Archive - Sep 15, 2008
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Vermont Secretary of State Deb Markowitz said turnout at last Tuesday’s primary election was among the lowest ever, though she expects as much as 70 percent of the state’s 440,000 registered voters to cast ballots during the general election on Nov. 4.
Markowitz, who herself faces re-election this fall, touched upon balloting, voter education and a variety of other topics during an interview at the Addison Independent on Thursday. Markowitz also acknowledged that after 10 years in office, this may be her final bid for secretary of state.
While the results were not yet official as of late last week, Markowitz believes the final returns will show the primary election of 2008 could reveal a historical low in terms of turnout. She cited weather and a lack of compelling races as reasons why most people chose not to vote.
Indeed only the Democrats’ ballot featured statewide primary races — for congressional representative and lieutenant governor. There were no races on the Republican, Progressive and Liberty Union ballots.
“Generally speaking, turnout gets driven by the top of the ticket, and there just wasn’t anything there,” Markowitz said. “It’s not surprising that people stayed home. On top of it, we had thunderstorms during the prime voting times before work, and so people said, ‘Do I want to brave the lightning for a ballot where there is no contested races?’”
But Markowitz stressed she believes democracy is alive and well in Vermont, in spite of the low primary turnout.
“We still believe that November is going to be a very busy election,” Markowitz said. “There is unprecedented interest in the presidential race. We’re getting more new voter registration requests than we have in the past years.”
By ANDY KIRKALDY
VERGENNES — One hundred and fifty-four residents of Vergennes filled out the city planning commission’s municipal plan survey this summer, and they offered some results that were both useful and surprising, said planning commission chairman Neil Curtis.
Among the surprising results were the strong feelings survey respondents expressed about the “look, feel and scale” of downtown Vergennes, according to a survey summary prepared for the commission by LandWorks, the Middlebury planning firm that is helping the city with its ongoing city plan rewrite.
LandWorks concluded that the current feel of downtown was “resoundingly important” to city residents, a conclusion based on the 92.2 percent of respondents who rated preserving the downtown as either an important or a most important concern for Vergennes in the future.
Curtis noted that 77.9 percent of respondents also supported creating “design guidelines” that would help maintain the character of the city’s downtown, adding that guidelines would not include such items as types of windows or paint colors.
Curtis said the response to the downtown questions are a prime example on how the survey will help guide the members of the planning commission and LandWorks in writing the plan, a process that carries a November 2009 deadline and is roughly on schedule.
“I think it’s enormously helpful in terms of being able to help us prioritize different issues and action items the city ought to be working on,” Curtis said. “People are so attached to the look and feel of those downtown buildings ... When you get 90 percent of the survey respondents saying the downtown is important, it really crystallizes the way you look at the plan. It really is a priority.”
By KATHRYN FLAGG
BRISTOL — Seven-year-old Sierra Barnicle ran ahead of her father, Scott, to reach the last placard in Bristol’s first StoryWalk last week, eager to reach the end of the story that marches its way, page by page, down Mountain and Spring streets between the Bristol Elementary School and the Lawrence Memorial Library.
The Weybridge residents happened upon the exhibit, on loan from the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier until Sept. 19, in a stroke of good luck. In a series of small, unassuming signposts, the “StoryWalk” depicts the children’s story “Leaves,” by David Ezra Stein.
While the family dog wagged his tail amiably, Sierra explained that she, for one, thought the StoryWalk was a great idea — and appreciated the seasonal choice of “Leaves.” Warm, pen-and-ink drawings and spare text tell the story of a very young bear’s confusion when leaves start to fall during his first autumn, and his delight when new leaves welcome him after winter’s hibernation.
It’s a charming story, beautifully executed — each page is adorned with a lovely pen-and-ink drawing and spare, quiet prose.
“I like it,” Sierra said, “because it’s welcoming fall.”
Once the after-school flurry of activity between the elementary school and the library had died down, Eva Ginalski, a third-grader at Bristol Elementary, chimed in with her own praise for the StoryWalk. Like Sierra Barnicle, Ginalski appreciated the tie to the seasons.
“It’s a good time to do it because the leaves are just starting to fall,” she said. She said she’d love to see more StoryWalks in the future — and hoped that future stories would also correspond to the seasons.