Editorial

Editorial

VOTER BEWARE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

This has not been a pleasant election year.  At the national level, the discourse, if you can call it that, veers between astounding and revolting.

However, we’re happy to say that, locally the conversation has been largely respectful — even in the hard fought race between Mark Higley and Katherine Sims.

At a public debate in Westfield, one observer walking out at the end of the night said, “You were right, it was civil.”

And candidates in Vermont are generally wise to take the high road.  There have been campaigns, even here of course, that were highly negative.  Most didn’t fare too well, and we sincerely hope that holds true this year.

We are concerned, however, about two things:  The presence of super pac money and the increasing use of social media for campaigning.

Skillful use of social media has been credited with boosting several national campaigns, and as a fund-raising tool, we certainly can see its value.  But as a campaign tool, it’s problematic for both voters and candidates.

Prior to social media, candidates were pretty much dependent on personal appearances and traditional media, in the form of ads and letters to the editor, as well as interviews, or debates, as a means to get their message out.

One of the virtues of that system, for the voter at least, was that both ads and letters are generally vetted for truth.

This newspaper, as do most, tries to find out if letter writers are legitimate and if the content stated as fact is true.  Opinion, interpretation of a candidate’s record, actions, or speech is, of course, up to the voter.  But traditional media does try to present voters with true information so they can make an informed decision.

On social media a person can say just about anything about anyone.  There’s no fact filter.

Be careful this year.  Don’t rely on Facebook when choosing a candidate.  Check out the truth of a candidate’s position before you vote.  Send an e-mail if you have a question, or make a phone call.

We have no doubt that a candidate would be happy to clarify a position rather than have his or her constituents, or potential constituents, voting with false information.

Now, for what it’s worth, we offer our limited endorsements.

The Chronicle’s policy when it comes to endorsements and editorials is that the editorial staff must be in agreement.  Contrary to what might be perception, this crew is hardly in ideological lockstep — on anything, not just political candidates.  Often, if there are six opinions to be had, between us we might hold them all.

However, we are unanimous on the following:

We support Bobby Starr and John Rodgers for state Senate in the Essex-Orleans district.  Marcia Horne has exhibited a woeful lack of information about the issues and is patently unqualified to represent anyone in the Senate or anywhere else.  Eric Collins, from Richford, we know little about.  He was invited to a public debate, accepted, but canceled without explanation four days before the event.  We invited him to submit an announcement of his candidacy for free.  He did, but then withdrew it.

Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Starr have worked hard and effectively for the Northeast Kingdom.  They both understand and love the area, both come from agricultural backgrounds, both have operated small businesses, and both have achieved positions where they do give the Northeast Kingdom a voice in the Legislature, which very much matters.

In the Orleans Caledonia House race, we support Sam Young and Vicki Strong.  They have worked hard, are congenial to, and respectful of, each other, and they have brought a Northeast Kingdom perspective to the Legislature.  Mr. Young brings not only an agricultural background, but also needed expertise in technology.  One of the things he has worked hard on is getting Internet and cell services to the Kingdom.

The people in the Orleans-2 House race are fortunate.  They’ve got four good candidates to choose from:  Republican incumbents Mike Marcotte and Gary Viens, and Democratic challengers Ron Holland and Judith Jackson.  They don’t differ much in their positions, just in how they might go about effecting them, or in their priorities.

Both Mr. Higley and Ms. Sims are also capable candidates.

Another thing this eclectic staff agrees on is that, in Orleans County, at least, party labels can be misleading, or at least not particularly meaningful.  For instance, Marcia Horne’s attempts to paint Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Starr, both Democrats, as tax and spend liberals who toe the party line was patently ridiculous.  If anything, the Shumlin Administration would have preferred to see them both take extended winter vacations in South America to shut them up about all the things they didn’t agree with on more liberal Democrats’ agenda, such as commercial wind, Act 46, stricter gun laws….

For the most part, the legislators currently representing us are a moderate bunch — meaning if they call themselves Republican they’re moderate Republicans, and if they call themselves Democrats, they’re moderate Democrats.  The result being that there often isn’t an awful lot of difference between them.  Many could change the R or D beside their name tomorrow, and no one would notice.

Most of the candidates this year have the Northeast Kingdom’s interests at heart, not those of a political party.

Above all, vote.  It looks like there will be some very close races next week, and your vote matters.  — T.S.

 

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Does school district consolidation save money?

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copyright the Chronicle August 3, 2016

by Tena Starr

Last month, voters in the Orleans Central Supervisory Union (OCSU) rejected a plan to consolidate into a single big school district. When they did, they also threw away the carrots that went with early consolidation, a surprising move for taxpayers who have been complaining about the increasing cost of education, and the corresponding hikes in property taxes. Only Barton voted in favor of the consolidation plan.

Act 46, the law that urges districts to consolidate, was initially touted as a measure to provide the property tax relief that people were clamoring for. It has since been somewhat recast as a way to improve, or at least equalize, educational opportunities.

But does consolidation do either one? It turns out that question has been the subject of considerable research, by scholars, journalists, and educators. And the optimistic answer, the one that puts consolidation in the best light possible, is maybe.

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Opinion: Well, maybe it can happen here

 

copyright the Chronicle March 23, 2016

by Chris Braithwaite

If you’ve been as gob smacked as I have by The Donald phenomenon, I have a recommendation: Find a copy of It Can’t Happen Here and give it a read.

It’s the most relevant commentary I’ve encountered on this crazy election year. Surprisingly, it is set in Vermont. More surprisingly, the novel will celebrate its eighty-first birthday in October.

Sinclair Lewis holed up in his second home in Barnard, Vermont, in May of 1935 and in four months wrote and revised his cautionary tale about the coming of fascism to America.

The book is set in 1936 when, in reality, the incumbent president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, would claim the Democratic nomination and go on to win his second of four terms. But that’s not how things work out in Lewis’ version.

In both worlds, the country is still deep in the great Depression and FDR’s controversial new policies have yet to make much of a dent. There are other political models to choose from, and a substantial number of Americans see some promise in Germany and Italy, where Hitler and Mussolini have replaced the uncertainties of democracy with something more robust.

Thus, in the novel’s opening scene, retired General Herbert Y. Edgeways tells his audience on Ladies’ Night at the Fort Beulah Rotary Club that “I don’t altogether admire everything Germany and Italy have done, but you’ve got to hand it to ’em, they’ve been honest enough and realistic enough to say to the other nations, ‘Just tend to your own business, will you? We’ve got strength and will, and for whomever has those divine qualities it’s not only a right, it’s a duty, to use ’em!’”

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Editorial: Energy projects have a real and significant impact

copyright the Chronicle October 15, 2014

by Tena Starr


Vermont’s siting process for renewable energy projects so lacks planning that it may have the unintended effect of turning people off renewable energy, despite the fact that they support it in theory.

To date, there’s been this: The Nelson family has said that the noise from the Lowell wind towers has made them sick. In Sheffield, the Therriens say the noise from the wind turbines has made them sick and irreparably altered their lives.

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Editorial: Thanks, Jim

Photo by Joseph Gresser, taken at Catamount Arts in St. Johnsbury, September 9, 2006.

Photo by Joseph Gresser, taken at Catamount Arts in St. Johnsbury, September 9, 2006.

copyright the Chronicle August 20, 2014

Jim Jeffords died Tuesday at age 80 after a lifetime of public service. He was a Republican until the party moved away from his core Vermont values. In 2001 he became an Independent. His decision shifted the power in the U.S. Senate to Democrats when much of the Republican Party had veered off into extremism.

Vermonters who appreciated his decision put bumper stickers on their cars: “Thanks, Jim.”

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Editorial: It’s the Chronicle’s fortieth birthday — thanks everyone!

A solid reminder of how we used to operate — an old manual typewriter — sits in a corner of the Chronicle office.  The hat belonged to Anna Baker, the artist responsible for the Chronicle cows, and on the wall behind it is a copy of the original flyer announcing the start of a new newspaper, the Chronicle.  Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

A solid reminder of how we used to operate — an old manual typewriter — sits in a corner of the Chronicle office. The hat belonged to Anna Baker, the artist responsible for the Chronicle cows, and on the wall behind it is a copy of the original flyer announcing the start of a new newspaper, the Chronicle. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle March 26, 2014

This week, March 28, is the Chronicle’s fortieth birthday.  Chris and Ellen Braithwaite produced that first edition on typewriters in an Albany farmhouse.  It had stories about Orleans Village winning a lawsuit, cuts to the Lake Region Union High School budget, an obituary, a review of a gardening book written by former West Glover resident Carey Scher — in other words, pretty much the same sort of things we’re still writing about all these years later.

That first paper was by no means fancy.  It was a mere eight pages, put out by relative newcomers to the area on antiquated equipment amidst small children, a mongrel dog, and, according to its first reporter, Colin Nickerson, monstrous spiders that the Braithwaites refused to kill on the grounds that they were natural insecticide.

But some people bought that very first Chronicle — and much to our surprise, some of them have continued to buy it every single week for the past 40 years.

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Editorial: Fight tar sands oil — for the right reasons

copyright the Chronicle February 26, 2014

Next week at Town Meeting four Orleans County towns will vote on a resolution that basically says they don’t want tar sands oil to be shipped through the Portland Pipeline’s Northeast Kingdom oil lines.  They are Albany, Glover, Westmore, and Charleston.

Unfortunately, none of those towns are host to the pipeline and would not be directly affected by any such plan.

For years now, Vermont environmentalists have warned about the possibility of the flow of the lines being reversed and Canadian tar sands oil being shipped south and west through them from Alberta to Maine.  For two years, 350 Vermont has attempted to show opposition by persuading towns to adopt resolutions at Town Meeting.

Although their efforts were a bit more organized this year, they still seem to be inept at best.  One of the towns that would be most severely affected by any oil spill is Barton, yet that town will not be voting this year on a tar sands resolution.

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Opinion: A post-Valentine’s Day message on love and justice

copyright the Chronicle February 19, 2014

by Allen Gilbert

This year’s Valentine’s Day had a message that I hope will raise the day’s usual associations with flowers and chocolate to one of fairness and equality.  I never thought the holiday might be seen that way.  But it’s so obvious — the day is about couples and love.  And as a country, we’re finally developing a broad acceptance that means all couples.

The march to marriage equality has strong, vibrant roots in our state.  Twenty years ago, some courageous, committed Vermonters looked at the injustice of unequal marriage rights and decided that had to change.

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Editorial: Newport City Council missed the boat

The Newport City Council missed the boat last week when approached about the possibility of putting a tar sands resolution on the agenda for the annual City Meeting in March.  The council could have welcomed city residents who want to talk about an important local issue.  Instead they snubbed them.

The council told residents and an environmental organizer who wants to put a question about tar sands on the ballot that they might accept a petition from 5 percent of the city’s voters and put it on the ballot.  Or they might not.

Traditionally, the city council has turned down items that are not strictly city business, aldermen told the voters.

In this discussion, they told voters and a representative of the Sierra Club that they should not put anything “politicized” on the ballot.

Isn’t the whole idea of Town Meeting Day about local politics?  How strange for the city’s leading political figures to say they want to avoid politics at their city meeting.

Beyond that, just whose city is Newport anyway?  If 5 percent of city voters want to talk about something, what harm is that going to do?

The city council seems to be saying that tar sands is not a local issue.

City Manager John Ward called the Sierra Club, “just one more lobbying group coming here to tell us how to live.”

But tar sands is definitely a local issue.  The Portland Pipeline goes through Newport Center, which borders the city.  The pipeline goes through a number of towns further south where the rivers drain into Lake Memphremagog.

Does the council believe that an oil spill into rivers and streams leading to Lake Memphremagog would not harm the city’s economy, not to mention the environment?  If there were a spill, we wouldn’t be eating bass, walleye, trout or perch for years to come.

Newport City’s annual meeting is typically a brief, perfunctory affair where almost no one comes and almost nothing is discussed.  The city’s business is done by paper ballot.

Certainly this works well in terms of getting a good number of people to vote on municipal and school budgets and elections.  It’s more convenient for working people to choose their voting time.

But the lack of discussion is unfortunate, and here is an opportunity to allow city residents to have a debate about an issue that could affect the city drastically.  What is the problem with allowing that discussion and even a vote on a resolution?

There is such a thing as being too provincial.  The Northeast Kingdom sometimes has that reputation, and it’s time for that to change.

The city council could have taken a step to welcome discussion on an important regional topic, but instead they mostly closed the door on it.  Why?  Tradition?  Maybe it’s time for a new tradition. — B.M.D.

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