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Monday night at the Pawlet firehouse there was an interesting development in the race for district representative. In an open forum, intended to showcase the different viewpoints of the men running to represent our lovely corner of Vermont: one of the two candidates failed to show up.
Not that anyone was particularly surprised by this fact. Ed Cleveland, who is running in hopes of unseating third term incumbent Robin Chesnut-Tangerman, had early on declined to participate in the forum.
Nevertheless, more than one voter— both those who know Cleveland personally, as well as others who have never met him— stood up not so much to ask a question, as to express disappointment and frustration that Cleveland would not appear to discuss his views, and explain how they might differ from the incumbent’s. In an unusual move, Cleveland seems to be participating in no public events in support of his candidacy.
Instead of the hoped-for dialogue, Chesnut-Tangerman took the opportunity to introduce himself as a candidate he hopes has been “building a reputation for being serious, consistent, and open-minded,” and took questions from the audience.
Many questions centered on the controversial proposed “carbon tax,” which aims to encourage alternate, sustainable energy sources by increasing gas taxes a total of 35 cents per gallon over the next eight years.
“The question is not ‘Are we going to have a carbon tax?'” Chesnut-Tangerman said, “the question is, ‘What are we going to do about climate change?’ A carbon tax is just one tool.” he went on to point out that he does not support Vermont “going it alone” with a carbon tax, but only if it were implemented throughout the New England region in a coordinated effort.
He said that many ways to mitigate the negative effects of such a tax are being explored, such as the exclusion of off-road diesel used by farming equipment, and the purchase of electric school buses with Vermont’s share of money from the Volkswagen settlement. Chesnut-Tangerman added that although he supports the carbon tax in theory, it is unlikely to move forward if Governor Scott is reelected.
Also covered was a proposed plan to change the manner in which public education receives funding: deriving from a percentage of resident income rather than, as it does now, from property taxes. Property taxes are not a reliable indicator of ability to pay, Chesnut-Tangerman explained, stating that over 70 percent of Vermont residents receive income sensitivity adjustments to their property tax bills.
“Why not just tax income?” Chesnut-Tangerman said, indicating that this would result in greater fairness and “equity in our tax payments.”
Other issues covered were the fact that Chesnut-Tangerman does not accept any PAC or corporate campaign donations, the lack of adequate funding for mental health facilities and continuing education, and that, although he disagrees with Governor Scott on many issues, he commended the governor for changing his position on gun control.
“I see that as political courage,” Chesnut-Tangerman said.
Asked to name the top ideas he’d focus on if reelected, Chesnut-Tangerman cited conductivity (broad band expansion), a livable minimum wage, and health care.