Whither Vermont? What Have We Learned?

The pandemic has merely accelerated certain underlying entropic elements in Vermont’s socio-economic infrastructure and culture.

Now, a consensus of Vermonters must choose between trying to restore our past with its pre-existing vulnerabilities and inequities or learning from the dysfunctions evidenced in the pandemic and acting to make sustainable change.

The following are five areas on which to focus:

I. Cultural racism and economic privilege in Vermont (poverty, opportunity, and disparity of wealth)
a. Start with a statewide discussion about equity and opportunity.
b. Develop an apolitical consensus on Vermont’s latent tax capacity, review and amend tax code appropriately (Consider asset tax and consumer services tax to fund last mile broadband.
c. Create opportunities for dialogue, programming, interpersonal meetings and sharing/celebrating the cultures of diverse Vermonters
d. Diversifying and making more inclusive state agencies and civic, non-profit & business governing boards

II. Vermonter’s Wellbeing (access to affordable health care, mental illness & addiction treatment, nutrition & hunger, and housing)
a. Discuss and aver the community’s rights to:
i. Safe and secure shelter
ii. Access affordable health care
iii. Adequate food and nutrition (see V. Agricultural & Food Supply)
b. Physical and Mental health: Review and redesign a population-based census of tertiary care, critical-access hospitals, clinics, and group practices deployed geographically to eliminate competition. Maintain CON and fee regulation and ‘obligation to treat” mandate.
c. Full-housing census with analysis of condemnable, restorable, repurposable, and new community construction.

III. Public Education (womb-to-tomb)
a. Equitable access:
i. Heretofore, public education was realized with hundreds of local schools, teachers, and print media (books).The key elements of future equity will be:
1. ubiquitous last-mile broadband
2. mission-driven terrestrial broadcast (a unified regional public broadcast system returning to its “educational” roots.
3. Maintenance of free local libraries (print, ebook, audiobook)
b. Developing digital public libraries of educational and cultural materials (films, videos, oral histories, photos, object scans) organized coherently (i.e. Dewey Decimal system) by topic rather than by owner from the digitized assets of museums and cultural non-profit agencies (history, folklife, humanities, arts etc.) for use online and in broadcast.
c. Deploying new pedagogical technologies that rely less on residential learning while enhancing the imperative of good teachers and mentors.
d. Balancing an understanding of education that enshrines the arts, humanities, civics, and sciences while preparing students of all ages for economic opportunity.

IV. Reversing and amending environmental damage:
a. Support agricultural migration from commodity production to regional, regenerative production within small communities by invest in regional warehouse and fulfillment cooperatives that enable statewide sale and distribution of regional farm produce.
b. Implement a natural resources extraction tax for water, wood, and stone to support remediation efforts.
c. Regulate chemicals in-state (food, soil, and water additives, pharma)
d. Raise fossil-fuel taxes/ invest in public transportation: shared electric cars, busses, and rail
e. Restrict single-use plastic packaging
f. Invest in local sewage management systems and localize where possible.

V. Effective Governing: (Vermont’s $6.2B budget is $10,000 / Vermonter)
a. Executive Branch
i. review job description and leadership characteristics objectively not politically and publish.
ii. Conduct a thorough review of agency architecture, missions, and effectiveness and recommend changes.
b. Legislative Branch:
i. Establish extramural strategic planning resource comprised of Vermonters of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds as a resource to legislators in policy development and execution.
ii. Require annual performance reviews and reporting of all legislative agency initiatives to establish accountability and effectiveness.
iii. Redesign the ineffective legislative “study” process to warrant recommended initiatives.
c. Judicial Branch is perhaps the most effective current branch of government with signal achievements: Baker and Brigham decisions.