Commentary

Recent Posts

Now Vermont, Too, Shows Why National EB-5 Reforms Are Needed

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ears ago when I began working to reform the national EB-5 program, the problems we saw seemed far removed from the many promising EB-5 development projects in Vermont. It is heartbreaking, and it is maddening, to see such problems here at home. It is now painfully clear to all Vermonters that the EB-5 Regional Center program is flawed. The program once promised to transform the Northeast Kingdom and other underserved communities through millions of dollars of investment at no cost to taxpayers. Yet it has become mired in fraud and abuse across the country, and unfortunately such allegations have now reached our state. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Focus on the students

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he first major hurdle of the 2016 legislative session was resolved Saturday when lawmakers approved a tweak to the cost containment threshold in Act 46, last year’s education governance reform bill. The debate echoed many familiar conversations about our school system. There were speeches about declining enrollment, property taxes, and the relationship between state and local government. But what made the 2016 debate remarkable was that many lawmakers discussed the state’s educational system without ever mentioning how our decisions impact Vermont kids. The irony was not lost on me – earlier in the day, my fourteen-year-old son, Eli, visited the State House on a class fieldtrip from People’s Academy. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Replace the Education Funding Formula

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ermont’s property tax burden will continue to dominate conversation around the state, and in the State House, until the Legislature has the political will to address the problem in its entirety. That problem is composed of three primary parts: An inefficient education system built to serve tens-of-thousands more students than we have today, an outdated human service system that is failing families and children and shifting the burden on to schools, and a supercharged education funding formula created in Act 60, modified in Act 68 and further tweaked over the years that lacks real cost containment incentives. We simply cannot afford what we have and because we can’t afford to make improvements kids are getting short changed. Act 46, while imperfect and in need of improvement, jumpstarted the difficult but necessary discussion on school consolidation. Reforming our human service system from one that measures inputs (how many people we’re enrolling) to one that measures outputs (how many people we’re helping to achieve financial independence) is a complex discussion our Democrat colleagues have so far refused to have. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Vermont Should Divest from Coal and ExxonMobil Stocks

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n Christmas Day, I burned brush on my farm in Putney — in a t-shirt. My experience was not unlike that of many Vermonters as we all lived through Vermont’s most tropical Christmas in memory, capping off the world’s warmest year on record. Climate change is here, and it is affecting the Vermont that we love, from our ski areas to our lakes. Now is the time to take every sensible action to combat it if we’re to have a shot at preserving a livable planet for our kids and grandkids. At home, we’ve done a lot; from increasing by ten and 20 times the amount of solar and wind in Vermont, respectively, to investing in energy efficiency to help Vermonters use less energy and save money. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Four Years After Irene, Renewal In Waterbury

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his past August, we marked the four year anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene. Memories of communities besieged by flood waters, houses knocked from their foundations and families forever changed are still fresh for each of us, and for so many other Vermonters. But just as Vermont rebuilt from the historic 1927 floods, Vermonters have pulled together to build back stronger, smarter and better after Irene. This has required new and creative thinking, and significant collaboration between communities, the State of Vermont and the federal government. Nowhere in Vermont is that story better told than in Waterbury. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Lara’s Legacy

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lancing through my morning paper the other day, an entry in the “police log” caught my eye, and not in a good way. It read “A woman threatened to ‘go all Jody Herring’ on a Department for Children and Families caseworker.” It was a harsh reminder of how important VSEA’s current campaign to enhance on-the-job safety for DCF workers is. But this group of workers is not alone. VSEA members working in the Employment Services Division, Office of Child Support, Probation and Parole, Corrections and other agencies and departments throughout state government have also told their union that they would like improved on-the-job safety. VSEA members recognize that our request for increased worker safety protections will cost money, but another Lara Sobel tragedy is something no one wants, and, judging by the newspaper entry I told you about (and other scary incidents workers have been told me about), time is particularly of the essence here. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Our Enemy Is ISIS, Not Refugees Fleeing ISIS

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ast Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to make it almost impossible for people from Syria and Iraq, fleeing the brutality of ISIS and Bashar al-Assad, to find refuge in the United States. It is worth reflecting on what this means for our country. Just a few weeks ago the world came together, stunned and heartbroken over the image of a three-year-old Syrian child’s lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach. His tragic death focused our attention on the desperate plight of so many Syrians who have fled the horror of ISIS and Assad’s army. We called it the humanitarian issue of our day. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Welch’s Stance Against Corn Ethanol

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hen a Washington-based lobbying outfit started airing television ads in Vermont that attack Rep. Peter Welch because he wants to scale back federal support for corn ethanol, the erstwhile Vermonter in me took offense. It has been a few years since I lived in Vermont, but I was born in Burlington, grew up in Essex Junction, and graduated from Essex High. I now live near Boston, but I’ll probably always consider myself a Vermonter and I think I still have a working sense of what Vermonters value. Related:

Welch responds to attack ad

Vermonters value follow-through, which partly explains Rep. Welch’s skepticism about the Renewable Fuel Standard, a federal law that effectively requires Americans to put billions of gallons of biofuel into our cars each year. The policy is sustained mainly by Iowa’s peculiar role in presidential politics and by the corn ethanol lobby, which has a history of big claims and poor follow-through. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Security That Protects Our Values

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n this time of intense emotion, we must keep a level head, respect everyone’s concerns, refrain from rushing to judgment, avoid politicizing the issue and remember what unites us as Americans. It has been inaccurately suggested that I oppose the resettlement of refugees in Vermont. These claims are based on one news story that reported only one part of my view on a complex issue. I want to set the record straight. First, I believe the first responsibility of any government is to keep its citizens safe. Continue Reading →

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