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If you are an active participant in your Reading schools and/or local government, if you read and contribute to the wide variety of Reading social media sites, and if you know exactly how many hours until the next local election and cannot wait to express your views – I congratulate you, but this letter is not meant for you.
If you are wrapped up in a busy life that involves work, family, and friends but that first paragraph didn’t hit home, then I’d ask for a few moments of your time to read this letter. Please know that you have a lot in common with me from 1997. My first experience with our local government was being turned down by a 3-0 vote in an effort to join the Finance Committee, and yet here we are about 20 years later and I write to you as your Town Manager.
In that role I hear quite a bit from those of your neighbors that are very involved. Their enthusiasm is practically boundless at times, they have a wide range of opinions, and they often share their views freely. Frankly in recent years some of their level of civic discourse has slipped a bit, reflecting troubling trends we see nationally.
Next Tuesday on April 3rd we hold our annual local elections at the High School Fieldhouse from 7am until 8pm. Prognosticators predict a ‘strong turnout’ of 40% of registered voters, as the election features several contested races – and importantly a request to raise your taxes. If those predictions are right, that means that 60% of our voters will play no role in these decisions.
I am going to vote Yes in support of the Override, which is the request I mentioned to raise your taxes. It is in the form of a Yes/No question at the end of the ballot. As your Town Manager I’ve spent a lot of time explaining my analytical reasons for a Yes vote. But when I vote next Tuesday I will do so as a resident, and for a very different reason.
Many years ago, after living in Reading for a short time, my wife and our two young daughters had an opportunity to take a brief winter vacation to visit my parents in Florida. While away we learned of a huge snowstorm, and were concerned about getting back into our house late at night. When we returned we found that a neighbor had shoveled out our driveway – by hand.
When I vote Yes next week, I’m simply trying to be a good neighbor – and help you with your driveway. When you cut through the noise and all the social media rhetoric and take a deep breath, the issue at hand is really that simple.
I know your life is busy, but please find the time next Tuesday to vote. Who and what you vote for or against is something that should remain between you and your conscience … neighbor.