Archive - Editorial
November 6th, 2006
Thatâ€™s the question to ask in governorâ€™s race
In the race for governor, Republican James Douglas has the advantage of incumbency and a record of compromise and modest achievement, while Democrat Scudder Parker offers a candidacy of vision and bold leadership. In choosing the stateâ€™s next leader, Vermonters must ask if maintaining the status quo is sufficient or if the times demand a bolder course of action?
There is no pat answer. The course the state has maintained for the past four years under Gov. Douglas has been steady, if not visionary.
But problems remain unresolved. Dairy farms continue to fail at an alarming rate; the stateâ€™s energy supply hangs in a precarious balance and yet the state has no comprehensive energy policy; the stateâ€™s teacher/pupil ratio is low and drives expenses resulting in high property taxes; while the Catamount Health Care plan is a step forward, many say it does too little to cut costs leaving a heavy burden on businesses; the stateâ€™s Medicaid bill will put an increasing burden on the budget in future years; and while the stateâ€™s population has been increasing modestly, the number of school-age children has been on the decline, thus creating a future shortage in the labor pool.
In the race for lieutenant governor, Vermonters have the opportunity to choose a candidate who would bring an extraordinary amount of energy, intelligence and enthusiasm to the stateâ€™s number two job. That candidate is Democrat Matt Dunne.
Dunneâ€™s background as a public servant is stellar. First elected to the Vermont Legislature as a representative of Hartland and West Windsor at the age of 22, Dunne spent the next four terms in the House and was elected Assistant Majority Leader in 1998, making him the youngest whip in the nation at the time. Along with other leadership roles in the House, he served as vice-chair of the Transportation Committee. During his time in the House, Dunne was a marketing executive in various capacities, including as the marketing director for Logic Associates, a top 500 software company based in Wilder that served the commercial printing industry worldwide.
Ferrisburghâ€™s on the right path; Midd should follow
Ferrisburgh town selectmen are thinking ahead. Earlier last month the board appointed a committee to study whether the town should buy a key parcel of land that abuts the town elementary school and the planned site of a new town office building and meeting center. The 34-acre parcel, town leaders believe, is so important to the future of the village that the opportunity to buy it â€” rather than allow a developer to build a handful of houses on it â€” should not be passed by.
Such a proposal is not inexpensive. The asking price for the farmland owned by the Hinsdale family of Charlotte has been $750,000, and the appraised price is around $650,000.
Benefits to the town include providing extra room for the school to expand; parking for school or town offices; safer access to the school; a new site for a larger post office; playing fields; a town green and other options. Importantly, town officials note, the area is the last large open parcel in the village with good septic soils.
Policy issues aside, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Matt Dunne has a singular issue that strikes a bipartisan chord: He believes the lieutenant governorâ€™s salary of $61,000 per year is significant enough to warrant a full-time effort from the elected candidate. He notes Lt. Gov. Dubie is gone almost two-thirds of the year working as an airline pilot.
He doesnâ€™t begrudge Dubie his job as a pilot, and he freely admits that prior public servants in the lieutenant governorâ€™s post also worked part-time at other jobs (Howard Dean was a doctor while being lieutenant governor and Doug Racine helped with his familyâ€™s South Burlington auto dealership, to name two). But he makes two valid points: the positionâ€™s salary has been raised significantly since Dubie became Lt. Gov., and, more importantly, he wants to serve the state full-time because he believes there is more than enough work to do to help Vermont and Vermonters grow and prosper in the new economy.
In our election-year tradition of endorsing candidates, we offer our views not as much to encourage votes for these particular candidates as to provoke our readers to question the support of their own preferred candidates and to think through the reasons they support one candidate over another.
Our own views are shaped by the multiple interviews we have had with the candidates at the Addison Independent offices, extensive reading and study of their programs and accomplishments, and the routine observation of their ongoing work either at home or in Montpelier or Washington. Our goal is to help our readers be informed, and we encourage any healthy debate that fosters that outcome.
We begin with the race for the U.S. Senate.
Bernie Sanders for U.S. Senate
In an election year in which the vast majority of Americans are eager to elect a Congress that wonâ€™t continue to rubber-stamp President George W. Bushâ€™s radical agenda, an in which the balance of power in the Senate may tip to the Democrats, incumbent Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is the clear pick for the seat being vacated by Sen. James Jeffords.
Political movements that catch the publicâ€™s imagination can spread like a prairie fire across the nation. From town to town, state to state, the movementâ€™s idealism is spread by word of mouth â€” fanned by media coverage and todayâ€™s internet â€” and fueled by millions of people wanting to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
The political movement that most fits this description today is global warming. Al Goreâ€™s book â€œAn Inconvenient Truth,â€? and the subsequent movie have done much to popularize the issue in recent months, taking off from previous works on environmental issues, including Bill McKibbenâ€™s landmark book, â€œThe End of Nature.â€?
In an attempt to harness the eagerness of people to embrace this issue and make it the number one cause on Americaâ€™s agenda, a well-publicized five-day walk is scheduled for Labor Day weekend starting in Ripton and ending in Burlington. That the walk starts in Ripton has much to do with the fact that McKibben lives there, that Robert Frostâ€™s writing cabin is there, and that Middlebury College student Will Bates and a few others who helped organize the walk, could imagine no better place to reflect on Earthâ€™s beauty and the reasons why it is so important to protect what is within our ability.
Last week, Gov. James Douglas identified another election-year issue that will stir the publicâ€™s interest and, he hopes, earn him a few sure-fire votes. The issue is property taxes; or, more specifically, high property taxes. He against them, of course.
The governorâ€™s plan is not to lower property taxes (heâ€™s honest in admitting the state needs the money and itâ€™d be reckless to cut taxes), but to keep the rate of the tax increases closer to the rate of inflation. For the past seven years, property taxes have increased an average of 7.4 percent annually, or double inflation, and the governor says thatâ€™s not sustainable.
Most Vermonters would agree. Just like itâ€™s not sustainable for health care insurance to go up by two or three times inflation each year, neither can Vermonters afford such steep increases in our property taxes.
What follows falls in the realm of the “It-can’t-possibly-be-true category,” but it is and it’s an outrageous example of how this nation’s political system has become increasingly dysfunctional. The issue is farm subsidies, and the salient fact is that the federal government spent $1.3 billion in subsidies for rice and other crops since 2000 to individuals who do no farming at all.
None. Some of the individuals collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in crop subsidies without even planting a seed. Mary Anna Hudson, an 87-year-old resident of the River Oaks neighborhood in Houston, received $191,000 over the past decade, according to research done by the Washington Post and reported in last Sunday’s edition. Houston surgeon Jimmy Frank Howell received a total of $490,709 over the same period, while 67-year-old Donald Matthews of El Campo, Texas, built his dream house in the heart of rice country on an 18-acre suburban lot and he receives $1,300 in annual “direct payments” on the 17 acres that surrounds his elaborate home. Matthews, an asphalt contractor, readily admits he’s “no farmer” and disagrees with the government’s policy, but his desire to give the money back to the government was fruitless, so he now takes the money and has created scholarships for the local school and 4-H club.