Selectboard Meeting Notes – Defund the Police, and Other Matters

selectboard june 16 2020

There were many big issues at Tuesday’s meeting of the Brattleboro Selectboard but the biggest of them all was an extended discussion about dismantling a racist system by defunding the Brattleboro Police.  Citizens were rather clear and consistent in asking that the General Fund budget be voted down, and that funding for the police be reassigned to social services.

The system moves slowly, they were told, and their attention should be placed on next year’s budget process. The board committed to making a re-evaluation of community safety a priority in the near future, but passed the budget by a 3-2 split vote.

Comments | 20

  • Preliminaries

    It’s one of the largest virtual meetings of the Selectboard to date, with 47 people at the start.

    Chair Tim Wessel says there will be public comment and public participation. He begs that people “raise their hand” in the chat box and tell him what subject/topic they’d like to address.

    Tim’s only remark is that it has been a heck of a week since last Tuesday, and a bright spot was yesterday for the official groundbreaking of the skatepark at Living Memorial Park. Beautiful location.

    Town Manager Elwell – the Police Chief will be talking at 5:30 on the Common tomorrow (Wednesday). Should be good weather.

    No board comments or reports, except that Traffic Safety will have a meeting.

    Ian Goodnow recalls a Board of Civil Authority meeting to discuss upcoming elections and mail-in ballots. It will be hard to keep lines down at polls. Good planning, and another meeting this Friday.

    Tim – stay brief, we have a long agenda. Use the chat box to alert me and the board that you want to comment on an agenda item – give a name and subject. No details, though.

    57 people now.

    No one has anything off agenda, so… and we keep waiting, so….

  • Utility Rates Ordinance – Second Reading, Public Hearing, and Adoption

    Elwell – thanks. The first item is the second reading and public hearing and hopefully adoption of the rate ordinance. By statute you have a 1st reading, a second reading and public hearing. This is the final action you’ll take. The water rates of the Town need to increase to pay for a major replacement project of the water filtration project. Tonight, the rate ordinance started with a 2% increase this year for water and sewer, then 6% for water and 2% for sewer four four years. You changed the sewer to 1% increases for the final four years. You can open the public hearing and take comment, discuss, then adopt if you are ready.

    Tim – public hearing open. Do I need a vote for that? (No). Any comments? I don’t see any hands being raised in the chat section. That’s the way to raise your hand. Board comments?

    Liz – I like the discussion at the last meeting and finessing the percentage increase to be the minimum for rate payers. It is an essential business of the Town and must be done.

    Brandie – I agree with Liz.

    Tim – public?

    Elwell reviews what they are to do by reading the agenda notes to them. If you are ready, close the public hearing and take the motion.

    Public hearing closed.

    Rate increase approved!

  • Purchase of Culvert for the Water Treatment Plant Waste Line Project

    Elwell – if you have questions, Steve Barrett or Dan Tyler can answer them. This is part of a project you already approved – the waste line from the water treatment facility into the existing system in Mountain Home Mobile Home Park. One element crosses a stream, and we need a contractor to install a box culvert. Let us buy the box culvert now so it will be ready when we need it. Competition is limited and there is one provider of it – Everett J. Prescott, Inc., in the amount of $25,207.89

    Tim – questions?

    Ian – only one provider of the culvert – only one manufacturer? In the region?

    Dan Tyler – it is an aluminum box culvert and typically they are concrete.

    Daniel – how long will it last?

    Dan T – Should last forever. Extended life.

    Liz – good answer.


    (We’re up to 67 meeting members…)

  • COVID-19 Update (i) Overall Update (ii) Review of COVID-19 Amended Emergency Order

    Elwell – In the interest of time, and there hasn’t been much change . I’d note that the parklets are out on Main Street and coming to Elliot Street. State of Emergency goes for another month, and operations are status quo – very cautious.

    Ian – are the parklets going to have covers?

    Elwell – businesses have plans to put umbrellas and tents. Work is still being done to decorate them. The barriers are the first step, but they will come to life. One clarification – we said each would need a floor to keep it level, and we were asked if a ramp would be ok, and we checked it out, and we think it is safe and saves a lot of money to do it that way. We said yes to that.

    Tim – comments? (No) I wanted to check in on the wearing of masks.

    Liz – is there going to be an opening night for parklets?

    Elwell – they will open as they are ready to open. They make their own arrangements. Some are ready to go, and some are still making arrangements. DBA and restaurants can do an event. More likely each will open as ready.

    Tim – there were interesting discussions online about congesting the downtown. We’re not taking up any roadway. It might improve traffic with less people backing in and out. Who knows? There will be plenty of parking in Brattleboro. So, a review of face coverings… a check in. I think the board wanted this, too. Any initial comments on how things are going?

    Brandie – put masks up over your noses as well as mouths. Most people on sidewalks were wearing masks. I took mine off to eat and felt in the minority.

    Liz – I get a sense that it is going well and appreciate this rule.

    Ian – discuss again on July 15? (yes).

    Elwell – this time aligns with the Governor’s order. They won’t align as well in July – SB meets on the 21st so you could discuss it then. If he lifts the state of emergency, you order is rescinded anyway.

    Tim – I think it has gone pretty well, but have heard that some people still aren’t ahhapy. WEW did the right thing. There is frustration and complaints about businesses that aren’t following, though we aren’t enforcing, though Peter has made visits to businesses.

    Elwell – if we hear about employees not complying, we tell the state. If we hear about customers, we talk to the businesses.

    Tim – I think it has gone relatively well.

    Liz – to those are frustrated. I’m frustrated, too, and we have to deal with it.

    Tim – I’ve noticed more people downtown wearing face coverings on the street. I don’t wear one if it isn’t crowded. There is peer pressure. My wife always wears one. We’ll review again on July 21.

  • Parking Fund Matters (i) Adoption of the FY21 Parking Fund Budget (ii) Transfer from the General Fund to the Parking Fund

    Elwell – I’ll summarize. Then I’ll summarize the transfer. The budget is straightforward. There is a significant deficit this year. The reality of it is that July 1 we’ll do parking enforcement again. The budget we presented assumes a 12 month operation, and it is a break even budget. Looking at the new revenues in the new system, we can guess better about revenues coming up. There will be a reduction this summer, but we forecast a relatively normal year, and annual expenses are pretty accurate. Based on what we know, it is ready for your adoption. The second item is a transfer to the parking fund because of the deficit. Repairs at the parking garage, resurfacing the Preston Lot ($30k) were scheduled. Costs of repairs were estimated by Steve Horton – $30k per floor and we’ll do two floors of the Parking Garage. Depending what you want to do – you can approve a varying amount. Those are the numbers to work with to determine the size of your transfer.

    Daniel – what’s the expected surplus in the General Fund?

    Elwell – half a million to the good, but we already “used” $250k, so about $250k.

    Daniel – what does parking bring in each month?

    Patrick Moreland –

    Elwell – while he looks for the number, the amount of fund balance was $350k, so the actual surplus is about $150k, minus whatever you decide to transfer.

    Moreland – a month for all revenues – $73k. Meters, citations, and rental income from tenants at the Parking Garage.

    Tim – would we make the transfer tonight?

    Elwell – yes, this is your final meeting of the fiscal year.

    Liz – If we did the coating of the transportation center – all floors, would there be a savings.

    Moreland – maybe some savings, bu this would be a certain type of application we don’t have much experience with. Might be good to break it up in a few years, so we can learn.

    Liz – an we can see if it works… and if tenants have useable space.

    Ian – on the other side, is there any chance not waterproofing all floors means continued leaking – we need to set an example as a landlord, so I if we just do the two bottom floors will we stop the leaking? If it doesn’t work, that’s another year of leaking. Waterproof them all now.

    Moreland – there are 4 floors so that would be $120k. Based on conversations with Steve is pursuing a higher standard. The previous standard let us down again and again. We’re hopeful this new way will be better. Two floors should be enough to see results.

    Liz – and we wouldn’t have the money to do all 4 floors and the parking lot.

    Elwell – we would, but you would put the general fund budget so we’d use some fund balance maybe. We’ll beat budget in the general fund by a couple of hundred thousand. We could use some fund balance to get to $150 to do all 4 floors and the parking lot. It’s a balancing act.

    Tim – could you repeat the amount for the floors? ($120k for four + $30k for parking lot.)

    Liz – I like the idea of doing tow floors. If it works, great, and if doesn’t,, we’ve only done two floors.

    Daniel – we place trust in Steve Horton – he recommends two floors. Seems fine. The parking lot work would be good as well. A bigger question about the General Fund surplus – these are things we’ve already talked about in public meetings, if we have money left over, can we talk tonight about how to use it.

    Elwell – if I’m understanding your question correctly – the discussion now is about moving money from the general fund to the parking fund. Broader possible uses related to the FY21 general fund balance doesn’t involve a transfer. It is an expenditure. You could adopt a budget that has a higher level of expenses with a higher use of fund balance attached to it, but you would be doing that contrary to the practice you’ve made to use excess fund balance for nonrecurring expenses. Be cautious. You can decide if this is a good use of these funds, in contrast to the possibility of adjusting figures that haven’t been researched.

    (kinda talking in code about the upcoming agenda item…)

    Liz – good that the public knows what we are foregoing for the benefit of the restaurants and commerce.

    Elwell – yes – the parking spaces for parklets will mean a “donation” of $11,237. The most realistic estimate. We also calculated the use of the system. The revenue from those…$30,600 is the full-use potential. The $11k…

    Liz – plus hoods on meters for curbside pickup.

    Elwell – we’ll be moving away from that as parking starts back up.

    Daniel – has the Town talked with those business folks?

    Elwell – not really, but I’ll talk with the DBA.

    Moreland – I have been in contact with Stephanie at DBA to talk about meter hoods – we want them removed, parking enforcement will do some maintenance, then things will start up.

    (76 people in the meeting right now.)

    Daniel – I’d like the parking lot and two floors of the garage.

    Ian – yeah… if we are confident…

    Tim – I haven’t looked at the lot recently. (It’s bad). I never drive into that lot.

    Liz – the other thing – it across from the Youth Theater?

    Brandie – across from Dottie’s and Experienced Goods.

    Liz – it gets used and is a benchmark for the Town – what it looks like.

    $90k for the parking projects, transferred from the General Fund.

    Tim – better to give you up to 100k?

    Elwell – no – just make the transfer a higher amount.

    Parking Fund…

    Tim – I just got a private message and I’ll ask the question – how much do the parklets cost to the Town? We’ve discussed that and I can answer it directly in an email later. It has been discussed already. It has to do with the cost to the Town of having the parklets. OK… repeat the motion.

    The FY21 parking budget…


    and $90k for the transfer…


  • FY21 General Fund Budget – Adoption, and probably the Police Department

    Tim – one meeting ago we all gave thumbs up to this and a lot has changed in the last two weeks. I have a running list of people who want to comment. Board?

    Daniel – maybe Elwell could set some context, then we can hear from the public.

    Elwell -the way to describe the context is to start with what is so unusual with Town processes and how we got to this. What is unusual is that the Selectboard can adopt the budget due to a special act of the legislature and the virus prevent its from having a RTM. Instead, it is before you now – we waited as long as we could , but RTM is not possible yet, so the board approved the FY21 budget rather than RTM. This year only. The budget tonight was prepared a year ago last summer as we update the long range financial plan. A five year perspective, so we make each year’s decisions in a broader context. We can see where there are bumps in the road coming. Last August the board reviewed the financial plan and forecast. Staff worked through Fall to propose a budget. I consolidate the requests of the departments and refine it to bring to the selectboard, around Nov1. The selectboard and staff then review the proposed budget, every week for over a month, and generally the first review is done by the holidays and January allows looks at new items or unfinished items. These are all public meetings and take public comment on all of this. By the end of January you recommend a budget to RTM so it can be published in the Town Report that goes out to RTM. It has the warning, the budget, and other info. Representatives then have a few weeks to look at it. Then there is action on it. There are cuts, or increases, like in the last two years. RTM gives us the adopted budget. This year, this is still the document approved at the end of January, and it has come back to you. You wanted to keep it the same and bring it back. So that’s what is before you this evening.

    Tim – I’m thinking we have a lot of people who want to speak – at least 13 have indicated they want to comment. If we can keep them short, we can get to everyone. This is a meeting for the Town of Brattleboro to do Town of Brattleboro business. We have a duty to get through a large agenda tonight. 8-9 more items after this. I’d like to limit our comment altogether to an hour. About 8:30, which is when we usually take a break. Board or public?

    Daniel – this part of the agenda was about adopting our budget, and everyone here wants to talk about the police part of the budget as part of a national movement to defund or abolish the police.

    Tim – that’s fine to say that, but make sure everyone can comment on the general fund budget in general. Maybe everyone try to keep it to two minutes. I’ll time things. May comments might be similar. If it is, consider I agree, or not comment.

    Tim – so, we’ll take comment, then the board will make comments. We are obliged to vote on this tonight.

    Frank Osten – I’m going to wait for Daniel – ok.

    Daniel – I had to use the bathroom… full disclosure.

    Frank – resident of downtown Brattleboro – as abolitionists we recognize that reforms that don’t reduce the powers of police will lead to oppression of people – we dream of a world with no police. More training doesn’t work. T build an abolitionist world, to target cities with municipal powers – divest from the prison industrial complex – the 8 demands put forth demand no prisons or police. #1 defund the police. 2. demilitarize police, 3. no police in schools, 4. repeal laws, 5. invest in community self governance, 6. safe housing for all, 7. invest in care, not cops. 8can’twait… eight to abolition has full information.

    Sascha – it is irresponsible for you to not relook at the budget. Going forward with this is insulting. Tim’s op-ed made me feel ashamed by standing in support with the police. You talk of tiny incremental reforms. I’m afraid representatives have buried their heads – that our police are the good ones. Tim is complicit. When are you going to do something. You allow Sean Wilson to thrive in the community. The CPCC insulates the police – doesn’t do any accountability. You can’t complaint to the police – you can’t complain to anyone but the police. Do they really get no complaints? If you wonder why young people don’t move here, you defend white priviledge in the municipality. Talk about divesting from policing and investing in our community.

    Tim – the CPCC does take complaints to police.

    Zoe Cunningham Cook – grew up here. Brattleboro must confront its ugly history of racism. WE like to thin of this place as a oasis of progressive thinking. My brother got threats by grown men, my other black brother got called the N word. Police were formed out of slavery. No amount of reforms can change that. Black people are 4 times more likely to be stopped that whites in Brattleboro – defund the police and fund social workers and community centers. Fund Groundworks and house the homeless. In the budget for FY20 – over $2 million for police and Human Services gets $180k. We need to realign. Black Lives Matter. Brattleboro must reorganize to take on systematic racism.

    Lucy Foster – Some excerpts from a NY Times article – congressional democrats want to give police $300million. Enough. The only way to reduce police violence is to abolish the police. Cut the number in half and the budget in half – fewer opportunities to brutalize people. When people consider a world without police, white people think of a violent world. Many can’t imagine anything but police and prisons as solutions to harm. WE have a different vision – mutual aid, rather than self preservation – more money for food, housing for all. Protests show people are ready for a different vision of safety. I’ll email you all the article.

    Jackson Stein – I don’t have much to add, but I think defunding the police and abolishing the police isn’t a movement but a necessity. The police -human service budget discrepancy is disgusting. Reinvest…

    Saskia – an email to all memebers of the board – only Liz replied. I’m worried for Brattleboro, that we’ll hold to progress we’ve made and not take the steps we need to take now. I see other communities abolishing police, while we reiterate how far we’ve come and how good our police are. We’re on the wrong side. I don’t want better cops, but we need a better standard that “not murdering anyone for 20 years” – we can’t be blind to the issues. I’d love a response to the email. It’s in all of your email boxes.

    Joshua Wyman – a question – is there any consideration for funding the CPCC for this budget year? If not, would it be something you’d consider in the future?

    Elwell – it is a volunteer committee. The question acknowledges that there isn’t funding and is asking about changing that in the future.

    Tim – it isn’t something I’d take off the table, But I’d need to know why they need funding.

    Liz – we’ll examine the police more during the budget process and that question can be a part of that.

    Brandie – Not opposed to funding or looking at it to make it more accountable.

    Maeve Campman – Moving to Brattleboro in July -I ask that the FY21 budget be denied unless significant cuts are made to the police budget. I’d like to share comments from others on what it means – from Critical Resistance – we work to abolish policing and prisons as they are fundamentally racist. We don’t believe it is broken but working as intended. Our work as abolitionists is to disempower police power and shrink them to non-existence. How can people get involved? They can get involved in organizations challenging policing and prisons, and fight to invest those funds into community resources. Reduce our reliance on prison industrial complex. I’ll send you a link to full remarks…

    Tabitha – I request denial of the FY21 budget – since police began they have upheld white supremacy and this makes many members of our community feel unsafe – redirect the money to human services. It is horrible. Defund the police.

    Lou – I request the selectboard deny the budget and defund the police entirely and provide more support for organizations outside of the police department. Prison and police abolition is the only path to liberation.

    Tim – if you can turn on your camera it helps us connect people…

    Grace Roundtree – Marlboro – I urge you to defund the Brattleboro police department and it reflects the needs of the community. Why is so much given to police, but not human services. Cpt Carrigan killed M Santiago in cold blood. Hold killer cops like him accountable. Now words from Angeal Davis – the call to defund the police is an abolitionist demand, but reflects only one aspect – not just removing the funding but shifting it to mental health experts, to housing, to recreation, which create security and safety. What we are calling for is a decriminalization – Threats to safety aren’t from crime but from failures to address issues in the community. It’s about revolution.

    Ben Somin – I won’t repeat points but I support defunding the police in Brattleboro and voting down the budget. You should reflect on the new information and desires of your constituents.

    Tim – OK. Thank you.

    Harley Walker – raised in Brattleboro – I’d like to defund and abolish the police department, and vote down the budget. I’m here as a white ally. Let’s defund the police to support education, health and community services. Defund the police.

    Tim – thanks to everyone for being succinct.

    Eli Holmes – in Brattleboro – longest I’ve lived anywhere. Like many, I’m here asking to deny the budget and defund the police. I won’t repeat. Having worked with police – I’ve seen police brutality in NYC, and working in EMS – hearing comments like “run over the protesters:. Brattleboro Police has a core issue. A significant issue here, just like NYC. WE have a significant problem here. Most of Brattleboro Police handle human services issues, and officers say they can’t handle these issues. If they aren’t issues they can handle, why not support those who can help? Camden J defunded the police and there was a decrease in crime. Reject the FY21 budget.

    Alexis Sweeney – lived in VT my whole life – deny the FY21 budget and defund the police – You, Tim – your op ed was arrogant and privileged – insulting to black and brown folks here. The culture in police upholds violence and white supremacy – we’re not exempt from it. You word in you op-ed didn’t reflect that – it is was really disappointing words to hear from the Chair.

    Jenna – when we were given the introduction about the process, it seemed to suggest that the budget must be voted on tonight – as it is, the budget as is should be rejected tonight. Pretty insane that the budget hasn’t been heavily scrutinized in recent weeks. This is part of a larger vision for a world without police and prisons. IN VT, white people weren’t incarcerated at the same rate as black and brown people. The stats show that the police are part of a system that helps lock up black people to profit from their free labor. Actualize our own perceptions of ourselves as a safe haven. Reject the budget and form a working group to imagine a new budget. Human Services should radically reimagine what they could do with that money. No police or prisons would be the vision.

  • More

    Liz – I’m a RTM member and a founding member of an organization that is concerned with this issue. I agree with everything said before, but want to suggest we move police funding in the budget to the human services, to fund salaries and operating costs. They can come up with effective programs to replace whatever we consider vital about the police department. Tenants Union of Brattleboro.

    Tim – I’m also in District 3. What we have is a way that callers can’t chime in on chat, so let’s take the caller…

    Dick Degray – So, interesting conversation . I’ve been involved in the community for 30 years out of my 40. What’s going on now is in vogue – national things being taken out locally. Institutional memory helps me. WE used to have issues, but the police Department has rehabilitated themselves under Chief Wrinn and Fitzpatrick (sic) – do people know what defunding the police means? Reallocating the more in that budget. The median income is quite low, and when I hear about the human service budget, people who struggle to pay taxes receive some benefits – if you reject the budget tonight, you need to revisit in in terms of COVID – and people’s ability to pay, not to defund the police dept. We had issues and no one ever asked to defund the police department. I support our police department. Anyone can snap and have an incident. You don’t need a uniform to have an issue. No one is immune. But the talk that we have a racist police department – I’ve never heard that in 30 years. WE have the CPCC – maybe revisit that. People should volunteer – it is easy to throw rocks, get involved. I’m okay with differing points of view. COVID revenues are my issue, not defunding the police. The board shouldn’t act on a whim here.Change the budget for reasons that impact the whole community and people’s ability to pay. I don’t think you will hit your line item revenues. I support the police. Everyone can do better.

    Tim -the comments about filibustering aren’t helping your cause… Andrew?

    Andrew – lifelong Brattleboro resident – I agree with everyone except Dick, aptly named, in denying the FY21 budget. You have $2 million to the Bratt PD and that has gone up by $100k over the last few years. Problems haven’t gotten better, and the Bratt PD isn’t set up to do it. I see cops all over, but where is the help for heroin addicts, or the Retreat? Homeless folks aren’t harassed as much now because they are housed. Maybe police fund could be used to help housing homeless. Look around. There are solutions to overpricing. Look into Murray who funded Goddard College. It is disgusting that we’re allocating that many millions to the police and not to social services, to help with the real problems of people who live here, rather than the tech people who come.

    (hovering around 68 people…)

    Echo Marshall – live on Main St. I stand with the previous comments. When I say abolition, I’m aware of the etymology – it is a system that has used violence and terror for 400 years. Too much funding goes to police. Mother Jones article: talking about Minneapolis (sound fading in and out)…they had millions in funding, and now community groups petition to cut the budget by $45 million – Why defund – in the wake of murders over last few years, we were told there would be procedural reforms. To make police more professional. Things did not get better. Overpolicing remains. Abolition of the police goes hand in hand with decriminalizing sex work, drugs, don’t need school police, need supportive housing and drop in centers. The criminal justice system has one answer. Abolitionists want to develop ways to stop this. In almost all school shooting cases, people knew it may happen… what if we had a system where someone can talk to someone without police getting involved. You need to be the voice of the people you represent.

    Tim – Sophia?

    Sophia – a question from Dick to defund the police – it means to defund them to abolish them, and to reallocate funds. Police were founded to enforce race and class divisions. Tim, country to your article this doesn’t fit with the vision of people in Brattleboro. WE arrest more black people than we have represented in the population. Reform is not an option. Fund public housing, Groundworks, and other services. Funding increases for police is not where we are at. We should have a people’s process to imagine a fair budget. Working class people are being asked to risk their lives for the economy – we need to rethink what people are actually wanting, and police need to go.

    Tim – close to the end of our time… we have a couple people left.

    Franz Reichsman – Pleased to be talking about the budget. I’m the chair of the RTM finance committee and part of this process – we review the budget and raise questions. We track progress throughout the year. I want to welcome everyone to the process. I have to say, realistically, making major changes when it is to go in effect in a couple of weeks.. no good way to do that. Some trimming and adjustments, maybe, but a wholesale reimagine takes longer than the time available here. Let’s all work on the budget for FY22 – these types of major changes take time to sort though, to think of unanticipated consequences. All these things can be done if people get involved. Most people aren’t willing to do that heavy lifting over time. More than just emotions. I hope we hear these new voices in the new budget year. I wouldn’t make changes or defund the police – I defend the police – they should be commended. We need an engaged citizenry to make them better over time.

    Tim – I’ve lost track of the order… Maya?

    Maya Hasegawa – I’m in RTM and on the Finance Committee. I would like to say hat we worked hard on this budget, prior to all the stuff that’s been happening. I second what Franz said and say let’s look at the FY22 budget – the process starts very soon. Another opportunity will be at the Chief’s meeting tomorrow night. I encourage people to attend and speak with Chief Fitzgerald. I hope this will be non-confrontational and without personal acrimony. Someone mentioned Camden NJ abolished their police – they defunded and started a new police department, and the crime rate did go down. I’ve been following that. Camden didn’t abolish their police department.

    Liz – The Camden police dept became a county wide force – it needs to be fully understood.

    Tim – I want to sneak in a public comment and then take a break.

    Liz – I have Oscar, Maya andRobyn, and HB…

    Tim – and Misha, and Corey..

    HB Lozito – former CPCC meeting – this is a continuation of the conversation at RTM – every year we talk of increasing human services funding. Our budget is a moral document. I propose an increase to the Human Services funding to a million dollars. We should fund the work of people doing work here on the ground. This is an important conversation. The Town Finance Committee could look at it, but another committee could look at this issue of community safety. Increase human services to $1 million.

    Robin Morgan – when we look at what do we expect from our Police Dept…. kid helps with camera…. kid screams at parent.

    Tim – we’ve all been there.

    Robin – I’m leaving my house – the great deal of crime is from poverty… the police can’t fix that. 12x as much is given to police as human services. It feels satisfying to take instant action now, but to defund the police will take some careful thought. I wish it could be done instantly, so I hope a committee and long term considered work is coming on this.

    Cory Sorenson – I agree we should be investing in social services, I’m a teacher in town. I agree with investing in human services. Some earlier comments about the FY22 budget reminds me of the MLK letter from Birmingham – told to wait, but never comes. Need to do this for children.

    Maya – I wanted to read the statistic from VPR – only 1% of the population in VT is black but this makes up 11% of the prison populations – if a community and national movement hadn’t brought this up, would you have seen this as a problem and made the adjustments. Also, acknowledge your own bias in voting for this budget.

    Oscar Heller – there are two definitions of defunding – without law enforcement at all, or a radical shift in spending. In many ways, it is less radical to change spending. HB said a million dollars. That is the less radical of two approaches. That’s what would be required – not $20k for Project Care – I never questioned how the police worked until a couple of months ago. Just because I don’t think Brattleboro’s police dept is scary or oppressive or dangerous, some do feel that way. Still trying to wrap my head around this – but we should move aggressively. I’m uncomfy with making a big change at the last minute by the selectboard – they would have to cut line items tonight based on guesses. I think the best way is for FY22 and the next RTM – have an inclusive process along the way. I’d like to see tonight that you make a string commitment by vote to reimagine policing and community safety with a citizen working group, starts immediately, and will be the highest priority. Thanks!

    Tim – I want to wrap this up and give the ASL interpreters a break. A couple more want to say something. I hoped we could wrap up and then the board can come back – we can’t continue forever.

    Liz – more people are signed in.

    Tim – I’ll take those people but draw a line right now, then we’ll take a break and the board can discuss it. We can keep going. We have a lot more agenda items.

    Ian – get everyone currently on the list.

    Misha – from Putney and Brattleboro – I heard some anecdotes about the police being reformed, so I’d offer a counter anecdote – something I witnessed – they failed to protect the safety of someone in a mental health crisis – they nearly hung themselves, resulted in brain damage. I was a few feet away and cops were upstairs. Allocating funds to mental health counselors would have helped in this situation. I advocate for reallocating funds.

    Fhar Miess – I echo the call to shift resources away from police. More broadly, the budget process – we hear how town govt has committees and meetings that are open – there is a difference between it being open and accessible and welcoming. Or engaging the public in an active way. Lots of room for improvement there. I haven’t had time for budget meetings. The most sought opinions are stakeholders – department heads and we need to bring in more voices – those who receive services. I’d like to see the budget process being more participatory. Let’s have a committee look into what we can do.

    Mac – one, the Brattleboro Police has been doing a great job – I’ve been reporting on it for two years – the new policing model is good. Minneapolis has white supremicists, but we just have cops that make some mistakes. Being an interracial couple – I don’t feel safe in Brattleboro. People drive around with shotguns. I don’t want to see the police defunded. This is virtue-signaling – a national issue. Brattleboro Police are doing a great job managing a difficult situation. I don’t want to NOT be able to call the police.

    Tara O’Brien – something Dick said – when the CPCC was formed in 2004, I think, there were high profile cases at that time, and the administrative perspective that the police were doing a good job – people had different perceptions. Right now, for us to say – our police take a guardian stance, and do we have current anecdotes of poor interactions with the police. So, if tomorrow is the opportunity to speak with “Gunny” and the budget is being decided tonight. Wait until after “Gunny” holds this community forum. Tomorrow’s event – for those of us who work with those who live with racial harm – I don’t advocate people go to that forum – don’t feel it is a safe environment during COVID. Don’t work on a white supremacist sense of urgency and wait. When we speak of defunding – whatever word – we also say it as reinvest. D&R… reinvest and reinvest.

    Tim – can we take break? It is 9pm… til 9:10PM?

  • The mics are on and cameras rolling during the break

    … and participants are talking about strategy and what the board might do… “We’re being recorded.” There is no excuse not let us speak. Burlington went to 2 am…

    etc. Most organized group I’ve seen in a while…

    What’s more important than societal justice. This is a national issue. This is a small town and should be easier to deal with.

    We are clear about what we want and what we are talking about.

    That guy who wanted to be able to call the police – that’s real. When shit happens, who do you call? You need community accountability in your neighborhood. You have a point person in the neighborhood… I brought up aria – they have neighborhood accountability groups – for family violence, drug issues – not funded by the state or armed. That’s who you call.

    We also don’t need people to have guns to give you a traffic ticket.

  • More

    Tim – we’ll turn off cameras and mics so people can see the ASL.

    Andrew – is it true you have to pay for go to meeting after 14 days?

    Elwell – no. You can create meetings and then need to buy it, but for attending… no charge ever.

    58 people online in the meeting now.

    Tim – we’re back to order. We took an hour and half of public comment on FY21 budget and now the board can kick it around, then we will vote and proceed with 9 more points of new business.

    Daniel – I want to thank everyone who reached out. I didn’t get back to everyone. I did have numerous meetings. The world today is one where things seem possible. I’ve learned a lot. I acknowledge as a white, middle class CIS progressive person in VT – my experience with police is not the same as those of people of color. I will continue to learn. I have a bunch of questions. Town’s annual budget is our needs and shows what we value – 60% is for salaries and benefits. It is people heavy, and the police is the largest amount – what does this say of our priorities. Does the amount we spend give us what we need? Does it make us safer? It is effective use of tax dollars. The police are the only dept that can inflect great harm – are we happy with them, can we show how our spending improves town? Are there parts of police work that others could handle. Could tax monies be used to pay for it. Do we know who we want to shift money to and are they ready? If we cut the police dept, what do we cut – salaries? cars? If we cut them today, what happens on July 1 and is this even possible under the police union contract? I don’t know the answers – I’m willing to commit to long term work to do this – we can’t do it in two weeks time. I’m committed to being a part of that work. There are issues of accessibility. I encourage you to run to be RTM members or selectboard members or be on committees.

    Liz – I have a couple of things – it is the 11th hour for this budget and have been working on it all year. WE need this action for the town to function on July 1. I’d look forward to review of the Brattleboro police budget starting tomorrow night – we need to learn what they can do and what they have been asked to do . Like teachers dealing with issues in school – maybe teachers and police aren’t the right ones. We should examine the police and what the alternatives might be. Need to know how they currently work, and how it fits into the criminal justice system. maybe more restorative justice? Strengthening the CPCC is great. Funding and rebalancing… the board did grant $250k to groundworks for their facility. I hope everyone attends the forum and everyone gives their input. That’s what democracy is all about. DPW is almost as big as the police.

    Tim – a request from Cassandra Holiday to have something read – it is a little long…. (reads it) “I do not know the depth of suffering of my black and brown friends in the community….. I felt hopeful with MeToo… I’m grateful for the movements where victims can finally be heard. To pull up a traumatic experience. There might be enough volume to be heard and things might shift. It’s a salve to one’s wounds to hear supporting words. Healing comes from transformation. I believe transformation is possible. I’ve witnessed it under Chief Fitzgerald – what is most important here is to recognize that it takes compassionate leadership, and the Chief takes time to listen, learn, shift, and grow. He collaborates on solutions and builds mutual trust. He is open minded, wiling to learn, and to put it into action. Like helping the vulnerable. He helped people get doses of methadone after hearing it helps. he is committed to transformation as an ongoing process. The Chief sees the suffering and flaws of the system. He can and will do the same here. As someone who works with the vulnerable. I’m glad they live in a town where they have the Chief. WE aren’t Atlanta or Missouri – we have a Chief who gets it and is committed to transforming his department. We have a great opportunity to have a transformed community. It is important to know who and what we have to make this happen. We can work together, bring more voices to the table, and work with our compassionate leaders. WE can trust the values of our leadership.”

    Ian – I had a whole prepared thing but I’ll go of it. I’ve had to divorce me ego from my representation over the last 4-5 days as a selectboard person and the last month as a human being. I’ve had no issue with the police and have had no interaction with Brattleboro Police – really listening to people and listening to what they are telling me, it has been a time of it. I really think the answer to the question being posed is more than a simple budget cut. It is going to be a community movement and it will take time for the community to come together for us to look at what the police’s function in town is. It seems the board is agreement about committing to that in the future – how can we do that but pass a budget that we haven’t taken a look at since January. That’s where I struggle. I’d love to hear the justification. Any change we make before the 1st won’t be the systematic change – we don’t have the time, but the excuse that we don’t have the time is a big pill for me to swallow. Could we ask the town to go back and look at the budget before July 1 with a special session. It’s probably not popular, and I wasn’t even supposed to vote on this budget – but there is a serious disconnect that we commit to changing things but passing the same budget. Final point – I’m from VT. I have witnessed racism in VT and we are not isolated from it. We need to talk about it.

    Tim – what has happened in Brattleboro that has happened in the last two weeks that makes us want to change this budget? For me, it feels like… a transference of national trauma into a local issue. I don’t understand when.. Daniel mentioned us being employee-heavy – what counter examples, what has happened here recently? What about the officers on Putney RD – they escalated – it went the right way.

    Zoe – I’d like to put this on the record…

    Tim – not taking comment…

    Everyone – let her speak…!!!

    Tim – who wants to speak?

    Zoe – it is not out of a vacuum. It applies to Brattleboro as well. Black Lives Matter, and police effect black lives.

    Tim – I just wanted to say… I’ll finish up. So the murder of George Floyd has been so painful for our nation and our community. I believe there is no remedy to that pain embedded in the Brattleboro budget. Our police budget is mostly salaries, led by a man that condemned GF’s death, and was out there on the Common kneeling with protesters. I have respect for movements to make policing better, I cannot toss out a well-vetted budget to make a symbolic gesture to evils outside of our time. The targeting of the police budget is ill-informed – it would derail he progress we’ve made so far.

    Brandie – I’ve spent the last few days grappling with being a board member and an activist. I didn’t answer emails. I need to digest everything first. I cam today with words… to acknowledge things our police dept does do. Project Care, Coffee with a Cop, children’s programs, Turning Point programs. The heart is there. Gunny said the only thing that stays constant is change and change creates opportunity. Shifting money to human services, the callout of 12% of our budget going to policing and 1% to human services. Even with our deep addiction and poverty. Trauma can’t be policed out of a community. When I was young I ran away from a group home because I ran away. Police officers found me and they handcuffed me, – they tightened but never loosened. Someone else would have done a better job getting 14 year old off and on ramp – can others do what police do, do officers needs to carry guns? I have to knowledge the white supremacy of me listing the good things first… I have all those feelings inside me. WE need feedback… we should be getting feedback. Someone else asked if this incident didn’t happened would we be reconsidering this? No. We thought what we did was good. It isn’t enough. The raised in the human services budget over the last few years was a warning sign. I can’t vote for this in good conscience. I’m owning up. I’ listening to people and will vote against this budget. I think the police aren’t doing a bad job – they are good and kind, but the institution might not be. WE need to address poverty and addictions.

    Liz – a couple weeks ago when we looked at this, I suggested we ask the Human Services Committee look again regarding COVID-19 – tonight we are looking for is three committees – human services, finance, and a new committee for revamping public service through policing and human services. If these three groups were established at Town Meeting and could lend input to the upcoming budget process, then I’d feel comfortable that the needs of the community are being met.

    Daniel -I hope what I said was clear – I’ll adopt this if we make a clear commitment to looking at policing in Brattleboro and whether it meets our needs.

    Tim – you have that commitment to me. I want this energy in our budget process day 1, so we understand our entire communities needs. WE try every year to tell people how important the budget is. It is a moral document. You have that commitment from me.

    Liz – from me, too.

    Ian – is there a way to more formalize that commitment?

    Tim – we can do what we want. We should vote on the general fund budget. The outcome is dependent on the commitment.

    Daniel – I move to approve the FY21 budget as presented.

    Ian and Brandie vote against. Daniel, Tim, and Liz pass the budget.

    Tim – short break or plow ahead?

    Liz – so, make some sort of resolution about what we just talked about.

    Tim – it is not on the agenda.

    Liz – we could plan to have a resolution for our next meeting…

    Tim – given open meeting law, that might be best. We warn items… everyone in agreement? July 7. On to nw business.

  • Financial Report, Management Questionnaire

    Andre Jaeger – (his debut). The information you want to see, it basically addresses where we are in the 11th month o our anticipated budget – everything is in accordance… I don’t know what you do with this info, or if this is what you need. Do you want me to read the documents?

    Tim – typically we look for top line information.

    Andre – 11th month, pretty much in one with budget. We’ll be within what we anticipated. There is grant and loan information. I don’t think any of the info provided addresses things we talked about tonight, but if people want more information, I’d love to provide what is needed. If anyone wants to talk about the budget, I’d love to provide the opportunity to meet with anybody and provide anything that is needed.

    Tim – how are you settling in?

    Andre – I like the enthusiasm about budget issues. These issues take a long time to work through. I can hear the enthusiasm and can respond to concerns for town government.

    Brandie – thanks Andre for reaching out right now. If it doesn’t get more important then shame on us.

    Andre – every year is an annual compliance checklist. I have affirmed that these things are happening, so if you have any questions about what may or may not be happening,. I’d love to address those concerns. It’s a lot about bank account and segregation of duties.

    Daniel – it is important to let it be know that it keeps accounts in good standing and prevents fraud and embezzlement. It’s important.

    Liz – it is a very important responsibility of town staff and board to oversee finances.

    (It’s 10:03pm)

    Andre – sometimes it happens in small organizations. I have a staff of 6 so we can divide up the tasks. I’d love to talk to you about all this. The checklist covers all the risks. But if you want to talk about it, I want to talk about it.

    Tim – can’t wait til we’re back in person.

    financial checklist, etc. – approved.

    (50 people still in the meeting)

  • FY21 Salary Increase for Non-Union Employees

    Tim – an important discussion…

    Elwell – it came up earlier that the contract with police union was settled last year for the next three years. That’s true for all collective bargaining agreements. Three of the 4 have a 2% increase. The other gets 3%. WE have aa step system for non union employees, so we feel we should be consistent with those others – a 2% increase.

    Tim – I think it is important.

    Brandie – it is important that we’re equitable.

    Ian – is this the confidential employees?

    Elwell – two management and two confidential… the functions of the position require the person to participate with management. They’d have a conflict if they were in the bargaining agreement. These two individuals deal with management but aren’t management, so they are classified as confidential. WE also have part time employees like that, too.

    Liz – last year we concentrated on union and nonunion compensation and equity was the watchword.


  • Deerfield Valley Communications Union District – Recommendation to Join

    Elwell – I’ll tell an abbreviated story – follow up to prior considerations of the board. After a year of review into different possibilities into municipal broadband, there was consideration of investigating a communications district. Patrick Moreland went to meetings. Deerfield Valley Communications Union District has been formed. It is viable according to a study. Residents of Brattleboro would benefit. The structure of the district and VT statutes protect the town from financial risk. It is illegal for a district to impose fees upon the member municipalities. It cannot impose costs on municipalities. Must be paid for by users of the system. Since we could benefit and there is n risk, we suggest you join the district. Join, appoint Patrick, and me and Sue Fillion as alternates.

    (39 people)

    Tim – sounds good.

    Ian – I’m interested in this – could i be an alternative.

    Elwell – I cede my alternate seat to you.

    Ian – I’m interested.

    Elwell – Patrick among us has been dressing this for many years and ahas been representing us, so he has expertise, but Sue and I as backups, we didn’t think any of you would want to. We don’t have any expertise. Happy to have you as backup. Great. Board participants are valuable. Happy to step aside.

    Liz – COVID 19 has brought to light the lack of service to those without adequate service. Another equity issue we’re striving to address.

    Daniel – maybe Ian could shadow Patrick… I’d support it.

    approved, approved, and Ian and Sue approved.

  • Municipal Center Restoration/Renovation Project

    Tim – should we take a break? No…

    Elwell – the first official step forward with he Windham and Windsor Housinh Trust – we have to figure out that partnership. Upper two floors will be housing. 1st floor will be town offices. Basement will be meeting spaces and space for tenants. This is the first official indication of that partnership. It requires that I be approved to sign a memo of understanding, to be a partner in a process with WWHT. They’ll donate staff time to help restore the historic building. Town will contribute up to $50k from program income, for out of pocket legal and engineering work. Other professional work, too. Several months from now we’ll be back to be presenting how the project can move forward to design. We could determine it isn’t feasible, too.

    Tim – Rikki?

    Rikki Risatti – (no)

    Tim – this is kind of a big deal.

    Daniel – it is cool – housing for our town, improving the municipal building. I harassed people about energy. I presume this will improve the energy profile.

    Elwell – yes – energy is a major aspect of WWHT work. They will do their usual work, but also look at a pellet boiler system can service both the library and municipal center.

    Liz – one multi year goal was to provide low income housing.

    Ian – when I first came here I was struck by the Municipal Building – it is beautiful and fascinating. It is good to reimplement that building into the town today. It’s great.

    Tim – we don’t yet have any idea of how many units…

    Elwell – that is part of this feasibility study – how many bedrooms matters, and how many units.

    Tim – what do we do?

    Brandie – motions…

    Elwell – it is a forgivable loan – if it isn’t feasible the money won’t be repaid. Hopefully we do the project and the money will roll into the complete project budget, and we’ll get paid back. It is a loan if it works out…


  • Restart Vermont Grant and Loan Program – Authorization of Town Participation and Use of Program Income Funds

    Elwell – part of the VT board recovery package for COVID-19. There is one element we’ve been asked to participate in. This piece of it is for very small businesses – 4 or fewer employees making less than 1 million. The goal is to leverage program income funds – the state wants to work through them with one set of state guidelines, but decisions would be made in each region. VT wants us to commit to being on the team so they can finalize details. They want a letter of intent. If we join it, our program income funds would be loanable and forgivable to businesses in and around Brattleboro, but Brattleboro would make the decisions. BDCC would process applications on behalf of the state and make recommendations.

    Liz – do you mean selectboard?

    Elwell – to could be, or it could be the committee to review revolving loan funds. The small business loan committee… they might take it on. This has unique aspects, so you could approve each one.

    Liz – we can think about it.

    Elwell – yes. this is just a memo of intent.

    Liz – maybe we get the full list and we could raise concerns.

    Elwell – maybe.


    (The chat has things like “so waiting 2-3 days couldn’t happen?”, “you are corrupt” and “you just betrayed our financial trust”… fyi, since it doesn’t get saved anywhere. Except here.)

  • Department of Justice COVID-19 Grant – Ratification of Town Manager’s Decision to Accept and Appropriate

    Elwell – this is an easy yes. We’re accepting $39k of other people’s money. This addresses COVID-19 related expenses within the police department. You applied in May and it came through immediately and needed to be spent immediately. I accepted it. Ratify my decision. Supplies, overtime and personal protective equipment.

    Daniel – good to invest in public health and safety.

    Ian – I agree.

    Brandie – I agree with Liz about making a motion.

    so ratified.

  • Appointments for FY21 (i) Appointments to Fill Vacancies on Town Committees and Boards (ii) Appointments to In-House Staff Positions

    Elwell – I have the long list. If your intention is to appoint all uncontested seats – you can approve the slate, then you could do the others.

    They appoint a lot of people… it is late. I’m tired of typing.

    They are actually debating Weigher of Coal. For minutes!

    Liz – there are a lot of open seats. Join up!

    Tim – and people stepping up. Please join us.

    Daniel reminds them of Town appointments.

    Elwell is collector of taxes.

    Barrett is Road Commissioner.

    Bannon is zoning administrator.


    Liz – I move we adjourn.

    Meeting adjourned at 10:56.

    34 people still online…

  • Why to Vote "NO" on Article 4 of the WSESD 2020 Ballot Due June 30th

    What direct democratic powers are the Public currently enabled with the authority to demonstrate divesting from fascist use police and military for democide?

    At the Brattleboro/Wantastegok Selectboard yesterday, members resisted counting the public vote on record as the majority of 11 participating viewers opposed the $18 million
    municipal budget to be forwarded to the annual representative meeting.

    The Public can receive an official WSESD 2020 Ballot from Vermont Voter Pageand vote NO to Article 4 by refusing to fund the $51 million dollar school budget as a protest against continuing business as usual and communicate with all involved on why and how this boycotting action can be resolved by prioritizing accommodating enslavement reparations, prison abolition, and labor union motions first.

    Select Board Chair Candidate 2021
    VT Supreme Court Litigant
    District 2 Representative, Municipality of Wantastegok, Sokwakik County, Ndakinna, 05302
    Gloria La Riva POTUS 2020 Leonard Peltier VP 
    They/Them Pronoun Conjunctives 

  • Clarification Needed

    “At the Brattleboro/Wantastegok Selectboard yesterday, members resisted counting the public vote on record as the majority of 11 participating viewers opposed the $18 million municipal budget to be forwarded to the annual representative meeting.”

    Is Rikki Risatti saying that a majority of 11 people should be treated a “the public vote on record?”

  • Reply to SK-B

    Thanks for the question! 11 People total, which were all of the participating public, voted in opposition and should be counted on record that none of the present public voted in favor of passing the buget.

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