Commentary

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Commentary: Four Years After Irene, Renewal In Waterbury

his past August, we marked the four year anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene. Memories of communities besieged by flood waters, houses knocked from their foundations and families forever changed are still fresh for each of us, and for so many other Vermonters. But just as Vermont rebuilt from the historic 1927 floods, Vermonters have pulled together to build back stronger, smarter and better after Irene. This has required new and creative thinking, and significant collaboration between communities, the State of Vermont and the federal government. Nowhere in Vermont is that story better told than in Waterbury. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Lara’s Legacy

lancing through my morning paper the other day, an entry in the “police log” caught my eye, and not in a good way. It read “A woman threatened to ‘go all Jody Herring’ on a Department for Children and Families caseworker.” It was a harsh reminder of how important VSEA’s current campaign to enhance on-the-job safety for DCF workers is. But this group of workers is not alone. VSEA members working in the Employment Services Division, Office of Child Support, Probation and Parole, Corrections and other agencies and departments throughout state government have also told their union that they would like improved on-the-job safety. VSEA members recognize that our request for increased worker safety protections will cost money, but another Lara Sobel tragedy is something no one wants, and, judging by the newspaper entry I told you about (and other scary incidents workers have been told me about), time is particularly of the essence here. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Our Enemy Is ISIS, Not Refugees Fleeing ISIS

ast Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to make it almost impossible for people from Syria and Iraq, fleeing the brutality of ISIS and Bashar al-Assad, to find refuge in the United States. It is worth reflecting on what this means for our country. Just a few weeks ago the world came together, stunned and heartbroken over the image of a three-year-old Syrian child’s lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach. His tragic death focused our attention on the desperate plight of so many Syrians who have fled the horror of ISIS and Assad’s army. We called it the humanitarian issue of our day. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Welch’s Stance Against Corn Ethanol

hen a Washington-based lobbying outfit started airing television ads in Vermont that attack Rep. Peter Welch because he wants to scale back federal support for corn ethanol, the erstwhile Vermonter in me took offense. It has been a few years since I lived in Vermont, but I was born in Burlington, grew up in Essex Junction, and graduated from Essex High. I now live near Boston, but I’ll probably always consider myself a Vermonter and I think I still have a working sense of what Vermonters value. Related:

Welch responds to attack ad

Vermonters value follow-through, which partly explains Rep. Welch’s skepticism about the Renewable Fuel Standard, a federal law that effectively requires Americans to put billions of gallons of biofuel into our cars each year. The policy is sustained mainly by Iowa’s peculiar role in presidential politics and by the corn ethanol lobby, which has a history of big claims and poor follow-through. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Security That Protects Our Values

n this time of intense emotion, we must keep a level head, respect everyone’s concerns, refrain from rushing to judgment, avoid politicizing the issue and remember what unites us as Americans. It has been inaccurately suggested that I oppose the resettlement of refugees in Vermont. These claims are based on one news story that reported only one part of my view on a complex issue. I want to set the record straight. First, I believe the first responsibility of any government is to keep its citizens safe. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Reversing the trend of rising incarceration rates

or most of the last two decades, Vermont’s prison inmate population has been rising. Between 1997 and 2008, it grew by 86 percent. Projections made in 2007 said that Vermont’s inmate population would grow to 2,619 by November 2015. After years of work to reform Vermont’s criminal justice system that trend has been reversed, and today Vermont has 1,734 inmates, 885 less than projected. When I first ran for Governor I made reforming the criminal justice system a priority because it is the right thing to do. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Vermont should act boldly to end marijuana prohibition

agree with marijuana legalization opponent Debbie Haskins on one thing: it is not inevitable that Vermont will pass a legalization and regulation bill in the 2016 legislative session (“Haskins: Legalized pot not inevitable,” Oct. 23). Rather than taking the support of their elected officials for granted, Vermonters who care about ending marijuana prohibition need to continue encouraging legislators to move forward rather than waiting to create a responsible, regulated system. It’s easy to see why supporters of prohibition might be anxious about 2016, as many other states appear poised to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use. At least five states — including two New England states, Maine and Massachusetts — are expected to legalize via ballot initiative in November 2016. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Here comes the carbon tax

he Climate Change Warriors are ramping up for a full scale effort in Montpelier two months from now. Not content with the decade long carnival of subsidies, taxes, mandates and sweetheart deals to enrich the renewable energy complex, they’re now going for the brass ring – making you pay the Carbon Tax. The carbon tax campaign flies the flag of “Energy Independent Vermont”, a coalition of nine environmental lobby groups led by the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG). Here’s the coalition’s argument. Our planet is threatened by the Al Gore-Obama-Sanders-Shumlin Heat Death, now called “climate change” (after “global warming” went on vacation the past 18 years). Here’s the coalition’s argument. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Exploring Vermont’s State Parks

hose who grew up in Vermont likely experienced a childhood with adventures through snowy woods, discoveries in neighborhood brooks, and foot races through grassy fields. In Vermont we’re so fortunate to be surrounded by a natural world that offers so much. It truly is nature’s playground that we all get to enjoy. For many, it is what ties them to our state. For others, it is what draws them to put down roots here. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: School boards rise to the occasion

he overwhelming support for school district unification demonstrated by the voters of Essex, Essex Junction and Westford this week is reflective of the visionary leadership of the school boards in those communities. As the three communities stated in their unification plan presented to the voters, “[We are] guided by the commitment to enhance learning opportunities and equity for all students and to find efficiencies within our educational system that respect the financial investments of our communities and taxpayers. … We can deploy our resources to better support the journey of the student when we are able to plan for the entire journey, and allow the resources to be strategically aligned with our common mission and vision to prepare our students for the next stage of their lives in a rapidly changing world.”

This commitment to equity, increased student opportunity, and cost effectiveness is not unique to these school boards or communities – it is a shared commitment of the school boards of the State of Vermont. Over the past several years the Vermont School Boards Association (VSBA) has been engaged in a serious dialogue with our members regarding the best public policy approaches to address declining enrollment, rising costs, increasing numbers of students with significant learning needs, leadership turnover, and growing inequity in student opportunity. Continue Reading →

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