Here are our thoughts on a few subjects in the news this week:
Third time should be a charm.
After hammering out most of their differences, and yielding to most — if not all — of the concerns raised by the public, the Barre City Council has put forth a third budget for voter consideration. The politics, antics and drama between the last vote, which failed by 50 votes, and the one on June 5 has been present but less subdued. The hard work had to be done, and it appears that with this $9.39 million proposal, city leaders have reached a consensus. Now, they hope voters will, too.
There are some people in the community who will never be satisfied until the spending levels are commensurate with what they saw years ago. But that is unrealistic, and this budget — with all of its nips and tucks — keeps the city running another year.
Because if it fails again, the voters are going to have to be a little more specific in what message they are trying to send. At this point, the City Council, mayor and department heads have answered the voters’ call.
Time for a budget. And don’t forget to vote. It was so close last time, it could go either way on Tuesday.
The region’s mutual aid system was put to the test on Tuesday when firefighters found themselves battling three blazes at once across the Granite City. The bottom line is simple: the system worked. No doubt, the training and preparedness our full-time, part-time and volunteer firefighters go through paid off this week. In the chaos of crisis, procedures were followed, jobs were done, and homes and lives were spared. Nicely done. That was a job done very well.
Likewise, Sara Fordham, the Barre fifth-grader, deserves kudos for her quick thinking that led to her family and fellow tenants quickly escaping from a fire in their Elm Street apartment building. Fordham, all of 10, showed courage and common sense in waking her family at 3 a.m. when she sensed trouble. And her quick action not only likely saved lives, it allowed firefighters to quickly knock down the blaze and minimize the damage.
Sara is undoubtedly basking in the glow of her heroics. And she should. Barre is lucky to have such a young hero.
The state got an earful from Berlin residents this week about where to locate the new state hospital facility. And we hope the state is listening. Residents are correct in arguing the facility should be on the Central Vermont Medical Center campus rather than around the corner from the school. While the mental health patients likely would never have any interaction with the children, why tempt fate. Former state Rep. Pat McDonald fell short of admonishing the non-CVMC choice. She insisted there was no better, more practical location than the hospital. The services anyone might need already are there. Her sentiments were echoed by resident after resident.
Their case only makes sense.
An article on today’s front page once again redefines the line between church and state. A superior court judge in St. Albans ruled that prayer is no longer allowed during town meeting proceedings. This week, Judge Martin Maley found that the town of Franklin’s longtime “practice of including a prayer at its town meetings” violates the state constitution. He also issued an injunction prohibiting the town from future prayers at town meeting.
The case came about when a Franklin resident who came to vote at town meeting found the prayer, given moments after the meeting was gaveled in, to be offensive. She argued her right was being violated because the public meeting was not a time of worship. The Vermont ACLU jumped all over the case, and assembled a team of lawyers to work with the plaintiff, Marilyn Hackett. Her lawsuit against the town again brings that debate of Vermont tradition and the First Amendment into a messy mix that invariably will have implications next March. And plenty of discussion in the meantime.
It is the right decision. Many towns have done away with invocations instead opting to read a poem or have a short essay read. But it does reopen the door for broader battles over when prayer can be conducted, and what is considered a worship service. Heaven knows many sports teams pray before games, and there are other very public examples, including graduations and other celebrations.
Franklin won’t pray at town meeting in 2013. But Hackett’s victory may be the floodgate that opened for a lot of other First Amendment battles in the coming months.
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