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Who Are "They" ?

In yesterdays Reformer there was an article about the Police/Fire project and its future.  It talked about the Police & Fire Facilities Oversight Committee.  The article goes on to state that it is unacceptable to the PFFOC to simply repair what needs to be repaired.  They apparantly want a project that will last for the next 50 years rather than a band-aid approach that has been discussed.

I got really po'd after reading that story.  Who are "they" and what gives "them" the authority to make anything acceptable or unacceptable.  They are not representing the majority vote of the residents of this town who voted down the budget.  This does not sound like a committee that is cooperative and working with the residents, selectboard or TMS's.  For them it appears to be My Way or the Highway.  NOT GOOD !


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This is who "They" are

The Police-Fire Facility Building Committee was formed on February 5, 2013. From the Town Website:
Police Fire Facilities Committee's mission is to provide financial and technical oversight to the Police-Fire Building renovations/addition project. The ad hoc committee consists of 8 members and a liaison from the Selectboard. Currently serving are:

Robin Sweetapple, Chair
Steve Phillips, Vice Chair
Philip Chapman
Kathy Dowd
David Emery, Sr.
Tony Farnum
Eli Gould
Prudence MacKinney

John Allen, Selectboard
Town Manager, Staff

"They" have public meetings-- going to them gives you a chance to contribute to the process.


going a bit further...

'"They" have public meetings-- going to them gives you a chance to contribute to the process." -matkinson

The only problem with this assertion is that it suggests that side conversations - held outside of public view - that decide outcomes (and what processes will actually be followed, or not)do not occur. We know that they do. It also ignores social and established power networks. These are also out of public view and can not be accounted for when the final decisions are made.

It is disingenuous to suggest that open public process participation is the only mechanism in place when decisions involving power and politics are being made. Using the term "they" does not seem inappropriate when considering the larger picture in political decision making.



what is so amazing about your remark is that you have been very effective in changing public projects (i.e. the Skatepark) by demanding more "public process" Now now you say public discussion is not really going to work because of some hidden power dynamic?

Really -most things that happen locally in Brattelboro grind through years of public discussion and nobody give a rat's @$$ until the moment it may effect their pocketbook or property.

That is not a lack of public discussion brought about by a nefarious group of people grabbing citizens' rights --it's the citizens not taking responsibly for the rights they have.

No one is going to spoon feed you --if you want change, if you want a voice you have show up. You have to work both within the power structure and from without -- i.e. working for it to be more inclusive.

I am glad this budget / building issue is at least getting more people to pay attention and show up... they may find it is fairly easy to be come "the Power" if they want to put in the time .



In no way did I say "public discussion is not really going to work". I am sorry if that's how you read the message in my comment.

In fact, public discussion is very often what DOES work, particularly in the face of flawed public processes. That is exactly what happened in the skate park issue. However, public discussion needs NOT only take place in little "official" forums arranged by those in power. Opponents of "the plan" involving Crowell Park presented evidence that supported our concerns in many forums, both within and outside of the official process, which served only to ignore our concerns and the evidence we presented to substantiate them (which had nothing to do with hating youth in Brattleboro, by the way). :)

What I thought I said was that your (and many others) suggestion that attending public process forums gives citizens a voice of persuasion on outcomes(including when it involves a sham process staged by those in power with a predetermined political goal)and ignores larger realities of power and politics in decision making. Possibly that is why we were eventually effective, because some folks recognized that very early on?

I agree that change must happen within and outside the power structure. Again, that is what happened on the skate park issue. I also agree that the public is not as involved as they should be on many issues until it is clear that the issue at hand will have a direct impact on their pocketbook or property. That's not limited to Brattleboro, however. It's a reflection of society at large, particularly at point in time when society is fragmented and members isolated.



- they know who they are
- if we choose to, we can know who they are
but unfortunately
- they aren't overly concerned about what we say, but at times may refer to specific assertions from a few of us but only in order to advance their agenda


THEY are us

I bit my tongue on this but finally got PO'd myself and have to comment. Who are "They", indeed?

"They" are the people who saw that the town had a roughly $15,000,000 ($15M, +/- $5M) problem a few years ago and stepped up to volunteer their time to look at it. "They" know the town has to provide critical services but they also didn't want the town to waste their taxpayer dollars. "Their" initial agenda was to tell the town "we can't afford this" but when they really looked at the buildings, the services, and the budget they came back saying "we have to do SOMEthing". "They" didn't think they were part of a sham process when they attended many public meetings over the past couple years, complete with announcements and minutes posted online for the literally world to see. "They" have solicited input from everyone they know in order to bring those views to their committee meetings. "They" know that in fact they have NO authority, they can only make a recommendation to the selectboard which can then bring the results of that recommendation (in the form of an annual budget) to the Representative Town Meeting.

The voters of this town did vote down the 2015 budget - $16M, which didn't actually include very much spending for the Police-Fire Project. Meanwhile, the Police-Fire Facility Builiding Committee has been doing whatever they can to bring down the total cost of that project while still providing the services this town relies on, and they've come up with a solution that is around $11,000,000 - much less than the $20M originally presented and significantly less than the $14,000,000 that Representative Town Meeting approved and directed the town to execute. "They" said that it was unacceptable to them to spend $5,800,000 in taxpayer money to do some remidial work that would still leave the town on the hook for a $15,00,000 solution in only a few years. Instead of throwing away the $5,800,000 after a few years, "They" would have the town spend about $11,000,000 now (down from an initial $20M and approved $14M) to get a better solution that will actually last the town for another 50 years.

The work of those people is here:
Brattleboro Police-Fire Facility Building Committee Agendas and Minutes In light of that work, who are "you" who has passed judgement without doing any research? Please post again with your reasoned analysis after you've actually read "their" work. What I took away from the Reformer article and my discussions with people is this, as a car analogy.

We have a 15 year-old Ford Edsel that's basically a death trap and won't pass inspection - WE know how to drive it, but we wouldn't let our kids ride in it. We would love a ($40,000) Cadillac, but that's right out. We started looking at a $20,000 Ford Special RT. After talking it over with our spouse, we figured that the $14,000 Ford Normal LX would really be enough (though neither of us really liked it and it still seemed kind of expensive). However, when we finally sat down and looked at the budget and talked it over as a family, we came down to two options: get the new Ford Combo for $11,000 (which would hurt, but is probably a better car and would give us something new that should last another 15 years), or pay $5,800 so we can pass inspection this year even though we know that in a year or two the Edsel's going to die and we're going to have to spend $15,000 to get a newer model Combo. What would you do?

I cannot believe how high my property taxes are (though I recognize that 60% of them go to schools and not the town). I am not a Town Meeting Rep (and am deeply against the whole idea for a Vermont town) so I don't even have a vote on the issue. However, I would much rather have the town spend $11M doing something right that will last for a long time, than have it spend almost $6M and leave a $15M problem hanging over our heads. I don't know why people voted for or against rejecting Brattleboro's originally proposed FY15 budget, but I can say this committee is cooperating, working with, and representing me when they recommend a 50-year project instead of a band-aid.




It looks like you are responding to the original post, but since you referred to my own reference about "sham" processes, I want to say that I was referring to the skate park "plan" when using that term here, even though sham, staged processes happen regularly in many communities where politics undermine community voice in order to achieve predetermined goals.

In terms of your comment that rightly acknowledges the sincere time and work of the committee being discussed (but still does not negate the influence of invisible factors on any committee's final conclusions),it is worth mentioning that many, many people step up and volunteer their time to issues in the town, beyond committee and meeting work. I raise this point because too often we hear people extol only those who engage in "official" work in town. I don't think I have ever heard anyone extol groups of citizens who step up to the plate and volunteer many hours of their time in order to question the decision making processes on controversial projects or planning in town - like trash disposal, the skate park, pedestrian safety, the Police/Fire station project, etc. Many citizens donate endless unrecorded volunteer hours to shape the town, in various ways. We rarely see or hear that acknowledged.


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