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Angelo Lynn's blog

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2008: A watershed year for Middlebury

The year 2008 may mark one of the turning points in the Middlebury’s history. It will be the year town residents committed to building the Cross Street Bridge, approved a $16 million bond and agreed to change the town’s charter to allow for the implementation of local option taxes. All were enormously important decisions.

But it will likely also mark the beginning of a renaissance in community betterment.

Let’s count the ways:

• This summer, after almost a decade in the making, Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater comes back to life. The extraordinary $6 million renovation of that historic building will have been completed and Middlebury’s arts scene will be more vibrant than ever before.

• A riverfront committee is making plans to continue improvement on the banks of the Otter Creek just below the falls, following up on work that began this past fall. If all goes according to plan, an outside amphitheater will get underway that will provide several rows of riverside seating (just above and beside the footbridge near the Marble Works’ picnic tables) and the potential for musical and theatric entertainment in the summer and fall when the weather permits.

That’s just one part of a long-range plan to more fully utilize the Otter Creek’s shoreline through the length of the town and beyond. Better canoe and boat access and egress points are also in the works, making it more convenient for boaters to appreciate the creek. Expanded parks and a running/walking path along the creek are also in the planning stages.

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Gov’s capital gains plan has merit

In his State of the State speech, Gov. James Douglas announced two ways to generate additional revenue. The first was to lease the state’s lottery for a one-time gain of $380 million. The second was to eliminate a loophole in the state’s tax laws that benefited Vermonters with unearned income and capital gains. Closing the loophole would generate approximately $21.4 million annually.

As Rep. David Sharpe, D-Bristol, notes in his legislative column on Page 5, the Legislature has so far been opposed to leasing the lottery for fiscal and values-related reasons. We wholeheartedly agree. The one-time benefit means little in the long-term scheme of things, and the trade-off would turn the lottery into an enterprise that preys on Vermonters who don’t have the money to lose. It’s an unseemly proposition.

Both sides of the legislative aisle agree that closing the capital gains loophole is a good idea, and that’s to the governor’s credit. It’s not only a substantial amount of money into the state’s coffers each year, but it is an effective tax increase on the state’s wealthiest residents. Kudos, then, to the governor for going against his pledge not to increase taxes and taking action on this oversight that needed correcting.

And contrary to the Democrats’ suggestion to use that money for expenditures they suggest would lower property taxes, the governor’s plan to use the $21.4 million to lower income taxes for Vermonters has considerable merit.

Here’s why:

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Of appreciating Robert Frost

The party at poet Robert Frost’s summer home in Ripton a few weeks ago was a bad idea that spun out of control into deviant behavior. Many of those youths involved have recognized the seriousness of their crime, are apologetic and are seeking to do whatever it takes to repay society for their mistakes.

In meting out justice through the court diversion process as well as through the criminal court process, the intent is clear: those involved must understand the gravity of their mistake and that their actions betrayed the community in which they live. Payment should come in the form of restitution for the damage done, but also in ways that seek to regain the community’s trust.

Suggestions have already included work at the Robert Frost farm to maintain the walking trail leading to the house. Such work could be extended to include the Robert Frost trail network less than a half-mile away. But while such work qualifies for community service, restoring the people’s trust needs to come more from the heart.

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Prolonged nomination has more upside than downside

Here’s an irony: It’s impossible for another media person to criticize the political pundits in this year’s presidential race without becoming one. But, at the risk of impugning my character, it seems some of the nation’s news organizations and their pundits become more inane, and more off-point year by year.

The hot topic of last week was making a big deal about how the drawn-out process for the Democrat Party’s nomination between Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama is bad for the party now that Sen. John McCain has a lock on the Republican nomination. Pundits are projecting a brokered convention and foretelling the potential damage if that’s how the process plays out, especially if it’s a dog-fight over the nearly 800 superdelegates.

In a recent CNN story, reporter Jim Acosta found a foil to dramatize how disruptive such a scenario might be: “If 795 of my colleagues decide this election, I will quit the Democratic Party,” said Donna Brazile, adding, for some theatrical effect, “I feel very strongly about this.”

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Bush’s legacy: ‘A fiscal meltdown’

When President George W. Bush unveiled his $3.1 trillion budget on Monday outlining his fiscal plan for 2009, it makes you wonder why anyone would even want to aspire to the presidency post-Bush. The nation’s finances are a disaster thanks to tax cuts, large increases in defense spending and the booming costs of health care, social security, etc., that the nation is obligated to uphold.

Bush’s 2009 budget predicts a $410 billion deficit (not including war costs in Iraq and Afghanistan), and even then is unrealistically low because of inflated revenue projections, low-balling military expenses, and projected cuts that aren’t likely to be approved by Congress. In reality, then, the 2009 deficit will most likely exceed the $413 billion deficit record set in 2004 — the largest ever at the time.

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Hawaiian wedding

Editor's Note: The following appeared as a Clippings piece in the Addison Independent

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MUHS saps school spirit

What is it in Middlebury’s water that makes town and school officials react like Nazis to the community’s youth and their related activities?

OK. That’s a loaded and unfair question, but let me explain: The latest incident happened this past week when a parent of a high school basketball player was booted out of the game at half time because he was leading other students and adults in cheering for the Tigers. The alleged violation was orchestrating a waving of the fans’ collective hands and arms (foot-stomping is no longer allowed) in support of their team. The parent who took the lead was later escorted out of the bleachers by a local policeman to talk to Middlebury Union High School Principal Bill Lawson, and then told not to return to his seat. The police log listed the incident as dealing with a fan who was annoying other fans around him and the opposing team. No joke.

The response from those most closely involved — other parents and fans in the auditorium — was outrage at a school policy that is overzealous and, worse, that is zapping the spirit out of MUHS athletics. About 30 athletes and sports boosters (parents) appealed to the MUHS school board on Tuesday to ease up on policies that one parent said is “driving students away” from the games and is now causing “loyal fans to rebel.” (See story Page 1A.)

“When there are less than two dozen students who show up for a big game and the visiting team has a larger cheering section than the home team, something is clearly amiss,” said area resident Linda Pitkin, who co-authored a letter to the school board urging members to review school policy.

Two-bits, four-bits, six-bits a dollar (stomp, stomp, stomp), all for Linda and team, stand up and holler! (Oh, sorry, that’s not allowed.)

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EDITORIAL: Proposed gravel pit challenges Bristol’s sense of democracy

High on the plateau above the New Haven River overlooking the village of Bristol rests a fertile 11-acre hay meadow with spectacular views of Deerleap Mountain, the Bristol Cliffs, Bristol’s downtown and views west toward the Adirondacks. With a thin row of trees bordering the meadow on two sides and high mountains at its back, the site is as picturesque as it gets in Vermont — and that’s pretty special.

But the purpose of a site visit this past Monday at this scenic location, wasn’t to admire the view and imagine the good fortune that 25 or 30 families might have if a residential neighborhood were established there in the distant future, or in the similarly sized wooded section that borders the meadow on the south side. Rather, the District 9 Environmental Commission held a public site visit to give its members, Bristol residents and others an opportunity to walk the site and learn the details of a proposed gravel pit that would excavate untold hundreds of thousands of tons of gravel for the next 35 or more years.

The questions answered during the site visit were of a technical nature: if the access road goes here, how will the traffic flow; what landscaping will be done to hide the cut into the woods; what will be done to mitigate the noise, gravel dust and visual scars to the land; where will the digging begin, how will it proceed? They talked about 200-foot setbacks and test pits and the steepness of access and egress roads.

But the central question of whether a conditional use permit should be granted to allow the significant parcel to be mined as a gravel pit or left, as some argue the town’s municipal plan suggests, as a residential area for future growth was not discussed.

It is, however, the question Bristol residents should reconsider in a public process.

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