Education Statehouse VT Daily Chronicle

I-89 Political Power – Bigger Coop Needed for Act 46 Chickens

100 years ago, political power was decentralized

By Job Tate

If rural Vermonters feel unheard, misunderstood and largely forgotten, it might have something to do with I-89. Over the past 100 years, Vermont has witnessed its statewide leaders, and where they live, congregate along the I-89 corridor. 

Like a black hole collapsing in on itself, the constellation of government power centers and special interests has produced a state within a state where “natives” are inclined to groom other natives to participate in the pipeline of power. A hundred years ago, when Chittenden County was still the state’s population hub, it didn’t have one of its own in the top 12 offices. 

This trend may not correct itself anytime soon and if electable candidates from other parts of the state don’t run for office, Vermonters can’t be blamed for voting this way – but the effects on state policy should be equally unsurprising. A government that employs hyper-centralized leadership is prone to the disastrous echo chamber effect we have seen in the last few decades. Leaders who are less aware of other geographic areas are more naturally invested in the voices and concerns of the Vermont within view.

It is interesting to note that a century ago Vermont also saw near total one-party rule, but despite being far less connected by infrastructure and technology its leadership was exponentially more inclusive, spread nearly across the entire state. 

As Vermonters wrestle with the demographic dilemma currently being visited upon us, “fresh voices” and “new perspectives” should include, by definition, other parts of Vermont. True diversity requires informed, energetic candidates from the farthest reaches of the state to come down out of the hills and wrest political power from the tightening grip of Chittenden and Washington counties. 

It is axiomatic that those in power control the narrative, stack and develop their bench of candidates,  and unilaterally steer the ship of state. It’s up to Vermonters who do not accept this status quo to take action.

In 1921, Vermont had 2 representatives to the U.S. Congress as opposed to the current 1. When including the Speaker of the House and the Senate Pro Tem, in 2020 Vermont has 11 officeholders with sway over statewide policy.

1921:

Sen. Carroll Page, Hyde Park

Sen. William Dillingham, Waterbury

Rep. Frank Green, St. Albans

Rep. Porter Dale, Island Pond

Gov. James Hartness, Springfield

Lt. Gov Abram Foote, Cornwall

Secretary of State Harry Black, Newport

Treasurer Walter Scott, Brandon

Auditor Benjamin Gates, Montpelier

Attorney General Frank Archibald, Manchester

Senate Pro Tem Harvey Kingsley, Rutland

Speaker of the House Charles Dana, New Haven

2020:

Sen. Patrick Leahy, Middlesex

Sen. Bernard Sanders, Burlington

Rep. Peter Welch, Norwich

Gov. Philip Scott, Barre

Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, Hinesburg

Secretary of State James Condos, Montpelier

Treasurer Beth Pearce, Barre

Auditor Douglas Hoffer, Burlington

Attorney General Timothy Donovan, Burlington

Senate Pro Tem Timothy Ashe, Burlington

Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson, South Hero

Twice-elected as the State Representative for Bridgewater, Chittenden, Killington and Mendon, Job resigned his seat in 2017 when he was deployed overseas. A Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy Seabees, he currently resides in Benson.

THE DAILY OPINION:

Act 46 chickens have come home to roost – we’re going to need a bigger chicken coop!

To the editor:

The Act 46 chickens have finally come home to roost and it looks like we’re going to need a bigger chicken coop. 

The budget proposal recently released by the Lamoille South school board results in an increase for Stowe of 10.9 cents per hundred dollars of property value, and 13.3 cents for second home owners, which is an increase of $665 on a $500,000 home.  Equally surprising is the fact that the budget increase is not equally shared by Morrisville and Elmore. Morrisville’s property tax rate will increase by 5.7 cents, and 7.4 cents for second home owners, and Elmore will see a small decrease. Is there ANYONE in Stowe who knew this would be a feature of Act 46?

But it gets worse. This is not a one year blip needed to resolve the merger. It already appears larger increases are likely when the new Lamoille South Union begins to address the neglected infrastructure of our newly combined building portfolio in the next budget. (As of June 30th 2019 the Union and not Stowe owns all of our school buildings.) But unlike years past these frightening budget difficulties will be addressed by a board consisting of only two Stowe representatives, and using a formula that shifts the bulk of the increase to Stowe Taxpayers if the present budget is any indication.

Adding insult to injury we’ve also learned that the transportation costs for the coming year will rise by twenty percent. 

How does this happen under an Act who’s goal is to “maximize operational efficiencies”? Efficiency is doing more with less, so the fact that there would be no reduction in the workforce, or piece of infrastructure eliminated was not a good omen. One can only speculate why the state was so intent on forcing Stowe to join a union that was not in its best interest, despite Stowe’s determined effort to find an alternative solution. Nowhere in the plan was any benefit for Stowe visible, and nowhere in the plan was there any mention of benefit to Stowe’s children. 

This flawed legislation has claimed many victims: the members of the Board of Education, the children of Stowe, and finally the taxpayers. In her tireless fight against the forced merger Heidi Scheuermann stated: “No amount of forced mergers of districts like Stowe and EMUU is going to save money, until we reconnect voters to the budgets voted upon and money spent.”

On March third voters who were given no say in the process will be asked to subsidize this debacle with their tax dollars. Approving the budget will signal our approval. Unfortunately, the only way we have been given to signal our disapproval is by voting NO on the budget. If not you’d better be prepared for a lot more chickens.

Tom McLinden, Stowe

(Copyright Vermont Daily Chronicle 2020. To receive Vermont Daily Chronicle daily, email news@vermontdailychronicle.com or click here.)

Copyright © 2020 Guy Page, All rights reserved.

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