Read on for our selectboard candidate interview with Elizabeth McLoughlin, who is running for a one-year seat on the board.
Give us a brief biography – who are you? What do you do?
My husband, Tom and I moved to Brattleboro in 2007, after 20 years of visiting relatives here in town, and we opened two small businesses. The younger of our two daughters, Mary, attended BUHS. I opened a consulting business 10 years ago. With 30 years of experience, as an environmental planner, I prepare environmental permits, and write environmental impact statements.
My volunteer work for the Town of Brattleboro is a direct reflection of my professional planning expertise. I have served Brattleboro as a Town Meeting Representative for over 6 years, this is probably the best experience for Selectboard service as the Selectboard answers to the Representative Town Meeting. I have also been on the Planning Commission for 8 years, now serving as chair. I participated in the Town Plan, new zoning and numerous initiatives, including the Putney Road improvements, the Whetstone pathway, the new bridge over the Connecticut River, and our new initiative, the Downtown Design Plan. Also important to my understanding of the Selectboard duties is my year as a member of the Finance Committee, where I concentrated on understanding the Town Budget.
I joined the BASIC Skatepark Committee because I thought they were being given a hard time, and I thought a skatepark would be good for Brattleboro. Through my professional experience, I was able to prepare and secure the Act 250 permit for the Skatepark, and help with grant applications.
And I am also a Commissioner at the Windham Regional Commission, where I also represent Brattleboro’s interests.
What impresses you about Brattleboro?
I made friends through volunteering – many years on the Steering Committee for the Empty Bowls Dinner and a couple of years on the board of the Drop in Center, where I learned about the hunger and need among us, and, most importantly how to help. I believe Brattleboro is a caring community with a firm grasp of the need for social justice and equity.
After doing all my Christmas shopping here for years before we even moved here, I love downtown Brattleboro, for shopping and the many music and arts things to do here. Before we moved here, twelve years ago, we would go to Amy’s and sit in the back and look at the view, now we like to sit in the front, and see our friends walking by.
Why are you running for Selectboard?
Some people might see the role of Selectboard member as a pretty dull job, review of the municipal departments, review of the town budget, but I would find in Selectboard service an opportunity to reflect our values. It is this interplay of these two elements, the day to day governance and the policy goals that is of interest to me, and where I believe I can make a difference. I have seen this balance in my years as a Town Meeting Representative from concerns about a fire truck, to human service needs, to the Skatepark. What kind of community are we?
I will bring enthusiasm, practical experience and a unifying vision of good governance to the Board. This is a position of trust, making fiscal and policy decisions that address the well-being of us all. With over thirty years of environmental and planning experience, I bring comprehensive municipal environmental planning experience to issues of public finance, land use planning, sustainability and climate change in Brattleboro. I also have extensive experience on Brattleboro boards and committees. You can find me on FB (Elizabeth McLoughlin for Selectboard) or email me at email@example.com. I want to hear from you, I want to represent you and I want you to vote for me
Do you have a long-term vision for Brattleboro?
I believe I can represent the people of Brattleboro in a modern, caring, sustainable and resilient community. As new jobs are created that are more portable, there will be people moving to Brattleboro because of the quality of life here, and as climate refugees.
What current issues need our attention?
At one level, the town’s challenges are to maintain municipal services and spending; keeping the taxes low and adding to the Grand List. I think the Town currently does a good job of balancing the needs of the community.
On a broader level, Brattleboro faces the same issues that we face nationwide: income inequality, maintaining downtown vitality, housing and homelessness, hunger, child poverty, opioid addiction, the need for youth employment, higher wages. We need a vital economy and we need to address the poverty among us. Our community is committed to addressing these problems in varying ways, one of the main ways is to fund social service agencies at Representative Town Meeting. Another key method the Town employs is collaborating with social service agencies. I am particularly impressed with the Project Care initiative, a collaboration of Police, Restorative Justice, HCRA and Groundworks Collaborative to meet the needs of people on the street.
ALSO: More jobs, more day care, more doctors, more affordable housing!
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?
Because we have ageing infrastructure, if we don’t need a firetruck every year, we should be saving for the next thing that will be needed or repairs and replacements for what we already have to keep services up.
Do you believe Brattleboro deserves special compensation for being the “hub” to surrounding communities? (Are surrounding towns freeloading in some way?)
The Hub issue is not a freeloading issue, I do not believe that, nor do I blame the surrounding communities. The issue is that Brattleboro has the lion’s share of non-taxable property because it is the county hub. It also has the lion’s share of modern day problems – it is a community with stress factors – poverty, housing need, hunger, and a community that is also taxed to its limits. This is a Vermont Hub town issue, common to Brattleboro and a few like towns, such as Barre and Rutland. Hub aid should be recognized as a need that the State should address.
What should we do about panhandling/poverty?
I am particularly impressed with the Project Care initiative, a collaboration of Police, Restorative Justice, HCRA and Groundworks to address the needs of the people on Brattleboro’s streets. We should let these teams get to work and see if it can help these folks.
What should we do about funding the arts?
Brattleboro is a leading arts community, thanks to artists’ participation in our town. The artist and the arts venues definitely contribute to our vibrant economy, and make Brattleboro a better place to live. Art increases our understanding of our community, and our world.
Does Brattleboro do enough about climate change?
Brattleboro is working on climate change, I know the Town Plan addressed sustainability in numerous ways, I suggest readers take a look. Also, I understand that the Town will set a job description for a new sustainability officer this summer, with a look to hire a full time position next year.
How would you like to see Putney Road developed?
We studied the Putney Road improvements with the planning commission years ago. And it’s a good thing that the state wants to invest money in Brattleboro, this plan will have fewer curb cuts and the state is working with the property owners on sidewalks. The big expense is the blasting on the east side of Putney Road because there’s rock there. It’s great that the State wants to go ahead with this plan to expand the road and make it more pedestrian friendly and bicycle friendly. My biggest concern with the Putney Road development is the number of rotaries or circles that are planned because when I went to school in Rome, Italy, there are numerous circles and the joke was that unless you were a priest or pretty girl you couldn’t cross the street. I want to make sure that people can cross the street.
(Also note that this is different from the Putney Road Master Plan, I would rather invest in the stores etc. that we do have, rather than the old Putney Road Master Plan, which assumed a level of unrealistic investment, and I note that this old plan was superseded by the new Town Plan.)
You aren’t running for school board, but can you share feelings on the current state of our schools?
I was for the merger, I moved here so that my daughter could attend BUHS, and found this regional union high school to be a great choice for her. I believe that the merger allows the school administration much more flexibility in hiring etc. That said, the recent plan the State imposed on Brattleboro and the merged towns with a separate Vernon is unworkable, and should be fixed by the State ASAP.
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?
No, it is not a pre-made plan, there is a year-long cycle to the town’s budget planning in which the Selectboard is a major player, long term planning in the spring, budget in the fall. It is a rational, coordinated planning function.
What’s been filling your free time lately? Have any books or movies to recommend?
I saw the WWI documentary by Peter Jackson, “They Will Not Grow Old” and I highly recommend it. And there is an article by my favorite author, Robert Caro, in the January 28, 2019 Issue of the New Yorker about how he got people to tell their stories about Lyndon Johnson in his series of books about LBJ.
What have we missed? Is there anything you’d like to answer that we didn’t ask about?
I am an alumna of the 2014 Emerge VT inaugural class, were I learned campaign and leadership skills of particular interest to Democratic Women Candidates. I had the pleasure of having Becca Balint and Kiah Morris as “Emerge sisters”. I have also volunteered for Emilie Kornheiser’s recent State Representative campaign.
Have any questions for voters? This is a two-way street…
Thanks for spending time with iBrattleboro!