Editorial: Notes of hope
While shopping for presents to celebrate the holidays, my wife and I stumbled onto an encouraging display of hope. Tacked to the ceiling of a local retail store were notes of hope for the New Year. The storeowner had provided blank sheets to write on and pens, and a promise to pin them up. As well as wishes for the usual — world peace, good health for all, a desire that our national politics be less crude and caustic, affordable health care and housing, and a puppy under the tree — was a note that wished that all the hopes pinned to the ceiling could come true.
As unlikely as that last hope is, the act of writing down one’s hopes and aspirations for the new year can be a powerful exercise, because if we don’t conceptualize what we hope, there’s little chance it will happen on its own.
To that end, we encourage our readers to write their own hopes of the New Year (with an effort at keeping those hopes oriented to our local communities) and send them to us at email@example.com. To get you started, here’s a list of our own:
• As rising education costs and declining student enrollment hits Addison County schools, we hope the forces of consolidation bend enough over the next two years to allow those communities who want to keep their local schools open and thriving are given the opportunity to prove that can be done economically and with high academic outcomes.
• In that same vein, we hope measures to promote residential growth in the county’s rural communities are pursued with vigor and creativity. That means town planning boards and selectboards may need to provide incentives, higher residential density levels, and other measures that either reduce the cost of housing, child care, or both, to spur a revival of families living in those communities.
• For Middlebury, we hope that the $72 million, three-year rail project in the heart of its downtown is met with community support of those downtown businesses that will be isolated for 12 weeks next summer when the Main Street and Merchants Row bridges are taken out and replaced with a tunnel. The group, Neighbors Together, has done a wonderful job so far coming up with ways to create a positive attitude in the midst of construction, but the toughest test will be this summer. For many of these downtown businesses to survive and thrive the summer will take a wholehearted commitment from all Middlebury residents.
• For Bristol, we would hope the town pursues a serious effort to revise its zoning and address its lack of sewage and septic capacity to allow for sustainable growth for its business community and fledging industries who want to grow. For the past few decades, Bristol has been home to vital manufacturers who have moved away simply because its municipal infrastructure was inadequate. That discussion has recently been revived, and with an outpouring of community support it could become a town priority.
Within the Mount Abe school district, there has been an improvement in community outreach and dialogue this past year. We hope such outreach continues to build community support among the five towns to lay a solid foundation for the difficult conversations that lie ahead on facility improvements and any potential consolidation.
• In the Vergennes area, our hope is that the possibility of a much-needed alternative route (bypass) around the downtown for trucks will not languish for want of adequate funding and that city leaders and state legislators continue to press for a viable solution. School consolidation will continue to demand much of the public’s attention with the district’s five towns. The hope is that each community agrees to the measures the district undertakes, and than no town is forced to do so against a majority vote of its residents.
• All towns benefit from recreational trails and paths, not only from its value to guests and tourism, but also to the greater health of the community. New trails have been discussed in 2019 in Middlebury and several other county towns, and we hope to see those visions become realities in the near future.
• We hope towns continue to work on their renewable energy plans and adopt climate friendly policies. Read the adjacent column on this topic by Greg Dennis.
• We recently featured a front page story on Dark Skies (Dec. 19 issue) and the benefits a dark sky brings to the animal and human world alike. We hope the town of Middlebury will aspire to move in that direction over the next decade and would embrace a forward-looking set of policies in the coming year to achieve that, and we encourage other communities to embrace similar efforts. Dark skies are a treasure inherent to many of our communities and we’re apt to squander it without public recognition by community members and an active effort to promote it as an asset.
• On a personal note, we hope the Addison Independent continues to present an accurate mirror of daily life throughout Addison County, that residents will reach out to us with tips of interesting news they would want us to cover, and that we be a force that bridges community voices in a way that strengthens our towns and school districts.
Please add your personal hopes by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and here’s wishing all of our readers good tidings in the New Year.