Buswell told voters that, during his year-and-a-half tenure on the board, he has offered a different perspective on the issues. Buswell said he has a passion for the town of Dover. “Some call me a maverick, some call me other things,” he said.
Mahon said he has lived in Dover for 20 years, and has followed local politics and issues. “People have asked me why I don’t run for selectboard,” he said. “This seemed like the time to try it.”
Local business owner Adam Levine asked Mahon about his philosophy regarding the use of revenue from the town’s 1% local option tax. Mahon said the board was already “going in the right direction” with their management of the revenue. “I don’t have a huge issue with things that have been done,” he said. “Some things I haven’t agreed with, but I believe the selectboard and economic development department have great ideas. I don’t want to change the ship, but I’d like to see something happen that’s a little larger and outside the box – something that would put Dover on the map.”
Moderator Sarah Shippee asked Levine if he’d like to hear Buswell’s answer. “I already know what he thinks,” quipped Levine. Shippee asked Buswell to respond.
“The 1% is good for Dover,” he said. “In some areas for a while we didn’t spend it correctly, but under the leadership of Ken (Black) and Linda (Anelli) it’s going in the direction we want.”
Joan Black asked the candidates about an article on the Town Meeting warning asking for $65,000 for the Dover legal defense fund. “I’d like to know where you think we’re headed with that money and how you think we’re going to involve other towns instead of just Dover spending their money.”
Buswell, whose motion at a Town Meeting several years ago established the fund, noted that it was originally intended to be used “to try to fight Act 60” shortly after the education financing law was passed. “There was a legal case filed and it got thrown out by the Supreme Court justices,” he said, “not for its merits, but because Act 60 hadn’t been fully implemented yet.”
Most recently, the money in the fund has been used to hire a lobbyist to work within the system in Montpelier. But after one legislative session with the lobbyist, Buswell said that it hasn’t worked. “We had a very good study, with great facts,” he said, referring to a study of education funding conducted by Northern Economics Consulting, commissioned about a year-and-a-half ago. “We’ve spent almost $135,000 on playing this political game. Last week the Legislature told us to go fly a kite and increased the statewide homestead rate by five cents, and the nonresidential rate by six cents. And the report has fallen by the wayside. I don’t think we can play this game anymore.”
Buswell said he would like Dover to form a coalition of towns to join in the legal battle.
Mahon said he would support the continued fight for changes through the Legislature with the help of a lobbyist. “I think we do need to have some kind of representation to help out in the Legislature,” he said. “We need to do the best we can to lower our taxes.”
Levine asked the candidates about the town’s role in promoting the MOOver. “What do you feel the town’s goal should be in promoting that we have free transportation in the valley?”
Buswell, who owns a taxi service and bus tour business, said the question was unfair “since I’m in the transportation business and my tax dollars are used against my business. A lot of the things the MOOver does, I did, and made a living at it.”
But Buswell said the MOOver was a vital service that people should know about. “Should the town promote it? I promote it. Do I think the town should put any financial support toward the MOOver? No.”
Mahon said the MOOver helps to reduce traffic problems during peak congestion periods in the valley. “I’m totally for the MOOver,” he said. “Should we support it? By all means. More than any other town? I don’t think so. It’s supported by condos and the lodges. The MOOver is a vital service and we can advertise that once you get here, you can leave your car in the parking lot. More people should ride the MOOver. The more ridership, the better.”
With no voter questions forthcoming, Shippee asked the candidates how they would react if they found themselves in the minority vote on an issue they’re passionate about. Mahon said he’d support the majority. “As selectboard members we’re here to do the best for the town,” he said. “If three or four out of five think something is the best decision, I have to support that. If people ask me whether I’m for it, I’ll tell them I’m not for it, but I’m in support of my other selectboard members to move forward with it.”
Buswell said his record is clear. “I think I have proven myself over the past year-and-a-half on the board, that whatever the board decides as a whole, that’s what the decision is.”