(This letter was sent to Mark and Alice Peal who asked the Waitsfield Select Board for more information about a May 29 meeting that took place at American Flatbread during which a facilitated conversation was had about a local option tax.)
Dear Mark and Alice,
My name is Milner Noble, known by many as Mike. As I was one of those who organized the May 29 meeting, I volunteered to answer your June 10 letter to the Waitsfield Select Board.
As a Valley resident, I attended the fall local option tax (LOT) presentation at the Warren Town Hall and came away thinking it was a good idea to provide needed resources to invest in the future of The Valley. I also thought the folks working on this endeavor could use some communications help.
Most of my professional life was in communications – 40 years – and now that I am retired I was not looking for more work to do, but I thought I would share some thoughts with Jared Cadwell, the chair of the subcommittee working on the LOT.
Jared liked what we discussed and suggested I connect with Jack Sharry, a longtime Valley homeowner. Jack is also a professional in communications and has been a participant in many of the eﬀorts over the past five years to improve The Valley’s economic vitality and has a strong interest in The Valley’s future. We also enlisted the aid of Patricia Floyd, another longtime Valley resident, who is a respected national consultant in human resources and communications issues.
Having worked closely with news media people over my career, I contacted the editor of the paper that serves The Valley, Lisa Loomis, to get her take on the history and the ongoing dialogue The Valley has conducted around economic vitality matters.
Her encyclopedic knowledge of The Valley and institutional history in the community is invaluable to anyone, including me, who wants to help ﬁnd ways for The Valley to thrive in a dynamic and challenging environment. She is an excellent resource.
We speciﬁcally asked Lisa to help us identify opponents, proponents and people “on the fence” of the LOT idea within the business community and the nonproﬁt sector. We also sought to have an array of different ages and perspectives including people who have been actively involved in the community for a very long time. We then invited them to a small meeting in late May organized by Jack and Patricia as volunteers, and myself, now known collectively as Noble Communications and Associates. We have charged the subcommittee for our ongoing communications work $1.
The meeting was a pulse-check. We wanted to understand what this group with its array of opinions thought about an LOT. It had been a while since the fall presentations about the LOT and a lot of work had gone into incorporating what had been learned at those meetings. We wanted to provide an update and hear ﬁrsthand what these community members and leaders thought about an LOT as a means to invest in the future of The Valley.
This was the ﬁrst of what we plan to be conversations with many groups across The Valley and throughout Vermont around the key issues that keep coming up in every study: aﬀordable housing, transportation, recreation, community projects and marketing the advantages of communities like ours to foster economic vitality.
We feel it is vital to bring people together to share diﬀering views on a topic in a thoughtful manner. Small focus groups provide opportunities for discussion. Patricia skillfully moderated a discussion that produced a great deal of constructive opinions, pro and con. We plan to hold future forums open to all Valley residents. We will also continue to talk with town leaders where LOTs have been implemented to learn more.
There was no legal requirement to make information about this meeting public, but we have no issue with sharing it. In fact, if you read The Valley Reporter coverage of the meeting it is quite comprehensive (www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/news/local-news/13372-make-it-visible-lotcommittee-told).
There were no quorums of any select board, committee or subcommittee present. No public funds were expended. We invited Bob Ackland and Jared Cadwell, members of the Mad River Valley Planning District subcommittee working on the LOT, to answer questions.
We have provided a list of attendees. I’m sure any of these people will provide their take on how the evening went and what was discussed.
We are in the early stages of communicating about the LOT. Going forward we will have more meetings with the community, large and small. Each one will be an opportunity to listen, to learn and to educate. We learn with every conversation we hold. We hope you’ll participate in future events.
Thank you both for your interest and for engaging in the conversation about our future.
Noble lives in Warren, Vermont.