Opinion: Be brave, little state, redux

Editor’s note: This commentary is by KT Cappellini, of Plymouth. He is a commercial real estate investor and TV producer who ran for state representative in 2016.

With Vermonters facing yet another three weeks of the state’s mandatory “stay-at-home” order — and possibly longer if Gov. Phil Scott decides to extend it — the question on most folks’ minds during these long days around the house is, “what next?”

Scott has done the very best he can with the information and the means he has at his disposal — that is, the drawer of dull, rusty tools comprising the Democratic supermajority in the Vermont Legislature.

Still, images of dairy farmers dumping milk and the shuttering of what’s left of Vermont’s working-class economy don’t bode well for a state that was already in dire straits financially before the coronavirus came along and turned mud season into “quarantine season.”

Moving forward, it’s important that Vermonters once again take stock of their little “frontier of the Northeast,” what makes it special, and henceforth, what could help it stand apart in a country and world that will almost certainly not look anything like they did prior to COVID-19. Doing so becomes increasingly more important when one factors in the pending November elections.

In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, when the once great U.S. “Factory of Democracy” that won a global war on two separate fronts finds itself scrambling to make cotton swabs, Vermont should begin re-tooling for an uncertain future.

Here, we should all be reminded that over the past several years as Montpelier burned, the Democratic supermajority fiddled away entire legislative sessions debating topics like identity politics (in a state with a majority white population of under a million souls), climate change (in a rural state with more tree cover than when the European settlers first arrived), gun control ( in a rural state with a deep tradition of firearms ownership and the lowest levels of firearms violence in the country), and marijuana legalization (because they saw dollar signs and “everyone else is doing it”).

Their latest incarnation, a carbon tax on fossil fuels, was already a preposterous piece of legislation aimed at bleeding working- and middle-class families, as championed by smug elitists whose idea of “work” is something that they pay people in dirty Carhartts to do. Now, in the face of a looming Second Great Depression, the idea of $1 per gallon tax on heating oil fails the sniff test — an idea by a governing class completely out of touch with the governed.

Enter the coronavirus crisis and ensuing economic fallout. Outside of expressing the standard platitudes of solidarity during crisis, Republicans and independents mostly went along with the Democrats’ push to expand unemployment benefits — effectively a Trojan Horse for Democrats’ aspirational dreams of a $15 minimum wage — to the point now that when factoring in the addition of generous federal benefits, Vermont’s hourly workers are making far more staying home than they did going to work.

At the federal level, it’s even easier to see where Vermont’s governing class-sensibilities lie. Out of nearly $2 billion in federal emergency spending earmarked for Vermont, a mere $175,000 has been slated to help the state’s small and medium size manufacturers, with the arts receiving a more generous, yet still paltry $826,000.

Back in 2018, on the eve of the midterm elections, I wrote a piece titled “Be Brave, Little State,” about the dangers of a Vermont economy heavily dependent on tourism and investments in luxury consumables.

By now, faced with shortages of everything from toilet paper to antibiotics, Vermonters should be waking up to the limits of a globalized economy, one with off-shored industrial jobs and a “just-in-time” supply chain stretching all the way to places like Mexico, Vietnam and China.

We get this very special export of coronavirus from China, a country whose claim to fame for the past 40 years has been exporting collectivist, totalitarian ideology and inferior, slave-labor-produced consumer goods — as anyone who has purchased a vacuum, fan, toaster, weed eater, or miscellaneous car part can attest. (The latest gem in substandard Chinese manufacturing is defective shipments of KN95 masks and PPE to more than 16 different countries, including the United States.)

In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, when the once great U.S. “Factory of Democracy” that won a global war on two separate fronts finds itself scrambling to make cotton swabs, Vermont should begin re-tooling for an uncertain future.

More craft breweries, ski holidays, and marijuana dispensaries no longer present as sensible or even realistic in the face of a virulent respiratory illness, especially one that might remerge during a deadlier second wave next winter. Neither does letting hordes of flatlanders — perhaps many carrying the Coronavirus and not aware of it — descend upon Vermont this summer.

Places like Sun Valley, Idaho, and Whitefish, Montana, are already dealing with this fallout, a significant part of which is trying to regulate the Wild West of Airbnb, with property owners enticing well-heeled city dwellers able to work from home to ditch their apartments and “head for the hills.”

Well before the onset of coronavirus, Vermont towns everywhere were dealing with the collateral damage from Airbnb: flatlanders run amuck, getting stuck and abandoning cars with no snow tires, sleeping flop-house style in one or two bedroom homes with septic systems not designed to handle the load, and leaving bags of garbage strewn about for the bears. Already-overburdened local police and fire departments have struggled to deal with the influx.

Moreover, Vermont is in a very unique situation, in that unlike the more remote tourist areas of Sun Valley and Whitefish, its ski towns are all within driving distance of one of the Top 5 COVID-clusters in the world, New York City.

Gov. Scott’s executive order banning all short term vacation rentals until after June 15 was a step in the right direction; he should extend the order indefinitely. Additionally, he should expand his original efforts to monitor traffic inbound from the New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Vermont’s own plan should more closely emulate that of Rhode Island’s, with the National Guard paying a visit to anyone coming up to a second home in Vermont.

The world post-COVID is going to be a very different place. In order to prosper in this new environment, Vermont’s electorate must summon the courage to elect officials who will, above all else, protect the integrity of Vermont and the health of Vermonters, and promote economic self-reliance on a scale that Vermont’s ancestors would be proud of.

As such, investing significant capital into all of that dying industrial infrastructure down on the Connecticut River — and awarding tax breaks for doing so — in places like Springfield, former heart of the Precision Valley, no longer seems like such a far-fetched idea. Hydroelectric power running small, efficient factories churning out ventilators, PPE medical gear, KN95 masks, even cotton swabs.

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9 thoughts on “Opinion: Be brave, little state, redux

  1. Great article. Talking about Spfld, in 1955-1958 I worked at Fellows and it was a high employment area, Precision Valley. Then the Interstate highways came in 1962 and the influx of Flatlanders. Then they migrated into the state government and changed the state completely. That’s where the problem lays. They thought they escaped their Socialistic past and moved to a nice state, but they brought their mental crapology with them and the state has been lowering deeper into the cess pool ever since. Here’s the result of the infiltration: Dem S & R Total (50):
    Chittenden County 33
    Washington County 14
    Grand Isle 3
    It’s too one sided. Hey the intelligence of Maxine Grad (NY) that tells flag waving people in a gun control meeting to “get rid of their Banners”. And the control freak Mitzi Johnson (NY) who’s position gives her more power than the Governor, Flatlander. And there are such others. They will stop any changes.

    Unless there’s articles at voting time to run around these people that may change articles which they override, let the people have a say in their lives and not be dictated to and change the government.

    I agree with KT Cappellini, we need to control who’s coming into the state. I’ve seen info that NH did from diseased Flatlanders, MS-13 gangs, drugs, un-inspected vehicles and alike. For a reason VT has become a magnet for these people. If the Montpelier controllers like their world, move back and out.

    This is a great article and hit many emotional and realistic facts.

  2. I heard the governor of South Dakota on the Rush Limbaugh show yesterday. She understands the state and US constitutions and followed them instead of cowering in fear and ignoring her oath like our governor has done.
    She said she explained to the people what is happening with the virus and asked, not ordered the people to act appropriately and they have. She said because people are allowed to act on their own the state will rebound faster than others being ordered how to act.
    She said there is no excuse for abandoning the constitutions under any circumstances.
    We need a governor like her.

    • When you treat adults like children, they will act like children—in other words when you tell people they can’t do something, they will say “hold my beer”, and that is exactly what has happened. I almost understand the first two weeks of the stay home stay safe thing so that we didn’t overwhelm the hospitals IF the numbers had been anywhere near what they were expecting (whoever designed those models should be fired immediately), but when nothing even close to that happened, Scott and other Governors should have allowed people to go back to work but instead they kept extending the quarantine orders and now millions of people are severely depressed and anxious as they are watching everything they spent their whole lives building vanish in front of their eyes, and we have children who are severely depressed and anxious committing suicide or talking about it because they are lonely and afraid (my 11 year old said he doesn’t want to live in this world anymore, and I heard 3 other kids say very similar things and a friend said a 10 year old girl in her town committed suicide over it); we will be dealing with the mental health fall out from this for decades, especially if they do it again this fall (just around election time) like I’m guessing they will “just in case” it might come back.

    • When you treat adults like children, they will act like children—in other words when you tell people they can’t do something, they will say “hold my beer”, and that is exactly what has happened. I almost understand the first two weeks of the stay home stay safe thing so that we didn’t overwhelm the hospitals IF the numbers had been anywhere near what they were expecting (whoever designed those models should be fired immediately), but when nothing even close to that happened, Scott and other Governors should have allowed people to go back to work but instead they kept extending the quarantine orders and now millions of people are severely depressed and anxious as they are watching everything they spent their whole lives building vanish in front of their eyes, and we have children who are severely depressed and anxious committing suicide or talking about it because they are lonely and afraid (my 11 year old said he doesn’t want to live in this world anymore, and I heard 3 other kids say very similar things and a friend said a 10 year old girl in her town committed suicide over it); we will be dealing with the mental health fall out from this for decades, especially if they do it again this fall (just around election time) like I’m guessing they will “just in case” it might come back.

  3. Close UVM and eliminate all those ‘student’ votes and let year round residents selet their reps.

  4. Wishful thinking…you forgot who really controls te legislature and thus Vermont…the unde influence, power and money of The Consetvation Law Foundation and The Natire Conservency. Both of these places are at the front, or behind the scenes….of just about every enviro or social proptest. Just look at clean, low CO2, cheap, plentiful and CHEAP, AGAIN…natural gas. WHO is at the forefront to any HALT pipelines to bring such great, clean and cheap energy to poor VT’ers? You guessed. Nature Conservency and the CLF. The DAMAGE done ESPECIALLY by the CLF over 40 years, is devastating and proveable. Look at mid 1980’s and the Circ Higway in Essex to IBM. It was planned, voted, approved and ALL FUNDED. but the CLF did not want it. At he time IBM had 8,000 employed. The CLF used their money and power to sue, sue, sue…lose, then appeal and appeal…then lose…then appeal, stall….delay…stall and appeal. After 20 YEARS of this, the State gave up. THE CLF beat Vermont! But now? Traffic is horrible and IBM hates Vermont. The plant is down to 3,000 employed and IBM wanted OUT OF VERMONT SO BADLY that they PAID Globla Foundries $1.2 BILLION CASH TO TAKE THE ESSEX PLANT OFF THEIR HANDS! when the final epitaph and book is written on Vermont’s grave…the CLF will be a major reason for it’s destruction. And they were NEVER ELECTED BY US TO DO ANY OF THIS!. Massive progressive/enviro donation $$$ money… funds them and they will sue ANYONE at the drop of a hat (look back at GMO’s, BST, fertilizers, pipelines, stormwater drains…etc)….so YOU have to pay! It is lawsuit intimidation and how they win. They tried for almost a decade to stop LOWE’S and Also Stowe Mountain condos. They delayed years and years the projects and cost the owners millions and millions in delays and court legal costs. we need the ENGLISH law…if YOu sue and lose…LOSER PAYS THE DEFENDANTS COSTS! THAt would stop the CLF in it’s tracks!

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