Vermont conservatives gather to discuss Act 250 repeal, manufacturing, campaign 2020

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. — Conservative Vermonters alarmed by political and policy trends in the state gathered this week at an 802VT Alliance meeting, and attendees had no difficulty finding controversial issues to discuss.

The meeting, held Sunday at the Comfort Inn located on Ralph Lehman Drive, addressed concerns about Act 250, the decline in wealth-making, and traditional manufacturing in the state. Leaders also discussed fielding candidates for the 2020 election.

Founded by John de Bruin, a resident of Mt. Tabor, the 802VT Alliance is a grassroots organization formed earlier this year to support state candidates who embrace constitutional and conservative principles. The group claims no party affiliation, and leaders say they are open to conservative-minded members from any party.

John de Bruin

John de Bruin: “This state is well on its way of going under.”

De Bruin kicked off the gathering by lamenting the direction of the state.

“Vermont is a sinking ship,” he said. “We have deep financial, political and moral problems … with baby-killer bills, unnecessary gun laws. Is this what you want from Vermont? This is not why I moved here.”

According to de Bruin’s perspective, lawmakers have “lost touch with the people” and “can’t seem to comprehend that revenue has declined,” even while seeking new spending programs.

“Montpelier continues to grab our dollars like from some imaginary bottomless well,” he said. “Without businesses there are no jobs; without jobs there is no growth — simple economics. No one in Montpelier seems to understand this. The Progressives have hampered growth here.”

With that, De Bruin held up a hardcopy of the original four-page Act 250 from 1970, and next he displayed the updated, 45-page-long version of the state land use law.

“This state is well on its way of going under. [That’s why] we’re pushing for the repeal of Act 250,” he said. “In order for Vermont to grow, Act 250 overreach must end … [and] we must come up with sensible alternatives. It should be easy to find a solution to dump 250 in order for Vermont to grow.”

The group leader said Vermonters need to quickly get informed about the “Commission on Act 250: The Next 50 Years,” a push by the Legislature to make even more updates to the law.

“The current project [has] 86 [additional] pages of amendments,” de Bruin said. “ … Luckily, it wasn’t voted on this year, but I guarantee it will be voted on in the next session.

“The bad part about this revision is that it eliminates a lot of the grandfather clauses covering farms, quarries and the lumber industry; it even goes as far as removing your personal, private rights. If they succeed, this state will have full control of every acre in Vermont, whether you own it or not.”

The repeal movement

On the topic of actually repealing Act 250, guest speaker Dave Soulia, a farmer and member of the Pittsford Planning Commission, said he started the “Repeal Act 250” movement after seeing a homemade “Repeal Act 250” bumper sticker on a pickup truck. Like de Bruin, he believes Act 250 has ruined the state’s current and long-term economy.

Lou Varricchio

Dave Soulia: “It’s time to repeal Act 250.”

“I didn’t know Vermont before Act 250 — it’s been here all my life,” Soulia said. “I’ve seen a once prosperous state nose-diving horrifically. Act 250 has all but destroyed the state, economically.”

Soulia’s journey to leading a reform movement began when he sought data on Act 250’s impact and couldn’t find anything that satisfied him. As a result, he launched an effort to reach out to business owners to see how much they have spent complying with Act 250.

“Those numbers are nowhere to be found. So, we are encouraging business people to step up and speak out,” he said.

To help with that data gathering, Soulia’s website, Fact, offers a section where individuals and business owners alike can tell their story about difficulties complying with state regulations.

Soulia contends that Act 250 has driven away billions of dollars from the state’s economy.

“Lawyers and engineers doing land-use litigation are doing very well under Act 250,” he noted, “so this is not a right or left discussion. We need a math discussion.”

“Who doesn’t want a livable wage and good affordable health care? But the money business owners would have had available for these better salaries and health care options have all been washed away by Act 250 compliance expenses,” he said.

Soulia concluded his presentation by comparing Vermont’s current economic situation to late author Ayn Rand’s 1957 speculative novel “Atlas Shrugged.” In the novel, excessive government regulations help create a total stop to the nation’s commercial output.

“Vermont is literally living ‘Atlas Shrugged,’” he said. “ … Yet how can our neighbor state New Hampshire have strong growth as well as a pristine environment but Vermont can’t do it? Thanks to Act 250!”

Lou Varricchio

Geoffrey Flanders: “I grew up in Springfield. Because of the machine-tool industry located there, it’s now hard to imagine that such a small community could have produced so much wealth, for the state and the nation, before and after the war. Vermont needs more of this.”

Decline in wealth-making

Next, retired Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory defense researcher Geoffrey T. Flanders, a resident of White River Junction, discussed the decline in Vermont’s homegrown wealth, as represented by his hometown of Springfield.

Flanders’ great grandfather was Republican Vermont Gov. James Hartness (1861-1933), a lathe and optical inventor, early aviator and astronomer. Both his paternal and maternal families were involved with various industrial enterprises over the decades, creating local economic opportunities.

“I grew up in Springfield,” Flanders said. “Because of the machine-tool industry located there, it’s now hard to imagine that such a small community could have produced so much wealth for the state and the nation before and after the war,”

Flanders said Vermont needs more of this wealth creation now.

“I was born in 1948, and in the 1950s people owned their own homes, drove new cars and sent their kids to colleges — it was ethnically diverse,” he said. “It wasn’t perfect: There were poor people, drunks and non-English speaking immigrants, but the little town of Springfield created so much wealth. Now there are many empty storefronts. In Springfield today the drug problem is shocking. Even Springfield Hospital, once respected, has declined and is losing millions of dollars.”

Flanders said that by the 1960s, unions and corporate sell-offs helped make manufacturing unviable in Springfield. However, he believes there are opportunities today that can make Vermont strong again. As one suggestion, he proposed that developing a local pyrolysis industry might be just the ticket for a small community such as Springfield.

“Pyrolysis is the thermal decomposition of materials at elevated temperatures in an inert atmosphere. Someday, Vermont could heat all its homes with this process.” he said.

Regardless of what industry it choses, Flanders argues, Vermont towns like Springfield need trained and educated professionals and something by which to create needed wealth for personal success and needed government services.

“Manufacturing produces tangible wealth; services [and tourism] don’t produce wealth,” he said. “Also, banks, real estate and insurance companies just concentrate the wealth in the hands of the rich. I think we can reinvent Vermont with new industries.”

He continued, “What we need, first, is liberty, low taxes and property rights so people can create something that produces. This state has so many inventors in its history, from steamboats to John Deere’s plow. And today we have computers and high-speed internet. But we have a command-driven state government, so we need to move decision-making down to the town and individual level.”

Lou Varricchio

Terry Williams: “We need to identify the opposition and defeat them.”

Campaign 2020

Concluding remarks by Poultney Selectboard member and 2018 state-Senate primary candidate Terry Williams offered attendees something to look forward to in the next election.

A former organic farmer and U.S. Army officer whose last tour of duty was in Afghanistan, Williams is now involved with the Rutland County GOP’s effort to help steer and develop future party leaders.

“We need leaders in this movement to stop the progressive-socialist onslaught in Vermont,” Williams said. “While I don’t consider myself a leader, I was a leader in the military and studied leadership skills … [and] we need leaders to step up.”

He said the continuing problems in Vermont have forced him to become increasingly engaged in the political process.

“Somebody has to do it, and if everyone sits back and tries to be politically correct and doesn’t step forward, more ground will be lost,” he said. “Conservatives typically don’t get involved with other people’s business, but we need to speak out now.”

He said conservatives did poorly in the 2018 election because they “didn’t have a plan,” and because progressives “forged ahead with their plans.”

“We need to unify fringe groups and get them thinking about what’s going on. We need to identify the opposition and defeat them [in the voting booth]. We need to start in municipal levels, from the grass roots up. We need to identify and train future leaders, and that’s where 802VT Alliance comes in,” he said.

Williams revealed that 802VT Alliance’s goal is to identify 180 conservative senators and representatives for the 2020 campaign, regardless of party affiliation.

“Will we attain this? Probably not, but we are targeting key leaders who have to go,” he said. “Most of my family were Democrats, but we used to be able to talk and agree to disagree. We can’t do that anymore.”

Lou Varricchio is a freelance reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at

Images courtesy of John de Bruin and Lou Varricchio/TNR

18 thoughts on “Vermont conservatives gather to discuss Act 250 repeal, manufacturing, campaign 2020

  1. When we speak of Act 250 we are really addressing the advent of Central Planning which began about 50 years ago in Vermont.

    Since that time we have been tilting toward Socialism while incrementally diminishing the authority of individuals of our state to self govern.

    The question is how much more authority are we prepared to relinquish to the control of Act 250 when it is revised next year in the name of Climate Control?

    The following story is relevant to what has happened to businesses in Vermont and illustrates my observations as a witness beginning in 1965.

    How Sweet It Was
    The passing of a family member is a sad occasion, sometimes leaving us to speculate why when it’s premature or untimely. On the other hand the reason for the passing of a family business while sad may be easier to discern.

    I came across a letter recently that explained such a closing written by Carol Handy owner of The Vermonter Candy of Putney Vermont. She told the story of how her family founded the business in 1950 in Dorset Vermont and then moved to Putney where it has operated until its closing shortly after writing her letter in 2017.

    Taking over the company in 2004 she joined the Vermont Specialty Food Association to help stay abreast of state and federal legislation and new government regulations. However the process of making her candy being labor intensive, combined with the ever rising minimum wage increases caused the price of her product to rise resulting in fewer and fewer sales to where it was no longer profitable to continue.

    At the time of closing she employed five part-time workers who now have no income from this family business small though it may have been and the product they produced is no longer in production.

    While Carol admits there are other factors that contributed to making a box of candy more costly she believes the minimum wage was the most daunting.

    It‘s sad to think many of the reasons for the demise of this small family business has roots in the decisions made by what our current form of governance has become, but while most of us were busy with life toiling to make a living for our families, we neglected to pay attention to the purpose of our governing or to connect the dots when it deviated from its true mission of protection rather than intrusion.

    Looking back 50 years some of us remember the can do attitude that existed at a time when anything seemed possible, but perhaps more importantly there was less government restriction and a more predictable pathway for entrepreneurs to create jobs that could be filled leaving compensation to the discretion of workers and employers. Now a more rigid minimum wage structure simply ignores the circumstance of both worker and employer by dictating a mandated outcome that may put them both out of business.

    Remember, the Vermonter Candy was founded in 1950, but could Carol start that same candy company today and if she could how much bureaucracy would she have to negotiate and would the cost of startup prevent her from even trying?

    Many of us didn’t notice how government began to change 50 years ago but hind sight has a way of becoming 20/20 and having been there at the start I can tell you we are now neglecting to protect key elements of our founding principles and free market economic system to our detriment and perhaps our demise if this trend continues.

    It was in the late 1960’s when central planning came to our state with the establishment of regional planning commissions. Participation by towns was voluntary then, however half a century later most communities in Vermont are now members of a regional planning commission that insists it’s here to help. But perhaps the irony is we still voluntarily participate in this ritual of planning as if it were mandatory even after exhausting years of time and energy with seemingly little recognition of accomplishment.

    As we continue to plan and revitalize, nothing seems to change our trajectory but we are told more programs to create economic development are a must, so we resume planning with the help of government planners, government grants and government subsidies, plus a little help from so called non government organizations (NGO’s) who perhaps have unknown agendas.

    The question is, will all this planning and control help reverse the trend of our 50 year decline or merely continue perpetuating it?

    And is it only a coincidence this decline started around the same time we began to experiment with central planning throughout our state?

    Today laws and regulations enacted shortly after state planning began have evolved or morphed into a convenient excuse to stifle growth while giving the illusion of government protection. They can also discourage by uncertainty, exhaust investment capital and function as a pay to play thus eliminating competition from even occurring in a market that is presumed free for all to enter.

    However these punitive laws and regulations have only been addressed by the creation of benevolent programs designed to compensate for what planners have so far been unable to revitalize. Programs are now created at an alarming rate and with good intensions, but we should understand these programs only consume wealth, they do not produce it.

    Similar to a minimum wage increase programs raise the bar of the livable wage for everyone, much the same as a forced wage increase lowers the standard of living for the entire economy by increasing prices. There is also a cumulative affect with program creation that may result in more programs being needed to remedy the cost or damage caused by each previous one created. So it is important we realize the mere gesture of helping one group of people becomes a multiplier of negative impact for others when outcomes are substituted for opportunity.

    We should not confuse equal outcomes with equal opportunity!

    Policy and regulation that advocate for equal outcomes are damaging to our economy and standard of living and are prevalent when too much program creation exists.

    We are perhaps currently in a state of planning paralysis brought on by attempts to create prosperity artificially and heal an ailing economy, but the medications of program creation and Micro Management seem only to make the disease worse causing us to wonder if a less toxic treatment regiment might be in order. Maybe if we just went back to doing things like we were before we became ill that might help?

    Vermont can be a prosperous and affordable state again if we follow our founding principles and protect the rights of all individuals equally, however we must create products not programs, as producing creates prosperity while programs consume it. Each of us has an obligation and a responsibility to be productive but sometimes that is difficult to achieve when government dictates otherwise.

    Too much planning creates the need for too many programs, followed by too many policies and too many regulations, but can our problems be remedied by artificially manipulating outcomes to an arbitrary and punitive conclusion?

    It is perhaps human nature to want to control but our founders recognized the freedom to own property created the incentive to produce and while some will produce more than others it is organic and natural to seek one’s own comfort level of success. This philosophy serves us well until we engage in manipulating outcomes that discourage the incentive to produce!

    Perhaps getting back a little closer to that sweet spot before central planning was employed would reacquaint us with more free market opportunities.

    Just maybe then we might realize Government Manipulation and Oversight (GMO’s) aren’t really that good for maintaining our prosperity or affordability!

    Is it possible a little dose of individual incentive from the past just might work wonders?

    Lynn J Edmunds

  2. When you lose your right to free speech and you are bounced off Pages for telling the truth and asking questions just what other rights matter?

    I’m sticking with people that stand by every aspect of the Constitution not just the parts they like to promote.

    I will never support any candidate that does not stand up and respect all of our constitutional rights and I will never support any groups that fail to to do the same.

    Honesty and transparency go along way into recruiting candidates.

  3. I put my faith in God.. he’s not a sellout!

    It is disgusting that someone would try to insult Angelo Napolitano who is a man that has been around forever fighting for Vermont and vermonters.

    This type of ignorance is inexcusable.

    More false accusations and more stupidity being exposed.

    I would never support anyone that is insulting to a man that has done so much in the state of Vermont.

  4. This is an idea coming none too soon. It will take a LOT of work to even *moderate* the direction VT has taken, let alone reverse it. But it HAS to be done.

  5. I agree that attempting to repeal Act 250 would energize the progressives with no real possibility of success. Better to focus on proposed amendments, because if they are passed, it’s over!

  6. We can’t talk with family and friends, because we trigger them.

    These triggers are purposely set by the propagandists such that we can’t come together. If we can’t have a conversation with the most liberal person in the room and come together in 5-15 minutes…..then we aren’t delivering our message in the proper fashion.

    If we can’t do this…then their framing of the conversation is successful. If we take their bait and use the terms they expect us to, they have successfully framed the debate yet again and guess what, we’ll all lose once again. Vermont is losing, make no mistake, and we don’t need to sell our souls. Kennedy democrats needn’t sell their souls.

    They have set the traps, framed the conversation, they’ve put out the bait. We should play a different game.

  7. I’m sure this was a group of very good people, would have loved to have been there. Respectfully, let me suggest there is not a lack of money or want o change from many in Vermont with regard to our current direction. Our state is filled and controlled by astro turf organizations, organizers and “press”.

    A clear cohesive plan that reaches across all walks and parties will bring in people and money.

    Affordability – School Funding – Drugs

    Can we come up with a plan to execute and bring all walks of people together? How can we avoid being framed by the very good propagandists? How can we control the conversation? How can we put those who have done nothing but spend tax money not only on their heals, but bumbling amongst themselves, clearly showing the public through their actions they are not interested in the people one smidgen?

    How can we do this all while avoiding the land mines placed into our society such that people are triggered by common sense terms? How can we avoid the triggering?

    Act 250 and more importantly Act 250 2.0 are serious problems. A platform of Repeal Act 250 as much as I love Dave and know things need serious change, will be the perfect foil for NOW Pssc crowd.

    It will be the largest fundraising platform ever created for VPIRG and VNRC…..who are the largest most connected lobbyists in the state. They will get MILLIONS from out of state owners and instate. There is a better way.

    Generals need not be in the public eye. We have many, many great men and women who went out and ran for office last term. Some classic well run campaigns, some not so, only one person got in from all that effort, the carnage was painful.

    We don’t need to do a recreation of Custer’s last stand. We cannot fall for their traps and take their bait again. This election could be the most fun, inclusive, conservative change, we could add balance to our state. We could have prosperity, peace and a great environment and we could all have fun doing it.

    If we fight, they win, it’s their plan, that’s what they want to frame us, yet again.

    Fun loving, peaceful, green conservatives…….our core, they won’t know how to counter. Truth will win. Vermont will heal.

  8. There is so much ignorance expressed by the people in this article that I don’t even know where to begin to try to correct all their misperceptions and misrepresentations. But I expect they wouldn’t want them corrected, since it would contradict their entrenched ideologies.

        • Dave
          If you think I am stumping for Phil… I have a bridge for sale you should buy…. What I am after is the truth and transparency folks are talking about..

    • Spoken like a true progressive with no idea what is really happening around her. I’m sure she doesn’t see any problem with Vermont being one of the top states in taxes per capita, the most expensive state for retirees, and one of the highest education costs per student with not a lot to show for it.
      Keep listening to Bernie Stephanie.

    • I just love it when liberals portray folks with a different viewpoint as ignorant. “Stephanie,” please share your infinite wisdom on Vermont and its struggles. I’m sure all of the hardworking, freedom loving Vermonters you just insulted are anxiously awaiting your arrogant, all knowing response.

  9. The state not a sinking ship, it a state that has fallen off the cliff due to the tax burden
    and unfunded liabilities that grows year after year…..

    The cliff is people leaving the state for more friendly living conditions, kids leaving to
    find a state with a career path…….something Vermont has loss due to the progressive
    decisions coming out of the Golden Dome.

    There are fools among us, there known as legislators !!

    Wake up People.

    • “There are fools among us, there known as legislators !!”

      Correct, they’re also the ones that are still holding out for VT to be turned around in their life time. It’s not happening. Hate to break it to you.

      • My My My, aren’t we the “Negative Nelly”. I take it you are satisfied with having you rights and personal freedoms taken away? I take you would love to give 60% of your income to the state? You probably want to see Vermont turned into a wasteland like Detroit, right?
        I think there are many thousands of Vermonters who do not share your lack of enthusiasm for saving this state.

        • ” I take it you are satisfied with having you rights and personal freedoms taken away?” -Nope

          “I take you would love to give 60% of your income to the state?” – Nope

          “You probably want to see Vermont turned into a wasteland like Detroit, right?”

          -Of course not. Although I realized it’s going to happen regardless. You’re in denial if you think otherwise.

          “I think there are many thousands of Vermonters who do not share your lack of enthusiasm for saving this state.” -Godspeed

          I saw the writing on the wall and jumped ship years ago and got out of Dodge. Extracted our entire family and moved to a solid Red state, best financial move I’ve made. Only skin I have in this game is a few family members still working to extract themselves from The “Green” state while they still can.

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