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It’s that time of year again when we assess the events of the past year and think about our goals and wishes for the next.

The war in Iraq, and the sacrifices of so many, has put a pall over our lives. As we enter another year of war, let’s vow to help these soldiers and their families whenever we can. Whether or not the hardships touch us personally, these men and women are fighting not only for their country but for ours. Standing by them is our obligation, and hopefully, our intent.

Our towns continue to provide their respective citizens with the services they need. Of particular note this year are our emergency responders who always answer the call. Most recently, firefighters responded to a large and, potentially, even more devastating fire in Ayer at Moore Lumber and to a house explosion in Groton. While the scenes were directed by the departments in those specific towns, all responding firefighters worked quickly and together to do the jobs for which they’re trained. In neither case was there an injury. That doesn’t just happen. The danger was there but so, too, was the expertise.

We saw police officers, firefighters and EMTs visiting our schools and our elders, introducing themselves and explaining what they do. This most vital phase of community policing makes these professionals more approachable and less frightening when they come to our homes in times of critical need. These visits are a great service.

Schools in our towns are doing wonderful things for our children. We carry their stories every week, trying to provide readers with a glimpse into the wonders of these schools. Volunteer education foundations are raising very significant sums of money, enabling purchases and events that augment the educational opportunities for our children.

But as we applaud so many who contribute to our enviable qualities of life, we must consider the largest and often the quietest of our groups: taxpayers. How much longer can individuals and families continue to pay ever-rising property tax bills on top of all the other rising costs of life?

We must make it our business in 2008 to work more closely with our elected senators and representatives to protect the interests of those they represent.

State government should keep its promise and fund Education Reform in all towns and districts. It should fairly reimburse towns with state land and take care, on a timely basis, of the infrastructure for which its responsible.

In 2008, state government should be a more caring and responsible partner by protecting the health and welfare of ALL its towns and cities.