I’m running for the three year seat because it takes that long to learn how to do the job with at least moderate effectiveness. I’ve lived long enough to know the value of experience, practice and training. If I do a good job and the voters want me back I will remain on the board for additional terms. My experience is especially valuable at this point because with three new people coming on there is a possibility that among the five member Selectboard we could have an aggregate experience of only 4 years, or less than one year per person.
I’m not running because I want to give back to my community. There are a thousand ways to do that other than holding public office. I am running because I love the work. I clearly understand the challenges and have the skills and ideas to meet them. I have prepared myself for this job. I have the time. Four hours a week may be fine in the hazy lazy days of summer. If it needs twelve hours a week in the more intense periods of fall and spring then I will gladly do that too. I can’t imagine being “too busy” for a responsibility this important. What we do on the Selectboard effects the lives of 12,000 people. On the Finance Committee I had to understand what debt really meant to a community. I got my hands on two fat college textbooks for courses on municipal finances and I educated myself. That’s what I do. It’s critical to make the right decision.
I believe everyone deserves a decent life. A decent home, a fulfilling job, good health care, access to education and opportunity. No exceptions.
One of the qualities of Brattleboro that I appreciate most is its diversity. I’m well aware that there is yet far too much intolerance but from the perspective of how far we have come in the last forty years and in comparison with other communities we have a lot to be proud of. For sure the arts and creative culture could not flourish nearly to the extent it does without the diversity we enjoy.
There are at least three major areas that must capture our attention and focus. They are planning, affordability and regionalization. All three are connected. We have not done well in any of them. As a result we’ve become a town with exceptionally high taxes and nearly the lowest average household income.
The lack of planning causes almost everything to cost more. It requires us to always be reactive rather than proactive. We write a town plan, a vision, but create no strategic plan to implement it. Thus the Town Plan is shelved and forgotten. We take out loans for 20 years but have a capital plan for only six years. Debt burden thus runs from low to through the roof without any meshing with the towns economy. We have no municipal master planning at all. Thus every project is stand alone and consequently costs more. The Police/Fire facility project, for which we have just bonded for 20 million dollars adding the interest, could probably have achieved its most important goals for several million dollars less had it been approached and designed within a master plan. We could smooth out budgeting problems and save money by doing five year budgeting rather than one year at a time. I will do what I can to open these issues when I’m elected. The P/F project is not a done deal. More than anything else I intend to upgrade our planning and planning skills.
Brattleboro has one of the highest tax rates in the state and one of the lowest average household incomes. This is a result of decades of inertia. Jobs started draining out in the 1960’s, fifty years ago. On top of that we are facing, over the next two years, the highest total tax rate rise, perhaps more than 40 cents, in the history of the town. That must and can be addressed. The causes of this situation is not a great mystery if one understands municipal finances. My four years as chair of the Town Finance Committee has made all of this quite apparent and understandable.
I also know that we have double the tax rates of the surrounding towns in significant part because we provide them with services that we pay for. The big picture here is that no one town in the region can survive by itself. We are totally interdependent. We need their food and forests, watersheds and wildlife. They need our hub for jobs, health care, education, elderly housing, shopping etc. No town in the region is sustainable without the others. We’re going to have to share the costs of it all, too.
What does our aging population mean? Probably that the younger generation is going to have to work a little harder for the next couple decades until the number of boomers dying off is larger than the number retiring. During that period we’ll need more resources for that age group. To mitigate that somewhat it is important to also develop ways to get as much productivity from the elderly. Most retirees are quite healthy and vigorous in the early years of retirement. They not only can contribute a lot but most enjoy the rewards of doing so.
The Selectboard should have frequent and regular reports on all the important data in the housing sector. It needs to be constantly balancing need and availability.
We'll certainly need more housing for the elderly. Regional cost sharing will help greatly here too. The housing should be designed so that as it can be easily converted to other types of housing, such as families or for other uses entirely.
River Garden – the Selectboard must get an accurate gauge of public sentiment.
Skateboard park – I’m not convinced that the Crowell Lot is the best location. I will study that.
On the media as communication: I want to find a way to hook up the town to every resident with an email address and start making available all useful information. It can also be used to gather ideas and town-wide opinion.
Much thanks and appreciation to iBrattleboro for this site and opportunity.
Please vote for me. Ben Spoon Agave
• Selectboard 1 year 2006-7
• Town Finance Committee 4 years (chair, 4 yrs) present
• Development Review Board 6 years present
• Charter Revision Commission 3 ½ years (chair, 3 ½ yrs)
• Planning Commission 6 years (chair, 1 ½ yrs)
• Board of Civil Authority 1 year
• Traffic and Safety Committee 1 year
• Former Bus Advisory Committee (ex-officio)
• Town Meeting Member 12 years