Letters to the Editor: Town must be transparent in public matters
I am a Middlebury resident and voter. I am also a professor at the College and a mother to two young children. I am deeply invested in the quality of my community, and as such, I write to express to you my disappointment in the reports of the Middlebury Town Selectboard’s anti-democratic plan to ignore the overwhelming will of their constituents and pursue a fear-based and un-scientific approach to the issue of cannabis legalization.
While the arguments in favor of legalizing cannabis, whose harm is far less than that from already-legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco (the former lauded as a major economic boon to our town, with a highly marketed “Tasting Trail” for tourists), I will not re-enumerate them here. The debate has been going on in Vermont for some years now, and I hope the Selectboard has taken the time to educate itself on the facts through available resources.
I write, instead, to express a more fundamental concern about the erosion of our deeply cherished democratic values. This erosion is seen clearly at the Federal level, and is activating a strong resistance nationwide. I never thought that I would have similar concerns about my local government. Yet here we are.
Last year, the Selectboard approved the Vermont League of Cities and Towns’ (VLCT) lobbying on a political issue, effectively in secret. But the subsequent (better late than never) Town survey decisively pronounced the will of the people: Middlebury residents oppose VLCT lobbying against cannabis legalization on behalf of our town. And yet, this paper’s reports suggest to me that the Board will ignore this message and pursue a biased and anti-democratic action to re-approve VLCT to do exactly what 65% of town residents said not to do. (And will taxpayer dollars be involved as well?)
Some may wonder what cannabis legalization has to do with my being invested in the quality of my community. Here are some reasons: I care about adults who are engaging in an activity that is far less harmful than drinking beer having their lives ruined by our criminal (in)justice system. I care that people are already consuming cannabis through an illegal market that brings a criminal element into my community. I care about scientific facts rather than fear and misinformation being the drivers of government policy. But more than any of this, I care about my representative government doing its job representing the will of the people in a transparent and responsive manner.
It’s bad enough that at the national level we are faced with an authoritarian government that ignores the will of the people, but I never thought my local town representation would even consider doing the same. I urge the members of the Middlebury Selectboard to put their personal prejudices aside, and listen to the members of this community, their constituents. Do not allow VLCT to promote a message on behalf of Middlebury residents that the residents overwhelmingly reject!
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