Keelan: It is just not the same Vermont

By Don Keelan

The 2022 elections have been recorded, the lawn posters removed, and thank goodness, the TV ads are a thing of the past. With that said, what does it mean for the next two years?

The political, social, and economic Vermont landscape is different than the one I experienced when I cast my first Vermont ballot in the fall of 1988.

Don Keelan

One significant difference is how self-reliant the state, towns, and citizens of Vermont once were. That is not the case today with the dependency on receiving funding from Washington to get programs, even the most basic, underway. It is not limited to State government programs; many towns and cities depend on grants to accomplish even the most minor functions that were once in the annual municipal budget.

A notable change: many citizens depend on the government and, in many cases, nonprofit organizations for food, housing, medical/dental, and addiction recovery services.

Aside from the loss of self-reliance since 1988, Vermont municipalities have also lost local control. While we may elect our school board members, the State Board of Education in Montpelier controls the taxes raised from real estate. These were once kept locally but are now funneled to Montpelier for redistribution.

Another change in the State’s economic landscape is the shortage of folks willing to work. Many areas have been impacted. A local experience is worth noting: I did not receive any mail for three days in late October. One mail driver retired, one was out sick, and the other quit. Also, it is customary to see a note on our local bank’s door: “closed for the day — lack of staff.”

There is also a critical staff shortage at local medical/mental health centers, day-care centers, police barracks, and schools. Then add food establishments and construction tradespeople. Facilities have to close their doors or shorten their hours. Vermont is incapable of providing the services it once did.

When it comes to public school education in Vermont, there are plenty in denial over the last 30-year changes: enrollment is down between 30 to 40 thousand students, costs have doubled, if not more, and the recent test scores show a student population that is close to 60% below their expected grade achievement.

However, the most disturbing change I have witnessed is increased criminal activity, from petty incidents to major crimes. No street or home in the state is immune. Illegal drugs have taken an enormous toll on the State’s younger population, its medical/mental health staff and facilities, and its treasury. This unfortunate phenomenon was almost non-existent in 1988.

The fear of crime in Vermont, specifically Burlington, was not lost on the New York Times. On November 12th, reporter Michael Corkery in a multi-page photo/essay noticed how criminal activity is the number one issue in Burlington, once one of the safest cities to retire to or visit in America. Not anymore.

The Vermont Legislature is back in session. Its makeup is the most lopsided in recent history: 25% Republicans and 75% Democrats/Progressives (three Independents.) If the “body” follows its past and projected agenda, the State will continue its downward spiral. Self-reliance, personal responsibility, and local control are no longer relevant: Montpelier knows what is best for all of us and is prepared to let us know.

Is it possible for the legislative leadership to adopt what Governor Phil Scott noted in his November 16th piece in the Rutland Herald:

“We’ll be debating the issues, which I will continue to do with civility, seeking consensus where possible, compromising when necessary, and agreeing to disagree or let the process run its course when we cannot resolve our differences.”

Vermont has evolved into two distinct places since 1988. Its cities and towns are full of despair, and its second home and ski areas are abundantly enjoyable. The Legislature should take notice.

Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington, Vermont.

17 thoughts on “Keelan: It is just not the same Vermont

  1. Nobody knows where a push for something is coming from when so much compartmentalization and bureaucracy exists in Vermont.
    That’s why most towns will first contact the Vermont League of Cities and Towns for clarification,
    and like any good compartment, VLCT will have an opinion but sometimes these opinions may steer municipalities by construct of an implied mandate, that may not necessarily be statute. 
    But there is another component that reinforces the perception of mandate, and that is a fear of not complying with the law.

    There is a bigger picture here that surrenders to perception of legal authority, sometimes we have to take a step outside the confines of our compartments and just say no to a bad idea, no matter where it is coming from, but most of the time Municipalities fear of violating law, keeps them form challenging, so they simply comply. 

  2. Vermont’s slide to socialism is unsurprising since the once proud and independent Vermonter has fallen for the the party that promises more and more “free stuff”.

    The Democrats promise all sorts of goodies from the public treasury and far too many Vermonters fall for it time after time.

    Vermont is getting exactly what it deserves, and what it keeps voting for. I lived there for 15 years and loved it, but that was back in the early 70’s before Vermonters castrated themselves.

    Now is it a haven for the homeless,the drug addicts, the “welfare” crowd and criminals.

  3. I moved to Vermont in ’92. Around the time my kids were entering the once highly rated local public school @ late 90’s, Act 60 was rushed through; with very little oversight or local involvement.

    BTW: no governor has been properly sworn in since the 80’s; Madeline Kunin was the first of many to be ‘selected’, not properly elected/sworn in which is a violation…

  4. It’s called Socialism. Thank your Democrat friends, especially the very traitorous and self serving Leahy.

  5. Always appreciate your thoughtful commentaries Mr. Keelan.

    One of my retirement gigs is serving as our town historian. Your headline “It is just not the same Vermont” is a re-occuring theme I have found from our earliest days. In fact perhaps the only constent in Vermont is change.

    Over the past 50 years of living and working in a rural Vermont community and wrting a weekly column on it for over 30 years for the White River Valley Herald ( another gig I have carried into retirement) I have been able to observe in some detail people in our town. While clearly not as self-reliant as my farmer friends of earlier generations, many of the younger folks I know are extremely hard-working.and pretty darn clever.

    I think the big problem I see is that there are fewer entry level workers. This is due in part to the lack of affordable housing and due in part to our flawed immigration system. America has always been re-freshed and invigorated by those coming to our country to make a better life for themselves. We have a system now in Vermont that leaves many farmers with few options other than breaking the law and employing undocumented workers. There is a real lack of workers in many other sectors as well. While we need strick border protections, we also need to find a way to have both more temporary workers and a way to deal with the millions illegally in our country now. This realistically needs to include a pathway to citizenship for those willing to make a committment to our country, especially for young people brought here as children who have lived their most all their lives here. Immigration needs to stop being a political football and become a process whereby we can truly secure our borders and have a way of allowing those eager to work and bring their talent to and as in past generation become a part of America

    • Re: “I think the big problem I see is that there are fewer entry level workers. This is due in part to the lack of affordable housing and due in part to our flawed immigration system.”

      Another problem, often warned about, always ignored, is Vermont’s progressive minimum wage. We can’t afford ‘Entry Level’ workers. Does that mean we should let them eat cake? No, of course not. But that (and other nonsensical reasonings) is certain to be a progressive response to this observation. The actual economic reality is the fact that increasing the minimum wage hurts the very cohort its intended to help.

      And what about our laws regulating immigration? How many people understand that an immigrant with a work visa, working temporarily on a Vermont farm, for example, must work up to 60 hours per week before qualifying for overtime? For the rest of us, 40 hours is the benchmark. That’s a government regulation.

      The point is that one-size-fits-all, centralized government regulations, from the arbitrary minimum wage to immigrant farm labor regulations, is the problem. Why else does our economic circumstance continue to deteriorate while, ignorant ‘do-gooders’ expand their knee-jerk regulations? They seek a path to heaven, condemning free enterprise as ‘inequitable’, while making a hell on earth.

      “Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.” T. S. Eliot

  6. What we do today, in the name of our collective community, manifests as our reality in the future.

    When we respect the free will of our neighbors and value the path of their choosing as much as our own, we reject the notion of imposing punitive measures on our entire community simply because we can, or because other towns do so.

    Instead, we believe personal liberty should never be preemptively confiscated from anyone, nor used as currency to resolve issue, or given as spoils to committee agenda of benevolent disguise.

    Unnecessary regulation need not impede our pursuit of happiness, unless by our consent.

    The needless compliance you tolerate today, will shape all our lives tomorrow.

    For there exists a Universal Order of Natural Law that cannot be changed — this law can only be respected or violated.

    Let us pray, that by your choice, our collective power will be respectful, not controlling; inclusive, not discriminating; and organically natural, not agenda driven.

    Your power has resonance. But is your pursuit in harmony with the Universe?

  7. Great article.
    It’s giant does of reality.
    The writer has only been here since 1988, imagine how the people born and raised in the state feel watching it go down the drain.

    It’s all pretty true and sad.
    We had a RINO problem long before we knew it, they sold us out and handed us over to the Socialists before we really knew what was happening.
    But now the Democrats own it all.. the destruction of an entire state.

    Vermont never had these kinds of problems until the state was taken over by someone else’s lunatics.

  8. Has anyone thought about Chain Gangs we could save Money by having our cities and towns cleaned up. Drug dealers are MURDERERS Treat them as such with LONG sentences.

  9. Raising these real and pressing concerns publicly will get you labeled a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, a transphobe and a Christian White nationalist by the 75 percent of Vermonters who make up the hive mind of the Vermont Democratic Party. The fact that there is no relation between the issues and these labels is proof that mass formation psychosis exists.

  10. Read your local small-town papers…they typically now include “news” items contributed by non-profits reporting on how successful the COVID relief programs were in “reducing poverty” and that they should then be made permanent. The Public Assets Institute founded by Act 60 proponent former Rep.Paul Cillo has been making that claim in regular contributions made to look like an important news item. The Public Assets Institute thinks a working person’s paycheck should be a “public asset”. The left destroys everything it touches.

  11. Hmmm. I remember discussing how to spend Richard Nixon’s revenue sharing money at town meeting in a Vermont that was then the most reliably Republican state in the country. Plus ca change, le plus c’est la meme chose.

  12. You give a list of problems but little information to address the reasons for the problems. The people (dead or alive, still a resident or not) voted for the legislators that cause some of the issues.

    Consider childcare restricted by over regulation. Liberal welfare bringing in the homeless. Those people who want to work that don’t qualify for the available jobs.

    Then on the crime front there’s the catch and release program that frustrates police and citizens that are unwilling to take physical action to stop criminal activity.

  13. They won’t take notice. its an engineered breakdown of society that brings communists to power, and that is what they want.

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