Elizabeth McLoughlin is an incumbent running for a three year seat on the Brattleboro Selectboard.
Introduce yourself – who are you and why are you running again this year for a 3 year seat?
Elizabeth “Liz” McLoughlin. I am running for reelection to the Selectboard. I have been on the Selectboard for the past 4 years.
I moved to Brattleboro fifteen years ago, after visiting family here for over twenty years. I am a wife, mother and a new grandmother. One of our daughters attended BUHS, and the other was a substitute teacher here. My husband and I each own a small business. Brattleboro is a great place to live and work and I see my Selectboard service as a way to give back and support our beloved Town. We have a vibrant arts culture and an exceptional park and recreation program. We are welcoming to all, our community includes people from across the country and the world, as well as families who have been here for generations. We are a vibrant New England town.
My first civic engagements were to the Drop-in-Center (now Groundworks), working on the Empty Bowls Dinner leadership committee for many years and a year or so on the board of the Drop-in-Center. At this same time, I joined the Planning Commission, rising to Chair. From these platforms I learned about the Town and how it works. For example, the Town does not run a food shelf or a shelter, but we collaborate and support their work. The Town supports excellent non-profit social service agencies. As a Professional Planner, joining these institutions suited my education and work experience. I am by education and training a town planner, with an emphasis on environmental planning. I have a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning with a concentration in Housing, I also have four decades of Environmental Planning consulting. I own my own Environmental and Town Planning Consulting Business.
In addition to my four years on the Selectboard, I have served on:
- The Planning Commission
- Representative Town Meeting (RTM)
- Brattleboro RTM Town Finance Committee
- The Skate Park Committee
- Rt. 91 Aesthetic Committee
- Windham Regional Commission
- Connecticut River Joint Commission-Wantastiquet Local River Subcommittee
As an incumbent, I have served as clerk, vice chair and chair and have an in-depth understanding of Town operations, and the staff (our greatest asset!). I also understand the budget process and the Selectboard’s duty and responsibility to provide for the needs of the Town while respecting the taxpayer burden.
My campaign motto: POW, stands for PRAGMATIC, OPTIMISTIC AND WISE — With your vote I can continue my public service on the Brattleboro Selectboard. You can find me on FB (Elizabeth McLoughlin for Selectboard), Instagram (LizMcLoughlin for Selectboard) or email me at email@example.com.
What unique perspectives or experience do you bring to the board?
As an incumbent, I have experience in the workings of town government, and knowledge of the strength of our town staff. I’ve seen the issues week in and week out and know the reality of what our community needs are. The Town of Brattleboro’s strength is in its collaborations – with non-profits, with the State and volunteers.
Do you have anything in particular you’d like to accomplish in the coming year on the board?
Determine Our Municipal COVID ARPA Spending
Determine Appropriate Ambulance Service
Revisit Community Safety
What is motivating you to offer your services this year?
First, as JFK famously said, regarding why we go to the moon: ‘We choose to go to the moon and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we’re willing to accept.” (JFK at Rice University, Sept. 12, 1962)
Second, I run with years of experience on the Selectboard under my belt, with institutional memory to provide consistency for the new Town Manager and with resolve to work toward goals unfinished from the time without a Town Manager. We have both day-to-day issues to administer for our town and some problems Brattleboro which defy easy solutions. My decades of experience in environmental and town planning give me an understanding of what may be possible to achieve at the town level. Years of volunteering on non-profit and public boards has helped me to understand the differences among a non-profit service, a municipal responsibility and a state-funded responsibility. I hope to work for the Town and with our legislative delegation on behalf of Brattleboro.
What’s your favorite part of living in Brattleboro?
I can walk out my door and head downtown, to various arts venues or shops or walk in another direction, and I can be in the woods.
What do we do well?
Brattleboro is full of nice people who want the best for each other. People of Brattleboro take volunteerism seriously and have expertise and passion to support our town and townspeople.
What’s our greatest weakness in Brattleboro?
Brattleboro and other large Towns in Vermont bear the burden of society’s regional problems and get no State aid for our troubles.
What needs attention?
Infrastructure, housing across the board, poverty, addiction, homelessness, mental health struggles.
What were some of the issues with Rescue, Inc. while Elwell was Town Manager?
In September 2021, Peter Elwell asked me, as Chair of the Selectboard, to attend the Rescue Inc. Annual Meeting. He wanted me to see first-hand how Rescue Inc. presented themselves and presented their relationship to Brattleboro. It was an eye opener. Rescue Inc. was heavy handed in their condemnation of the Brattleboro Fire Department for having the temerity to have trained EMS personnel within the BFD, even though the BFD was first on the scene most of the time. Mr. Elwell wanted me to attend this meeting and see Rescue Inc because he knew it would be an issue of concern in the new year when he was retired.
The Town of Brattleboro, in particular, the Selectboard, bears the responsibility of providing ambulance service to our community. The Selectboard takes this responsibility very seriously. We are currently examining our options to provide this service. We have sought professional expertise in the examination of whether our Brattleboro Fire Department, by itself or the use of an outside ambulance service is the best option. Our paramount concern is to make sure the public safety is served.
-Brattleboro ambulance services – which option do you prefer?
I am still weighing options
What still needs to be fleshed out?
Providing for the public safety, the costs of service, the relationships.
What can Brattleboro voters expect of you on the following issues:
-Living Memorial Park upgrades
I support the “Generational Improvements to Living Memorial Park” which is up for a vote at RTM. I think we need to support these family-friendly recreational activities because they are important to the Town as a whole. Among the many needed upgrades at the park, this action will address three environmental sustainability goals: First and foremost, the Skating Rink will replace the refrigerant technology (R22) and transition to a natural refrigerant. Secondly, the new roof will be insulated. And third, the new lights on the upper ballfield will be LED, and the newer technology requires fewer fixtures with the long-term benefit of less energy consumption. I suggested and supported the use of the Town’s environmental funds (Global Warming Solutions Fund) to pay for these environmental benefits.
-Climate action –
All of the Selectboard actions are cast through a sustainable lens. Each department head analysis their actions in terms of the best environmental alternative and calls upon our sustainability coordinator for added analysis. The Selectboard has set up a fund each year to provide extra funds in case the environmental option is more expensive than the alternative. We are using that fund, the Global Warming Solutions Fund, for the Rec and Park improvements.
Before the Applications for Community Safety Fund can be heard, I believe we need to assess where we are on Community Safety. The recommendations of the Community Safety report need to be assessed, many are the responsibility of non-police entities, such as hospitals, mental health providers, the State legislature and State agencies. Not all of these recommendations are legal or viable. But some are very much needed, such as enhanced mental health providers and restorative justice. There is a real opportunity for new and established non-profits to join the community of care.
I believe we first need to see where we are regarding our Brattleboro Police Department. An analysis of our Department was never completed. Three years ago, I asked that we examine our police department to see if or where racism exists. I believe we have a caring and professional department that we as a town can be proud of, but we still need to have a public presentation of police policies. And that will lead into a discussion of how very busy the BPD is with increasing crime rates. We need to support them. Under Chief Hardy’s leadership, they are engaged in the difficult task of hiring the right kind of personnel for the positive police culture they have established. We need to rebuild our Police Department to the appropriate size for our Town needs. I support a fully staffed Brattleboro Police Department.
Crime in Brattleboro, especially in Downtown Shops makes the headlines. However, crime victimizes all of us, in our homes and neighborhoods. Criminals especially victimize the vulnerable among us. We need to work together to protect ourselves and our neighbors and both work with and support our Police Department. I believe it is also necessary to recognize that serious crimes are committed in Brattleboro that victimize the vulnerable, including children. This is a large share of our policing. Crimes against women and children in our community are real. Property crimes are widespread.
As with all communities across the nation, an increasing number of people struggle with mental health crisis. As was pointed out in the Community Safety Report several years ago, alternatives to assist those experiencing mental health crisis, other than the Brattleboro Police Department, should be more readily available. State and local mental health providers should be more robust. State funding is needed. Often, mental health providers are not available when needed; this system needs improvement. Also, there are times when mental health providers do not feel safe in responding to crisis situations; this means that the Brattleboro Police Department handles these emergencies. Our Police Department has had and continues to be trained in de-escalation and other measures to handle mental health emergencies, but they need and welcome mental health partners. I believe it is important to recognize that people with mental health issues who commit crimes should not be immediately released. This is an additional area that the State of Vermont need to address. There are no facilities for these people unless they escalate to larger crimes. This is not a solution. We need to address this problem. This should be a part of our Community Safety conversation.
What kinds of projects would you like to see funded?
I believe that a program like the one Burlington just established (with State funding) using the COHOOTS model, is what we need in Brattleboro to provide alternatives to police for mental health calls However, the risk to mental health providers must be recognized and Police back up should be clearly established. Among the fine non-profit social service agencies and volunteers in Brattleboro, I’m looking forward to hearing ideas and solutions for mental health and community safety. I also believe that enhanced Restorative Justice is a worthwhile endeavor.
Are you in favor of replacing cameras at the Transportation Center or adding them downtown?
Yes, and in other areas of the downtown.
How do you feel about adding a police substation at the Transportation Center?
I support a Police substation at the Brattleboro Transportation Center, which would assist the Police Department with Downtown patrols. I would leave the specifics of this substation up to Chief Norma Hardy. I also support any public bathroom proposal to be located there.
-Housing & Gentrification
More housing! We have a recent Housing Study that states that Brattleboro needs 500 housing units!
This housing is needed across the board for all income levels. The Town of Brattleboro coordinates with the State. In terms of housing policy, our Town Planners and Planning Commission have significantly reduced barriers to create housing, thru zoning changes which are a model to other towns in Vermont.
I support tentative plans for large scale housing development at the Winston Prouty Center. Also, our Town has staff to assist in navigating state funding programs to create new housing units – from adding new construction or rehabilitating existing buildings —adding one or two units, or many. The State is working with the Windham Windsor Housing Trust to administer rehabilitation funds. The Town allows and has supported the creation of an additional dwelling unit within a single-family property for many years. In my tenure in the Selectboard we voted to create a housing inspection program to improve the quality of rental housing. We need to encourage the creation of new housing units. We need to support the work of both housing non-profits and independent landlords in this quest for more housing, as housing is needed across the board – for all income levels. Demonizing landlords is not the answer. “Program Income” (non-taxpayer-based funding) is used in Brattleboro to help fund non-profit low and moderate housing. In the past 12 years, the Selectboard has granted or loaned almost a million dollars to low-income housing, bringing the total investment from all sources, public and private, to $31M. Worker housing is also a particular focus of state and local efforts as it is critical to allow new people to move here to fill open jobs throughout our Town.
I proposed a reduction in the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for town staff from 5% to 4%, because the 5% budget was proposed at the very height of national inflation and since that time, inflation is coming down. A raise of 4% is well above the norm for Town staff. This one percent reduction brought the town tax rate down to a more consistent, manageable level. As a senior myself, I am very conscious of my neighbors and my cost of living and tax burden. The high cost of eggs is a burden we all bear, but some lucky people have access to chickens!
If you could make an immediate change (free of charge!) to Brattleboro,
what would it be?
If I had a magic wand, I would wipe out both the addiction and the mental health struggles that cause so much harm and misery in Brattleboro.
Read any good books lately? What can you recommend?
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles was great, (read a couple of years ago but it still stands out)
I also recommend Tatiana Schlossberg’s book, Inconspicuous Consumption, The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have (after hearing her at the Brattleboro Literary Festival a few years ago),
And I am currently reading …
The Invention of Nature Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf.
Is there any thing you’d like to discuss that we didn’t ask you about?
I think it is important to have continuity on the Selectboard to continue the initiative that have been delayed from the Pandemic and from the time lost to settling in a permanent Town Manager. I think John Potter deserves to have a settled Selectboard.
Thanks for taking time with iBrattleboro.com