Letter: Where are Select Board's priorities?
Editor of the Reformer,
The Select Board is failing. Failing Brattleboro business, failing Brattleboro, failing to filter out the voices and make the tough decisions to keep downtown Brattleboro vibrant.
The Reformer headlines tell the story: five store fronts closed, the Co-op struggling because of the panhandling, and yet the Select Board does nothing but create a "sustainability" position. Viability, downtown viability should be their focus.
The Select Board can't be all things to all causes — yet they want to be. The board focuses on global climate change, when the local business climate is screaming for attention. Does global climate change deserve attention? Absolutely. But the business climate in Brattleboro is under a bigger threat. Without changes, without a plan, without a partnership with the Select Board, the business climate will dry up and fade, yet I am not seeing the same level of concern from the Select Board.
Brattleboro is in a competition to remain a destination town. Bennington has kick started a massive multi-million dollar downtown renovation. There is competition for the tourist dollar, competition for visitors — from a myriad of towns in Southern Vermont. Yet the select board is either completely unaware or unwilling to get out of the office and actually visit with and talk to town merchants and business owners to find out what they need.
The Select Board wants to be social cause friendly — the homeless, the drug addicted, panhandling. It's a noble effort, but I am not seeing that same level of compassion and concern for businesses trying to make a living in Brattleboro. Does the select board not understand that the better businesses in Brattleboro do, the more funding social programs receive. (By the way, Brattleboro has a combined sales tax rate of 7 percent; where is all that money going?)
Doesn't the Select Board read the Reformer and see that Bennington is putting millions into a downtown renovation? Brattleboro is in a competition to stay a destination town; other towns want the visitors, want the tourist dollars, want what Brattleboro has always had but is starting to now lose. Parts of Flat Street and Elliot Street look like scenes from the set of "AMC's zombie series." There are residents initiating safety walks — without one Select Board member interested enough to show up. Does the Select Board not see a problem, a huge issue, if residents have to stage a safety walk in Brattleboro?. There are multiple panhandlers working downtown parking lots. I understand they have a right be there, but we have the same right to go to Brown and Roberts or Burrows, Sam's, Duo's, Peter Haven's without getting repeated requests for cash.
Brattleboro Memorial nurses are calling for a change in a letter to the editor in the Reformer (after a surgeon walks away from a job offer and walks away from Brattleboro). Reformer columnist Peter "Fish" Case stepped in with his own excellent column on the issues. This is a wake up call for the Select Board but they put their blinders on and go to work. Instead of filtering out those who push their own agendas, that five-member board tries to be all things to everyone and that is not the way they should work. But that's exactly how this sustainability position got created — that five man board rolled over to satisfy "those proverbial squeaky wheels" that right now are getting all of the grease — leaving Vice Chair Tim Wessel to write a "don't blame me, I never thought it was a good idea" letter to the Reformer. (I happen to agree with his position but it's still unsettling to read a letter like that from the Vice Chair on a sustainability position that was just created).
Instead of trying to appease those who interrupt Select Board meetings with their impassioned pleas, the board should be working with the mostly silent voices of those who are working to keep Brattleboro viable and sustainable, the downtown businesses.
Guilford, Sept. 5
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