Charter Review Committee Public Comments

Charter Review Committee
205 South Street
Bennington, VT 05201
Phone: 802-442-1037 | Fax: 802-442-1068

The Charter Review Committee will review the Town Charter and recommend such changes therein as it finds necessary or advisable for the purpose of improving the operation of Town government.

Public Comments:

2017-08-24 14:28:26
Name: Lora Block
Subject: Town Treasurer
Message: I strongly support the suggestion made by Sean-Marie Oller that some professional qualifications and expertise be required for the post of Treasurer of both Town and School Boards. And I agree that should remain an elected position. Stu Hurd’s comment in the news report that “Bennington isn’t Coventry because our accounts are audited” doesn’t give us enough assurance that we will always have the appropriate individual in that position.

2017-08-24 16:26:59
Name: Ron Alderman
Subject: general
Message: Committee members, I finally made time to download the website and catch up on minutes of all meetings. Very neat and easy to navigate site. Thank you for that.
Nancy Lively, Great job on the minutes. I like all the details. Very informative.
So far-so good

2017-08-26 08:06:17
Name: Catherine Condict
Subject: Salary of Town Clerk
Message: I have been deeply disturbed to learn of the salary of the Town Clerk, in comparison to other salaries and the median (for males, females, household, and for families) in the Town of Bennington, especially when compared to the lack of educational attainment required by this position. In consideration of the poverty rate, and particularly the rate of children living in poverty in this area, it seems to be that the Town of Bennington should be transparent that the Clerk earns upwards of 78,000 a year (likely more now) and the citizens should question whether that salary is justified (third highest in the State as of the last time I checked despite Bennington having one of the highest poverty rates). What was the justification for this? How was this salary allowed to surpass that of more affluent areas? Could the Town reallocate that money to better support early education and begin to change the community conditions that negatively affect those that are most vulnerable? In comparison to State employee salaries for a job that requires only a bachelor’s degree, this is excessive. What is the justification and what was the process by which this was approved? Did all town salaries follow the same process to be increased to such a rate?

2017-09-14 18:56:31
Name: William Stewart
Subject: ‘Mayor Discussion Tabled for Now’
Message: In reading this article in the Bennington Banner today, I have a few comments regarding Term Limits.
1.) According to Wikipedia, “A term limit is a legal restriction that limits the number of terms an officeholder may serve in a particular elected office. When term limits are found in presidential and semi-presidential systems they act as a method to curb the potential for monopoly, where a leader effectively becomes “president for life”.”; and these days…”Dictator for Life”
2.) A Term of nine years (more than 2 Presidential terms) for a Select Board Member, should be viewed as completely unacceptable
3.) I’d be interested to understand the “ambivalence and philosophical reasons” for not enforcing term limits regardless of the individuals position in our Town Government
4.) And, why on earth isn’t anyone recommending term limits for the Town Manager, who has been the town manager for 25 years? I see this as a complete violation of item #1, as stated above
5.) 14 years have passed since the last mayoral format option was presented to the citizens of Bennington. I think we have waited long enough, and “tabling” this issue only demonstrates a complete violation of item #1, as stated above

2017-09-18 07:22:52
Name: Abby Shapiro
Subject: Water Board
Message: It is my understanding that the current charter states that the selectboard is also the water board. I think this is a mistake because the selectboard have too much on their task list already. In my experience the town manager comes to the board says this is what we are going to do and then that is it.

My wish list would be an advisory water board/committee composed of 3-5 people either elected or appointed who would work with the town manager, water dept and the selectboard to add a citizen’s perspective to all large decisions. Criteria to be on the board would be a municipal water user, not a town employee or elected member of the government, or someone who might have a conflict of interest if work were being bid on. There would not need to be regular meetings if there were no issues but the users perspective has been lacking in many water dept plans and decisions. The power to influence decisions needs to be shared by a larger body. Thank you.

2017-09-30 12:04:09
Name: Spoon Agave
Subject: Mayor/manager
Message: I was the chair of our Charter Revision Commission about six years ago, our last revision. We looked fairly extensively into the mayor/manager (weak and strong) systems. We brought a couple mayors and a couple managers down, one at a time, to discuss this with us. in the end we stayed where we were, with a Town Manager.
The big questions were: what were the problems we were trying to solve and did their cause or solution have anything to do with one form of government leadership or another? Also, could we find substantial differences in the quality of governance and/or community between municipalities using different systems?
It seemed that given the nature of our electoral system (that is, does our electoral system lend itself towards the choosing of truly qualified officers) we concluded that a board/council, with its more numerous and diverse membership, was more likely to choose a more qualified person. In that function it becomes a hiring committee and has the opportunity, if not responsibility, to select the qualifications it wants. It has the opportunity to compare a wide variety of generally qualified candidates. It makes a very deliberative and thoughtful choice. This does not describe an electorate. Essentially, the Town Manager system is a more democratic system.
In Brattleboro we have a Town Manager system. We could find no evidence among the few cities (mayor systems) in Vermont of any advantages or benefits that we didn’t enjoy ourselves.
It seems like the usual argument for a mayor is to have a person who can and will be more decisive. More efficient, so to speak. Someone who can make and implement decisions more quickly. More than that, that person has to be making the “right” decisions. Given the nature of electoral campaigns, that voters are more often than not under informed or ill-informed, that candidates are only required to be 18 years old and a citizen of the municipality, what are the chances of getting the best possible person? Would a Selectboard, acting as a hiring committee, be asking for applicants with only those qualifications?
Again: what problems are you trying to solve? Is a mayor significantly more likely to solve them? Are there other ways of solving your problems?

2017-10-02 09:27:18
Name: Ron Alderman
Subject: Mayoral discussion
Message: Committee Members, I realize that you have tabled the Mayoral discussion for the time being. I just want to mention that a letter was published in the October 2 issue in the Banner from a Brattleboro resident regarding this issue. The writer makes valid points. I basically agree with her. I will have more to say at the appropriate time.
Thank you.

2017-10-26 14:20:56
Name: Ron Alderman
Subject: Mayor or Town Manager
Message: Committee members,
I see the mayor question has once again come to surface.
I see no valid reasons to replace the town manager system. Voting for a mayor would in my opinion be more of a popularity contest rather than a vote for an experienced and knowledgeable person. As one of your members pointed out, a mayor is most often associated with a city as opposed to a town.
One argument for a mayoral system is that if the voters are unhappy with performance the mayor can be voted out of office. By the same token a town manager can be removed by the select board with a 30 day (?) notice for cause or a ninety day notice without cause. If enough voters are unhappy they should contact select board members, attend select board meetings on the subject etc. This would eliminate waiting for the next voting period or holding an expensive special election.
As for a ceremonial weak mayor, to me makes that no sense what’s so ever.
Thank you,

2017-11-15 17:39:28
Name: Ron Alderman
Subject: Downtown District
Message: Board members, I just read the minutes of the November 8 Meeting.
As noted we already have a downtown district. If it were to be expanded, in my estimation, it would mean fewer dollars available for each business in the larger district.
I think this idea should be tabled until at least the Putman Project is completed.
Thank you,

2017-11-22 12:45:56
Name: Joey Kulkin
Subject: Downtown Taxation
Message: I am requesting that you strike a portion of the following from the 11/15/17 minutes:
• This section of the Charter gives the Select Board the authority to hire a contractor, such as the Bennington Downtown Alliance (BDA), to accomplish some or all of the purposes set forth in this section.
It should instead read: “This section of the Charter gives the Select Board the authority to hire a contractor to accomplish some or all of the purposes set forth in this section.”
The way it’s currently written in the minutes unfairly promotes the BDA (still officially called the BBC). There is zero need to cite the name any contractor that may receive downtown tax funds to carry out the downtown district goals as cited in the Charter.

2017-12-14 14:44:54
Name: Ron Alderman
Town: Bennington
Subject: Select board chair & ceremonies
Message: First I will say that I think your committee is doing a great job and taking your duties seriously. Lots of meetings and lots of time spent. Thank you for that.
I read the Banner article of December 14. My thought is that requiring the select board chair to attend all the ceremonial functions is not a good idea. That person would need to attend ALL these functions less some group or person would feel slighted. It seems that the chair and or board members are nicely represented already at these functions. A mandatory presence, in my opinion, would place an unnecessary burden on an already busy person.
Please rethink this item
Ron Alderman