I think it’s fabulous that this year the local election has competition for both Selectboard seats. As a former Selectboard Chair myself, I am pleased to see people putting their hats in the ring. That notwithstanding, I will be voting to return Bill Smith to the Selectboard.
Calls for greater transparency make great sound bites (and I applaud the spirit) but having been on the Board, I’m confident that the processes of town government are transparent. Accusations of closed-door meetings that should be open or backroom “deals” are patently false-the Selectboard takes the Open Meeting Law (1 V.S.A. § 310) very seriously and it is against the law for a Board to make decisions in Executive Session. All Selectboard agendas are published on-line and are available in the Town Hall ahead of time. When I was the Board Chair I fielded similar comments about transparency and yet when I asked people to attend Board meetings and become better informed, the most common response was “I don’t have time.” That isn’t a sign that transparency is lacking.
I applaud that the Selectboard is planning to study the Loop Road concept again. The Loop Road is NOT a new idea, it was originally proposed over 20 years ago. It should be looked at every once in a while to see if it makes sense. Thus far, it hasn’t and it still might not but we won’t know if we don’t dust it off and look at it periodically. Regarding debt, when I was on the Board we took a deep look into the Town’s debt and made an informed comparison with other towns – Shelburne’s debt load wasn’t out of whack. The fact is that over 50 percent of the debt was incurred by the entire Town on behalf of the residents of the sewer district to fund plant upgrades and is not related to the day-to-day operation or management of the town (see Pages 58 and 59 of your Town Report). Another 17 percent of the Town debt is related to the Town Center renovation that was approved by the voters many years ago.
I served on the Selectboard with Bill for two of his six years. Bill is a smart, pragmatic, open-minded, fair, and respectful individual that listens carefully to all points of view. He has an outstanding background in finance and I valued his insight and input on all the issues we faced together while I was on the Selectboard. I was happy to see Bill become the Selectboard Chair a year ago because I have nothing but respect for his experience, intellect, and leadership. I’ll certainly be voting for Bill Smith on March 5 and I encourage my fellow Shelburne residents to do the same.
Jim Talley, Shelburne