Put town meeting away
Mr. Pappas, I don’t know you, but I want to second your recommendation in Thursday’s Times Argus.
I was a selectman in the town of Essex for three years. I did not run for re-election last year on my doctor’s advice. Although I have worked in some pretty responsible jobs with some really good people — Jim Jeffords, Bob Stafford, Dick Snelling, John B. Anderson and Hubert Humphrey — I have never experienced more frustration than I did as a board member in Essex. Without going into details, let me say that Essex, Vermont’s second-largest municipality, is run by a small coterie as if it were the size of Buels Gore.
Essex approves its budget from the floor at town meeting. Now, we have over 15,000 registered voters, and the high school auditorium holds 600. Average attendance is roughly a little over 200. The town manager loves this because all he has to do is manipulate two or three board members and he gets the budget he wants without very much public participation. When I tried to get the board to go to Australian ballot, they trotted out Frank Bryan’s book and that was it. The rationalizations for the status quo are numerous, but none really holds water.
In 2008, for instance, town meeting lasted 10 minutes, and no debate was held over our then roughly $10 million budget (not including the capital budget, which the public never gets to vote on). That’s about $1 million a minute. It is also frustrating for me, personally, because the Burlington Free Press never does anything with this despite its editorial positions on open government, etc.
So, thanks for your gumption. You are exposing a Vermont myth for what it really is.
Bruce S. Post
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