The recent article “Petition aims to force public vote” [Times Argus, July 27, 2014] stating that the Berlin Select Board is denying residents the right to vote on public safety in Berlin, is biased, one-sided political slop. Pat McDonald, a former Berlin Select Board member who is making these claims, knows the select board cannot deny residents the right to vote. The select board has the authority, and more importantly, the responsibility to require a petition containing 5 percent of the voters’ signatures on any questionable issue. This is not to “force” the select board to do something as much as it is a safety feature put in place to protect the town from the persuasions and demands of a few people.
Last year, after serious consideration and discussion at warned, open meetings, the select board concluded that public safety in Berlin (among other things) would take away a large portion (approximately 50%) of the town’s municipal budget and ability to make decisions regarding public safety, and place that control into the hands of the authority. Also, being locked into an agreement with Barre and Montpelier could stifle future prospects and the growth of Berlin.
As a result, Berlin’s participation with the public safety authority was unanimously voted down by the select board and not brought up again, by anyone, until this year, when Pat McDonald, a candidate for the Vermont State Senate, and Patti Lewis, who is running for re-election in the Vermont House of Representatives, started their push to get Berlin on board with the authority.
This situation is a perfect example of why a petition requiring 5 percent of the voters to sign was developed. It’s a simple process designed to give town residents the ability to show their elected officials that more than just a few people with special interests want to pursue an issue.
The select board is not being reluctant or denying Berlin residents the right to vote. Rather, it is following the rules and proceeding cautiously with the town’s best interest at heart.
Find a copy of the charter at www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/2014/bills/Intro/H-892.pdf and decide what you think is best for Berlin.