iBrattleboro Representative Town Meeting Moderator Interview – David Gartenstein

David Gartenstein is running for Moderator for Brattleboro’s Representative Town Meeting.


Tell us about yourself and why you’d like to be Moderator of Brattleboro’s Representative Town Meeting.

I’d like to serve the public good by moderating Town Meeting in a way that is fair to all, with governing procedures followed, all persons having a chance to engage, and decisions made after full debate and consideration of all available information.

What sort of moderating experience would you bring, if elected? What’s your style?

My experience running hundreds of public meetings as chair of Brattleboro Selectboard and Development Review Board, serving on Town and High School Boards and as a Town Meeting Representative, along with working as a lawyer and prosecuting criminal cases in my day job, qualify me for the job. The Town Meeting Moderator needs to be wholly non-partisan and neutral, and if elected I will treat the position that way.  The only advocacy I will do at Town Meeting will be to support the integrity of the Body’s decision-making process.  I will be respectful of all who participate and of the process, will follow the law and Robert’s Rules of Order, and will work to ensure all voices are heard.   

Tell us your thoughts on Brattleboro’s Representative Town Meeting form of governing.

Town Meeting plays a defined role within our system of government.  The Town employs municipal government management professionals to oversee the day to day operation of town government.  Detailed citizen oversight is provided through Selectboard, which gathers information from all stakeholders, sets goals and priorities, and oversees the work of the Town Manager and the Town as a whole.  Besides elections, Town Meeting adds another layer of citizen oversight and participatory democracy, ensuring our government is accountable to us all.

How/why is a Representative Town Meeting better than a regular Town Meeting?

I don’t think Representative Town Meeting is “better” or “worse” than “regular” Town Meeting.  This system was adopted as a mechanism to try to preserve and formalize participatory democracy considering Brattleboro’s size, coupled with the goal of avoiding the perceived risk of the Meeting being “packed” in support of one particular issue or another.  Whether Representative Town Meeting is thought to be “good” or “bad,” the role of the Moderator is the same:  to make sure the Town’s business conducted in that forum is done based on full and fair notice and opportunity to be heard.

How effective do you feel Representative Town Meeting Representatives are in being representative to their respective districts?

My experience is that Representatives come to Town Meeting prepared, ready to ask difficult questions, seeking to gather information, willing to listen to debate, all as part of getting ready to participate in our government.  

It seems like one measure of a town meeting moderator in Brattleboro is how well they handle very long meetings, especially when it comes to transacting any other lawful business at the end. How is your stamina, endurance and patience for what can be a long day of moderating?

The business of Town Meeting is to work through and make binding decisions on the matters on the agenda set by Selectboard, which are duly noticed for consideration.  Non-binding action can then be taken during other business.  Sometimes that process takes a very long time.  I look forward to moderating a productive and constructive Town Meeting, from beginning to end.

This year’s meeting could again be virtual. What are your thoughts on in-person vs. virtual meetings?

It of course would be better if we could gather and deliberate together, but virtual meetings help keep us safe and healthy.  The Moderator’s role in a virtual Town Meeting has to be to ensure that the right to comment and debate is protected so Members continue to be able to make group decisions to the greatest extent possible.  If elected I will work to achieve that. 

Does Brattleboro’s Representative Town Meeting need any new committees, in your view? How about changes to the Town Charter?

I don’t consider it my role as a Town Meeting Moderator candidate to advocate for forming new committees or changing the Town Charter.  The Moderator’s role is to work so the voices of all Town Meeting Members can be heard and respected and then to ensure expression of the voice of the Body as a whole.

Have any secret methods for keeping track of multiple amendments and motions from the floor?

Our government is designed to function in the sunshine, and nothing about how I would moderate Town Meeting would be a secret.  I have spent decades working as a lawyer and serving in town government, handling complex procedural and substantive matters involving interplay between overlapping systems of laws, rules, and procedures, all intended at best serving the public good by getting to the truth and making informed decisions.  Tracking the business on the floor is facilitated when Representatives help out by proposing amendments and making motions in writing.  The work and support of Town staff also is critical.  I also take good notes.

Have any other comments you’d like to share with voters?

I think I will do a really good job making sure Town Meeting runs smoothly.  Please vote for David Gartenstein for Town Meeting Moderator.

What’s the best way for people to bring meeting-related matters to your attention?

Please email me at gusnliz@together.net or call me at 802-258-4702.

Thanks for spending time with iBrattleboro.com

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