we’re all committed to doing so, so having a game plan that focuses all of our efforts on these priorities will make sure that thoughtful planning, determined implementation and critical oversight can produce gains that will make Chelsea a better place.”


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