📑 Priorities

I have six key priorities as a Select Board Member candidate:
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Responsible  Spending

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MBTA  Communities

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Water  Rate$

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Supporting  Residents  &  Small  Business  Owners

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Improved  Services  &  Support

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Open  Communication

🪙 Responsible Spending

Reading residents will be faced with financing two large, essential projects in the next couple of years:  renovating or replacing the Killam Elementary School and renovating or replacing our current senior center with a Senior/multi-generational center.  Both projects will require large debt exclusion overrides, likely totaling $150 million or more in new debt.  Even with possible state support and two other projects (the high school and the library) finally getting paid off, Reading residents will still face hundreds of dollars a year in additional taxes from these essential projects.  Now is the time to ensure Town spending is focused on the highest priority items, to ensure that Reading residents can afford to pay for everything and still have money left to cover their own needs.  I believe both of these projects will benefit the entire community, but with so much uncertainty in the economy and persistent inflation, the last thing we want to do is burden residents with higher tax bills, water bills, electric bills, etc.  As a Select Board member, I would strive to ensure that our town controls the pace, scope, and timing of other initiatives and projects to ensure that residents can afford to fund these projects and town needs. 

🚉 MBTA Communities

In August 2022, the state finalized its community guidelines to comply with the MBTA Communities Law. The law requires every MBTA community, including Reading, to have at least one zoning district where multi-family housing (at least three units on one property) is allowed as of right and located near a transit station.  

What does this mean for Reading?

Under the law, Reading is considered a Commuter Rail Community. This means we must zone for a minimum of 1,493 units, with at least half within a ½ mile of the train depot. After numerous public hearings and a townwide survey, we are currently in Phase 4 of our process. After CPDC and town staff comprehensively analyze alternatives, the plan is scheduled to be presented at Fall Town Meeting.

I am concerned with the MBTA Communities Law and how it will redefine Reading’s landscape, especially the neighborhoods in Precinct 5.  We need to proceed cautiously with the minimum requirements the state has set.  These new zoning laws will bring in new growth money over time, but I am concerned with the other strains on our budgets.  Such as the Town’s infrastructure, schools, and public safety resources.  

🚰 Water Rate$

Massachusetts law requires a base rate for water charges and fees with increased rates for high-volume users—MGL Ch. 165, Section 2B. Under the law, water charges and fees incorporate a base rate for all users and an increasing block rate to fairly reflect the resource demand and consumption of high-volume users of water. Simply put, those who use more water pay more.

In June of 2023, the Select Board approved a new five-tiered water rate system by a 3-2 vote.  The new rates went into effect in December of 2023.  The Select Board voted on the five-tiered system with the lowest users paying $10.75 per 100 cubic feet and the highest users paying $12.50 per 100 cubic feet which is approximately a ten percent increase in their water bill.  The five and ten percent increase for the top tiers is not fair or equitable.  In addition, multi-family homes and condo complexes are unfairly penalized for having only one meter.  

I believe the differentiation in the tiers needs to be reviewed so that large, multigenerational families are not penalized. The Select Board also needs to devise a solution to resolve the inequity that this new tiered system is causing for multifamily and condo complex owners.

🧾 Supporting Residents & Small Business Owners

Our downtown needs small businesses to thrive.  Our hard-working small businesses can only be successful with community support.  Over the past few years, these businesses have been hindered by increased taxes and rising supply costs, which have caused several businesses to go under. This has left our town with underutilized buildings and extended real estate vacancies.  One glaring example is where the town currently imposes bans on certain types of plastics on all businesses in Reading. While I understand the positive intent, this ban is having a significant impact on our small businesses' bottom lines.  These businesses sometimes run on slim profit margins as is; add to this costly plastic alternative and supply chain issues, and the impact is consequential.  Better communication and dialog on this issue could have helped here.  While this ban was being proposed, most small businesses were in the dark. Many businesses reported hearing about it from non-official sources, like the Chamber of Commerce. Is it any wonder that the businesses are closing and/or moving elsewhere?

🤝 Improved Services & Support

We need to find ways to communicate better about town project details and changes that could significantly impact the ability of residents to do business downtown. For example, the downtown is replete with multiple water main projects, 40R developments, and other construction that limits access to streets, parking lots, and businesses.  This is to be expected in any community, but we need a better strategy to clearly communicate to residents when road closures will take place and how long they will last.  Many residents I talk to are simply frustrated and limiting their downtown shopping. I also have to believe that non-residents who find roads blocked with poorly marked or non-existent detours are less likely to want to do business in Reading.   Select Board members are the Road Commissioners in Reading, and as a Select Board member, I would be proactive in helping establish better lines of communication with residents about road closures, detours, and parking changes.   

Our senior community is the pillar of Reading.  We need to do everything possible to ensure that seniors can afford to remain in their homes.  Reading has a senior citizen property tax exemption, but that is not enough. Large debt exclusions are coming, and water and electric bills continue to rise by double-digit levels.  Our Reading town government may not be able to control inflation, but we can at least control and improve the services we provide to our seniors. My priority will be to support seniors by ensuring they are getting the appropriate elder services, VA benefits, senior tax breaks, applying for appropriate programs to help with energy costs, and, of course, a new and/or improved Senior Center that is appropriately staffed to provide the programs and services our seniors need. 

 

💬 Open Communication

Select Board members are elected officials intended to be the voice of our town. My goal is to bring people together. I have seen a growing divide in our town over the past several years.  I believe that the Select Board has a responsibility to unite the town, not further divide it. I am certain that there will be issues some disagree on, but I believe we can come to a common ground to make progress.  This requires open-minded and respectful communication, which I pledge to be my priority.  

In conclusion, I promise to dedicate my time and effort to making Reading a community we all can love.  My decision-making will always be guided by my belief that I want to improve the lives of all Reading residents.  I will have an open line of communication with all residents and would encourage you to reach out to me with any concerns, and hopefully, I can earn your support.