Op/Eds

10/31/2019
The ACSD School Board seems to be moving quickly in the direction of closing town schools. I strongly urge everyone from all towns to pay attention and become involved. Below is an edited version of the letter I wrote to our school board when they solicited public comments this past spring: “I am very upset that closing schools is the direction in which the board seems to want to move. Please reconsider and change directions. We should instead be working to strengthen ALL of our schools. “It seems to me that my opposition to school closures has often been minimized, as some feel I am overly...
10/31/2019
The two main selling points for school unification are lowering school costs and improving student performance by providing a wider experience. We have no guarantees that this will happen. Research actually shows the opposite. West Virginia decided to force school consolidation all at once through the entire state. The results: increased school costs and declining student performance. So after the unified school board closes enough of our local schools, if we end up with still higher property taxes and lower student performance, we will be stuck with lots of empty buildings and a bloated...
10/28/2019
The United Way of Addison County has a conundrum it must hurdle each year due, in large part, to its own success. Because it has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the community for the past 60 or so years, and raised millions of dollars over that time, the challenge for its annual fundraising is to: 1) reach that very high bar on which many smaller agencies now depend on; and, 2) make the annual giving campaign appear fresh, full of vitality, and new. United Way leaders, nonetheless, can’t change things too much, because they don’t want to mess around with what has worked so well in...
10/28/2019
The other morning I received this text message: “There is a homeless person sleeping on the porch.” The first staff member to arrive at our office on 48 Court Street in Middlebury was a bit startled to say the least. The gentleman woke up when he heard footsteps on the stairs, apologized for moving our United Way-blue Adirondack chairs, and moved on after putting everything back as it was. Working at United Way we know full well that there are homeless people in Addison County.  We hear their stories from our funded partners and we invest in programs that provide vital services to this...
10/28/2019
Recently we’ve been busy at Vermont Family Forests letting people know about our upcoming Commons Conservation Congress, during which we’ll be exploring how we community members can care well for those parts of our home place that everyone shares and no one owns—namely air, water and wildlife. We hired a local artist to paint a picture that evokes our region and its natural commons, and we’ve been using her beautiful watercolor in our publicity. The other day, we got some friendly feedback about the painting from a community member in the Mad River area of our ecoregion—someone who’s actively...
10/24/2019
On a local level, the issue of our times is how our newly formed school districts navigate through an era in which declining student numbers and rising costs make it difficult for small schools to operate economically, while also balancing the strengths that small schools derive from being a part of a very tight, supportive community. These are weighty issues that do not have easy answers. The economic facts that must be confronted are this: the demographics over the past 20 years have seen a consistent decline in most schools throughout Addison County; declining enrollment means declining...
10/24/2019
The first time I was in Mongolia twenty-five years ago, my friend Kathleen and I were riding on a red and white bus with standing room only. We were returning from a day at the black market where I had bought necessities like a light bulb and toilet seat. The dilapidated bus lurched and when I looked up, a Mongolian woman was shaking hands with Kathleen. I thought someone was introducing herself, so I reached over to shake hands, too. The Mongolian looked at me a bit strangely. Later I learned the custom is to shake hands if you step on someone’s foot or touch their leg with your foot. That...
10/24/2019
The next general election in Vermont will be just over a year away. While the presidential election will be one of the most high-intensity campaigns the nation and the state will have ever seen, there may not be many closely-contested races at the statewide level. For one thing, there will be no U.S. Senate campaign in Vermont in 2020. Sen. Patrick Leahy’s term runs until 2022, and Sen. Bernard Sanders’ until 2024.  The last presidential election year in which there was no U.S. Senate race in Vermont was 2008. In that year, Barack Obama defeated John McCain in Vermont by a popular vote margin...
10/24/2019
Editor’s note: This is the 39th in a series of essays on the history and meaning of the American political tradition. The term “Trail of Tears” translates an expression used by the Cherokees to describe their forced exodus from their homeland in northern Georgia and their doleful journey to a place west of the Mississippi River, in what is now the state of Oklahoma. Although there were other native peoples besides the Cherokees who were made to suffer the same ordeal, among them the Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks and Seminoles, and others still to come, I focus on their journey because it is...
10/24/2019
Given the growing potential for broad conflict now existing in the Middle East, it might be worthwhile to look at that region in terms of past U.S. foreign policy to see just where we do or don’t fit in.  Islam has been divided since 632 A.D. when, after the death of Caliph Muhammad, Muslims were unable to agree on the selection of a new, permanent Caliph. This ultimately resulted in the division of Islam into its two main branches, Sunni and the Shia, two branches that have fought for almost 1400 years for primacy in Islam.  America had minor commercial ties with Muscat and Oman under Andrew...

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Addison County Independent

58 Maple Street
Middlebury, VT 05753

Phone: 802.388.4944
Fax: 802.388.3100