THE HERALD 10/01/20

Rutland County District (Three Seats)
The Rutland Senate District covers the White River Valley town of Pittsfield.

The Herald sent out questionnaires to area candidates running for state representative and state senator. Each was given space to respond to the following questions:

  1. As a result of the pandemic, Vermonters, Vermont businesses, and the state’s coffers have suffered financially. How should the legislature balance supporting Vermonters and their businesses with fixing the budget deficit provoked by the COVID-19 crisis?
  2. In 2019, Vermont hired its first racial equity director and, this year, after protests against systemic racism throughout the state and nation, the governor formed a racial-equity advisory panel. How could, or should, legislators contribute to addressing race-based inequities in Vermont
  3. During this biennium, legislators have introduced bills to help Vermont reach its goal of 90% renewable energy by 2050. Should the legislature pass other laws to help stay on track to meet that goal? If so, what?
  4. This year, three Vermont state college campuses were eyed for closure as a result of financial difficulties greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. How could, or should, the legislature help the Vermont State Colleges System to become more sustainable?
  5. What issue that hasn’t been addressed in the questionnaire do you personally think needs the most attention? How would you address that issue?

Michael Shank

Question One
The strongest return on investment will be in infrastructure—physical, economic, social—to shield it from coming shocks. Our infrastructure is compromised by increasingly extreme weather, economic hardship, and ideology. A repair and reinvestment strategy should be on everyone’s agenda. We’ll see harder rains, heavier winds, and more intense flooding. We’ll see more pandemics, trade wars, and unemployment. We’ll see more partisanship and antagonism. And if we’re not careful, it’ll erode our faith in each other. This is what I’m thinking about constantly in my work with major global cities, which are now prioritizing resilience. We must prioritize this, too.

Question Two
It’s good there’s bipartisanship in Vermont in naming and addressing systemic racism. Now the hard work begins in repairing past wrongs and harm, prioritizing restitution and reparations, restructuring our systems – economic, educational, criminal justice, law enforcement, and more, to be equitable and just. That’s the hard work ahead. As long as Vermont’s communities of color are disproportionately over-represented in police stops, searches, and arrests—and disproportionately under-represented in homeownership, as one example, we fail to uphold ‘liberty and justice for all’. All hands are needed to raise awareness, provide economic assistance, roll out training, ensure oversight and accountability, and more.

Question Three
In Vermont, we’re consuming more than three times the energy we produce. That’s not sustainable. Let’s achieve energy independence by producing more than three times the energy we consume, becoming an energy exporter, and decentralizing the grid for greater resilience during extreme weather. We’ve increased our emissions over the past two decades, which means more air pollution. Let’s protect Vermonters’ health by electrifying our cars and trucks —and our emitting buildings as well – and powering them with locally-produced clean energy. Let’s also prioritize public transport that’s more convenient, low-cost and electric. This strategy gives us energy, economic and health security.

Question Four
Vermont students are leaving the state, unable to afford higher education (since we’re one of the lowest investors nationwide in higher education), and coming up short on transferrable, employable skills. By forging a new partnership between the Community College of Vermont, Vermont Technical College and Vermont’s Technical Centers, as one example, we can keep college costs low and keep and employ our students here. Extending the state’s Real Careers program and fully resourcing the Agency of Education’s transferable skills curricula will help, too. Gainfully employed alumni make colleges attractive. We have to fully fund Vermont’s future if we want one.

Question Five
COVID-19 shows the necessity of local food security and regenerative food systems. Let’s produce more than we consume and become a net exporter. $23 million is needed annually to ensure Vermont farmers have the marketing, education, infrastructure investments, and workforce development to meet their needs. This is doable. We’ve increased food-related economic output and employment over the last decade by roughly $4 billion and over 6,500 jobs. We expand growth by setting up new distribution to, and marketing in, New York City and Boston for Vermont farm products. This is how we ensure Vermont’s farmers are resilient to future shocks.