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Steve Bannon’s two chairmanships may be too much for one person

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By Monday, May 21, 2018 Letters 3

To the Editor:

Mr. Bannon, you are to be commended for your many years of exemplary civic engagement on behalf of the Great Barrington community. I feel compelled, however, to raise my concern that you are now simultaneously chair of the BHRSD School Committee and the Great Barrington Selectboard, two very important and very time-consuming leadership posts.

My concern is that both of these demanding leadership positions require tremendous time and energy and are deserving of undivided attention.

This is not to suggest that you are unqualified for this dual role. To the contrary, your deep institutional knowledge of both entities is needed and valued by the community. On paper this is logical. But as we have learned time and time again, what looks good on paper does not necessarily translate into that rare commodity called common sense. Some towns do not permit holding two leadership positions at the same time (perhaps for good reason).

It is my hope that the School Committee Chair can focus intensely and solely on the biggest issue facing South County, which is school funding.

We keep hearing that the problem needs to be solved at the state level. We are fortunate to have two widely respected and dedicated working advocates as our representatives. Unfortunately, they cannot do it alone. The chair of the School Committee should lead the charge by spending time at the Statehouse and at the infamous coffee shops surrounding it where legend has it that is where the deals happen. This is going to involve serious relationship-building that can only take place in Boston. While there, other potential resources to the school-funding dilemma might be sought from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the Business School.

Sounds like a responsibility that is going to take 110 percent to be successful.

Now back to the Berkshires, look at the laundry list for the chair of the Selectboard’s agenda for Great Barrington. Rural Kansas has better Internet service than parts of our town. We have at least three hazardous waste sites in downtown that we rarely hear about. We need economic development, affordable housing, a search to fill the position of Town Manager, and my favorite: a plan to make Ramsdell Library accessible to all after almost three decades of no action plan.

Last month, the libraries had eight public meetings to discuss thoughts on re-imagining our libraries for the 21st century. We were told that it was essential to have participation from town leadership. A few Selectboard members were in attendance. Unfortunately, you were not one of them. If your duties did not make it possible for you to attend extracurricular meetings such as this as vice chair of the Selectboard, I am concerned that increasing your responsibilities will limit your ability to attend important events.

As the saying goes,”90 percent of success is just showing up.”

It sounds like chair of the Selectboard is also going to require 110 percent to move forward.

Godspeed Mr. Bannon. Either way you have your work cut out for you, especially considering in the span of six months you will have to run for School Committee in November and Selectbord next May.

Patrick Hollenbeck

Housatonic

The writer is Chair of the Great Barrington Library Trustees. These comments are his own opinion; he is not speaking on behalf of that board.



3 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Mark Silver says:

    On the face of it it’s ridiculous for one man to be chair of the two most powerful committees in our town.

    The same man is responsible for both pieces of our ever-increasing budget. How is that going to work? Is the Selectboard going to push back against the school committee if the same man is setting both agendas? Last year Mr. Bannon tried (successfully) to stop the Town Manager (his employee) from meeting with the school finance committee (his committee) in an effort to get a handle on capital costs. They never heard what she had to say.

    There are so many reasons this is a bad idea.

  2. Steve Farina says:

    I agree! And agree with Mark.

  3. Lauren says:

    Very well said, Pat, and thank you for speaking up. With no offense to Mr. Bannon, I wholeheartedly agree with you.

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