Finance guru encourages involvement
BRATTLEBORO — Franz Reichsman wants to challenge other Select Board candidates to a game of tennis.
"I'm thinking of inviting my three opponents over for doubles," the president of the Brattleboro Tennis Club said. "I want to find ways to drum up more interest in public affairs, town government."
Next year, Reichsman wants to see contested races for all positions and Town Meeting representative seats. That's "how it was when I first ran for Town Meeting back in, I think, it was 1989," he said.
Reichsman is finishing up his fourth year on the Representative Town Meeting Finance Committee. He is its chairman and regularly sits in on municipal and school meetings. He also chaired the Windham County Democratic Committee for about three years in the late 1980s.
Reichsman said he understands the concerns about keeping the vitality downtown. He also worries about homelessness, drug use and poverty.
"How are we going to build a community that helps those who need help the most?" he said, calling a recent proposal from Groundworks Collaborative to expand its South Main Street facility "pretty damn impressive."
Reichsman also would like to talk about a plan, which he estimated came up about 20 years ago, for stretching the Whetstone Path downtown to West Brattleboro.
"That would be a terrific addition to the town," he said. "On the other hand, how do you pay for something like that?"
Reichsman said he wants to see a more concrete proposal from the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Brattleboro Alliance for promoting the community. Town Meeting members will decide whether to allocate $42,119 from meals and rooms tax revenue for the project at their annual meeting on March 23.
"To say it's just going to be a collaboration is not detailed enough," Reichsman said. "It could just as easily turn into a squabble instead of some kind of working together."
He is running against Daniel Quipp, Elizabeth McLoughlin and Oscar Heller for two one-year seats. The election is on March 5.
Reichsman was employed as an emergency room doctor for 30 years, mostly at the Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, N.H., until he retired three years ago. He now works part time as medical director for Bayada Hospice.
His first encounter with the area came in 1970, when his family bought a summer house on Cow Path 40 in Marlboro. He said he worked with friends and a contractor from Dover to fix the place up, then continued to visit for years until moving there in the mid 1980s. He started living in Brattleboro in 1987. He ran unsuccessful bids for state representative in 1992 and state senator in 2002.
On goals as a Select Board member, Reichsman said he probably has too many.
"One of my priorities is to make sure we're doing things that are practical and pragmatic and that are going to have real benefits," he said. "I've got time for ideas but not ideology."
Reichsman denounced comments railing against regulation that have been posted on his Facebook page. He said he wants to think about how policies will affect people. He described the budget as "love made visible."
"That really tells you what your values are, where you're willing to spend the money and raise the taxes," he said. "So you can talk a lot about what you think of different things but the real question is what kind of resources are you going to put behind it?"
Reichsman commended town administration for their proposed budgets, comprehensive review of town operations and long term financial plan.
"The town manager has been very consistent in his reminding people of the fact that we've made a habit out of deferring all these capital expenses and infrastructure out to the future," he said. "A lot of the stuff that we need just gets pushed back and pushed back, which is OK to a certain extent. But at a certain point, you end up biting the bullet."
Knowing one of the big projects coming up is an upgrade to the Department of Public Works' Fairground Road facility, he said funding will need to be figured out.
Reichsman is leaning toward being in favor of a 1 percent local option tax, which Town Meeting members will be deciding on whether to adopt.
"If we're going to go ahead with that as a tax source then we should be pretty clear that it should be for needed infrastructure that benefits everyone in the town," Reichsman said. "I don't see that raising the property taxes is a palatable way to raise the money we need."
Local politics, he said, are "very important."
"My overall big picture is being involved in local government is one of the really good ways to resist some of the terrible national political trends that we see," he said. "Specifically, I'm a Democrat and I abhor much of what I see, certainly from the president but also from the Republican party at the national level. I think they represent their funding base more than anything else at least in terms of what they do and we need to fight against that. And I think being involved at a local level like this makes a difference. And I think it's a really good reason for people to get more involved in town government."
Reichsman hopes to hold office hours at the library or town office to share ideas and get input.
"We need to work on having things happen on the state level that benefit the town of Brattleboro and I don't see enough of that happening right now," he said. "I want to get the people involved. I want to get the legislators. I think there is a way to build momentum for what is happening in Brattleboro if we get on it."
His campaign can be found at facebook.com/franz4selectboard.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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