Letter: A failure of democracy in Brattleboro

A failure of democracy in Brattleboro

Editor of the Reformer:

A 13-year-old says representatives are supposed to listen to people they represent.

Simple civics means the people have the right and responsibility to tell their representatives what is important, what concerns them, what questions or issues need attention and how they should/could be managed/resolved/handled.

Representatives then have the privilege, honor and responsibility of listening to said town's people, right? Even if the representative disagrees, right?

I am sad to see some of our representatives have refused to listen to voters, some refuse to consider their constituents at all and have said they vote according to their own personal opinion or agenda. In email discussion of background information regarding the Police/Fire Project, some Town Meeting Reps said they were tired of hearing from citizens, and that it was "nonsense," while some refused to listen to other representatives at the Special Representative Town Meeting March 12. Some walked out almost as soon as the meeting had begun, while some walked out after a vote, refusing to listen to others yet to speak. So the system is not working well for voters in Brattleboro. This refusal to listen to others is part of the reason that "representative" town government in Brattleboro is not working and does not attract other people, new faces or voices, to volunteer to be part of it. While the less affluent attempt to voice their concerns, the folks in "power" have no ears to hear from those of us most burdened by their financial decisions.

For those willing to hear, the folks of lesser means do not agree with the proposed Police/Fire Project because we cannot afford the solution as it is now proposed. We cannot "buy a Cadillac with a Chevy budget," as a wise one said. Some people suggest going back to the beginning — in spite of all the previous work, hours, and money spent — in order to address the original assumptions made from the "get-go." One original, false, assumption was (in 1997) that "we need a new building," and this became the basis and focus of the whole project. This is also the place where some folks see room for more consideration, closer investigation, more possible options, more creativity and expanded problem solving. The root of the problems need to be addressed, not the flowers. The solution will come from considering all possible options, will come organically from within the realm of all possibilities. We cannot know the best solution without allowing room for and considering all possibilities.

In spite of any pretense, it appears democracy -— the power of the will of the people who are governed — doesn't live here in Brattleboro any more. That can only be remedied if and when Representatives and the Select Board will listen, truly listen, to the words and will of the people of Brattleboro and honor the will of the governed, the people. Not by over-ruling the will of the people as with the town parking garage that was voted down three times by the people. Let the people speak clearly by allowing them to vote on the multi-million dollar matters you expect them to fund; let democracy have another run in Brattleboro and honor the outcome without attachment. You might be surprised at the outstanding solutions that can surface.

Lynn Russell, Brattleboro, March 15


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