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To the Editor:
My vote against the recall will be a vote in support of every member of the Select Board, the School Committee, and all other elected Town officials who volunteer to give enormous amounts of time and energy to Reading.
Nobody should have to serve under the specter that their former political opponent is lying in wait to file a recall petition by leveraging the lax terms of our Town Charter, as appears to have happened here. Our Charter does not require any demonstration of the truth, validity, or severity of claims behind a recall petition, and no such determination has been made.
While our Town Charter is silent on what constitutes a valid reason for a recall, it’s common sense that such an extreme measure should be reserved for illegal or unethical actions, which is not the case with this recall attempt.
Vanessa Alvarado spoke up to request public input to the police chief selection, one of the most important and consequential positions in a Town, at the February 11 Select Board meeting. The Charter in no way restricts the ability of the Select Board to gather public input or other information to inform their vote. By comparison, public forums are regularly held for school principal finalists. I can’t understand why so many would be troubled by eight days to allow for a similar forum to be held for the police chief. While many people were dismayed and frustrated at the overall length of time it took for the selection and hiring process, a multi-month process is common for such an important hiring decision.
Back in February, who could have known that this would become the year when police force leadership is particularly critical in the public eye. The February 19 forum hosted by the Select Board affirmed support for Chief Clark and the Reading Police Department, and we now have a police chief that has broad community support. Right now, there are many urgent public problems to solve, but this is not one of them.
Perhaps the lead petitioner, who lost his bid for re-election to the Select Board two years ago, felt he would have handled the situation differently. But disagreements alone do not justify filing for a recall, dragging a civic volunteer’s name through the mud, and requiring her to spend additional personal time and funds to guard her professional reputation against nebulous accusations of wrongdoing that carry a vindictive air of political retribution more than anything else. We have regular elections each spring that are the appropriate avenue for seeking to replace elected officials with whom we simply disagree.
Our town counts on volunteers to willingly put their best selves forward for elected office, share their talents, listen, and ideally collaborate with their colleagues for good solutions to complex problems.
Let’s show our elected officials and anyone who is considering one day volunteering for the Town that we stand by community leaders acting in good faith. Let’s reject this recall and vote against it.