Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fiscal Crisis Continues for Older Cities like Chelsea, Mass

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fiscal Crisis Continues for Older Cities like Chelsea, Mass

Article excerpt

ON one of the first warm days of a chilly New England spring, a contingent of state officials gathers outside the Chelsea City Hall to announce an important community initiative.

This formerly cash-strapped city, run by a state receiver for the past seven months, will be getting a $1 million federal grant to be used for fighting crime and revitalizing neighborhoods.

Like many depressed cities across the United States, Chelsea has a population with a high demand for services and not enough money to pay for them.

According to Doug Peterson, senior policy and legislative counsel for the National League of Cities, munincipalities that have struggled with similar fiscal emergencies include Philadelphia, East St. Louis, Ill., and Bridgeport, Conn. Other cities in Massachusetts, California, and Michigan have also had to contend with budget crises, he says.

Chelsea, a 1.8-square-mile urban community, troubled by crime, drug trafficking, and ethnic tension, was the subject of considerable media attention when it was forced into state receivership seven months ago. At that time, the city was unable to pay off a $9.5 million deficit.

But some Chelsea residents aren't happy about what is happening to their city. Indeed, despite much progress, residents here have mixed reactions about the outside forces that seem to dominate their community.

The local school system, for example, is managed by Boston University. A team of state officials now runs City Hall. And numerous federal and state officials will be monitoring the new anticrime program.

City officials, in particular, don't take too kindly to the way the state receiver's office operates. Under special legislation filed by Gov. William Weld (R) last fall, the office of mayor has been abolished. City aldermen have only an advisory role. The state receiver is expected to remain in office for five years.

"They're making laws here and telling us what we have and what we need," says James Constantino, a city alderman at-large. …

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