Last year, I led the effort to secure funds to upgrade the Longmeadow elementary school playgrounds to become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was voted on during Town Meeting in May.
As a mother of a child who uses a wheelchair for mobility, this issue was deeply personal for me, and it was incredible to see so much support from the residents of my community, including elementary school children who had the courage to speak at committee meetings. Although the final vote was overwhelmingly in favor, the road to get there was difficult. It took years of speaking up and working to find allies. There were so many days when I thought it just wouldn’t get done. One of those days was when the Finance Committee voted to not recommend approval of the project. The discussion was disheartening as one member suggested putting all children with disabilities in the same school to save money. Accessibility is not a luxury and no child should be removed from their siblings and neighborhood because town leaders are unwilling to invest in what is right and sensible.

After that meeting, it took a lot of work to educate the Finance Committee on issues of disability rights. The community came together to make T-shirts, yard signs and show up to Town Meeting to vote. Just minutes before Town Meeting, when the writing was already on the wall, the Finance Committee changed their vote to recommend the article.

With all of the difficult issues our town is facing, I couldn’t believe the amount of time, work and resources it took to convince some of our leaders of a basic value: that my child deserved the same opportunities as their children. Shouldn’t our town leaders know better than that? This is why I was thrilled to hear that Leah Peterson was running to become a member of our Select Board. I have known Leah for years and she is incredibly accomplished, an amazing mother, and dedicated member of our community. Leah’s extensive professional experience as a financial services executive will bring a new perspective to our town leadership. Her ties to Longmeadow run deep and her values reflect our community, as she grew up in town and her parents still live here today.

I know that I will not have to spend time convincing Leah of basic values, and that instead Leah will spend her time tackling the complex issues facing our town. Leah understands issues that are important to children and families and she is someone I can trust to support future common sense upgrades, like the playgrounds.
I am excited to cast my vote for Leah Peterson on June 11, and I hope you will join me.
Jennifer Arnold

Letters to the Editor
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