The Select Board voted unanimously to support a “yes” vote on ballot question three at its October 30 meeting. Question three on the November 6 ballot asks if the state should maintain its law requiring certain legal protections for transgendered persons in the state. A “yes” vote indicates that the law should remain unchanged. The Human Relations Advisory Committee brought the issue to the board citing it as an issue of “fair and equal rights of individuals.” The vote followed impassioned statements from several residents urging a yes vote. One parent of a transgendered son stated, “I cannot live in a place that would not allow my son to use a bathroom.” Board member John Halsey indicated that he supports the question because it was passed by a Democratic legislature, signed enthusiastically by a Republican governor and has been the law for over two years. Board member Dan Ensminger stated that there have been no reported incidents in Massachusetts since the law was enacted. Halsey also indicated that he thought it was appropriate for the board to take a stand on the question as he believes it is a public safety concern, in addition to being a civil rights issue.
The vote came after a heartfelt statement from board member Vanessa Alvarado reacting to another graffiti incident at Reading Memorial High School. Alvarado lamented that she had to explain to her eight-year-old what a certain homophobic slur meant as she read the word into the record. “No one should be expected to tolerate bigotry.” she continued. “It is incumbent on us to change the direction we are headed in.”
Alverado’s Full Statement
I struggled with what to say tonight. You see, when I got home today, I had to explain to my 8-year-old daughter, what the term faggot meant. And the reason I had to do that is that she’s entering an age of social awareness. And I want her to know that if she hears this term, that it’s a hurtful word, meant to make someone feel bad and less than. I want my children to be allies of marginalized groups and that means making them aware of the harsh realities that exist not just in the world, but right here in our sleepy little community.
We’ve had almost 2 dozen hateful incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti in our town buildings as well as in our schools. Now, the LGBTQ community has been specifically targeted. I’m no longer saddened or dismayed. I’m not upset or troubled. I’m not sure why this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. But right now? Now I’m just pissed.
I’ve heard the theory that is a joke, a prank, that we’re being too sensitive. I reject this premise. No one should be expected to tolerate bigotry. If that has become the norm, it’s something we all need to change.
I’ve heard a lot about the schools needing to take charge of this. But this is not a school problem, this is a community problem.
Decency and human kindness aren’t taught in school. They’re taught at home. The same way hatred and bigotry are taught at home. These incidents aren’t accidents. This behavior is learned. And I worry that if we don’t take a good look at ourselves in the mirror and think about what we say at home and how we treat others, that we may be one of those small towns that ends up making the national news for the worst possible reason.
We are the adults in the room. It is incumbent upon us to change the direction we are headed in. I have faith we can do just that.
For the sake of our children, our neighbors, and ourselves, take the time to talk to your kids about differences. Talk about how you’re different from your neighbors and how it would hurt you if they judged you or thought less of you because of those differences. Tell them they don’t have to agree with the differences. They don’t have to like the differences, but they do have to respect them. Because if you don’t have these conversations with your children, you may not like what they learn elsewhere.
Kindness costs us nothing and yet is priceless. To every member of this community, I ask, be kind. Teach kindness and be the change our community needs.
The board voted 3-2 to accept a three-year contract for the town manager. The new contract will give the town manager a one-time $7,500 salary increase to bring his salary closer to the average of other town managers in the area. It also includes a three percent increase annually, subject to available funds. When asked about other town employees, Town Manager Robert LeLacheur told the board that as a group, the non-union employees of the town have salaries that are comparable to local averages. LeLacheur would not comment about union employees.
The negotiating sub-committee, consisting of Barry Berman and Ensminger, investigated the market for town managers and found that it is a tight market, with several communities recently renegotiating mid-way through contracts for the purpose of retaining their town managers. They also reported that three-year contracts were standard for this type of position. “If you have the right guy, you need to keep him.” Berman declared. Ensminger also pointed out that the board needed to consider the amount of money the town had saved over the years thanks to the town manager’s efforts, especially when negotiating health insurance.
Alvarado and chair Andrew Friedmann voted against the contract citing concerns about the salary bump and the term of the contract. Alvarado wondered how taxpayers who had just approved an override would feel about the town manager receiving close to a six percent raise. “This feels premature,” she stated. Alvarado moved to table the vote until she and Friedmann had a chance to review the information provided by the sub-committee, but the motion did not pass. The contract begins on August 1, 2019.
The board voted 5-0 to approve a ten-year renewal of the cable television contract with Comcast. New provisions include a redefinition of gross revenue, a cable drop at the Matera Cabin, and $200,000 in capital for Reading Community Television (RCTV) in addition to the five percent of cable television revenues already allotted to the cable access corporation. There are also side-letter agreements regarding high definition cablecast of RCTV programming and inclusion of RCTV in the channel guide. All RCTV programming, including government meetings, have been recorded in high definition for several years. There are also provisions in the contract allowing for senior citizen discounts and low-cost broadband access for lower income families.
The board voted 5-0 to accept a gift from the Reading Little League Softball for improvements to Sturges Park. The acceptance is conditional on acceptance by the Recreation Committee. It voted 5-0 to allow three different new curb cuts for residences seeking second driveways. The board chose not to vote an opinion on ballot question one, which would require a specific nurse to patient ratios in Massachusetts hospitals.
The Select Board adjourned at 11:00 pm.