After many conversations with a broad segment of people, and close consultation with my family, I am excited to announce that I will be a candidate for re-election to the Reading Select Board in April.
Reading has an exciting story to tell.
For the first time in years, the town is on firmer financial footing. Layoffs and service cuts are no longer part of the conversation. I am proud of the leadership role I played on both override efforts. The lessons we learned from the failed attempt in October 2016, paved the way for success last April. We listened and we learned.
The seeds of our economic development strategy that I have championed are beginning to bear fruit. Downtown businesses will be the prime beneficiaries of the smart growth district expansion the Board and Town Meeting embarked upon a few years ago. Over $125 million of private investment will be pouring into the downtown. A secondary benefit of this expansion is this growth has helped us achieve our state-mandated 10% affordable housing requirement, thus giving us safe harbor from inappropriate 40b developments, and access to a myriad of state grant programs to help with planning and infrastructure.
I am thrilled to have worked to retain the services of Town Manager Bob LeLacheur for another three years. Bob is one of the most respected town managers in the Commonwealth. With his astute financial acumen, Reading has consistently earned AAA bond ratings, saving the town untold thousands of dollars in debt payments. His strong relationships with the town’s collective bargaining partners have kept our costs in line while treating our employees fairly. The leadership team he has assembled is creative, energetic and committed to serving the needs of the town. We are lucky to have them all.
But there remain challenges ahead that I am determined to tackle if given another term.
We need to ensure the impacts of our new growth do not unfairly burdensome neighbors who live nearby. We can’t laud the growth while we leave some behind. Traffic, parking and infrastructure issues will all need to be addressed.
I am honored to have been chosen by my colleagues to co-lead the Select Board ad hoc committee to address our response to the proliferation of anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic graffiti in Reading. Recent headlines have cast the town in an unfavorable light. Every city and town is struggling with this issue. I don’t want us to be judged by how many swastikas were found. Rather, I want our legacy to be how we came together as a community to boldly state that this is not who we are, learning about ourselves and our neighbors in the process.
While our operating budgets are healthy, our next set of challenges are managing and communicating our large capital needs. School space, building security, fields, a senior/multigenerational center and the potential relocation of the DPW garage have all been identified. I want to build upon the collaboration the Select Board, School Committee and Library Trustees enjoyed during the override campaign. There are limited dollars and this requires us to think strategically, creatively and collaboratively.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I have heard many residents express dismay over their perception that the poison of our national political discourse has bled into town affairs. People feel we are dug in. I have always tried to examine issues and make decisions with one goal in mind: what is the best for Reading. It may mean that from time to time friends will disagree. But our better angels should dictate that for one to win, it does not mean the other has to lose. If we are truly “One Reading”, we will find ways to bridge gaps, go beyond our own echo chambers, and find common ground. I am excited to be a part of that effort and will vow to make this the central part of my campaign.
I want to wish you and your families a healthy, joyous and peaceful holiday season and New Year. We are blessed to live in this town, and I look forward to working with all of you.