Archive - 2006
The war and town meeting
In 57 towns across the state residents discussed a resolution during town meeting concerning the use of National Guard troops in the Iraqi war, their role within the state, Â and a request for the president and Congress to take steps "to withdraw American troops from Iraq, consistently with the mandate of international humanitarian law."
In 48 towns, the resolution (in one form or another) passed. In three towns it was defeated, and in four it was effectively tabled. In Craftsbury, the resolution ended in a tie. In Addison County the measure was approved in Middlebury, Monkton, New Haven, Salisbury and Weybridge, while it was tabled or passed over in Bristol, Lincoln and Starksboro.
The news that Bennington residents rejected a town-initiated size cap on big-box retail stores reinforces the notion that the proposed state regulation on this issue should incorporate provisions to allow an appropriate measure of local control. Benningtonâ€™s vote does not, however, cast any doubt on the wisdom of a statewide initiative.
For readers not abreast of the news in Bennington, residents there rejected a proposed bylaw to cap any single big-box retail store at 75,000 square feet.Â That measure was defeated 2,189 to 1,724, with a respectable turnoutÂ of 40 percent for a single-issue vote. The measure became a referendum on Wal-Mart, which had stated its intention to expand its existing store there from 50,000 square feet to 112,000 square feet. In a well-financed advertising campaign, Wal-Mart developer Jonathan Levy, of Ohio-based Redstone Investments, outspent proponents for the selectboardâ€™s bylaw by a 3-1 margin.
A petition proposing interim zoning measures to cap big-box stores at 50,000-square-feet in Middlebury has one primary purpose: to maintain the intent of the current town plan and zoning statutes. Doing nothing leaves the town open to costly lawsuits by applicants who could easily fight the nebulous wording in the town's current Â plan.
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In Middlebury, the issue centers on the clear intent within the town plan to limit any large-scale development that would cause "undue adverse economic impact on the downtown." The town fathers' intent, clearly, was to put into place measures that would maintain the vibrancy and vitality of the downtown retail district, and promote the growth of locally-owned, independent businesses throughout the community. Â
In his column Wednesday, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, asked the question: Would Deep Throat be a hero in 2005? He suggested that most people would say yes. Deep Throat, after all, was the anonymous source who led journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to the information that exposed what became known as the Watergate scandal during the early part of President Richard Nixonâ€™s second term. That information, and the dogged pursuit of the story by the Post, also exposed the complicity of John Mitchellâ€™s Justice Department and led to Nixonâ€™s resignation in disgrace in 1974.
Deep Throat was in the news, of course, because the source â€” one of American journalismâ€™s best kept secrets â€” revealed himself on Tuesday. He is W. Mark Felt, former deputy director of the FBI. According to a Washington Post editorial, Felt, who is 91, revealed his role in part â€œbecause of his familyâ€™s belief that he deserves to be honored for his actions while he is alive.â€?
The moment after President Bush made his announcement that Judge John G. Roberts would be his first nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, the special interest groups swung into action. Conservative groups hailed the nomination in stellar terms. Special interest groups on the left chastised the nominee in equally dire language. The battle lines were being drawn.
But rather than jump into the melee, letâ€™s all relax, step back a pace, breathe. Perhaps the extra oxygen will help Americans think objectively and read a bit about the nominee on their own.
Part of the problem in todayâ€™s extremely partisan environment is that Americans are saturated with instantaneous and biased views that seek to distort the facts and push an agenda. The aim is clear: Left-wing outfits want to raise anxiety among their supporters in the hopes of raising contributions to battle the conservatives. Right-wingers are praising the candidate in the blind faith that Bush has followed through on his word. Why? Because Bushâ€™s team knows they need to keep conservative voters satisfied, and allowing the perception that Roberts might be a moderate or even a moderate conservative would leave the base softer in a trying time for a president whoâ€™s popularity ratings are low and falling lower.
â€œThe (drug) problem is getting worse, not better. Itâ€™s only a matter of time before we have our first adolescent fatality.â€?
The comment was made by Robert Thorn, executive director of the Counseling Service of Addison County. He should know. As head of a county agency on the front lines of drug abuse and the personal crises that inevitably follow, Thorn has been watching the developing drug scene in Addison County from his front-row seat. So have Jim Hulfish, director of adult out-patient services for CSAC, and Ken Schoen, an adolescent substance abuse clinician with CSAC. All three tell a similar story in the lead article of todayâ€™s second installment in a two-part series on drug abuse published in this newspaper.
The national poverty rate rose to 12.7 percent of the population, according to statistics released earlier this week. The increase of 1.1 million Americans living in poverty, bringing the total to 37 million, marked the fourth straight annual increase (from 2001-2004). The Census Bureau also said household income remained flat, while another 800,000 Americans are now without health insurance.
Close to a third of those living in poverty are children.
The numbers have been rising steadily. The last decline in the nationâ€™s poverty rate was under President Bill Clinton in 2000. Since then, the number of Americans living in poverty has jumped from 31.1 million people to 37 million. The poverty threshold for a family of four for 2004 was set at $19,307 or less, and at $12,334 or less for a family of two.
A Senate bill that would cap the size of big-box stores at 50,000 square feet in every community in the state offers a compelling solution to the big-box store angst many towns face when a big box store files a permit to build. The bill goes a bit too far, however, in making the restrictions too onerous, and heavy-handed. With a few modifications, however, the existing bill can become a mechanism that gives communities the control that should have always been theirs, and, as a bonus, the initiative creates an exciting national marketing campaign for the state.
The bill, as currently drafted, includes these provisions: