Archive - Mar 2010 - Editorial
There are four Canada geese on the opposite side of Otter Creek as I write this, standing on the tiny frozen edge of what was once an enormous sheet of ice. They look fat and proud of themselves, having weathered another winter and made it home to Vermont.
I’d like to report that these happy harbingers of spring have brightened my day, as they so optimistically survey their warming domain and search for nesting sites.
But I can also peer out the window and, in addition to the geese, see my snowboard lying forlornly on the deck in the 50-degree sunshine.
This is Sunshine Week in America, a press-organized annual observance to stress the importance of openness in government. Lord knows Sunshine Week (March 14-20) deserves attention here in Vermont.
How Vermont’s laws on public meetings and public records got so messed up is a mystery, but there’s no question they’re messed up. The man who wrote the law, a former attorney general and state senator, put 27 exemptions in the law for the usual stuff — personnel matters, land acquisition, legal strategy in a lawsuit, that kind of thing.
I admit the last time I read Plato’s works had to be in the early 1970s as a college student. And, like most of you, I hadn’t thought much about it since; at least not in a direct way.
So it was with interest that I met Victor Nuovo, professor emeritus of philosophy at Middlebury College, a few months ago to talk about a series of essays he was writing on Plato’s last work called “Laws.” As the front-page story in today’s issue reports, after a few conversations, we decided to run them in the Addison Independent.
Editor’s Note: This editorial by the Hardwick (Vt) Gazette spotlights a House bill that limits access to public records. The examples used are local to Hardwick, but could easily pertain to Addison County.
Vermont state law gives people the right to see public records concerning matters conducted by public bodies. The law states “it is in the public interest to enable any person to review and criticize their decisions even though such examination may cause inconvenience or embarrassment.”
The shrill cry cut like a knife through the searing Costa Rican air that had been doing a lethargic tango with the sounds of crashing surf, clinking glasses and Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” crackling through a primitive boom-box.
It was a jarring wake-up call from a pool-side seat last month during a family vacation to the warmer climes of Central America. Our family tries to join the snowbirds for a week each February to recharge the batteries. A little fun in the sun, some family togetherness and some memories to last a lifetime.
Not sure whether spring has arrived? Just ask a turkey. Judging from the way ours are acting, it’s been spring for weeks.
Mingling among our dozen or so free-range chickens, we have eight Slates and Bourbon Reds, two breeds of heritage turkeys. These old-fashioned breeds of turkey are heavier and tamer than the wild turkey and smarter than the genetically “improved” supermarket turkey, which in terms of adaptive intelligence ranks just above a cinder block. They let us know loud and clear when mating season — what we more politely refer to as “spring” — has arrived.
In a recent piece in Newsweek, a headline over a photo of a sea of American people proclaims in large type: “We The Problem: Washington is working just fine. It’s us that’s broken.” On a national scale, the piece hits the mark; and, oddly enough, it directly contradicts the experience we have just witnessed at town meetings all across Vermont.
The piece in Newsweek by Evan Thomas is summed up in his second paragraph:
Of the town meeting votes in Addison County this year, the most dramatic was the overwhelming decision among five Addison Northwest Supervisory Union towns to unify their schools under one overarching school governance board. The vote, which was the third in the past few years, passed with 63 percent in favor and 37 percent opposed.