Liz McLoughlin won her second three-year term to the Brattleboro Selectboard, defeating former Selectboard member Dick DeGray.
Randolph T. Holhut/The Commons
Liz McLoughlin won her second three-year term to the Brattleboro Selectboard, defeating former Selectboard member Dick DeGray.

Brattleboro rejects just-cause eviction

Voters re-elect McLoughlin; Case and Reichsman to join Selectboard, ousting incumbent Gelter

BRATTLEBORO — Incumbent Selectboard member Elizabeth McLoughlin held on to her three-year seat, while newcomers Peter “Fish” Case and Franz Reichsman won one-year seats on the board in the March 7 town election.

Meanwhile, voters rejected a referendum on “just cause” eviction in a 1,221-656 vote.

All the Selectboard races were close. McLoughlin won her second three-year term over former board member Dick DeGray, 1,005–920.

McLoughlin told The Commons last month that she sees the greatest challenges for Brattleboro in the next three years as dealing with homelessness and housing; opioid and mental health care/crime, and victimization of the vulnerable; and emergency medical services.

“We have myriad problems right here in Brattleboro which defy easy solutions,” she said. “My decades of experience in environmental and town planning give me an understanding of what may be possible to achieve at the town level.”

In a post to the Brattleboro, Vermont Facebook group, DeGray congratulated McLoughlin.

“I would like to congratulate Liz on her victory tonight and wish her the very best,” he wrote.

“Thanks, Dick, appreciate it!” McLoughlin responded. “I'm warming up from 12 hours in the cold. So I particularly like the warm words.”

In the race for the two one-year seats, Reichman was top vote-getter with 1,063, with Case finishing with 1,055 votes. Incumbent Jessica Callahan Gelter got 828 votes, Spoon Agave received 390 votes, and Samuel Stevens got 307 votes.

“The results of an election are not simply a judgment on candidates, but a commentary on the moment in which the electorate finds itself,” Gelter posted in a statement on her candidate Facebook page.

“This has been a difficult year for our beloved town, a time of uncertainty and anxiety,” she continued. “The voters of Brattleboro stated tonight that a clear change in leadership was needed to help them feel more sure-footed. I understand and accept the results.”

She congratulated Reichsman and Case and said “they will serve our town with dedication and decency. I wish them, and our town, the very best.”

Saying he had “no intention of changing anything,” Case said in an interview with The Commons last month that his approach to everything “is with common sense and reason.”

“It's a great community with wonderful, caring people - you can't really ask for better - but it also has a darker side, as we've seen recently with a rash of break-ins and ongoing drug problems,” Case said. “There are many ways to deal with these issues and none of them are simple - nor will getting everyone to understand those issues.”

Thanking his supporters in a Facebook post, Reichsman wrote, “So what happened is, I won. I'm a little shellshocked at this point, and it was a long day standing in front of the polls since early this morning, so I'm going bed.”

“I'll have more to say tomorrow after a good night's sleep,” he promised.

Reichsman, who has years of experience as a town meeting representative, said he believes that the issues that Brattleboro, and thus the Selectboard, face are many, but not “insurmountable.”

“We have surmounted many such issues in the past, and we are in the process of surmounting others right now,” he told The Commons last month. “We have in place the systems and the people we need to do a lot of surmounting.”

Just cause eviction proposal fails

Currently, Vermont law permits landlords to terminate tenancy without a specific reason at the end of a lease or in a month-to-month lease, leaving renters with little protection against eviction - what's known as a “no cause” eviction.

Just cause eviction policies, like the one proposed in Brattleboro under Article 2, offer expanded protection to tenants by limiting the circumstances under which a landlord is legally allowed to evict a tenant.

Under the proposal, residential tenants would have been protected from eviction without just cause, such as the tenant's breach of a written rental agreement, violation of state statutes on tenant obligations or failure to accept reasonable renewal terms. The proposal would also cap rent increases at 12% annually and prevent evictions simply due to increased rent, among other things.

Just cause eviction protections have been adopted in five states - California, New Jersey, Oregon, New Hampshire and Washington - as well as in several cities including Albany, New York; Baltimore, Maryland; and Washington, D.C.

The measure drew intense opposition from owners of rental properties in town.

“The Brattleboro article would [have made] it impossible for a landlord to ask a tenant to leave the property when the lease expires, which is crazy,” Sally Fegley, of Windham County Property Management told The Commons in February.

Most landlords are looking for good tenants who will stay, Fegley said.

“So once you find a suitable tenant, you're not going to say to that tenant at the end of the lease: please leave,” she said. “You're going to be so glad if that tenant stays with you. The only tenants you're going to ask to leave are the tenants who were making trouble.”

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