To The Daily Sun,
About a decade ago, the voters of Bristol decided it was time to change the town's reputation as being governed by a cranky select board comprised of three, and more than a dozen commissioners whose response to just about any citizen complaint was quite often: "we'll take it under advisement."
For years, the selectmen were embroiled in arguments with the commissioners (and among themselves). The annual budget process was a battle royal, with service on the Budget Committee so miserable that it was impossible to even find 13 people to endure the process... with spending and taxes creeping up at an unacceptable pace whilst the selectmen and Budget Committee whistled a tune from Nero's fake book.
Town employees also suffered from the fallout of all this strife, with the police and fire departments depleted as qualified people came to Bristol, and left as if through a revolving door. Everybody was angry, with one select "person" so agitated that she dropped the "F bomb" on the public record and made front page news throughout the Granite State — certainly not how anyone wanted to see Bristol portrayed.
Thankfully, the townspeople intervened, eliminating the commissions altogether and increasing from three to five the number of selectmen. In so doing, the town's leadership was streamlined and communication improved across the entire municipal bureaucracy. Selectmen were, for the first time in history, permitted to talk with one another about important issues without creating a quorum. Can you imagine going to Town Meeting with a budget unanimously agreed upon by the Budget Committee, selectboard and department heads? A budget that everyone liked — to the penny — that reduced spending and lowered taxes? I was there. I saw this, firsthand. It is possible to do, but only with elected officials who are acting together with a common purpose, creativity and fairness, and not just trying to grab a majority to advance their own agenda against a frustrated minority who are dedicating themselves to unseating their fellow selectmen and leading by obstructionist measures.
It's just a few days before Bristol heads to the polls to elect their next group of town leaders. My hope from afar is that my friends and neighbors will look past all the cantankerous jockeying for seats on the boards for the sake of grabbing a majority, and elect instead candidates with a record of achievement and reputation for building consensus to provide town services at an affordable cost to the taxpayers.
It's time again, don't you think — time to restore sanity in government, not by going back to the future, but by encouraging the best people who'll serve harmoniously and solve problems?
Who among the candidates possesses these characteristics? Oh, I think anyone who gives the matter even a moment's serious thought will know who it is I'm talking about, and do the right thing with their ballot.
Godspeed, Bristol, and good luck. It's heartbreaking for me to see a place of so much promise, mired in so much negativity.
Bruce Van Derven