Political movements that catch the publicâ€™s imagination can spread like a prairie fire across the nation. From town to town, state to state, the movementâ€™s idealism is spread by word of mouth â€” fanned by media coverage and todayâ€™s internet â€” and fueled by millions of people wanting to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
The political movement that most fits this description today is global warming. Al Goreâ€™s book â€œAn Inconvenient Truth,â€? and the subsequent movie have done much to popularize the issue in recent months, taking off from previous works on environmental issues, including Bill McKibbenâ€™s landmark book, â€œThe End of Nature.â€?
In an attempt to harness the eagerness of people to embrace this issue and make it the number one cause on Americaâ€™s agenda, a well-publicized five-day walk is scheduled for Labor Day weekend starting in Ripton and ending in Burlington. That the walk starts in Ripton has much to do with the fact that McKibben lives there, that Robert Frostâ€™s writing cabin is there, and that Middlebury College student Will Bates and a few others who helped organize the walk, could imagine no better place to reflect on Earthâ€™s beauty and the reasons why it is so important to protect what is within our ability.
Last week, Gov. James Douglas identified another election-year issue that will stir the publicâ€™s interest and, he hopes, earn him a few sure-fire votes. The issue is property taxes; or, more specifically, high property taxes. He against them, of course.
The governorâ€™s plan is not to lower property taxes (heâ€™s honest in admitting the state needs the money and itâ€™d be reckless to cut taxes), but to keep the rate of the tax increases closer to the rate of inflation. For the past seven years, property taxes have increased an average of 7.4 percent annually, or double inflation, and the governor says thatâ€™s not sustainable.
Most Vermonters would agree. Just like itâ€™s not sustainable for health care insurance to go up by two or three times inflation each year, neither can Vermonters afford such steep increases in our property taxes.