A new Brattleboro Area Middle School principal is headlined in the April 26 edition of the Reformer ("Putting the needs of the kids first"). What about the rest of Brattleboro? Whose needs are they putting first?
Recently, the town's Selectboard chairman said that he would not support a skateboard park in this town, the implication being that for the town to oversee a place for our teenagers to go would contribute to the underlying problems currently pushing up property tax rates to unacceptable levels.
At the same time, the chairman laments the fact that this town will not have first-rate core emergency services infrastructure. Like what, one might ask? I don't doubt that they need improvements, but isn't $14 million a little over the top? It seems to me that the financial problems that have come to roost in Brattleboro were not the doings of our children's generation, but of our own generation's shortsightedness by pandering to many of the self-interest groups in this town over the past 20 years. One that sticks out like a sore thumb is the fact that this town and state drove the corporate offices of C&S Wholesale Grocers across the river a few years back because some people didn't think a warehouse off of I-91 would look nice. My guess is that the state income tax being generated in the weekly/monthly payroll at the time by those top executives would have easily covered a very nice skateboard park for our children. But, no, not in our backyard. Some of those in my generation had other interests to cater to.
Fast forward to a few months ago and we have the expiration of the building permit for the skateboard park. There was a meeting, the purpose of which was simply to get approval by the skatepark committee to downsize the original park area. The site had been approved; it was in a very open area, already a park for children, and yet, after hearing a few pseudo-intellectual types voice their skepticism over the benefits of having the park at Crowell Lot, the Selectboard went along with them and rejected the request, in spite of the illogicalness and unfairness of doing this, which, in fact, had been pointed out by another board member during that meeting. Shortly thereafter, the building permit expired.
Regardless of this perceived injustice, I can't help but wonder why the Selectboard seems so insistent on trying to subtly shift the blame and responsibility for our town's economic woes onto our children's generation. What an easy ploy -- they have no representation, do they?
Quite honestly, they don't deserve the treatment this town has given them. Ten years looking for a skateboard park with no results. What is this town waiting for? Skateboarding to be sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee? Well, it was in 2012.
What ever happened to it takes a community to raise a child? That was the mantra in the 90s and early 2000s in this town. Is it no longer applicable because our kids are now teenagers or young adults and in even more need? They have no place to skateboard outside in this beautiful weather without the constant fear of being ticketed by our police, who have probably been directed to do so by higher-ups.
To shut the door on the skatepark, or to let it sit there and blow in the wind for another 10 years would be a disgrace for this community to perpetrate on these kids. It was our generation that ran us financially amuck, not theirs. Stand up and take a stand -- support your community by supporting our children, even if they aren't toddlers anymore and even if they are too young to vote. They are our children and our future. Stop turning your back on them.
John Ogorzalek, who now lives in Marlboro, was a Brattleboro resident for 20 years.