I have been lobbying for Fair Representation for 15 years. (www.fairness1st.org/history)
Lots has changed here since 2005. What hasn’t is the need for a simple, low-cost, solution to lopsided representation on the Selectboard.
Our elected-at-large, un-even-numbered board ignores the needs of “the missing half” and fuels the frustrations that prevent us from behaving as one, united community.
The EWSD School Board in 2017 found a way around this divisive set-up. In order to bring their new, merged school district together, they evened up their Essex representation.
The school district offered 4 Village Reps and 4 Town (outside-the-Village) Reps to Essex, so that the unique identities of our varied community might be represented in a way that honored our differences as well as our commonalities.
Certainly, the merged school district could have specified 8 at-large reps for the town.
Why didn’t they? Maybe they realized how difficult it is for each elected official to answer to 22,000 constituents.
Maybe they saw, in municipal government, the failure of at-large representatives to adequately address the town’s two-pronged history, geography, culture, and settlement patterns.
At-large representation has its place, of course. It can work for small, homogeneous communities.
But diverse communities, such as Montpelier and Burlington, use ward-based (or district) representation instead to ensure that populations living in different areas have appropriate input at the board table.
It’s time for Essex to honor the different voices in its Village and TOV by equalizing representation in both of these districts — just as the EWSD School Board has done — before it negotiates a new merger plan or other significant proposals.
Let’s level the playing field, by having equal teams representing all Essex residents at the Selectboard table.
Please join me in voting YES for the Fair Representation Charter Change: 3 + 3 on 3/3.