The Brattleboro Charter Revision Commission has been formed and work is getting underway to look at, poke at, discuss, debate and suggest revisions to the Brattleboro Charter.
Here are five revisions I think are worth considering:
1. Eliminate Weigher of Coal and Inspector of Lumber, Shingles, & Wood Positions
This is an easy one. These are obsolete positions. VLCT agrees. A coal weigher for a climate-minded, environmental town in 2023 is embarrassing. There are other state and federal laws governing the selling of wood. Only a Charter change can make it happen. Make it happen! (I asked for this last Charter Revision, too…)
2. Strengthen Representative’s Power
Brattleboro’s representative body is weak, by design. This would be a good time to increase the governing power of representatives. Representatives should create and present the budget each year, not the Selectboard. To accomplish this, RTM should appoint or elect a budget committee each year. The RTM Budget Committee, then, would have “budget season” and meetings with town departments.
This was an option that Brattleboro decided NOT to implement, by the way, when we originally adapted the representative town meeting system from other towns in Massachusetts. It should be reconsidered.
3. Strengthen Representation with Annual District Meetings
Currently, representatives govern without much input from those they represent. This was not the way RTM was originally intended. Districts were supposed to be stronger and more active than they currently are. The Charter should be updated to require regular meetings of representatives with those they represent. At the very least, this should be an annual district meeting.
4. Reverse the Decisions of the Previous Charter Revision Commission Regarding Write-In Votes
The last charter revision commission changed the way write-in votes were handled in town, from a “count them all” approach to a restrictive “we’ll only count write-in votes from a pre-approved list.”
Reverse the requirement that a voter must convince the person they’d like to write-in to register with the Town Clerk so that their vote will be counted. Go back to counting all write-in votes. It was never a tremendous burden for the Town Clerk, and a Town Clerk is charged with counting all votes. Eliminate this laziness and allow Brattleboro voters to write-in anyone and have that vote counted again.
5. Call for a Vote on Whether to Continue RTM
Brattleboro voters really need to be given the opportunity to vote on whether to continue Representative Town meeting or return to a regular Town Meeting. This needs to be a town-wide vote, and it should be written in to the Charter to ask this question at regular intervals. It’s been half a century since voters were asked about this.
A brave Charter Revision Commission would put this question to the voters at-large. A confident RTM that was working well would not shy away from a regular vote to affirm governance in this manner. (I tease…)
Note: Here’s the history of how Brattleboro’s Representative Town Meeting and Charter came to be….