Thinking about Brattleboro’s future

Editor of the Reformer:

Ongoing events in Brattleboro are revealing a broad array of deep and often worrisome questions about the future of Brattleboro. Are the series of votes both townwide and in the RTM underscoring a disconnect between the two bodies? Do we have a form and shape of town government that is best suited to solve the problems we face now and might anticipate for the future? Are our schools delivering what the town needs at an affordable cost? Is our standard and cost of living what it should be? Do we feel confident about our future? What do we see for the future and how shall we prepare for it?

What is a community? How do the residents of Brattleboro define our community? Does Brattleboro exemplify a community?

Education, taxation, the charter (our social contract), regionalization, sustainability, energy, employment, food, infrastructure, power structures, leadership ....

The Finance Committee recommended the formation of some sort of Futures Commission. At the Special Representative Town Meeting on June 2 I am going to propose the formation of an ad hoc committee to discuss the purpose, form and parameters for such an undertaking.

Spoon Agave,

Brattleboro, May 27

‘We need to take
back our town’

Editor of the Reformer:

Brattleboro has a spending problem. We, as Town Meeting Members, are trying our best to stop the spending. We appreciate that you got out and agreed with us by voting to reevaluate the budget. We will do our due diligence before we assemble at the June 2 meeting to review the overspending that is proposed.


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In Colchester, the Town Manager and Selectboard proactively asked 17,000 residents "What would you like us to do?" when the citizens voted down their budget. The residents resoundingly responded.

Here are a few things that Colchester is doing to accommodate the wishes and desires of their community: They increased the hours of their library to bring them up the the state standard, bringing them back to the original hours because the citizens appreciate and need the services of the library more than any one other department in the town; they stopped any overtime and put in to place a hiring freeze; they refused to purchase any new vehicles; they cut their police staff; and they opened up a line of communication which was not condescending and allowed the taxpayers to voice what they wanted for their town.

I stumbled on an article which reminded me of how I grew up in Windsor County with the adage "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." I read further about the Great Depression which my own parents remember and passed those history lessons along to me. I recall my grandfather telling us he would never eat another bean in his life because he survived on cans of beans during the Depression. I remember that my own grandfather lost his business because he could not afford to pay the $200 that was owed, when he had five children and a stay-at-home wife to feed. I remember that my own father signed up to report to serve in the United States Navy at the age of 17, for World War II to help his own parents out, with money he earned.

We need to take back our town. We need to respect and show respect for the senior population who is now, or will be soon, on fixed incomes and we have to stop anyone who says otherwise by raising taxes for things we do not need, nor can we afford.

If this letter motivates you, call the interim Town Manager, Patrick Moreland (802-251-8151) and tell him that you will oppose any budget with additional spending. You will instruct your Town Meeting Member to stand up and do what you voted them to do and that is to protect your rights as a property owner, as a taxpayer, as the person who pays for the salaries of all our our town employees.

Town Meeting Members will vote on Monday, June 2. I expect it will be a long meeting; I would be happy to stand up for you. Feel free to call me (802-579-5708) and tell me your stories.

Mary Cain,

District 2, Brattleboro, May 27

Brattleboro’s new
budget misses mark

Editor of the Reformer:

Selectboard chairman, David Gartenstein, said "no more business as usual," and committed to significantly cutting the budget rather than the "nickel and dime" approach. He and the Selectboard failed on both accounts. They have wasted their time, the voters’ time, and taxpayers’ money this past month with their refusal to take into consideration any of the suggestions and requests townspeople made regarding the town budget.

As a representative of the people of the town, I have asked everyday citizens, previously unknown to me, what they think of the current, revised budget. They all have said it stinks, it’s not enough different, it’s a mess, and it is insulting to the voters. The representatives owe it to the people they represent to vote "No" to this second budget.

Lynn Russell,

District 1 Representative, May 27

On underage drinking ...

Editor of the Reformer:

Reading our local newspaper on the 24th of May, I found an article above the fold that was reporting on the bust of a recent party involving underage drinking ("Sign of the season?"). The over dramatization of the event seemed distasteful. In a time when Vermont is struggling with drug problems, particularly amongst the youth in our state, the demonization of seniors drinking is a poor attempt to create any kind of meaningful change. In fact, the over criminalization of underage drinking lends itself to a community of young people with an easier access to party drugs then to alcohol.

While there is plenty of information from all sides about safe drinking that can allow underage drinking to occur in a safe ways, there are fewer informational resources concerning other recreational drugs. Drugs of all kinds are incredibly available in this town and in this state. As a 19 year old, back from my first year of college, I know that if I wanted any kind of drug, I would be able to get it with one of two phone calls. In my experience, this is the case for anyone under 35 (and probably many over). It is not possible at this time to cut off access to these drugs, thus I believe we must make everyone know why they should not take advantage of these possibilities.

I have particular problem with the "Parents Who Host, Lose the Most" program that was touted in the article as a way to stop parents from hosting underage drinkers. I don’t think that many people realize that criminalizing the potentially responsible parents who could create a safe environment for these kids simply means that their children will take their booze elsewhere to consume. Perhaps under the neighboring bridge. And they will drink there, pass out there, and instead of being taking care of by a sleepy parent, they will be under the purview of their intoxicated peers.

I’ve been a young person in this town, and in this state, and I have seen my peers and their younger siblings begin to seek out these kinds of activities. This is a town when we have nothing for anyone below the age of 21 to do after six in the evening. Even the skatepark, a testament to our town’s attempt to help these young people, will close early, holding back its true potential as a place for our young people.

The solution is to provide our middle schoolers and high schoolers with the advantages that would give them options, to educate them about their options. We all must acknowledge the problems with drugs that the young members of our community are having. I worry about my younger siblings and the children that will be going to high school in just a few years. I was excited to hear Gov. Peter Shumlin address this issue so clearly, and I hope that we will all continue to follow suit.

Emily Wright,

Brattleboro, May 28