It’s not too late for citizens to get involved
Editor of the Reformer:
In my opinion, one of the reasons citizen participation and voter turnout are so dismal is that regular folks are afraid of making a mistake, or are afraid that they will be ridiculed for blindly jumping in midstream on any given ongoing issue. The complicated details of governance are difficult to pick apart and understand. There is bound to be a long learning curve. Beyond that, there’s likely to be disagreement and conflict, which most people prefer to avoid. Democracy is messy and rarely linear.
When I read a letter about the "insanity" of reexamining a major town issue (as in the ultra-complicated and expensive town budget including the planned fire and police projects) I feel like asking the writer whether the annoyance of listening to the concerns of citizens outweighs the benefits of living in a democratic society.
I have heard enough Town Representatives uncomfortably question earlier votes on this issue and listened to the helpless frustration of enough fellow citizens who have been told that it was "a done deal" and too late to get involved. When I jumped in myself I felt excited to learn that indeed it may not be too late, that our process allows for a referendum (to re-vote the budget and thereby perhaps readdress how much and where our money might be spent). I feel that it is only fair to give voice to those people, including myself. We will only have civic involvement when townspeople feel that their opinions matter.
Not everyone is able to be involved in the ongoing process of town politics. The Selectboard has made attempts to bring this to the people on numerous occasions, and I must admit that I was among the many who only read the paper but did not attend meetings or get involved. Honestly, I do wish I had jumped in earlier. I guess that I trusted that what seemed like common sense to me would seem like common sense to most everyone else. But we all have our own perspectives and agendas and the project proceeded forward.
My attitude boils down to this: As a business and home owner barely holding on with my fingernails to solvency in this difficult economic environment, I have had to make difficult choices about what I absolutely need to do/fix/invest in, and what I must defray. I understand the black and white numbers of the concept of economy of scale, but have often had to choose to approach my own projects piecemeal, and even to live with problems or to jury rig fixes, like many a thrifty Yankee before me. I do not believe that we, as a town, including those among us who are at the very edge, can afford to incur this giant debt. I think we need to make do with some things and to find a cheaper way to fix those things that are truly dangerous.
Perhaps more importantly, we need to be able to speak our minds and do what we believe is right without being made to seem silly for it, as if we are less than mature and reasoned in our thinking.
Brattleboro, April 1