Reading, MA — Both candidates for the Select Board introduced themselves to the community on Wednesday evening in a “Meet the Candidates” forum sponsored by the Reading Democratic Town Committee. Committee Chair Cathy Zeek hosted the forum where each candidate was given a 5-7 minute opportunity to speak and asked a couple of questions on the issues.
Incumbent Vanessa Alvarado spoke first, emphasizing her experience on the board and learning “how things get done at Town Hall.” She also pointed out the importance of maintaining “continuous dialog between those making decisions and those affected by decisions.”
Alvarado outlined several key priorities that she would advocate for if re-elected to the board. The first is helping guide the town out of the pandemic. “Health and safety of our residents should always be on the top of our minds,” Alvarado stated. She also listed services for seniors, a vibrant downtown, sustainability efforts, and the maintenance and modernization of town facilities and infrastructure as other vital priorities. “I will work to make our community stronger, better, and more inclusive for everyone who lives here,” Alvarado concluded.
Zeek followed up, asking Alvarado about issues relating to downtown growth and parking. Alvarado indicated that the board is currently working on ways to simplify parking options downtown and that solutions should “minimize impact on residents.” She also explained that resident involvement would be central to any decisions that are made. Zeek also asked about the issue of communication with residents. Alvarado suggested a weekly newsletter from town staff with updated information and increasing the Select Board’s presence on social media as possible solutions.
Challenger Christopher Haley spoke regarding his choice to bring his family to Reading and then move his small business to Reading’s downtown. “I am running because of my passion for what Reading was and what it can be,” Haley stated. He expressed concern over the micromanaging he has witnessed and the state of political discourse in town.
Haley listed three areas that he would emphasize as a board member: downtown parking, small business growth, and public safety. He described parking and small business growth as “inextricably intertwined.” He cited the number of small business failures in the state during the pandemic, mentioning four in the building he works. Haley confirmed his commitment to the community by concluding, “I live in Reading, I work in Reading, I eat lunch in Reading, I sleep in Reading.”
Zeek asked Haley a follow-up question about the issue he raised regarding parking in downtown. He shared that he believes that reassigning parking spaces will not be enough. “The only way this gets solved is a parking garage or something similar being constructed.” Haley declared. When asked about communication, Haley stressed the need for it to be “done consistently,” suggesting the use of newsletters and social media.
The full forum can be viewed on RCTV replays or through RCTV’s YouTube page. The local election will be held on April 6 in the Hawks Field House at Reading Memorial High School. As of this writing, the state has not yet authorized mail-in voting for the local election.