13 QUESTIONS FOR VERMONT
by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Every March at Town Meeting time, Republican State Senator Bill Doyle conducts a yes/no survey on Vermont issues. Doyle's questions are always good ones, but "yes" or "no" hardly suffices as a response.
Being a woman of strong opinion, I thought I'd answer him in a bit more detail:
1. Are you optimistic about the future of Vermont's economy?
I'm a naturally optimistic person and I love Vermont, so I'm tempted to say, "Sure, Bill." But I'm overtaxed and underpaid. Jobs are fleeing the United States in record numbers, and Vermont is part of the United States. Manufacturing and agriculture here are down, tourism is pretty flat, so where's the growth?
Not from sucking up to IBM, that's for sure. Instead, it's coming from Vermont's large and collective creative unconscious. High-tech and green firms are growing, value-added agriculture (cheese, salsa, ice cream, organics, etc.) will continue to flourish, especially if we can get a handle on the genetically-altered food issue, and small businesses are opening everywhere. Progressive solutions to our problems abound. For the chief roadblock to economic improvement, see question #3.
2. Should Vermont require a photo on driver's licenses?
No. I flew to Florida last week and had to provide a "photo ID" to get my plane ticket, to get a boarding pass, and to get on board. Amtrak requires one, too. Since terrorists can easily get driver's licenses, this "security" is meaningless. It's about making us conform, about turning us into a nation of easily-herded sheep. National identity cards are next. I say keep the photos optional and mess with their minds. But note: as a symbol of how our country has been stolen from us, without photos on our licenses, we'll need passports to travel in as well as out of the country.
3. Do you think Governor Douglas is doing a good job?
Hell, no. I've had several long phone conversations with the man, and he's warm, friendly, accessible and agreeable - all the things our last governor was not. But Jim Douglas doesn't have an idea in his head that wasn't put there by the Republican National Committee, and we've seen how well they're doing at running the country. We face serious problems in Vermont, and Douglas is solution-clueless.
The health insurance crisis? His only idea is to eliminate community rating, which will be great for the insurance companies but will raise insurance costs for people over 40 and the already ill, as well as for the businesses that employ them. The creative solution is some kind of single-payer plan, and Douglas is dead set against it.
Then there's Vermont Yankee, our aging nuclear power plant, which wants to increase its production. Douglas has such a deaf ear that he accepted a large donation - why can't we call it a bribe? - from Entergy Nuclear to clean up Lake Champlain, more than 200 miles to our north. People in my county are more concerned about the plant blowing up in our faces than whether Douglas and his businessmen friends enjoy their expensive boats.
Douglas also wants to eviscerate Act 250, the only thing that keeps Vermont from turning into a strip mall. And then there's his inexplicable position on the purchase of the Rockingham hydroelectric dam. For that, see #10.
4. Should Vermont have a four-year term for governor.
No. See #3.
5. Should Vermont have a four-year term for legislators?
No. It's good to keep tight control.
6. Should windmills be built on Vermont ridgelines?
I'm a passionate environmentalist, but I think we should build windmills everywhere we can. For one thing, windmill farms are inspiringly beautiful, scary, mysterious places. Then again, we already have telephone poles all over the place, they're uglier than sin, and thank God for them. And far uglier than telephone poles are the scars that ski trails leave on the faces of our mountains. I think, if you'll excuse a horse-racing term, we've already broken our maiden on this issue.
7. Should Vermont legalize physician-assisted suicide?
No. We don't want to get into a free-for-all over this emotional issue now, not when we need to spend our political capital getting rid of George W. Bush and Jim Douglas. If I were sick and wanted to die, I think I could get the pills without the Legislature's help. So let's leave things the way they are. For now.
8. Should Vermont ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving?
Certainly. And ban them while waiting in airports, while using the exercise equipment at the gym, while pulling into bus and train stations, and everywhere else where I have to listen to other people's vapid conversations.
9. Should Vermont allow parents to send their children to any public school of their choice at public expense?
No. We should be pouring our scarce resources into all our schools and making them better, not draining some of them of money and students.
10. Should Vermont purchase an ownership interest in the Connecticut and Deerfield River hydroelectric dams.
Doyle is a Republican and this is a loaded question. Notice the language, "an ownership interest." That's Douglas's plan - a "partnership" with business. No, you fools, Vermont should purchase the damn things outright. It's the chance of a lifetime, a chance to control our energy destiny. This issue is so simple that it defies belief that anyone would still be babbling "government bad, business good, privatize everything." Not when Haliburton is paying the federal government millions of dollars in penalties for robbing us blind in Iraq. Can you say Enron, Governor?
11. Should Vermont amend the Constitution to limit the growth of state spending and taxation to the growth of inflation and population?
This doesn't even make sense. It's tying the hands of government far into an unimaginable future. Stay away from the Vermont Constitution, and, come to think of it, the United States Constitution too.
12. Should Memorial Day be an official holiday on the last day of May?
No, but Sept. 11 should be a national day of mourning.
13. Should Vermont require every public school to have a nutrition plan?
No. This is one of those questions that Republicans use to trap Democrats - if you say yes, you're a bleeding heart asking for more government control. I think we've already had enough government control from the Republicans, and I'll bet the schools do just fine with nutrition.
Well, those are my opinions. If you have some of your own, send them to Sen. Bill Doyle, State House, Montpelier, Vt. 05602, or email him at email@example.com.
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who writes about culture, politics, economics and travel.