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David Cadran: Town has plenty of ambition with little follow-up action. Why not change?

BRATTLEBORO—David Cadran is still waking up as he sits in the café of the Brattleboro Food Co-op, where he works in shareholder services.

As morning sun reflects off the floor as fellow employees climb the spiral staircase to the second floor, Cadran, 24, contemplates the path that has taken him to a run for the Selectboard.

Having grown up in Brattleboro, he is emotionally committed to his hometown and, after witnessing its stagnation, he decided it was time to run for the Selectboard.

Cadran feels that ideas are nothing without action, that town government must create more open lines of communication with the public, and that the town must expand its Grand List because property taxes are high enough.

“I’m sick of seeing everyone be like, ‘This is the way it’s always been, and you just can’t change things,’” he said. “Why not?”

Cadran feels confident he can help nudge the Selectboard in innovative directions.

“To take [the town] on a meaningful step in the direction of change,” said Cadran about his goals if elected.

Cadran said he works well with people and sees situations though a lens of cooperation.

He laughs, adding, “That said, I have very little patience for nonsense.”

Cadran said he is not easily intimidated and does not worry about potentially being the youngest Selectboard member.

“We’re all here for a common purpose,” he said. “It doesn’t matter your personal details. Or at least it shouldn’t.”

Cadran serves as an alternate on the Development Review Board (DRB). He has also lived in Louisville, Ky. and New York City, where he worked for a “host of multinational companies” in the fashion retail sector like The Gap, American Eagle, and Macy’s.

Cadran said he believes, based on his experience living in other communities, that Brattleboro has fallen into stagnation, while other towns have taken interesting steps forward.

He hopes that, if elected, he and other Selectboard members can inject the town with a dose of new: new people, new tourists, new businesses, new ideas.

Brattleboro has plenty of ambition, said Cadran. It usually doesn’t follow this ambition with action, however, and if it does, the action is “painfully slow.”

The town started discussing building a parking garage in the 1980s, he said, and it took until 2003 for the Transportation Center to open.

“It shouldn’t have taken us 25 years to build a parking garage,” he said.

The redevelopment plan for Putney Road, dubbed “the New North End,” also stands as an example of the town’s strong ideas coupled with little steady follow-through, said Cadran.

“I’d like to light that fire under people’s asses,” Cadran said.

Expanding the tax base

The town must raise revenue by means other than raising property taxes, Cadran said, asserting that the high property taxes scare away new residents and families.

Cadran proposes that the town lobby Montpelier for permission to levy a 1-percent local-option gas tax.

Cadran shrugs off the possibility that the Legislature will laugh in Brattleboro’s face. “I’ve never seen the fault in trying something new,” he said.

The word “development” sends most Vermonters into apoplectic fits as visions of four-lane highways and Wal-Marts dance around their heads, he said.

Development does not have to be a four-letter word, he said. Without growing the Grand List, the community will remain stuck doing less with less.

Another proposal on Cadran’s list entails providing tax incentives for new family housing units.

Cadran would like to see every new unit built in town receive a five-year local property tax exemption. Landowners who sell property for new housing would receive a one-year exemption on property taxes.

Giving incentives to increase the tax base seems counterintuitive, he said. But Cadran sees the short-term hit in service leading to a longer-term benefit: new buildings, he said, that will feed the Grand List long after the exemptions expire.

Cadran would also agitate to create a tax incentive district for Putney Road to attract outside investments. He thinks the town should explore hiring a firm to attract investors and take advantage of the EB-5 visa program.

The EB-5 Investor Program is a visa created by Congress in 1990. The program aims to create jobs and attract capital investment in new commercial enterprises and create jobs from foreign investors in exchange for permanent residency status — a green card — for the foreign investor.

According to Cadran, economic development groups in the Northeast Kingdom have used EB-5 to pull in millions and create jobs.

Cadran wants to add to Brattleboro’s educational institutions as well. Although the town has the Marlboro College Graduate School, World Learning and, soon, the Vermont State College downtown campus at the Brooks House, the town lacks a four-year college with a focus like an arts academy, institute of technology, or biomedical college.

Students bring money to the local community when they attend college, Cadran noted, and companies often locate near the source of their educated workers and create partnerships.

Tough and complex

Cadran described issues facing Brattleboro as tough and complex.

Pointing to the more-than-$14-million upgrade to the police and fire stations project, Cadran said he wanted the emergency personnel to have safe facilities.

But, Cadran said, the project’s approval process was rushed with little discussion.

“These projects are great and meaningful, but we can’t always expect to be paying for everything when the value of our money keeps decreasing every year,” Cadran said.

When informed of the amount of coverage the issue received in the local media, as well as the multiple meetings held by the town, Cadran pointed to a need for a stronger communications strategy between the town government and residents.

The town must reach out across multiple methods of communication, including newspapers, Facebook, and Twitter, Cadran countered. If the town doesn’t connect with the public on all levels then the town will only target one group of people.

Keeping youth

Cadran plans to see out his entire one-year term if elected despite posts on his personal Facebook page, where he discussed an interview for a job outside the area.

He said he held back on campaigning until he heard whether he’d been hired for that position. He wasn’t, and he has decided to stay put.

Cadran said the situation, however, represents the challenges to keeping young people in Brattleboro.

Job variety doesn’t exist, he said. There’s no middle ground. The jobs here are either minimum wage or highly specialized, such as attorneys or doctors.

Cadran said he can be contacted through his Facebook page, Twitter, or his website.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #191 (Wednesday, February 20, 2013).

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