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As a long-time observer and participant in our volunteer government, I have been disheartened by the events of the past few weeks that centered on the confirmation of David Clark as the new Police Chief. What is usually a straightforward hiring process devolved into a sad circus of charges, innuendos, and recriminations concerning members of the Select Board in their handling of the situation. When Mr. Clark was eventually confirmed on the evening of Feb. 19th, the great community spirit of this Town shone through with hardly a discouraging word, as if the acrimony that preceded it had never happened. Yet it did happen. Two bad ideas that surfaced during that tumult have snowballed with the intent of affecting the make-up of the Select Board in the year to come. The first is the recall petition that is being circulated against Vanessa Alvarado and the second is the sudden write-in campaign for departing Board member John Halsey. I feel both of these movements are a detriment to Reading and I’d like to explain why.
If the recall petition is successful, there would be a Special Election called by the Select Board with two questions on it; 1) allow Ms. Alvarado to complete her term or not and if not, 2) vote for a replacement candidate. It is essentially a “re-do” of the election that originally brought Ms. Alvarado to the Board since she would be on the ballot with other candidates and would have to earn a majority of the votes in order to win. Also, this is really no different than the regular election that will occur approximately eight months later for that seat if she decides to run for another term. No matter the outcome of the Special Election, that next election will happen anyway. Is that worth it? Considering the expense involved, the bitterness this movement perpetuates and the short duration of the changes it might actually make, I think it is a complete waste of time, energy and resources. The arguments for the recall are specious and seem to spring from personal animosity rather than true civic concerns. Ms. Alvarado has caused no damage to the Town, but she has bruised some egos. The recall provision is in the Charter to protect the Town from someone doing real harm in their position and nothing in the confirmation process for the Police Chief rose to that threshold. Abusing that provision for petty retribution is a much higher danger to the Town of Reading.
In addition, I feel that the sudden write-in campaign to return John Halsey to the Select Board is unfair and unwarranted. Mr. Halsey had ample time to decide to run for re-election and submit nomination papers earlier, just as candidates Friedmann, Herrick and Bacci had, yet he chose not to. Those individuals have spent untold hours of effort working on their campaigns to fill the two available seats based on a three-person race with only one incumbent. Running against an incumbent is difficult enough and new candidates should be able to use public forums to confront incumbents on their records. This can’t happen with this write-in campaign, which is unfair. Another consequence is the fact that Mr. Bacci and Ms. Herrick are penalized the most with this write-in movement. It is highly unlikely that someone writing in a vote for Mr. Halsey switched it from a vote for Mr. Friedmann. That vote was going to go to Mr. Bacci or Ms. Herrick. Just about every vote Mr. Halsey gets will be deducted from their totals, not Mr. Friedmann’s. This is the most unfair thing about this write-in campaign; it handicaps the two candidates that had absolutely no involvement with the furor that caused it. There will be very real collateral damage to Ms. Herrick and Mr. Bacci and it’s a shame given those two candidates’ perseverance and good faith in the election process.
I ask Mr. Halsey to suspend this write-in campaign and failing that, I ask the voters to ignore it and decide between Andrew Friedmann, Karen Herrick and Carlo Bacci for the next two Select Board members.
Jeffrey W. Struble