By Guy Page
Middlesex Town Meeting voters joined 15 other towns in approving a climate change referendum, and went even further: they allocated $250 of town money to support Mother Up!, a parents’ lobbying group affiliated with climate change organization 350VT.org.
350VT.org is affiliated with a national group, 350.org, which was co-founded by Middlebury writer and professor Bill McKibben. 350VT’s 2017 annual report describes a not-for-profit organization with a budget of more than $250,000, but does not say whether it is a 501(c)3 (can’t lobby) or a 501(c)4 (can lobby). Mother Up! provides support for 350VT activists during events and demonstrations, but also has actively lobbied. According to the 350VT website, Mother Up! held a lobbying day at the Vermont State House Feb. 15, speaking to elected officials in support of climate change legislation.
Other MU funding sources include the Natural Mattress Company in Shelburne and the New England Grassroots Environment Fund, according to its website.
The Middlesex vote stands out because Town Meetings typically don’t appropriate funds to lobby groups. The Mother Up! allocation was grouped with 20 other small appropriations to community service organizations such as the Family Center of Washington County and Green-Up Vermont. Perhaps such State House-minded spending is not unexpected from a Town Meeting that also elected a former state senator (Mary Just Skinner) to the selectboard and two current Montpelier lawyer/lobbyists (Sandra Levine and Theo Kennedy) to serve on the Planning Commission.
According to a March 6 VT Digger story by Ellie French, “The Town Meeting Day resolutions [on climate change] passed in Bradford, Castleton, Chester, Middlebury, Chittenden, Norwich, Shrewsbury, Tinmouth, Woodstock, Charlotte, Hinesburg, Jericho, Reading, Montgomery, and Middlesex. One other as yet unnamed town passed the resolution.”
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.