Jacobs: A no vote on Article 2 is a vote for progress

We have all heard at one time or another that democracy may not be perfect and it's just as true when it comes to the form of municipal government. We all can agree a civil discourse on which governmental form which can best position Bennington is both beneficial and appropriate.

In doing so, we do have to realize in considering the best model of government that Bennington is not a municipality the scale of Burlington or Rutland where the mayor form of government is the model. We also need to accept the fact that this is not the 50's and 60's when small towns America, including Bennington, were flourishing with industrial activity. The question comes down to what form of government can best provide for Bennington's future. Whether one concludes the benefit of having a strong mayor outweighs the town manager form to meet the challenges of our time is certainly acceptable.

However, that is really not the issue which this ballot article poses. The plain language of this referendum article calls for not only a change in form of the town's management, but intentionally or not, would seek to replace our representative form of government with one individual who would effectively control any and all decisions impacting our town without having to seek or more importantly accept input from anyone, much less a selectboard. This is a form of government that I do not find personally acceptable.

I hope the voters on March 6th likewise conclude the proposal ultimately gives too much unchecked power to one revolving elected official. I have more than a real concern as to whether the town of Bennington and its 16,000 or so citizens would be well served when the town's $15M budget is managed by someone who may well not be qualified. Further as offered the charter change would eliminate those critical checks and balances from our town government which lessen the potential of a bad choice or decision that might impact our financial wellbeing. Would there be members of the public who would be interested in serving on a board/committee if any and all of their actions were subject to the arbitrary whim and veto of a person elected in a popularity contest? In the final analysis real representative government would be the casualty if this proposal should become a reality.

One may not feel the existing manager/selectboard form of government is as efficient as they might like but please take the time to see what is actually happening in our community as the public (the state and town) and private sectors are leading with their ideas and financial investment. Folks, Bennington is at the cusp of something very special. Our community is well positioned under the existing system to carry this community forward. Our management and selectboard of seven elected community members has and will lead the revival. With the combination of the private and public commitments and investment Bennington has a bright future. We need to keep that in mind as we vote on March 6th. To consider a change in government to the most authoritarian system in Vermont would I fear set back the entire effort of renewing and improving our special community. Let's move forward not backward. I encourage a NO vote on Article 2.

Thank you for your interest in the wellbeing of our community whatever your position on the form of its government.

Tom Jacobs is chair of the Bennington Selectboard.


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