The Brattleboro Selectboard approved of a few items for their FY22 budget recommendations, raising the amount for paving and agreeing to the increases for BCTV and Human Services. They also continued their discussion of the community safety report, and will continue to continue that discussion next week and in the future.
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Chair Tim Wessel – I should say barely anything or might go on and on. Like so many of you, I have been glued to the TV and other media watching what is a slow painful train wreck goin on in the nation’s capital. I concentrate on local concerns to feel better. Think locally. Think globally and act locally. There are parallels to our national concerns.
Town Manager Peter Elwell – we’ve had a lot of questions about utility vehicles downtown and around town . That is Consolidated Communications installing fiber optic cables. Fiber to the Premises project to lay 71 miles of fiber optic in Brattleboro to improve 10k locations in the area. Some in Vernon and Guilford and Dummerston. It’s underway.
Liz McLoughlin – Donald Trump is a menace and should be removed from office, and other lawmakers should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Brandie Starr – before we dive in, I want to remind us that tonight’s agenda is filled with passionate items, and when we have questions I hope we remember there are deeply emotionally invested people. Be kind and considerate tonight.
Ian Goodnow – time to talk about elections. Town Meeting Day is Tues March 2. No in-person early voting. Visit your my voter page to update your address and info and get a ballot mailed to you. Or contact Town Clerk. Ballots mailed in mid- Feb. You can mail it back or drop in in the box at the Municipal Center. If you want to vote in person at American Legion, polls open 7am to 7 pm. The consent of candidacy forms for officers are available. Call or email to request the form. No petitions required. Just submit the form by Jan 25.
Daniel Quipp – I concur with all that has been said before by fellow board members.
Ian – share this info with people and pass it along. Make sure people know how to safely vote this election.
Elwell – Ian asked earlier about the link on the website. We got it up there today. Available in the News section of the homepage. Can go there now.
Tim – no longer an excuse to go get signatures. I’m glad I’m not involved this year. There may be some competition. Maybe some will throw their hat into the ring.
FY22 Budget - 4 Items
FY22 Proposed Budget –
(i) Scope of Annual Street Paving Program
Dan Tyler, DPW – Last time we looked at the capital paving budget we compared spent vs. the ask, and what paving could be accomplished and timing. 25-28 years, and you asked for an 18 year budget. $516k to resurface roads every 18 years. The last few years we got some grant funding – 42k, 61k… they don’t come every year and are often for Class 2 roads. About $500k would be necessary to get to 15-20 year range for resurfacing roads.
Elwell – we were looking at $350k and $400k levels. Just to be clear, what is in the budget now is $350k.
Daniel Quipp – the reason I asked is because you identified an optimal time and our schedule was not in that timeframe, to the detriment of the road users of Brattleboro, so I was curious to know what it would take to get to mostly good roads. I know it is a chunk of money, and it is what a municipality does. When we talked last, there were positive feelings toward investing more in this kind of work. Is it a palatable figure. I work on agency spreadsheet with everything over 100k, and how much of your taxes go to each item. Adding $150k in this line, what kind of impact would it have?
Tim – I thought we were discussing $350-400k
Daniel – and Dan said $500k would be the optimal…
Elwell – what you had been looking at was $350k, and what would $400k look like. $500k would get you to optimal. That would be 1.3 pennies on the tax rate, about per $100k, about $13 of additional taxes to fund the paving.
Liz – and how much are taxes already going up?
Elwell – between 2.5 and 3%…
Liz – so it would be another third of the budget increase.
Elwell – 2.7 cents currently is the rate.
Daniel – when people talk to us they talk to us about roads, and Dan says our current schedule isn’t enough. We ask roads to last longer than they really can.
Brandie – Thanks for the research. It brings intention… either intentionally getting on that schedule or not.
Liz – I have a question for Peter. Could it be that you recognize the board’s intention to increase the timeframe and tell us what years would be good? Oh, this is a great year to add more money for paving?
Elwell – um… staff respects that the decision you make is a pure policy decision. There is a minimum we have to do, and we can do better than that. I’m trying to figure out how to phrase this gracefully…. my straight answer. This year is the lowest increase in recent times.We’ve been around 3.5 cents and higher. A 2.7 year is a year you might seize an opportunity.
Liz – then it would become a 4 year instead of a 2.7 year.
Ian – What’s the increase over the last few years?
Elwell – we have brought forward in recent years has been around 3 or 4 cents. The last couple of years, different issues have arisen and we’ve had an unusual era. RTM has increase the budget. Many years the reverse happens, or steady as we go. So, about 3-4 cent proposed and 4-5 cent actual in recent years. Sidewalk plow cost more one year.
Daniel – I’m looking at Capital project plan for next 5 years – 350, 370, 370, then 400k… knowing what we know about the optimal investment. We’re putting off maintenance, so we’re behind already and we could choose to make a bit of a leap this year and we’d be closer to being on a good schedule. I want to give the DPW the best shot at maintaining roads at the standard they’d like to see them at.
Brandie – I’m inclined to agree, and when you (Tim) and I came on the board we heard about how we were playing catch-up because previous boards hadn’t deal with it. I don’t want to kick it down the road to another board.
Ian – So, I guess my understanding during my first budget season has been a lot of these capital investments having these tiered plans for longevity and we’re thinking toward the future. Is there a way we can implement this in a more long view than a bunch right now. It seems like we have the capacity, and maybe this question is for Peter…
Elwell – what you’ve spoken to about long term planning is spot on and we’ve made great strides, and staff has been committed to it and boards have supported it and RTM has supported it, such as the long term equipment replacement plans. We already see the dividends operationally and financially. It takes time and commitment. The question right now is a micro piece. The macro piece about committing enough money to capital in good enough condition and we spend less on repairs is the macro principle involved. That’s a harder nut to crack with our infrastructure than vehicles. We’ve also made some progress on infrastructure, but we say it every year, we need to go further. We need to spend about half a million more each year. We use the available fund balance to stretch our dollars. Tonight, the micro question is this roads issue now, knowing what you know about the $350k-$500k range. We didn’t know what the optimal cost would be. Whether you go there, or leave it at $350k, or somewhere in-between is a policy question for FY22.
Tim – I appreciate this push and effort because it gets us thinking about the balance between macro and micro – long term vs the occasional leap. I’m not on board for a $150k leap. The 2.7 cents increase I was looking at as a nice break for the taxpaying public, and not just try to meet prior years. We can honor the spirit of this – you’d have my vote for a $50k increase but not $150k.
Daniel – ok, there we go. Looking at the capital projects plan, we don’t get there in the next 5 years. If we don’t jump now, then we’ll never get there. I’d make a motion for $400k for whatever the line is called – street paving.
Fhar Miess – there is a certain mobility justice aspect. It can be costly to drive on these roads, and cyclists and pedestrians… it can be dangerous to have dangerous and rotten roads. As we think about community safety, it is worthwhile to think of this, and I applaud you for getting roads in better shape.
paving budget to $400k? approved!
FY22 Budget - Item 2
(ii) Amount of Annual Selectboard Stipend
Tim – to specify an amount of annual selectboard stipend. I don’t want to speak to this. Going forward, the article always says what shall the board be paid….
Liz – maybe Peter would like to discuss it…
Tim – I doubt it.
Elwell – it gets discussed every year, primarily as a way to open serving on the selectboard to more people, for equity and getting as many people to be able to serve. annually. The decision is always to leave it as the same as it has been for the last decade or so. That’s what is in the budget agin this year. We got one letter from several members of community asking you I’ve this consideration here. The finance committee intends to look at this. The question before you is whether you choose to address it or forward the funding to maintain current level.
Daniel – I think what they want us to do is to create space for discussing it.. at RTM, people felt corralled motion-wise, and people didn’t feel they had a fair crack at it. I wouldn’t propose sending a different figure, but curious about other pieces – the community safety review committee we had a stipend up to an amount with an option being zero, that could be an option for us. Maybe RTM votes on it? Whether that changes the equity piece of it. If Tim doesn’t want his stipend, that leaves $5k, could it be given to someone who needs more for childcare or to get by on? It wouldn’t change the overall amount, but would redistribute wealth. I would take the money. It’s a lot of work, it’s paid for some small things in my life. The stipend is only one part of increasing access to becoming a selectboard member. There’s time, the timing of meetings, who feels they can have access to power, who can put their name on a ballot and get something out of it? It leads to a certain type of person.
Liz – So, getting back to who feels comfortable running for office, generally people who feel comfortable have been on other boards where they can understand town government and participate, and the other aspect is there are so many town committees, and it is a volunteer activity. The more you raise the stipend, the more you diverge from volunteerism. It’s for RTM to decide.
Brandie – I agree that I’m not included to send forth an arbitrary number, but I agree there is a whole package to be looked at. Since I’ve been on the board the hours of the meetings and topics and complexity has been ramping up. There has been a workload change, and that warrants another conversation. When things change it is fair to see if other things need to change with it.
Ian – I second what Peter said, that it sounds like the finance committee is taking a look at this, and they’ve done past work on this and it is good. It needs to be updated, but past work shows it could be useful for an informed RTM discussion.
Kurt Daims – I think Peter has the history wrong. I’m the rep that consistently proposes the increase to a part-time level and it has gone up a few times. Never by a huge amount. Also, it might be giving the wrong impression for the board to discuss it now, since it is a duty of RTM to set the levels. Important not to mess up that idea. The job has become a bigger and bigger job, and let’s make sure RTM addresses this as its sole purview.
Alex Fischer – just wanted to comment on this, trying to be brief since it will be a long night. I love what Daniel says about trying something new, and maybe a different structure of pay like the community safety committee. More people with more experience can participate. Doesn’t sound like anything will be proposed tonight. For anything to change at RTM is unlikely. A new number from the board might be easier to work with at RTM.
Lana – I want to speak to this issue as well.. Tim and Liz – it reminds me about last week and meeting people decide which charity to give to.. that’s inherently privileged. I work in a non profit and am a single mom – and you want me to volunteer my time? How? Stop creating barriers. Time to volunteer is a privilege.
Sonia – glad yo decided to talk about this, and you are passing it off to RTM, but it is hard to have a conversation there. If you came up with a number and structure it could be debated for real. It’s hard for you to talk about your finances, an amounts people get paid, and there is no one else to do this. There is a responsibility for you to do something for this town. Leave it to RTM – you should present something for us to discuss. I’m disappointed you are passing it off and abdicating duty. You could have a legacy of who has access to positions of power. Things have changed. 2021 seems as chaotic as 2020 if not nuttier and our town is changing in a rapid way. This is a serious barrier to accessibility. people can’t volunteer that many hours. Not doing anything makes as large a statement as making a Prosposal for RTM.
Tim – keep comments to under 3 minutes…
Daniel – there are challenges to this – we can send a line item number. It’s part of the story, but I’d like to invite RTM to explore alternative structures. maybe a large pot of money and we figure out who needs it?
Elwell – that’s a question for the lawyer…we’ll be talking with him tomorrow. Next week you’ll have the entire warning before you with everything you decide tonight, then the final warning on the 26th.
Brandie – so we can do some thinking? If we decide we want to think about this more, waiting til next week is fine?
Elwell – sure. If possible you’ll make final decisions on the warning and budget next week.
Millicent Cooley – I’ve been hearing the question of inclusion emphasizing people not on the board more opportunity, but opening up to accessible for more people in town is an issue – more talent! There isa package involved. Most people on the board have experience on committees or at RTM before they get there. If the committees were more diverse and RTM was more diverse, and was more competitive, then we’d find ourselves with a more diverse selectboard in a number of years. I can image ways to attract people to that. I’ve been here 2 years. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to get on committees, but I did. A person coming to town might not know how to get involved – I’ve gotten a lot out of it. I don’t see a lot of articles or profiles of people on these committees showing it is enriching, unless you know someone. So, that’s one avenue for making future boards more diverse – at the RTM and committee levels.
Kurt Daims – it is legally RTM’s duty – it is in the Charter.
Daniel – it reminded me about the website and Ians idea of information and engagement, and that sort of engagement piece. I know how I came to be on the board. You come here and know things happen, and this is one arena. Like many people, I arrived in that way, but there is always more that can be done. I hope we can include information and engagement in the website discussion.
Elwell – one fact to consider – 2012 was the last time – it has been 9 years since an increase. So, the question of inflation…
Tim – sounds like, uh… this will come back next week.
FY22 Budget - Item 3
(iii) Amount of Annual Funding for BCTV
Elwell – A straightforward request – changes in cable rules reduced funding for BCTV, so two or three years ago municipalities were asked to provide funding. Brattleboro’s portion of that was reduced based on us giving very low rent for their facilities. $5k was Brattleboro’s number. It’s reminded the same, but due to increases in operating costs, they’ve requested Brattleboro to go to $7k. It would have next to zero impact on taxes in the town budget.
Tim – the letter is straightforward. Rates set on number of residents. They are essentially asking to subsidize e the coverage of meetings. Anyone who watches BCTV is an important aspect of accessibility and democracy.
Liz – I just can’t say enough about how great the work of BCTV is. It’s a no brainer. Let’s have a vote.
$7k to a local media outlet approved!
FY22 Budget - Item 4
Daniel – sorry BCTV for the long meetings!
(iv) Amount of Annual Funding for Human Services
Ian – I asked for more time on this and I want to thank the board for granting that time. We are dealing with many important issues and it is good that we are generous when people need more time. I’ll save time, since we discussed this at length, I think we should vote in favor of $276,400 for Human Services budget. It’s a RTM committee that did due diligence and while I hear what some board members said, the venue for that discussion is RTM.
Tim – I agree that it is an RTM decision. I think we should put forward the same amount as last year so I’ll vote no, but it won’t stop it. I’ll bring up my issues at RTM.
Daniel – speaking to what you were alluding to, RTM’s… anyway.. I want to talk about having on the draft warning an article that seeks a decision about a percentage target for the human services budget.
Tim – we suggest a percentage target?
Daniel – what percentage should go toward human services? We send the committee’s recommendation then ask this question
Ian – that could provide much more clarity.
Daniel – should it be 2%, and then they could decide at the RTM.
Elwell – if you want to put this question at RTM, we’d word it in a way..what shall the Town allocate, so it flows out of the discussion, and it would be meant to be binding as part of the warned meeting.
Tim – should this be two actions?
Elwell – yes – one for the budgets and one for the warning…
$276,400 for Human Services committee recommendations – approved 4-1 (Tim votes no)!
Tim – we’re far enough from a break that we should dive in but take a break soon..
Continued Consideration of Community Safety Team’s Report & Recommendations
Tim – last week we decided tonight we would have questions from board members to facilitators, and committee members, so invite Shea and Emily to join us, and invite committee members to raise hands if they want to be included, but committee members will have priority for the first hour or so.
Emily – She is here on the phone, not in a box.
Tim – we’ll bring Lana in. Shea can hear us and speak. Ok, so, continued discussion and the opportunity for board members to ask questions about the report. I’ll open it up…
Daniel – I want to float this – I’d rather make a statement about the report. I feel like I want to tell the community how I think and feel about this report. I don’t have clarifying questions at this point.
Tim – right, ok.
Daniel – always choose built-in output.
Liz – I agree and I have a statement but do have one question… it s a scientific question, perhaps.
Daniel – So, my document… I want to thank everyone who was involved from committee embers and facilitators, people who cared experiences during listening sessions, and those who shared experiences of harm. I hope as we do our work on this we can keep those voices in our mind. Thanks to town staff and police leadership, and fellow board embers for taking this on. I want to start by acknowledging the harm experienced by people in Brattleboro who shared stories. On page 42, the authors rely some threats to safety that Black people experience – the majority name systemic racism and white supremacy, policing, racism in selectboard, classism, racist violence and injustice , unwillingness of town to end racist injustice, inability to call for help… youth talked of being harassed in downtown businesses, being followed. Parents talked of teaching kids to be extra careful. I encourage everyone to read this report. One person said there is a big line between the problems a white person has and a Black person has. You have no idea about living with racism affecting all aspects of life. I want the community to know I support the recommendations broadly, and think we should act on these. In particular – decoupling police from welfare checks and mental health, race and traffic stops, disbanding the CPCC, investing in new programs, new mental health support systems, and new models for deescalation and distress training. Thanks.
Liz – I have a statement. Never mind my question. I’ll wait.
Lana – Daniel – thank yo so much. I can’t tell you how emotional it feels to get the validation. If the capital attack had been BLM… when I heard scientific question, that’s a dog whistle word for Black people. That’s how it feels and sounds when we are talking of systemic racism. I appreciate you dropped the question. Have to tell you how it feels.
Ian – I’ll be briefer. Thanks, Daniel – it was excellent. I’l thank the community at large, the facilitators, the community at large, all the people we didn’t pay to share stories.. where I fall on this is the acknowledgment of the harm and how critical that it for centrally understanding what we do next. You look at this and see that people in town experienced harm, then the status quo is not sufficient and we need to make changes. They have identified a lot of areas for us to move forward and take action. We need to give clear direction to town staff about the policy of Brattleboro – we need clear decisions. Maybe not solutions, but a clear decision to move forward. Let’s be clear about what we are hear to do and this is a great step for Brattleboro.
Brandie – I don’t think my point of view comes as a surprise. I’d encourage people to read this report. Break it out in sections. There are tables with data, there are shared experience. There are comments on all pages, with differing points of view. You see a back and forth and a complete contrast. The board should focus on public safety and if it means taking bolder steps, then so be it. Why do we sit in 6 hour meetings for years? To do something! I really ask to see perfectionism as an evil voice inside us and take a bold step, any bold step.
Tim – I take the unbold step to take a look at the time, to take a break for ASL interpreters. Let’s take a break until 8:15, and we’ll be back.
Community Safety Review Continued
Liz – Ok. I have some things to say. First, we all need to be open to change i=and in doing so let’s not “other” each other and work together. I acknowledge I’m a privileged white person, but I like others made the decision to do this work. This report is a launching point. Whatever we do won’t be enough but we should try anyway. This is a tough discussion to have and I appreciate the work. Police and mental health deal with most vulnerable, but we need to review to polices. Actions need to be less influenced by racial bias and less likely to cause harm. Reading tis report, that finds the harm from so many groups, I’m reminded of Pandora’s box, after the horrors are unleashed what’s left is hope. We have that hope in these discussions in these forums. The best thing we can take is acknowledgment of the harm. There are 4 main areas. Police are open to change. We must support the police with increased training, They are capable of change. The most up to date methods need to be investigated. We should hear the department’s thoughts and expert thoughts on training. Descalation and bias training are needed. With regard to traffic tops, the UVM study wanted to be helpful to Brattleboro Police. This is holding the mirror up to itself. We should talk to these professors. We could hire a statistician for police data. The police has increased traffic stops apparently on the Traffic Safety Committee. Use of Force data needs intensive analysis. Senator White has given me data. Project CARE process was enacted to collaborate with social services agencies and we can look at its effectiveness. Town pays for rides. This kind of collaboration we need more of. Prison systems – we can expand restorative justice and expand their programs. Increase accountability – we can revise and rebuild a new CPCC and let’s hear from experts. meeting people’s need and alternatives to policing – this is the thorniest and will take a lot of work. People will call the police if there is a threat until a safer alternative is found. Increase ride alongs with social workers on police shifts, so they can follow the police in after safety is assured, like Springfield MA program. So we have a lot of work ahead of us. I see this as an opportunity. We need a n intelligent, empathetic police force, respected by the community. Better trained and more diverse, adding women to the force. This are my initial comments.
Emily Megas-Russell – I want to name some of the specific ideas Liz named are in direct conflict with the findings. That’s a very different direction on many levels.
Shea W – We need to acknowledge the deep level Emily said. This project did assess what is happening now, and what these people want, which might be different than when we started. What Liz said isn’t reflected in what people asked for in the report. It gives me a moment of pause. It reflects… I don’t hear that you have heard from these people what they are asking for. If we consider this report. I didn’t hear comprehension of what they asked. White leadership needs to give us more leadership, I heard from people in the community. The system is not keeping us safe. People are going without support in dangerous situations because there is no support for them.
Tim – I’d like to remind everyone that we fell into a mode of making statements, and Liz ahas gotten three direct responses, and I’m feeling like that isn’t quite a fair thing to do to an individual terms. I’d like people listen to the board like you listen to your community members. I’ve had thoughts all along but we give everyone the same respect, so maybe I faild by allowing the comment.
Shea – it is unclear about the facilitation… some tension is appropriate, and collaboration is possible while there is tension.
Tim – a lot of what has been said, I’m in alignment with. To think that Brattleboro as a progressive place, with ideals that can rise above some of the evils that exist elsewhere. I’ve never thought that is true. racism is real and the harms are real, and they occur in Brattleboro. I’ve made a commitment to call that out and it often makes me uncomfortable. I can feel it as we talk about these issues, but it is also tru that we are representatives of a democracy and have to make sure everybody’s voice is heard. If I’m a spokesperson for more conservative thoughts, that’s ok. I can speak conservative, and those voices are our neighbors. I haven’t written this down. I caution everyone to look at the person you see in front of you and make assumptions about their perspective. I have some very real, on the ground perspectives about race in this country and the evils of race. This isn’t the place to go into that now. Lana mentioned Washington and the unbalanced responses we were seeing with police and national guard and agencies – but the response of Trump rallies with protest happening earlier – the contrast – it leaped to mind that even that is something we need to examine carefully, not that there is a justification for it, but the capital policeman that protected the legislators and did nice, brave work, and people have seen it. That’s an example of a policeman protecting and serving as we expect them all to do. It is a complex subject. There is broad support for our police department, and rightly so. We have an outgoing Chief that brought beneficial changes. However you feel about me, the police are doing the job we hand them as a community, and if we don’t like ti we have to tell them clearly. It will be a long process. I see a lot of convergence and agreement among board members here. There will be some disagreement. I do have some questions… about how the committee operated and the process of coming to recommendations, and the community is owed that. The more questions answered and more people onboard, the more successful it will be.
Daniel – A couple of potential paths forward. I tried to be upfront. I am broadly.. I want to validate what is in the report. I believe what is in it and it is meaningful. We can’t vote on each of the 40 actions, but three of us broadly support what’s in this report. I named some pressing issues to get to work on. I want to leave this meeting or next week with some clear direction to staff on what want. I’d love it to be 5-0 but I don’t need it to be. I’d like to move forward, even if it is slowly.
Laura Stamas – The first thing that comes to mind – the finding and recommendations are beneficial to all people in town. Putting these into place won’t decrease my safety as a white person. Important we listen to the voices and adopt these findings, but if we start making other recommendations different from these, we won’t be the ones that suffer. The thing about training – we want to freeze the training budget, not end it. Recognize the harm, incorporate the findings, then look at what training is needed. It’s something specific the board can do.
Tim – I hear your desire to move ahead in some way. I do have questions, and the questions I have don’t reflect on the committee or findings… they have to do with the recommendations. I’m going to insist on answering my questions, but maybe to move forward, maybe start with any FY22 budget items, beyond that we should start with areas of agreement, and we can get to some of those, and it would get some things happening. On a more practical basis, let’s get to settling the question of the taring budget by next meeting. That’s the only directly affecting item of the budget numbers.
Ian – Why don’t we hear the rest of the hands then we’ll do questions, then check in and make decisions for next week, depending on time…
Lana – thanks to all that have acknowledged their privilege. We need to be listening to the people who is most harmed. These changes won’t harm privileged people. Maybe people don’t understand that policing came from catching slaves. It is a structural system rooted in slavery. White supremacists come into the police system. I’d like to tear the entire thing down. The abolition of police will be disagreed upon, but we can’t afford to listen to those doing the work of oppressors. There isa quote from Audrey Lord about the importance of the anger – I create a bridge – you are someone worthy of talking to. If I ignore you, it says I don’t trust you. We don’t want to share these stories with you. I’ve been assaulted and didn’t go to the police. You won’t understand it. The police aren’t there for the rest of us. Read the entire report. Really, with an open mind. My godson, when he was 5, he was terrified of police. He was crying in his bed thinking police would come and hurst him. racism does work here. Acknowledging your privilege means listening. An expert? I’m an expert. I’ve lived this. And one more thing Taring doesn’t change hearts and minds. training is crap. You need to have relationships with people, and that information is in this report. Please read it.
Mark Tully – my thought and question is about the part that deals with schools. Brattleboro Town Gov’t doesn’t set school policy, we don’t have space to debate school policy in Brattleboro. A core part of this report… I’d like to find a way… turning this into a question. On page 20 it cites a letter that VT Legal Aid wrote. If there is a way to make some sort of actionable item out of those recommendations, so it could be a conversation, it would be great. I wonder if the report writers were imagining an official proclamation?
Tim – school boards set school policy, and some things in the report are not our jobs. This report could be shared with schools…
Emily – yes, this report was a listening project and we heard about so many experiences that were outside of town and police department, and our mission was community safety. Every year we choose the police as the way to address community safety. This report went beyond, and includes the experience of youth who experienced armed police in schools. While Town has narrow authority and are making budget decisions. The choice and decision about continuing with the status quo needs to be a community effort. It can go beyond a proclamation or collaboration. Community safety is outside of town/school silos. There will need to be labor and discussion about how to do some recommendations, but I hope it is a movement about why police are in schools and how to move away from it, not just a proclamation.
Kurt Daims – thanks and my organization will be at the service of the committee. Thanks to the committee and I hope it doesn’t cancel the committee and I want to thank them for approving my safe policing proposal from BCS. It is a proposal to disarming the police during routine patrols. Brattleboro has been a safe place for police. No armed attacks on police in VT for 50 years. It’s a simple way to make people feel safe in their home town. We have 6 officers in the UK ready to consult. Thanks again.
Gray Stroud – vice chair of CPCC – I want to summarize what I’m feeling. Remember Hate Has No Place Here, that was a big thing way back. That was a seed planted. This is basically compassion in organizations, offsprings of that seed, even after what we saw in the capital. We need to take a step back and do something and act on it. I see debate on MSNBC, but some issues need to be acted upon before debating. The longer you wait, the more the hate.
Tim – my printer just came on and is printing…
Kelsey Rice – I’ll keep this brief. happy to answer questions. First, it is interesting saying that the police have been there for me. They haven’t been there for em. I didn’t go into great detail, but made a shift throughout this process. Again, we need changes and I believe we will achieve real and sustainable changes if we come together, and the police cn be a part of that solutions. the more we come together and put more effort and intention, the more likely to weed out those drawn to the work for negative reasons. I recognize where it came from, but we are where we are today. Incarceration is still needed today. To change that we need to come together. The more white men inspired to join this movement the better. I do have a different perspective, but have shared harms I’ve experienced. I’ve triggered their defenses at Bratt PD many times. They are probably happy with me right now, but not always… that’s where Im at. To make me a focus of controversy, I’comfortable with being direct. So, if you have questions I’ll raise my little blue hand and respond.
Tim – A text from the family. I need to close the door.
Hannah Van Dusen – a researcher with Brattleboro Common Sense – board members have hit on that the status quo isn’t working. After last week’s meeting – will you vote tonight or next week on any of this? If not voting, I know it will go to RTM. We’d like to get started on pilot programs.. a better sense of you timeframe for considering the proposals.
Tim – yet to be determined.. but we’re working on it. We need to address things with direct effects on our budget. The other things won’t be accomplished by this board, but we’re going to pursue them quickly. I cam’t put timelines on this yet. I do have feelings on the safe policing proposal, but maybe not yet.
Adam Marchesseault – I live in Waterbury and a researcher at Brattleboro Commons Sense working on safe policing. I want to follow up on the role of a steady and incremental process of implementation. It is a five year timeline at best and something the board will get to when they get to, but given that ti is radical to see officers without firearms, we want to propose a pilot program and a steady and incremental approach. BCS has a program to accrue an hour a week without a body carried firearm. And more de-escalation training – solving problems without firearms. We believe the pilot program would give for lots of analysis – officer and community experience, and to allow foe a more democratic implementation process.
Robert Oeser – committee member – so, very briefly, I want to circle back to what Daniel started with – I believe 4 action items – decoupling welfare checks, doing traffic stop data look, end CPCC, and look at resources for voluntary and non coercive services. Looking at those four 4 I’d say that welfare checks and voluntary non coercive programs could be considered as one package together. It will be a lot ofwork. I’d add one – to look at the fair and impartial policing policy improvements and make note that those improvements were laid out to the sheriff’s committee recently. If they are on the same page with improvements, we’ll have some uniformity. I did submit a position paper. I was asking if the selectboard could use the bully pulpit…
Tim – we lost 30% of what you said. I’ll review… (reviews with Ian)
Daniel – where is Bob’s letter?
Tim – where the letters are… backup materials for the meeting?
Elwell – the letters are in backup materials for last week’s meeting. W chose not to post them on the committee page because they weren’t committee work but comments on it.
Tim – is Brandie being attacked by a balloon animal?
Franz Reichsman – My video doesn’t want to work. I wrote a letter to the board and to the facilitators. The context in which this report lives and also the idea there is a lot in there that is important and needs to be looked at carefully. We should slow down and give things their due attention. One thing where I do have lived experience. For 30 years I was a doctor in an emergency room in keene. Reading through the parts about mental health and how people are treated, it is troubling. It was troubling for 30 years. The context is there are larger responsibilities than determined by our town or state government. Everybody in the ER would like another way to handle mental health crisis patients. It’s tough to deal with. They have special needs and place demands on the system. W built a little min prison in keene – it was terrible. WE had to do it. Once some says they will hurt themselves or someone else, we have a legal responsibility to not let that happen. Things push us in other directions. No one wants to do a strip search, but sometimes people arrive with concealed weapons – so staff has a reposbibility, not desire, to ensure safety for others. WE need to take this report in context with other factors not explored extensively in the report. We need to look at these things carefully and thoroughly. I also don’t think someone who doesn’t want to abolish police want to continue slavery. There are things going on today that demand police protection, like I expect police to be ready to protect next week. We need to include the entire community in this process and hear what they have to say.
Ivan – thanks, I live in Brattleboro. I have my own experience with that mini prison in keene and I don’t think it helped any. It was a dark room and being ignored and didn’t involve any effort to prevent people from harming themselves. That no one died had nothing to do with the facility. That’s illustrative of a larger point. Sometimes people assume that because something has been built to accomplish something it accomplished something. The intention did fuckall- sorry for cursing. I’ll beat myself now.
Tim – next steps… we have a break, do we have questions.
Daniel – ask your questions.
Emily – some clarifications, though? 1. In our report and in this work, when we talk of lived experience, we talk of those who lived the experience of harm and intervention. I’ve also been a mental health provider, and that is not a lived experience. Lived experience is the folks that have received the interventions and use of force. One page of the report alone shows how much use of force is used. I’ve never had force used on me. Many people we spoke with have worked with systems that use force and we have to be careful and intentional that many people feel like they have to… they don’t want to, but they feel they have to. That feeling that we have to continues to endorse the idea that because people are inherently dangerous. We must reckon with this belief of white supremacy about “dangerous people”. The danger of the institutions are causing so much more harm than the danger of the individuals they are addressing. the systems are built and are hurting people, and you have to do it. You volunteered for this. That’s why I’m naming you. You asked to be named, and to address systems. It’s not a personal attack. the systems are causing more harm than any individual. That’s what we want to address.
Shea – these come from what people say and what people in the systems say are possible. there are alternatives that already exist. People who work in the institutions that criminalize people have a part in what the discussions and recommendations are. These recommendations are tailored to Brattleboro. This builds up the system for those who can’t rely on the existing system. If we use money to address public safety we should sue some for these items that will undoubtably cause less harm..
Robin Morgan – I just want to bring a reframe to this conversation. A reminder. This discussion is because there was a such a public outcry about policing in this town, and the selectboard requested a longer consideration, proposals, handpicked committee members, and done to your specifications. So now you have it and it is extremely extensive and thorough – you have the answers in front of you. It is all spelled out with timelines. The job for you is do we support this work? Dozens or hundreds of others out there, not speaking tonight, support going forward with the finding of this committee.
Maya – on the committee, and work at HCRS. I want to offer a framing to this discussion. I’m hearing two philosophies of safety in the community. Policing or social workers mirroring policing are the philosophy that prioritizes top down approaches based in white supremacy. Putting social workers with police, that’s an idea often put forward, and in some ways social workers can be kinder and gentler, but we control people we serve and harm them. I also want to highlight a few points – I heard that decisions affecting the fy22 budget could happen soonest, so yes, freeze the police training budget at current levels. The idea is to replace it with other types of community safety. It’s an easy way to start, with the budget. Also, Bob’s points about decoupling welfare checks from police – showing up with a gun to someone with a mental health crisis isn’t the best way. Exploration of creating noncroercive ways of helping people in crisis. That will change people’s lives.
Tim – ok – couple quick questions? me first?
Ian – Emily – a question about spillman data. This was an area you worked on. On page 124. looking at police codes used through a spillman command center, and we have offense codes once an event has happened. I am very in align with Daniel about how excited I am about decoupling police responding to mental health and welfare checks. From the work you did, what’s the nature of these codes?
Emily – I think I get it. The nature code is the code that dispatch uses to notify responding officers, does the call, then applies another Offense code. Both codes stay active. Welfare is 5th most common used code, and offense code. This is the code the officer codes. We assume this will be a bit more accurate coming after the response. Not a ton of difference between codes here. We didn’t make any recommendations about domestic violence code, a circumstance code. The concern was changing responses would be decreased response to domestic violence? There are questions about the suspicious activity code.
Tim – I invite cardigan to chime in if he hears anything he wants to reply to…
Daniel – to tack on to that topic. The welfare check code on pg 124. Can you speak to agency assist? Is that where mental health responses happen?
Emily – not just mental health agencies. BMH calls the police. They have their own security force. Schools and others use this code. The police are responding to what the community is calling about. You can see that. The suspicious activity code gets used more since 9-11 – see something say something leads to it. The animal problem. People call about animals. Agency assist means professionals calling for police response. That needs to be looked into. They call because there is no one else to call. There are alternatives.
Daniel – there is a lot to say. It is a big report. I appreciate all the work getting this and the collaboration. I’m thinking of agency assist – does overdose response end up there?
Emily – yes, or a drug related code.
Tim – that feeds into my question. Speaking to recommendations – not the listening or findings – to the facilitators. You were hired to facilitate the committee. There was a mention of 3 deliverables… one was – the biggest disappointment to me – the current community safety ecosystems map. It’s something I was excited about. It felt like we’d have a better idea of how things go down. What happens when someone is screaming on Main Street – I don’t know the protocols. I need to understand what are the challenges of creating that in the future? Comment? And some hope that we could use it in the future?
Emily – we had a lot of discussion of how it could look and the challenges to producing it were – when we got into the listening, and share that with you. That map became an impossible task to do justice to. The experiences people were having and what the systems intend to do – there is disparity there. We included a map in the report- of how people get their needs met, and the disparity there.
Shea – the most interesting challenge to me was how to communicate the intense perspectives shared by people in the community. By translating directly with less editorializing. One thing I was discovering from people inside support systems was that so many people were using the protection of this process to express severe concerns about their own organizations. Made a map very challenging. The formal relationships.. there is little formal relationships, and few MOU’s, so even when I looked for policy to find out who worked with who, there is a void of that information in the community. The lack of formal info coupled with tiered information in the community under the surface about what actually happens. Project Cares is a formal collaboration, but many experience it as harmful. That makes mapping hard. You’d have to do a policy review with every organizations – over 25 organizations. It was outside of our wildest ideas. We mapped the type of interventions that do exist between fields.
Emily – we had higher hopes.
Daniel – I appreciate all that. When we asked for proposals, none of the others spoke to any amount of detail that would have even gotten close to what we just got there. We learned it is hard to get that sort of map, and that’s useful to know. As we dig in more, there are a few more projects. Even if we want to decouple police from welfare checks – it is a substantial piece of work, and won’t happen overnight. What are the things we really need to see happen from this report soon. I have my seven.
Tim – at our second traditional break time. I do have more questions about recommendations. A 10 minute break? zFor ASL interpreters? Back at 10:15.
Thought they never mention me needing a break, I’m taking break until next week. : )