Our View: Reject this mayoral proposal

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Opponents of the Bennington ballot referendum seeking a switch to a mayoral form of government have raised a number of pointed questions about the proposal.

Many are certainly valid concerns — such as the lack of specific details on how a mayoral system would work here, including the length of the mayor's term, whether the Select Board would have a veto override option, and whether the mayor would personally manage local government or require a hired manager.

But there is one aspect of this proposal that we believe particularly justifies a "no" vote. That is the fact that this is a binding referendum, which in effect would become an amendment to the town charter if approved.

Unlike past referendums on whether Bennington should have a mayor, which were nonbinding, this question would result in the elimination of the hired town manager position and substitute an elected mayor position — assuming the charter amendment also was approved by the Legislature and governor.

But unlike other proposed charter amendments, this one did not go through a public review led by a commission, during which public comment could be taken, and the Select Board did not vote to place this on the ballot.

In fact, this was placed on the ballot by a citizen petition and is opposed by every member of the board.

Supporters say the details of a mayoral position would be worked out over the next year before the first mayor was elected, likely in March 2019. But who can say what that would entail, and who would decide the details?

If supporters of a mayor in Bennington, which they believe will help foster greater accountability and provide a point person and a "face" of Bennington, are seeking change, the proper way to do this is through a committee process that works out all the details before the idea goes to the voters.

We urge Bennington voters to reject this proposal on March 6.




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