Commentary: Candidate Questions for 2020

Here are 16 incisive questions, fairly stated, to put to your candidate for the legislature, Governor and Lt. Governor. Voters deserve to know what they’ll get by giving their votes. That’s what makes democracy work.

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Do Black Opinions Matter?

As the House Judiciary Committee began virtual public hearings on police reform, and VPIRG, the Vermont ACLU and other groups hop on the “defund the police” parade in the name of the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s worth taking a moment to explore some issues from the perspective of the Black Community.

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Ethan Allen Institute Releases Updated Legislator Vote Profiles

August 10, 2020

The Ethan Allen Institute released its officially updated legislator “Roll Call Profiles” today to reflect the key votes from the 2020 legislative session. This year’s highlighted legislation includes votes on the Global Warming Solutions Act, a minimum wage increase, Paid Family Leave, creating a tax and regulatory structure for the sale of recreational marijuana, “ballot harvesting,” and more.

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Massachusetts TCI Bill

That’s the eleven-state agreement to drive up gasoline and diesel fuel taxes to get people to stop driving internal combustion cars, by relieving them of millions of dollars to insulate somebody else’s home, subsidize electric cars, build charging stations, bike paths, and so on. The same proposal is before the Vermont legislature.

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Commentary: If Public Schools Can't Deliver, Their Budgets Need to Fund Alternatives

A number of public school teachers and administrators have recently raised serious concerns about re-opening schools this fall. Harwood Union Superintendent, Brigid Nease, just penned a 2225 word letter sounding the alarm about the overwhelming challenges facing the system. Then on July 30, the House Education Committee held a three plus hour special meeting to hear from school officials about how they are preparing to open for the coming school year. All indications are this experiment it won’t end well.

The principals don’t even know if they have enough staff to open. One superintendent did a survey and 50% of her staff were either high risk for Covid or lived with someone who is. Teachers are waiting to hear what the plan is before they decide if they’ll take part or part ways.

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Is "White" River Junction Racist?

Yes, that’s apparently a serious question.

Online petitions have become a popular way to rally around various social issues in recent years. “Justice for George Floyd” has garnered 19,500,592 online signatures at the time I am writing this. I spotted a far more trivial petition yesterday on innocuously entitled “Change WRJ to River Junction.” Before reading the petition itself, one can deduce that “WRJ” stands for “White River Junction” a town in central Vermont close to the New Hampshire border, population 2,200. The abbreviation seems normal enough in this age of acronyms, but hints at absurdity later on. Notice how the word “white” is avoided.

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COVID is the Iceberg that Sinks the Public School System

Covid 19 is going to change how many things are done around the world even long after it’s gone, and some for the better. Business leaders are already blown away by how the virus has spurred technology innovations and changes to corporate culture. Reforms that would have taken years or never come to fruition at all are happening overnight in Lockdown Land. Telemedicine is taking off, for example, and companies are embracing the benefits of telecommuting to save on office space and travel expenses.

One casualty of the Covid innovation revolution is going to be the public school system. Last spring this “unsinkable” juggernaut of political, financial, and cultural power, steaming along at full speed, hit the iceberg. This fall that ship will break apart.

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Olivia de Havillard, RIP

Olivia de Havilland died last week at the age of 104. She was remembered by most  for her role as Melanie in Gone with the Wind, but for me she will always be Maid Marian in the 1938 Warner Brothers production of Robin Hood. For years I have held that up to my children as the finest movie ever made.


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The Government that Cried 'Mask Mandate'

As Governor Scott’s mask mandate looms on August 1, a popular question many Vermonters are asking is “how strictly will it be enforced?” Perhaps nothing much will change, as the vast majority of Vermonters already wear masks when out in public. Maybe police will only give warnings. Maybe it will be enforced by social shaming rather than fines and imprisonment. Or maybe Vermont will follow after Florida, where people are being fined $100 for taking off their masks in nearly-empty parking lots after grocery shopping.

If the state views universal mask wearing as the single most important goal for keeping Covid-19 at bay, perhaps we should ask- “has the law been upheld impartially with a lack of personal vindictiveness during the pandemic?” Is the law a line that any self-respecting Vermonter will not cross, because they believe upholding the law is a sacred societal bond, personal beliefs about the mask mandate aside?

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Commentary: Really Affordable Health Care

Candidates continue to promise “affordable health care”, but on close inspection that translates to “I promise to make the government transfer your health care costs to somebody else.” India’s Narayana Health City actually does make surgery affordable, with modern Western techniques and comparable results. There a CABG operation goes for an all-in bundled price of $12,000 (plus $10,000 airfare for two). In the U.S. the tab is $100,000 or more.  Wake up, America!

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