Brattleboro passed its renewable energy resolution in March 2018, by a vote of 910 to 180. The biggest challenge in the process was merely getting the 450 signatures for the petition to have the resolution on the Town Meeting Day ballot in the first place.
After it passed, though, not a lot seemed to change. Brattleboro had had a part-time energy coordinator, but the position remained vacant after the last coordinator left in early 2018. The town energy committee submitted a proposal later in 2018 to hire a new person using $10,000 that had been allocated for renewable energy/sustainability initiatives. The Selectboard rejected the proposal, and the money was never used at all.
Then, in March 2019, Brattleboro’s representative town meeting voted to approve not just $10,000 but $100,000 for sustainability efforts. The prevailing idea was to use the money to hire a sustainability coordinator, but the Selectboard would have the final decision about how the money was spent. The energy committee convened a citizens’ working group to draft a proposal. Members of 350 Brattleboro joined the group and helped craft a vision for a sustainability coordinator as a unifying force, working to bring together Brattleboro residents, businesses, organizations, schools, and town government. The coordinator would connect community members with each other and with the ideas and resources they would need to move toward a more sustainable and equitable future.
The Selectboard will vote on the proposal on August 20. At least two of the five board members feel that it would be more practical to spend the money on individual sustainability-oriented projects, rather than adding to the town staff.
The working group members, however, feel that the kind of change we need — the kind of change laid out in the renewable energy resolutions passed here and across Vermont in the last year and a half — requires its own voice in town government. We need someone who is not just a sustainability coordinator but a sustainability champion, inspiring and facilitating a community-wide shift away from destructive habits and systems and toward a more hopeful future for all.