Letter: Bennington needs a change in direction
Like many residents of Bennington, I have been following the proposed mayoral issue closely through what has been written, and the opinions of others through the letters to the editor.
Prior to the proposal of a mayor system I've felt a need for change in the direction this town has continued to move in, which in my opinion is perpetual stagnation. However, I felt it was important to listen and learn before I came to any conclusions. After thinking about the issue that people have brought up I have concluded with strong conviction that it is time for a change.
Let me preclude my reasoning for that decision by stating that there is nothing personal to that decision. I appreciate everyone that works hard at a usually thankless position to attempt running a town government.
Recently I attended a presentation on "Growing up in the Fifties in Bennington," which was not only quite nostalgic, but quite informative. At the conclusion of this presentation it opened my eyes to what we had, an economy that was booming, a population on the rise, places to shop for nearly all your needs, places of recreation, comparative taxes for the times, etc., etc. After the '50s growth in this town slowed to a more reasonable level. However, since 1980 our population has decreased, our property taxes have skyrocketed, our family and friends leave for better opportunities elsewhere, we have limited recreation, especially for our children, we have to go elsewhere for many of our shopping needs, we don't open our arms wide to tourism, and we are one major manufacturing departure from making our lives more difficult.
So, what is our identity? Where as a community are we headed? We have had the same old same old for way too long. We can blame our woes on the bypass, the economy, and the mere fact that it is the sign of the times for small towns. We have so much to offer in this time, but we have to be willing to diversify to get there. The same way of governing will not change the future of this town.
I have read every letter and article about this subject, and all I can see is a scare tactic from the naysayers.
Comments like, "A candidate for mayor has to have no previous experience or qualifications." I take that to mean that the voters of this town aren't smart enough to vote for a qualified candidate. Or, "The mayor could veto the decisions of the Select Board." Well, it's possible we could get a tsunami in Bennington also, but not likely. Or, "The town manager is hired by the Select Board and serves at the pleasure of the board, and can be terminated if not performing their duties." We haven't seen that happen, and I don't see that tsunami happening either. I also found it interesting that the Select Board unanimously disapproves of a mayoral system. I think a fifth-grader could have predicted that.
For the people that feel the town manager/Select Board is a fine tuned well oiled machine, you are absolutely right. It's easy for any machine to not have any breakdowns when it sits in idle. My final conclusion is that I'll take my chances with a strong mayor versus a weak board.
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