Mayor lays out 2018 agenda in Inaugural Address
By The Advocate
As Wynn Boston Harbor towers higher by the day, and scores of new development appear throughout the city, the work of 2018 will be to ensure that “Everett remains a diverse and welcoming city,” said Mayor Carlo DeMaria in his inaugural address in the EHS auditorium Tuesday night.
The ceremony also saw the swearing-in of Richard Dell Isola, John Hanlon, Michael Marchese, Wayne Matewsky, Peter Napolitano, Fred Capone, Stephen Simonelli, Anthony DiPierro, John Leo McKinnon, Rosa DiFlorio, and Michael McLaughlin as the 2018/2019 city council, of Beradino D’Onofrio, Robert Carreiro, Richard Baniewicz, Lester MacLaughlin, and Allen Panarese, Joseph LaMonica, Frank Parker, David Ela, and Thomas Abruzzese as the 2018/2019 school committee. Carreiro and Baniewicz passed away last year. Marcony Almeida Barros will be appointed as his replacement next week. Baniewicz’s successor has yet to be determined.
Governor Charlie Baker presented his greetings to the assembly, the first sitting governor to attend the city’s inauguration ceremonies.
“A great commonwealth is 351 great cities and towns,” said Governor Baker. “This notion somehow that everything can be great on Beacon Hill is everything isn’t great out in the local communities is just simply not true.”
The main event was the Mayor’s inaugural address, however, which clocked in at over forty-five minutes.
“(We must ensure we remain) a city where young couples just starting out and retired seniors can live in dream homes, a city where new arrivals can find safe, clean rental units as they start their dream of a better life in Everett, a city where small and large businesses have a clear path for locating and growing here, a city where quality of life concerns are a top priority of local government – and city departments work each day to address those concerns,” said DeMaria.
To this end, the mayor identified three major priorities for the year ahead: improving transportation, expanding and preserving affordable housing, and tackling the opioid crisis and improving the wellness of the city as a whole.
The speech included several major announcements. Chief among them perhaps is his plan to move the football stadium from its site on Revere Beach Parkway to the new Seven Acres Park site on the old GE site on the Malden River.
The mayor also proposed scaling back parking restrictions on new housing developments and building private/public partnerships to create a local transportation network, bringing back the Broadway trolley.
Praising such programs as the Broadway bus-only lane pilot and calling for increased regional and public/private cooperation in transportation, Mayor DeMaria called the city’s continued “auto-centric culture” something that is “limiting our potential.”
“I want cars off of our roads, with traffic congestion a thing of the past, and active, healthy transportation like biking and walking prioritized,” said DeMaria. “The world’s leading urban planners tell us that cars have no future, and I believe them. I want a smart transit system locally that is so easy and inexpensive to use, and so well integrated across our region, that people will clamor to use it. Everett can no longer be a cut-through when the Tobin is backed up- unless you are using public transit.”
To meet this goal, DeMaria called for a series of changes, such as expanding the dedicated bus lane within the city and beyond, potentially running as far as the Square One Mall in Saugus to Sullivan Station.
DeMaria also called for a local transportation system to be built, augmenting the MBTA.
“Do you remember the old trolley system that once ran up and down Broadway? It was through a public-private partnership that the trolley system was developed and thrived in places like Everett,” said DeMaria. “Such partnerships are the key to revitalizing our transportation network.”
According to the mayor, the city is working with a transportation planning firm trying to produce funding to re-establish a “modernized trackless trolley transit system” utilizing the city’s bus lanes.
“Soon, a local shuttle service could circle around Everett utilizing our express bus lanes to whisk you around the city and to the MBTA subway at Sullivan or Wellington stations,” said DeMaria. “Or drop you off at the Wynn Resort, where you could easily connect to the Assembly Row T station across a new pedestrian bridge. By providing this service to our residents, workers, and visitors, we will provide greater access to jobs, amenities, and local services. So many cities with vibrant hospitality economies use these shuttles effectively, and we will too.”
DeMaria also called for an extension of the Silver Line from Chelsea to Sullivan Square with potential stops in Everett Square, Commercial Triangle, and the Wynn Resort, providing one-seat rides to locations in Boston and Cambridge.
A study on potentially restoring Orange Line service to Everett is also underway.
With rents on the rise throughout the region, creating and preserving affordable housing stock in the city will be a significant challenge in the coming years.
“With our thriving economy, new industries like our breweries, recreational facilities and growing businesses seeking good workers, we need to build housing that is affordable,” said DeMaria. “Affordable for the hipsters, the young families, new arrivals and as well as our current residents who have already placed a stake in Everett years ago.”
To address this challenge, DeMaria called for building a “smart housing system,” diversify the city’s housing stock, assessing the “impact of a changing federal landscape” and redefining “what the “American Dream” looks like in Everett.”
A key detail in that plan is modifying outdated zoning mandates, such as the rule requiring two parking spaces for each bedroom in a development, a mandate DeMaria called “no longer smart, efficient or affordable.” Such a move could potentially reduce the cost of developments and increase open space in the city as asphalt is removed.
“If we are to become a model city for the state, the region, and the nation, we must unbundle parking from housing,” said DeMaria.
A 5-year affordable housing plan working with experts from the Washington, DC-based Enterprise Community Partners is also currently under development, largely funded by Mass Development.
Opioids and wellness
The issue DeMaria called his “fiercest passion” and “greatest concern”, however, was the opioid crisis.
“We know that thousands of people, young and old are dying every day. For the second year in a row, our life expectancy as Americans has dropped- this type of drop was last seen in the 1960s,” said DeMaria. “And the reason is opioid overdoses. This is unacceptable.”
DeMaria called for a “crackdown” on doctors who “ignore state prescribing laws”, and announced that the city is signing onto a lawsuit against corporate drug distributors “who ignored suspiciously large orders, and funneled millions of pills into small-town “pain clinics” that were merely a front for crime rings – all to increase their profits year over year as the addiction crisis continued to spiral.”
“It makes me sick, and they should pay for what they have done to our society,” said DeMaria.
As a part of the DeMaria’s broader wellness vision, the mayor spoke at length about expanding access to the city’s waterfront, saying that it’s time to “our entire waterfront back to our residents … from the Malden line all the way to the Boston line.”
To this end, the first part of the Malden Riverwalk is already under construction at the Rivergreen site, and Wynn Resorts has completed its “living shoreline” and is constructing a mile-long walkway of its own connecting to the Malden River walkway.
While such projects provide what DeMaria called a “foundation” for “a ribbon of new green open spaces and paths,” programming is required to bring these locations to “their full potential,” DeMaria said.
To provide such programming, the mayor announced that he intended to build a new “state-of-the-art stadium” at Seven Acre Park, “to serve our students in the decades to come,” replacing the current EHS stadium on Revere Beach Parkway.
“I have heard, loud and clear, for years how the neighborhood feels about needing to perform elaborate searches for parking spots on game days and graduation,” said DeMaria. By moving the stadium to Seven Acre Park, we will be able to partner with the businesses in the area, like Boston Coach and BNY Mellon, whose large lots are not heavily utilized on evenings and weekends.”
The stadium will include a regulation high school track, a field house, and a facility that will “highlight and commemorate the strong tradition of our champion athletes, and preserve the WWII honor wall from the old stadium.”
The new stadium will be incorporated into a large recreational space: in exchange for the chance to redevelop the “underutilized” Lynde playground, Wynn Resorts has agreed to build a new playground on the site featuring regulation tennis and basketball courts.
“By building all of these new amenities in this area, we will attract a mix of businesses, like hotels and restaurants that will add to the energy and vibrancy of the neighborhood,” said DeMaria. “More and more people will see what a gem we have- and property values for the homeowners in the area will rise.
To maximize the impact of the project, the city’s planning department is developing an urban renewal plan for the area. Roadway improvements in the area are also under development.
The last urban renewal plan the city created, the Mayor reminded his audience, ultimately led to the Wynn Resorts development.