David Schoales – iBrattleboro 2013 Selectboard Candidate Interview

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?


In person.

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.

Comments | 23

  • And what is your position on

    And what is your position on the Skatepark?

    • Skatepark

      The advocates of the skatepark have jumped through all the hoops required of them and deserve to go forward with their design presentations.
      I believe it is up to the opponents to find as good a sight and present it as an alternative.
      Having said that, I just read that the site was chosen by Selectboard members, which is different from the information the skatepark advocates presented when they came to the school board seeking a lease. At that time they clearly stated they had thoroughly explored options and concluded the Crowell Lot was the best site for the park. I intend to explore this issue when the advocates again come before the school board.

  • Leadership Question

    Hi David,

    Your interest in improving communication between the town’s leadership and citizens is an important concern to Kevin and me; a fundamental one, we believe, on which any vision of building collaboration, communication, and community for the future rests. We also believe that to look forward, we must also look back. In doing that, we see election platforms that were built upon a goal of expanding citizen inclusion, participation, and voice. Yet, we also see that citizen concerns, contributions (e.g., citizen Town Committees, professional expertise, and evidence have often been completely ignored, even boldly dismissed by our leaders. We see that citizen voices have also been cavalierly shut down in public forums by a majority on the Brattleboro Selectboard, as well as by some employed within the Town Administration. As a result, based on myriad local editorials, letters to the editor, public testimony, and discussions among friends and neighbors, we believe the community of Brattleboro is currently experiencing a crisis of citizen apathy, criticism of town officials, and skepticism regarding town leadership and public process that stands to make future progress challenging.

    Can you address any changes we might expect to see regarding how citizens will be heard and acknowledged, or any assurance that their participation, work, and contributions in town matters they value will not be in vain? In other words, how, specifically, do you believe we might effectively remedy an acute short-term problem in public confidence in leadership and process (beyond simply dismissing citizen questions or silencing dissent), in order to build community and consensus to face the issues and challenges ahead?

    Thank you,
    Barry Adams

    • Leadership

      I believe it is bad leadership to delegate a committee to look into an issue and make recommendations, then dismiss the recommendations. This might be improved by having Selectboard members sit on committees. It is an issue of leadership and trust.
      The issue of citizen voices needs to be considered alongside the issue of citizen listening. Citizens get discouraged when leaders don’t respond to their concerns. Leaders get discouraged when their efforts to understand issues and make good decisions are criticized by those who don’t like the outcome.

      I will not pretend to have an answer for this, but I can guarantee that any board I am part of will listen to citizens and work diligently to present opposing viewpoints. There will be no manipulation or back-room deals. I will insist on maintaining a respectful dialogue on all issues. I decided to run for Selectboard because I believe a new board may make this possible.

      I also hope to be able to have the board develop a more active system of providing the public with information and notices. The current passive system where people have to negotiate a static website can be improved for sure. It takes a commitment to complete transparency- a direction I believe we will move if I am elected.

      • Music to my ears

        Thank you, David, for such a thoughtful, sincere, and insightful reply. I agree with you totally.

        Based on that response,I have confidence that you can repair some of the damage done to the public perceptions of, and trust in, Brattleboro’s leadership.

        Barry Adams

      • Site Selection and Scoping a MUST

        I agree with your statements related to leadership delegating a committee and then ignoring their recommendations. A committee assesses an issue in a much greater level of detail than the Selectboard has the opportunity. The problem here is that the Selectboard skipped the steps of a Site Selection Assessment and a Scoping Study. The Site Selection would have looked at the pros and cons of various locations and more objectively determined the best location (based on criteria set up for the project, public and professional input). Once a viable location was identified, a scoping study would have looked at the best way to develop that site and considered any impacts of the proposed development. These steps were conducted by Dick and Jesse in a two week period. In other words, these two critical processes were NOT conducted. A committee was then set up of ONLY skatepark enthusiasts and tasked with developing a concrete skatepark to be built in a residential neighborhood in the very proximal Crowell Park.

        I also agree that there is a point where leaders need to make a decision that won’t please everyone. This town spent a lot of money having 100+/- people (including myself) go through a two day training course a few years ago on how to build consensus for town initiative. Dick’s “my way or the highway” reign over town governance the last few years throws all this training out the window. The training spent two days basically saying that if you dictate decisions to the town, you will get resistance. As an experienced civil engineer and project manager for almost 30 years, I know very well this to be true. The community rising with this type of resistance MUST not be discouraged. I would have expected every progressive person I’ve known in this town to have been marching in the streets as this process unfolded. But since it related to a project they valued (not Wal-Mart, not Home Depot, not Vermont Yankee), nearly every single one has remained silent while early opponents raised questions and were subsequently publically pilloried (often by members of the Selectboard appointed committee). To this day, it has shocked me that Brattleboro’s “progressives” either actively supported the process or remained silent on the process. One could support the project (even in Crowell Park) and still say that the lack of process is unacceptable. I’m as mad with the “hippie-crits” in this community as I’m mad with the power structure, as it could only have gotten this far with the consent of the larger community. Given the lack of any real process in the initial planning stages, resistance will (and should) continue to grow.

  • straight to the point

    I think what zippy is really asking is “Will you help us ‘Re-Site’ the skatepark to another part of town? The current board didn’t respond to our demands to keep the teenage boys out of our park and we’re hoping the new board will”

    • Your SIlence

      I can’t help but notice that you haven’t answered the two questions that were presented to you. Is this what we should expect from you if you are elected. No answer when the questions are tough and likely to cause controvery?

      • Silence

        I don’t visit this site every day.
        You can expect me to listen and respond thoughtfully.
        You can also expect me to point out the adversarial nature of you tone; especially toward someone you don’t know.

    • teenage boys?

      I thought this was about all the “youth” of brattleboro and from around the region, including all the little children of Brattleboro who wept at the appeal to the Vermont Environmental Court, and the increasing number of girls who also skate? 😉


    • The point

      No. If you want the skatepark to be somewhere else, you need to find an equal or better site and present it.

    • The point

      No. If you want the skatepark to be somewhere else, you need to find a better site and convince people of it.

      • It's not about a skatepark

        Hi David,

        I appreciate your response here, but I am not of the belief that people can always see, or be convinced of, “better” plans in the face of power, micro-politics (e.g., advantages of social “capital”), ideology, media influence, legal restrictions and technical legal loopholes, or time limitations and constraints, particularly when a predetermined agenda or goal is at the center of (or behind) a policy dispute. Those factors, even beyond staged, or otherwise controlled, public discourse and participation, can advance or kill a project. And they are often given short shrift when there is a goal to be won; compared to the need for collaboration and consensus building, technocratic solutions, as well as honoring “process” (even when it is obviously tragically flawed or serves to be politically advantageous to those who define or interpret it). I am thinking, for example, of “hangin chads” and “trickle down” economics right now.

        Opposition, alternatives, reason, and persuasive evidence were offered much earlier by sincere citizens in an open process that challenged Dick and/or Jesse’s site selection, which precluded the process that followed. I believe, and I think many others do as well, that that accounts for the limitations of the process that followed.

        -Barry Adams

        • Zippy for Zelectboard

          Hooray! Zippy is Back.

          and by collarboration we mean ‘agree with us to move it’.

          and by process we me ‘a process that serves our needs’

          • What?

            I really can’t quite figure out who you are talking about, or for. Could you maybe say what you mean?

          • Zippy should run for office.

            Zippy should run for office. He is so articulate and passionate. just simplifying his message; keep those skater punks out of the crowell lot. Will you help us?

      • Site- selection process

        Thanks for your reply. There was never a formal site selection process for the skatepark and the citizens of Brattlbeoro have continually been denied that. Are you saying that you would support and vote in favor of a site-selction process? I would disagree with you that the skatepark controvery is a short term problem. The problems will continue long after it’s built.

        • Site process

          When we were asked to lease the Crowell Lot, the school board was told that the supporters had looked into multiple sites in the area, and they described specific problems with some of them. This was before the establishment of BASIC. That’s as much as I know about the selection process.
          I will say again what I have said every time this has come up- the opponents of the Crowell Lot need to do the work of finding a better site and presenting it as an alternative. Trying to reverse the process that has already happened will not succeed.

          • Site process

            Thank-you for taking the time to answer my questions. I’m happy to hear that you support the RE-sting efforts. However, BASIC has been clear they won’t relocate unless they’re forced, so it would be futile for opponents to secure a site Would you support a site-selection process if elected?

          • Site process

            I don’t believe it would be futile- just the opposite. If another site was identified that met the criteria BASIC seeks, it would be very much in their interest to support it because it would make it much easier to raise funds. Many more people would consider donating if it weren’t such a divisive issue. I’m sure everyone involved on the Re-Site side would donate and help with fundraising for an alternative sight. Wouldn’t you?

            At this point I believe the information that was presented to the school board- that alternate sights were considered and all had significant problems- so I don’t support another site-selection process.

          • Site selection process

            Once again thank-you for your answer. However, the criteria should be aimed towards serving the good of the entire community, not just a special interest group. There are significant problems at the Crowell Playground as well.

          • site process

            (NOTE: I realized part of what I wrote was not included in the original post, this is the complete thought)

            In the long course of this dispute I have noticed how many times supporters, opponents, and officials have used the word “belief” or “believe” in stating their position. Kevin and I also used it some time ago (http://www.commonsnews.org/site/site05/story.php?articleno=5008&page=1) in trying to identify the root of the opposition (as opposed to the enduring charges that a highly educated group of NIMBY parents and professionals organized to harm and deny our own Brattleboro youth a skatepark).

            As the discussion shifted to leadership and the process that led to this divisive and adversarial outcome, I also see subjective beliefs at the root of key decisions made by individuals in power (e.g., by Dick and Jesse on the appropriate site location, by Brian Bannon on whether the plan required a conditional use permit or not, whether this constitutes a “minor” or “major” change to an existing use, to name only a few) that limited the “need” for further public scrutiny and discussion.

            As Lise pointed out earlier, if the “belief” that this will be “all good” for “everyone” in town does not come to be the reality (after the concrete is poured), it is not likely that this victorious process outcome will go away for a very long time and could present even further challenges to the trust in leadership necessary to move Brattleboro up out of the muck and mire it has been sitting in for some time, I believe.

            Finally, I worry about the message that was sent to “the youth” in this town as so many sat silent (including the Brattleboro School Board) regarding the means to which this “victory” was won and our willingness to honor “process” as if it existed in an apolitical vacuum and in the absence of answers to citizen questions and concerns about their homes, neighborhood, and neighbors.

            – Barry Adams

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