Next Tuesday, when we vote on Town Meeting Day, we will have an opportunity to support some of our most afflicted in our community: renters vulnerable to unpredictable no cause evictions. This is Article II on the ballot, the Just Cause Eviction proposed charter change. This is an issue that has been advocated for on state and federal levels as well. I support this fully although I recognize that after some use and experience imperfections may be revealed. This is no different from charter change and if necessary can be rectified with an amending charter change the following year. In the meantime enactment of this legislation will relieve some of the debilitating stress that so many here in Brattleboro and thousands across the state must endure. Nothing is apparent in the proposed language that will have dire consequences for the landlords.
I am a candidate for the Selectboard. If elected I will, in response to some of the landlords most emphatic concerns, propose further action. I will propose first that the Town add an appropriate number of hours to the office currently doing rental inspections. This would enable the inspector to respond quickly to landlord complaints. Tenants could also make complaints against landlords. The inspector would produce a written report based on their observations and other relevant information. Second, I will recommend the establishment of a small local board, perhaps only three people (like our Listers Board), that would receive these reports and initiate a proscribed process that would lead to or enhance remedial action. Much like existing interventions such as community justice boards, resolutions are sought before conflicts get into the courts. They are successfully resolved on a community level by peers and are generally effective because they demonstrate a vested interest of the community and taken very seriously by everyone involved. It is not uncommon for courts themselves to send such contests back to mediation rather than simply impose verdicts that never deal with cause and thus never stem the tide of violations. Such purposeful Boards exist everywhere and their success requires only willingness and desire to achieve the desired results..
This possible solution will not be an onerous burden because the actual number of cases that fall into this category are likely to be far less than landlords would have us believe. Exaggeration is typical when we approach an issue as a win/lose proposition rather than seeking a “best for everyone” solution. Win/lose processes draw us into statements and assertions employing deceptions, threats, misinformation, exaggeration and all manner of things that make it highly unlikely that there will be an informed, widely respected and durable decision. Such processes encourage us to jockey and maneuver for advantage rather than listening in a caring and careful manner. This is emotional decision making. Informed decision making, where people are providing evidence and making themselves accountable, is the essence of democracy. As well, of course, as universal participation. Democracy endures when it seeks the welfare of all rather than the victory or defeat of special or individual interests.