What do the times require?
What critical crossroads loom that Vermont must not miss in the upcoming decade?
Which gubernatorial candidate will best be able to meet the demands required to lead the state forward?
These are three critical questions Vermonters must ask themselves as the Aug. 24 primary nears. Faced with five capable Democrats running for governor and capable candidates running in each of the other statewide offices, Vermonters must do more than choose the candidate they like, they must seek to understand what the next governor and his or her administration need to accomplish over the next six to 10 years to revitalize the state’s economy and strengthen its core infrastructure.
To grasp the significance of this election, voters should recognize that the economic landscape of 2010 is much different than the landscape of past decades. The state’s dairy industry has changed dramatically, going from 10,000 farms three decades ago to 1,000 today – and declining. The local food movement has a strong presence in Vermont, as does the organic food and dairy market. As a state we must embrace that opportunity and help a new generation of farmers make a profitable life working the land.
As broadband reaches into most corners of Vermont, we have to market ourselves as a state with digital access to the world and an excellent quality of life. Over the past decade, the past administration talked the talk, but didn’t dare to walk. We can’t make that mistake again. Not every last mile has to be wired, but where it’s practical, it needs to be good and reliable; and private enterprise can’t do it alone.
The green energy movement is here. We have the brand, but do we have the insight to change what we know is harming the world and embrace conservation and new technology to make the state a leader in this field? Individuals have led the state’s efforts thus far, but the state could do more with a concerted effort led by a creative and imaginative governor.
Education should be one of Vermont’s calling cards. We should be touting the excellence of our public schools and encouraging our educators to be the best in every field. We should set a statewide goal to become known as “the education state,” simply because the businesses of tomorrow will demand the best and the brightest in this knowledge-based global economy — and that includes academic scholarship as well as alternative or technical education. What we can’t do is accept that 25 percent of the Vermont students who enter high school don’t graduate. What we can’t accept is constant bashing of our public schools for political gain as the current administration has done for the past eight years. We need to focus on better outcomes and higher standards. Which candidate will make that happen?
In health care, we have the imagination to create a new system that could serve as a model to the nation, and serve our residents better for far less. But will we have a governor who is bold enough to lead?
What we know is that the past eight years has been a wasteland of old-style politics. The jobs of the future scurried to those states that created the right incentives and a youthful camaraderie — the right energy, as it were, to thrive in the next generation. Vermont missed it. By skimping on taxes, impoverishing our government and failing to create the infrastructure and conditions to attract the new jobs — and failing to tell our story as a great place to do business — we have fallen behind.
Intuitively, we know life has moved on… it is not the same as it was, and Vermont needs a leader who can see what the vision is and help us make it a reality.
The challenge is not to pick the next golden industry and position the state for the wave of business to come. There is no need to gamble. Opportunities are ample, but they are also fluid. What is hot today reaches maturity tomorrow and peaks a few years from now. The next offshoot is soon developed that, in turn, sparks a new wave of business and opens up new opportunities.
We know that alternative energy production will be a growing industry for the foreseeable future, but the ways in which it will evolve will be constantly changing at mach speed. We know computer programming will continue to be a budding industry and that the local food movement is growing rapidly. We know that higher education will be a growth industry as more and more jobs demand a sophisticated understanding of the world and the specifics of their product. And we know that health care will see new innovations in treatment, drugs and the way it is administered. Vermont is on the leading edge of those ideas and can help lead the nation (thus gaining a reputation in the industry for other things as well) in that uncertain future.
What we also know is that the state’s strengths include being small, flexible, well educated, tolerant and progressive.
As a state, those are the very characteristics that match well with the jobs of the future — if state leaders understand that tomorrow’s new jobs are mercurial and that they need to embrace a constant state of flux and evolution – the kind of evolution that is ahead of the curve, not behind it.
For the past decade, Vermont has fallen further and further behind that curve. The next governor not only has to embrace that vision, but be a part of it and be capable of bringing the state’s collective resources to create new opportunities.
We admire Doug Racine as a pragmatic and understated leader; Peter Shumlin as a can-do politician, visionary and astute businessman; Deb Markowitz for her organizational prowess, spunk and ability to get the best from others; and Susan Bartlett for her forthrightness.
Matt Dunne, however, is the candidate at the crossroads of this new generation. He gets it, understands its power and the opportunities waiting to be tapped, can articulate what is both practical and promising, and can set the state on a path to seize that new energy.
While we have no doubt that others could lead the state well, we think Dunne’s unique background as a community developer for Google, his leadership under President Clinton with Ameri-Corps, his family connection to Vermont’s dairy farming will provide a new kind of leadership style that will forge alliances — not for political purposes (a benefit of not being part of the current political leadership) — but for the betterment of the state. Finally, of all the candidates, his vision and intuition perfectly match the times.
He does have shortcomings. His legislative experience pales in comparison to Racine’s, Shumlin’s or Bartlett’s; he may not be as bold as Shumlin to push legislation through when it’s needed; he doesn’t know all the state players as well as others do; and he is unproven as a political leader on this state’s stage.
But he’s smart, capable, intuitive, humble, likable, quick, collaborative and he knows these times — all of the characteristics that the next governor must possess to be successful in this all-too-fluid world.
We not only think he can do the job, he’s the candidate to help the state seize the day for the next decade and for our sons’ and daughters’ futures. Vote Matt Dunne for governor in the upcoming Democratic primary.
Angelo S. Lynn