McClaughry: The recurring Vermont Proposition

Periodically, it seems, concerned citizens of Vermont gather to revive the idea of creating an inspiring Vision for the state’s future. Last month the largely federally-funded Vermont Council on Rural Development released the draft of its “Vermont Proposition.” It draws on the ideas, they claim, of thousands of participants at 22 “rural summits” around the state.

The draft document addresses the question: “What do Vermont and our communities need to start to do, and to stand for, now and over the next three years of action, to build a successful future for the next generation of residents, and for a sustainable, prosperous and unified Vermont in 2050?”

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

It’s worthwhile to review the two most recent previous efforts to declare what Vermont should do and stand for, that somebody should make happen.

In 1970, Act 250, the Land Use and Development Act, announced the imperative of a adopting a State Land Use Plan to make sure that development, if allowed at all, would occur only in places and under conditions permitted by the state Environmental Board.

After four years of bitter political combat, the third and feeblest version of the State Land Use Plan disappeared from view in the Senate. Eight years later the Legislature quietly removed from the statute books the by-then obsolete requirement that there even be a State Land Use Plan.

In 1987 liberal Democratic governor Madeleine Kunin had another run at it. She appointed a Commission on Vermont’s Future, chaired by the former head of President Jimmy Carter’s Environmental Protection Agency. This important person had settled in Vermont earlier that same year, and the governor seemed to think he was well suited to advise Vermonters on their state’s future.

The new plan, stitched together from regional plans, would herald a “new planning era.” It would be, Gov. Kunin ominously declared, “uniform in standards, specific in requirements, and tough on delinquents.”

What emerged from the Legislature to become Act 200 of 1988 contained little overt regulation, but the mere specter of a state land use plan moved citizens to organize some 134 meetings in towns around the state. Of these, 125 voted against Act 200, not a few unanimously. That, and ameliorating legislation passed the next year, rendered Gov. Kunin’s effort a forgettable victory.

Now comes VCRD’s Vermont Proposition, again announcing that Vermont is at a “defining moment” requiring adoption of a “common vision” followed by “bold action.”

For the moment, let me offer a few cautionary observations on the 26-page draft.

To be fair about it, the document is well written, earnest, sometimes cogent, and in places inspiring. Imagine what you would get if you assembled a dozen of the most high-minded, most sincere, most politically correct liberals in the state, who as liberals are not at all hesitant to use the power of government to make sure everyone falls in line with the grand Vision. You would expect them to produce something very much like the Vermont Proposition.

Like most vision documents, it is chock full of “we” at the front end of a long list of verbs, such as encourage, stimulate, empower, combat, protect, expand, nurture, and modernize. Exactly who or what is going to produce the desired outcomes is left for future explanation.

The document seems to assume that many of these outcomes that “we” need to pursue do not require the deployment of money. That’s unlikely. For example, the document calls for a new “War on Poverty.” That was tried, nationally, and it cost taxpayers untold billions of dollars without having much effect on income inequality.

The vision’s authors celebrate our proud tradition of participatory democracy, but by page 19 they have discovered the urgent need to create unelected regional governments and an all-powerful State Planning Office that “would be responsible for statewide community and economic development and land use plans on a five year planning cycle.” Administrative State 1, Democracy 0.

And then this: “Climate change … left unaddressed, will produce catastrophic impacts on communities, states and ultimately on world civilization … the existential threat of our time.” This assertion is followed by a parade of approaching terrors.

“Working with the nation, the region, or alone, Vermont should institute a carbon price or cap and trade system at a scale to change consumer behavior and produce revenue to invest in enterprises that produce clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” it goes on to say.

It doesn’t seem to occur to the authors that if their “carbon price” (i.e., tax) significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions, it won’t yield much revenue to subsidize their favored climate-friendly enterprises.

In a future column I’ll examine some of the more startling prescriptions and omissions of the Vermont Proposition.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of Public domain and John McClaughry

5 thoughts on “McClaughry: The recurring Vermont Proposition

  1. The Vermont Council on Rural Development can busily work to determine what the state will look like by 2050…….But it’s the Climate Council of “experts” doing the work mandated by the Global Warming Solutions Act that will actually determine what Vermont will look like in the future.

    If you think the drive up Route 7 from Rutland to Burlington is an eyesore today with large patches of solar panels planted on fields and meadows once home to holsteins, wait until the Climate Council is done. There will be no holsteins, there will be no farm houses or barns………The farms and cows that have attracted tourists for generations will be replaced by untold numbers of miles of industrial solar panels stretching as far as the eye can see.

    Meanwhile, China will continue building coal fired power plants in Asia and in third world countries around the planet……..The well intended people at Vermont Council on Rural Development will be left scratching their collective heads wondering what happened to the beautiful Green Mountain State…….The tourists and their money will be gone…….And Vermont will be weeping.

  2. Agenda 21 with a differnt date. How to become part of the new world order, how to sell out America and become a country of Little Marxists.

    No Thank you, not sure how Marxism cures global warming but it always seems th be their gig.

  3. This looks like the bloody battles against Act 250 and Act 200 some decades ago

    Government take over – handing out property rights as entitlements,
    and denying others any possible use of their maotgaged lands, but ever greater property taxes

    Citizens for Property Rights,CPR, lead by the Martyr Charles Thomas of Coventry Country Store,
    And Property Owners Standing Together, POST, lead by Ken Davis a Logger also from the Kingdom!
    In Truth each had heroic Women, who kept the whole thing going with publication and office, financial management.

    Our Grass Roots did much damage to the planners reputation, but the planners had Gov’t’s smothering powers
    at their beck and call, plus the pretty people, who may not have ever owned any open land property.
    For decades NOW we have had to pay, do reams of paperwork, hire engineers and lawyers, and permit specialists To do even what some would think was commonplace. Business buildings, enlarge the house porch, build a garage for your car. create a driveway to your home/property. Bad for home owners, a Horror show for developers for any any project. Housing has rocketted up in costs because small 3 bedroom ranches are barely allowed any more!

    Today the planners and bureaucracy want more planning, more permits, more requirements, more studies,
    more engineers, more architects – anything that drives the prices beyond affordable is the GOAL.

    Several huge rallys were held back then! We picketted MadelieneKunin’s inaguration, with signs of all 60+ towns who voted to NOT plan as required by Act 200. The movements went state wide

    It is certainly time to Rally and fight back again and soon.

  4. Thank you John. You have been there through the years and understand the history of how Vermont devolved into the mire of inconsequence while acting like it is the point of the spear.

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