Samuel Stevens is running for a 1 year seat on the Brattleboro Selectboard.
Introduce yourself – who are you and why are you running this year for a 1 year seat?
I’m a lifelong resident of Brattleboro and someone who really cares about this community. Having completed my B.A. in Political Science at the University of Vermont, I returned to my hometown of Brattleboro resolved to put my newfound knowledge and skills to good use in the service of my community. Since that time, I’ve been a town meeting member, served on town committees, and also become a union steward at my place of work.
Do you have anything in particular you’d like to accomplish in the coming year on the board? What is motivating you to offer your services this year?
Seeking to attain and maintain equity, transparency, and safety in all aspects of the community is my focus. In particular, I’m interested in making Brattleboro a more livable place for young people to stay, or come to, after high school as they begin to build a life. There are a number of serious obstacles to this at present, chief amongst which is the housing crisis and high cost of living. This is, of course, a larger issue than it will be possible to fully resolve within my one-year term and I am cognizant that, as others have observed, one’s first year on the board is predominantly a learning opportunity. Even so, I believe that there is much I can accomplish that relates to the responsible use of funds, supporting local business, and advocating for the residents of this great town.
What’s your favorite part of living in Brattleboro? What do we do well?
What’s our greatest weakness in Brattleboro? What needs attention?
Brattleboro is a vibrant community, which does a fantastic job supporting local artisans and farmers, fostering the arts, and maintaining pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. Brattleboro is a great place to grow up in and a comfortable place to retire to. What we need to work on are the opportunities we provide for people who are in between those two stages in their life. Put one way, Brattleboro is a good place to think small, but not a great one in which to think big. Opportunities in higher education, medium-to-large scale business, and the prospect of acquiring one’s own household are largely elsewhere.
What can Brattleboro voters expect of you on the following issues:
-Brattleboro ambulance services – which option do you prefer?
– Voters can expect me to favor town-based EMS services, rather than a private provider. I’m still open to other opinions, but it doesn’t seem as if going back to Rescue is going to happen at this time and, after an excellent conversation I had with Daniel Quipp, it seems to me that the transparency and malleability offered by this approach are worth the higher cost. This same discussion has been had multiple times throughout the last few decades and this decision seems inevitable to me. Like many following the issue, I was concerned by the manner in which choices were made, but I currently feel that the decision itself is reasonable.
-Living Memorial Park upgrades
– The cost of the upgrades to the Living Memorial Park is something which I would ordinarily be dubious of, but I believe the proposed sale of a bond is a reasonable way to do this.
– Climate action is a matter which is near and dear to my heart. I spent two years studying Parks and Forest Resources at Unity College in Maine and retained this course of study as a minor in Environmental Studies at UVM. I will need to understand more acutely what Brattleboro is capable of doing on this front before I have a concrete plan of action, but the prospect of environmental work is what first drew me to politics and is something that I always bear in mind when making any sort of legislative decision.
– Community safety is something that I think about often. It seems like every other day, as I walk to work in the morning, that I see another smashed shop window downtown. It’s also troubling to see much of what goes on in and around the Transportation Center- not least because of the proximity to youth organizations like NEYT and the Boys and Girls Club. In response to these concerns, I am in strong support for installing cameras on Main street and in the area of the Transportation Center. I would also like to see a higher rate of pay for police officers and, perhaps, a program roughly equivalent to “growing nurses” which would provide resources and instruction to officers in exchange for a commitment to live and work in the area for a certain amount of time.
-Housing & Gentrification
– The housing issue is, in my opinion, the greatest problem that we currently face as a town. It’s an issue that affects quality of life for both current residents and the possibility of new residents to settle here. Covid relief funds would go a ways toward solving this issue, though no single approach will entirely solve this problem. It’s important that we focus on lowering the cost of living in this town and also find realistic compromises between landlords and tenants. With regards to the latter, it’s also important that we avoid measures that are punitive to either party or which remove agency from either party.
-The taxes that Brattleboro residents pay are too high. It’s that simple. It’s one of those things that gets brought up at town meeting every year. When this happens, someone will inevitably point out the high quantity and quality of services provided by the town of Brattleboro, relative to the size of the town. This is true and, to a limited extent, it’s what makes Brattleboro such a pleasant place to live. Nonetheless, the high “buy-in” that this creates to living in Brattleboro is the core cause of gentrification and is a large part of the reason why young people find themselves unable to justify living in Brattleboro.
If you could make an immediate change (free of charge!) to Brattleboro, what would it be?
If I could make an immediate and costless change to Brattleboro, it would be the paradigm through which we view the landlord-tenant relationship. In recent years, the conversation has become antagonistic and, to use an overused but apt descriptor, “toxic”.
Read any good books lately? What can you recommend?
Is there any thing you’d like to discuss that we didn’t ask you about?
I hope this presents my position in a reasonably clear way. I’d encourage anyone with further questions to attend the Q&A at the Boys and Girls Club on the 16th. We have a large quantity of passionate and involved individuals seeking to be part of the Selectboard this year. There is an excellent slate of candidates to choose from, but I would be honored to be considered.
Thanks for taking time with iBrattleboro.com