QUOTES & STORIES

WE CAN BE A MODEL TOWN– IF WE CHOOSE TO BE...
Todd Merkle

Much has already been written on these pages about the Proposition 2 ½ override vote that will be taking place on April 3, 2018.  So I would like to use this space to dispel, at least anecdotally, what is an unfortunate stereotype.  And that is that Reading’s seniors are the biggest enemies of a successful override.  I have spent many hours over the past several weekends knocking on the doors of strangers to help get out the word about the importance of this vote to the future of our town.  And I cannot tell you how much support I have found amongst our seniors who truly understand that this is about something bigger than themselves and beyond their pure self interests.

 

On September 12th of 2016, at a Special Town Meeting called by our Board of Selectmen, our representatives at Town Meeting voted to approve a “Senior Tax Relief” measure which had the justified and admirable goal of making it easier for qualifying seniors living on fixed incomes to age in place.  This measure had the effect of “shifting” a certain amount of the property tax burden from those seniors considered most at risk to the balance of Reading’s taxpayers.  Since property taxes were merely being reallocated from one group of taxpayers to another, but not increased overall, this measure did not require the approval of voters directly but, rather, was simply advanced by our Board of Selectmen and ultimately voted on and approved by our representatives in Town Meeting.  I believe that this was an example of Reading at its very best.  In fact, there are only two other towns in entire state of Massachusetts with similar Senior Tax Relief programs – Sudbury and Wayland.  Two towns with dramatically higher property values (and property taxes) than Reading where affordability is clearly a more acute issue.  But we came together and did the right thing for our seniors because they are an integral part of our community and we, as a society, have an obligation to take care of those who are most in need.

 

Which brings me back to the Proposition 2 ½ override vote that will be on the ballot on April 3rd.  Make no mistake that our children are the other particularly vulnerable segment of our population.  They have no voice in this debate.  Yet they will disproportionately feel the impact of its outcome.  For those of you who may be inclined to vote “No” in order to “send a message” to [insert town or school official here], understand that the pain that you may wish to inflict will not be felt where you intend it to be but, rather by our youngest generation of children and the teachers who we trust every day with their lives and their futures.  We have an opportunity to come together as a town on April 3rd to do the right thing for our children, just like Town Meeting did the right thing for our seniors on September 12th, 2016.

 

If we do this, I believe that Reading will be held up as a town that others in the state will point to and say “Reading did it the right way – they are the model”.  On the other hand, if we are shortsighted and don’t go to bat for the youngest generation and the school system that is the bedrock of our community I fear that these same towns will be pointing to us and saying “Look at Reading.  What happened to that town?” 

 

The choice is ours.  Let’s not make the mistake of believing that some of the loudest senior citizens that are angrily shouting “No” in this debate are representative of an entire generation.  My experience tells me something very different. Let’s tune out this vitriol and instead simply ask ourselves what kind of a town we want Reading to be in the future.  Let’s choose to be that model town that is admired across the state for coming together to do what’s right – for our seniors and for our children.

 

Please join me in voting “Yes” on April 3rd.

Todd Merkle

182 Sanborn Lane

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