Once More for Oscar Heller

The Brattleboro Selectboard made important decisions over the last year

–Proposing to Representative Town Meeting an increase in staff salaries by 13.1%, which will result in salaries and benefits constituting 61.2% of the Town budget, up from 58.3%

–Replacing emergency medical services (EMS) previously provided by Resue (and in the last two years by Golden Cross) with EMS services embedded in the Brattleboro Fire Department, all despite sustained public opposition

–Allocating nearly $1.4 million of available American Rescue Plan Act funds for the start-up of in-house EMS and then the balance for a miscellany of smaller items, ignoring surveys conducted by the Town in which members of the public clearly prioritized actions on housing and the provision of downtown restroom facilities

–Giving $160,000 to two organizations for vague economic development activities

All too often these decisions, which will lead to a 4.3% increase in municipal property taxes, passed by a 5-0 vote of the Selectboard. (Read the RTM Finance Committee report here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/15zn9e-MbBvJ-pfRvSKfBOTzHV4rCSwSk46ZW7hJBIlI/edit or go to brattleboro.gov and then click on government, then Representative Town Meeting, then 2024 RTM, and then, finally, 2024 Report of the RTM Finance Committee.)

I encourage you to vote for Oscar Heller for a three-year term on the Selectboard. Heller is challenging Peter Fish Case who, by all accounts, is a very nice man who has been a supporter of a number of community activities. Mr. Case has not, however, demonstrated a willingness to dig into the details of the budget or other Town business nor has he asked tough questions.

Oscar Heller is a young businessperson who chose to live in Brattleboro after wonderful experiences as a camper and counselor at Camp W in west Brat. Oscar has been a member of RTM for five years and served for five years on the Energy Committee, including as chair. I’ve worked with him for three years on the RTM Finance Committee and he has consistently demonstrated a deep understanding of the budget, the services it supports and its implications for taxpayers. He has progressive values and yet is also a responsible and thoughtful leader. His focus is on providing close oversight of Town business and supporting housing initiatives in Brattleboro but he is also committed to listening, really listening, to the public.

Please consider voting for Oscar Heller.

David Levenbach, Brattleboro, RTM District 3

Comments | 1

  • My take on it

    Semi-perennially we hear from Brattleboro Selectboard candidates who claim that they listen to people, and can be counted on to speak up with integrity and independence, not in automatic lock-step with the other Selectboard members.

    With only one exception that I am aware of, during the past couple of decades, once elected the self-importance inspired by the lofty honor of sitting at the dais seems to mesmerize them, and they forget that they or our neighbors — just people like the rest of us. Once on the board, they either ignore public feedback, or are complicit with their silence when the chair disrespects and shuts down a member of the public, instead of giving everyone’s concerns serious consideration.

    My gut feeling is that Peter Case is a shoot-from-the-hip guy, personable but a shallow thinker. Heller is informed by data, and checks the facts. My concern about him is a gut feeling that his analytical mind may not be balanced with the empathy which some people just seem to have naturally, and which continues to develop with life experience.

    I almost wince at voting, as inevitably whoever gets elected ends up being a disappointment. I would wonder if my faith in democracy is superstitious, except that I have seen democracy work in a professional organization in which the members stayed informed and focused, and always made sure not to allow the the leadership to forget that they are there, not to command, but to serve.

    I think that town government is small enough to be the one governmental entity which could function as a human-scale instrument of democratic decision-making. Yet somehow, it never ceases to frustrate my best hopes that every selectboard acts in an arbitrary manner, brushing aside concerns which run contrary to the decisions which they have already cooked up prior to the public meeting.

    Yet I continue to vote anyway, a tribute to my superstitious faith in democracy. Despite solid evidence to the contrary, I always hope that the newly-elected Selectboard members will act as though they understand that they are our servants, not our masters.

    Fish may be a nice guy, but given that it is necessary to make a choice, I intend to vote for Oscar Heller, in the unlikely hope that, if elected, his character will prove to be more solid than the typical, self-important and self-assured “standard-issue” Board members.

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