Governance (Merger) Subcommittee members are making recommendations to their peers on the Town Selectboard and Village Trustees.
First up, representation, or how a future Selectboard would be structured.
“We’re relying on residents’ feedback to help us develop the best models for representation,” states the Town and Village’s pro-merger website. Read that again, carefully.
The Governance Subcommittee has ignored this guiding principle.
As evidence, let’s look at the taxpayer funded survey our elected officials used to obtain “residents’ feedback”. The admittedly unscientific survey exposed each of three representation models to all 844 respondents making these questions more likely to overcome the survey’s sampling deficiencies.
District-Based Only … favored by 62% of survey respondents
At-Large Only … favored by 51%
A combination of District-Based and At-Large … favored by 35%
Which is the recommended choice of the Subcommittee?
The current recommendation from the Governance Subcommittee for future representation is a seven member board: a combination of two from the TOV district, two from the Village district, and three at large.
Our elected officials have spent tens of thousands of dollars to gain residents’ feedback and then picked survey respondents’ least favored option! Why?
How did our elected officials arrive at this recommendation? Obviously not based on “residents’ feedback”. I suggest this is a cunningly chosen option.
Let’s do the math. Currently, with our five at-large member board, in order to have a majority on a question, THREE members must vote together.
With the recommended new configuration, assuming the four district-centric seats vote to cancel each other out, only the three at-large members will determine the outcome of a question where geography matters. How many are needed then to have a majority of three? TWO!
If I wanted to maintain, or even increase, control of a future Selectboard while appearing to heed district-specific desires, this sleight of hand would do it.
With a tax shift at the heart of this proposed merger, how best to make it stick and prevent the more conservative, TOV residents from cutting services to reduce future taxes? Answer: make it easier for the higher-density, generously spending, more politically active part of the community to hold a majority of the Selectboard seats. Check! So much for bringing the community together.
Our challenge, well stated by Evan Teich, Town/Village manager, at the 11/14 Governance Subcommittee meeting, is that it’s easier to campaign in the denser parts of the Town, i.e. the Village. Because of this logistic fact, at-large representation will tend to be density-skewed. If we truly want harmony, everyone must feel they have an equal say.
Density-skewed representation must be eliminated to create representation that is perceived as fair. Replacing at-large representation with district ONLY representation would allow fair policy-making and budgeting. Lucky us! We just so happen to have two nearly equal, well defined, districts, population wise.
The solution is simple: make the Selectboard three from the Village and three from the TOV. An even number requires our representatives to work together for the Greater Good. An odd number, because of our vastly different density across the town has been, and will continue to be, a recipe for a contention instead of cooperation.
Don’t believe me? Survey says . . .