Voting for mayor and accountability

To the Editor:

Our country is at a point in its history where divisiveness is en vogue. We can't even have an earnest conversation anymore. If someone criticizes Trump, conservatives start rambling about Hillary and her emails conversely, if someone compliments Trump, liberals start the Nazi mudslinging. It's not unlike the way children argue, trying harder to hurt another's feelings or distract from the truth than proving a point.

Consider the way we've addressed the mayor issue. Rather than hosting informational sessions where our leaders discuss the positives and negatives, learn from state officials about our options, and hear from other towns about how the mayoral system works for them, the Select Board hosted two meetings where the public could voice their opinions. While giving the public a platform to voice opinions is an important part of democracy, so is providing the public with facts and background necessary to form an opinion. Resultingly, it's become another divisive issue, with the public missing key details about perhaps the most important decision we will collectively make as a town this decade.

Is a mayoral form of government best for Bennington? I'm not completely sure. However, I am sure our current system has fed a culture of cronyism, nepotism, and malaise that must end before Bennington can move forward. So, I'll be voting FOR the mayoral option. I feel comfortable knowing that details like veto and override provisions are made after the vote passes. There is a year between this vote and a mayoral election when all details are addressed by the current Select Board and state Legislature.

As a Main Street business owner for the past 18 years, I've learned that lack of accountability is the biggest challenge we face as a town. I remember speaking with former Bennington Town Manager, Bob Matteson about the need for a mayor, and his insight was invaluable. His Twenty-Ten Project reports, "...elections of Selectmen townwide without the election of a chief official for policy leadership tend to be popularity contests without much opportunity for policy choices." Indeed, we have talent, we have resources, we have vision; what we lack is the person to utilize our assets for the benefit of the town as a whole, rather than just a select few. It's time that someone is responsible for the successes and failures of our town's decisions, and voters hold that person accountable in the voting booth.

Joel Lentzner



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