Most of us are thinking ahead to gardens, lawns, and spring and summer projects. It’s like that every winter, but this winter felt more acute with the pandemic outside the door, adding to the chill in the air.
The list of things we have not been thinking about is as long as the month of March feels. Among them, most of us probably have not been pondering what Vermont is going to look like in the future.
But we should be.
The same way there are inalienable rights — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — there are tenets that we accept (perhaps subconsciously) by being Vermont residents. We assume everything is “working” as it should. As the adage goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Except that like everything else in our lives — our homes, our vehicles, our health, our finances — if we do not check on them and take preventive measures to ensure their place in our lives, they fail. And when we are not prepared, those failures can feel catastrophic.
We must make sure everything is working to our satisfaction, and that we heed the warnings of trouble (and not just turn up the radio so we don’t have to listen to that annoying squeal).
As a state, we have to do the same thing. Any administration is going to push Vermont in a certain direction, and the lawmakers are going to have their own direction into which to put shoulders. Lobbyists and special interests are jockeying for their place on the compass. Vermonters, as a whole, usually do not get a chance to offer a course correction until Election Day.
Currently, Vermonters have a rare exception to have a voice. And The Times Argus and Rutland Herald are proud to be an integral part in this opportunity.
As Editor Steven Pappas notes in his commentary on the cover of Perspective, this is a chance for a dialogue — a conversation with Vermonters. It is supposed to be a nonpartisan exercise, but that likely will be impossible given the topics being put before citizens in a series of 10 propositions compiled by the Vermont Council on Rural Development.
As VCRD Executive Director Paul Costello notes in his commentary on the preceding page, “It’s time to look at how the challenges we face and the opportunities ahead overlap and where our collective action can have the most profound impact going forward.”
We share this opportunity with Greater Northshire Access Television, or GNAT-TV, which will produce hour-long shows going deep into these topics, these issues, and tease out exactly why each proposition is important enough to put before Vermonters. The commitment VCRD, these papers and GNAT-TV is making will last 11 weeks, culminating in a statewide summit meeting to review feedback and point Vermont in a new direction.
Over these 11 weeks, we will devote one page in Perspective just to Ideas for the Future of Vermont that will serve a dual purpose: introduce you to another proposition; and show you what Vermonters think about a previous proposition. The back-and-forth is — and should be — a dialogue. And Costello is the first to tell you that the conversation does not stop there: This is just the beginning of a statewide collective of thought, with every voice that wants to be heard having the opportunity to be heard.
It is an act toward mindfulness. It is a Socratic-like chance to point to what works, what’s wrong, where we are too short-sighted, where we need to grow, where we need to tighten. Mostly, it is to affirm where Vermont needs to focus, as told to us by our neighbors and residents.
This is not an effort to be taken lightly. And the partners presenting this initiative will all tell you that to be successful it relies on feedback.
So as you are working on the garden or the lawn, pruning the fruit trees or out for a walk in the coming weeks, think about what Vermont means to you. And then be prepared to share — either on these pages or in the Future of Vermont survey — your voice in the chorus of Vermonters who want change, and to be agents of change for a better tomorrow.
We refuse to squander an opportunity such as this to engage a broad audience, and our partners agree that the more residents we engage, the better and broader the input we receive toward making decisions.
We implore you to join us in this journey. Be our partner in making sure we are prepared, and taking the right actions that keep Vermont just the way we want it to be.
And stay tuned.