BENNINGTON — Michael McDonough seeks to bring his knowledge of how the town works to the Select Board.
McDonough is running for one of three seats on the board. Currently the director of athletics at Southern Vermont College, he was born and raised in Bennington where he practiced architecture for 31 years. He's been involved in coaching youth teams for many years. Prior to becoming director of athletics he coached men's basketball at SVC. Before that he was an assistant to David Fredrickson with the MAU boy's basketball program, and before that spend a number of years coaching the Mount Anthony Youth Athletic Association Basketball Program.
He is currently a member of the Planning Commission and sits on the Board of Directors for the Better Bennington Corporation, a nonprofit funded by a special tax levied on downtown businesses with the goal of improving the district. McDonough is also a member of the Vermont Downtown Board and was recently appointed to the District #8 Environmental Commission, which oversees local Act 250 permits.
He would have to step down from the Planning Commission of elected to the Select Board.
"I certainly think I have a great deal of expertise to offer to the process," he said. "I think I have institutional knowledge as far as the community is concerned."
McDonough was also assistant town manager in the 1980s.
"I think I have a background sense of how our town government works, so I think it equips me well to deal with the many challenges we have as a community and to support the successes as well," he said.
He feels the town has made great strides in recent years in improving standard services like water, sewer, and roads. He would like to see, "A more constant vigilance to regular maintenance," regarding those services. He said repairs need to be done every year, but a balance must be struck between the work needed and what taxpayers can bear.
"I think we're much more on top of that," he said. "Every constructions season we see progress in sidewalk repair and maintenance and highway paving."
McDonough said this past year there has been a shift in how the board does things. He said it has become more proactive and its efforts in economic development are gaining momentum.
"I also see myself as fitting into that," he said. I don't think it's my nature to be fractious and generally speaking I like to think of myself as a person who listens to the community, to the voters, to the people that I serve with on boards and commissions, and then ultimately making up my mind based on those pieces of input, but also my vision for what I think Bennington is and should continue to be."
McDonough applauded the board's work to bring together the so-called 'CAPA group" named for the Center for the Advancement of Public Action at Bennington College where, in December, local business leaders met with the hope of forming a group that would spur public and private partnerships and investments to improve the local economy.
"It's one of the first times in this long journey we've been on in the area of economic development where we have very actively sought the involvement of business leaders within the community, people from the business sector," he said.
He said the challenge in involving business leaders in such endeavors is that successful businesspeople tend to be heavily involved in their work and have little time for other things.
McDonough said it will be key for the town to settle on an approach and keep it up.
"I don't think there are new tools out there," he said. "We attempt to use the tools available to us. If there is a shortcoming, it's that we haven't been able to focus on a particular approach and to sustain it. The effort has been there, but we're always grasping for that new tool that will work."
He said he feels the town should establish an approach to regional marketing and draw on the wealth of the nearby Capital District in New York as well as the Berkshires in Massachusetts. He would like to see the town move towards "form-based zoning," an approach to zoning that looks more at the impacts of businesses and structures and relies less on lumping them into rigid zone classifications such as commercial, industrial, and residential.
With more and more solar projects being proposed, McDonough said the town could be seeking to identify sites or areas where those projects would be best and encourage them to happen there and not places where they are contentions.
As for the Legislature mulling over the legalization of marijuana, McDonough said it's a complex issue with some possible benefits and likely many unforeseen consequences. He compared marijuana to alcohol in terms of how effective prohibition is, and said that while the regulation of alcohol has been a good thing, there are still issues left unresolved.
"If I had to take a position, and I might have to, my current position would be we're not ready yet," he said.
McDonough is one of seven candidates who will appear on the ballot March 1 at Town Meeting Day. The others are Thomas Jacobs, Mike Bethel, Jeannie Jenkins, Jeanne Conner, Don Miller, and Jason Bushee. The Banner will run one-on-one interviews with all of them except for Bushee who has not returned calls or emails.
— Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-7567 Ext. 115