Reading was designated as the poorest city in the country with 53% of its residents now living in poverty. The City is in Act 47 and has major troubles. Crime, drugs, racism, sewage being dumped directly into the Schuylkill River, quality of life issues and a lack of code enforcement have combined to give it a bad reputation. I cannot drive through it without dealing with multiple double parked cars for example. I’d rather go the long way around Reading than deal with these.
Vaughn Spencer, formerly City Council President, was elected Mayor earlier this month. He succeeds Tom McMahon whose first term was followed by a remarkably inept second one. This is a financially starved city which cannot even manage to cash checks. Employees and services have been cut while money sits around in shoe boxes until the checks grow stale and cannot be redeemed.
While it calls out for strong and smart management I wonder if this new regime is up to the task. Spencer was on the wrong side of the citywide trash collection issue, sided with a major trash hauler to sell Antietam Lake, an issue which seemed fraught with corruption, and violated open government statutes as City Council President.
He says Reading is about to turn the corner and move ahead but residents are still ashamed to tell others they live here. He has assembled a transition team of city and county community leaders to form committees designed to discuss the critical issues facing the new team and come up with solutions. They are examining the structure and financing of City government and expect to have a plan in place so Mayor Spencer can hit the ground running in January. Noticeably absent from the transition team is outgoing Mayor McMahon. I wish Vaughn well, I like him personally but watched him make some bad decisions as Council President. Living just a few minutes from the City line whatever happens in and to Reading affects my life as well. Yes, we’d all like to be able to say we’re from Reading and have a positive reaction to that but I’m not holding my breath.