Saturday, January 24, 2015

* The Table and the Chair

Letters to the Editor
The Valley News

 Word Count: 350

 Dear Editor:

During my first year of a two-year term on the Hartford School Board I have tried to alert the public to two  tactics permitted by the board which get my goat.

The first is allowing a chair and the superintendent behind closed doors to determine what is put on the agenda  instead of allowing any board member to put any item the member feels worthy on the agenda. The second tactic which concerns me and which I brought to the voters' attention in the last meeting,  is a chair determining without the board's advice and consent the amount the budget should  be raised in figuring a budget proposal to bring to the voters. In this case it was 4 % and I asked "why not 1%?" And  why wasn't the board's advice solicited before the superintendent spent months preparing a budget? Why not, for instance, produce a budget tied to the cost-of-living instead  of increasing the cost-of-living?

Small potatoes you say? This is just a Vermont country school board. Why are you belly-aching about such a tiny matter?

Belly-aching? Maybe. Tiny? No.

Our very nation was founded on an attempt to dilute concentration of power in the hands of  an executive:  The king.  Hence three branches of government each checking and balancing the other, sometimes requiring the advice and consent of the other before items can be approved.

In a five member body like our school board it is impossible to have three branches checking and balancing each other. But it is not impossible to insist that power not be casually concentrated in a chair.

Both  instances  cited above of  a chair making unauthorized decisions are like stacking the deck before the cards are dealt.

Small town democracy in Vermont should resist executive actions conducted behind closed doors without  public eyes watching.

Some of us believe that Vermont small town governing bodies are the purest form of democracy and shouldn't be fiddled with by executives even if they are only called “chair”.

In Vermont the table is more important than the chair . And it is round.

Paul D. Keane

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