In the wake of the economic downturn, educational systems in the 50 states have been facing dramatic cuts or reform, or both. In Kansas City last week, the school board there narrowly approved a measure (5-4) to close nearly half of that district’s schools in an effort to consolidate and reduce a projected $50 million shortfall. The approved plan calls for closing 29 of the district’s 61 schools. About 700 of the district’s 3,000 jobs, including 285 teachers, are expected to be cut.
I admit the last time I read Plato’s works had to be in the early 1970s as a college student. And, like most of you, I hadn’t thought much about it since; at least not in a direct way.
So it was with interest that I met Victor Nuovo, professor emeritus of philosophy at Middlebury College, a few months ago to talk about a series of essays he was writing on Plato’s last work called “Laws.” As the front-page story in today’s issue reports, after a few conversations, we decided to run them in the Addison Independent.
In a recent piece in Newsweek, a headline over a photo of a sea of American people proclaims in large type: “We The Problem: Washington is working just fine. It’s us that’s broken.” On a national scale, the piece hits the mark; and, oddly enough, it directly contradicts the experience we have just witnessed at town meetings all across Vermont.
The piece in Newsweek by Evan Thomas is summed up in his second paragraph:
Of the town meeting votes in Addison County this year, the most dramatic was the overwhelming decision among five Addison Northwest Supervisory Union towns to unify their schools under one overarching school governance board. The vote, which was the third in the past few years, passed with 63 percent in favor and 37 percent opposed.
Planning commission members in Bristol drew a line in the sand with their revised town plan, and voters boldly stepped over it.
By rejecting the town plan and the gravel extraction zoning ordinance by almost a 2-1 margin, town residents finally got their say on an issue that has dominated discussion for the past four years. The vote totals tell the story: Bristol residents voted 598-364 against the proposed town plan, and 627-349 against the gravel extraction zoning ordinance. That is overwhelming.
As Middlebury residents go to the polls on Tuesday, March 2, they’ll have the opportunity to change the long-term economic fortunes of the town through one measure: Casting a vote to phase out the town’s antiquated machinery and equipment tax. The measure is written as Article 10 and calls it a tax on Business Personal Property.
On Tuesday, Bristol residents will vote by Australian ballot on two crucial issues: adoption of a revised town plan and a new zoning ordinance that would regulate gravel mining. The votes are crucial because under the revised town plan, the RA-2 zoning district that butts up against downtown’s Main Street would allow for a large gravel pit, and mining of natural resources were unnecessarily opened in the town’s conservation districts.
When at their town meetings next Monday, Salisbury and Leicester residents will be asked to approve a temporary hike in funds needed to get the milfoil eradication program back on top of the problem. The $5,000 or so in extra funding for each town isn’t a huge amount, but it is critical to the success of the program and the long-term health of Lake Dunmore and Fern Lake.