Letter: Responding to concerns about mayor proposal
Now that the local public hearings have wrapped up, the good news is most folks aren't completely opposed to Bennington switching to a mayor form of government. Instead, they expressed concerns and only a few at that: veto and veto override, popularity and inexperience, and recall abilities.
These are the few concerns from opponents, followed by the facts:
Veto and veto override: The vote to change to a strong mayor is the first step in the process. Here's what else happens after a yes vote on March 6: It is sent to the Legislature, where hearings are held and amendments can be added in committee before it is eventually ratified. What this all means is that during the legislative process a veto override can be added to the charter amendment along with details such as term limits.
"Popularity contest" and "inexperience": The point of a mayor is to create an elected executive branch of government where local voters have a direct say on who is leading town government. Right now there is no elected executive branch. Local voters have no direct say on whether the person running the municipal government is from the outside or within. The first mayor of Bennington will realistically be a current or recent member of the Select Board or town staff. The truth is we have many talented and sharp individuals in the stable and we can feel confident that the winner of a mayoral "popularity contest" will be someone the voters have elected because they believe the candidate is capable and deserving of the position.
Recall provision: Recall language for a mayor could be similar to what the charter now has for Select Board members ... basically requiring a petition with signatures to force a recall vote.
The important point here is that these few concerns could all be resolved by adding language during the process. This is what state lawmakers did with Springfield's charter amendments in 1986 and it's how it could happen with our charter amendment too.
On March 6, vote yes on Article 2 — yes to a mayor.
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