What do you believe is the most important issue facing Shelburnites in the upcoming election?
In the broadest sense, the most important issue is quality of life and what the election will do to make things better or worse based on our individual and community sense of values. Some of us will be watching to see what can be done to maintain high quality education that is also affordable. Others are wondering if further state action related to the Federal Affordable Care Act will improve or diminish access and affordability of health care. Some fear that damage to our environment and Lake Champlain will not only interfere with enjoyment of the natural world, but also have a devastating impact on our tourism economy. Others ask that while working to bring new business to Vermont, we remember to make life a little bit easier for the businesses already here. Most simply want to know that regardless of the electoral outcome, those elected will work to protect our quality of life in Vermont and not play posturing political games.
On a more concrete level, I know Shelburne residents will want to know that their representatives will keep track of the state education portion of the property tax. In 1997, Act 60 and later Act 68 in 2003 were enacted in response to a Supreme Court decision declaring that Vermont’s system of funding for education was unconstitutional, placing towns with lower real estate values at a disadvantage to towns like Shelburne with higher values. This began the statewide Common Level of Appraisal (CLA); homestead and non-homestead tax rate; rates for towns wanting to pay more for their schools; and “income sensitivity” in which those with lower income could pay based on income rather than property value.
Shelburne real estate will always see comparatively high levels of appraisal due to our proximity to Burlington; our schools; our recreational opportunities and the sheer beauty of our shoreline and mountain views, not to mention the attraction of people who are willing to pay higher prices and are not dependent on the local economy. Shelburnites will want to know that their legislators recognize this concern and will look out for their interests in this area.
I believe an important issue facing Shelburnites, constituents in District 5-2, and Vermonters in general, is economic development. When the economy is strong and prospers, we all benefit.
I see signs of economic activity daily as I campaign door to door. Home improvements are happening in many neighborhoods. Conservative and cautious development is underway. In two small St. George neighborhoods, construction or landscaping is occurring at a majority of the homes. People are saying there is energy and optimism that is more evident now than in the recent past. Route 7 has seen some much talked about changes with the demolition of the Harbor Hideaway and the old Danform building. The Shelburne Design Review Board and the Vision for Rt. 7 Committee are hoping to undertake changes to zoning regulations that will enhance the gateways into Shelburne from the north and we have seen changes and new businesses at the gateway from the south.
With all this being said, there is more to be done to establish a strong base for economic growth. We will all benefit with a tax base that is broad, diverse, and secure. I believe we are building a reputation that shows we are business friendly and we welcome growth that fits with our vision and town plan. We are striving for dense community development in our Village Center, creating walking/riding paths which connect and benefit the larger community. We are doing this as we build on the historic, cultural, and natural highlights right in our backyard. When we market ourselves and showcase who we are, we attract people who want to be part of us whether it is for a day, a weekend visit, or longer. This economic activity, both large and small, plays a part in strengthening our community.
I thank the Shelburne News for the opportunity to answer this week’s question regarding important issues facing our local community.
Walking into the Statehouse on my first day, I vividly remember standing in the lobby amongst the statues of famous past Vermonters and wondering how do I get started in this place.
But it didn’t take long. From day one in the Legislature I enjoyed a leadership role with members of both parties to solve problems.
As an engineer at GE, I was accustomed to working in teams on projects so it was no surprise to discover that it came naturally for me to work across the aisle to find solutions to problems facing our state.
In my opinion, the issue that surfaces as the most important to Shelburnites is clearly the economy, both state and federal. This by the way was expressed by many residents the most serious concern. Some admitted they were very afraid of where we are heading both as a state and country if we don’t take these economic issues seriously. They are very disappointed that there is a lack of leadership in both Montpelier and Washington–politics on both sides seem to get in the way of serious problem solving. It’s as if they are afraid to admit the seriousness and/or their lack of facing up to tough solutions. As was stated by one Shelburnite, “there don’t seem to be any adults operating on our behalf.”
In the state for example, the legislature and administration appear to be unfazed by the $3 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, the unknown cost of health care, and the program definition. These are serious problems that can’t be put aside and delayed if we are to make informed decisions.
Vermonters are sensible people, why not level with them?
The last day to register to vote for the general election is Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 5 pm. Town Clerk Colleen Haag encourages anyone who registered through Motor Vehicle Motor Voter system to check with her office before the deadline. “The majority of these forms never make it to the Town Clerk’s office, so we may not have you on our checklist,” Haag said.
Voters do not need to be absent from town to request an absentee ballot, Haag is encouraging anyone who has a busy schedule to ask for an early ballot. The 7 am-7 pm polling hours are not convenient for all registered voters. The early/absentee ballots are available; call the Town Clerk’s office at 985-5116 to request an absentee/early ballot. Registered voters may also vote in person at the Town Clerk’s office now through Nov. 6, Mon.-Fri. from 8:30 am to 5 pm.