Next in our series of iBrattleboro interviews with Selectboard candidates is out interview with Ian Kiehle. Mr. Kiehle is running for one of the one year seats on the board.
Why do you want to be on the Selectboard this year?
I’m able to make the time that the commitment requires, and I feel confident that I can serve the community well as a selectboard member.
Why run for the 1 year seat?
I’m trying to grow my video production business and I’ve been a stay at-home dad since January 2011, so I’d honestly like to reassess after a year.
Tell us about issues that interest you… what would you like to accomplish?
I think I can accomplish improving communication between the municipal government and the voters. I sat down with the town finance director recently to enlist his help with an idea of mine. I’m going to make a video to represent where the property tax money goes. Roughly 60% goes to the schools and 40% to the municipal budget. Whether I get elected or not I’d like to make this video so that I can visually depict how local tax money is allocated.
What about Brattleboro do you feel is unique and worth preserving?
I’m fascinated by the ebb and flow of interests and concerns on the part of Brattleboro residents. I’m interested in cultivating informed dialogue that will help us all understand what is going on in our town and how the town is governed.
What are some short term issues facing Brattleboro? What are some of the long term issues you see?
Short-term issues include the skatepark. The situation involves people with opposing views who are emotionally invested in those views and don’t see eye-to-eye. It’s going to cause a lot of conflict in the short term and personally I would work to find solutions that are acceptable to all.
At the Citizen’s Breakfast Candidate’s Forum, I felt that 3-year selectboard candidate Spoon Agave spoke authoritatively on some of the long-term challenges Brattleboro faces, mainly the situation of consistently rising property tax bills combined with the fact that Brattleboro has some of the lowest average incomes in the state.
Ever-increasing property tax and water and sewer bills will occur because of investments in infrastructure like the new waste water treatment plant and the police and fire facility improvements and expansions.–those weren’t bad decisions, but the consequences of them will increase the cost of living in Brattleboro.
In your view, what does an aging population mean for Brattleboro?
The new challenges presented by an aging population can’t all be met by municipal town government. With property tax rebates based on income (which were created to address the needs of retirees with low income but who may live in relatively highly appraised houses that they worked for and paid off in their lifetimes) the question would be: is that state policy sustainable into the future? If it’s not, how will that affect our municipality?
Also, speaking outside the province of municipal town government, a larger aging population may be an opportunity to relearn or remember the idea of “elders” and respect for their accumulated wisdom. Our culture can perhaps learn from the Japanese, where one fourth of the population is now over 60 years old. Adult children aren’t living near their parents any more, so a type of time-trade has developed where middle-aged Japanese are caring for someone else’s parents whom they live near to, and in return someone else near their own parents cares for them. Could this be more commonplace in our culture? An aging population may present an opportunity for a greater emotional maturation of our culture.
Do we have enough housing and resources for people of limited means?
There is definitely a disconnect between incomes and rental rates. Who was the New York mayoral candidate who said “the rent is too damn high”? Many people have pointed out that this is also the case with Brattleboro. My understanding is that both the Brattleboro Housing Authority and the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust have waiting lists for the properties under their control, which a sign that their is a lack of affordable housing in this town.
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?
Town Meeting Representatives are elected by Brattleboro town voters, taxpayers or otherwise, so I’m not sure how there is a better reflection of local will. As for the Facilities projects themselves, it surprises me that we need to spend $14 million to overcome the obvious deficiencies of the current facilities. My yankee frugality compels me to think of the phrase “use it up, wear it out, make do or do without” – but it seems like the representatives of Brattleboro were convinced that the town could could neither make do with what they have nor do without these facilities expansions. The board that shepherded this proposal to the approval of town meeting reps won’t be around to feel the backlash once the tax increases to pay for it hit the citizens.
What do you think should be done with the River Garden?
I think a solution can be found to keep it as a public space. BaBB talks about how it costs $20,000 a year to keep the place open and wonders what it’s to be used as, but it seems fine as it is and for its current uses. That building was made possible by federal and state money to be a public space, and I believe it should remain so.
What’s the best way for citizens to express their thoughts to the Selectboard?
If we have a welcoming board, then public comment at meetings should be the best way. Every individual selectboard member knows people can also give them a call, send an email, or have a face-to-face talk.
Bonus: Anything else you’d like to say that no one asks you about?
I feel passionately about the need to create a culture of pedestrian safety in Brattleboro. One can go to Northampton, Mass. or Keene, NH and observe firsthand how people in automobiles consistently yield to people in crosswalks. Why isn’t that happening here? Many people talk about how wonderful Brattleboro is, and I agree. If we want Brattleboro to thrive, we need to remember that every person with a car becomes a pedestrian once they park – and it’s once they get out of their car that they can contribute to our diverse local economy and culture. I want to help Brattleboro become even better than it already is. Please vote for me.