Letter to the Editor

Why now?

Mon, 11/22/2021 - 4:45pm

Dear Editor:

Article 4 on Alna’s Dec. 14 ballot would improve the stability and continuity of town government. How? By adopting staggered three-year terms for its select board, by having the board elect its own chair each year, and by compensating select board members equally. Our neighbors prove that Article 4 makes sense: Its first two provisions have been adopted by 25 of 26 towns nearby, nearly half of which offer equal stipends.

Those opposed to this measure ask why voters should make this change now, instead of waiting until town meeting in March. The answers are as straightforward and simple as the policies themselves. Concentrating so much knowledge and authority in our first selectperson exposes town government to disruption. Terms for two of the seats on our three-person board expire simultaneously every other year. Those elected this year were forced to train themselves on the job when our first selectperson abruptly resigned. This is clearly a risk we should avoid repeating.

State law requires adopting Article 4’s changes at least 90 days before the election when they first become effective. To take effect before the board vacancy is filled for the next full term, voters must approve them at least 90 days before the March election. Without a December referendum, we’d be forced to wait at least two more years, needlessly risking the same problems we faced this year. Some Alna residents say that changes this significant should only be considered at an open town meeting, where voters express their thoughts face-to-face. Ironically, we heard this argument again last week, at a well-attended in-person public hearing, which gives essentially the same opportunity for face-to-face exchange of ideas as occurs during an open town meeting.

Article 4 includes policies that will improve stability, continuity and teamwork in town government. Their adoption by so many neighboring towns shows that these policies make sense. By adopting these changes now, Alna’s voters can help avoid repeating the uncertainty we faced in 2021.

Ed Pentaleri