Election process needs
to be reformed
Editor of the Reformer:
Elections are public affairs, yet our election process has been privatized, Private organizations and corporations assert an ill-founded claim to present the status party candidates, and discriminate against any others, despite the signatures that validate those others for presence on the ballot. Our Vermont Constitution states in articles 6-8 that all citizens have a right to be elected into office, elections ought to be free of corruption, that government should be for the benefit of all people and not be for the benefit of a subset of the people, that people have a right to alter their government. What happens these days is far from what our Constitution describes.
In the next two months the Senate committee of Governmental affairs will be focusing on election reform. Please join me in calling for a Level Playing Field Bill. If put into practice this bill would counteract money in politics and benefit the process enormously. Our Level Playing Field Bill calls for the following mandates:
Polls must include all balloted candidates. No private organization can hold debates for public office without inviting all balloted candidates. Eight debates over four months must be held that are open to all candidates. These debates shall be conducted in public spaces, and the questions must be framed by the public. These debates must take precedence to other election functions, and should the candidates fail to appear at more than three, their balloted status will be removed. This last element is important to ensure that the status candidates do not ignore these debates or render them insignificant. Status candidates must subject their platforms to all their challengers’ proposed platforms in a rigorous and thorough manner. Today in the gubernatorial process they do so at merely one token appearance, which perpetuates corruption. It is this point that the lawmakers will squirm about the most. Provisions will be made to accommodate candidate who cannot be physically present to provide for full participation, such as remote access. Lastly, the candidate profile publication distributed by the Secretary of State needs to be available at the very beginning of the election season, and not a week before the actual event. This profile is currently published after absentee ballots have begun as another method of maintaining status quo elections, and supporting corruption.
I have run in gubernatorial politics for two cycles. In the last cycle I believe I received the support of some 5,800 people. I have met numerous people subsequently who never heard of me who would have supported my platform. All I am describing is a process of fair elections that do not discriminate for or against any legitimately balloted candidate. When I collect signatures to get on the ballot peoples’ prevailing comments are in support of my capacity to be present and speak on behalf of my proposed reforms.
When we enact meaningful reform in the Level Playing Field bill, together we will take a healthy step towards positive change.
Putney, March 18
Towns vs. wind developers: Cause vs. effect
Editor of the Reformer:
Jon Mack’s timely description (Reformer, Feb. 16/17) of dealing with Vermont law and the Public Service Board regarding cell tower placement in Newfane is clear and perceptive. It is not only descriptive; it gets at basic principles and issues. Everything in his account also applies to a town asserting its interests relative to any construction project within the jurisdiction of the PSB, including electric power generation. There are technical differences and a huge difference in scale and impact between a cell tower and 10 or 15 churning wind turbines 500 feet tall, but the position of the town and its citizens relative to the project developer and the PSB is the same. If it chooses to challenge them, the "host" town is at great legal and financial disadvantage.
In evaluating benefit to the state as a whole relative to state utility policies, the PSB is only required to give "due consideration" to issues that are brought up as it decides on a developer’s proposal. It may find, as in Newfane, that there is an adverse, but not "unduly adverse" effect of a project. Town governments, and rarely individuals, can be participants in a case, but in fact have little effective influence as described in Jon Mack’s article. Working against teams of specialized professionals representing the big money of wind power development, a town can assert its interests only through great expenditure of time and effort by town officers and other volunteers plus thousands of dollars for legal assistance.
Commercial wind power projects present many negative impacts that are not adequately addressed by the PSB process. Vermont needs a time-out to evaluate positive and negative aspects of the wind power developments that already exist and to bring wind power under the jurisdiction of Act 250. This would provide for local and regional planning participation as now exists for other industrial developments with extensive land use and social impacts.
Bills for this purpose are coming up in the senate and legislature. Residents of every town on the VELCO power transmission corridor in Windham County need to pay particular attention and support these legislative efforts. Proximity to VELCO lines is essential for siting wind power projects. The Coolidge Connector runs through the Windham/Grafton site and continues south through six towns into Vernon. It comes near to Putney and Marlboro. Any accessible ridge close enough to this line or to the East-West Connector that arcs over from Arlington to Dummerston, could be a target of wind power developers. We don’t know, because these projects are planned quietly, over months or years, and there are no guidelines or rules determining where they can go. A potential wind power site does not necessarily have to be very large acreage, or at particularly high elevations, or away from habitations. The first a community may know about it is when the developer applies to the PSB, and the town has 30 days to make its initial response.
Marlboro, March 6
How do they sleep at night?
Editor of the Reformer:
I would like to know how a multi-millionaire and his wealthy cronies can buy up many, many good profit making companies in the United States of America, fire all the workers, hundreds of them, pack up all the machinery, ship them overseas, selling them, pocketing the money and banking the money overseas in foreign banks so not to pay taxes in this country. How do they sleep at night ....
P.S. They should be held for treason.
Westminster, March 22