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Candidate Q&A: Addison-1

ROBIN SCHEU

ADDISON COUNTY — Incumbent state senators and representatives in Addison County will run for re-election Nov. 3, and challengers have stepped up to make sure there will be competition in five of the county’s six House districts.
The Independent is publishing a series of legislative candidate Q&As, grouped by contest.
We asked each candidate the same six questions and offered them space for additional comment. 
In Addison-1, which represents the town of Middlebury, three candidates are running for two seats: incumbent Robin Scheu (D), Amy Sheldon (D) and Tom Hughes (R). After considering, Hughes chose not to submit answers to our questions.
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ROBIN SCHEU
1. Economy: The future of Vermont depends on a healthy economy. A strong economy provides jobs, lifts people out of poverty, and reduces the pressure on an already overburdened social services system. We need to develop policies and practices that provide opportunities for our citizens which will in turn strengthen our economy. Today, too many Vermonters struggle to care for and support themselves and their families. The pandemic has shown us just how broken our systems are. I will continue to fight for:
•  Paid family leave — Working Vermonters should have the security of being able to welcome a new child or care for a sick family member without fear of losing income or being fired.
•  Childcare — We need to strengthen our childcare system so more families have access, parents can go to work, and businesses can hire and retain good employees.
•  Workforce development — We must continue to increase access to training, career and tech education so every Vermonter has a fair shot. 
2. School Outcomes: I believe all Vermonters, young and old, should have access to a high-quality education. Students should be provided the opportunity to reach their potential and succeed in life. With the additional demands placed on our schools such as mental health and poverty, great public schools in our communities are more important than ever in giving all children a fair shot at a bright future.
The legislature by statute cannot direct the curriculum of our public school system; it can provide suggestions and recommendations, as we did with the Ethnic Studies program, but we cannot tell our schools what must be taught or how. That is the role of the AOE and the professionals.
However, we need to ensure that more opportunities and skills training are offered in our school systems and I strongly support increased funding of our tech centers and other workforce development organizations such as Vermont Adult Learning and the Department of Labor.
3. School Consolidation: If people believe in local control, which most Vermonters do, then decisions about maintaining or consolidating schools should be left up to local communities who know best what they need. That said, I also believe it is paramount that all students have access to a quality education, no matter where they live. With declining enrollment, each year school districts are having to cut back on programs, maintenance, etc. in order to keep costs down. I worry that students who struggle will be left further behind and not all children will have access to equal learning opportunities.
Local school districts need to proactively engage and listen to all voices, including community members who aren’t typically at the table. The decisions that are made must balance what is best for our children with what taxpayers can afford.
4. Environment: The most pressing environmental issue of our time without a doubt is climate change. It touches every other environmental issue as well as the resiliency of our farms and other businesses, our communities, and racial and social justice. One only need look to the wildfires consuming tens of thousands of acres in the West and creating literally the worst air quality in the world. Or the month after month of record-breaking warmer temperatures and a hurricane season that has run out of names for its storms. We are in a climate crisis.
I was a proud sponsor and supporter of the Global Warming Solutions Act and will be actively engaged in the work we must do to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience in our communities.
5. Health Care: Healthcare is both a complex and broken system. We have learned from an earlier failed attempt to move to a single-payer system as well as the challenges we’ve experienced with Vermont Health Connect that it’s extremely difficult to change something as complicated as healthcare. And it’s more difficult to do so as a small, rural state when change should really be enacted at the federal level.
Nevertheless, I support finding a responsible way to create a sustainable universal primary care program that will save Vermonters money and increase access. Any change we choose to make should not make people’s lives worse or make it more difficult or expensive to access their healthcare.
6. Agriculture: As Vermonters, we value our working lands highly, and Addison County has more farms than any other county in Vermont. Supporting farms to be both environmentally and economically sustainable is a goal, but often a challenge. Recently enacted legislation regarding Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) is helping to improve our waterways and agricultural soil, leading to healthier and more viable farms.
More can be done to support the notion of regenerative agriculture, which improves soils, increases needed biodiversity, and improves resilience to climate change. We should also continue to fund the Working Lands Enterprise Grants as a way to help farmers transition to healthier agricultural practices and grow their businesses.
7. Candidate’s Choice: Racial Equity/Racial Justice: The concepts of racial equity and racial justice are not just about individual people, but they are very importantly about racially inequitable structures. From decades of redlining to policies about what law enforcement can and cannot do, there are countless pieces of legislation that never considered racial inequity. For too long, people of color have been excluded from the thinking of white people. I am committed to looking at all legislation through a racial equity lens to ensure that our policies create or sustain racial equity between racial groups. I will support policies that reduce racial inequity.
I am proud that the town of Middlebury is taking the issue of racial justice seriously by reaching out to others and personal reflection. I am striving to do the personal work I need to do to be an antiracist
 
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AMY SHELDON
1. Economy: The pandemic has revealed many of the inequities and weaknesses in our economy: low pay for essential workers, unequal access to broadband, and our continued limited access to affordable, quality healthcare to name a few. It has also demonstrated that we can make swift changes when we need to. I think we can use the momentum from the pandemic to continue to address the inequities and weaknesses in our economy. Vermont’s uniqueness has set us apart during the pandemic and future policies and investments need to focus on sustaining our small, rural character while modernizing infrastructure like broadband access. Addressing climate change through a just transition away from fossil fuels, protecting our forest land base and continuing to promote the production of local food will build the foundation of a vibrant and resilient Vermont economy. 
2. School outcomes: Public education is the foundation of our democracy. We need to be sure that all children have access to learning opportunities that will set them up for success as both engaged citizens and productive members of society. As legislators we can work to bring equity to both quality and access for all students. In the past few years there has been a growing awareness of the importance of having access to job training at both the high school and college level in order to meet the needs of existing Vermont businesses. We recently supported bridge funding for our Vermont State College system, which is one step toward making and keeping job specific training affordable and accessible to Vermont students. The legislature needs to continue to promote programs that link business needs to our career centers and our state colleges. 
3. School consolidation: Putting children first is integral to providing access to quality education. Allowing towns and school districts flexibility in how they address the changing populations in our rural schools is key to supporting a vibrant rural economy. Vermont’s success with the pandemic, coupled with population migration due to climate change will likely bring an influx of people of all ages into the state. We know that with the pandemic some schools that had decreasing numbers of students are already seeing an increase in student population. The benefits of young children being able to attend a school in their own town need to weighed against the cost of limited access to educational opportunities. Finally, the costs of our education system are disproportionately driven by the cost of healthcare. Until we address this issue, we cannot fairly assess the costs of our education system. 
4. Environment: As an environmental professional and as Chair of House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Committee, I believe the environment is the most critical issue of our time. Protecting Vermont’s forests has been a primary focus for me during my tenure in the legislature. Intact forests clean the air and water, support healthy wildlife populations, sequester carbon, and give us recreational and spiritual renewal. For the first time in over 100 years Vermont is losing forest lands — approximately 14,000 acres per year. My work in the house has focused on including a requirement for town’s to plan for their forest resources and on trying to get a new criteria added to Act 250 that will require our largest developments to minimize impacts on large areas of forest land. Protecting our forests is the simplest, most cost-effective thing we can do for our environment.
5. Health care: The ever-rising cost of health care is a drag on our economy and is bad for our health. I am a supporter of a Federal universal healthcare program, like Medicare for all. The pandemic has highlighted that as the only developed country without universal healthcare, the United States is at a disadvantage. Healthcare is still 20% of our economy and that is way out of line with outcomes and costs in other developed countries. Access to health care is a human right; nothing will happen in the short term at the Federal level, so states must keep the conversation alive and keep working on it. I support Vermont pursuing primary care for all as the logical incremental step toward universal coverage. 
6. Agriculture: Agriculture is fundamental to Vermont’s identity, invaluable to our economy and integral to community resilience in uncertain times. The pandemic and climate change have magnified the need for regional, sustainable food production and Vermont is well situated to fill that need. Vermont’s hard working, innovative, entrepreneurial farmers and producers have fueled a local foods movement that is inspiring the nation, feeding many Vermonters, and spreading out of State. Increasing investments in the diversification of our agricultural sector and in promoting value added agricultural businesses will have many benefits to our environment, economy, and our health. 
7. Candidate’s Choice — Climate change: The Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) is the first step in an organized response to climate change. It creates a plan for Vermont to meet greenhouse gas emissions reductions in three increments. While many say that what we do here in Vermont will have no impact on global emissions, we can serve as a model for other states in addressing climate change while doing our part to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We need to continue to work on policies that support the reduction in our overall energy use, transition to renewable energy and increase carbon sequestration through improved forest and agricultural land management strategies. 

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