January 12, 2015
The State House was abuzz on Thursday past, what with the Legislature having to officially elect the Governor to serve this biennium, a homelessness vigil on the front steps at noon, and an inaugural speech interrupted by advocates and supporters of a universal health care plan that Governor Shumlin shelved in mid-December. We have an uneasy relationship with dissent — think of how we wanted people to be quiet during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — and yet the ability to dissent (free speech) was one of the freedoms we fought for in these wars. Even in Vermont, our expectations are for a balance between having one’s voice heard in a place that is far more accessible than its counterparts in other states, and a certain politesse expected of the public, especially during moments of pomp and circumstance.
Thursday’s Gubernatorial Inauguration was interrupted by a contingent from the Vermont Workers Center and Health Care is a Human Right. The organizations, along with many Vermonters (myself included), were grossly disappointed with the decision by Governor Shumlin to postpone plans for the discussion and/or implementation of a universal health care system in Vermont. Commonly called “single payer,” this form of delivering and paying for health care for everyone in the state of Vermont was the crown jewel of Governor Shumlin’s agenda, and he expressed very clearly that it was the biggest disappointment of his political career. The decision was interpreted as a death knell for universal health care, and it is hard not to agree. Members of the Vermont Workers Center and Health Care is a Human Right had worked for years to see Act 48 passed (which directed the administration to do the studies and present payment schemes), and they had invested incredible amounts of time and energy to support the Governor in his effort. That they were an effective voice for “regular” Vermonters — workers, the aged, the poor, the young — was a victory for their increased maturity as an organization. They promised a large crowd for the inauguration, and they delivered.
What was different was that they chose to be loud, proud, rude, constant and, to a degree and very superficially, disrespectful. Their tactics were, in my experience, unique to the Vermont State House. Some memories recalled a similar protest…in 1991. Read more
November 3, 2014
It’s just before 6:00 AM on the Monday morning before election day. I’m having a quick cup of coffee and a small breakfast before I get in a car with Rebecca Ellis and motor over to Huntington (35 minutes over the hill) for a honk and wave — you know, one of those candidate chores where we stand on a corner and wave to the folks as they go to work, or as they drive their kids to school, or both. We’ll get a lot of thumbs up, a few thumbs down, some waves, some smiles, and a handful of folks who keep staring ahead.
Does this feel important? No, or at least not in the same way as helping to write legislation that will help Vermonters, be it a raise in the minimum wage or shoreline protections or renewable energy. But we do it because we would like to return to the State House to do the best job we can for our constituents and for Vermont. And whether it FEELS important is beside the point — it IS important, because we need to let people know that there is an election, and that the time to vote is now.
I’m honored to have had the opportunity to serve, and the opportunity was made possible by the efforts, dedication and service of others, from veterans in the battlefield to our predecessors in the legislature, to the people who implement our laws. Please vote. Your vote is your voice, and many people have worked extremely hard to make sure, here in Vermont especially, that your vote, and your voice, matter. There are many excuses not to vote, but you only need one to get out there and do it — it is a privilege and an obligation, and I hope, no matter if you support me or not, that you will vote in the election tomorrow.
August 26, 2014
The primary in Vermont is today, August 26, and Rep. Rebecca Ellis and I do not have an opponent in this election. We will face an opponent in November, a candidate running as an Independent. And with the passing of the primary, we truly begin the fall campaign. In Vermont, our tradition is to knock on as many doors as practicable, or as possible. Our district, Washington-Chittenden, is not an easy walking district — it stretches from the Waterbury-Stowe border to the edge of the village contiguous to Moretown and Duxbury through Bolton until one nearly gets to Mount Mansfield Union High School, and out to Buels Gore, just over the mountain from Mad River Glen. The kids who live in Hanksville, at the far end of the Main Road, have a 23 mile drive to high school if they go MMU. It’s a big area, much like many legislative districts in Vermont and, like many of them, there seems to be a town on the other side of a mountain that has little connection to the main town in the district, in our case Waterbury. Overall, we represent nearly 8,500 Vermonters.
Knocking on doors or, as I did this past weekend, participating in a fundraiser called Bike for the Barn, gives us the opportunity to listen to our constituents and to see parts of the towns we may not see if we are coming out for Town Meeting, or for a spaghetti dinner.
This photo was taken in a cemetery in the Upper Village in Huntington, and it is the headstone of Catherine Buel, consort of Elias Buel, Junior. Elias was the son of Major Elias Buel, who was awarded the grant for the small piece of land called Buels Gore. I like to stroll through old cemeteries — though not as much as my friend, Dan Barlow — and while I was biking on Saturday past, I stopped to see some of the stones in this cemetery. Soon enough, I found Catherine. I didn’t notice she was a Buel at first.
What stood out was her epitaph:
“She died in charitable hope of a happy exchange of worlds.”
I thought that a rare and beautiful sentiment, and a mature way to face earthly mortality. Read more