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Back to work

Compared to the news out of Georgia and Washington, D.C., it’s been a quiet couple of weeks in Harvard. But empty streets can be deceiving.

As the new year begins, residents and officials are coping with three disruptions of historic proportions: a pandemic, a plunge in employment and business activity, and an awakening to racial disparities that persist in our community.

As the COVID-19 pandemic surges in Worcester County, Harvard, through the diligence of its residents, has remained a low-risk island (3.16% positivity) flanked by higher-risk neighbors (Shirley: 14.61%; Ayer 12.64%). Reporting the course of the disease and measures to control its spread—as well as its impact on our readers and our schools—will remain a primary mission of the paper, as long as COVID-19 is among us.

Yet in the midst of this upheaval, the business of local government goes on. The fiscal 2022 budget is about to take center stage. Next week, Finance Committee members will begin their scrutiny of board and departmental requests for spending in a year of fiscal unknowns. Needs and wants are sure to exceed the dollars available from taxpayers, and some hard decisions lie ahead. Meanwhile, the Planning Board is engaged in a years-long quest to encourage growth of the Ayer Road commercial district while preserving Harvard’s small-town character. Construction of the new elementary school will come to an end this spring, but the town has a growing list of maintenance and construction projects that will soon place new demand on taxpayers.

These are just a few of the “hard” news items we’ll be following. They are the stories—the so-called broccoli of local journalism—that contribute to the health of our small democracy as they provide oversight of town government and encourage participation in its activities and decision-making. They are core to the mission of the Harvard Press. But beyond Town Hall lies a vibrant community, alive with the people and events that give Harvard its unique character: our unsung heroes, the school plays, art and music events, the races and festivals and lectures, and the myriad community organizations from Scouts and the many town sports booster associations, to the League of Women Voters—to name just a few.

We’re a hyperlocal paper, and covering both our government and community will be our primary job in the coming year. We welcome your suggestions. What should our priorities be?  What have we overlooked? What can we do better? Send your suggestions to editor@harvardpress.net or join our editor for a soon-to-be-announced series of morning Zoom meetings.

Meantime, despite its many challenges, we welcome 2021 as we bid good riddance to 2020. We’ll do our best to chronicle whatever the year has in store. May yours be healthy and filled with unexpected pleasures.

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