Woodstock Town Voting Tuesday

Approximately 150 people attended Woodstock’s Town Meeting Saturday, it seemed like a full house, but we hope a lot more people than that will turn out to vote tomorrow from 7am to 7pm at the Town Hall to express their point of view on numerous special articles and one special Court House Renovation bond ballot.

A few random thoughts on Saturday’s proceedings:

1. It was LONG 10am to 5pm. Woodstock Early Bird left and returned, it was still going on. You snooze, you lose: We missed the actual vote on Town Budget (it passed). Rarely do these meetings go beyond 2pm or 3pm, but with the number of special articles in need of explanation, it was like a long run-on redundant sentence.

2. Town Meeting “Truth in Government” Journalism Award: Eddie English keeps us honest. Eddie is known for routinely asking many specific questions about our town expenditures. Some find his questions tedious, but we’re willing to bet many privately thought, “Hey, I’m glad he asked that.” Somehow it seems easier for the Moderator, Town Manager or Selectboard to answer Eddie’s honest questions which he delivers without any agenda. He just wants to know. And so do we! Thanks Eddie, you do a good job. You’d make a great reporter.

3. The “Give the Kid A Cough Drop” Humanitarian Award: John Doten. A young scout who was helping out with the proceedings had a six hour coughing fit which all tolerated as best they could. Mr. Doten, however, kindly took some action, offering the kid a cough drop. For all John Doten contributes to the community, this was service above self. We thank him for his gesture.  The Scouts, BTW, were run ragged bringing the microphone to speakers. Not an easy job!

4. Got Quarters to Feed the Meter on Town Meeting Day? Ridiculous. How about suspending parking tickets around the Village Green on Town Meeting Day. Just stick it to the taxpayers. Give us a break. Cover the meters. It’s an insult to your community’s political participants, among them the most interested and committed to Town Government and probably the largest contributors to our tax base.

5. The “Nice Try” Award: Charlie Kimbell. Kimbell made a compelling argument for hiring an economic development coordinator, someone concerned with big picture issues facing Woodstock. This is not simply about filling storefronts, but about the future, finding business entities that might be drawn to Woodstock to help increase the number of jobs and increase the level of pay for jobs. However, we note Kimbell admitted that if this Economic Development Coordinator article passes tomorrow (you do get to vote by ballot on it), it may still take a few months to get someone hired and by the time the person is in the office, they might only have six months to “get ‘er done” before next Town Meeting. Which is essentially saying we would be committing 50K to a part-time six month position. Let’s try again next year with something more realistic: A fulltime job with a two-year agreement. Woodstock Early Bird asked about “measures of success” — we need more concrete details on what they should be so this doesn’t become yet another untouchable line item in our regular Town Budget. As we say, Kimbell and his Economic Development Committee make compelling arguments for such a position and Woodstock Early Bird sees their logic. We just don’t think this is quite the way to make it a successful “go.”

6. The Court House Bond Issue: This is far more important and critical than perhaps any other of the line items and special articles for consideration. We need a “yes” vote for a Windsor County Court House upgrade.  It’s important that Woodstock, in particular, not just say “yes” but get out LOTS OF VOTERS who say “yes” to offset naysayers elsewhere in Windsor County who will also be voting on this $2m bond issue. This is a county-wide issue, yet it will have the greatest effects on Woodstock, positive or negative.

We, the people of Woodstock,   have the most vested interest in keeping the Court House a Court House. The planned upgrades include accessibility (no handicapped person right now can even visit the upstairs court room), safety (Yes, the chance of violence exist even within a “civil” court and we need to protect workers including workers, providing ways out which do not currently exist). All of these upgrades are planned while keeping the historical nature of the building’s design. We ARE the Shire Town.  This building is an essential buttress to the Woodstock Inn. Without it in prime shape we lose our history, we lose our judges, lawyers, bailiffs, civilians and grounding as a community. We are told the 1855 Court House will cease to be used at all if these upgrades are not made. The “Court” will go elsewhere and the Court House will be a relic rather than an occupied, living, breathing entity.  Are you willing to let the roof cave in, the court to lie fallow and the commerce of the law to go elsewhere? No matter what you think of judges, courts, lawyers and so forth they do represent COMMERCE. Also, you might notice some of the finer showpiece homes in Woodstock were built by and once belonged to our educated, thinking men. For these reasons alone, Woodstock Early Bird thinks you need to take the time to vote tomorrow: 7am to 7pm — no excuses!

7.  Random Thought: We suggest that next year, in the interest of economic development, the people of Woodstock put just one article on the Town Meeting agenda: 100K for the clean-up remediation of the Alsup Property currently for sale. Just think,  what we spend on a projector and one other 50K article this year  might be spent to pave the way for a sale.

How about the Town of Woodstock voters bring the “clean-up” dollars to the table of any pending deal? It’s the least we could do to move the East End development forward.  We’re pretty sure we know what some of the economic development issues are already: Fix The East End. Make it Attractive For Development. Make that property more attractive for sale and sell it. Get ‘er done. End all the fussing. It’s getting old.

8. As a result of a presentation made at Town Meeting, we have some concrete details that fiber-optic lines are getting into Woodstock. They are being run from the South Pomfret line up around the National Park down River Street and up Linden Hill.  For real. That’s what is being done with funds raised last year.

Here’s the problem, of course: Money. We understand that running the lines gets way more expensive because of DIGGING in the buried lines areas of the Village.   EC Fiber Rep. Dave Brown asks neighborhoods to get together and say, “Hey, we want this, we will pay for it..” He also suggests that those with the means to buy fiber-optic segments. For example, a link between Linden Hill, the Elementary School, the Woodstock Inn and the Library.  That would be of great worth.

9. FINALLY!  Get this people: Someone who gets it! We applaud Woodstock Elementary School Principal Karen White who has just had her contract renewed for four more years. We found out at Town Meeting that she has not taken a raise in her salary for four years. THANK YOU! You should thank her for this. She probably deserves her raises, but is community minded and budget minded enough to be able to say, “Hey, I’m good for now…”  Service above self. You go girl!

See you at the polls tomorrow!

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Sarah on March 4, 2013 at 10:20

    I pay a huge property tax bill each year but have no say/no vote in the village or town. It is taxation without representation. We should be able to vote wherever we pay taxes regardless if that may be in multiple places.

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    • Posted by Diana Brown on March 4, 2013 at 11:35

      The issue of representation for owner non-residents is decided at the state level, I believe. However, unlike some states, non residents may attend town meeting and speak to issues, as long as they identify as a non-resident, and do not actually vote.

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  2. Excellent post, Julia! Thank you for ALL you do to keep us informed and up-to-the -minute with your directness and grace.
    Rachel Kahn

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  3. Posted by Margaret (Peggy) Kannenstine on March 5, 2013 at 09:56

    Your concern, Julia, about the East End is on target–except for the suggestion about the Alsup property. Mr. Alsup has refused several past offers to purchase that very property. It seems to me that the town taking over responsibility for “cleaning up” his land might be for nothing, if the past gives any indication. (And, gee, what would that clean-up expense mean to all the other people in town who might not feel like fixing up their places?) hmmmm….

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