Letter: Charter change to mayor a mistake
I think that choosing a mayoral system for Bennington would be a mistake and I hope that people will not vote for this article just to "give a mayor a try." This article is binding and if approved, it would create new state law. It would be almost impossible to back out of it for several years. If an incompetent mayor were elected, we would essentially be forced to live with this decision for years. And we don't even know how many years because this ballot article is incomplete.
I was a member of the Charter Review Committee. Our committee members heeded the call for accountability in a more reasoned manner. Even before the recent salt shed controversy, we proposed Charter changes to require an annual review of the town manager, who would be appointed to 3-year terms. We also proposed writing into the Charter that the select board chair is the ceremonial head of the town government. The town will have an opportunity to vote on these changes this summer. I believe that a strong mayoral government can be divisive for a town of our size. If the mayor proposed in Article 2 aligned against a very popular initiative, he or she could stop it. We only need to look at the situation of our neighbors in Rutland and the controversy created with the refugee proposal there to see how the fabric of a town can be torn by one person's vision unmitigated by compromise.
The proposed mayoral veto power, with NO provision for an override, is overreaching. This situation alone helps to make an off-the-cuff remark that this article sounds "like a monarchy" ring true. The veto provision makes the ballot article a very bad idea. Finally, I believe that we, as residents of the town, have excellent access to our town's decision-makers. The board meets formally twice per month and residents have the opportunity to speak at any meeting. Residents who approach the board in a civil and reasonable manner have their voices heard. Those that go beyond complaining and are willing to seek and work on solutions to issues they have will see real results. Our current form of government is working. Let's not replace it just to see if something else might work.
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