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Editorial: Vote for a 'can-do' governor

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Posted on November 1, 2018 |
By Angelo Lynn



If Vermonters want a governor who will work collaboratively with the Legislature to develop effective legislation, rather than rule by veto, they won’t get it from Gov. Phil Scott.

If Vermonters want a governor to champion a livable wage or clean up the state’s waters, they won’t get that from Phil, either.

And if Vermonters want a governor who will lead the state against climate change and implement universal broadband, Phil’s not their man.

But if Vermonters want a governor who will press those policies, those are also some of the reasons Democrat Christine Hallquist is running against Scott to be Vermont’s next governor.

Hallquist has spent much of her campaign championing a novel plan to implement universal broadband for a fraction of the cost of previous plans. It’s all based on connecting homes through the existing electrical power grid. The thinking is simple: if you have electrical power, just run the fiber optic cable along the same poles. The infrastructure is already there (just add the cable), and maintenance is already in place — with the telcom companies helping the utilities share the cost.

While CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative, Hallquist did just that. Of 2,800 miles of distribution line the cooperative owns, they installed 600 miles of fiber optic cable along the same lines and it’s worked like a charm.

A mechanical engineer by training, Hallquist knows her stuff. That’s important, because it’s going to take a state leader with technical savvy to understand some of the critical issues involved, but the goal is simple. Like rural electrification back in the 1930s, connecting fiber optic cable throughout Vermont and the rest of the country’s rural areas is a do or die scenario; areas that have it will be able to attract growth, areas that don’t are going to keep losing population.

She has been explaining her plan at rallies across the state, the premise of which was captured well in a recent article in The Nationby Evan Malmgren. “I live in rural Vermont and I have a copper connection,” she told The Nation. “Every time it rains, you’ve got to reset your modem four or five times. That’s the story in rural Vermont, where two thirds of the population lives. It directly relates to people’s lives — fiber is the tool, it’s the method to make a better life…. Today, it’s very clear that there’s a digital divide. You can’t build a 21st-century economy on copper infrastructure … that’s where you roll into the fiber plan.”

It’s impressive that while previous governors have identified the problem, the solution was costly and the state was simply never going to reach “the last mile” despite what each of them said. Hallquist’s plan could, and for far less money.

And that’s what we like about Hallquist’s candidacy. She doesn’t take no for an answer. As the leader of the state, she said, “it’s not good enough to shrug your shoulders and say nothing can be done. Yes, something can be done, and Vermont can help lead the way.”

Climate change is a case in point. She understands that the actions Vermonters take as individuals won’t tip the tide, not even close, but that’s no reason not to act. “Gov. Scott says Vermont can’t make a difference on its own, so why bother,” Hallquist said in a recent interview, “but I say, Vermont’s leadership can make a difference.” Hallquist says she would form alliances with other states to have a larger impact in reducing the state’s carbon footprint, all while projecting a positive and forward-thinking image of Vermont to the country — an image critical to attracting younger families and workers.

On policy issues, Hallquist supports Vermont moving to a $15 minimum wage by 2024, funding paid family leave and providing more support for higher education so Vermont students can afford post-secondary education or training — something that just under 50 percent currently don’t do. And, like many Democrats, she praises Scott for his support of sensible gun legislation passed last spring.

On taxes and spending, Hallquist understands what Gov. Scott doesn’t: you can’t cut your way to prosperity. The governor’s role is to create priorities for spending that yield a good return on investment. That’s how you create economic growth and attract people to move here, she said, adding the governor “has to be able to say more than no.” As the state’s leader, Hallquist said, you have to articulate a positive direction and then work hard to get there, something Gov. Scott also hasn’t done.

Hallquist knows her candidacy started with a huge deficit and she’s a long shot to win, but a vote for her sends the message that Vermonters don’t want continued gridlock with the Legislature and divisive politics. They want action, not words, to make Vermont more affordable, and deferring $70 million in property taxes to be paid later with accrued interest — Scott’s claim to improving affordability — doesn’t cut it.

A livable wage, affordable health care, family leave, fiber optics to every home — those are the action plans Christine Hallquist will implement, and those are the steps that will make a difference to the average Vermonter. Scott’s plan — cutting state programs for two more years — won’t move the needle forward.

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