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Why I'll Vote for Kate, Not Spoon

There's nothing disgraceful about politics - I chose to live in Brattleboro in part because I knew that here, my ideas would be heard. Other place where I have lived and been involved in politics, things haven't been anywhere near as open or fair.

I wrote an endorsement of Kate O'Connor which appeared in the Brattleboro Reformer on Thursday. I would like to add more here about why I have made this choice. At the bottom of this new commentary, I will append my letter in the Reformer in case you haven't read it. I'm also going to add a brief public apology to Spoon Agave at the end.

I'm for Kate because she has extraordinary potential for benefitting our Town in ways that Spoon does not. Her long service in the Office of the Governor is an example. I have known Kate a relatively short time, but she has already become one of my confidantes in areas political, municipal, and communitarian.

I'm voting for Kate because she showed up and did a great job when I asked her to come to my house and explain to our three new young voters why they should vote for her, and why they should engage in the political process.

I'm voting for Kate because even though I have had disagreements with some of the other O'Connors, I do not hold her responsible. I have long ago forgiven them for any of those other differences as well.

I'm voting for Kate because she listens to me and values my opinions.

I'm voting for Kate because I believe our community values her, especially because she speaks her mind and is unafraid to wade into controversy.

I'm voting for Kate because I believe I have seen her being an example of 'turning the other cheek' and not retaliating when under attack.

Now, why I'm not voting for Spoon.

First and foremost, I'm not voting for Spoon because Kate is far and away the better candidate for excellence in service on the Selectboard.

Now I have known Spoon far longer than I have Kate. I like and respect him immensely, and have almost always striven to regard him as my friend. His fiancee is one of my wife's best friends in this world.

But Spoon has given me cause to wonder. Let me explain.

I did not question his friendship or respect for me when in June 2011, he went along with the Development & Review Board's opinion vote that the Skatepark would constitute only a "minor" change to an existing facility. He has never commented to me about the fact, as I understand it, that the D&RB never minuted that decision - never mentioned the vote in their minutes -- thus helping to ensure that no one in the community would be able to question it after the fact. [I actually lean slightly toward having a well-designed "wheel-friendly facility" (as the current designer has called it) in that park, as long as it is part of a comprehensive plan for the park, which would certainly be an improvement. But I detest the idea that the park might be built and approved over a huge public outcry that the decision did not receive all of the appropriate and necessary public 'vetting'.]

I won't vote for Spoon because twice, when I submitted sections for our Finance Committee report, sections which I drafted at his request, he jettisoned my drafts and completely re-wrote them himself, changing not only the language, but dropping what I felt were extremely important recommendations.

I won't vote for Spoon because numerous times during our Finance Committee meetings, he has used his role as Chair to cut off my contributions to our discussions. Well, yes, sometimes I'm long-winded, but I have many times felt that he just plain didn't care about my thoughts and opinions.

I won't vote for Spoon because midway through 2012, during our Finance Committee discussions, he began to openly advocate for the closing of Green Street School, a proposal that I thought was rash and ill-considered in the extreme, because he, and we, had had very little discussion or liaison with School officials about such drastic measures. Actually, I might never have mentioned this publicly because I didn't want to embarrass him or the Committee, but I think now he has 'forced my hand' by runniing for the Selectboard. Folks, I think you have a right to know that were you to vote for Spoon Agave, that might also turn out to be a vote to close Green Street School.

I won't vote for Spoon because I disagree with his authorship of the sections of our new reports which call for "level-funding" the schools' budgets, and for the voters at Representative Town Meeting to "reject" the Town (elementary) Schools' budget. I hasten to add, however, that Committee members other than myself were all in favor of releasing the Town (elementary) Schools report.

I won't vote for Spoon because I felt it was ill-considered when on Friday, February 8, he released our report on the BUHS budget without it having been approved in any warned meeting of our Committee, and in spite of the fact that in our warned meeting immediately prior, on Tuesday, February 5, we had decided by consensus to change the language of our recommendations and to drop our recommendations to "level-fund" and "reject" the BUHS budget -- changes which I had eagerly sought. However, I am in unity with the rest of the Committee in favoring very conservative counsel to the Schools' financial analysts and budgeting authorities.

I'm not voting for Spoon because I would prefer his service on the Finance Committee to service on the Selectboard. Let me explain. In my letter to the Editor of the Reformer, which you may read below, you will see that I comment generally positively on Spoon's work in the Finance Committee. If he became a Selectboard member, he would not be eligible to serve on that Committee, because the Finance Committee has a charge as a 'check and balance' to be generally analytical and constructively critical of all taxpayer-funded spending.

[Incidentally the Finance Committee apparently has no budget of its own ... though no one complains at Town Hall when we make a few copies, those of us who drive to the Municipal Center have to feed the parking meters, and not use the permit lot, during our meetings, a 'pet peeve' of mine.]

And so, my political recommendation to the voters of this Town is to vote for Kate O'Connor. Seriously, folks, I think this is a great opportunity for us. Draw your own conclusions, and vote for whomever you will, but please consider voting for Kate ... I believe she will do a GREAT job!

John V. Wilmerding, MBA

Member, Brattleboro Finance Committee (2011-14)

Elected Town Representative, Third District


Now here is my apology to Spoon:

Dear Spoon,

I would say that I hope you will continue to regard me as your friend, but by your actions toward me, I am honestly not sure you ever have. I will always aspire to your friendship.

I apologize for not informing you in advance that I had decided not to vote for you, and instead to endorse Kate and vote for her. I can understand it if you take that as flying in the face of any notion of friendship between us. I had said I wanted to speak with you about your candidacy, but also intended to speak with Kate about hers, and after I spoke with her and thought about the issues and the whole picture as I see it, I decided to vote for her. Only on Thursday did I decide to endorse her publicly.

I deeply regret having run against you for the same Selecboard seat some years ago. As I have explained to you, I didn't do so intentionally ... it was the 'luck of the draw', as they say.

I want to remind you that when I heard you had taken out petitions for both the 1-year seats and the 3-year seat this year, my immediate response was "Don't run against Kate!" In so doing, my only motivation was to give you good advice. Frankly, I think I have always tried to give you good advice, and it often was good advice, and you often didn't take it regardless. Here's another piece of advice: run for only one seat ... don't leave people guessing what race you'll be in.

I agree with you on most things, and hope to join with you in common cause many times in the future.



Here's the text of my Reformer letter:

Support for O’Connor

Editor of the Reformer:

It may surprise readers of this paper that I am strongly endorsing Kate O’Connor for Brattleboro Selectboard, especially considering that I have worked with her opponent Ben Spoon Agave for the past two years on the town of Brattleboro Finance Committee.

I believe that with so many years of administrative and political experience at the state level, Kate is admirably well-equipped to serve our town on the Selectboard. The three-year term she seeks means she will be with us over the long haul in this important position. And Brattleboro can expect much, over many years, from this young yet deeply experienced public servant.

It’s true that Spoon has more experience working in town government, but he himself says it may take him the three-year term to "come up to speed" on the Selectboard, and for that reason he wants the three year seat. I’ve worked with him for two years now on the Finance Committee, and the same rationale might dictate that he remain for another year working with us there -- we’re just now beginning to expand into the demands of a much wider purview conferred upon us by the newly-amended Town Charter. I’ve challenged some of Spoon’s decisions and style on the Finance Committee, but in general he has defended himself fairly well there, and certainly has the working support of the membership.

I support Kate "in her own right," not merely because she’s an O’Connor, from that local political family. She’s a brilliant and charismatic person, and the published author of a large and very interesting book (I’m mid-way through it) on the political process. She’s been involved with the running of several local non-profits already, and has served under appointment to important State committees. I believe her far-reaching contacts and influence, particularly statewide, will help us as we "bootstrap" Brattleboro economically once again. It has been said that town governments in Vermont are pretty much "creatures of the state," and in this context, I believe that Kate O’Connor, given the new portfolio of Brattleboro Selectboard member, will bring much good fortune and considerable resources to our town.

From where I sit, liking both individuals very much as I do, my judgement is that Kate is far and away the best choice for Selectboard. It’s a case of the right person, in the right place, at the right time.

John Wilmerding,

Brattleboro, Feb. 27


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John "I'm voting for Kate

"I'm voting for Kate because I believe I have seen her being an example of 'turning the other cheek' and not retaliating when under attack."

Could you please explain what the "attack" was that you're referring to. I find these references confusing and would like to know what people mean, exactly, when they say attack. It's a pretty strong charge.


'turning the other cheek'

When she was attacked publicly during her last campaign, she did not reciprocate the attack.


Spoon, Sí; Allen, No!

I’ve worked with Spoon Agave on several town projects. He’s always impressed me by the thoroughness of his approach to the business at hand, He prepares himself well, and he thinks deeply. I feel he’s the kind of leader Brattleboro needs.
O’Connor, on the other hand, displayed a basic defect in character when she attacked a local radio personality and tried to get him fired.
She had every right to work for Tarrant’s campaign, but no right to be deceptive in characterizing her role in it. Writing directly to his bosses was over the top.
Moving along, I was in attendance at a Selectboard meeting where a Housing Authority issue was being discussed. Then-Selectman Allen opined that the trouble with Brattleboro was that there’s too much affordable housing. Anyone who can make such a stupid statement does not deserve to be in a position of responsibility in our town.
There are five other people running against him. Do the town a favor by voting for two of them.


Agree: Disagree

Agree that "too much affordable housing" is a stupid opinion. In fact, there is too much UNaffordable housing in Brattleboro. Ian Kiehle will get my vote for the 1-year seat. He's a very level-headed person with a balanced set of opinions, the honesty to admit when he doesn't have one yet, and an obvious love of fairness.

Disagree with your smear of Kate O'Connor. She took a job for Tarrant; what of it? Some folks make their living in politics without necessarily pledging themselves to one party. I have never made my living in politics, but I'm a Democrat and ran as a Libertarian for State's Attorney once. I have voted for, and endorsed, an occasional Republican. Maybe I just liked them, what of it. I campaigned against a Democrat once because he did not, in my opinion, do what was best for our community. When you do that kind of thing, you may have to take your lumps from the party stalwarts.

Lots of respect for you, Tom ... stay involved. I would take pleasure in voting for you someday.


Disagree with your smear of Kate O'Connor.

I, in turn, disagree with your characterizing my comment as a “smear”.
I said (verbatim):SHE HAD EVERY RIGHT TO WORK FOR TARRANT’S CAMPAIGN, but no right to be deceptive in characterizing her role in it. Writing directly to his bosses was over the top.
Reporting the FACT that she attacked a local radio personality and tried to get him fired is not a smear. She DID do it. It’s well documented.
My calling it “a basic defect in character” is an opinion, nothing more. But I wouldn‘t vote for her for anything.


Your Smear of Kate O'Connor

Sometimes an "opinion" voiced publicly with the intent to harm the reputation of another, is a smear, IMHO.


"Smear"? "Attack"?

You know, i just cannot believe that John and others are simply not listening.
I and Tomaidh and others have said over and over again on this thread and the other one that there is no problem with anyone's personal decision to work for Tarrant or anyone else, but rather that the problem lies in having sent out distinctly contradictory explanations about it, and in having attacked a questioner and his job when asked about it.

Yet John is still insisting that we are smearing Kate O'Conner for having worked for him. THAT IS SIMPLY NOT SO !

Repeating a falsehood many times will not make it a truth. This, too, is from a playbook that i do not accept.



The choice of Kate or Spoon for the 3 year seat on the board is from what I feel the most difficult vote to make tomorrow.

Facts are facts. Kate did try to silence the reporter who did an article of her working for the Republican candidate. This to me is far more serious then not allowing someone to speak in town meetings, No. These two candidates seem to both have some questionable practices and feel neither are a good choice for the position they are seeking.

John, thank you for this article of your opinion. It has been very helpful for me to better understand these candidates. I do agree with "tomaidh", it is not a smear to inform actual events. If this was a smear then your words are equally so.

I do hope more information of both these people's past actions is made available to help solidify how these candidates will handle the position they are seeking.

Thank you everyone here for all the information. I just feel Brattleboro needs to maintain a healthy transparent government.

To all of the candidates willing to take on the difficult role of selectboard member, a big thank you.


Why I am Voting for Spoon

At this time in our town where we are facing a dire financial cliff, Spoon’s work on the Finance Committee means he is up to speed on these issues. We have a $14m in a police/fire project that will add $1,000,000 per year to our budget right off the bat. And it looks like the town used some extra money from a surplus this year to bring down the increase so if we add that 750,000 or so we are at needing to raise our property tax bills next year by $1.75 million before we even look at the schools or any other basic increase in costs for the town. Since we are not seeing much growth in our grand list and the 1% sales tax was nixed, this all means potentially big jumps in our tax bills. This is on top of the large scheduled increases over the next years for those of us on town water and sewer.

Although you count it as a negative, I am impressed with a leader who can keep a group moving forward that has a self-proclaimed “long-winded” participant. And, I would have to guess that applies to the report you submitted, so the fact that he can be decisive in this way, with a friend and colleague, adds to my respect for him.

Spoon has been a committed volunteer, tackling the tough issues of our town in a deep and thoughtful way. He gets my vote.


Guilty As Charged ...

... occasionally anyway, on the long-windedness. But I didn't have to offer up that information, did I?

... also on our financial over-extendedness. I still favor the Police-Fire project, but I also happen to believe that extraordinary economies can be realized in the execution of it. BTW Spoon authored our October 15 report to Representative Town Meeting expressing approval of the Police-Fire project. He noted a 4-2 opinion, but there was never any actual vote taken. You might want to ask him where he stood on it at the time.


Dirty Politics Unwelcome in Brattleboro

It is sad to read this negative attack, laced with personal grudges (“...by your actions toward me, I am honestly not sure you ever have [been a friend].” An “apology” which begins with malignant resentment, is an unfortunate parody of statesmanlike leadership.


I didn't read it that way at

I didn't read it that way at all. Simply an explanation of why he's voting the way he is. I'm ok with it.


Where's the Malignancy?

Stephen, I just took several hours, which I didn't have to spare, really, to write a number of factual observations and experiences of two candidates: ones that I thought the public had either an interest in knowing, or an actual right to know. If you think that's malignant, then you think politics is malignant. And you probably think that open, honest politics is anathema.


John I think it is imperative

I think it is imperative that you explain your comment about an "attack" on Kate O'Connor. What exactly are you referring to. I think it's really important that you explain that comment, it's far too vague a reference. I seriously would like to know what you are referring to. Please respond, it would be most great appreciated.


Again Re: 'turning the other cheek'

As I said, when she was attacked publicly during her last campaign, she did not reciprocate with any public attack. Regular readers of iBrattleboro don't have to hear more, because it was all over this site at the time. Try doing a search of the site for more information. Really, I disagree with your premise that I need to explain my comment more, because that would just look like re-airing a controversy from the past. And a lot of people, including myself, are sick of hearing about it.


Again John I ask, and I do

Again John I ask, and I do think you have a responsibility since you used the word "attack", what was the attack?

The questions that were asked about why she worked for a candidate as conservative as Tarrant? That was an attack?

The questions about why she gave the "consulting" answer at the time of her campaign but during Tarrant's campaign she gave public quotes to newspapers of strong support saying she supported him because of his ideals and beliefs? That was an attack?

If you are just referring to the dust-up at the radio stations you're right, apparently she didn't go public, she went behind the scenes or someone apparently did. That's better?

But the radio station situation aside, I find it a distraction. I'm much more concerned with how she could support someone like Tarrant. And if these sorts of questions are in your opinion "attacks" then I would caution anyone to discredit any statements you make whatsoever about this issue. These are questions about past decisions someone made, someone who worked in the public sphere, and that's all they are, questions and quite logical ones at that.

If you or Kate or anyone else supporting her would define such rational questions as attacks then god help us all if any one you get elected. I assure you that there are just as many who are getting pretty tired of hearing about how Kate was "attacked". And to be honest, those of you who keep defending her as some poor besieged soul just make her look sort of unable to withstand the pressures of being in a public office. You're not helping.


Well actually you and your

Well actually you and your fellow supporters write about how she was above the fray, not a besieged soul. But really John, above the fray. She never addressed the discrepancies between the "just consulting" line and the previous statements of strong support. As I said in the other section about Spoon I don't know any of these people but the thought that a candidate like Tarrant could have gained a position of political power is terrifying to me. And she choose to consult or work for him, take your pick. I'd just like to know why. And why the differences between the statements to the Bennington paper of great support for Tarrant and the later "consulting" statements. Was she making it up when she spoke to the Bennington paper. Or not.


Your Question Answered

OK Rosa, Tad Montgomery has more than answered your question on the thread "Question About the Race for Brattleboro Selectboard 3-Year Seat" where he wrote:

"One of the pillars of emotional intelligence, in my opinion, as well as a sign of strong character, is the trait of not responding in kind when someone attacks you. I was confused last year when I heard so little back from Kate after all of the nasty things that were said about her. A common conclusion might be 'well, they must be true.' After talking with her, though, I now understand that she had made a deliberate choice to not respond to her detractors in kind. As someone who has had my share of untrue rumors spread about me, I was deeply impressed by this decision. She knew it might cost her the election, but she acted that way nonetheless. Lord knows, anyone who has worked on a presidential political campaign has the tools to devastate their opponent if they choose to."

'Nuff said, in my opinion.


Still no answer. You could

Still no answer. You could not be more unclear, and Tad also. What nasty things were said about her? Well, rather than going into that could you just answer this question please.

Is it that people questioned why she worked for Tarrant? That's all I'm asking. Is it that?

I think you need to answer that question and Tad should also. Instead of throwing out this vague nasty things were said. Was it simply the asking why did you work for Tarrant that you think was unfair, nasty, whatever? Simple question, requiring a simple yes or no.

If you think that it was nasty to ask that question then you must not believe in accountability for anyone running for public office? Is that the case?

I'm asking this in all seriousness.


"Lord knows, anyone who has

"Lord knows, anyone who has worked on a presidential political campaign has the tools to devastate their opponent if they choose to."

Wow. You know what John, I'm not so sure supporters like you and Tad are helping Kate out all that much. This is a little creepy.

A bit of a broad statement also, does Tad mean that even those nice people working the phone banks could crush someone if they wanted to? Only by the grace of their higher levels of emotional intelligence are we allowed to continue our meager little existences? Just wondering.


There's Such A Thing ...

... as 'beating a dead horse'. I feel that repeating the allegations against Kate (1) would not be in her best interest as a candidate, and (2) would be tiresome for the readers of this site. If you want to know more, and not 'grandstand' here about it, kindly contact me or Kate to ask us. I'm in the phone book.


Really John, Really. It's

Really John, Really. It's that hard to say yes or no.

And I prefer my political queries answered in the public sphere. Don't really have time for all these warm cozy personal meetings. Yes or no shouldn't be that difficult. And I don't think the question was that complicated.


John, one last attempt. Just

John, one last attempt. Just in case you misunderstood the question. I'm not asking for details about anything. I am simply asking the following as you have made charges of attacks and unfairness.

Was it the fact that people asked Kate why she worked for Tarrant that you think was unfair, nasty, whatever?

Simple question, requiring a simple yes or no. If this is what you thought was unfair and "nasty", you answer yes. If it was something else you don't need to go into explanations, a simple no will suffice.

I don't see that this is all that difficult or places anyone's reputation in jeopardy. She worked for Tarrant. Did you think it was nasty that people asked her why?


Neigh ... Neigh

Even though that horse is dead, I think I hear it whinnying somewhere ...


So tempting...

to make a joke about a horse's ...


Since it appears this is so

Since it appears this is so difficult and a simple no will not suffice, it appears the answer must be yes.


A last thought

One last thought
First you post in a couple of places saying that people have attacked someone and been "nasty" and unfair. A simple yes or no question is presented to you, asking if you are referring to the posing of a query about past statements to a candidate. Your response is to repeat the vague references to attacks on the candidate and accuse the questioner of grandstanding and then make these strange little horse comments.

Your inability or unwillingness to explain negative comments about others that you initiated indicates a weakness or falseness in your statements. The attempts at cute humor aren't really appropriate to the discussion. In the future I will consider the source whenever reading items you've posted. And I suggest that if you are going to initiate negative statements about others you be prepared to back them up by at least answering a few yes or no questions.


Mud Season?

Rosa, I am not going to repeat comments, allegations, or attacks that were obviously meant to call my favorite candidate's reputation into question. They were bad form in the first place, at the very least, and repeating them is nothing better than malignant gossip. And if I did so, I could reasonably be accused of a public relations 'blunder' that might harm my favorite candidate.

I think your inquiries may possibly have been meant to hurt Kate's candidacy by dragging her name through the mud again. If not, then I hope you see my point (above).

I gave you the name of the iBrattleboro thread, and you can go there to find out more. Again, you may call me (I'm in the phone book) and I will gladly give you as much information as I know.


Odd and odder

"I think your inquiries may possibly have been meant to hurt Kate's candidacy by dragging her name through the mud again."

Again name calling John. I'm dragging her name through the mud by referring to her work for a candidate in the past and asking why she chose to work for someone who was so socially conservative after working for Howard Dean. Well, apparently according to you, her work for Tarrant is something to be ashamed of. Or at least something one shouldn't discuss because it might be a political blunder. This just gets odder and odder.

If her work for Tarrant or the mere mention of it will hurt her candidacy that's not my problem or fault John. I had nothing to do with. I just wanted a straight answer from you as to what you were referring to as "nasty." Apparently asking a question is, according to you.
Odd and odder.

Well enough of this, it's just silliness at this point with your strange responses.


Where's the Malignancy?

Steven, I just took several hours, which I didn't have to spare, really, to write a number of factual observations and experiences of two candidates: ones that I thought the public had either an interest in knowing, or an actual right to know. If you think that's malignant, then you think politics is malignant. And you probably think that open, honest politics is anathema.


And all the above

Is why I wrote in Ian Bigelow.


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