June 23, 2013
An edited verstion of this opinion was published in the Waterbury Record on June 20, 2013.
In the days and weeks after Tropical Storm Irene, people from all over the State of Vermont — and from all over the United States — descended on Waterbury to help us muck out our basements, to help us to start to put our lives back together, to feed us, and to make donations to our community. Our Good Neighbor fund raised over hundreds of thousands of dollars from various sources, most of it in small donations. A church community from a town in Illinois — a town literally wiped off the map by flooding and relocated in the early 1990’s — sent a case of work gloves, cards of support and a donation they raised in their congregation.
Here in Waterbury, caught unawares, our community did what it did best: it reached out to help, no matter the cost, no matter the commitment, and no matter the risk. The State of Vermont came in and provided help, from the National Guard providing water to the State Treasurer forwarding important funds or delaying tax collections so we could meet our immediate needs, to the Governor and General Assembly providing tax relief to communities whose infrastructure damages were excessive. The Red Cross came, the Salvation Army came, Life Force came. FEMA came to provide federal guidance and, later, to sponsor a Long Term Flood Recovery process that asked the community to come forward to help themselves heal by discussing what the future of our town could be after the crisis. NECI came and cook meals for the affected and the volunteers. So called “big box” stores came and donated tools and supplies. A car dealership invested in a video about our recovery efforts and made a substantial donation to our recovery.
Amid the chaos, Revitalizing Waterbury and local volunteers formed Rebuild Waterbury, which raised over $1 million to help families and individuals pay for renovations they could not otherwise afford. Local business groups from Central Vermont and the Mad River Valley raised funds and disbursed them to the local small businesses who needed emergency cash waiting for exceedingly slow insurance companies to issue timely settlements.
Eventually, the State of Vermont announced it was going to rebuild the Waterbury Complex and return up to 1,000 employees. The historic structures will be saved and repurposed, and the new structure will be a gem made of local materials and energy efficient. They have designed flood mitigation in a way that will contribute to protecting our downtown. They funnelled grants to us to help us plan our recovery with respect to our municipal functions. Senator Leahy visited Waterbury this winter to announce a $900,000 grant to the Central Vermont Community Land Trust to help turn Ladd Hall into affordable housing for up to 27 families. The Vermont General Assembly passed legislation funding the reconstruction of the state office buildings, to be subsidized by FEMA and insurance money, and they have expedited construction of a new state hospital and mental health care system.
Is this, then, the time to help ourselves? We are recovering. We are tired of recovering, of worrying, of struggling. And yet there is an electricity in the air in Waterbury. All around us, people are amazed at how far we have come, how resilient we are. This bond vote is, in a way, a referendum on our recovery. We have invested so much time, energy, good will, and sweat equity to get to where we are today. This project is made possible by the generosity and foresight and hard work of so many people. It is now up to us to take advantage of this generosity and to make our local investment to a project that will solidify Waterbury’s municipal infrastructure for generations to come.
The words, frustration and anger coming from the opposition to the bond is curious. It is based on a pre-Irene balkanization of viewpoints on the size and function of government. Virtually none of the civic projects, from the school to the fire stations to merger were supported by this same opposition and made the road to completion more difficult and more expensive — exactly the opposite of their stated aim. In the buildup to this week’s vote, they have been denigrating the hard work done by the Select Board, the Trustees, the Library Commissioners, our town staff and, for that matter, the hundreds of community members who participated in the many long term recovery meetings over the course of eighteen months. In the end, they have not presented one option that has not been studied and put aside for one of many reasons, not the least of which is their own opposition to the same projects over the past ten years.
Water, mud, volunteers, courage, cash and compassion, along with dedication, planning and hard, hard work have brought us to this decision. That is what we are voting on this month. Please join me in supporting the bond, and for believing in a town that will always rise to the occasion. Our Town.
June 3, 2013
To all my readers, but especially to those in Waterbury:
Pardon the specific issue advocacy in this post, but Waterbury is facing an important decision this month. It is important for you to be aware of an important vote coming up very quickly, and I think it is incumbent that I share you why I think it is the culmination of the most important time we’ve experienced in Waterbury in several generations.
It’s been almost 2 years since Irene. Two years of cleaning and crying, two years of rebuilding and recommitting to our community. I have watched my neighbors, my town and my state rise up, work together, cut the red tape, clean and rebuild in a way that can only happen during a serious crisis
We got hit hard by Irene, and a lot of people lost a lot in that storm. But we have gained so much. We learned a lot about ourselves, and about each other. We have seen just how strong we are, how connected we are, how deeply the Vermont spirit runs through our community. We’ve taken care of each other and we’ve stayed focused on rebuilding our homes, our business community and our civic center
And now the time has come to vote on that civic center, the most visible symbol of Waterbury’s rebirth.
We’re building back stronger in the heart of downtown, centering our library and town services in an energy-efficient, welcoming and friendly building.
This vote has been a long time coming. For nearly two years the elected officials and volunteer boards and the Long-Term Recovery Committee have worked their butts off, negotiating with the State and FEMA, figuring out the financing, developing a plan that will meet multiple needs and move us to a new level of municipal and community services. There’s a wealth of details on the town website – go look for yourself — and there are upcoming, weekly informational meetings, so you can get all your questions answered.
It’s important to know the details — informed decision-making is essential to democracy. But it’s also important to remember the big picture. We are not just voting to individually spend a couple hundred bucks a year on bond payments — we are voting collectively to Believe in Waterbury.
We’re making an investment in what we value, in our downtown and the services we need to have a thriving economy and vibrant community life. And we are not making an investment to bring us back to what we were, with the same level of excellent services being delivered from substandard spaces — we are going to make our town better than it was by taking advantage of this one-time opportunity to upgrade everything about our town that is essential. And when we are done, we will have built a complex that will last for generations to come.
This is what resilience looks like.
I’m so proud that our community has gotten this far — many of our neighbors have not been so lucky. Not a day went by during this past legislative session with someone asking me “how’s Waterbury doing?” And I told them the truth: we’re doing great, but we’re tired and we need to move on to the next chapters. For us it will be supporting this bond and building a new municipal complex. At the same time, the State will be building a new office campus and will be rebuilding Main Street. When the end of 2015 rolls around, we will have completed the largest municipal and largest state building project ever.
And now it’s time to take it all the way. Voting starts on Friday June 7 at the Town Office (Fire Station, upstairs) and the last day to vote is June 27. We’ve got to spread the word! Go to the town website for ALL the information, and go to Facebook and “like” the Believe in Waterbury page. Go to the public hearings. The first one is June 6 from 7-8:30 at Thatcher Brook Primary School.
Tell your friends, talk to your neighbors, and make sure you get everyone you can out to vote YES this month. This is our visible commitment to a strong community, and we need to make our support known. Believe in Waterbury with me.
Thank you, for all you have done for this community. Together we are making a wonderful place for many people to live, work, grow up and grow old. This month’s vote is one more chance to show our commitment to making this community great for the next 250 years.
April 23, 2013
These are the remarks I made on April 23 as the devotional at the Vermont State House. Truly a treat to have the opportunity to speak about LANGUAGE to my peers. The bride helped immensely, esp. with the riff near the end. And they’ll live on in posterity, journalized in the House Journal for April 23, 2013.
Today is William Shakespeare’s birthday. If he were alive today, he’d be 449. Dean of the House. The past two years, I’ve marked this day by standing during announcements and acknowledging that as we were embarked on the endgame of the session, filled with long nights and tense negotiations, that it might be best if we adhered to the words he wrote:
And I quoted, “If it were done, when tis done, than ’twere well it were done quickly.”
This is the beginning of a soliloquy by the warrior MacBeth, and it is instructive in the dangers of quoting Shakespeare, or nearly everyone, out of context.
When MacBeth says this, he is contemplating the fulfillment of a prediction made by the weird sisters he met earlier in the play–that he would be king. And he meant, simply, that if he were to succeed by doing this one act, then let me do it now, and do it quickly. But he goes on to say:
“if the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success; that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all here,
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
We’ld jump the life to come.”
MacBeth engages in an on-the-one-hand argument with himself, until he is convinced that yes, indeed, it would be best if he acted on his ambition, do what the witches suggest, and kill the king, his cousin. Take the action, damn the consequences. I’m not sure how long ago you read Macbeth, but the consequences caught up with him. Shakespeare was quite focused on consequences.
And he was focused on language. Scholars claim Shakespeare coined over 1700 words, and maybe 800 have survived through the ages. Assasination being one. Trammel being one that did not.
Today is also “Talk like Shakespeare day”, believe it or not, and if you think that’s silly, or that you don’t know enough Shakespeare to participate, well, perhaps you don’t know yourself as well as Shakespeare does.
Shakespeare invented words we use in this building every day: compromise and negotiate, frugal and generous, impartial and unreal and monumental and critical. He also coined rant, and jaded, tranquil and moonbeam, advertising and gossip, and, yes, believe it or not, skim milk. Read more