Cavendish Community Tapestry Dedicated to Late Town Manager

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A community art project in the tiny town of Cavendish was shown for the first time at this year's town meeting, but its longtime champion wasn't there to see it.

Former Cavendish Town Manager Richard Svec died just a few hours before the annual meeting.

Svec had retired last year after serving the Windsor County town for almost three decades. In that time, he was a cheerleader for big projects and for smaller ones.

 

The community tapestry currently hangs at the Cavendish Fletcher Community Library.

One of those smaller projects was a community tapestry.

About 15 years ago, fiber artist Wendy Regier came up with the idea for the town to weave a tapestry together. The plan was that she would haul her loom out to the town green and get the people of Cavendish to chip in and weave a few lines.

Read More: http://digital.vpr.net/post/cavendish-community-tapestry-dedicated-late-town-manager

Chipping Away at Connectivity

I have signed on to H.582 and met with the Secretary of Commerce this week to address Connectivity Issues. It is a hard problem. I also congratulated  Rep. Peter Welch, whom I also saw this week. He has made Broadband Connectivity one of his main priorities in Congress. We will keep on banging away on the issue.

Read the position of the Rural Economical Development Working Group of which I am a part:

"With the support of Vermont House Speaker Johnson, the Rural Economic Development Working Group hosted a Nov. 7 public hearing in Montpelier and received written and oral testimony from all corners of the state about what legislative priorities were on rural Vermont's mind.  The ideas and perspectives offered were wide ranging.  The purpose of having the hearing in advance of the session was to identify key priorities for the Rural Economic Development Working Group (REDWnG).  One of those key initiatives is to:

Extend high speed internet/broadband to every corner of Vermont.   While not universally true, rural Vermont does not have the population density to make it commercially viable for the for-profit telecommunications providers to invest in the infrastructure (fiber optic cables, switching technology, and backhaul services) to bring true high speed internet connectivity to every household and business in Vermont.  Some public funding is required to make it happen, and we propose bolstering the Connectivity Initiative to make that happen.    

This legislation builds off of other recent policy initiatives like the Communications Union districts and Rural Economic Development Infrastructure districts legislation which we supported last year.

The recently released 2017 Vermont Connectivity Division Annual Report estimates that more than 20K locations do not have even 4 Mbps down and 1 Mbps upload speeds or better, and the cost to provide service to those Vermonters will be approximately $33M.  To get to the federal standard of 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps upload speeds or better, 81K Vermonters access will need to be improved at a cost of approximately $230M.

H.582 proposes to raise the Vermont Universal Service Fee by one-half of one percent generating approximately 1.2M annually for the Connectivity Initiative.  These funds will enable municipalities to leverage additional private sector and federal investments.

As more and more services, healthcare, public safety and educational needs rely on access to the internet, Vermont's rural communities and residents are being left behind.  H.582 is a modest step in towards improving access."

 

Time to sign up for Health Insurance Nov. 1 - Dec. 15

Open Enrollment starts on November 1 and ends on December 15!  To sign up or make changes to your plan for 2018, click here.

Open Enrollment starts on November 1st and the 2018 Plan Comparison Tool is now available! To learn more about how this tool can help you compare 2018 costs and coverage, click here.

More than three-quarters of Vermont Health Connect members find that they qualify for subsidies to lower the cost of insurance, with the typical individual receiving $395 per month toward the insurance plan of their choice. For most uninsured Vermonters, this means it is cheaper to buy health insurance and gain health care than to pay the federal fee for being uninsured and still risk the immense costs that can come from an accident or unexpected illness.

Open Enrollment is only six weeks long this year, so we want to make sure that Vermonters have the information they need on Day 1. We have the Customer Support Center to help those who want to talk to someone on the phone. We have an Assister Program to help those who want to meet face-to-face with a trained professional in their community. And we have the Plan Comparison Tool for those who want to understand financial help and possible out-of-pockets costs from the comfort of their home or local library.

Starting November 1st, applicants can sign up in one of four ways: online, by phone, by paper, or with an in-person assister. For more information or to get started, visit http://VermontHealthConnect.gov or call 1-855-899-9600.

Read VTDigger article https://vtdigger.org/2017/10/31/shortened-insurance-enrollment-period-starts-wednesday/

 

VT RURAL CAUCUS INVITES TESTIMONY ON FUTURE OF RURAL ECONOMY

 The Vermont House of Representatives Rural Development Caucus will hold a Public Hearing, at the Vermont State House, from 5-7 pm on Tuesday Nov 7 to hear from municipal, business, education, and non-profit interests in rural Vermont about what the most pressing issues are for rural Vermont.
 
“Rural Vermont faces different pressures and economic challenges than the more urbanized areas of the state,” said Chip Conquest, State Representative from Newbury, VT, and co-chair of the Caucus. “We are looking for viable ideas to strengthen the economies and raise the standard of living in our rural communities.”
 
“As legislators we have an opportunity to shape policies that stabilize and grow the economies in more remote areas of the state,” said Laura Sibilia, State Representative from Dover, Vermont and also co-chair. “While we have our own experience and ideas, we know there is knowledge and insight along the back roads that will help us improve legislation and enact better policies.”
 
The hearing is being organized with support from Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson, the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development and the Vermont Council on Rural Development. Vermonters are invited to testify in person or through submitted testimony as to the most significant factors impacting Vermont’s rural economy.
 
About the Rural Development Caucus
The Rural Development Caucus, also known as the Rural Economic Development Working Group, is a nonpartisan group of Vermont State Representatives which ensures that the needs of rural Vermont are considered when public policy is contemplated, debated or enacted.
 
Vermonters who are unable to attend but want to submit testimony can send it via email to caucus member Representative Charlie Kimbell at ckimbell@leg.state.vt.us.

Back to Montpelier

We are returning to the Statehouse Wednesday to deal with Gov. Scott's veto of the budget, which contains no new taxes or fees. We will also be dealing with the governor's veto of the Marijuana Bill.

Here is an excellent commentary by Mitzi Johnson, Speaker of the House:
"...Under Scott’s last-minute demands, a home valued at $200,000 would, at most, bring savings to Vermont families of less than $22 each year, less than a tank of gas..."
https://vtdigger.org/2017/06/19/mitzi-johnson-right-vermonters/

The End of the Session

The Legislature ended the session passing a budget with no increase in taxes or fees. We still found the room in our finances to fund a $35 million bond that will build several hundred low- and middle-income housing units. We also created a number of economic development policies that, if successful, will help our small- and medium-size businesses grow and allow several more communities to take advantage of special tax districts if they meet certain criteria in development.

We were also able to reduce the average residential property tax. We believe that there will be health care savings statewide that will show up in next year’s school budgets.

Several of you have asked why I voted the way I did on the teacher negotiations and health care, a discussion that consumed the last month of the session.

The short answer is I followed the money. At first, I thought the governor's idea was a good one because how can one argue with an 80-20 split on health care costs with the teachers, which would return $26 million to taxpayers. I even co-sponsored the GOP Beck amendment when it came to the floor that was an endorsement of this idea.

However, as the month wore on and more facts came out, I realized Gov. Scott was only going to return one-third of the so-called $26 million to taxpayers. (In fact, it was only $13 million because it was spread out over two fiscal years… have to be careful of those great soundbites that are the basics of politics, I found: keep it short and simple and catchy).

Under Scott's demands, a home valued at $200,000 would bring Vermont families savings of less than $22 each year, less than a tank of gas. I don't believe that is worth the veto that will roll back the investments we made and throw our state into weeks of uncertainty.

 When it came time for a vote, I voted against the amendment I co-sponsored because the Democratic amendment would give all the money back to the taxpayers in the district. After going door to door in the campaign, all I heard about was LOCAL control and bringing the money back home for tax relief. Letting the teachers negotiate with the state, which takes it out of local control/negotiations, and taxpayers not getting all the money just seemed wrong for Weathersfield and Cavendish.

(Just as an aside and to dig a little deeper on the issue): The press and the governor continue to refer to the savings in "teachers'" health care. But to even approach the quantity of savings the governor thinks is possible, it must include ALL public school employees covered by the Vermont Education Health Initiative plan, from groundskeepers to superintendents. It is easier to talk about teachers, as their current premium splits and overall coverage are pretty equal statewide and close to what is proposed.

For other staff, however, it is very problematic. Some districts cover only the employee, but, because of low hourly wages, have a 97-3 split in premiums. Other districts cover the family but have a 60-40 split. Magically moving these disparate agreements to a standard as proposed without having to make big changes in salaries seems very challenging, and, in the case of moving employees from a 60-40 split to an 80-20 split or covering a family rather than just an employee could actually cost more. Regardless of one's stand on this, it is far more complicated than just "teachers' health care.”

So, I really did my due diligence for the taxpayers. And, by the way, I worked very hard on the Act 46 amendment and got provisions in the bill to give us a longer timeline that works and more flexibility in what we come up with without being penalized.

No one will disagree in either party that the education funding formula needs to be fixed. We have just added patches on patches to a complicated formula that is not working.

https://vtdigger.org/2017/05/21/margolis-how-to-win-by-losing/

 Please go to Legislative Action page for news on other bills.