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Brattleboro Representative Town Meeting ad hoc Futures Committee Meeting Agenda

The Brattleboro Representative Town Meeting ad hoc Futures Committee will meet on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 6:00pm in the Selectboard meeting room at the Municipal Center.

Jan Anderson
Executive Secretary
Brattleboro Town Manager's Office
(802) 251-8100

Ad Hoc Futures Committee
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 - 6:00pm
Selectboard Meeting Room, Municipal Center

1. Review minutes of 7/9/14
2. Review statement/visions and come up with one consistent mission & one list of Givens
3. Develop a plan for library/Coop Copies.
4. Develop next meeting's agenda
5. Feedback on meeting process.


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Givens & Probablities

And copies here, if possible. The givens and visions should be shared widely about town.


List of Givens is interesting, as it involves predicting, which comes down to probabilities. It would be good for us to assign probabilities to each of the "givens" - and probably to the visions as well. Some people see what they want to sees to create fanciful visions of the future that are more comforting to them than are likely to happen.

Givens are not guaranteed. They are just highly probable. The sun rising tomorrow is highly probable.

What is the probability that we will be using gasoline powered vehicles in 20 years? What is the probability that machines will replace workers? What is the probability that costs will continue to rise, computers will double in power ever 18 months, climate will be unstable, ash trees will exist, groceries will get cheaper, deliveries will be made in the air rather than on roads, surveillance will increase, and so on?

What about things that could happen but may not necessarily be "givens"?

(For example, I'd add to a list of probable "maybes" - that corporations, eyeing the dollars in municipalities, will provide corporate municipal services. It will start with schools, where people pay little attention. The budgets will be diverted to corporate balance sheets. People will eventually begin paying their taxes to corporations directly.)

Many of our views of the future are often trapped hopelessly in the past. Look at those among us who have spent the last few decades hoping to bring big factories back to town.

Sometimes our notions of the future are spot on. Planning to have equipment and people to fight fires often comes in handy when something eventually burns down.

The futures project is an intriguing one.


Very nice

That notion of looking at the future in terms of probablilities is quite interesting. Alluring, really. It may find its way into the committee's conversation.
After three meetings I can't think of much to say about the committee. That may be because the task is so immense it will take a while to identify it. And then develop a strategy or plan of action. The subjects one could talk about are so vast in number it makes ones head spin.
At any rate we have one member using Google, I think, the develop a website for us. I don't know what it will be able to do but links can be posted and the entire community can read the same stuff, or at least part of the same stuff we are. Stay tuned.


Minutes from town web site

Futures Committee Planning Meeting
7/9/2014 – 6 p.m.
Emilie Kornheiser, Gabriel Weis, Tom Finnell, Spoon Agave, Mary McCarthy, Kate Anderson, Teo Senni, Evan Bolivar, Russell Grabeck, Gerry Levy, Anne Senni

Agenda :
1) Approval of minutes
2) Member’s Vision Statements
3) Discuss meeting agreed upon “givens”

• A motion was made to approve last week’s minutes and there was a unanimous YES vote .
• Old business: Teo not ready with archive report/plan for this meeting. Will have next week.
• Chairperson Emilie asked us to go around table to speak to our personal visions for commission.

1) Mary - interested in using Town Plan as skeletal structure for our projects – we could facilitate the implementation of goals already stated in TP – still not sure about best structure, as in advisory?, research?, grant writing?, project planning?

2) Gerry - wants to help town move toward being a place where all live dignified lives with sufficient food, education, housing, access to arts (all essential needs met) – find new resources to accomplish this

3) Kate –agreed with what Mary said (insert statement)

4) Russ – would like younger generation coming up in town to have a better sense of democracy, more participation in town governance, more Civics education – wants to explore whether town mtg reps are not in touch, not accountable enough

5) Teo – would like to see our group tasked with carrying out TP – sees us a wide ranging science based investigative group – work on community outreach to all members of town, especially with help from arts community to visually present complex ideas/plans (extract from TP info graphics) – operate beyond the type of restrictions Planning Dept has on it (a citizens planning board) –suggests 6 mo terms for member but new people may join in the interim (except for voting) – perhaps 6 mo time frame for projects

6) Anne – interested in enacting TP to achieve some movement, especially in regard to economic disparities – wants an action committee with some legislative influence – wants community outreach and involvement improved

7) Emilie – sees commission researching actions taken by Selectboard & state as it affects town in terms of historical, economic and social implications (all issues large and small & short & long term are connected) - maintain a numbers perspective on issues (e.g. Police/Fire project) – help improve voting turnout and participation – mandate that one Selectboard, and perhaps another committee member be at meeting

8) Spoon – wants commission to be based on principles of protection of human rights, dignity for all in community – ask, “What is community? How do we develop community? How do we improve participation & a sense of belonging & responsibility & ownership? How to decluture from a ME to WE orientation?” – sees us commission as a think tank/study group who can articulate & apply action

8) Gabriel – wants to uphold & promote implementation of TP, perhaps oversee & coordinate work from other committees – wants to apply hard research to global & national issue as they affect us, speak the truth clearly & articulately, liven up and inspire

9) Evan - look at other communities - research new approaches – put community ahead of bottom line –read TP as a group guide

10) Tom – in sync with Gerry – find new ways to finance services – e.g. town investment in solar panels on town buildings, Solar Farm ownership by town

• Givens:

1) Emilie – homework is required, poverty is real & affects town substantially, trying to not worsen marginalization of those on the edge is important in dealing with issues such as climate change, the way we narrate our ideas matters

2) Spoon – climate change is real – ongoing oppression exists in Brattleboro – human rights is group objective and should be the lens we look through when making recommendations or taking action

3) Gabe – there are physical limits on earth – nothing lasts forever, resources are finite & diminishing

4) Tom – there is not currently enough money to do what we want & need as town

5) Mary – climate change is real & fossil fuels are a cause – corporations & media have undermined our old systems – what looks local is actually larger

6) Gerry – if we avail ourselves of the previous work done & the lessons of our experiences it will lead us to the appropriate questions, is we research well it may point us to the answers

7) Kate – we exist & function in silos – civic impotence & inertia is in place – climate change is too small a label for the whole of the change that is upon us –elder wisdom is ignored

8) Russ – we should have a part in Selectboard’s hiring of the new Town Manager

9) Teo – climate change is real – evidence based exploration (not just stories) is necessary in all we do – new techniques can be used to improve democracy, (visual is important) – we will be less global in future but connection/communication will continue

10) Anne – poverty and income disparity is core issue – energy & other system function of town can be improved with creative, innovative approaches – democratic breakdown, inertia needs to be reviewed

• New business:
1) We need to make our resources available to those without electronic access. Possibility of copies left in loose leaf binder at library or Coop was brought up. We will discuss next week.

• Next week’s agenda:
1) Review statement/visions and come up with one consistent mission & one list of Givens
2) Develop a plan for library/Coop Copies.


And more minutes, from the meeting prior...

Futures Commission Planning Meeting 6/25/2014
Open 6:00pm

 Note: Hereafter the Futures Commission Planning Meeting will refer to our current status as a committee to form a (still to be named) Futures Commission, which for the purpose of these minutes will be called The Futures Commission#2.

Members Present: Emilie Kornheiser, Gabriel Weiss, Kate Anderson, Teo Senni, Anne Senni, Tom Finnell, Spoon Agave, Mary McCarthy

Visitors: Evan Bolivar, Russell Grabeck

Emilie requested that Spoon chair this meeting. Spoon slightly rearranged the order of proposed agenda to:

1) Revisions to Open Meeting Law
2) Policy re public participation
3) Capabilities needed to get Futures Commission#2’s goals accomplished
4) Structural/legal/collaboration mechanisms to be built for Futures Commission#2 to realize defined capabilities
5) Discuss Town Plan

• We discussed procedural aspects of Open Mtg Law as it affects our group. Anne will send minutes Jan within 5 days of mtg. Emilie will send upcoming agenda to Jan within 5 days, or at latest by Thurs of following wk. Emails within group cannot violate OML. Essentially, we should never respond via “reply all.” There must be an available record of all communications among group pertaining to Futures.* No gathering where a quorum is present can discuss Futures issues as it would designate a mtg and therefore would not have been properly warned.

• *Teo offered to investigate the best way to maintain an archive of all electronic communication.

• *Gabe made a motion to, “Have Teo investigate what is the most concise simple way to maintain permanent record of electronic communications among group.”

• There was no discussion. The vote was unanimous - 8-Y: 0-N: 0-A

• There was discussion about whether or not our group should have terms limits. Several suggestions were made. Gabe pointed out that our final definition of the commission might affect whether we prefer 6mo/annual or anytime elections. No decisions or motions were made on this issue.

• We briefly discussed public participation - remaining open and willing to include guests and their input and relying on the chair to maintain decorum.

Capabilities discussion:

• Spoon pointed out model of Frederick County VA 1986 Futures Committee. Advised we investigate.
Many ideas were floated:

• Being research arm of TM, doing projects such as economic modeling or historical review as it pertains to town issues.

• Differentiating from Planning Dept by taking a much longer term and broader approach.

• If we wanted to be listened to perhaps we needed to mandate some sort of relationship with SB etc. - How do we make relationship with SB less adversarial?

• Making a potential legislative change could be the final focus of each of our studies, as in presenting motions or referendum items & articles for vote either by SB, TM Reps or town at large.

• There was general discussion about the current broken system, disconnect between gov & people.

• Possible articles to change Town Charter.

• The issue of the difficulty of affecting change, or the apparent inertia of our system could be our first item of business.

• It was pointed out that there was historical inaction on recommendations in Town Plan because of budget restraints & general lack of resources.

• The idea of our committee doing grant writing for funds for various projects was discussed. Oversight and management issues were brought up. Current procedural aspects were discussed, including maintaining transparency.

• Exploring ways to coordinate all town committees.

• Not just gathering more info but trying to get at why system does not work.

• The agenda for next mtg was set:

1) Members present a more detailed personal vision of our mission, especially as it pertains to form & structure

2) Decide which “givens”/common understandings we want to have agreed upon

3) Discuss # of mtgs we will need to be ready to actually begin the Futures
Commission#2 (beyond ad hoc status)

• Spoon made a motion to end all our mtg with a brief evaluation of mtg by each member. The motion passed unanimously - 8 Y: 0 N: 0 A.

Mtg adjurned at 7:45 pm.


..."under the pretense of taking care of the people..."

On some level I’m attracted to the notion of a futures committee, maybe because I see less and less of my future.

But these startup minutes are more troubling than enforcing of it.

The truth is, most people’s attention span can hardly make it to the next day, much less the next week or following year.

Some of the comments like “apparent inertia of our system…to get at why system does not work…current broken system…disconnect between gov & people…” are a bit overstated. The system isn’t really broken or suffering from inertia and all the future planning you can muster is not going to connect gov’t and people anymore than it does now.

Also, the passed “motion to end all our meetings with a brief evaluation of the meeting by each member“ is redundancy. Why in anybody’s god’s name would you do that?

Another member sees the need to differentiate “from the Planning Dept by taking a much longer term and broader approach.”
Rubbish. You go too broad and far out and all you’ll do is collapse in on yourself and fall on your ass.

Realistically, the single main item of future concern is expenditure which is significantly tied to allocations for how high do we go for police/fire services (which of course, is vital to our future…if done right) and how the hell does this weebits of a micro tax based population pay for it...through our noses?

But worst of all is the obviousness that once again old people are planning for the future. That’s not bad because they are old, as I am, but because there is an obvious lack of young people’s involvement…yet again. If you really want to help take care of the future then step aside and let the young folks do their own damn planning. Trouble is, we don’t trust them and won’t give them a chance.

“I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”
~Thomas Jefferson


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