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Councilwoman’s priority is Community Communication

by Councilwoman Lucine E. Sihelnik, District 1, City of Reading

Councilwoman’s priority is Community Communication

We are experiencing life like we have never known before; We have come into a new normal of communication. One that involves social distancing, isolation, and technology. It has become paramount, too, that we heed the same, unified message from our leaders. Four days ago, Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced all 67 Pennsylvania counties will be under stay-at-home orders until April 30, 2020. This set precedence for us as your elected officials to heed this advice in Berks County. We have, indeed, been in unification with the County Commissioners from the start of our response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. In the same week, The County of Berks and the City of Reading issued a Declaration of Disaster Emergency and legislation to address the COVID-19 outbreak locally. The declaration provides the City increased flexibility to expeditiously and efficiently conduct business and operate as close to regular as possible.

Furthermore, with the guidance of Dr. Dethoff, chairman of the City of Reading’s Health Board and City Emergency Management Coordinator and Fire Marshal Jeremy Searfoss, we continue to use the same messaging to avoid any misinformation or confusion around the complexity and rapidly changing evolution of the outbreak by guiding all messaging to the County’s established COVID-19 Help Center at, email [email protected] or phone 610-320-6150. The Help Center operates 7 days a week, from 8 am to 7pm. For questions on social services or needs, dial 2-1-1.

Currently all City facilities, including City Hall, are closed to the general public. However, you can still communicate with us through phone, email or online. For general questions, please contact the Citizen’s Service Center at 1-877-727-3234 or download the Reading iRequest App on your smartphone or device. I believe that the iRequest App, unique to the City of Reading’s Citizen’s Service Center, is the best tool for citizens to use to communicate freely regarding Public Announcements, inquiries, and submitting a request for services or needs. The tracking system allows for proper handling and documentation, and ensures that the lines of communication stay open to constituents during this time, including a reverse push notification to all with announcements from the City to anyone who has downloaded the App.

In addition to the City Council and City of Readings Facebook pages & City website, we are making an incredible effort with the support of our IT Department and City Clerks office to continue to conduct our public meetings, Committee of the Whole, and support the needs of our Boards, Authorities, and Commissions. We are attempting to go virtual as quickly as possible with the support of Berks Community Television (BCTV) and tech platforms that will integrate with our municipal systems and maintain compliance to the Office of Open Records. Council meetings during the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration will continue as scheduled virtually. Meeting schedules and agendas can be found on the City’s website , as well as new public comment requirements, the location of the meeting stream on the website and the availability of the Municipal Access Channel 99 broadcasts for regular meetings on BCTV.

I welcome you to also join me on Thursday, April 9th at 8:00 PM for a live show on BCTV, In Your District – District 1 with Councilwoman Sihelnik. In additional efforts to keep the community conversation going, the public engaged, and informed, we will be hosting a broadcast using a platform that will allow us to all connect from the safety of our homes. Guests such as the Managing Director of the City, Pedro Cortes, as well as a District 1 Business Owner and Resident, Tanya Melendez of Tropical Bakery and Scot Case, Chair of the 18 WARD Business Alliance will join me to share their current perspectives and day to day in our community during the COVID-19 outbreak. We will do our best to continue to take calls and answer your questions during the show and highlight some of the amazing people and organizations that are keeping our community connected in creative ways. Each councilor is standing by to host shows in the upcoming weeks, connect with you directly, and are using thoughtful approaches to communication and engagement in their prospective Districts.

Please stay connected to your loved ones, neighbors, and local elected officials during these unprecedented times. The COVID-19 Pandemic effects everyone. Together, we will show solidarity, #togetherathome to ensure the safety of ourselves and everyone around us. We stand with all those who are critical and essential to keeping the rest of us healthy and safe, fed and sheltered, comfortable and calm. Every person’s role is vital. Remember: The shortest distance between two people is a smile.