Next in our series of interview with Brattleboro Selectboard candidates is Daniel Quipp, running for a one-year seat.
Give us a brief biography – who are you? What do you do?
I’m originally from Wales and married to a person who grew up in Newfane. I have been coming to Brattleboro since 2004 and have lived here since 2014. I’m currently a crisis fuel worker with SEVCA and just started a new job with Vermont Interfaith Action working in Windham and Bennington counties. Before that I worked for 350.org and was a teacher. I currently volunteer with 350VT as a local group leader, am the board president and a DJ at WVEW and a person who likes to run and enjoy the outdoors.
What impresses you about Brattleboro?
I love Brattleboro! In particular I love our close-knit community and the way in which our interconnectedness is more apparent than in larger places. I love our community organizations, our downtown, and the ease of access to trails at the West River, Retreat, and Fort Dummer. Most of all I love the fact that if you stand still long enough you’re bound to run into someone you know!
Why are you running for Selectboard?
I’ve been involved in town politics for the last few years as a grassroots activist and organizer, a town meeting member for District 2, and a regular Selectboard observer. I’d like to step up my involvement in the life of the town by joining the board.
Do you have a long-term vision for Brattleboro?
I’d like for Brattleboro to be a town that is accessible for all and that continues to provide a high level of services to all residents. I’d like to see the town commit to transitioning away from fossil fuels, and make improvements to its public transit and biking/walking infrastructure. I’d like for us to commit resources to improving the the lives of our most vulnerable populations.
What current issues need our attention?
Improve the public transit infrastructure to make it an affordable and attractive way for residents of all ages and economic situations to commute to and from work, get out and about, and enjoy our natural environment.
Improve the affordable and subsidized housing stock. Do more to support people staying in their homes. Commit resources to housing those who are experiencing homelessness.
Almost every selectboard member for the last 20 years has said high taxes or affordability is an issue to deal with, but taxes seem to increase every year. Is it impossible to reduce costs/taxes in Brattleboro? Why/why not?
Taxes are higher in Brattleboro than in surrounding towns, and we see an increased level of service as a result of this. I hope that we will see an improvement in people’s economic situations on a statewide level soon through an increased minimum wage and paid family leave. The proposed 1% local option sales tax will raise revenue that can reduce the property tax burden, although whether that is likely to be passed on in the form of reduced rents it is hard to say. If we had more flexibility about how to raise revenue through becoming a ‘home-rule’ town it’s possible that we can find other ways to reduce property taxes. Also, investing in energy efficiency now will yield savings in the town’s rather substantial oil, propane and electricity bills for years to come.
I’m sure that efficiencies could be found in other areas of the budget to reduce costs, but the question is whether those savings can be made without impacting service levels. When we bought a house for the first time last year we chose to live in Brattleboro rather than, say, Newfane or Dummerston, because having an awesome library, being able to walk to work or to enjoy downtown’s restaurants, cafes, stores and cultural goings-on seemed more important than saving a little bit of money and then driving to Bratt for every grocery trip, errand run or socializing.
Do you believe Brattleboro deserves special compensation for being the “hub” to surrounding communities? (Are surrounding towns freeloading in some way?)
I’m sure Brattleboro’s businesses and restaurants appreciate the custom of those who travel to town every day to work, eat, and play. Whether we should get some kind of compensation other than the patronage of folks from surrounding towns, I’m not so sure. I know that the Town Manager and Selectboard have been talking to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns about this and I’m curious about the outcomes of those meetings.
What should we do about panhandling/poverty?
Continue to work with organizations working on eradicating homelessness and poverty. Support those organizations with money, time, and access to power. Make sure that we’re hearing the perspectives of those who directly experience the issue. Lobby at the Statehouse for the systemic changes we need to house every person, pay people a living wage, and ensure educational opportunities that can provide a springboard out of generational poverty.
What should we do about funding the arts?
We could choose to fund them through an organization like the Town Arts Committee or the Arts Council of Windham County. If we want to market the town as an Arts Town then we should put our money where our mouth is. Maybe we could do more to make it possible for young artists to be able to afford to live in Brattleboro?
Does Brattleboro do enough about climate change?
Nope. We could quite easily commit to ending the use of fossil fuels in town buildings, but we have made choices recently in the library and police/fire project where short term cost savings will keep us tied to propane and oil for decades. We need to be planning to respond to climate impacts such as flooding, increased tick borne illnesses and making sure that people have places to go during extreme heat (and cold).
How would you like to see Putney Road developed?
Thoughtfully and with lots of input from those affected. Promote public transit, walking, and biking.
You aren’t running for school board, but can you share feelings on the current state of our schools?
I was a teacher working with WSESU students in an alternative program and at Putney Central School for the last few years. I have the utmost respect for the work of all our school staff and hear lots of good things about the Pre-K through 12 system. Without more intimate knowledge of the challenges of individual schools I won’t presume to know more than those who labor daily to educate (and feed/keep warm/keep safe, etc.) our kids.
Does the Long Term Financial Plan and Comprehensive Review of Town Operations, both long-term plans, confine the selectboard in any way? Are you just implementing a pre-made plan? What’s your actual role on the board?
I think having a long term plan and a comprehensive knowledge of how things operate seems to me like a pretty good idea and I want to give a shout out to the town staff who make things run day in, day out. I think the role of the selectboard is to provide some oversight, connect with residents, highlight some issues that town staff are not able to devote time to, and make sure that there is ample opportunity for transparency and public engagement. In much the same way that I want to respect the work of those in our schools I believe that the people working in town departments know best how to do things and it’s not the selectboard’s job to micromanage that but that the board can certainly make that work visible and ask questions about it in a public way.
What’s been fillng your free time lately? Have any books or movies to recommend?
I don’t have all that much free time but I’m happy to do my radio show (Brand Spanking New, 6 to 8pm) every Thursday and play music for the millions of WVEW listeners! I’ve been reading the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan novels and have been loving them. TV-wise I’m into High Maintenance. It’s a stoner comedy, but way more than that. A very generous and open-minded show! Oh, and ‘Atlanta’ is so good!
What have we missed? Is there anything you’d like to answer that we didn’t ask about?
Nope. A very thorough set of questions, Chris!
Have any questions for voters? This is a two-way street…
Hey voters! What do you like about Brattleboro and how can we work together to make it even better?