Editorial: Views on a newsy week
So much happens in a week’s time, it can make a weekly commentary seem out of touch, but in the interest of reflecting on the vital issues of the times, here’s a wrap on issues from local to national.
SCHOOL CONSOLIDATION SPARKS BOARD RACES
Today’s Addison Independent features stories on more local school board and selectboard races throughout the county. Interestingly, the school board races have multiple candidates competing for single seats and have attracted highly engaged candidates with thoughtful ideas. The issue sparking the heightened interest is consolidation. Each district has slightly different rules to abide by, depending on their district charters and board make-up, but they all are facing the same basic considerations: shrinking student enrollments equating to shrinking state funds which eventually lead to higher property taxes and reduced school capacity.
The challenge is to provide a quality academic experience in light of those odds. Some candidates suggest the only way that can be done is to close some elementary schools to consolidate students in larger groups. This follows the economic principle of scale, at least in the business world: the larger an enterprise is, the more economically it can operate. An opposing view, held by some school board candidates, is that while the economics is difficult, existing infrastructure is in place and efficient economies can be achieved in small operations as well, sometimes with superior results.
We encourage readers to study the comments from the various school board candidates, ponder the situation in your school district and pursue additional information via candidate websites to reach an informed choice. These are critical times for our schools, and decisions made in this coming year or two will set the district’s educational framework for decades to come.
Other issues, naturally, come into play as well and candidates have been asked a wide variety of questions in interviews we have published. For candidate stories not found in this issue, those stories are accessible to all here. We also draw your attention to today’s letter to the editor forum in which dozens of area residents express reasons why they are supporting various candidates. The letters cover seven pages out of our 16-page front section. Reading them all provides a good sense of community concerns and aspirations.
MIDDLEBURY SEEKS TO CUT CO2 BY 80%
The town of Middlebury sets a good model by not only setting a firm goal by which to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, but also a process to monitor its progress. The selectboard’s goal is to reduce municipal operations by 80 % by the year 2030. The action also directed the town’s Energy Committee to create an annual C02 progress report at the end of each year to keep the town on track.
It’s a laudable action and sets a good example for others to follow. But the town could also help its 8,000 residents reduce their carbon footprint as well. Easy goals to achieve would be adding more EV charges for electric cars, more and safer bike lanes and encouragement of e-bike use, and being certain building codes incorporate up-to-date energy saving measures. With those, and other town-wide measures in place, individuals can make steady progress as well with an even greater town-wide impact.
HANG IN THERE, AREA RESTAURANTS
In today’s Independent, we feature a story on how county restaurants are faring, and what they’ve done to survive during the pandemic. Three reporters spent the past few weeks interviewing these restaurateurs, hearing their fears as well as continuing hope and optimism. Heartwarming and interesting, these stories represent all those small businesses that have struggled throughout the pandemic with diminished sales but with the tenacity to prevail.
COVID VACCINATION ROLLOUT
It must be noted that Vermont’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine appears to be going well. There are hiccups to be sure, but for the most part the process is understandable and orderly, and the vast majority of Vermonters have been quick to sign up when given the opportunity.
Critics can always nitpick, but the Scott administration makes a good case for its approach and is carrying it out well. As importantly, because the approach is clear and actions have been transparent, the public has confidence in the process — optimistic that the pandemic’s deadly threat is nearing an end and life can return to what we all will consider a new normal by mid-summer.
What a relief it is to have hope so near at hand.
TRUMP’S ACQUITAL CONTRADICTS GOP’S FINDINGS
No doubt ex-president Trump will stand out in the nation’s history books. As the only president impeached twice, and in his second impeachment the only president who received a significant majority of votes to impeach, 57-43 with seven Republicans joining all 50 Democrats, he will be firmly ensconced as the most traitorous president in America’s history.
More telling that the vote to acquit Trump last Saturday was that most Republicans who sided with him did so because they maintained (despite overwhelming evidence) that it was unconstitutional to impeach a president who no longer held office. That is, they did not argue he was innocent of the Democrats’ charge against him: inciting insurrection of his mob to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6 and to try to stop the peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden.
That Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, was ruthless in his criticism of Trump after the verdict — calling him “practically and morally responsible” for the violence on that day — was stark proof that even Republicans knew Trump was guilty, but were too spineless to challenge Trump’s supporters.
In the end, it made sense to keep the impeachment hearings short and to the point. The five-day trial allowed prosecutors to tell the story of Trump’s two-month effort to overthrow the election and stay in power by any means possible — and expose the “big lie” (that the election was “stolen”) for all to see. Trump’s weak defense was fitting: His attorneys provided little substance, ignored constitutional scholars, and knew the fix was in so why sully their reputations further.
Disappointing as the verdict was expected, the trial, nonetheless, was a necessary step in exposing Trump’s big lie for the fraud it was, and aptly framing Trump’s legacy: the Benedict Arnold of modern times, a conman and a scoundrel, and the worst president America has ever witnessed. It’s not the end of Trump’s story, but it is a damning exclamation mark.