VALLEY REPORTER QUESTIONS FOR SELECT BOARD CANDIDATEDAVE VAN DEUSEN, Moretown, Vermont, February 2010
Valley Reporter: Why are you running for town office?
Moretown Select Board Candidate Dave Van Deusen: I am running for a seat on the Select Board because I want to continue being a voice for the working families of Moretown. In 2009 I worked very hard to make sure that you were informed about what was going on our in town. I did my best to further bring you into this process so that the many, and not the few, had a say as to what was happening in our local government. If reelected I will continue to explore ways to give the public more oversight regarding town affairs, and I will do my best to exercise common sense when making day to day decisions in my role as Selectman.
VR: Any experience?
Dave: In 2006 I was appointed Moretown Representative to the Regional Planning Commission by the Select Board. In 2007 I was elected to First Constable. And then in 2009 I won a seat on Select Board, where I have been serving since. Outside of town government, I am a currently an officer in the Washington County Central Labor Council. In 2007 and 2009 I was elected District Vice President of the Vermont AFL-CIO.
So yes, I have experience in local government and a record of organizing on a statewide basis on behalf of working families. In Moretown I successfully advocated for “livable wages” for town employees, oversaw the Town Hall renovation project and worked on broadening local public participation in town affairs. On a statewide basis with the AFL-CIO I have worked towards universal healthcare reform, on revitalizing the labor movement, and broadening rank and file participation in union affairs.
VR: What, in your opinion, are the most pressing issues facing Moretown residents?
Dave: Due to the continuing economic downturn, taxes are especially an issue this year for both blue and white collar workers. The fact is that many people have been laid-off, many have had their hours reduced, and many more have seen a pay freeze or reduction (all the while Wall Street continues to make a killing). Truth be told, folks are going to have a hard time meeting their basic needs and paying their property taxes this year. Therefore we need to look at ways to reduce the tax burden without reducing necessary services.
One way to do this would be to make the way we off-set property taxes with landfill revenue more equitable per household. The way it is currently done is that we simply reduce the overall tax rate. In 2009 this regressive system translated into a person with a home in Moretown valued at one million dollars receiving $1200 in tax subsidies. The person with the one hundred thousand dollar home saw only $120 in tax savings. The renter, of course, saw nothing. This system of subsidies is not equitable or fair to the regular people who are struggling to get by. Instead we should find better ways use a portion of our landfill revenue; ways that level the playing field and benefit all of us equally. If we did this, taxes for average households would go drastically down, and we would not be in the false predicament of having to reduce jobs or services at the municipal level.
Even so, understand that any use of our landfill money (which is forecasted at $400,000 a year for maybe 15 more years), and specifically any change in the way we use this money, would have to be debated and voted on by you at a duly warned Town Meeting. This should not be for the Select Board to decide on their own.
VR: Should the environmental court rule in Rivers’ favor, do you think the town should continue with the quarry appeal process?
Dave: If the court rules in the towns favor, I have little doubt that Mr. Rivers will appeal. In this case I understand that the cost for fighting such an appeal could be as low as $1000. In this scenario I would support using funds from within the 2010 budget for defending the decision of our local Development Review Board by continuing proceedings.
On the other hand, if Mr. Rivers wins this stage of litigation, it could cost upwards of $30,000 for the town to file their own appeal. In this scenario I support the use of minimal town funds to begin legal proceedings ($12,000 is already set aside for anticipated lawyers’ fees in our 2010 budget). That said, I would go a step further and advocate for a town wide vote to see if we should spend more then what we have in our legal budget on further litigation.
VR: Do you think the town should continue to fund the library?
Dave: Absolutely. Libraries are cornerstones of communities, and the price we pay to maintain ours, per working class household, is small. For instance, at an annual operating cost of $18,000, a family who owns a $100,000 house pays $10 in taxes towards the library. A family with a $200,000 house pays $20. And a renter pays nothing.
When you reflect that the average price of a single new book is $18, or that a family membership fee to the Montpelier library is $44, I think you can see that we are doing quite well for our money here in Moretown.
I would also like to remind folks that although our library is small, they are able to get you just about any book through the inter-library loan system. So please do take advantage of this community resource.
VR: Are you in support of the town’s potential contract renewal with the Washington County Sheriff’s Department?
Dave: No. We have contracted with the Sheriffs Department for 5 years or so now. In that time I have not noticed crime going down, or up for that matter. In recent years we have spent a lot of money on the sheriffs for very little coverage. Also, when we do contract with them the town has essentially no oversight regarding how, when, where they patrol. In my mind this is a bad use of tax payer money.
What we should be doing is electing constables that are willing to get the necessary certifications in order that they can better patrol our roads. Unlike sheriff’s deputies, constables are elected directly by us, are accountable directly to us, and are in a better position to serve the needs of the community. And finally, we need to change the term that constables serve from one year to two (as it takes nearly a year to get all the training), and properly fund this important town department.
*David Van Deusen has been endorsed by the Vermont Liberty Union Party, the Vermont Progressive Party, the Socialist Party USA, and the Green Mountain Labor Council AFL-CIO.