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On Tuesday night March 20, I was at home with my family grieving my father’s very recent passing. The Town of Reading election was quite possibly the furthest thing from my mind. Instead of focusing on peaceful remembrance, I was distracted by a phone call from a friend that suggested that my appointment to and my integrity on the Reading Zoning Board of Appeals was just called into question by Vanessa Alvarado during the selectmen candidates’ public forum.
After watching the forum, I learned that around the 30-minute mark, Ms. Alvarado made a highly inflammatory remark about the “appearance of impropriety” of the appointment to the ZBA of a “local real estate attorney,” because of how that person makes his living. This nonsense was clearly aimed at me.
I am no victim. I don’t want your sympathy. My dear father and mother did not raise a fool, nor raise me to suffer fools lightly. I am calling out these unfounded and divisive accusations not because I want to lend credence to them, but to point out that this type of escalating behavior is unacceptable in our community, especially from a candidate for elected office. My firm would not have survived 20 years without integrity, my volunteerism without transparency. I have exceeded my obligation to be unbiased and fair in my application of our state and local law and ethics code to our town’s zoning matters. Despite Ms. Alvarado’s unfounded claims, I have never been told of any lack of impartiality, nor have I been accused of a single instance of unfairness, either as chairman or as a member of the ZBA. This should all go without saying. But for all her empty talk about trust and transparency, Ms. Alvarado is showing her true colors by perpetuating the divisive attitude she claims to want to change. Why, like many others in this town, must she take the position that “if you are not with me, I must attack you personally”?
I started volunteering in the Town of Reading with an introduction to the Zoning Board of Appeals by former Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner some 7 plus years ago. My appointment was not one embroiled in any real or perceived controversy. In fact, my practical experience was considered an asset to the Board, and I have continued to serve faithfully and without much fanfare.
I can only surmise that the desperation that her campaign must feel by being completely outclassed by her opponent John Arena on every level can be the only possible excuse for this unprovoked nonsense. I have never met Ms. Alvarado; have never before uttered a word about her candidacy or her character. But we now have a window into her character. Is this type of irresponsible political speech what she means by open and transparent communication? To the contrary, it is hypocrisy in its truest form.
Ms. Alvarado speaks of the value of inclusiveness and communication with town volunteers and citizens. Does that inclusiveness only apply to those with a personal axe to grind against her opponent? Volunteers and citizens also need to make a living to support our families, and to afford unexpected expenses like tax increases for proposed overrides that provide critical town services and support teachers. Ms. Alvarado’s innuendo was a low blow, regardless of its timing, to say nothing about how many citizens will now think twice about stepping forward to volunteer.
While I know better than to think that calling you out Vanessa for being wrong will result in your apology, I would like to think you know somewhere deep inside, where your handlers won’t let you search, that I and all other dedicated town volunteers deserve one.
Old Mill Lane
TMM Precinct 8