This year I’m collaborating with fellow Deerfield Valley legislator Rep. John Gannon on a brief 16 question survey which is designed for you to weigh in on what areas you’d most like the legislature to spend their time on. There are a few additional questions about issues that could emerge during the 2018 Vermont political discussion. We are hoping you will consider giving some brief input prior to the the legislative session which begins January 9th and will likely go through early May.
This survey is intended for our constituents in Dover, Halifax, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham, and Wilmington but our weekend residents and neighbors are free to weigh in. The only required questions are name and town of residence. The survey should take you about 5 minutes to complete if you choose to answer all of the remaining questions.
A reminder about the Consolidated Communications hearing in Readsboro Monday November 26th: After a significant increase in repair and new service complaints this summer, the Department of Public Service petitioned the Public Utility Commission for an investigation to be conducted. There will be two hearings statewide – one in Readsboro at the school on November 26th starting at 6:30 and another in St Albans at BF Academy on December 6th at 6:30. Please share this information with your neighbors and ask them to attend or file comments with the PUC on case #18-3231 if they have experienced a service quality or new installation issue. It seems likely that Vermont’s policymakers are not aware of the extent of the service quality issues, or the results of the billions of dollars of deferred maintenance. While we all want to see more internet and cellular service, unreliable land line phone service in areas without cell or internet poses significant dangers for vulnerable populations and public safety.
Election day is Tuesday, November 6th. You must be registered to vote in the town you currently reside in. In Vermont you can register the day of the election. Information on Vermont’s voting laws is available on the Secretary of State’s website.
This year, we have contested elections for U.S. Senator, U.S. Congress, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Auditor and State Senate. I am running uncontested for re-election to represent you in the House of Representatives and ask for your vote. You may write in a name for any office. Just about every election in Vermont we are reminded that the individuals vote counts a lot. Many races have been won with one or two votes and a number of statewide elections have not resulted in a candidate receiving a majority of the votes and required the legislature to choose the winner. Please vote!
The Vermont Department of Public Service has petitioned the Vermont Public Utilities commission for an investigation into the service quality provided by Consolidated Communications, Inc. In seeking the investigation, the Department noted that the number of consumer complaints received from Consolidated customers related to service outages between July and September of 2018 has increased by 2,760% over the same period in the previous year and that the number of complaints related to installation delays between July and September of 2018 has increased 500% over the same period in 2017. The Department has been conducting an informal inquiry into the complaints and Consolidated is cooperating with the inquiry.
Please share: I personally have received multiple reports of elderly, handicapped or geographically isolated customers safety having been compromised by service quality issues (5 and 10 day repair times for instance). It is important for state regulators to understand the magnitude of the service quality challenges. If you have experienced poor quality telephone service, lengthy repair or installation times please consider testifying in person or you can provide testimony online at the Vermont Public Utility Commission Online Portal for case #18-3231-PET
Act 46 news
The State Board of Education has recently accepted the Secretary of Education recommendations for the Searsburg and Stamford Interstate District Alternative Structure proposals. Many many thanks for the countless hours both groups have put forward on behalf of their students and taxpayers in order to fulfill their districts obligations under Act 46.
“River Valleys Unified School District Board was created last summer following the unification of Dover and Wardsboro School Districts under Act 46. The River Valleys USD Board turned to BCTV to video its bi-weekly meetings as a way to engage and provide transparency. And, in fact, thanks to the board’s promotional efforts, most of the meetings have received hundreds of views.
‘It’s gratifying to get so many views, and critical that those who can’t attend can get the full flavor of the somewhat complex process,” said Board Chair Richard Werner. “In addition, it’s been a benefit to all of us to be able to review the videos as work progresses.'”
Open enrollment period is November 1 through December 15th more info
Highlights from this summer/fall
Ditch School in Wardsboro with Gary Urbanati
Readsboro meeting w/Agency of Digital Services & Department of Public Service
Community forums in Wardsboro, Dover, Readsboro and Stamford & healthcare forum in Whitingham
Toured Great River Hydro Facilities
Attended dedication of
Gold Star Families Memorial
State Board of Education Act 46 Alternative Structures Hearing
Grew a contender for World’s Smallest Gilfeather Turnip
Attended and spoke at: A Historic Gathering of Independents at the #UniteSummit in Denver
Listened to this excellent VPR Podcast series on Jack Sawyer and Vermont’s gun debate
These posts have been made to my website and to social media since the end of the 2018 session
It feels like our nation is collectively holding its breath waiting for election day and praying for some check on this dangerous Presidency.
In the whole course of history, it has never been true that one party had a monopoly on good ideas, common sense, or the pulse of the people. One party controlling the House, Senate and Executive Branch does not make for good government for all Americans. Particularly when that party elects to work in a partisan manner, because they can, and disregards a large portion of the electorate. Including, especially, the 40% of independent Americans who don’t consider themselves partisan at all. We desperately need a check on the Republicans in Washington D.C. who have failed to limit the self-proclaimed nationalist occupying the Oval Office and so count me in as hopeful we will see a strong blue wave roll into D.C. on November 6th.
Americans and Vermonters don’t like how things work under an unchecked super-majority. They want leaders who will compromise, collaborate and work to solve problems, but our country’s two-party system does not readily reward that type of governing. Nonetheless, Vermonters historically have been comfortable taking a different way than the rest of the country, and thus far we seem to have staved off the worst of the increasingly alarming partisan dysfunction.
In the last election Vermonters sent divided government to Montpelier: a moderate and
courageous Republican governor, a Progressive Democratic Senate and the most politically diverse legislative body in the country, the Vermont House of Representatives led by a Democratic Speaker of The House who operates on the premise that including all voices and parties ensures better problem solving. Speaker Mitzi Johnson has presided over a body that included the most elected centrist independents in the country, independents like Ben Jickling of Brookfield and Ed Read of Fayston who help the Democratic majority craft and pass more balanced legislation, and moderate Democrats like Rural Economic Development Working Group Co-Chair Chip Conquest of Newbury and socially moderate/fiscally conservative Republicans like Heidi Scheuermann of Stowe and Fred Baser of Bristol as well as seven elected Progressives. There is no other legislative body in the country that houses this many different political parties and elected centrist independents.
The resulting implementation and creation of Vermont policy is managed by a governor willing to buck the national Republican party and also willing to veto the democratically controlled legislature and a House of Representatives with a political prejudice towards the center. This divided government set-up, while uncomfortable for the most partisan Vermonters and party leaders, and more reliant on the threat of gubernatorial veto than would be needed with a more politically diverse Senate, actually works fairly well. There is always room for improvement, but not by wiping out bipartisan collaboration.
Which brings us back to the national election and that big blue wave that looks like it could be a tsunami in Vermont. Vermonters are also Americans and Americans are scared about where we are headed with our national politics. We are seeing voluminous early voter turn-out in the Green Mountain state and reports from door to door canvassing that there is a strong desire to punish national Republicans for not providing a check on our self-proclaimed nationalist president. Hopefully Vermonters direct their anger precisely and not generally. If you are currently being represented by a centrist independent, a moderate Republican or Democrat, think long and hard before opting to punish our president by punishing those moderates who commit to bipartisanship function and political courage in Vermont. It takes courage to run and serve without a party and it also takes courage to tell your party no. Hopefully the “blue wave” is able to bring a check to Washington without taking out moderates in Vermont. We need balanced and knowledgeable legislators to get things done. This is a reminder that your vote is not just symbolic.
Tuesday October 9 Tue 6:30 PM at the Stamford Elementary School we are hosting another public forum. Thus far these forums have been excellent opportunities for me to hear from and respond to small groups about specific constituent concerns. Act 46, workforce, healthcare, telephone and internet service, carbon taxes and climate change have been the most frequent topics brought up – please come and lets talk about how Vermont government can better respond to Vermonter everyday challenges.
Next Tuesday October 16th Rep. John Gannon and I will be hosting a single issue forum on Healthcare with Vermont’s Healthcare Advocate Michael Fisher in Whitingham at the Twin Valley auditorium from 6-7:30
Ambitious health care reform that changes how providers are paid is currently being implemented across the state. Come participate in a discussion to better understand how these changes will impact your premiums and access to care. We will also discuss passage this past year of an individual mandate requiring Vermonters to be covered by insurance as of January 1, 2020. This legislation was passed in reaction to the repeal of the individual mandate federally this past year. Deerfield Valley State Representatives Laura Sibilia and John Gannon want to ensure residents, employees and employers in the Deerfield Valley communities can weigh in on the current state of healthcare and what choices they face with an individual mandate. complete release here
Open enrollment period is November 1 through December 15th more info
I attended the Vermont State Board of Education hearing on September 19, 2018 at Green Mountain Union High School, Chester, VT.
This hearing was for the State Board to hear from districts prior to deciding what to do with those that didn’t opted to merge voluntarily.
The 95 districts that didn’t merge submitted alternative plans, or Section 9 proposals, to the Agency of Education for consideration. Stamford/Clarksburg Interstate group testified.
In June, Acting Education Secretary Heather Bouchey recommended 18 forced mergers. She recommended the remaining districts not consolidate – due to mergers being impractical or legally impossible – or that they continue with processes already underway. The state board has a final plan due on Nov. 30. I provided testimony to the state board which can be read here.
16th Annual Gilfeather Turnip Festival & Contest
October 27, 2018 Wardsboro Saturday 10 to 3
Rain or Shine
Main Street and Town Hall
29 days till the election! Got one of these? Want one?
This year there is not a contested election but a number of folks have asked me about putting signs out – thank you! If you have a campaign sign please put it out – if you’d like one, please let TJ or I know and we will get one to you.
Last Sunday I found myself in Denver, traveling by Uber with a scientist I had attended a weekend conference with. My new scientist friend conducted an experiment with our Uber drivers as we traveled to various Denver destinations talking about how much we were enjoying Denver and gathering info about our next destination.
“We are here talking with people who are worried about politics and government in our country, she started. Can I ask you two questions? Are you registered to vote? And are you affiliated with a party?” They were all registered to vote. And all independents.
My scientist friend was Dr. Ann Diamond, a family practitioner and independent candidate for the Washington State House of Representatives who had just won a top two primary in her district. If elected in November, she will be the first independent to serve in the Washington House. The conference we met at was the Unite Summit – a gathering of independent elected officials, former Democratic and Republican officials, candidates, strategists, and supporters from across the country meeting to continue building momentum for a better way forward in governing our states and our country.
The Summit was hosted by Unite America, a national grassroots movement of citizens who think both parties are failing and that our country can do better. I was honored to sit on a panel with elected independent state legislators from Maine, Alaska and Colorado and talk about the difference a small group of elected independents, working with moderate members of both parties, can make in state legislative bodies. The seven elected independents in the Vermont House work with our moderate colleagues on both sides of the isle to pull together bipartisan coalitions. In Maine and Alaska, these bipartisan coalitions have come together to overcome serious budgetary and elections stalemates in order to enact commonsense bipartisan reforms.
In Vermont, Maine and Alaska voters are getting used to electing independents. But that is not the case in the rest of the country and certainly not the case with any of our federally elected officials. Unite America is providing a simple yet productive way to help bring function back to our politics — by helping elect independents to office. If you are an independent, like my Denver Uber drivers and 40% of our fellow Americans, and are looking for a productive way to engage in politics, keep an eye on Unite America as they work to connect independents across our country.
My time in elected office has been spent dedicated to elevating the voice of our district and our district’s issues to Vermont’s policymakers. While that will continue to be my focus, I was grateful for this brief opportunity to share my experience serving as an independent and to be able to encourage others to run to serve the people instead of parties. It left me feeling very hopeful for our country.
Tomorrow is an important primary vote. For our Windham/Bennington district, a single Democratic Governor candidate will be determined out of four running and a single Republican candidate for Governor will be determined between Gov. Scott and his challenger. There will also be advancement of two of the three democratic candidates running to be Windham County Senator for those of you in Wardsboro, Dover and Whitingham.
At your polling station, any Vermonter can use one of any of the three major party ballots – the Republican, Progressive or Democratic ballot.
You will not see my name on any of the ballots because I am not affiliated with a party and run for office as an independent.
The primaries purpose is to help the parties reduce the number of candidates they will support in the General Election in November. If you are an independent – you can and should still vote tomorrow – choose the major party ballot that holds the contest you most care about.
You can write my name in for State Representative on whichever ballot you decide to use, but it is not necessary. Independent candidates automatically qualify to be on the general election ballot in November.
If you are not currently registered to vote, you can still vote tomorrow – Vermont has same day voter registration. The Vermont Secretary of State hosts a great FAQ page which can help with any other questions you may have when voting in tomorrow’s primary.
Please stay engaged and stay in touch via email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 802-384-0233.