Letters to the Editor (8/20/09)

Aug. 20, 2009

Asking too much?

As a justice of the peace and therefore a member of the Board of Civil Authority, I read with interest the article on “Elected officials often missing in action” (Aug. 6). I think that you may have missed the real story, which is whether or not the Selectboard and the School Board have too many meetings and that their meetings are too long.

I have a great deal of empathy for those members of the Selectboard who have difficulty attending the BCA and Board of Abatement meetings. The issue is can they serve and still have a life?

The same can be said of the School Board. The heavy meeting schedule and the time needed to prepare for those meetings exact a toll and make it difficult for very many to be willing and indeed to be able to serve on either of those boards.

I would ask the question, “Do we do these boards a disservice when we do not question the amount of time they seem required to spend in service?”

Is there a better way? What steps can be taken to reduce the load?

I appreciate their service and believe we should encourage them to also have a life.

Tony Lamb, Williston

Legislative update

It’s been a great honor serving Williston residents in my first year in the Vermont Senate.

I’d like to share a few achievements from the 2009 session that didn’t receive much media attention.

On Senate Institutions, I worked with Dick Mazza to fund a major initiative aimed at rebuilding our state park system. From nearby Mount Philo to Fort Dummer in Brattleboro, our chronically underfunded parks will get the investment they need to avoid irreparable decline, while putting dozens of unemployed Vermonters to work.

Serving on the Senate Economic Development Committee, I joined Chittenden County Sen. Hinda Miller, D-Burlington, to establish a Farm-to-Plate initiative that will create the infrastructure needed to strengthen local agriculture throughout the state. The farmers’ market in Williston points to the tremendous potential to create markets and jobs in our local economy, and the need to reduce barriers and costs to get local meats and vegetables to Vermonters.

The energy bill authorizes communities like Williston to create Clean Energy Assessment Districts. Essentially, voters can now choose to create a special fund to provide town residents long-term financing for energy-based home improvements. This offers the possibility of lower interest rates and more manageable payback periods than most banks have been willing to offer.

As I campaigned throughout the county, small business owners spoke of the heavy burden they carried in workers compensation costs. Some businesses are misclassifying their employees to dishonestly reduce their workers comp costs. For example, one construction company involved in building the Lowe’s in South Burlington was classifying high-risk steel erectors as laborers to reduce their costs. This results in a cost-shift to the majority of honest businesses. Sen. Douglas Racine, D-Richmond, and I led the effort to pass a bill that will ramp up enforcement of workers comp abuse. Of all the challenges facing Vermont small businesses, subsidizing cheaters shouldn’t be one of them.

Please contact me at timashe@burlingtontelecom.net with ideas, questions or comments.

Sen. Tim Ashe, D/P-Burlington