Charter Change FAQs
What’s wrong with what we have?
Half the population of Essex is under-represented in local government at any one time, due to the odd number of seats on the Selectboard. When people lose their voice through a lack of representation, they lose power. Such an imbalance of power makes for a dysfunctional government and leads to resentment by those who feel unheard.
Don’t at-large Selectboard members represent our one community?
Despite best intentions, SB members know and naturally promote positions that benefit those in close proximity. How can each of five people understand where all of 22,000 people stand on issues, especially when those people have very diverse lifestyles? Essex Town is comprised of a downtown, suburbs and rural areas, and their inhabitants’ needs vary greatly.
What will this charter change remedy?
District-based representation would allow members to be responsive to a smaller number of constituents whose needs they better understand.
Can we even have an even-numbered board?
Yes. Our school district is functioning well with a 10-member board. Our Town Selectboard and Village Trustees appointed a 4-member Governance Subcommittee, with 2 Village and 2 TOV members.
With an even‐numbered board, split evenly between districts, more deliberation, fact‐checking, and negotiations should occur and produce better outcomes, especially on contentious issues—should Essex ever face one!
What about tie votes?
They can happen now, when a member is absent or recuses himself or herself from an odd-numbered board. An even number requires reaching consensus with members working toward the greater good. If a tie vote occurs, perhaps it’s time for another approach, exploring new options that will benefit everyone, not just part of the town.
Why not have more than two districts?
The intuitive place to start is with the two districts, Village and TOV, that have historically exhibited cultural and geographic differences. These 2 districts are consistent with those of the school board.
More districts would require a trusted team to map out districts, then additional district ballots, voter roll reallocation, and potentially more voting locations.
Which Selectboard members would I vote for?
Just the three in your district. Ideally, one per year.
What are the Village and TOV Populations?
About equal. That’s why the EWSD (School Board) has the same number of reps (4) in both Essex districts.
What if populations change over time?
Independent commissions are typically set up to determine when redistricting is needed and how to do so.
We should! The Selectboard is charged with securing our health, safety and welfare. Without members speaking for you, can you be confident that your needs will be met, and interests served on issues related to taxes, public safety, plowing, parks and recreation, libraries and community development?
Do people want this?
Our elected officials spent $50,000 on focus groups and surveys to get feedback on a proposed merger of Town and Village budgets. Results indicate participants support equal, district-based representation.
Oh, is this really about Merger?
No! Representation needs fixing regardless. Whether or not voters decide to merge budgets, a balanced board should be our goal, to mend divisiveness.
Can this go into effect before November?
Our state legislature must approve the change. If it does so in a timely manner, the new sixth seat would likely be filled next March, unless the Selectboard holds a special election or adds to November’s ballot.
Why change this now?
We have a long history of inadequate representation. Fairvote, a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms, published a case study in 2006 called "The Missing Half" about the unfair representation issues that have plagued Essex for decades.
A petition asking the SB to remedy inadequate representation was submitted in April 2018 and ignored. Several concerned citizens collected enough signatures to put this on the March 3rd ballot.