Mr. Schoales is running for a 1 year seat on the Brattleboro Selectboard.
Why do you want to be on the Selectboard this year?
I am concerned about the future and whether we will have a strong enough community and local economy to weather the challenges ahead. When I saw that Dick and Dora were leaving it seemed like it might be an opportunity to be part of a more collaborative board that could work well together toward strengthening our community and economy.
Why run for the 1 year seat?
I prefer to come back to the community for signatures every year rather than risk feeling entitled to the position. That’s why I have always taken one-year petitions for the town school board seat.
Tell us about issues that interest you… what would you like to accomplish?
I intend to work very hard to find new revenues that don’t involve taxes. We need to get the town involved in solar energy generation. The current state law assures a premium for locally generated electricity which could save us thousands of dollars, stabilize our electricity costs, and raise revenue that could be used elsewhere in the budget. The town might offer electricity credits to businesses interested in locating or expanding in town. The school board has already developed a model for purchasing net metering credits that will lead to private construction of a new solar array, ten new jobs, and thousands of dollars in new revenue for the school district. Every municipal entity should be doing this.
I would like to make employing Brattleboro citizens a feature of any contract the town enters that will result in a contractor hiring new employees. If the project is large enough, I would like to see the contract include an apprenticeship program for recent Career Center graduates. I support preferences for local businesses in any contract awards.
I would like to see improved communication between the town departments, the selectboard, and the public, with the goal of creating a system that is continually assessing its efforts and improving. We should use electronic media more effectively. One idea is to follow a successful business model and set up a “bureaucracy buster” blog for town employees to offer suggestions on how their work could be done more effectively.
What about Brattleboro do you feel is unique and worth preserving?
The openness of the community to diversity and change.
The quality and beauty of the natural environment.
The commitment to growing the local economy.
The commitment to caring for our children and each other.
What are some short term issues facing Brattleboro? What are some of the long term issues you see?
The River Garden and skatepark are short-term. Long term the biggest issues are providing opportunities for our children to find meaningful work and getting broad engagement in finding new revenues rather than continuing the self-destructive “cut cut cut” approach to paying for the services we want and need. Our schools are doing a great job of preparing our students. Now it’s time for the town to follow through by attracting investment in the energy, communications, and health fields.
In your view, what does an aging population mean for Brattleboro?
It means we need to attract lots of young people and create opportunities for them so they will stay and raise their families here.
Do we have enough housing and resources for people of limited means?
I am not well informed in this area; I am a fast learner and if elected I will become an expert very quickly.
What are your feelings on the proposed $14 million Police-Fire Facility project? Less than 100 Town Meeting Representatives approved such spending – is that a fair reflection of the will of Brattleboro taxpayers?
It is not a proposal; it is approved. It is important to invest in our infrastructure if we hope to avoid dying out like so many New England towns have done. Again, we have to get creative about finding new sources of revenue instead of taking the same approach year after year and expecting to tax and cut our way to prosperity. I will promote hiring local contractors so the money stays in our community.
Our local government works as we designed it to work. The design did not include making sure reps were in regular contact with their constituents. This needs to be improved, and I will support more and better use of communications technology so citizens can access information about town issues and have their views known to their elected reps.
What do you think should be done with the River Garden?
The River Garden has become an important public resource. If it is to continue, the town will have to play a larger role. I propose a town-wide referendum to get approval to take over management and maintenance until a long-term sustainability plan can be developed. The two colleges coming to town may make this much easier in the future.
What’s the best way for citizens to express their thoughts to the Selectboard?
Bonus: Anything else you’d like to say that no one asks you about?
I think the way the members of the selectboard relate to each other is crucial to its success. I will work very hard to build a collaborative and coherent board. I want us to finds ways to better engage our citizens and keep our focus on creating the conditions for a sustainable future.