A long-running property dispute with the city and a neighbor is just one of the reasons Bruce Sargent entered the race for District 3 City Councilor.
He said the dispute led him to believe an ethics policy is needed for city employees and Councilors to cover such areas as bribery, and that there should be a city ethics officer to hear complaints. He pointed to a guidebook called “Fighting Small Town Corruption,” published by the Columbia Law School, as a model for such a policy.
He did not identify any specific ethics violations or name any city officials he suspects of behaving unethically in his case. The city has a three-page ethics policy that focuses on conflicts of interest and recusal, and bribery is already a criminal offense.
“I want an ethics policy that makes that kind of behavior dangerous to do,” he said.
The property dispute surrounds the road classification of Scribner Street, where Sargent lives with his partner Maggie Neale, and involves road classification and a right of way with a neighboring property. A determination by the Council last year did not satisfy Sargent and Neale.
“In brief, my partner got scammed by a resurvey of the property,” he said.
Sargent, a retired teacher at the Phoenix School in Salem, Massachusetts, and other schools, said he would like to bring young people into the city’s decision-making process.
“I would invite kids from seventh-grade to voting age to be on an advisory committee, so to speak, to have an opportunity to hear the debate, and if they agree, fine, and if they don’t I want the adults to know that,” he said.
He also said he would like to see an online forum where constituents could inform him in real-time how they wanted him to vote on a specific issue, a sort of instant referendum.
“The goal is to bring the idea of what it is to be a city councilor to the radical extreme of possibility,” he said.
He also said city property is too expensive and is driving people away.
“We’re limiting the population to those who can afford it,” he said. “Things are changing and progressing but some people are getting left behind in that progression.”
Sargent said he agrees with some of the city’s efforts to improve pedestrian and bike access, which he described as sustainable infrastructure. He cited European countries such as the Netherlands as examples of smart transportation.
“Walking was a healthy part of life 100 years ago,” he said. “People didn’t need to go to the gym. It’s good for the health of the environment and the health of the people.”
Sargent said that if elected he would meet regularly with his constituents and involve as many people as possible in the governmental process.
“I want to work on building an environment and culture of integrity, the way I always imagined Vermont was and should be,” he said.