Resolution urges tougher climate action

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BRATTLEBORO — Town Meeting members could prompt a more aggressive response to climate change.

"On this issue, they really need to realize we've all been in denial and unless we make some community cry, you know, and really recognize where we're at and really acknowledge in front of everybody, in front of ourselves that we are scared, then nothing's going to happen," said Town Meeting member Kurt Daims of District 2. "Then it's impossible."

Article 25 at annual Representative Town Meeting on March 23 asks if the town should adopt a non-binding advisory resolution that advises the Select Board not to commission additional studies on "fossil fuel consumption, carbon footprints or efficiency of insulation, heating or air conditioning systems until the town implements common sense practices to reduce fuel consumption in town buildings, including practices such as ... lowering the thermostat setting during the winter to a significant degree, and wearing long-johns, sweaters and other warm clothing ... mounting and sealing of doors, windows, and storm windows ... raising of thermostat in the summer or use of electric fans instead of air conditioning, and wearing cool clothing — avoiding layered suits and blazers ... [and] other common sense measures per the discretion of the energy coordinator."

Passage of the resolution would advise the board "it is of utmost importance to replace the energy coordinator as soon as possible" — as Paul Cameron's successor Phoebe Gooding has resigned — and the next person to fill the position should implement the measures previously listed and recommend further energy studies. Also, the resolution would advise the board to adopt an ordinance mandating "conservation measures to be taken by businesses and residents of the town consistent with the above stated resolutions."

"We're hoping for people to get real," Daims said. "That's really what it's about."

The article needs "serious discussion ... moments of silence ... and people telling stories," said Daims, who has invited community members to speak with him about the topic and is one of three Town Meeting members who are a part of Brattleboro Common Sense.

The organization petitioned to have the resolution put on the warning. The same group was responsible for bringing the "Youth Vote" up for vote earlier this month. Since its approval, the Vermont Legislature will be deciding whether Brattleboro can amend its charter to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote on local issues and serve as Town Meeting members or on the school boards.

Daims encouraged youth to show up at Town Meeting on March 23. Lucy Congleton, an activist and recent graduate of Brattleboro Union High School, attended an informal meeting Tuesday about the resolution entitled "Climate Denial Confessions."

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"I think it's a really interesting idea to gather around denial," said Congleton.

Congleton and Daims were planning to have another gathering Thursday and possibly another one or two next week.

"I think we all are going to see a great resurgence and insurgence of new voters around Brattleboro and not just lefties but everybody," Daims said. "And that way, we can have a stronger, more active debate ..."

Town Manager Peter Elwell said town staff have no position on the proposed resolution.

Gooding resigned as energy coordinator during a town Energy Committee meeting on March 5, 2018. She "explained that she was experiencing extreme exhaustion ('burnout'), needed to let go of something in her life and the [energy coordinator] position made the most sense," according to meeting minutes.

Gooding suggested a sustainability officer might be a better fit for the town. And the committee presented a description of the position to the Select Board in December.

The scope would be broadened to include economic, energy, environment and equity issues. The plan is to have town staff work with community members on a proposal for the next budget.

An article funding the energy coordinator was left off this year's Representative Town Meeting's warning. Traditionally, a nonprofit is set up by the jobholder so the money allocated for the position can get to that person as they are not part of town staff.

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


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