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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Futures Commission Proposal

I am going to be making the following motion under Other Business at the Special Representative Town Meeting

Motion to establish an ad hoc committee of Representative Town Meeting for the purpose of bringing forth proposal for the establishment of a “Futures Committee.”

Brattleboro has been in slow but generally steady decline for the last fifty or so years.  There have been a few mitigating developments such as C&S, Yankee and the growth of the hospital and the Retreat but these have not been enough to stem the tide.  Now they, too, as a whole, are diminishing.  The town has been able to sustain itself only because of an expanding social safety net that includes a huge federally subsidized affordable housing sector (primarily the Brattleboro Housing Authority and the Windham and Windsor Trust).  When we look also at the large array of other programs we now find that close one-quarter of Brattleboro’s gross personal income is now derived from this net.  I’m not sure that this amount even includes the enormous support that Social Security, Medicare, the VA system, pensions and all manner of other care programs provide for the elderly.  A report from CEDS indicates that fully half of the total personal income of our citizenry is from unearned sources.

Brattleboro is not working.  We need to fully understand why.  We need to take a hard and deep look at who we are, where we are headed and I am proposing an ad hoc committee that will set up the commission to do just this.  I am not proposing the direct establishment of the committee because I believe its mission, scope and parameters need a lot of thoughtful development.  There are too many ideas and possibilities.  Second, I don’t know of, at least yet, a good model that may already be in use. Until that comes along we must create our own path.

This ad hoc committee will write the proposal for Town Meeting to consider.  It’s deadline should be our next regular meeting in March of next year.  If it can succeed much sooner we can consider another Special Town Meeting.

Committee membership will be open to anyone.  Candidates will apply to and be appointed by the Moderator.

It should be noted that the establishment of a “futures” commission was recommended by the former Town Finance Committee in its last report.


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Isn't working

When you say "Brattleboro is not working" do you mean not enough people in Brattleboro go to a workplace, or that things are broken in general?

The "future" may be a bit vague. Are we looking 10, 20, 50, 100 years ahead? The committee will have to do some defining of both the problem and the scope of their effort.

What will our assumptions be?

I could, for example, see us doing better in the short term if Vermont taxes marijuana soon. I could see us doing better in the near future by investing in local renewable energy production or municipal broadband. I could imagine both leading to new jobs. We're about to get some money for economic development, we can increase pedestrian and non-motored wheels about town. We have smart people

I can also see us continuing to be victim to rising health insurance costs, so that one day we have a single employee and we pay $12 million in benefits. I can see a lack of participation in democracy giving us skewed impressions of a direction to follow. I can imagine environmental problems escalating, and weather-related damages increasing. I can imagine schools being taken over by corporations, and so on.

In other words, it would be relatively easy to make a case for us doing poorly or doing better. Perhaps they cancel one another out and we'll just keep going.

And, how does this fit into the national trend of us all being replaced by robots, and a future without any income from work? : )

All this is a way of saying the conversation and attention to this issue, I think, is worthwhile. It certainly couldn't hurt, and it doesn't cost anything other than time and effort. (Of course, if the committee was paid a salary, jobs would be created.)


The Future of the Youth Vote

The future of the youth vote is one area of consideration. The age of emancipation in Vermont is 16. That means that sixteen and seventeen year olds can declare themselves free from parental control. Emancipation is expressly a declaration of acknowledgement that they, as sixteen and seventeen year olds, are and will be responsible for their own actions.

If a person is responsible for their own actions they should be eligible to vote.

Currently the state constitution sets the voting age at 18.

However, the town can enact statues to lower the voting age in-town.

There is already a current history of strategy development to support the Youth Vote. It should fit in nicely with the “Futures Committee."

But Youth Vote should be a topic of discussion at the Representative Town Meeting next March, with or without the advent of a futures committee.


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