Another year is just about behind us. If you prefer your glass half-empty: The Affordable Care Act gave us a lot to attack and make fun of; we found out Big Brother really was watching, and it was us; the gun control debate further divided the nation; Boston suffered at the hands of domestic terrorists; the climate kept changing; Congress had its most unproductive year in history; and while the economy made certain strides, many Americans continue to struggle.
Among you glass-half-fullers: The Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and cleared the way for same-sex marriages and federal protections including Social Security and health insurance; we did not invade Syria; Pope Francis made a huge splash across the globe; a royal baby was added to the British hierarchy; the Red Sox won the World Series; and Batkid saved the day.
In the last week, in these pages and across other media and the Internet, we have looked back at the local news stories — good and bad — and newsmakers that have shaped the news. Much of the news, it seems, has been mired in emotion or rhetoric. Going into 2014, political gridlock and spitballing continue to provide a grim, discouraging forecast.
Reflecting on 2013, we look upon this dialogue as healthy, constructive and hopeful. It demonstrates that, in tough times, our communities are showing civic-mindedness and sound decision-making. It shows Vermonters are not just thinking; they are acting.
We are making a difference in our own ways. So moving forward toward resolving some of the aforementioned challenges, plus many others we’ve not conceived of today, here are some resolutions toward making our Vermont communities stronger.
Buy local. The drumbeat from merchants and local chambers of commerce this holiday season was to put support behind area businesses when you were going to buy for family and friends. We say keep that momentum going strong all year. Stop by those mom and pop businesses that might be struggling as the economy suffers through these fits and starts out of a recession. In summer, buy local produce at farmers markets and co-ops. The ripple effect of pumping money into our neighbors’ pockets is an investment in community and our long-term sustainability.
Volunteer. There are scores of charities, causes and groups that need support, whether it is visiting senior citizens, helping out at the hospital, working at the soup kitchen, or ushering at the local performing arts center. Your help gives back to the community and eases a burden — financial or due to understaffing. It makes these groups, organizations and nonprofits more successful and effective. If you can’t give in person, make a donation or another charitable gift, including equipment or supplies.
Educate yourself. Read your local newspaper and keep abreast of what’s going on in your town. Be mindful of the issues being discussed by your community leaders. Don’t allow yourself to be surprised by rogue issues either at town meeting or beforehand. An engaged community is a healthy, thoughtful community.
Run for office. These are tough times and require hard decisions. All points of view need to be represented, whether it’s on the planning commission or city council, in the Legislature, or at the governor’s office. Raise the level of debate by making important positions known, and then vote to make the best decisions affecting our lives, wallets and neighborhoods.
Vote. Whenever the constitutional right is put before you, do it. Your decision matters no matter how insignificant it seems. Not to do so is negligent and irresponsible. So make your vote count, whether it’s taking up the school budget, deciding who sits in elected positions, including dog catcher, or it is deciding bond issues or tax rates.
Taking control of our future is the best way to carve out the best tomorrows in our towns. By making our resolutions for 2014 and beyond the boldest steps possible toward civic-mindedness, we all succeed in filling that glass to the very top.
Happy New Year.
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