Chesnut-Tangerman Responds; Cleveland Opts Out

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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.

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A Full House Monday Night at the Candidate Forum

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.

www.RobinForRep.com                https://clevelandforhouse.org/

 

You’re Kidding Me, Right? Rupert Revote TODAY

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SCHOOL MERGER REVOTE: RUPERT POLLS OPEN TODAY 10 AM to 7PM

Remember how I was afraid to be happy about the school merger vote passing in both Rupert and Pawlet? How I had this weird, lingering doubt that this contentious issue could possibly have been put to rest at last?

Funny story.

Turns out some Rupert residents petitioned for- and got- the right to revote the merger question.

So… right.

Maybe I just haven’t been paying attention, but this particular vote seems to me to be especially, almost troublingly, quiet– especially in contrast to the previous hubbubs. I have yet to see ANY publicizing of the vote today in any of the local media. I haven’t driven through Rupert lately, so I don’t know if there are exclamation-point-filled signs out arguing with each other again, but somehow I doubt it. Mum seems to be the word this time- on both sides.

To make it legal, of course, a few days ago they still had to hold the four-zillionth public informational meeting- also unpublicized as far as I could tell. Maybe you’re one of the people who could bear to go rehash the same arguments over yet again, who isn’t sick to death of the division, the bickering, and what has devolved into some pretty nasty name-calling. I wasn’t.

I love asking super-obvious questions so here goes: is there a single solitary soul left in either town who is still on the fence here? Are any minds being changed at this point? I don’t think so. Rather, I think this is more of an “Are you sure??” vote.

So, for better or for worse the moment is here— again— for Rupert residents to be heard. Please Rupert- go vote. Today. For crying out loud.

And stay tuned.

Pawlet Rupert Merger Approved

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The Pawlet Rupert School Merger was approved yesterday by a vote of 259 to 201 in Pawlet and a vote of 150 to 142 in Rupert… It needed to be approved in both towns in order to be viable, so Rupert’s slim margin of only six votes proves more than ever that every single vote really does count.

Are we allowed to feel relieved that this years-long decision may finally be resolved? I’m not sure yet. This argument has gone on so long, and had so many unexpected twists and turns it’s been like a soap opera that never ends… But nevertheless, tomorrow I’ll be giving thanks that our community may finally be able to move on.

Signs of a Town Divided

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In case you’ve been a hermit for the last few months, I’d like to let you know that our towns have a vote today. Simply put, the question is whether or not the voters of Pawlet and Rupert want to approve the school merger plan. The plan consolidates our school districts, does not designate any particular high school, and would keep us part of the BRSU (Bennington Rutland Supervisory Union.) Polls open at 10AM and close at 7PM. There will also be the opportunity to vote for members of the new merged school board.

If you harbor any doubt that our two towns are a bit -ah- conflicted about the school merger vote today, all you need to do is take a little sightseeing tour of the area. The signs are everywhere. Literally.

I have to give the “NO” signs points for better creativity and enthusiasm… you’ll notice many of the signs say “no” as many as six or eight times. 

The yes signs are out in abundance too, but most of them don’t even say “yes” on them… which I thought was a little weird.

And then there are the defaced signs. I ran across two prominent signs which had been spray painted with red cross-out symbols to forcibly transform them from “yes” to “no”…

See what I mean? Conflicted. I don’t know what the results of today’s vote will be, but can we all agree that this debate has gone on for far too long and been far too debilitating to the fabric of our community?

For my part, I now know that there are some folks in town who will never think I’m a “real” resident, for a variety of arbitrary reasons- I moved here, my whole family doesn’t live here, I don’t work in a local business- and I’m kind of sorry to know that. I liked my illusion better: that we all lived in one town and despite our differences, despite our debates, we could all agree on one thing: we are a community. And a damn good one at that.

So okay. I still love my town, even if every last inch of it might not love me back. I can live with that. No matter the results of today’s vote, there will still be kids in Pawlet, and Rupert too. They’ll still go to school, and we still care about them all.

School Merger Vote Nov. 21

Just when you thought it was safe to talk about something OTHER than the Pawlet/Rupert School Merger Plan- Nope!!!

The vote on the proposed merger will take place on Tuesday, November 21st – polls will be open from 10 AM to 7 PM. Please note that the poll times are different than usual. 

Not going to be in town on November 21st? ABSENTEE BALLOTS ARE IN people! Go get yours at the Pawlet Town Hall.

As you can see from the sample ballot above, it’s a big, long description to vote on one essential question: whether or not the merger will proceed. In this incarnation of the merger plan, no high schools are designated. Also being chosen are FOUR representatives from Pawlet to be directors of this new, potential, merged school board.

(Please note this is a correction- before I mistakenly said it was three representatives from Pawlet.)

Confused? Have questions? Just can’t get enough of talking about the proposed merger? Come to the informational meeting Tuesday November 14th at 7PM, Mettawee Community School.

Merger Proposal Reconfigured

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When last I posted about the ongoing school merger debate, it was nearly a year ago, but of course the debate, and the merger process, has continued.

To sum up: Last November in a non-binding referendum, both Pawlet and Rupert voted in favor of keeping designated schools in New York for grades 7-12. As a result, Wells, the third town of the proposed merger whose representatives favored school choice, went elsewhere to find merger buddies. Pawlet and Rupert then formed a new merger committee, and two weeks ago some members of that new committee made a merger proposal to the Vermont Board of Education, (you can watch the video below)

, our proposal comes up at 4:09) The state turned this proposal down, largely on the basis that they found the new proposal did not provide “equity,” a founding principle of Act 46, which essentially means that all children are to be given reasonable access to equivalent school programs.

Which brings us to last night’s meeting. It was standing room only in the Mettawee Community School library as the merger committee met and exchanged views on what had happened at the state and debated how to move forward. So what happened?

Here is the upshot: the committee voted four to three in favor of resubmitting the merger proposal with changes that remove designation from the plan.

In the absence of designated schools, the new merger of Pawlet and Rupert that is being proposed would by default entail school choice, with every student able to use up to the Vermont union state average annual tuition (currently $15,480).

A new merged school board could attempt to return to designation at some later date, but any attempt to designate the Granville and Salem schools in New York would be contingent on two things: an approval from town voters, and the state of Vermont changing the existing law.

If you’ve got all that then here’s what happens next: (Note- Update!! Some dates changed from the original posting )

October 18th- members of the merger committee will present this new plan to the Vermont Board of Education

November 14th- tentative date, public forum/informational meeting, time & location TBA. Also an informational mailing is planned.

November 21st- if the state approves the new merger proposal, this is the tentative date for Pawlet and Rupert residents to vote on the proposed merger.

That’s really what you need to know. A video of the merger meeting was made last night, so if someone sends me the link I will post it here.

A few snapshots from the evening:

“The democratic process was completely perverted… I’m coming out of this quite sad.”

—John Malcolm, committee member, (Referring to the state rejection of the previous plan)

 

“I just want folks to understand that if we don’t have a successful merger, we all lose.”

—Scott McChesney, committee member, (Pointing out that, if either town were to vote the new proposed merger down, both towns would lose associated tax incentives, and could end up designated to a Vermont school such as Poultney, not have the ability to attend Granville or Salem, and still have to pay the Vermont state average.)

 

“I support getting the merger done. If there’s still interest in designation, the new board could do it… (but) you’d have to deal with 827 (the existing law) too.”

—Jackie Wilson, BRSU Superintendant

 

“I don’t think the voters support it… (but) I’m for democracy. People are free to lobby… they have a right to do it.”

—Bill Meyer, committee member

 

“I would vote for a merger, and let the townspeople decide… talking about democracy, then we’re being democratic.”

—Gene Ceglowski, committee member

 

We just have to move forward… our charge is to make sure people understand the options.”

—Diane Mach, committee member

 

(Under the new merger proposal) we can have Granville and Salem and all these schools.” 

—Michael Krauss, resident

 

(This merger) could be possibly the only way you get to choose Granville.”

—Heather Lund, resident

 

I feel strongly that we need to tone down the rhetoric… This town is going to remain divided if people don’t begin to talk civilly to each other.”

Arlene Bentley, resident

 

It is not political, it is constitutional… Everyone in the state gets the state average tuition except our two towns.

—Jim Cole, resident

 

“I think perhaps the hostility would come down if we had more facts.”

—Christina Cosgrove, resident

 

It would be so helpful to know the net tax impact (of the proposed merger).”

—David Nichols, resident

 

“It’s got to be put out to the public as simple as possible.”

—Regina Mason, resident. (on the confusing nature of past informational materials)