By Fred Messer
From where I live here in Waitsfield, on a dirt road in the northern portion of our town, miles from the water pipeline, I can assure everyone I receive no direct benefit from our village water system. Further, as to indirect benefits of its use, those benefits seem quite elusive. I would challenge anyone to do a proper cost-benefit analysis of the indirect benefits to the citizens of Waitsfield and explain to those of us who are “not hooked up” the justification of the additional taxation we would incur. That is a question that only the voters of Waitsfield should answer.
The analogy that was made between repairs and upkeep of the covered bridge in the village versus the village water system is a poor one. I drive over that bridge. I do not drink from the pipeline. However, much more importantly, this present debate concerning the water system is about more than just the additional taxation that will occur. It is much more about a promise that was made and may not be kept! It’s a matter of trust.
Prior to the vote on the bond for the village water system, the Waitsfield Select Board repeatedly and emphatically assured all of us that “only users would pay the cost of debt repayment and ongoing maintenance.” Period, full stop! End the discussion. Though many of us had our sincere doubts and were extremely skeptical, we trusted what our town government was telling us. I’m sure many who voted for the system, which very narrowly passed, were swayed by that statement. It was in fact the intent of those statements to have that desired effect upon the citizenry.
This indirect benefit will cost the majority of us directly!
In our form of government, we the people grant to our elected officials great powers to act on our behalf. In return, we the people expect and demand full disclosure of their actions, transparency in those actions and unquestionable honesty. To me, that is what is meant by “trust in government.” We expect all statements made by them to be as honest as possible and promises made by them are to be kept. It is a very high standard, but it is a standard that must be adhered to if there’s going to be trust in government.
In the event that honest promises cannot be honestly met, as in the present water system discussion, when issue is taxation, it is we the people who should have a direct vote upon that change. It is not leadership for an elected official to renege on a promise made, most especially one of this magnitude concerning taxation upon us without our direct democratic consent.
It’s a matter of trust.
Messer lives in Waitsfield.