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Thank you to all my neighbors who have been wearing masks, staying socially distant, and respecting guidelines in this era of COVID-19. I know it has been a difficult year and I wish you and your families health and safety.
Today, I must speak out about something of great concern to me that has been negatively affecting our community for the last six months. The recall election spearheaded by former member of the Board of Selectmen, John Arena, has done incalculable damage to our Town. Arena has been assisted in this effort by former Selectmen Dan Ensminger and John Halsey. While they are not the only ones responsible for this campaign, they have been outspoken in their efforts. Arena authored the dubious petition, Ensminger represented the petitioners during the Board of Registrar’s multi-day hearing, and John Halsey both funded the pro-recall mailing and signage and has positioned himself to fill the void should the recall be successful.
It greatly disappoints me that while Reading’s citizens have struggled to address job losses, a global pandemic, national and local racial injustice, a tattered economy, and difficult family and personal situations, these three have been spending 2020 on a non-stop attack and slander campaign specifically designed to tear Reading apart at the seams. It is unbecoming, petty, wasteful, and contrary to their previously sworn oaths to work in the best interest of Reading.
Since March, I have been serving alongside Vanessa on your Select Board, and prior to that served with her on the Finance Committee and Town Meeting. In spring 2020, the Select Board met weekly to make decisions to keep our community safe from COVID, to restore $500,000 to our RMLD annual PILOT payment and to negotiate a new ten-year agreement, and to prepare for the first-ever virtual Town meeting. These necessary four-hour meetings have taken a toll on staff and town volunteers, exacerbated by the need to schedule and hold a costly recall election.
Vanessa has continued to attend to her elected responsibilities, while juggling her full-time job, aiding her children with their schoolwork, and attending and preparing for multiple days of a Board of Registrar hearing to rightfully defend herself against the slanderous recall petition. Her ability to focus on town matters under these circumstances is a testament to her character and dedication to serving the community that she calls home.
The most abhorrent of the many accusations put forth by the recall supporters is the alleged non-support of our Reading police force, most viciously targeted against Select Board member Vanessa Alvarado. The scope of these false accusations against Vanessa has been expanded to include accusations against most of the members of the current Select Board and many other volunteers.
Let me say it once and let me say it clearly, I have read the Reading Town Charter. I have served the Town as a Town Meeting member for 19 years and served on many boards, committees, and commissions during those years. The accusations that Vanessa Alvarado has violated the Charter and willfully delayed the hiring of our new Police Chief are false. The rumors spread by the pro-recall supporters on their anonymous website and social media that Select Board Member Alvarado wants to defund the Reading police are also patently untrue and ludicrous.
In her capacity as Town Meeting Member, Finance Committee Member, and duly elected member of our Select Board, Vanessa Alvarado has voted affirmatively time and time again for the resources we have needed to keep our community safe. Together with current Select Board members, and former Finance Committee members (Mark Dockser, Anne Landry, and myself) Vanessa has over and over again approved police budgets, equipment purchases, dispatch system upgrades, and squad car purchases. Whatever our Chief needed, whatever budget requests submitted, was approved or recommended to Town Meeting. The $500,000 RMLD payment that Vanessa helped to restore prevented layoffs of police staff during an economic crisis. Additionally, as a Select Board member, she passionately and vocally supported the successful override that funded FIVE additional police positions.
If all of these verifiable actions aren’t enough to convince you that she has always supported our first responders, then perhaps your should also know that her husband, Justin, spent many years serving our country as a member of the United States Marine Corp. It has always been my understanding that there is a strong brotherhood/sisterhood connection between law enforcement families and military families. As a military spouse, it is inconceivable that she would not be supportive of law enforcement in our community.
If Reading is to move forward from this very unfortunate period in our Town’s history, we must value our dedicated and skilled volunteers and we must vote AGAINST this unwarranted recall petition. We cannot stand by and allow a political revenge project to be successful, and I sincerely thank the hundreds of residents, elected officials, and neighbors who have already voted against the recall. Thank you to those residents who understand what a dangerous precedent and volunteer deterrent it is, and who are equally tired of politically motivated slander against a smart, hardworking elected official. With all of the challenges facing our town and our country right now, we need unity, not divisiveness and we certainly did not need a $65,000 effort to recall an elected official based on meritless accusations. I respectfully urge those who are still confused by any part of this frivolous recall petition to please visit www. againsttherecall.com and unequivocally cast your vote AGAINST THE RECALL on the local ballot.
Karen Gately Herrick
Member, Select Board