We are growing more concerned about civic discourse and the democratic process in Montpelier.
At the June 12 City Council meeting, the issue of a validation resolution regarding the $10.5 million bond obligation for the parking garage was discussed. This is a serious issue since it appears that, despite promises last year that Montpelier taxpayers would never pay for the garage, the opposite is very possible.
We discussed our concerns at the first council meeting on the subject (May 22). After that, VTDigger published two articles on the St. Albans TIF/parking garage that increased our concern. It appears St. Albans taxpayers may face substantial cost if the State of Vermont finds TIF funds were administered improperly.
Both public meetings seemed focused on processing citizen comments as quickly as possible, without reflection, and executing a predetermined decision.
There seems to be a two-minute “rule” for a citizen’s time to speak now. Can someone tell us when this “rule” was voted upon or otherwise made official? For both meetings citizens prepared notes ahead of time and tried to distill several detailed points to conform. Citizens are nearly always interrupted, sometimes more than once, about content and time rather like schoolchildren. These interruptions reduce valuable seconds and distract everyone from the content of what the citizen is trying to say. This new practice is rude, patronizing and counterproductive.
Our comments were made in the hope that our representatives would think twice about what has happened so far with the garage and make sure that the financial obligation is proceeding properly. To the contrary, there was almost no public discussion at the first meeting and none at all June 12. Any discussion our representatives had was either in executive discussion or between meetings.
The outcome was truly disappointing: without discussion, a unanimous decision. This means we taxpayers will never get an accurate accounting for the construction or operation of the garage, its repair schedule, and the bond pay-down. Like St. Albans, we taxpayers have opened ourselves to examination by the auditor and possible penalties.