To the editor: On March 20 and 21 Brattleboro Representative Town Meeting convened via electronic means to approve essential articles, amend and pass the town budget, and discuss many important issues for our town and region.
Affordability, human services, town water supply, inclusive self-governance and spending priorities were all debated. The meeting was conducted in a manner that speaks well for the spirit of respectful discussion in our community. Much appreciation for our highly skilled and eminently fair moderator. Finding a balance between affordability and civic mission is an ongoing challenge for our town, our state and nation.
Representative Town Meeting is a microcosm of Brattleboro. The decisions made on that day are the result of discussion - and often of much research and planning. Our town staff does an excellent job in preparing the background information. Decisions can be revisited in the future, and I am sure that they will be.
I have been a Rep for quite a number of years and there were just two aspects of the meeting that concerned me. It is generally not helpful to re-characterize what another member has said and then respond to that re-characterization. Ideally, comments should be directed to through the moderator. Each speaker typically gets one turn on an issue and should not have others speaking for them. Even one occurrence of this is troubling.
The other issue is the increased use of “calling the question” in order to cease debate. In one incident, the move to end debate occurred before any debate had even occurred. This is like ending a vacation before leaving the driveway. Roberts Rules offers the option of “calling the question” as a way to end discussion when the argument has become repetitive or circular. When the discussion is just beginning and there are few hands raised it seems wise to allow for comments and questions. Participatory democracy has never been a “time saver” activity.
Our town has a vibrant form of self-government with checks and balances built into its design. It will be interesting to see if the increase in Select Board salaries will widen the field of candidates running in the next election. Participation in Representative Town Meeting - while paying no salary - is both a contribution to the town and an education. Thank you to all who were there and did their part. Many thanks to all those who volunteer their time and energy in our community to make it a better place.
Representative Town Meeting, District 3