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Vermont Guardian

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Posted January 12, 2007

Who will we tax?

Doug Hoffer says “data shows that participation rates for older people have grown considerably as many keep working” to attempt to invalidate the recent report of over spending and aging populations in Vermont (Vermont Guardian, Dec. 29). In other words, he’s counting on people not being able to retire in order to continue funding all these social programs and over taxing us. Thanks a lot.

He also argues that future Vermonters will be willing to pay higher taxes. Who? I don’t want to see higher taxes on me or on my children or grandchildren. Stop spending the money of future generations to fund today’s entitlement programs.

Walter Jeffries
West Topsham

To impeach or not?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, and Rep. John Conyers, D-MI, have declared impeachment dead in the water. The water has a foul stench that has permeated the consciousness of a vast majority of citizens in our country and a whole host of people around the world. What, one might ask, is the political payback for this compliant concession?

On the last day of the 109th Congress, Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-GA, had the guts to introduce a resolution charging the president, vice president, and Condoleezza Rice with high crimes and/or misdemeanors against the United States. A summary of her points follows:

• Manipulation of intelligence and lying to justify war.
• Failure to take responsibility for, investigate, or discipline those responsible for an ongoing pattern of negligence, incompetence, and malfeasance, to the detriment of the people of the United States.
• Failure to ensure that laws are faithfully executed, in their zeal to conduct electronic surveillance of citizens of the United States on U.S. soil without a judicial warrant, thereby subverting Congress by circumventing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Writers documenting the actions of the administration have showered us with these appropriate words: lying, incompetence, intimidation, secrecy, rendition, torture. Are we expected to overlook the obvious and establish a norm that accommodates all of these characteristics for this administration and all subsequent administrations?

If there were people in your family like those in the current administration who could be described as liars, incompetent, intimidators, and advocates of torture, rendition, and secrecy and, on top of that, they have chosen to ignore laws and instigated fights in which thousands have been slain and physically or mentally mutilated, would you ignore these family members and put their actions out of your consciousness? Or would you take action to punish them for the misery caused by their inhumane actions? Would you ignore the reprehensible outcomes that have the potential of stimulating others to consider such actions acceptable and damage our country in a similar way in the future?

Clearly, our recent history and the continued threat of arbitrary government erode our Constitution, putting democracy at great risk. Is it not time to express our displeasure with the current administration and request that our congressional representatives institute proceedings in Congress that will impeach them for high crimes and misdemeanors?

Karl Novak
Hinesburg

Got consequences?

The spectrum of consequences for student misconduct ranges from the guiding hand of a teachable moment to expulsion and criminal prosecution. A fundamental concept of our society states that misconduct begets consequences. Repeated or multiple instances of misconduct generate consequences that increase in severity until the intended lesson is learned. Whether at work, at home, or at public places of transit, commerce, worship, or recreation, the concept is constant: misconduct begets consequences.

Most supervisory unions and schools throughout the state continue to ignore compliance with Act 91 some 30 months after the anti-harassment in education law went into effect on July 1, 2004. Parents who have attempted to hold their schools accountable for compliance find themselves and their children all too often vilified by school personnel and victims of administrative retaliation. Students susceptible to a high risk of harassment include girls, the developmentally disabled, those with physical disabilities, practitioners of non-Christian faiths, as well as ethnic, racial, and linguistic minorities and gay/lesbian students.

Parents are inadequately informed about their rights and responsibilities under Vermont’s education statutes, particularly the various avenues of appeal. School administrators tend to either be ignorant themselves of the appeal procedures or they intentionally withhold such information from parents. Parents with the courage, tenacity, and presence of mind tend to exhaust all local and district administrative options to make their schools Act 91 compliant. Rarely, however, are such efforts successful. Frustrated, they logically take their compliance concerns to the education commissioner and the Vermont State Board of Education. Therein lies the root cause to be addressed.

However unacceptable the Act 91 compliance situation is, noncompliance is regrettably understandable. At the Dec. 19 meeting of the State Board of Education in Swanton, the board’s chairman and the education commissioner reiterated that they have “limited statutory mandates” to compel schools to comply with Act 91.

Their actions have been limited to issuing periodic memoranda reminding the 60 supervisory unions/districts, 330 public schools, and 150 independent schools that they should be Act 91 compliant, and of the availability of co-sponsored training with the Vermont Human Rights Commission.

They reported that 30 months after the law went into effect, 138 individuals have received this training; top educators further stated that even if the appropriate statutory mandates to enforce the law existed, they would hesitate to use them. In plain speak this has resulted in failure to penalize or issue consequences to noncompliant schools and districts.

Under 16 V.S.A. § 212(5) the education commissioner shall “supervise and direct the execution of the laws relating to the public schools and see that they are complied with,” and 16 V.S.A. § 164 moreover states that “the state board shall have supervision over, and management of the department of education and the public school system.”

The Vermont Legislature must address the Act 91 enforcement question to adequately deliver what every Vermont student deserves: educational facilities, staff, and resources free of harassment, bigotry, and bullying.

Given the demonstrated laissez-faire approach of the state’s top educators, Act 91 compliance enforcement should be conferred to a commission independent of the State Board of Education and the Department of Education. Because as long as there are no consequences for misconduct, compliance misconduct becomes the standard bearer for acceptable behavior. Behavior undeserved for those for whom the law was designed to protect.

Curtiss Reed, Jr.
Brattleboro
Curtiss Reed, Jr., is the executive director of the ALANA Community Organization.

In the war on poverty, give peace a chance

Rep. Robert Dostis, D-Waterbury, wrote that there is a hunger problem growing in Vermont (Vermont Guardian, Jan. 5). In it, he penned two thoughts that were not linked together on paper, but should have been. Together they are enlightening.

Dostis notes in one paragraph, “Vermont has a long record of leadership addressing hunger,” citing 30 years of government programs we’ve funded to support his case. But, in another paragraph he reveals, “Here in Vermont, the percentage of families facing the most severe form of hunger has doubled since 1999 — the largest increase in the nation.” If this is true, Vermonters need to ask why 30 years of “leadership” (and a lot of tax dollars) gets us the worst record of accomplishment in the country.

A new report, “How to Win the War on Poverty,” by Mathew Ladner of the Goldwater Institute, takes an extensive look at poverty across the United States. His findings do much to explain why the phenomenon Dostis stumbled upon is victimizing Vermonters. It turns out that — as some will argue the “war on terror” just creates more terrorists — the “war on poverty” is, in fact, just creating more poor people, and it’s time to cut and run. Cut taxes that is.

Ladner discovered, “During [the 90s], the average state saw childhood poverty decline by 8.4 percent, but in the 10 highest-spending states, childhood poverty increased by 4.5 percent.” The reason: The states that spent less money taxed their citizens and businesses less, which led to more high-wage, private sector jobs. A job, after all, and as this study illustrates, is the best, most effective anti-poverty program going.

Vermont earned a lackluster C-minus for our poverty reduction results in general and a below average C for the job we’re doing on behalf of our children. Not bad grades by New England standards. Every other state in the high-taxing, high-spending Northeast got an F, but still, don’t Vermonters care enough to demand the best for our kids?

So, who and what policies did get the best results? The answers are Colorado and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Throughout the 90s, Colorado reduced the number of children living in poverty by a whopping 26.9 percent. Not coincidentally, it was in 1992 that Colorado instituted the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, strictly capping state spending growth at a maximum rate of inflation plus population growth and returning — by law — all excess revenue to the people who paid the taxes. As a result, Ladner writes, “Colorado’s economy has been exceptionally strong. Between 1995 and 2000, Colorado ranked first among all states in gross state product growth and second in personal income growth.” These conditions — not big government programs — reduce poverty for real.

If we really care about helping people escape poverty, especially our children, Vermont has an opportunity in the upcoming legislative biennium to enact a Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights. If we really care about solving the problems like the one Rep. Dostis calls to our attention, our first order of business should be to eliminate the biggest poverty inducing conditions that exist in Vermont today: One of the highest tax burdens in the nation, and a business climate ranked 46th worst.

In 2007, caring Vermonters should send a clear message to our Legislature: In the war on poverty, give peace a chance. And, give all Vermonters the benefit of a Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights.

Rob Roper
Waterbury
Rob Roper is the state director for FreedomWorks-Vermont. For more information, go to www.freedomworks.org/vermont/.

Call physician-assisted suicide what it is

In considering the 2007 legislative agenda, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare believes a priority should be placed on access to and funding for good palliative/end-of-life care for all Vermonters with chronic and terminal illnesses.

Our legislators could assist in this goal by publicly completing written advance directives, giving their preferences for goals and scope of treatment should they become critically ill, and then registering them on the new online system they authorized last year so their wishes will be immediately available to all health care professionals when questions arise.

In thinking about the question of whether a Vermont physician should be legally allowed to write a lethal prescription for a patient (a question that has been brought up repeatedly for the past several years, but has not been approved by the Legislature), a fundamental question is whether it should be called “physician-assisted suicide” or “death with dignity.” It seems self-evident that when a physician assists a patient in bringing about his or her death, it is physician-assisted suicide.

In commenting on this question of terminology, Derek Humphry, founder of the assisted-suicide/euthanasia movement, said on his blog on Nov.11, “I think the DHS [Oregon’s Department of Human Services] should stick with ‘physician-assisted suicide’ — describing an action precisely. To wrap up our support for physician-assisted suicide in fancy language invites our critics to say we are trying to change the law covertly and that we are ashamed of being frank about what we really want.” Well said. I agree.

Robert D. Orr, MD
South Burlington
Robert D. Orr is president of the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare. For more information, visit www.vaeh.org.