Twenty-six years ago, I attended my first town meetings as a reporter. I was new to the state and its Town Meeting Day traditions and was awed by the purely democratic form of government many of the small towns throughout Addison County had long embraced. In those days (not all that long ago, I like to think), many towns still held the meeting on that first Tuesday in March with potluck luncheons or early dinners as part of the community heritage.
Armando Vilaseca, Vermont’s Education Commissioner, delivered a sobering message to area school board members last Wednesday in a session that is meant, in part, to shock-and-awe his audience. The numbers tell most of the story, which is that budgets will either have to be cut again and again for the next two years or new revenues will have to be found.
Part of the role of a town selectman is to advocate on the behalf of town residents. So when a Middlebury woman approached selectman Craig Bingham and complained that smokers at a public event at a Middlebury park had caused her kids to breathe smoke from their cigarettes or move, Bingham dutifully took the problem to the selectboard with a proposed solution: ban smoking in all town parks.
One of the roles of the selectboard is to reign in suggestions that are likely to cause friction without effectively solving the perceived problem. This is one of those times.
What was an encouraging, hopeful and humanitarian response to Haiti’s desperate plight in the aftermath of its major earthquake ended abruptly this week in what we suspect was a heap of bureaucratic red tape.
Middlebury Union High School officials confirmed on Wednesday that plans to accept six Haitian students at the school for a year of study were cancelled when an U.S. Department of State official told MUHS Principal Bill Lawson that complications in obtaining visas for the students presented hurdles too large to surmount.
The state’s school finance laws are again under public scrutiny because of escalating property taxes even in the face of declining school budgets. Politicians and residents opposed to Act 60 and Act 68 have been quick to pounce on the legislation’s shortcomings and demand reform, or use the issue to fan the fires of discontent to gain favor (by virtue of a public disconnect with reality) among voters.
Along with this hoopla comes the inevitable lament that the finance laws are overly complex and we need to simplify the system.
Measures taken by the Middlebury selectboard to encourage Green Mountain Beverage to expand here, rather than move out of town, are to be applauded. More importantly, such measures should be encouraged and supported by Middlebury taxpayers for reasons that can be summed up quite simply: a stable or growing population helps support the town’s existing infrastructure by spreading the tax burden, lowers taxes and fees (such as water and sewer rates) per capita, and provides needed commerce for area businesses and services. The opposite leads to community decline.
In a blunt assessment of the current ownership of MediaNewsGroup, The Seattle Times editorial board advised the new owners of MediaNews Group to break up the national newspaper chain and put its newspapers in the hands of local owners. We couldn’t agree more.
Here’s what the Seattle Times’s editorial said:
If news of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant’s underground pipes leaking radioactive water into nearby wells doesn’t completely nix Entergy’s hope of renewing that plant’s license for another 20 years, at the very least its plan to spin off ownership of the plant to an independent company called Enexus should be scrapped immediately.