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Political notes from Free Press staff writers Terri Hallenbeck, Sam Hemingway and Nancy Remsen



Post-town meeting thoughts

Some post-Town Meeting Day thoughts:

- Democrats have come in third in the last two big Vermont races - for governor and mayor of Burlington.

- I wasn't at City Hall for the November election, but I was there for the September primary at which a team of vote counters unconscionably went home before they finished because they were tired. Though turnout yesterday was considerably less, I can tell things looked a lot better organized than they were that day in September. A lot better.

- School budgets fared pretty well, but plenty had pared them in the final days of budget preparation. You can credit the school boards' sensitivity to the economy or you can credit the governor's call for level funding, depending on your view of the world. In Shelburne, a budget that is the same as this year's passed by just 10 votes. In Burlington, a 9 percent increase passed easily.

- People in 33 towns told Vermont Yankee to go away. This will give armor to those who want to close it and will be disregarded by those who don't.

- There were lots of signs that participatory democracy was alive. Even in Essex, a town you might think is too big for this town meeting stuff. It's pretty cool to think that a whole auditorium full of people came out because they cared.

- Terri Hallenbeck

RE: School budgets

Don't forget act 82. It's functioning just how Shumlin and Douglas envisioned it: school boards are bending over backwards to avoid the second vote.
Given the economic climate that we are in, the relatively high proportion of school budgets that passed demonstrates how ill-informed the vast majority of Vermonters - and their political leaders - are of the very serious fiscal crisis we face.

The approvals also demonstrate a culture in denial.

This denial is self-fed and reenforcing: politicians cannot get elected with the kind of truth-telling that a citizenry does not want to hear or face.

Our culture is not conditioned to make - much less acknowledge - the difficult choices before us.

Generational theft through debt and/or debt monitization (inflation) is certainly something that couldn't be confused as being "for the children."

We are a culture that only desires the many palliatives that relieve us from our discomforts and burdens; whether these palliatives are in pill form or the comforting words of our political class that sooth away - however disingenuous - the realities knocking ever louder at our door.

We have become weak.

The result?

In all likelihood, the state of Vermont and/or many of its municipalities will face near bankruptcy within one to three years.

We will flail about and ask why, as we reach into the medicine cabinet for our relief.
People, in 33 towns, that don't work for a living and are able to force votes at Town Meeting hung around long enough to raise our electric rates. Take a bath, get a job, and pay your taxes.
If you want a really different view of the institution of Town Meeting, check out this Merle Dodge essay at the Tiger:


Dodge opines that little has changed, at least from the standpoint that the institution has always had a tinge of elitism about it:

"...the only “democracy” that ever existed at those traditional Vermont town meetings was reserved for those who had the leisure to attend. That meant the propertied gentry, and the self-employed artisans, not the hired men or their families on the farms, or the shift workers in the mills and shops.

This was the tacit caste system that existed when I grew up here in the 1950s. The few voted the budgets while the many got to pay the taxes. The pipe-smokers in the Johnson Woolen checkered shirts who sat around the woodstove in the town hall made the rules, the cigarette-smokers in their tee-shirts down at the paper mill made paper.

Today, these classes of winners and losers have expanded. The winners among the traditional gentry have now been joined by trust fund hippies, retired Wall Street brokers and professional political organizers waving irrelevant ballot questions aimed to promote boutique, elitist political agendas. The losers now include two-income families and Vermonters who need to work several jobs to survive. The calculus of the 1950s remains the same: some Vermonters are more equal than others."

The fact is Town Meeting is largely an anachronism, like the 20-cow family-owned farm where the cows graze on the hills. Some may want to cling to it for a variety of reasons, but for the vast majority of us living in larger communities and working for a living, it is a quaint relic that is largely irrelevant.
Hear, hear!!!!
IRV sucks. See why at www.intellectualredneck.com
That is the truth - IRV SUCKS! It creates a false reality
IRV: "Keep on counting until the Prog wins."
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