Editor of the Reformer,
This past month I put a lot of time and energy trying to convince my community, and my fellow board members, that adding another full-time staff position was not the right choice for continuing this town’s efforts on sustainability. I continue to believe that the return on investment will not be high enough for Brattleboro taxpayers, especially when, as illustrated in (last week’s) Select Board meeting, our current town staff has done so well with so many projects and initiatives. Inflating our fully capable staff at this time is an irresponsible use of taxpayer money, and the laudable goal of creating an eco-friendly town does little good if our citizens cannot afford to live here.
Keeping the economic bigger picture in mind while considering our climate effects is essential, and I fear that the ideas that will come out of a sustainability coordinator will amount to more of the same good ideas we now get from our town staff. Will we get some fresh perspective and reinvigoration for our goals? Probably, and I hope so. But that amount of money for a salary, every year, will be going to someone who will not have any spending power without citizen approval anyway. We will be spending a large sum of money, every year, on someone who will advise us that we should spend money on projects — most likely the same projects we would have come up with anyway, or which are already well underway. Do you see why I am concerned with the return on this investment here? We have no shortage of good intent here in Brattleboro for real, substantive actions to help protect our earth; what we have is a shortage of fiscal resources with which to operate.
My hope is that the promises several proponents have made, that we will insist on seeing concrete return on taxpayer investment, will be kept. I want to see this new hire spending a good amount of talent and energy on obtaining even more grants and forming funding partnerships, assuring that at the end of the day we can feel good about adding to our growing town staff. Cost savings to the town must be part of the mission. Otherwise, I think what has just happened will be an example of an illusion of “action” toward climate that amounts to little more than feel-good moments and green-washing gestures.
It is also my hope that a couple of years down the road, my fears will have been proven wrong, and we will all be proud of Brattleboro’s sustainability coordinator, who has since proven themselves to be an asset not only to our planet, but also to the hard working taxpayers of our wonderful town. In the meantime, I will be continuing to fight for sustainability within our municipal budget — one which includes tax bills and apartment rental prices that all the people of Brattleboro can afford.
Brattleboro Select Board Vice-Chair
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