National Elected Officials

Flory’s Plaza Upgrade called a Route 4 priority~ RH 1-29-16

Flory’s Plaza Upgrade called a Route 4 priority
By Emily Cutts
STAFF WRITER | January 29, 2016
WEST RUTLAND — Redeveloping the Flory’s Plaza site was recommended as a top priority Wednesday night at the final public work session for the Smart Growth Connection project.
About 17 people attended the work session at the West Rutland Town Hall to discuss potential improvements to the Route 4 corridor between West Rutland and Rutland Town.
 
Representatives and residents of both towns listened to the presentation along with members of the Rutland Economic Development Corp., the Rutland Regional Planning Commission and the Rutland Chamber of Commerce.
 
“It’s a long time coming, a lot of work has gone into it and the feedback I’ve gotten from folks … is that it’s all very exciting, and I would share that,” said Tom Donahue, CEO of the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce.
 
“Part of it is that corridor has been neglected for a long time,” he said. “Now that it has the infrastructure, i.e. water and sewer connecting the two towns, it definitely has that potential for very positive growth.”
 
Jim Donovan, project manager for Broadreach Planning & Design, said the draft recommendations that have come out of the project were aimed at enhancing the economics, transportation and overall livability of the area.
 
The recommendations divided the 3.6-mile portion of Route 4 into three study areas — Center Rutland, West Rutland and the Business Route 4 strip. Donovan said while no overall priorities were outlined in the recommendations, priorities were outlined by section.
 
While speaking of land use recommendations along the Business Route 4 strip, Donovan spoke of the need to create incentives for under-performing properties. He added that properties such as that often discourage businesses from moving in. He said the second priority in that section was the redevelopment of Flory’s Plaza.
 
Donovan drew a laugh from the crowd when he referred to the property as underdeveloped.
 
A recommendation that drew mixed reactions was turning the Route 4 entrance intersection in West Rutland into a roundabout.
Transportation engineer and project adviser Chris Gendron said a roundabout would be safer for pedestrian traffic and vehicles.
Gendron said traffic would get through the area faster with a roundabout than with a red light.
 
“It does slow you down, but everyone is constantly moving,” he said. “You’ll get more traffic through.”
 
To promote economic development, project adviser Doug Kennedy gave a list of priorities that included relocating and expanding the existing railroad museum. He outlined highlighting the area’s arts community and building upon the rich marble history.
 
“You may think the word is out,” Kennedy said. “The word is not out.”
 
After the presentation, those in attendance were able to ask questions and take a closer look at the projects proposed for the area. A final presentation to both town’s select boards is planned for March. A final draft of the plan can be found at www.broadreachpd.com/west-rutland-rutland-town-smart-growth-connections-plan/.
 
“I applaud Mary Ann Goulette and the West Rutland Select Board for taking the time and the energy to go through a strategic planning process,” said Lyle Jepson, REDC executive director. “Strategies that provide for growth and development, like the one they are going through, clearly pay dividends when it comes to providing what both the community and businesses would like to see.”
 
emily.cutts @rutlandherald.com

Candidates line up for March races: RH 1-26-16

Candidates line up for March races
STAFF Report | January 26, 2016
Some towns in Rutland County will have full ballots at town meeting, some have trouble even getting enough candidates for each position.
Petitions to seek municipal office were due Monday. Results for the area as of 5 p.m. Monday are as follows:Rutland County
Benson
There are no contested races in Benson.
Brandon
Brandon’s sole race is for a town and school moderator position, with Hanford Davis and William Moore facing off.
Castleton
In Castleton, the three-year Select Board seat has competition. Selectman Robert Spaulding, who previously held a one-year term, has chosen to challenge Selectman John Hale for Hale’s three-year seat.
A seat on the library trustees has competition between Tina Rampone and Nancy Mark.
Chittenden
There are no contested races in Chittenden.
Clarendon
Clarendon has two contested Select Board positions. Daniel Pinkowski and Marjorie White Southard are running to fill a seat to be vacated by Robert Bixby, who chose not to run again. Incumbent Rick Wilbur is running for re-election, also against Marjorie White Southard.
Danby
In Danby, there are several races for Select Board. Running for a one-year seat on the board are Byron Battease, Lynn Bondurant and Steven Haines. Bondurant is the incumbent in that race, but she was appointed to the seat, and is running for the first time to retain it.
Running for a three-year term on the board is the chairman, Daniel Garceau, who is being challenged by Paul Pearce.
The delinquent tax collector in Danby, Terry D. Parker, is being challenged for a one-year term by Douglas R. White.
Fair Haven
There are two contested races in Fair Haven. Three people are running for two one-year terms on the Select Board. Sean Galvin and Dick Frazier are seeking re-election for one-year terms. Christopher Cole, who has previously served on the board, will run for one of the seats.
The race for second constable also has competition. Incumbent Andrew Reid is not running for re-election. Shane Carvey and Selectman Sean Galvin are running for the open position.
Ira
Information for Ira was not available.
Hubbarton
In Hubbardton, two candidates, Eva Osmun and Kathryn Krakauer, will face off for a three-year School Board seat. While John Demgard Sr. challenges incumbents Richard Grabowski and Dwayne Gibbs for a one-year Select Board seat.
Marissa Nemergut is taking on Hubbardton Town Treasurer Dawn Custer and Town Auditor Linda Pritchard for the two, three-year slots.
Killington
In Killington, Jim Haff will challenge chairwoman Patty McGrath for a three-year seat on the Select Board.
Mendon
There are no contested races in Mendon.
Middleton Springs
In Middletown Springs, Christopher Fenton is challenging incumbent Raymond “Tony” Lamberton for a two-year seat on the Select Board, while Carl Haynes challenges Patricia Kenyon for the three-year seat.
Mount Holly and Mount Tabor
Mount Holly and Mount Tabor have no contested races.
Pawlet
In Pawlet, there are no contested races, but there are a few open seats including the town agent, grand juror and a library trustee.
Pittsfield
Pittsfield nominates all officers from the floor.
Poultney
There is a vacant seat on the Poultney Select Board, as incubent Ed Lewis did not seek re-election. The one-year term will likely go unfilled until after town meeting. A couple of lister positions are open as well, but have been vacant for a while said Patricia McCoy, town clerk. There is also a vacant seat on the School Board.
Proctor
Three Select Board races appear on the Proctor ballot.
For a three-year term, incumbent Bruce Baccei seeks to defend his seat against challenger Carol Grace. Incumbent William Champine is running against Susan Feenick for a two-year Select Board seat. Finally, for a one-year unexpired term, Selectman Jeffrey Durkee faces Joe Manning.
The School Board also has a race in Proctor, with incumbent Lisa Miser and challenger Joel Tate competing for a two-year term.
Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury has no contested races. However, as of close of business Monday, three elected positions are open, with no candidates to fill them at this time — moderator, auditor and lister.
Sudbury
Sudbury nominates candidates from the floor.
Tinmouth
In Tinmouth, Amanda Buffum Gill and Frank Sears are challenging incumbent Selectman Gregg Casey for a three-year spot on the Select Board. Carmen Fallar and Carolyn Feury are vying for the lister’s two-year position. Eric Buffum and Kevin Ruane are in a race to finish out the last two years of longtime road commissioner Hollis Squier’s three-year term.
Wallingford
Wallingford has no contested races.
Wells
Wells voters will have to choose between three candidates — Alexander Brewster, Kirk Dennison and Kevin Moffitt — for one two-year lister seat.
West Haven and West Rutland
West Haven and West Rutland have no contested races.

Addison County

Middlebury
North of Rutland County, Middlebury has five people vying for three three-year seats on the Select Board. Incumbents Nick Artim and Gary Baker will vie with challengers Dick Terk, Heather Seeley and Victor Nuovo.
Bennington County
Bennington
Down in Bennington County, there are seven people running for three open seats on the Bennington Select Board.
Incumbent Tom Jacobs is seeking re-election and Mike Bethel, Jason Bushee, Jeanne Conner, Jeannie Jenkins, Michael McDonough and Don Miller are also running for the at-large seats. Incumbents Sharyn Brush and John McFadden are not seeking re-election.
For the Mount Anthony Union School Board, incumbent Ed Letourneau is being challenged by Sue Plaisance.
In the race for the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center’s School Board, there are five candidates, Art Haytko, Leon Johnson, Francis E. Kinney, James Salerno and Kenneth Swierad, for four seats. Johnson and Kinney are incumbents.
Dorset
Dorset voters will have some choices to make with at least one new Select Board member to elect.
There are two one-year terms on the Select Board and incumbent Brad Tyler is not running for re-election. There are three candidates for the at-large seats and the two who get the most votes, among the candidates of incumbent Henry Chandler and challengers Dan Frost and Megan Thorn, will win the seats.
Also for the Select Board, incumbent Michael Connors is being challenged for a three-year seat by Jack Stannard.
Manchester
Manchester will get a new Select Board member. Greg Cutler is running for the two-year seat that is currently held by Lisa Souls. Souls is not seeking re-election.
For School Board, Joe Hoffman and Patrick Monroe, neither an incumbent, are running for a single two-year seat while Brian Vogel, the chairman of the School Board, is being challenged for a three-year term by Jim “Coach” Lind. The two-year seat is held by Mary Beth O’Donnell who is not seeking re-election.
No one has filed to fun for school or town moderator in Manchester.

Windham County

Chester
Over in Windham County, Chester has two races for the three seats open on the Chester Select Board.
Dan Cote is challenging incumbent William Lindsay, who currently holds a three-year seat. There is also a three-way race for two one-year seats, with newcomer Ben Whalen challenging Thomas Bock and Arne Jonynas.
Londonderry
Londonderry nominates from the floor.
Ludlow
Ludlow has no contested races.
Springfield
There is a five-way race for the two seats that are open on the Springfield School Board. Current Chairwoman Jeanice Garfield is running for re-election to a three-year seat, along with four newcomers: Mike Griffin, Joseph Costello, Pamela Young and Samantha Snyder. Incumbent School Director Ken Vandenburgh is not running for another term.
On the Select Board, incumbent Stephanie Thompson is being challenged by Chuck Gregory, a member of the Springfield Planning Commission.
Other contested races include a race for one five-year term as cemetery commissioner, with incumbent John Swanson being challenged by Steven Osterlund.
Rockingham
Rockingham voters have an abundance of choice.
Four people are running for one, three-year seat that was held by Selectwoman Ann DiBernardo, who is instead running for one of the two, one-year seats.
Running for the three-year seat are Lamont “Monte” Barnett, Selectwoman Susan Hammond, Bellows Falls village trustee Stefan Golec and newcomer Charles Thurston.
Hammond currently has a one-year seat on the Rockingham board.
Four people are seeking the two, one-year seats on the Select Board, as Stefan Golec has filed petitions for both positions, according to Rockingham Town Clerk Kathleen Neathawk. Golec, if successful, will have to choose which seat he wants, she said. In addition to DiBernardo and Golec, newcomers Steven Adams and Cass Wright are running for the board.

Chairman set to resign; 3 seats open in March~ RH 12-31-15

Chairman set to resign; 3 seats open in March
By Dan Colton
STAFF WRITER | December 31, 2015

Joseph Dicton, chairman of the Rutland Town Select Board, will resign on Town Meeting Day, March 1, raising the number of vacant board seats in March to three.

Dicton didn’t attend Tuesday night’s Select Board meeting but made the announcement via Selectman Don Chioffi, the board’s clerk.

“Serving as Select Board chairman and representing the people of Rutland Town for the past five years has been a privilege and true honor,” Dicton wrote in a letter. “As of Town Meeting Day … my service to Rutland Town as a selectman will end.”

Dicton said his term would have expired in 2017 and declined to specify why he decided to resign the position early.

Dicton resigned as a selectman once before, in April 2010, with 11 months left on his term, citing personal reasons.

Another former board member, Paul Clifford, resigned last summer after several months in office. He said a new job required more of his time. Selectman Joshua Terenzini won the open seat in August.

Rutland Town residents interested in running for office need signatures from 1 percent, or 27, of the town’s registered voters. Petitions are available at Town Hall and online, and must be filed with the town clerk by 5 p.m. Jan. 25.

Elected for three Select Board terms, Dicton served five years on the board. Board members elected Dicton as chairman earlier this year and they said they will miss his presence.

“I think serving on the Rutland Town Select Board with Joe Dicton as our chairman made me a better selectman,” Terenzini said Wednesday. “Joe is fair and balanced, and he’s a real gentleman, and he will certainly be missed.”

Chioffi — who recently exchanged heated demands for respect with Dicton during a board meeting — agreed with Terenzini.

“Good man,” Chioffi said Wednesday. “Good chairman. … His heart has been for the town, and he just for his own personal reasons can’t complete his term.”

Both Chioffi and Selectman John Paul Faignant have terms expiring in March and both said they are running for re-election as incumbents. Only Chioffi has submitted a petition so far.

Faignant needs to solicit signatures, he said Wednesday.

With Dicton’s resignation and two board members up for re-election, that leaves three seats on the ballot in March. Remaining board members, Selectwoman Mary Ashcroft’s term ends in 2017 and Terenzini’s term ends March 2018.

Board elections generate excitement, Terenzini said.

“I anticipate learning and collaborating with different people on different problems,” he said. “I think we have a good board, for the most part, right now. But it’s not up to me. It’s up to the voting public.”

dan.colton @rutlandherald.com

Debate crowd comes to see Bernie, and more~ RH 11-15-15

Debate crowd comes to see Bernie, and more
By ANDY CLARK
STAFF WRITER | November 15, 2015

Chris Graff opened an evening of politics at the Paramount Theatre on Saturday night, acknowledging that the Democratic presidential debate would be very different “than if it had been held 36 hours ago.”

Graff, former longtime Vermont bureau chief for The Associated Press, said CBS changed the debate rules Saturday to emphasize foreign policy after terrorist attacks killed more than 120 people Friday in Paris.

“It would be interesting for us to see how the transition to foreign policy questions would affect Sen. Bernie Sanders,” said Graff, author of “Dateline Vermont,” a memoir of his 30 years in journalism.

“We as Vermonters can learn much from how Bernie Sanders is being treated by the press, much like Sen. Jim Jeffords and Gov. Howard Dean,” he said. “They speak authentically, which we take for granted here. The nation embraced them, because they all spoke directly and honestly and exude authenticity.”

The debate’s 9 p.m. start time was too late for press deadline, but people arriving for the event were interviewed.

Among those in attendance was Maria Davis of Rutland, an independent whose reason for attending was “I love Bernie.” Likewise, her friend Caitlyn Frazier of Rutland, who favored Sanders, said, “I’m anxious to see how Sanders approaches the crisis we witnessed last night in Paris.”

Danielle Payton of Shoreham, a student working toward a bachelor’s degree in social work at Castleton University, had a lament: “I wish Castleton students would be more interested in politics.”

That’s what the Project 240 program, which aired the debate Saturday night, is intended to address.

Payton came with fellow Castleton student Matthew Smela, a philosophy major. “I’m for Bernie, but I want to hear from (Hillary) Clinton and much more from (Martin) O’Malley,” Smela said. “In the last debate, he kept saying how he rescued Baltimore.”
Payton agreed and added she had seen some of O’Malley’s ideas on the web, which “were awesome.”

Marsha McLean, a management consultant from Pawlet, was collecting Vermont primary signatures for Clinton. She said she worked for Clinton, then the secretary of state, at the Department of State from 2009 to 2011.

The crowd in attendance — about 125 — attended the event for a range of reasons. Some had no cable television, some came for the discussions, and a few representatives of Sanders and Clinton came with signature petitions in hand for the Vermont primary.

The Paramount Theatre and Castleton University sponsored the event as part of a collaboration, Project 240, designed to elevate public discourse around the 2016 general election while bringing the community together for a series of events in celebration of the nation’s 240th birthday next year.

Bruce Bouchard, executive director of the Paramount, said Saturday night’s airing was the first such event in a grand theater in the country.

Graff’s role in the event was twofold — to deliver formal remarks and to engage the audience in discussions before and after the televised debate. He prepared his audience to think about differences between Washington, D.C., and Vermont.

Next up in the Project 240 series is “The American Experience,” hosted by Ken Burns, at 7 p.m. Nov. 21. Tickets are available from the Paramount Theatre box office for $35.

The next televised debates at the Paramount are Jan. 17 for the Democrats and Feb. 6 for the Republicans. Both are free of charge.

andy.clark@rutlandherald.com

Barbara Snelling~ RH 11-4-15

Barbara Snelling
November 04, 2015

Barbara Snelling embodied the kind of civic virtues that have underpinned the building of Vermont and the nation. She died on Monday, and her passing marks the passing of an era with many lessons for the Vermont of today.

Snelling served two terms as Vermont’s lieutenant governor and might well have become governor if her health had permitted. Those who knew her from her political involvements knew her as a woman who was both strong and gracious. In fact, each of those two qualities nourished the other: She was strong enough to be gracious, and her grace made her stronger.

She might have been overshadowed by the powerful figure of her husband, Richard Snelling, who was elected governor five times and loomed large for many years over the politics of Vermont. He was a man of strong opinions and abundant energy who did not suffer fools gladly and was willing to argue his point with great conviction. Barbara Snelling had a particular kind of strength in holding her own as his partner. Indeed, their son, Mark, spoke with admiration about the competitiveness between the two of them. It was something that spurred them on.

The list of civic contributions by Barbara Snelling is astonishing to contemplate. She was chairwoman of the Shelburne School Board and the first chairwoman of the Champlain Valley Union High School Board. She was a founding trustee of the Vermont Community Foundation, a philanthropic organization that has had a profound impact on numerous organizations throughout the state. She was chairwoman of Chittenden County United Way, which plays a vital role in funneling support to worthy organizations serving the community. She was a trustee of Champlain and Radcliffe colleges and of the Shelburne Museum.

But there is more. She was a vice president of the University of Vermont, and she had her own business, Snelling and Kolb, a fundraising consulting firm.

A commitment to education is the river that runs through this long list of commitments. But politics was part of her life as well, owing at first to the career of Richard Snelling, who was first elected governor in 1976. She and he practiced the kind of moderate Republican politics that still prevails in Vermont but which is almost extinct elsewhere, characterized by a commitment to tolerance, fairness and fiscal common sense.

After recession led to a serious budget crisis during the third term of Gov. Madeleine Kunin, Richard Snelling decided he would run for governor again. He had already served four terms — from 1977 to 1985 — and after his election in 1990 to a fifth term, he pushed through an emergency budget plan.

His untimely death in August 1991 soon prompted the question: Would Barbara Snelling enter politics to carry on his legacy, or rather the legacy that the two of them had shaped as partners together? Soon, she answered that question, winning election as lieutenant governor in 1992. It was a competitive race against David Wolk, now president of Castleton University and then a Democratic senator from Rutland County.

The competitive spirit that made Barbara and Richard Snelling a dynamic pair continued to motivate her, and in 1996, she decided to challenge the incumbent governor, Howard Dean, who had been lieutenant governor when Richard Snelling died. It might have been Dean’s toughest challenge, but Snelling suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and had to bow out of the race. Later she served two terms in the Vermont Senate.

Mark Snelling said that among his mother’s achievements one about which the family is most proud is her role as founder of Friends of the Vermont State House, the organization that has been instrumental in the refurbishment of a building that is both a grand historic site and a working seat of government.

She was a woman dedicated to education, and the State House itself is an education in the state’s civic values, a living monument to Vermont’s democracy. Barbara Snelling and her family have given much to keep those values alive.

Online voter registration~ The Associated Press | October 16, 2015

Online voter registration

The Associated Press | October 16, 2015

 

MONTPELIER — Vermonters can now register to vote online.

Vermont Public Radio reports the new registration system debuted on the secretary of state’s website Monday morning. Secretary of State Jim Condos says the system will improve access to democracy and make elections less susceptible to fraud. He says the state can run an audit of their checklist to see if anyone appears in multiple locations.

Condos says the new system will particularly benefit military personnel stationed overseas, since they can fill out a paper remotely. The new system provides voters with a customized account where they can request absentee ballots, see sample ballots in their precinct, and retrieve information on upcoming elections.

Condos says the system will cost $2.7 million over 10 years. A formal launch event is expected next week.

Bringing home the bacon; two launch bids~ RH October 11, 2015

Bringing home the bacon; two launch bids
October 11, 2015

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy is bringing $581,000 in federal money to Vermont to support the state’s local food movement.

The money is part of $42.4 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to states and organizations throughout the country, including $73,750 for the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link, or RAFFL, to improve marketing and promotion projects for local food enterprises, ranging from food processing to farm-to-institution activities.

“Our partnership with the Vermont Country Store and Green Mountain Power enables businesses to create a culture of wellness at work sites and schools as customers order local farm products from area producers,” said RAFFL’s executive director, Tara Kelly. “It’s a win-win for employees looking to buy local, high-quality foods and farmers who need support in developing a year-round market.”

Other regional awards include $69,000 for the Randolph Farmers Market.

“Vermont is a leader in locally sourced food, but obstacles remain, particularly for our smaller producers,” said Leahy, senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“These bedrock investments will help expand programs that support family farms, open new farming opportunities and ensure that healthy, local foods are available to Vermonters of all income levels,” he said.

The field expands

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Matt Dunne and Sue Minter formally launched their campaigns last week with downtown rallies.

Dunne, a Google executive and former Windsor County senator, chose Barre for his launch, a decision that turned out to put the event in the wrong place at the wrong time.

His Monday event coincided with a train derailment in nearby Northfield, and television crews heading to his event were diverted to the crash.

And only about two dozen supporters were on hand, not counting media and campaign workers. Had Dunne chosen to hold his kickoff closer to his hometown of Hartland, he likely would have drawn more friends and supporters.

Dunne did not appear disheartened, however. His 20-minute speech included criticism of Gov. Peter Shumlin’s administration. Although both are Democrats, Dunne made clear he would have managed things much differently than the more brash Shumlin.

Dunne criticized progress on delivering broadband Internet service to Vermonters and the creation of the state’s online health insurance marketplace.

He also said the next governor must not be a “care taker,” seemingly referring to Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. But he told reporters after his remarks that he was not referring to any specific candidate.

One thing was clear: Dunne is seeking to paint himself as the outsider and his fellow Democratic opponents, House Speaker Shap Smith and former transportation secretary Sue Minter, as Shumlin acolytes.

Minter, meanwhile, drew a much larger crowd in her hometown of Waterbury.

She touted several high-profile backers, including former Gov. Madeleine Kunin, and Doug Racine, a former lieutenant governor, state senator and Agency of Human Services secretary.

In the crowd was David Mears, the former commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, who is well regarded in the environmental community.

Minter highlighted her management credentials and her tenure as the state’s chief recovery officer following Tropical Storm Irene. For Minter, convincing voters she will manage the state better than Shumlin is key.

Freshmen describe pressure-packed 1st year~ RH May 29, 2015

Freshmen describe pressure-packed 1st year
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | May 29, 2015

Sen. Brian Collamore, R-Rutland, said he never realized just how much work went into serving in the Legislature.

“When you’re there and you’re in session, it’s a 24-hour job,” he said.

Collamore is one of three members of the Rutland County legislative delegation who just finished their first terms in Montpelier. All three said they learned a great deal during their freshman year.

Collamore said he roomed with two more senior members of the delegation — Republican Reps. Butch Shaw of Pittsford and Robert Helm of Castleton.

“We got out of bed at 5:30 (a.m.),” Collamore said. “We would read two newspapers — the Times Argus and the Burlington Free Press — and then we would begin talking politics. … It was politics 24 hours a day. I found it very invigorating.”

And the job followed him home, he said, as he is spending the offseason meeting with constituents as much as he can.

“It’s fun,” Collamore said. “It’s rewarding. I enjoy helping people.”

Rep. Job Tate, R-Mendon, also said he was surprised by the time commitment.

“I drove a lot,” he said. “A lot of phone calls, a lot of emails, committee work.”

Tate said he had a 16-month-old son and that his wife got pregnant with their second child in January.

“I was surprised by the family element, how much my wife had to do on her end,” he said.

Luckily, he said, she was ready to deal with being home alone. The central lesson, Tate said, is to surround himself with good people.

“The people who are around you — you can bounce ideas off,” he said. “They’re a sounding board. … They can help you hash out ideas, remember why you went up there, stay focused on helping your constituents. I learned early on I was a much better representative when I surrounded myself with good people and worked with them, like a team of horses.”

Tate said he plans to put this lesson to work next session as he continues to push for lower taxes and more business-friendly policies.

“That’s still my main focus,” he said. “It’s informed by everything I learned and I hope I’m better at it.”

Rep. Robin Chesnut-Tangerman, P-Middletown Springs, characterized his first term as “intense.”

“Even the very experienced legislators were saying ‘This is crazy — it’s a pressure cooker,’” he said.

Chesnut-Tangerman said his committee quickly set to work on the energy bill.

“We spent three and a half weeks just learning background information before we started working on the bill,” he said. “It was like a graduate-level seminar. … It was exciting. It was a great introduction to how challenging and multifaceted a lot of the work the Legislature does is.”

Chesnut-Tangerman said his two main surprises came at the end of the term. The first was when he realized he had spent much of the session in a bubble.

“Most people are focused on their committee work,” he said. “As a freshman, I didn’t have a lot of feelers out to other committees. I was surprised at how much was going on that I didn’t know.”

The second was when he watched what can happen to a bill at the end of the session.

“There was so much pressure due to time constraints,” he said. “There was political jockeying through procedural moves.”

The energy bill Chesnut-Tangerman’s committee spent so much time on, he said, spent seven hours in the Senate and emerged with substantial changes.

“That was frustrating to see,” he said. “A lot of hard work, hours and hours of testimony taken, and that was just changed in the last minute without, it seemed, the opportunity for true, diligent research into the topic. … You think, ‘wait a minute — there has to be a better system than this.’”

All three freshmen said it was a positive experience.

“I’m still excited and flattered people thought enough of me to vote,” Collamore said.

Tate called it “a matchless honor.”

“I was really impressed with the caliber of the legislators there,” Chesnut-Tangerman said. “Smart people working really hard to do their best for the state and their district.”

gordon.dritschilo@ rutlandherald.com

Quiet energy revolution~ RH April 12, 2015

Quiet energy revolution
By Robin Chesnut-Tangerman
Rutland Herald

April 12, 2015

Vermont is a stubborn place to farm, with bony fields seemingly best suited to producing a fresh crop of rocks each spring. But fields across the state have seen a new crop taking hold — lush fields of solar panels are cropping up in unexpected places.

They are the result of a quiet revolution in the state goal to increase locally generated renewable energy. With them, however, comes a hailstorm of controversy that raises fundamental questions about the nature of our state — and the state of nature. Fundamental questions include the relationship between state and local governments, appropriate land use, long-range planning, climate science, the role of utility companies, and perhaps most fundamentally, the way we generate and use power.

Any one of these issues could be the topic of a semester-long seminar, far too big to address here. But that shouldn’t stop us. Let’s start with that line about the quiet revolution. Our traditional power system is one in which a distant power plant generates huge amounts of energy; the fuel may be coal, oil, uranium, hydro or natural gas. The power is “shipped” long distances over high-voltage transmission lines, then stepped down for local distribution, and the company makes their money based on how much power they sell.

There are several disadvantages to “business as usual.” One is referred to as “line losses,” the voltage drop or power loss during long-distance transmission and distribution. Losses vary depending on distance, voltage, transformers, and switching, but average 6 percent nationwide. There is substantial inefficiency built into the system, and the incentive is to sell more.

These large generating plants are usually located “somewhere else,” as are their fuel sources. So we, the final users, are well removed from the social, environmental, medical and economic impacts. Impacts can be slight, as with hydropower from Niagara Falls, or extreme, as with a coal-fired generator fueled with mountain-top removal coal from West Virginia. In the latter example, the damage to air, earth, and water is compounded by the damage done to local communities and public health.

However those impacts may vary, there has been one constant for Vermont: Power flows in and money flows out. It flows out to the oil fields of North Dakota, to the strip mines of Kentucky, the uranium mines of New Mexico and the flooded forests of Quebec. The solar panels we see, and the wind turbines, are changing that equation. Because this renewable energy is produced here in Vermont in smaller amounts and fed into the local grid, we do not suffer the line losses associated with long-distance transmission.

The cost of fuel is zero after the construction costs, and risks are minimal — maybe a sunburn if there is a bad solar spill. And because the power is fed into the local grid, we are able to enjoy the avoided costs of not needing to invest several hundred million dollars into transmission improvements over the last decade.

The revolution is that our power is no longer invisible, no longer from “away.” Every form of power generation still has impacts, and the big impact of distributed generation is that the impacts are no longer “away.” They are in our fields, on our rooftops and hillsides. They are the reality check, and it is only when we are confronted with our impacts that we are inspired to make difficult change — as we need to do. There is much work to do and difficult decisions to be made. And the solar panels sprouting in the fields are not the end, but one symbol of our evolving relationship with energy.

Robin Chesnut-Tangerman is an educator, builder and a Democratic member of the Vermont House from Middletown Springs. He can be contacted at talisman@vermontel.net.

Robin Chesnut-Tangerman for Vermont State House

Sierra Club Announces Endorsements October 2014

Montpelier: The Vermont Sierra Club, on behalf of its 3000 members, is pleased to announce its endorsements for the 2014 general election. These are candidates that we believe will do the best job of protecting and preserving our environment.

Please open the link below to see some of our candidates!

The Sierra Club Announces Endorsements October 2014