When a single person is able to use the Act 250 process to delay a project for up to two years for reasons that have been dismissed by all others, the state needs to amend the law.
The instance at hand is with the proposed Eastview housing project â€” a 101-unit retirement community to be built on 30 acres south of Porter Medical Center campus off South Street in Middlebury. Opposed is South Street Extension resident Miriam Roemischer. She has been the proverbial thorn-in-the-side of those who have pushed the project forward. Thatâ€™s a shame.
While other community members, including many along South Street, raised initial concerns about the project â€” including the fact that traffic would increase and they wanted to be sure traffic-calming measures were in place â€” their concerns apparently have been satisfied and the public good of the project (not to mention the appropriate zoning) has outweighed their own personal preferences for a quieter street.
As Gov. James Douglas addresses the task of replacing Secretary of Agriculture Steve Kerr the future of farmers throughout the state may hang in the balance. Itâ€™s not that one person will make or break the farm community, but that the direction state policy proceeds during the next few years could either set the path for new growth on Vermont farms or continue the rapid demise of dairy farms Vermont has seen for the past 50 years.
The demise, as most everyone knows, has cut the number of farms in the state by a third in the past decade â€” from 2,265 in 1993 to 1,459 in 2003. Itâ€™s not a new trend. The number of dairy farms in Vermont in 1983 was 3,216; in 1973 it was 3,852; in 1963, there were 7,127, and in 1953, there were 10,637. On average about 8 percent to 10 percent of our dairy farms have been going out of business each year.
Vote for a change
As the nation prepares to vote tomorrow, Nov. 7, voters should consider the state of affairs in Washington, D.C., and to do their part to ensure a change in direction.
Such a change would press for an end to a federal tax policy that favors the wealthiest individuals over the middle class, more favorable environmental policies that require industry to limit further harm to the environment, federal regulations that prevent media consolidation in the hands of a few mega-corporations, deficit reduction measures so our children and grandchildren arenâ€™t paying for todayâ€™s excess spending, a health care system that delivers appropriate care to American citizens, and an educational funding system that is flexible enough to adapt to the changing needs of todayâ€™s global economy. For the past six years under President George W. Bush and the Republican-dominated Congress the nation has witnessed a steady deterioration on each of those fronts.
In the race between Democrat Peter Welch and Republican Martha Rainville for Vermontâ€™s lone seat in Congress, one issue is paramount: Do Vermonters want to enable President George Bush to maintain control of both the House and Senate, or will they cast a vote to place an appropriate check on this presidentâ€™s radical and disastrous agenda? If voters want Bush to â€œstay the courseâ€? on domestic issues and foreign affairs, then a vote for Rainville will help assure that path. If voters want a change in the nationâ€™s direction and a check on the president, then a vote for Peter Welch is critical.
Control of the U.S. House is so central to this election that it outweighs all other considerations.
This newspaperâ€™s concerns with the Bush administrationâ€™s mismanagement of our national resources and damage done to our international prestige over the past five years are well known to our readers (and those long-standing concerns, we might add, have largely been validated), so we wonâ€™t belabor the mounting perils that would face the nation if Bush is allowed to reign two more years with a rubber-stamp Congress.
Thatâ€™s the question to ask in governorâ€™s race
In the race for governor, Republican James Douglas has the advantage of incumbency and a record of compromise and modest achievement, while Democrat Scudder Parker offers a candidacy of vision and bold leadership. In choosing the stateâ€™s next leader, Vermonters must ask if maintaining the status quo is sufficient or if the times demand a bolder course of action?
There is no pat answer. The course the state has maintained for the past four years under Gov. Douglas has been steady, if not visionary.
But problems remain unresolved. Dairy farms continue to fail at an alarming rate; the stateâ€™s energy supply hangs in a precarious balance and yet the state has no comprehensive energy policy; the stateâ€™s teacher/pupil ratio is low and drives expenses resulting in high property taxes; while the Catamount Health Care plan is a step forward, many say it does too little to cut costs leaving a heavy burden on businesses; the stateâ€™s Medicaid bill will put an increasing burden on the budget in future years; and while the stateâ€™s population has been increasing modestly, the number of school-age children has been on the decline, thus creating a future shortage in the labor pool.
In the race for lieutenant governor, Vermonters have the opportunity to choose a candidate who would bring an extraordinary amount of energy, intelligence and enthusiasm to the stateâ€™s number two job. That candidate is Democrat Matt Dunne.
Dunneâ€™s background as a public servant is stellar. First elected to the Vermont Legislature as a representative of Hartland and West Windsor at the age of 22, Dunne spent the next four terms in the House and was elected Assistant Majority Leader in 1998, making him the youngest whip in the nation at the time. Along with other leadership roles in the House, he served as vice-chair of the Transportation Committee. During his time in the House, Dunne was a marketing executive in various capacities, including as the marketing director for Logic Associates, a top 500 software company based in Wilder that served the commercial printing industry worldwide.
Ferrisburghâ€™s on the right path; Midd should follow
Ferrisburgh town selectmen are thinking ahead. Earlier last month the board appointed a committee to study whether the town should buy a key parcel of land that abuts the town elementary school and the planned site of a new town office building and meeting center. The 34-acre parcel, town leaders believe, is so important to the future of the village that the opportunity to buy it â€” rather than allow a developer to build a handful of houses on it â€” should not be passed by.
Such a proposal is not inexpensive. The asking price for the farmland owned by the Hinsdale family of Charlotte has been $750,000, and the appraised price is around $650,000.
Benefits to the town include providing extra room for the school to expand; parking for school or town offices; safer access to the school; a new site for a larger post office; playing fields; a town green and other options. Importantly, town officials note, the area is the last large open parcel in the village with good septic soils.
Policy issues aside, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Matt Dunne has a singular issue that strikes a bipartisan chord: He believes the lieutenant governorâ€™s salary of $61,000 per year is significant enough to warrant a full-time effort from the elected candidate. He notes Lt. Gov. Dubie is gone almost two-thirds of the year working as an airline pilot.
He doesnâ€™t begrudge Dubie his job as a pilot, and he freely admits that prior public servants in the lieutenant governorâ€™s post also worked part-time at other jobs (Howard Dean was a doctor while being lieutenant governor and Doug Racine helped with his familyâ€™s South Burlington auto dealership, to name two). But he makes two valid points: the positionâ€™s salary has been raised significantly since Dubie became Lt. Gov., and, more importantly, he wants to serve the state full-time because he believes there is more than enough work to do to help Vermont and Vermonters grow and prosper in the new economy.