Why I’m Running for Selectboard


My name is Oscar Heller, and I’m running for a 1-year seat on the Brattleboro Selectboard.

I’m a small business owner and the chair of the Brattleboro Energy Committee. I’ve been coming to Brattleboro for 17 years, and I’ve lived here since 2014. I’m thirty years old, and I hope to bring a fresh perspective to the Selectboard as a young business owner. My two primary areas of focus are bringing a modern, green economy to Brattleboro, and working to address homelessness and drug addiction in our community.

I hope to live in Brattleboro for the rest of my life. It’s a beautiful town and a wonderful community. That means that I want to be a part of its governance and its future. I think it’s important for younger people to have a seat at the table, especially since I know that Brattleboro residents, young and old, worry that new people, new businesses, and new families aren’t moving to Brattleboro the way they used to.

For a detailed look at my positions, please visit my website at https://www.oscarheller.com. To stay informed on what I’m doing, you can follow me at https://www.facebook.com/oscarforselectboard and https://www.instagram.com/heller_oscar.

Comments | 2

  • Oscar Heller On Home Rule

    I appreciate Oscar Heller’s effort to let us know who he is, what he is about, and to give us some sense of what he hopes to bring to the selectboard.

    When I saw that has only resided in Vermont since 2014, I had a healthy dose of skepticism, since there have already been at least two new transplants who were candidates for the Selectboard but proved to have a superficial commitment to our community. The first was a high-profile, quite popular, progressive spokesman who lost a close election, and then moved to another state about 6 months later.

    The second was an Marlboro College young faculty member, new to Brattleboro, who ran during a time of extreme dysfunction on the Board (A very nasty chairman, and weak members who remained silent while he insulted and intimidated “ordinary” people who dared to exercise their Open Meeting right to speak at a public meeting).

    This new-to-town candidate promised concerned people that, he was committed to change that, so we voted him in.

    But as soon as he got on the Board, he became the nasty chairman’s lap dog. (He seemed to crave a fatherly arm on the shoulder.) Soon after his stint on the Selectboard, this fellow left our area for a career advancement, job relocation. His time on the selectboard was of no discernible benefit to our town compared with what we might have expected had his opponent been elected; but it must have been of great value to help build his resume.

    So, with that awareness of recent local history, I visited Oscar Heller’s website with a skeptical, but still open mind.

    In my opinion, Heller’s website is good for a number of reasons. The design is simple (not at all confusing) and user-friendly. The writing is clear, not clever, not contrived. I felt that Helle was sincerely trying to show us who he is rather than trying to project an image. I appreciated his effort to connect with voters in a genuine way.

    What got me to put aside my skepticism was his personal testimony that he has felt connected to Brattleboro as the place he wanted to live for 14 years before he was finally able to make the move. Having transplanted to Brattleboro myself 35 years ago, I appreciate the good will of someone who truly has begun to establish life-long roots in this community.

    I still have qualms which are about a certain individual who has sort of endorsed him, but I guess I will discuss that with Heller privately.

    Besides telling us about himself, Oscar Heller’s website, of course, discusses issues. One idea that I have not heard before is for our town to establish a day labor service so that employers can offer homeless people temporary work, with payment at the end of each day. Heller’s discussion of that includes links to municipalities which have innovated such systems. (Having worked out of private day labor agencies when I was homeless in NYC and in Buffalo NY many decades ago, I know that day labor can help you survive.)

    One issue that Heller discusses is home rule. He explains how Vermont limits the ability of municipalities to chart their own course, particularly by limited their ability to raise funds other than through property tax or 1% sales tax. Following is long for an ibrattleboro article, but I think it is worthwhile to quote what Oscar Heller has written about why that particularly matters for Brattleboro:


    “This is particularly painful because Brattleboro, as a regional economic hub, provides services (e.g. the Brooks Library, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital) that are funded by Brattleboro’s property taxpayers but are used by residents across the region. Living in Brattleboro town, and paying Brattleboro’s significantly higher property tax, is simply a bad financial decision when you can buy property in Guilford or Dummerston and still benefit from services paid for by others. This kind of flight from a high property tax will only feed into itself, as people choosing not to live in the town further diminishes the tax base.

    “Whether you’re a property taxpayer or not, Brattleboro as a community suffers when Brattleboro’s ability to fund town services diminishes. Any movement towards home rule would provide necessary room to maneuver.”

    I agree with that analysis, but I feel that there is one big gap which I challenge Oscar Heller to address:

    Oscar, you have done well explaining the problem. But about the solution, you have only said that Brattleboro needs more freedom to find other sources of revenue. A real solution must be more than an abstract principle: There must be a practical idea that we can develop. I think that the missing piece of the puzzle in your discussion is that you have not mentioned even one alternative way that Brattleboro could raise revenue. I think it is important for you to offer sound and practical ways that — if unimpeded by restrictions on home rule — Brattleboro could raise needed revenue.


    • Looking at solutions

      You’re totally right – pointing out a problem is very different from finding a solution. I’ve been looking into it for a few weeks, and I compiled my thoughts here: https://www.oscarheller.com/issue/the-potential-of-limited-self-government.

      There aren’t any hard answers in that post either. As you know, it’s a very complicated topic, and even economists have a hard time predicting exactly what effect a given tax will have. But I think my research is a step in the right direction.

      Also, thanks for being so supportive! It sounds like Brattleboro has been burned before by candidates. While I can’t know for sure that I’ll live in Brattleboro in twenty years – life is always happening and always unpredictable – my love for our town and community is sincere and developed over a long period of time. I think my reasons for running are good ones, and I hope to always be available and ready to listen and learn.

Leave a Reply