Our Opinion: City of indecision?


Over the past few months, decisions that appeared to be set in stone in Brattleboro turned out to be written in the sand.

From the budget, to the town manager search, to the police/fire facility, to the skatepark, hours and hours of long, hard work were negated by indecision, discontent and disagreement.

Meanwhile, the town's departments are forced to scrimp and save, reducing programs and putting off needed improvements. Members of the police and fire departments are forced to work in substandard conditions and the town is only one slip and fall away from a lawsuit. Skateboarders still have no legal place to ride and risk being ticketed for rolling down many streets in town.

And in the Town Manager's Office, a person who has been fulfilling the responsibilities of the job has been passed over as the Selectboard chose three people who were offered the position but declined for one reason or another. We truly don't understand why the man who has been filling Barbara Sondag's big shoes for the past year is not good enough to be even considered for the position; perhaps there is something wrong with his job performance or maybe there's some sort of personality conflict going on, but we wouldn't know, because the current Selectboard chairman is particularly tight-lipped about the entire process. In fact, he took several minutes out of a recent board meeting to excoriate a former member of the Selectboard (who is also a former member of the Development Review Board and a current member of the town's Finance Committee) for revealing to the Reformer details about the town manager's search. The information this man -- who was the chairman of the citizens committee established to help find a suitable candidate for the job -- gave to the Reformer didn't need to be kept closeted, considering the fact that he was commenting on people who had already turned down the job, but the chairman of the Selectboard accused him of violating the cloak of confidentiality imposed upon everyone involved in the process and compromising the integrity of the town's search.

While we believe the current chairman is suitably qualified for the many demands imposed upon a person who is in what is basically a volunteer position, we wish he would be less of a by-the-rules lawyer and more of a benevolent leader guiding with a gentle hand. Yes, we understand balancing the interests of his many constituents with the needs of the town's many departments is akin to walking on a tightrope, but anyone in his position needs all the help he can get. He does the town a disservice by upbraiding a volunteer in a public forum and we wonder if such behavior drains the pool of volunteers who are willing to serve on the town's many committees.

Despite our concerns, the current chairman has the qualities needed to get the job done and we hope he continues to pick away at the details that have proven to be the downfall of more than one Selectboard member in the past. To his credit, the chairman has turned down the rhetorical heat in the board meeting room and has increased the level of respect toward town residents.

However, he can still be bullheaded, which is all well and good in a courtroom, but it can only get you so far in a town full of unconventional thinkers. This is Brattleboro, after all.


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