Candidate Q&A: Addison-5
ADDISON COUNTY — All of Addison County’s incumbent state senators and representatives will run for re-election Nov. 3, and many challengers have stepped up to make sure there will be competition for the two state Senate seats representing Addison County, Huntington and Buel’s Gore, as well as in five of the county’s six House districts.
As part of our election coverage, the Independent is publishing a series of legislative candidate Q&As, grouped by contest.
We asked each candidate the same six questions and offered them space for additional comment. For a list of the questions, see the Q&A sidebar.
In Addison-5 (New Haven, Weybridge and Bridport) two candidates are running for one seat: incumbent Harvey Smith (R), and Jubilee McGill (D).
1. Economy: The issues highlighted in the question are largely due to high costs created by high taxes and expensive regulatory mandates. For example, one of the biggest challenges workers face is the high cost of housing. High property taxes, Act 250, regulatory obstacles to expanding the supply of housing, etc., all drive up the cost of housing significantly. As a result, if you can’t afford to shelter yourself here, you can’t afford to work here, and you leave. This makes it difficult for businesses to find and keep employees, so the businesses are forced to leave. This cycle leads to declining populations, lack of stable jobs etc. The only way to break this cycle is to lower the costs of living and doing business in Vermont by reforming our tax and regulatory policies to make them more pocketbook friendly, and for Montpelier to start prioritizing policies that promote economic growth.
2. School outcomes: Along with our traditional courses we should make sure all students have the skills needed to enter the workforce or go on to Higher Education.
Students need to be taught to take responsibility for their choices and actions.
Students need to learn to agree to disagree without loosing friendship or relationships
Students should know how to write a check and balance a checkbook. This should be a must-learn for all students.
Everyone needs to know how to make change with money.
We need to teach social skills like how to greet people with a handshake (after COVID-19), make eye contact and create positive conversation.
3. School consolidation: Act 46 has not worked well for everyone, especially in our current reality of COVID-19. Putting students on crowded busses for long rides to distant schools with larger student populations is not a good option. We have to deal with the reality that maintaining small, rural schools can be expensive. The key to lowering these costs is to give small rural schools greater flexibility to make creative budgeting and staffing decisions that can result in lower costs while maintaining or even improving quality education for the students. COVID-19 is also forcing parents and educators to experiment with other ways of education that may prove to be better for students and less costly to taxpayers. We should pay attention to and learn from these experiments and where they work, consider making them permanent options.
4. Environment: We should be focused primarily on maintaining and restoring our water quality in Lake Champlain and our other water sources. The regular sewage overflows we see pouring into our rivers and other bodies of water is a problem we can solve and where investment can show real, tangible results.
5. Health care: For three decades we have been passing laws and enacting reforms to make healthcare and health insurance more affordable for Vermonters. Catamount Health… Single Payer and establishing the Green Mountain Care Board… now OneCare. The results have been the opposite. Vermont now has some of the highest healthcare costs and insurance costs in the nation. Maybe it’s time to take another look at reducing government regulations and allowing the markets to work.
6. Agriculture: What a difficult year to be a farmer. Once COVID-19 hit it became crazy. Markets crashed and boomed at the same time. If you were selling cattle or pigs to the large processors market prices went down or they dried up completely as plants closed because of COVID-19. Producers selling into local markets and who had booked processing dates in advance did very well as everyone wanted to fill their freezer.
Dairy farmers were optimistic expecting to see increasing prices after five or more years of depressed prices. That optimism disappeared with the arrival of COVID-19. Markets were disrupted, most of the food service industry shut down leaving dairy processors with no markets for their milk.
Farmers were dumping milk at the same time stores were limiting sales of milk in stores.
These market disruptions took a heavy toll. Thomas dairy closed because of lost markets. Many dairy farmers went out of business after years of very low milk prices.
COVID-19 was unexpected and we were not ready for it. When all of our national markets, processing plants and distribution systems collapse it’s time to double down on our local food movement.
At this time I feel confident that the agriculture community has the right combination of laws, regulations, service providers and farmers to grow our local markets while still supplying our traditional markets. We can tweak our laws as needed.
Getting though COVID-19 has taught us the real value of local food production: A place where one can drive to their neighbors farm and pick up a good selection of high quality local foods.
7. Candidate’s Choice: I have spent my entire life living on or operating a farm. I was taught that you should leave your land to the next generation in better condition than when you received it.
Most farmers try to live by these guiding principals throughout their lifetimes.
By following the Required Agricultural Practices (RAP’s) and Best Management Practices (BMP’s) farmers were responsible for reducing 97% of the total reduction of phosphorous going into the lake Champlain Basin last year.
By following these practices they also are sequestering carbon (greenhouse gas) within the soil, which in turn holds rainwater, reducing runoff and flooding.
An additional benefit of following these water quality practices is air quality improvements, a win-win for all.
You may want to visit with your farm neighbors to learn more about some of the projects they are currently using that make improvements in both water and air quality.
1. Economy: Long before COVID-19 reached our state, thousands of Vermonters were suffering under our state’s economic system. We should use this opportunity to rebuild our systems and create a Vermont where all can thrive, with a strong economy that is sustainable into the future. Raising the minimum wage to a livable wage with programs and tax incentives to protect Vermont’s thriving small business community will be key. I will bring workers and small business owners together to find creative solutions that work for everyone and protect our downtowns and Main Streets. In our response to the climate crisis, we can create new jobs and promote economic development. Fossil fuels direct $0.75 on the dollar outside of our state. By investing in electric vehicles, public transportation, weatherization, building energy-efficient affordable housing, and increasing renewable energy sources, we not only create thousands of good paying jobs, we keep more money in our state, boosting our economy.
2. School outcomes: First, we need to increase equity in access to opportunity. We must ensure broadband connectivity throughout our state so rural students are not at a disadvantage from the start. Our demographics are changing, and we are facing shortages of professionals in many needed fields, plumbing and heating, nursing, electricians, and carpentry are just a few examples. We are also seeing more and more of the educational institutions that train these future workers struggling and some have already closed. Our state colleges and voc tech programs are beacons of hope and opportunity for rural Vermonters, and we must commit to their survival. I believe that by providing and encouraging learning opportunities in these fields for young students early on in their education, we not only invite better future outcomes, but also creative solutions for funding and reducing overhead.
3. School Consolidation: In “We Got this” author and teacher Cornelius Minor states that “education should function to change outcomes for whole communities” and that is something I firmly believe in. I am troubled by the consolidation and closure of our rural community schools and think we’re valuing short term, potential savings over devastating future costs. Small schools are the center of their community and they are a huge motivator if we are committed to attracting families to Vermont. I would like to see us change how we view and use our schools so that they are true community centers. By providing services like medical clinics, teeth cleanings, mental health support and counseling, satellite clinics with local service agencies, community meals, and social activities in the evenings and on the weekends, we can tap into multiple funding sources to make maintenance and operations sustainable. We also create strong communities where our seniors, our children, and all residents thrive.
4. Environment: There is no greater threat to our communities and future generations than climate change. A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed that we must massively decrease the carbon in our atmosphere in under 11 years, or the consequences and toll on our economy, our environment, and human life will be devastating and irreversible. We can reduce our carbon emissions by re-imagining our transportation system. I will explore ways to improve our public transportation options and increase access to and affordability of electric vehicles for all Vermonters. I will support “Green New Deal” policy that achieves carbon reduction while also addressing economic, social, and racial disparities through community-based solutions and working across state lines with others in our region to achieve the best possible outcomes. Clean water is also a huge priority for me. First and foremost, it is a matter of health and safety, but it is also essential to the future of our economy.
5. Health care: In my work, see the negative outcomes of our broken health care system daily. There are too many Vermonters who lack access to quality healthcare that is affordable. The pandemic made clear that health care should not be tied to employment and getting sick should not lead to financial hardship or bankruptcy.
In a small state it is difficult to enact full Medicare for All (with robust dental and mental healthcare included) until it is achieved on a federal level, but we can work in that direction by starting with universal primary care. We must also prevent insurance companies from increasing premiums, lower prescription drug costs, and keep providers accountable in how money is being spent by leveraging state regulatory measures.
6. Agriculture: I know that our farmers have been personally feeling the effects of climate change. With endless rains last summer and then a draught for most of the summer, this is our new norm if we don’t take action soon. Farmers are often made out to be these villains when it comes to environmental issues, when really, they will be key partners in combating the climate crisis. If we can pay farmers to throw out milk, then we should be helping them move to sustainable farming methods like diversification and soil regeneration. Farming is our heritage and it is a huge part of our tourism industry; we must invest in helping them transition.
If done correctly, we can continue to boost our local economies and bolster our communities simultaneously. The Farm to Family program that evolved during the pandemic is exactly the kind of solution we need to build on and we need to fight the USDA and bring the contract back to a Vermont company.
7. Candidates choice: Vermont’s population is aging, and our young adults and families are struggling to make ends meet. Before the pandemic, too many were moving out of state in search of a brighter future. Part of rebuilding our state after COVID-19 will be retaining native Vermonters as well as the new Vermonters who came here seeking safety and security.
We must enact a robust paid family and medical leave program for all workers, as well as increase access to high quality, affordable child-care. We need to support our seniors, bring services into rural communities and improve quality of life, while also making sure they have affordable long-term care options.
We must build strong sustainable communities and systems that ensure all Vermonters can thrive. This is how we will retain our youth and our young families, and this is how we will get people to relocate permanently to Vermont.