Wednesday marked the beginning of a first-of-its-kind summit drawing on the expertise of leaders and activists from across the state to consider Vermont’s future and how it can be bettered.
Their discussions are centered around the recently-released ‘Vermont Proposition,’ which outlines a set of bold goals for the economy, environment and inclusiveness in Vermont.
Thousands of Vermonters gave feedback for the report, which peers 30 years into the state’s future and identifies the following goals:
- Ensure affordable high-speed broadband and cellular access for all Vermonters, while using digital tools to promote community connection and democracy, and to advance local commerce and economic opportunity.
- Combat racism, celebrate diversity and welcome new Vermonters of color.
- Advance creative solutions to climate change. Creativity in answering the challenges of climate change will provide one of the greatest economic opportunities for Vermont.
- Reduce economic disparities, address poverty, and promote opportunities for prosperity for all Vermonters.
- Ensure all children have access to affordable, quality child care and education.
- Strengthen local business, entrepreneurship, investment, workforce and rural innovation.
- Advance efficiency and foresight through state planning and regional coordination.
- Conserve our lands and waters and advance our working landscape.
- Renew civic engagement and strengthen trust, civility, community connection, democratic decision-making, and empower new leaders.
“We have a generational opportunity to build a bright, promising and inclusive future for our state,” Sen. Patrick Leahy said during his opening remarks.
Leahy helped kick off a two-day blitz of seminars that will take on issues like broadband, climate change, economic disparities, systemic racism and the workforce.
A large portion of those goals have to do with making Vermont more welcoming and equitable for all people, and Jericho Pastor Dr. Arnold Isodore Thomas said that means the state will need to ‘reinvision itself.’
“What kind of welcome and inclusive posture do we want to create to attract a diverse, multi-ethnic multi-racial population to the state? Dr. Thomas asked. “A living wage, collective bargaining between employees and employers to ensure worker protection. Fair and impartial environment for law enforcement, that’s very key.”
Dr. Thomas was one of a handful of panelists that spoke at a forum on combating racism and building safe and welcoming communities for people of color. Mia Schultz, President of the Rutland Area Branch of the Vermont NAACP, said that when considering the future of an inclusive Vermont, schools need to be front-and-center.
“I feel there’s a lot of performative action, things that people want to implement and make it look like they’re including all the children, but the action isn’t there yet,” Schultz said. “Advocacy groups of historically marginalized people need to be in the school system guiding how our curriculum looks, how our policies look.”
A related conversation that took place Wednesday dealt with encouraging local democracy and inspiring Vermont’s next generation of leaders. Jameson Davis, a JD Candidate at Vermont Law School, said there needs to be better outreach to encourage participation.
“I believe local governments need to do a better job being more accessible to immigrants and new Americans, they are a population that I don’t think gets enough understanding and education on what their impact and value is in their new community,” Davis said.
Paul Costello is the executive director of the Vermont Council on Rural Development, which worked to gather the feedback that lead to the Vermont Proposition. That process included personal interviews, survey submissions, statements from partners and policy councils. Last week, he said it’s important that as many people as possible participate in the Summit.
“All Vermonters have something to say about the future, from young to old, Republicans, Democrats and Progressives,” Costello said. “Everyone has a role to play.”
Download the Local 22/44 News App and stay up-to-date wherever you are.