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There is a group in town whom I joking refer to as “The Cabal”. Interesting word, cabal. One definition I found defines a cabal as “a group of people united in some close design, usually to promote their private views or interests in an ideology, state, or other community, often by intrigue and usually unbeknownst to those outside their group.”
And who is outside their group? Those of us who just want to live our lives in peace and quiet, enjoy our family and friends, and basically just make it through another day. Democrats, Republicans, and Unenrolled voters all fall into this category. For us, it has become no laughing matter though. It has become quite serious. It’s serious because, while we weren’t looking, The Cabal took over. They used terms like transparency and trust gap but practice neither, sanitizing meeting minutes, micromanaging our excellent Town Manager, making life a living hell for town staff, and basically not trusting US to make the “right” decisions that impact our community.
Most people don’t expect or want, much from their town government. Those wants can probably be summed up like this: police and fire come when needed, trash picked up, streets paved and plowed, a good education for the kids, with opportunities for some extracurricular activities, and making sure our seniors and veterans are taken care of. And if all of that can be provided without being driven into the poor house, so much the better. Simple, straight forward. And given how divided our state and national politics have become, they would probably be content with keeping that sh**show from leaking into our town politics as well.
And that’s where The Cabal comes into the equation. You see, The Cabal is NOT content with keeping that stuff out of our local government. In fact, they are going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that their side wins here and be damned if you get in their way or, heaven forbid, don’t agree with them. (Lately, it seems every time I turn around, some decent person in town is being called a racist.) The manifestation of this is in their maniacal drive to keep Vanessa Alvarado on the Select Board for the next six months. She is the standard-bearer, it seems, of their designs for this community.
How maniacal? Reading residents have reported receiving call from the State Democrat Party asking them to “Support Vanessa”. Neighboring Democrat city committees have been recruited to make phone calls to Reading residents. Out-of-town union members, who don’t even know Ms. Alvarado, have been imported to hold signs for her. All of this has been coordinated by Progressive State Democrat Committeeman Ben Tafoya, a former member of the Reading Select Board. His wife, Meagan Young was Ms. Alvarado’s campaign chair. Three or four of the people who filed public records requests on Ms. Alvarado’s behalf when she put forth her bogus challenge to the recall petition signatures – where she accused MANY of her fellow residents of criminal conduct – are members of the Reading Democrat Town Committee. Another who filed a public records request as part of that challenge was the wife of school Committee member John Parks. Angela Binda, campaign chair for Select Board member Karen Herrick, filed one, and so did her husband and son. In all, 24 separate public records requests were made for Alvarado’s challenge, all in an effort to hide the fact that it cost 96 hours of staff time to provide 917 signature cards for her bogus claims, ALL of which she dropped! Talk about a waste of time and money. School Committee members Erin Gaffen and Shawn Brandt are huge supporters of Ms. Alvarado and have benefited immensely from the political organization set up by Mr. Tafoya, Matt Wilson, and their “grassroots” action arm run by Laura Wilson – with her POPHuddle email lists – and who was just recognized by Ultra-Progressive State Senator Jason Lewis for her political activism and was asked to participate on a panel discussion on the subject. That brings us to Ms. Landry, who happens to work for one of the most Progressive state senators in Massachusetts. She may seem practical and compromising, but believe me, she is a true believer too. And then there are the Docksers, Linda and Mark. Not content to simply do good for the sake of doing good, Dr. Dockser has been pushing for a paid director position as part of that non-resident Human Rights Advisory Committee that is purposefully being moved out of the purview of the apolitical Town Manager, with her as the logical choice to fill that position. And Mr. Dockser is the current Chair of the Select Board, who it seems, is intent on protecting Ms. Alvarado from ever having to vote again since Town business has ground to a virtual standstill under his leadership. This is a LOCAL recall election. Why are they going to the mat for a Select Board seat in little old Reading. Because The Cabal’s agenda demands it.
But as important as Ms. Alvarado is to The Cabal, she is not the beginning, nor the end.
Are you aware that Reading’s Select Board has a Climate Advisory Committee? I guess it’s because our little slice of planet Earth has such a huge impact on global climate patterns. (Wait until you see Ms. Herrick’s plans for Reading becoming a “Green Community and how that is going to affect home renovations and electric bills.) Anyway, a few years ago this committee, after getting no traction from a much more practical Board, circumvented the Select Board – whom his committee is supposed to answer to – by going directly to Town Meeting and solicited an instructional motion telling the committee to look into the viability of a single-use plastic bag ban. You heard that right. The Climate Advisory Committee asked Town Meeting to instruct them to look into a bag ban. No, that doesn’t sound fishy at all. In essence, they said, “We want to do this, but the Select Board won’t act on it, so I need you to tell me to look into it so I can present you the ability to pass it since the Select Board won’t.” They revealed, in the presentation on his plastic bag ban, the true aims of The Cabal: “We want to change behavior.”
And I’m sure by now you’ve heard grumblings about the effort to have non-residents be voting members on certain Town Committees. The Charter flat out says that is not allowed. At least under the purview of the Select Board. After the Board found out they had violated that provision with their vote to form an ad hoc Human Rights Advisory Committee that include two non-residents, Town Counsel presented an option that would satisfy the intent of the Board but not violate the Charter. The committee would be under the purview of the Town Manager. Well, Ms. Alvarado and The Cabal don’t want to work with our Town Manager. In fact, they would prefer that he not BE our Town Manager and have taken votes to bring that disastrous situation into reality. The claim was that it seemed an underhanded way around the Charter and open government. Not transparent at all, because it relied on the honor system of the Board to write the mission statement in a way that ensured compliance with Open Meeting Law. I guess we can’t depend on our elected officials to be honorable. But lo and behold, there is a movement in place to put this committee under the auspices of a newly created Director who, to no one’s surprise, doesn’t report to the Select Board or the Town Manager, but rather to a much more compliant and Cabal-friendly Board of Library Trustees. Indeed, if this plan goes through, non-residents will have the opportunity to set policy for residents. And parts of this new committee’s mission statement come awfully close to policing powers.
These are but two examples of how deeply The Cabal has enmeshed itself into the operations of the Town. There are so many more. Look at the list of people who filed public records requests at Ms. Alvarado’s behest above. Many familiar LAST names. Not first names, because The Cabal needs to keep its elected officials clear of any implied bias. They’re just civic-minded volunteers after all. Take a look at how they’ve stacked the boards and committees to dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s” on their agenda.
The Cabal wants to reshape Reading in their image. They have no interest in serving the community as a whole. They want to use the full force of government to coerce everyone else into compliance. If that angers you as much as it does me, then there is a path forward. Defeating Andy Friedmann was a warning shot and a wake-up call. The next step is voting to recall Vanessa Alvarado. Removing Ms. Alvarado from the Select board sends a clear message that this town is not buying what they’re selling.
Now I have political biases just like everyone else. But the difference between my biases and The Cabal’s is that my biases lean towards leaving YOU alone to live your life the way YOU want to. And I sure as heck don’t want to put the full force of the government behind mine. As I told my kids the other night, a government powerful enough to give you everything you want is powerful enough to take away everything you have. “Leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone,” that’s my motto. The Cabal has other designs for Reading. They want to “change behavior.” Send them a message on 9/1, because this is our town too, and we don’t want their kind of change.