Selectboard Meeting Notes – Collaborative Proposal for Police Reform Presented To Board, RTM Remains On Hold

selectboard july 7, 2020

The Brattleboro Selectboard didn’t get to new business until after 11 pm. Old business of Representative Town Meeting scheduling, second thoughts on an already-approved budget, and competing proposals for police reforms filled the lengthy meeting.

In the end, no new RTM was set, the board was told the budget cannot be changed but can be ignored selectively, and competing proposals for police reforms will fill a new meeting schedule for July 21.

Comments | 16

  • Preliminaries

    It’s always fun waiting for the virtual meeting to start. Interpreters chat with one another using ASL, others adjust their camera angles and get settled….

    Chair Tim Wessel – Hi everybody! We did interviews before the meeting. A reminder if you want to say something, raise your hand by typing you name into the chat box and give a subject matter. I don’t have remarks. We’re here to so the business of the town. We want to hear everything you want to say. I appreciate keeping comments to 2 minutes.

    Town Manager Peter Elwell – no comments.

    Wessel – board member reports?

    Daniel Quipp – a traffic safety meeting and we discussed the Putney Rd project later on the agenda. Meetings open to all, at 8 am!

    Ian Goodnow – I’m going to read a blurb about elections – a quick PSA that there are two votes coming up – Aug 11 primary and November 3rd general election. Go to my voter page at to get your address up to date and request to vote by mail. We expect delays at polls. It will be as safe as possible. Request a ballot to vote by mail. You can also email the Town Clerk at

    Wessel – the process for the school budget was pretty smooth. I think every previously registered voter got a postcard in the mail.

    Ian – still looking for volunteers, too.

    Wessel – one more reminder about Public Participation – let us know in the chat if you have something to say. (76 people online) I don’t see anyone raising their hand. There may be some callers. Ah, one person…

    Kurt Daims – It will be great when we can meet without the little boxes. The Brattleboro Youth Vote amendment was started in 2014. It lost in 2015. A new campaign began and the young people had their petition delayed, and delayed last year after it was approved, and now there is another delay. This is not any longer a matter of youth activism. The amendment was approved by a huge majority. It is our policy and mandate to pursue it. I was hoping Brandie and others would write to the governor and minority whip. That’s where the block lies. The governor has told me that he supports this amendment. It may help with the demographic crisis of young people moving out. This is our vote and we owe it to the voters to pursue this and get it approved or voted on in the assembly. I’d be glad to help and hear your comments.

    Brandie – I hope you can hear me. I’m fine with writing a letter. E-mail me.

    Wessel – it is in the court of the legislature, right? We know the results of the vote and desires of the people. Maybe we should check in.

  • Reservoir Trail Culvert Replacement – Bid Award

    Dan Tyler – this is for the Pleasant Valley project. We had three bidders. Low bid was Neil Daniels, Inc., of Ascutney, Vermont, in the amount of $98,760, which we recommend. IT was close bidding. It’s a good price and on budget. We’d like to proceed.

    Wessel – questions or comments?

    Quipp – I appreciate seeing it broken down and how the bids were presented.

    Wessel – fairly common that we use the engineers to look over bids?

    Tyler – yes.

    Ian Goodnow – do they usually provide references, or just this bidder.

    Tyler – typical of their process.

    Elwell – we do a lot of work with Dufrene because they know our water system. Very good success collaborating with them.


  • COVID-19 Update

    88 people at the meeting now.

    Elwell – just a couple of notes. We continue through our months of COVID – we’re steady as we go. One important thing that is different is that we have changed the box – the black box on the wooden light pole turned out to be too small for everything that gets dropped off, so a larger secure box – it looks like a mailbox – clearly labelled to drop ballots here. We’ll do tax payments and bills there, too. It is safe and secure. People can go and vote in person but it is safer if we have as little of that interaction as possible, so we urge people to get a mail-in ballot, or drop it in the secure ballot box. Everything will fit now.

    Recreation, we’ve opened up more activity at the pool. Women’s softball doesn’t want a season, but men’s will use abbreviate rules to move the game along quicker. That is beginning this week. Parks activities have become more available for use. We are sanitizing so we have reopened some playgrounds. The swimming pool don’t have to preregister anymore. Open swim for 3 hours each afternoon and evening. Plenty of space to keep distant, plus chlorinated and clean. Hoping library can reopen on a limited basis – maybe in a couple of weeks. Very limited.

    Wessel – thanks. Library news is exciting when it happens. The pool is up to 75 at a time now? Take advantage of it.

    Quipp – the pool. Are there certain times just for adults, or kids…

    Carol Lolatte – it is open for general swim twice a day. No particular times… the capacity is 75 but we aren’t even nearing that. We have lap lanes. Attendance is a bit low, but it is available.

    Brandie – I’ve been there three times. I bring 4 kids. There might be 4 or 5 others. It’s run well. Temps get taken, you move right along.

    Ian Goodnow – one more thing about voting – no in-person early voting this year.

    Wessel – the chat section is not public record so we can’t answer questions, but no one watching later can see it. Just use it to let me know you want to make a comment.

    Quipp – testing is still going on so if you want to get tested – Wednesdays at the Dept of Health – the Municipal Center parking lot.

    Wessel – you need to sign up online.

  • Representative Town Meeting – (i) Review Proposed Plan for 2-Part Meeting (ii) Review Draft Warning

    Elwell – first, I’d like to not the people working on it. It is unusual. Lawrin Crispe, RTM moderator, and Bob Fisher helped explore ways to replicate RTM when we usually meet. We can’t fully replicate it, but we considered how the meeting would function. The full group included town manager office staff, and town clerk. We took your input from the meeting where you discussed it. On June 2nd we presented a handful of ways it could be held. We got reaction and some suggestions of combinations. Very helpful. It was essential in one respect – I was leaning toward an alternative we have since ruled out – setting up multiple locations with smaller crowds. We liked that it would allow smaller gatherings with less risk, but linked together for a fully engaged town meeting. It would have allowed discussions to debate pros and cons but have full flexibility. The problem, we learned, is that there was a concern that even in smaller groups some elected representatives would not want to be part of that size gathering. It’s valid, and a concern that rules out coming together. So we looked at fully online and other hybrids. We find the one we chose isn’t that satisfying. We’re concerned that to have all reps be able to cast votes, the only reliable way is to vote by australian ballot. It eliminates the ability of RTM to amend any motions. There won’t be motions. There will be articles to approve by ballot. There would be a two-part process, used by others, but preserves ability to vote. The way it works – people in other towns usually propose an “Informational” meeting, bit not like our typical informational meeting. We are the only town with RTM in VT. For this purpose, it is a full discussion to debate the merits of each article. It is a selctboard-called meeting, but think it is appropriate for the moderator to moderate that meeting. We view this as a discussion meeting of the RTM members moderated by the moderator, so members can fully discuss each item. That would be Aug 22 at 8:30 in the morning, on GoTo meeting. Many elected members would be able to do this from home – we have 90 people tonight and capacity is 250. For some, it may be something they can’t or won’t do. We expect them to be able to listen on BCTV, and perhaps call into the meeting. Several dozen usually speak and others usually don’t. Some might watch to be fully informed, and then could call in if they did want to comment on. That could go on as long as needed. We think it will be shorter than a normal RTM, but it would allow for a good, full, open, engaged discussion by the elected representatives. There wouldn’t be any action that day. We’d have a second phase. In this case, we don’t envision an election day – we’d have 6 days, until Aug 28, close of business, ballots would need to be postmodernists,arked or in the ballot box. We’d count them a week later, so mail can arrive. We think this is the one way to be sure that people with tech limitations or travel restriction can keep their right to vote on the warned articles. No elected member will be disenfranchised. We reluctantly and without enthusiasm think this is the best way forward.

    Wessel – other board members?

    Quipp – I’m disappointed that the proposal ends up without a full, rich RTM. This Australian ballot process – 20 or so things to vote on? What happens if it fails – does that come back for a revote or all of them?

    Elwell – say 18 pass and 2 fail – they could remain failed or you as selectboard could warn for a separate special town meeting if you felt as though the body wanted something not in the australian ballot, you could warn another process for further consideration for something that doesn’t pass the first time. Or accept the outcome.

    Quipp – I looked at the new warning – the budget article no longer sits in there – we adopted the budget in the last meeting – RTM can’t weigh in?

    Elwell – after researching the matter, the budget has been approved. There are specific warned items related to the budget that RTM could reject, but because there is an adopted budget, the legal interpretation is the action related to the overall budget relates to taxation, not adopting the budget again.

    Quipp – the public would like to know…

    Bob Fisher – I missed the question… (Daniel – what happened to the budget article?) The state emergency statute allowed the selectboard to adopt the budget. It has been adopted by the board. The RTM article will be just about setting dates for taxes. It’s already accomplished at this point.

    Quipp – article 16 in the new warning – if you hated the budget we adopted, you could vote that down?

    Fisher – if you voted down the article regarding the proposed dates, we’d revert to state statute – no less than 30 days…

    Wessel – we lost him…

    Elwell – because the statute empowered the selectboard to adopt the budget, it is in place. What remains is the authority to set deadlines for payments of taxes and penalties. The rejection of the taxation article wouldn’t undue approving the budget. It would fail to provide the guidance, so we’d then follow state statute.

    Fisher – in the event you voted down the article with dates, you’d be left with setting the tax day 30 days after you send the bills out. It would be due in one lump sum. If you like the 4 payments a year, don’t vote it down.

    Quipp – when I voted to adopt the budget, RTM still had a chance to weigh in… so there are reasons I’m glad we adopted it, but I still thought RTM could weigh in, so I’m pretty disappointed.

    Elwell – we can go back and see what was said, but we had that conversation in the discussion on June 2 of RTM, by June 16’s discussion of the budget it wasn’t as clear. My recollection is we spoke about the potential for ratification with much more doubt on the 16th. Sorry you felt there was still an option. The budget is adopted… sorry.

    Quipp – if I missed something, then I apologize, but I think I got it right.

    Elwell – I apologize that the fluid nature of this may have left you in that position.

    Fisher – the difficulty with what Daniel says is that what the legislature did was an emergency move to allow towns to continue to go forward. If you put the budget article on as usual, and say it gets turned down, but the board adopted it, two laws compete with one another. Given that you have adopted it, that’s the action the town has taken. We agree that we like to think there are always those checks and balances, and that’s how you exercise you power careful in difficult times.

    Liz McLoughlin – at the meeting where we voted, I had asked that we ask the human resource committee had any thoughts or changes, and Peter reached out and they felt that things change from year to year, so they’ll do the work and next year might have new requests. There was that rethink of the budget before it was brought forward.

    Fhar Miess – I have a number of concerns. This came about as the least likely to disenfranchise town meeting reps. It calls into question what is the franchise. The town meeting is a deliberative body – and this eviscerates it. There’s a discussion but no amendments or motions. It fundamentally changes the RTM. It’s like saying you can drink coffee, but it has to be decaf. Aside from the solution, I’m concerned about the process by which “we” came to it. I just heard about this a few days ago. I took it on faith that as a rep, I’d be kept aware… I get emails from Rikki Risatti but not the town about RTM. I don;’t hear any Town Meeting reps on the decision making committee. That troubles me… who gets to participate, who facilitates, and who is welcomed into the process?

    Oscar Heller – in a similar vein, at the last meeting, I asked if the board would make the budget conditional on RTM approval, and if it could be temporary, but I think the board decided not to do that because some people felt their approval of the budget was based on whether RTM would have a say. The town is in a tough spot and the options aren’t great. Now that the budget item might have a lot of debate – the police budget – it is coincidentally a problem this is happening right now. Is there no other way? Would it be impossible to do it another way? If RTM votes a certain way the board could honor it? That’s where I’m at.

    Rikki Risatti – …

    Lawrin Crispe – as the elected moderator, since March, I have been rolling this over in my head innumerable times. Some sort of innovative approach to pursue to have our town meeting in the fashion we traditionally have had in the past. I was hoping COVIF would go away, but got to the point in June where I realized that probably wasn’t going to happen. I have approached Bob and Peter with my thoughts. I want to balance fundamental democratic principles with the health and welfare of RTM members. These are challenging times. There is no great solution. I’ve listened to other meetings, legislative sessions… this proposal makes the most sense. We have historical precedent for it – Australian ballot. The VT legislature did H681 that authorizes communities to take advantage of this format as the best way out. What I felt, arriving at my thinking, is we need a process that is fair, inclusive as possible, and that’s why I sought to join the discussion with Peter – I reluctantly support the proposal put forth tonight, even with the shortcomings.

    Rikki – …

    Kurt Daims – can you hear me? Trying to get the camera on… I agree emphatically with Fhar – if it is not all the way, it isn’t RTM meeting now. I ask you consider that the lack of proper consideration to RTM has been going on a long time. The selectboard puts the RTM ideas at the end of the agenda. Someone couldn’t find RTM on the Town’s web site, misclassified as a committee – regular disregard for RTM. Some people think it is the budget meeting. There is no consideration for the duties of representation. It’s supposed to be the guiding body and the selectboard does not let it happen – historically.

    Sonia – I feel like I echo what everyone has said about the frustration with the solution – has there been any surveying of the RTM members about whether they could attend. It feels like we should check in with everyone. Send an email. People show up when they are passionate, and there are tech problems. It is emblematic of how hard it is to communicate from reps. Maybe we could have better structures and communication systems to communicate with reps. There is a struggle in a lot of ways. Use this as a way to be a little more accessible and communicative. I do online facilitation for my job and could help share some tools I’ve been using to make only facilitation more conversational. Get in touch.

    Wessel – this has been a long discussion on the selectboard – I can’t argue that members might have not felt invited in, but the board needs to do this, safely… June 2nd memo had all the options and problems with each one. It’s been an ongoing conversation, and we all see this as the least bad option at the moment. Yes, our website has problems.

    Elwell – the memo with options for RTM was prepared in late May and discussed June 2nd – there were points made but the input we found most compelling was from public comment that evening. The pod option wasn’t going to be acceptable.

    Liz – this comments from the public were public health concerns…

    Quipp – online facilitating is difficult and Sonia is good at it, and the Town Moderator is good, but this is very different and new things to be learned.

    HB Lozito – I hear Lawrin’s comment about tuning it over, and all of us working under extraordinary circumstances. I appreciate the effort. I don’t do inperson things right now. People aren’t challenging the format, but the shift in power – there is less decision making with this format. I’d like to hear how RTM members can’t make amendments and motions in a virtual format. It’s a powerful part of RTM.

    100 meeting attendees…

    Elwell – there are a couple of things going on. On the question regarding why can’t there be amendments and motions, it still can be done that way. The selectboard has to decide how to warn this meeting. We steered here because the potential to come together in a space eliminated some people form participating. With 150 people participating voting members, plus others. The scale worries us. Some will have tech issues. An orderly meeting is the other challenge. If 150 want to make motions and comments on every aspect of it and cast their votes, the counting of votes could be difficult. It’s had mixed results at the state level…there was some delegation to leadership with technological challenges. We could explore it further before you decide. Our concern that society’s experience with these tools seems at that scale to not be practical. It’s a conclusion, not a fact. You can draw other conclusions. The board will have to decide what to do to preserve the democratic process. Our intent was to do that. We sacrificed amending to guarantee everyone can cast a ballot on each issue. That’s a judgement call, not a fact or requirement. Advise us on how you want us to work on this.

    Ian – let the public speak…

    Rikki – I have two questions – have an sb members read the ACLU police reorganization outline? Any intention to count the public’s vote on the budget equal to the reps.

    Wessel – the budget was approved. Public can’t vote at RTM. There are articles to be voted on, but not the budget.

    Elwell – some others are included in the budget but if RTM decides against it… Human Services funding – those funds are usually set July 1 and checks sent. RTHis year, the budget is adopted, and there is money to cut those checks, but RTM has to give the authority. If they don’t approve it, we won’t write the checks. There are 6-7 items like that?

    Rikki – why no public vote on this?

    Elwell – the dselectboard can vote, and RTM decisions are by reps. The public can participate in both forums, but can’t vote.

    Rikki – how can we change that so the public can vote?Can it be on the next agenda?

    Wessel – no, too complex.

    Gary Stroud – …

    Quipp – usually we sit on the view active cameras, rather than the view all. It shows a bit what it would look like if we had more participate. ASL interpretation gets lost when screens are this small. For me, I want to preserve the deliberative process. Even when amendments fail, it is a rich experience telling you the temperature of the town. The school budget the other week surprised me how many voted against it. Some of these articles may fail by australian ballot. vs us all being in the room together and voting. I want RTM to have the power to discuss and make decisions. People can adjust to new situations. If we surveyed all town meeting members – we could do that. We could really do that.

    Brandie Starr – I need a clarifier – so no matter how we hold the meeting, at this point, there is no up or down or amending any portion of the budget?

    Elwell – other than those specific components.

    Starr – so the budget that is adopted includes the police department budget?

    Elwell – yes.

    Goodnow – with that clarity, there is no way to vote on or amend that budget?

    Elwell – we should bring Bob back in to explain…

    Bob Fisher – there is no way for RTM to go back on the adopted budget. We’re talking about how we will deal with acting on articles, and the budget issue. Whether we like it or not, it has bee adopted. As for public safety and such, that is recommendation for the board to consider. People on this meeting can participate, but some cannot.

    Goodnow – is there anything the board could have done to have changed this determination?

    Bob – yes, the board could have not acted on the budget, but then the Town’s cash flow for the new fiscal year – you won’t have money coming in…

    Elwell – we’d have no authority to spend any money…

    Goodnow – was there any way we could have passed the budget and made a change to change this outcome we currently sit in?

    Fisher – no – then you have the competing interest of the selectboard budget and our normal course of action of RTM adoption of the budget. You can’t have a mix.

    Quipp – in the original warning and proposed one we let people ratify and confirm previous decisions… can we add one to see if the reps do that with our budget?

    Fisher – here’s the thing, say you had that and RTM does not ratify the budget. You’ve already adopted it. There would be that legal argument. I think again the answer is no, you could with regard to the warning… you could warn an advisory article that you tack on to the warning. It would only be advisory.

    Wessel – some people want to say something, but any comments in chat make it confusing about who wants to talk. Don’t have side comments there. Emily?

    Emily Megas-Russell – this is a super abnormal situation, and there would be debate on the police budget, I implore the selectboard to look deeper into this issue. Please look deeper into how RTM members can get their due process in participating in the vote on the budget.

    David Levanbach – might it be possible to add an item to the warning – the members commend the selectboard in passing the budget? A sentiment?

    Wessel – RTM can have a non-binding voce vote. If you do it by australian ballot you could put an advisory that has vote of confidence in the action taken already.

    David – that’s what I’d recommend.

    Jackson Stein – could I speak in a minute…

    Izzy Snyder – someone said the state legislature changed their operations to meet virtually. My mom is a state legislator if anything changed and she said no – all meetings over zoom – technology should be a reason to change the process. They did vote to vote virtually, but still had normal house floor meetings.

    Wessel – RTM is very unique in the way it operates. Different than legislature.

    Alex Fischer – there is an assumption that everyone understands roberts rules and is fully accessible. I love the tutorials before the meetings, but the current way meetings are set aren’t that accessible due to roberts rules. Thanks.

    Tim – ASL technical difficulties, and maybe we should take a break and come back with more comments. How does that sound? 8:30? OK… on break.

    • Addition: That last meeting

      Re-reading notes from the last meeting, it was quite clear that the budget was being passed without RTM approval, and policing and police budgets would be something to take on NEXT year. Not by July 1, 2020.

      From the last meeting:

      “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.”

      Ian asked if the board could have done things differently. Yes, I think so. The board could have voted the budget down and forced the issue. They might have been able to authorize 1 month of budget, rather than all 12, to keep things running.

  • What? No Way To Change The Budget? Pt 2

    Ian ate dinner. Tim read a children’s book. Daniel had popcorn. Brandie kissed babies.

    Wessel – Jackson?

    Jackson Stein – I’m reading a statement from Frank -” I’d like to request a meeting around issues of public process so public votes are counted, like during an annual budget vote.” You told Rikki it was a big problem and it was too big to fix. You’ve said that sort of thing before.

    Wessel – I disagree that I said that. Oscar?

    Oscar – a question. If this was a normal year and the budget passed. Later in the year and the selectboard decided they didn’t want to build a $100k basketball court. Would that money go to the general fund?

    Fisher – the board can spend or not spend monies voted on by RTM. If RTM reduced an item by $20k, the board could still expend that money. The check and balances would go to the voters.

    Oscar – so they could get a swimming pool rather than a basketball court?

    Fisher – yes, these could be bond votes. But yes, the board could be authorized to spend and choose for various reasons to not spend.

    Oscar – if a library employee was fired they could leave the position open?

    Fisher – yes – the position gets filled by the town manager.

    Oscar – it is clear that the budget has been passed and that can’t be changed, but clear that the public and town meeting reps that it sucks that RTM has no say on the budget. My proposal – there must be some way to add an article where town meeting can say they like the budget or want changes. RTM could vote down the article – if voted down a public process would start, and hypothetically, we want to drastically cut the police budget, the board could commit in that article to satisfy the wishes expressed. Other than cumbersome or annoying, is there a legal roadblock to doing that?

    Fisher – a vote of confidence or not for the budget?

    Oscar – yes, advisory, but the selectboard would commit if voted down to open a public process to change it. It would be inelegant, but is the only tool I can think of. I could go for more of a response from the board. Is it obviously not legal?

    Fisher – the board wouldn’t;t say what they would do…. it would be more of a pledge than a binding decision. It wouldn’t have the binding effect but the board could vote on how to proceed with budget articles. The money in the budget is to be spent, pending things that come up. The board has to manage town polices going forward.

    Oscar – yes, nonbonding, just a pledge. It would be possible in some way for the board to use its flexibility to strain the budget in certain ways.

    Wessel – any callers? We do need to move on. People are talking about the police budget, but we made a pledge to do a police review process, which is our next item.

    Liz – Let’s go back to March. We were 10 days from town meeting and were shut down. We’re forgetting what it was like just in March when everything shut down and we waited and tried to have town meeting as we know it. Couldn’t do it. We got special permission to pass the budget. Crisis #1. Then George Floyd was murdered. We took the budget vote and said we wanted to examine the police. The legislature allowed us to do this and we know it curtails democracy. We acted in good faith to do the budget, then review the budget. The answer to the police budget starts now. And that includes the budget… the annual budget process starts in the fall… we’re going to do it, but we’ll do it next year. I can live with it. I’m ready to review the police going forward and that is sufficient for budget purposes at this time.

    Ian – I’ll synthesize. My first question have we talked about doing pods all online? Multiple go-to meetings?

    Elwell – we can look at that if you want but I think that if it is different meetings, they can’t be integrated. WE’d need a full-on meeting with all.

    Ian – can we ask RTM reps what their technical ability is? In a timely manner?

    Elwell – that is possible if the board wants it.

    Fisher – not a meeting to ask reps if they can do the meeting.

    Ian – it is an assumption that there a number of people who can’t access it electronically . If we had the numbers before we decide, why not wait for that data? I’d say, ask reps all the tech questions, then I’d be more confident making decisions about this. last thing, I’d like Bob to give us a legal memorandum on the budget vote and as we understand that RTM can’t vote on it. I trust him, but I’d like to read what we are talking about here.

    Fisher – I can do it. It’ll cite the statute for the board to adopt budgets this year in an emergency.

    Daniel – I agree with Ian. I’d like to see in the legal opinion a bit about an advisory opinion. Is it legally possible, and is it wise?

    Brandie – I’m agreeing with Ian and Daniel… just nodding along, agreeing.

    Wessel – I feel what you are saying about polling the members. I want that info, too, but I don’t see any scenario where someone won’t be cut out of the process. It might be 2 or 30.

    Brandie – that can always be true…

    Daniel – there are reasons to not participate in normal times…

    Wessel – current RTM members.

    Brandie – last year, we went for 13 hours and I had to leave before the end due to childcare.

    Wessel – Lawrin’s job is for everyone present in that virtual space to have their vote heard. I can’t see how that it will happen with the current plan – there is a reduction of the overall democracy. There isn’t a perfect solution to this question. We need more information before deciding. I’m a fan of taking vote, but we have instructions for staff.

    Brandie – we need more info, but even if we get the info people can’t vote on what they are fired up about. I’m stuck on how I feel.

    Daniel – I think good facilitation skills make it possible, but the voting part is really hard to manage. We’ll need roll call votes – a standing vote? The legislature had a voting system, that probably wasn’t free? What would a full online town meeting look like?

    Wessel – we need some clear direction to staff… it is 9 pm.

    Elwell – you say you need legal advice regarding authority to adopt the budget, and the degree to which that is a finished action of the town, and the general lingering question of what role RTM could be advisory by ratifying the budget. You’d get a legal opinion. And then you’d like to know if RTM members have the ability to use gotomeeting

    Daniel – and the willingness – to attend as long as last year? I’d like breaks in the day?

    Ian – could we ask if they’d attend in person?

    Elwell – the response rate to this will determine when this comes back to you – we’ll do it as quickly as we can. Maybe July 21. Bob’s piece is easy. We’ll do research into online voting systems. The survey of 150 RTM members may come back quickly, or may delay decision making. That’s what you need to make the decision. Anything else?

    Ian – would we like to have the minutes from the last two meetings where the budget was approved – that discussion summarized into a memo for the next meeting?

    Brandie – not a bad idea.

    Ian – I’m concerned you had the impression the budget would be reviewed.

    Brandie – I did too.

    Daniel – I really thought there was a possibility for further ratification.

    Brandie – I thought there was ratification up or down.

    Wessel – I think we all thought there was a possibility. We all hope, I think,… I thought we were clear ratification was unknown. I was left with your declaration about our next agenda item and that was your moment.

    Daniel – I adopted it knowingly to continue town operations, and I wanted to commit to looking at policing in Brattleboro, and wanted that we were not the last word, and RTM would have a role to play. It seems that feels different today then when we last met.

    Elwell – I know it is late. I have to own the responsibility for what you describe. We had an area of uncertainty and were working on a plan, and there was still a question, but I woke multiple times, especially on the 2nd, but I talked about it in the context that it would be within our normal sort of thing to have a ratification process. What evolved out of this, we confirmed the uncertainties – it is clear that the budget matter is a finished action. We spoke about it as if ratification would be appropriate.

    Liz – I understood the legislature action would allow us to vote and RTM would be advisory at best, just this year.

    Gary Stroud – I’ve been multitasking trying to figure this out. Can we consider other platforms? Zoom? You had feelings about privacy. Anything other than goto? Any other platform other than this? This will freeze up with a lot of people on it.

    Wessel – everything is on the table, but electronics have pitfalls.

  • Police Review Process

    Wessel – not a review of the police, but the process for reviewing before November before we consider the overall budget. Liz?

    Liz – What I propose based on the comments is a citizen led committee to review the police policy, budget training, procedure. Black Lives Matter in Brattleboro. I don’t want to guess. I’m asking fellow citizens to form this examination committee. Campaign Zero’s website has a plan. It is a thorough set of guidelines. The goal is for citizens to review the polices , procedures, training and budget. We say we welcome all… this must include persons of color. Through this process it is my hope that we’ll establish this welcome is agreed by the police department. Selectboard would ask for volunteers facilitators, they’d do outreach, result would be an open call to join the committee. Led by facilitators to keep it non confrontational. They’d meet with police to have their engagement and understand current policies. They’d meet as necessary. Initial discussions would be about goals. Listening sessions for additional public input. Meetings can be held without police present. Budget review, policy team, training team… the committee would meet with nonprofits to talk about expanding Project CARE. What could agencies do with more money? What could social services do? All local nonprofits would be welcome and appropriate. The committee would report to board and the public. All would be reviewed to meet federal and state laws. Timing would be suggested. The town would act on recommendations.

    Wessel – HB will present another document. Want to hear both or discuss this one?

    Daniel – I’d like to hear both first.

    Wessel – about 150 people and orgs signed on for this…

    HB Lozito – should I wait for Brandie to get back from the restroom? Do some vamping…

    Wessel – I’ve got nothing…

    HB Lozito – yeah, about 150 sign ons in support of this + 14 organizations. This was a collective community process among organizations. We’ll hear man voices tonight.. Amber.

    Amber – For me I felt triggered during this meeting. One thing is the previous proposal had volunteer facilitators – we have mostly white selectboard members – you won’t have people of color if it is volunteer. The majority of nonprofits named are white-led organizations. WE have the school to mental health pipeline here, which is similar to slave catching, or the police system. I read Tim’s column in the Reformer about the police and few complaints – many times people don’t feel safe complaining. It puts them in harmful, not safe ways. It’s not a fair reflection of policing in the community. We’ve had police arrested in recent times for drunk driving, assault, and these are just a few examples. What are we funding and how is this contributing to the system that perpetuate racism. WE are to trust the police but they can’t take care of themselves or harm people, that shouldn’t be where we fund resources. People need to be able to call someone that will actually help them. Our proposal is for an open accessible system of meetings with public participation, with childcare, at reasonable times. Feedback without police present, so people who have been harmed can speak. People should worry about retribution, which is why people don’t share info in our community. We need to invite marginalized people into the conversations and their voices being heard. We need people of color who work to transform communities. We name some organizations that do it. Representing the voices that need to be heard but aren’t being heard in these moments.

    Shela Linton – thanks HB and Amber – I’d only add that our proposal is… I’m director of Root social justice center. I’ve been listening for three ours. A simple question was to ask RTM to have a voice… that carries over to this conversation – it’s not about us – we should be at the table and put in positions of decision making – the most marginalized people. We’re asking that they be at the table. We’re asking for transparency. I’ve lived here all my life and many personal experiences with the police and many are horrible and some are bad, and one time was good. People have brought complaints and nothing has been done. We want a transparent process. As for volunteers and who is at the table. People of color are taxed and tokenized, used for their time and energy. Why would we be paying to facilitate something so important? Wh isn’t their time worthy? And, the last thing, a lot of the conversations, because we are in a white community with a mostly white government, we are in a culture of white supremacy in the decisions we make. It is white centered, and whiteness doing the same. I’m asking that we come together as a collective, a coalition of people who care about this. The answer lies within the community nd we want a platform to make these decisions.

    HB – The document – (reads it) we ask that the process is transparent, open, … you have an opportunity to move this conversation forward. Commit to open, accessible affirmative process to investigate policing in Brattleboro – virtual options, childcare, translation, public feedback without police present, a way to collect community comments, times that are accessible, no weapons, to end white supremacy and uplift marginalized …. equitable and a paid facilitator to ensure accountability and moving forward. Pay participants stipends for their participation. People are here to support this process. That’s our proposal (my apologies for missing a bit.. the sound was breaking up)

    Wichie Artu – a member of racial justice organizing group. I come in support for the proposal of HB. Very much in comparison to the proposal by Liz. The scope of the proposal from Liz is on police, where the other is about community safety. Furthermore, the resources being allocated. When we establish a public committee, Liz suggests volunteering and being chosen by the selectboard… a select few making decisions. Biases will happen. I’ve spent years doing social justice work. Volunteers vs paid is a big difference. This is paid work, not volunteer work. This is a serious look at the system of safety in the community. When we consider resources, this is emotional work. We need to be independent of the police, no conflicts of interests, protecting anonymity. Police do retaliate. It’s been my experience. Take it seriously. We want to learn from the forum weeks ago. There were not a lot of bipoc people there. Need to be as accessible as possible. We have to think about safety, too. The Chief was asked if he could put down his gun to talk about safety, as a symbolic take. Just you, other police have guns. That didn’t happen. We were told it was the tool of trade. A killing and maiming device. Minority organizations were not in Liz’s proposal. We have to think about these biases whether or not you want to admit them. We’ve seen “let’s do some training!” and we’re still here. Let’s go beyond that. Police maim and kill. That won’t take some training. We need to do better next year. Training won’t cut it. We’ll consistently see a problem with violence as long as police are trained with violence. I yield my time.

    HB – we’ll pause our proposal here…

    Wessel – thanks. That was great. I’m starting to fade.

    Quipp – I want to really thank everyone for both documents. The goal wasn’t to fight over two proposals, there is something to be gained by looking at both. I support all of the aims of the collective proposal – open meetings, etc. Every one of those things I support. Much of what Liz wrote I also support. I don’t want to narrow it too much, but it can’t be about everything. I’d like at the end that everyone has a clear idea of how the police work, informed by evidence. I’d like to see body camera footage.

    Brandie – I support Liz’s work and I think this needs to be BIPOC led, and the two proposals can come together under the leadership of people of color. White people need to step aside and let this be led by people of color. It has a lot of signatures and is a good proposal. Nothing presented is unreasonable. It is time and makes sense.

    Ian – my new question – are we – what are we doing tonight? Choosing one of these? I want to read through them. They aren’t contradictory…or conflict – the selectboard said we’d make some movement and we’re looking at two proposals, so this is a great start. Liz has structural issues I like, like subcommittees, and they aren’t in the community proposal… maybe we merge the best part of each that has more community input into it. That’s kida where I’m at and wonder if that’s where the board is?

    Liz – I welcome the collective commentary and I would be happy to merge the two items and I think there are a couple of items that need to be discussed – for example, it seems rational to have childcare, I’m not sure how it works on a virtual meeting, and we’ll need to know who needs it. We need to discuss whether paid facilitators or stipends for people of impacted communities – how would that work? But everything else seems like it could Abe a part of what goes forward. All groups are welcome. This is a Brattleboro process. We’ll set it in motion, and you come back to us for budget decisions.

    Wessel – Thanks for both presentations. I was impressed by the community proposal. I also agree that Liz’s is more structurally and the collective is more intentional. I don’t see a lot of conflict, but it needs to be melded together. A huge thing – one is philosophical and one is process. If it is a town committee it has to be public , without anonymous members.

    Liz -feedback can be brought but it needs to follow open meeting law. This collective group can have voices heard somehow.

    Wessel – maybe collect them privately but bring the data out some way. Child care at meetings. My main idea is to provide it for in person meetings. Child care comes at a cost. Town doesn’t want to be in the child care business. I’d like fair process to see if there is a need. Paying participants – I understand it -our entire structure of the way the town work is on volunteerism. No one is paid. It relies on people stepping up and volunteering, making that space in their life. I’m a little scared of the idea of entering into a situation of an open process being a payment process. It could be my lack of vision but don’t see how that will work. And, that’s it…

  • More

    Daniel – Let’s open to public comment.

    Shea – Connecting from Library for Internet access. One of the co-authors of proposal. Signed onto by major non-profits. Couple of differences to point out – SB finds it hard to value this work with money — I can’t accept that. The proposal that community submitted is true community project. Not a truly open process. Can’t do it the way we’ve always done it, which supports white supremacy and not community safety. Don’t want you to just mush our proposals together. Think you need an outside lens to be able to go deep. I don’t want to be erased. We should not be erasing people’s voices from the conversation with such vague language.

    Wendy – I was not a signer of the community proposal because I didn’t know about it, probably because I don’t have social media. Tim, you asked if there was criticism, here’s some. People at this meeting have said they want child care — how did you not hear that?

    Tim – Need to know what the end product would look like.

    Wendy – People are saying there’s a need for this. Tim, you hold a lot of power, and you have a hard time speaking from your own experience, and not admitting it, wish you would step back and listen.

    • Correction

      Uh oh, did I misspeak? I meant to say, “You have a hard time NOT speaking from your own experience.” Not sure if that’s a typo or if I forgot a word. Thanks!

  • More

    90 people…

    HB – In terms of questions of the process within the proposal – that’s the community and facilitators to determine together. As for not being paid, we heard that we are doing things we don’t always do during COVID – we need to reevaluate how our society functions. We want more leadership from people of color, but man need money to participate. A stipend recognizes experience, and paid positions are for a professional role. WE’ve done it – collaborative neighbors provided stipend for those sharing their experiences. I don’t see ethical problems with it. Bennington just decided to pay facilitators $500 stipends which is getting pushback… Brattleboro could pay people adequately for this important work.

    Wessel – It’s 10:18 and we have a lot of business… should we adjust logistics of the agenda – can we go past 11?

    Liz – I was thinking that if the board moved to call for a facilitators, then at the next meeting we could discuss who they are and if they should be paid in some fashion and further discuss the process or leave it to the facilitators and committee to create the process. Let’s make progress toward the next meeting.

    Daniel – when we agreed to have a town-wide process we put out an RFP and the proposal we chose was well vetted by town staff and this board and the work done for training was really good. We should value this similarly. Recently the state legislature talked of how little they are paid. The amount of work they do for so little money is not helpful for democracy – it present people from participating. We can be different here and support paid facilitation and stipends.

    Brandie – we do this for $3-5000 a year. State legislators make $14 or less. It has kept doors closed. It stops democracy from being participated in. I can’t run for state because I have kids. People can’t do this for nothing.

    Ian – I really agree there.

    Tim – a question about timing. Can we skip some agenda items? Help me out. How long can we go?

    Elwell – the next item needs to be done tonight due to the timing of the project. A deadline to respond to item G. Won’t require a lot of discussion. RT 9 review. And Putney Rd bike path would be good to do tonight. This three would be essential, but others could wait.

    Tim – and we should do appointments.

    Daniel – yes – committees!

    Translators say they can stay til 11, based on money.

    Tim – I have names…. what do we do about the time. Go for another 20 minutes. Maybe we are in agreement that we need to choose facilitators?

    Liz – maybe when they apply they propose a fee structure… the public can decide it. And we can decide and we can go forward.

    Tim – back to the public…

    Alex Fischer – thanks and gratitude to those sharing wisdom to all white faces up here. Many things that haven’t been said yet. There is an off power balance. I appreciate you Liz, and glad to see that you have a proposal, but you are also unmuted and can speak more than anyone else… to not give equal weight to the collective proposal is already weighting the game and the discussion. Liz could recuse herself of comment or listen more. We’re talking about resources.. paying facilitators and child-care. This is huge thing we are talking on as a town. This is not a light matter. Centuries in the making to take on the role of policing in the communities. If we’re not willing to pay, why are we here? We will potentially restructure how we engage as community members and it doesn’t happen or free. Town wants to move the needle on this. This isn’t a one year issue. People have been organizing for decades, and we are behind and need to catch up, and that will cost money.

    Tim – everyone is heard on the money issue, but we need to get facilitators…

    Emily Megas Russell – thanks to everyone working on this proposal…I want to speak… I’m a quality consultant for agencies in Brattleboro and am paid well. $50 an hr. That’s what we’re talking about here. We need a paid comprehensive review here.. a quality review process. The selectboard representing our town government and police being town employees without any quality review… this work needs to be done and paid well. A scope of budget needs to be presented before anyone applies. You can allocate resources… perhaps from the police budget. And independent quality review – best practice.

    Robin Morgan – I want to say the issues brought up in the collective proposal is not just about what the police do wrong – it is how can we make a community that is safe and supportive. Police are a part of it, but there is more. To talk as if the items for how to make it accessible – those are the easy things. We might not need childcare in person for a while, but we can say we’ll provide it – it says this is important. Just paying someone to watch kids is small amount of money. Provide childcare. paying facilitators? Even a well paid amount is a small drop in the bucket of the Brattleboro budget. You have discretion to find and spend this money.

    Brandie – when my kids were very young, we went to St Michaels. They wanted young families to attend, they offered childcare. Every single Sunday.

    Zoe Cunningham-Cook – I like Amber and Shela’s proposal. At the meeting to defund the police you asked for people to be more involved. This is people participating in town government. They wrote a proposal. If you want people involved, then you should listen to these proposals being set out.

    Audrey – I’d like to say this meeting is on colonized land, for centuries. It’s stolen. As governing officials, you are colonizers of this land. This conversation is about racism. The power .. feels awful. We need to listen to Black and Indigenous people. Defunding the police is – they kill 3 people a day. Extrajudicial killings, torture, police brutality… it is a warning sign of genocide. This is the intention of a lot of police killings. There is a reason there are eyes on you. People are being murdered. Being desensitized isn’t…

    Wessel – can you wrap it up?

    Tara O’Brien – coordinator at Root Social Justice Center…the people who spoke before me – I want to stress what HB said – this was put forth by a number of organizations who have been doing this work for years. It is a matter of trust in the police. Police don’t evoke trust in many communities. The power and balance of Liz speaking to her proposal – she’s heard from people supporting our proposal. Liz should show some cultural humility and withdraw her proposal. The focus of our proposal is a process for discussion. Many people have different view on policing. Tim. also, at the last meeting, you asked what materially changed in Brattleboro – as a white man, when was the last time you saw a white person murdered in the community repeatedly? What that does to the body to see that is inconceivable. This is an imminent issue, to deal with faster than we are tonight. Liz, show some cultural humility and withdraw the proposal.

    Wessel – awe have a few items to take care of… so we’ll move on now?

    Daniel – the interpreters said 11:30? Yes.

    Wessel – ok

    Ain Thompson – I respect what Tara said. If you want to just merge these two, there are serious differences between them. It seems like you can put them together, but the facilitation question and the scope and decision making power to decide on. We need to look at those kind of things. The other proposal is centered on the police… which doesn’t create equity. The collaborative proposal comes from people who have worked on this for years. Even if you don’t want to listen to people who say they feel unsafe, let this go and show how safe things can be here. It is late. Think more before merging these two.

    Anna Mullany – as someone who worked in social services for over 7 years in Brattleboro, I have done interviews with Indigo Radio about homelessness and police… there are poor white people in this town, too. Not the same as people of color, but don’t forget them.

    Abby Mnookin – I want to speak to how the budget process seems pretty inaccessible and at other points throughout the year I’ve been told that I had to attend a previous meeting, and this is the time when hundreds of people have come together to engage in a process – that traditionally is inaccessible, and this proposal speaks to that. Honor it and approve it with that in mind. If there was any change, it should go to the collaborative for community approval. We spent a good amount of time on it, so community input would be needed if you merge them.

    Joshua Wyman – thanks for the community proposal – it is working toward systematic change, not just workshops and we move along. This is new ways of our community engaging and working together. You can help the community work this into a systematic way.

    Elwell – if this helps – you need to decide next steps. WEW’ve had multiple meetings of this topic that have drawn a lot of public participation. In the regular selectboard schedule. The next step will be robust in complexity. Staff could help you with a special meeting just on this topic. It isn’t reasonable to do the next step with this and regular business and expect to be done before 112.. a meeting next week, or in 3 weeks… have a special meeting to discuss this again.

    Wessel – We need to get on top of regular business, then schedule readdressing the police review process on the 28th?

    Daniel – the stuff we don’t get to tonight we could do a special meeting next week to get done? I’m concerned items on the agenda will get left behind… if we come back next week we could have a short meeting to do the simple things… this meeting has been 6 hours long.

    Ian – a special meeting for this next week, then two weeks for a normal meeting, then a special meeting… 3 weeks from now? If it is timing, we should discuss this next week.

    Daniel – could we ask people to weigh in on the chat?

    Brandie – can we just ratify some things on the agenda?

    Elwell – yes, but these are short items when we get to them. Better for the board…

    Tim – where did we land?

    Liz – I think people might need the two weeks to think about what was said tonight. I know I do. Maybe three weeks.

    Tim – next week more mundane business? We haven’t agreed on soliciting for facilitators or discussing the scope further.

    Daniel – some consensus to pay facilitators…

    Tim – but not how much… that’s why I need some time.

    Elwell – next week have a short special meeting to do agenda items, then in two weeks do a police review… and maybe we can skip the final July special meeting and wait for august. Please do the essentials tonight.

    Tim – next week there will be special meeting to finish tonight’s agenda on the 14th, then on July 21 to continue tonight’s discussion of police review process and possibly other business, then decide if we need to meet on the 28th.

    Elwell – not other items for the police review…

    Daniel – so people who have worked on this should continue to collaborate. Could we invite them to bring more work forward and present more to us.

    Ian – so we’ll discuss this again in two weeks.

    Wessel – if there refinements, more power to them. So that’s the plan. Let’s move on

  • Brattleboro Housing Partnerships’ Red Clover Commons 2 Project

    Elwell – briefly – a project that Town has previously supported. A longstanding partnership. We’ve worked together over the last 7 years or more after Irene flooding to relocate Melrose housing. Tremendous progress. There are still some occupied units at Melrose, and Red Clover Commons Project pt 2 will start in the next week. The bidding came in higher than expected, and additional $100k is needed. There is a large amount from other sources to fund this. $100k needed to move forward. A $100k loan would be for a term of 15 years at 0% interest.

    Liz – very important they get out of the floodway

    Ian – I’m going to vote for this, but this is the second housing related thing that the town has been been put on the spot to close up the funding – both legitimate – but not a good precedent it sets. Don’t want to be pressured at the last minute.

    Chris Hart – Ian – it is typical in construction and big development to get to the end and have a gap between what you’ve gathered and what the contracts are for. We went to everybody and asked for more money. It’s common and unpleasant.

    Ian – thanks. That’s what I wanted to hear. Really helpful. We should vote for this.


  • Putney Road Bike/Ped Safety Project

    Elwell – let me execute a maintenance equipment for equipment we asked VTrans to install – bike path and pedestrian crosswalk at Town Crier Drive. There will be a flashing beacon. We’d maintain it and the landing points. Further north, a crosswalk at Colonial to Hanford and dedicate a cross signal – all traffic stops for pedestrians. They want us to maintain the concrete landing spots. Work to be done before winter.


  • VTrans’ Wilmington/Brattleboro Route 9 Rebuild – Official Town Comments on Draft Plans

    Elwell – this isn’t in as good a shape. A different team of Vtrans people. They are considering some of our suggestions. We asked for bike lanes (but not painted with green paint – we want green paint – but better than nothing). What is missing is crosswalks. We have low income people concentrated in this area who do a lot fo walking, with no way to safely do it. We want to ask for crosswalks and ask for moderation of their plans. They have reached back out to us for comments on the proposed design.. yeah, we need crosswalks. And better bike lanes. Let me send the letter.

    approved! (38 people in the meeting at 11:24pm.)

  • And finally

    Wessel – we want to do appointments. I propose we do the contested committees – CPCC and Tree board – use the process of taking nominations, and then we vote on each name.

    Quipp – Karen Tyler for CPCC nomination.

    Wessel – Tim Berg

    Brandie – Terry Carter!

    Wessel – I’ll go alphabetically…. Karen Tyler gets it. Nominations for Tree…

    Brandie – Robert Clement

    Daniel – Sharon B.

    Wessel – Gail White

    Liz – Denise Glover…

    Wessel – Sharon, Denise and Robert appointed.

    Nothing else is contested.. all approved.

    They mumble and joke and can’t finish… ugh….

    Ryan hops on to discuss Weigher of Coal….

    adjourn at 11:35 with 29 people left…

  • Extraordinary times

    I feel for everyone with a stake in the game. This includes all Brattleboro residents. It’s not easy to navigate the uncharted territory we find ourselves in. The select board wants and needs to get things done and I appreciate the work they do. On the other hand, I’m stunned that the budget went through with no input from town meeting reps. At least one board member was equally surprised to hear this, probably for the first time. Yes, these are extraordinary times, but we can’t forfeit democracy for the sake of expediency.

    • Pretty clear

      I was surprised last time when I heard that in the interest of expediency, the board was going to override RTM and approve the budget themselves. There was no sense that this would be conditional on ratification later by RTM. It was a done deal. What I heard was that the board promised to examine the police budget for NEXT year. I was really surprised this week that several if not most board members didn’t get that.

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