Meet your candidate: Addison-5, Susan Smiley
OPIATE ADDICTION: There have been a wide range of responses to the rapid rise in opiate addiction in Vermont is the last ten years. Law enforcement in Vermont has forged partnerships with police in neighboring states to better track and interdict shipments of heroin from Boston, New York and Montreal. Prescription drug monitoring and unused drug disposal programs are in place throughout the state. Community groups have formed in Rutland to try to improve the quality of life for those in neighborhoods devastated by crime and poverty. Increased capacity to treat people with opiate addiction in a multi- disciplinary approach has been realized. A partnership of the Counseling Service of Addison County, Porter Medical Center and Bristol Internal Medicine will increase the number of physicians and counselors able to treat those seeking relief from opiate addiction. This program should go a long way to shortening the waiting list of those seeking relief from addiction
Those arrested for opiate possession in many parts of the state are able to enroll in opiate treatment programs and have their charges expunged. Such pre-charge initiatives have greatly lowered recidivism. Addison County began a pre-charge initiative but discontinued it citing insufficient staffing capacity. A resumption of this program with adequate staffing would offer definite benefits to the county. Changes in prescription practices for opiates merits consideration. Improvement in the state’s economic and social climate would go a long way to making it unnecessary to turn to opiates to drown feelings of emptiness and hopelessness.
TRANSPARENCY: Citizens have a right and a need to know what their government is doing in their names. Action by the Legislature in 2013 greatly improved open government and access to public documents at the state and local level. Both the Secretary of State’s office and that of the State Auditor have enabled improvements in government transparency through the creation of state sponsored transparency web sites and the issuance of reports giving health care consumers pricing and quality information to enable them to make better buying decisions. The Legislature can further enhance transparency by continuing to require of government agencies to undertake better data collection, sharing of data across agencies and reporting to the public. Other possible areas of focus for election transparency are the filing of personal financial statements of office seekers and greater access to law enforcement records.
SCHOOL SPENDING: Low real personal income growth and ever rising property taxes are making the state unaffordable for many residents. Rebalancing school funding in Vermont should focus on the cost of education and what education we commit to providing. Attention should also be given to reducing our reliance on property tax to fund education. The Education Fund should be unburdened of the costs of ancillary education programs whose funding could be returned to the General Fund. The highly nuanced formulas created by previous Legislatures to achieve equality of education across Vermont should be re-evaluated for their effectiveness. School districts will continue to consolidate functions to streamline administration and these steps need to receive ongoing evaluation for their effectiveness. Delineating financial and programmatic commitments would help Vermont achieve its constitutional obligations. It would give teachers and administrators the opportunity to identify teaching programs that match value and effectiveness, maintaining Vermont’s achievements in education quality.
HIGHER EDUCATION: There are many things we can do to continue our support of higher education. Programs that form partnerships between elementary and secondary schools and colleges help underserved students prepare for college and ensure successful completion of a degree program. Vermont ranks lowest of the 50 states in level of financial support for the public colleges. Increases in state support for higher education could result in lower tuition costs. Streamlining administrative overhead and developing additional revenue streams for school facilities would also help directly enhance student learning by freeing money for faculty and course materials. Flexible degree programs, distance learning and certificate courses all offer learning situations with lower costs and career oriented curriculums. These educational approaches should be supported by state policies.
HEALTH CARE: The state administration and the Vermont Legislature have set us on the path to publically funded, universal health care. I support those actions and the goals established by the Legislature to provide comprehensive, affordable, high quality health care coverage for all Vermont residents, received from health care providers of their choice. The upcoming legislative session will be presented with the governor’s proposal to finance that effort and the Legislature will evaluate that plan, possibly revise the plan and ultimately decided whether to create a public financed system for health care in Vermont. The focus of a state health care system will be fairness, equality of access and affordability for all.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Economic development initiatives and programs can play an important part in supporting the emergence of new businesses and facilitating the expansion of existing ones in our county. These programs are operated by agencies that depend on government funding, federal and state. Their most important function is to serve as a hub for information and a support for inspiration. Economic incentive programs will always have supporters and skeptics. Effective auditing of programs, using thoughtfully devised measures of performance are critical and the Legislature should actively participate in this process. Agencies and organizations that are sources of grants to new and expanding businesses should explain reasons for acceptance or rejection to applicants. This sort of feedback can be used to help businesses improve their practices to improve business performance.
The issues talked about here are some of the many that will be taken up in the upcoming session of the Legislature. I look forward to deepening my understanding each of them through the Legislature’s deliberative process. I am excited at the prospect of representing the interests of my neighbors in the Vermont Legislature.
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