Saturday September 29, 2012

Bad time to fund new police/fire project

Editor of the Reformer:

When it comes to the economy, some people call me Dr. Doom. (Dr. Uncertainty would be more accurate.)

Around the world, governments and economies are in deep doo-doo. Austerity is the word of the day as politicians raise taxes and cut social programs. At home, we have a huge deficit and our leaders keep kicking the can down the road. We can’t repeal the Bush (temporary) tax cuts, and we can’t end the wars (more below), so Social Security and Medicare (not funded by the taxpayers) have to take the hit, along with the meager "entitlements" we provide for the least privileged members of our society (you know, the parasitical, mooching deadbeat 47 percent).

So, amid this economic gloom, what does the Selectboard do? (Led by a supposed fiscal conservative.)

They want to buy a new cop shop and firehouse, obligating the town to a $14.13-million bond. (And, it will cost more than that -- these things always do.)

Not only that, they want to pay for it with a 1-percent local option sales tax.

Did I mention "uncertainty?"

Locally based economic guru Chris Martenson (http://www.peakprosperity.com/) says, "Massive change is underway in our economy, energy and environment," or, as he summarizes: "The next 25 years are going to be very different than the last 25." (He’s not being optimistic.)

And then there’s war.

Netanyahu wants war with Iran so bad you can see the drool running down his chin. (And of course, he wants us to fight it for him.)

If Obama gets re-elected, there’s a 50-percent chance Bibi gets his dream (100 percent if we elect Romney).

The first thing to go will be the Straits of Hormuz, sending gasoline to $10 overnight. Increases in food prices will follow very shortly thereafter.

The police and firefighters are not going out of business if we postpone action on this enormous debt proposal for another year. Let’s all sit back, take a deep breath, and revisit this at next year’s town meeting.

Town Reps -- take notice.

Tom Finnell,

Brattleboro, Sept. 28

‘Co-op board ... being called to action’

Editor of the Reformer:

On the evening of Sept. 10, a group of Brattleboro Food Co-op employees presented a statement to the Co-op’s Board of Directors. They represented a majority of workers who have signed a petition in support of forming a union, and asked that the board recognize the union.

It might appear that this is only a union issue, requiring only a response regarding unionization. But it is much more complex. This moment in the Co-op’s history was not born in a vacuum. As is true of any moment, it is a coming together of many elements. It is the result of a long evolution of events, and the Co-op’s leadership has played a significant role in that evolution. At the Co-op, management provides leadership of employees, and the elected board members provide leadership of management. One must ask, "What roles has leadership played in the evolution of this moment: The workers requesting the protection of a union?"

Leadership is an art, and in the 21st century business world, there are many skillful leaders who use collaborative models and inclusive strategies to balance the demands of running a business with the diverse needs of workers, consumers, and community members. Such democratic leadership takes skill, self-knowledge, and courage. I believe that Co-op workers and shareholders expect that type of engaged leadership, so it is confusing that conventional, hierarchical, top-down strategies are employed instead. Where there is such a disconnection between espoused cooperative values and actual day-to-day leadership practices, the workers are justified in seeking to resolve that discrepancy.

Is there no one on the board who questions the leadership -- management’s and the board’s -- that brought about the workers’ need for a union? No one who wants to know the stories behind the workers’ statement? No one who is uncomfortable with putting this into the hands of the general manager, when the staff clearly has so many grievances concerning management? Is the board watching as the on-line petition in support of union recognition (a petition addressed partly to the board) grows to hundreds of signatures? Are members of the board reading the many thoughtful and eloquent comments being made by shareholders, community members, and producers who support the workers’ unionization efforts?

Section 5.1 of the Co-op by-laws states that, "The powers and duties of the Board shall include ... engaging a general manager and monitoring and evaluating his ... performance, overseeing the operations of the Co-op ... securing good conditions of employment and assuring that the purpose, mission and principles of the Co-op are properly carried out."

The Brattleboro Food Co-op Board of Directors is being called to action. If they choose to maintain the current leadership, then they must balance it by providing for workers’ rights through unionization. It is their duty and their moral responsibility as stewards of a 21st-century cooperative organization.

Teri Young,

Brattleboro, Sept. 25

Still opposed to Crowell skatepark

Editor of the Reformer:

If readers of the Sept. 26 Reformer missed the New England In Brief article on Page 2 -- titled "Bad Behavior Keeps N.H. Skatepark Closed" -- in essence, this is what it said: The local skate park, Windham, N.H., will stay locked until spring because of problems with trash, foul language and skateboarders not wearing helmets. The park closed Monday by order of the Board of Selectman so as to allow time to figure out a solution to the bad behavior. The article went on to say that as a result of skateboarders coming from beyond their town of Windham, enforcing the rules is taxing to the police department. The Board has asked for a committee of boarders and parents to come up with a solution.

Is the town going ahead with the skatepark at Crowell Lot without public input regardless? Will there be a town forum to discuss building the lot at that location? What provisions will be made for bathrooms? I ask you, are we inviting the same behaviors to the Crowell Lot on Western Avenue and will our police department encounter the same kinds of problems?

Susan Avery,

Brattleboro, Sept. 26

Crowell decision puzzling

Editor of the Reformer:

What were they thinking? The siting of the skatepark at the Crowell Lot has baffled my husband and me. We are residents of the neighborhood and every day watch young children (usually preschoolers) and their parents, grandparents or caregivers walk by our house on their way to the park. Coming back they are full of stories about the friends they met and what they did at the park that day. It is amazing to us that the Brattleboro School Board would have been party to the placement of the skatepark in what is already a fully utilized park.

In particular, why did they agree to displace the young children who have been in that highly visible, shaded and easily accessed section of the park for 68 years? Their entire play space from the bus stop back to the wood line is scheduled to become an unsupervised, fenced in, concrete skatepark. The children’s play spot will be relocated to a smaller area in what now acts as a buffer zone between the basketball court and the ball field. Several mothers have spoken to us about their reluctance to continue using the park if their children are going to be in such close proximity to a skatepark.

With all the emphasis on the importance of early childhood education, doesn’t the Brattleboro School Board realize what a resource the current children’s play area is for developing motor skills, socialization and communication skills and the many benefits of just being able to play in a lovely, green space. The expense to the town for this "early childhood education" is the cost of mowing the lawn and occasionally painting or repairing the swing sets.

We are puzzled by what they were thinking.

Patty and Marty Fitzgerald,

Brattleboro, Sept. 25