ReflectionsonDemocracy

Yvette Brown

has been Town Clerk of Craftsbury, Vermont since 1987.
As of the 2000 census the town population was 1,136.
Craftsbury had an 85% voter turnout in the 2008 presidential election

How have the policies of the state impacted the average voter?

That’s one thing I do feel the state has done. They’re taking more of the responsibility away from the people, which leaves them very vulnerable to being not self-sufficient anymore. If they give people back their responsibility, make them responsible, I think things would be a whole lot different. Like we do not have zoning in our town. We have no zoning regulations. When people come here, particularly if they are from out-of-state, they are flabbergasted that we have no zoning. They do not understand how we can function without having rules and regulations for every person. All I say to them is, “You need to talk to your neighbor.” If they buy a piece of land and want to build a house they call and say, “What are the zoning regulations? What do I need to get for permits and everything?” And I say, “You don’t. There’s nothing you need.” They say, “Well, how far can we build from the line?” And I say, “The recommendation is 25 feet. But you go and talk to your neighbor, so that maybe, if you turn your house a certain way, it is not going to obstruct their view, or it’ll give you more privacy. And I said, “If you do that, there won’t be any problems at all, but there’s no regulations.” I said, “Just build it, build it big, and we’ll tax you.” And with that we very seldom ever have any problems. I have never in the 20 years I’ve been here, ever had someone come in and complain.

Are your town meetings successful? We are one of the towns in the state that has one of the highest percentages of people attending the town meeting. Our town meetings are still the traditional town meeting. We have 860 people on our checklist and on a regular basis, the town meetings are attended by two to three hundred people. If we have a hot issue, we can have 400 people easily. We have a moderator and everything is voted from the floor. We have no Australian ballots at all. The town meeting is a lot of things but it is where you get explanations. With your town budgets you hear reasons why they might need to buy a new truck. Same with the school budgets, you hear reasons. They come out so they can discuss it and we always have great discussion within our town meetings. We don’t have voter apathy. We get around 85% of our check list voting. I feel a lot of it is because people are much more informed and they feel very comfortable coming in here and asking questions and they feel they get the answers or at least know where to get the answers. And with that feeling of being comfortable it makes them much more relaxed to go to town meetings.