Quipp asks 'a lot of questions,' wants to ask more

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BRATTLEBORO — Assessing his first year on Select Board, Daniel Quipp said he thinks he has done "a pretty good job."

"I think that I've been able to really think about the issues and do my homework and talk with town staff and talk with members of the community, and I'd like to have another year of doing that," he said. "And I think having a year's experience will mean I'm a more effective board member and that will be good for the town."

Quipp, 41, is running against Kurt Daims, Rikki Risatti, Ian Goodnow and Oscar Heller for two one-year seats in the March 3 election.

"I think one of the things I've done on the board this year is ask a lot of questions," Quipp said. "I think asking questions is a really good thing because when we pretend to know everything about everything, I don't know, it gets in the way of us actually figuring out the truth of things. At the end of the day, we're five volunteer people with jobs, lives and family. And we have a bunch of really good staff to make sure we do the best thing for the town."

When Quipp first ran for a seat on the board, he knew there would be a learning curve.

"And there was," he said. "I had the chance to go through one budget cycle and understand more, I think, about the rhythm of the work and how to bring proposals forward that have a chance for actually turning into something, what it means to work together as a board in collaboration with town staff."

An individual might bring a proposal forward, Quipp said, but the process is very much a collaborative one. He noted three votes are needed for an action to be approved.

His proudest achievement this year involved taking steps toward pay equity among all employees that included a new compensation system for those who do not belong to a union.

"What we did with that study and the decision we made in the end about choosing to pay people the wage that they deserve and making sure that forever, there's going to be this structure, this step system that's going to ensure new employees are brought in with fair wages and work their way up," he said, "I think doing that is going to hopefully retain the great staff we already have and make sure that all of the town staff who aren't members of unions are also being paid livable wages."

The responsibility of the job will be accurately reflected in the paychecks town employees bring home, Quipp said. He acknowledged the cost to adjust salaries had been higher than initially expected but he said he believes it is "the right thing to do for the health of the town."

Early in his days on the board, Quipp spoke with Police Chief Michael Fitzgerald about the police department's response to the opioid crisis.

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"I think Project CARE is a really good example of the collaboration that's necessary to make an impact on a really, really big challenge," Quipp said of the program which stands for Community Approach to Recovery Engagement and involves police officers working with local organizations to steer individuals toward treatment for substance use.

Being a volunteer-based initiative in the beginning, Quipp considered it unsustainable. He called the $16,000 included in the proposed fiscal year 2021 budget for the program "a pretty modest sum." He had been a proponent of paying recovery coaches who work with recent overdose victims and other struggling individuals $15 an hour when the original proposal included a lower rate.

Quipp said he is excited to see what will happen with a jobs program, which is anticipated to start in the spring. The town committed funds to Youth Services for a pilot run.

"I think that's going to have a good impact on people who are able to work but are not finding it possible to have regular employment," Quipp said.

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Town staff are looking at ways to have more durable or permanent public restrooms. In the meantime, Porta Potty facilities are placed in spots downtown during the warmer months. If re-elected, Quipp hopes to see the project through to the end.

This year brought some litigation to the board's desk.

"The lawsuits we worked on this year were very challenging," Quipp said, referring to one involving an officer alleging discrimination that ended in a settlement, and one still in court seeking funds from those seen as responsible in some degree for the opioid crisis. "Those were a lot of hard conversations."

The question of whether to include local pharmacies in the latter suit "caused a lot of controversy but it was definitely something that a lot of people talked to me about," Quipp said, calling it "the right decision in the end" not to do so. He looked at this as an example of something that required a lot of reading and "homework."

On rejecting the climate emergency declaration, Quipp believes the board also made the right call. His concerns had been about "emergency ordinances" to test out ideas from community meetings. He recalled talking with one of the proponents of the declaration, and one of the examples had been a no-driving day in town — something he didn't see that as a practical or realistic thing.

Around the same time, Quipp said, the board voted to hire a sustainability coordinator — something he feels was a "concrete" action that would lead to good outcomes for the town.

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"I would much rather do good than something that sounds good," he said.

Quipp would like to see the board look into improving the safety at crosswalks. He said the community has seen a few too many incidents where pedestrians have been injured.

Quipp also hopes to continue contributing to the work being done to address issues related to housing and opioids. He had introduced a goal to the board's list about tracking data on the opioid crisis.

"So I don't think this is work the town can do on its own," he said, "but I think we need to stay in that conversation with local agencies, state legislators, to improve the lives of a very vulnerable part of our community."

Quipp has been very public about his opposition to moving to a mayoral system. An article on the March 3 ballot asks voters if the Select Board should be advised to amend the town charter to make such a change.

"I think that it creates more executive power," Quipp said, adding that he thinks there's an assumption that a mayor would be like a town manager except elected. "As far as I'm aware, our town manager does not want to become the mayor."

A mayoral system would be more "unstable and ideological," he said, while also voicing concern about how the article doesn't show what kind of mayoral system the community would favor.

"I just think the town has way too much else that's going on, that's important, that we don't want to distract from by spending months or years worth of work on this change," he said. "When I talk to people every day up until a month ago, nobody's talking about needing to become a place with a mayor."

He recalled hearing about issues related to the economy, housing, addiction and quality of life in town.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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