Debate worth having
It is unfortunate that the controversy between Montpelier City Manager William Fraser, Mayor John Hollar and Planning and Community Development Director Gwendolyn Hallsmith, was the focal point of a recent Times Argus story. While important to the community that their elected and appointed leaders cooperate for the betterment of Montpelier, the real story, and one with far greater potential for shaping a better future for Vermont, is the effort to create a public dialogue about whether Vermont should establish a state bank, similar to what North Dakota has had for 94 years.
A state bank, according to Sen. Anthony Pollina, “would help us with our public finance needs and strengthen local economic development.” A public bank would keep in Vermont more than $70 million now paid by the state in debt service to large out-of-state banks. Add the debt service of municipalities, like Montpelier, and well over $100 million would likely be available for low-cost student loans, homeowner mortgages, entrepreneurs to start or expand their businesses, and lower-cost financing for Vermont towns and municipalities. Vermont taxpayers would also benefit from both the profits the bank makes and the services the bank offers. It sounds like everyone would win but Wall Street.
Considering the potential benefits of a Vermont public bank, both to Montpelier and to the entire state, I think it is short-sighted that the city’s planning and community development director has to promote a public discussion about it on her own time. It should be part of her job description.
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