Shaming, blaming should stop
To clarify public efforts I took part in over 2015-16 now issues in the upcoming elections, I want to review these events.
In 2015-16, Trustees and Select Board formed the first group to work on the new Heart & Soul of Essex Thoughtful Growth in Action goal – TGIA. The group was made up of 24 Town and Village residents and Community Development staff. We were charged with finding a way to consolidate the planning commissions.
After six months of meetings, homework between meetings, two paid facilitators, $10,000 or more in tax funds spent, we recommended one Development Review board and two separate Planning Commissions. Group members developers Dousevitcz and Weaver favored the recommendation.
Over a year later, after much work by Community Development staff, in July 2017, I opened my Essex Reporter to a headline saying that the Trustees had voted unanimously to pull out of the process – the consolidation effort was dead.
Irene Wrenner was a group member attending the meetings as a citizen as well as a selectboard member. She and the selectboard learned of the Trustee action from the Essex Reporter. As Sue McCormack wrote, I will think long and hard before I join such a group again, because of how our elected Village officials chose to behave.
In 2016, both Wrenner and selectboard member Sue Cook questioned the proposed independent 501©3 municipality with a separate taxing power for the rec departments. Cook wanted numbers – she asked for a matrix in September 2016, showing projected costs. The reply was, ‘We’re working on it.’
At that time the working group was six months into the project, nowhere near the last minute, the vote in December. Cook later stated she could not vote yes.
Then a month before the December vote, the two Park Department heads used the Town public email server to send emails lobbying for a yes vote to residents signed up with Park and Rec. After several Village and Town residents went public in the Essex Reporter, according to Pat Scheidel, 320 people withdrew their emails from Park and Rec.
Why the focus on one selectboard member’s opposition when three members voted against the proposal, the third one voting no privately in the election? And an unethical action by Park and Rec staff? Assigning responsibility for public actions is not the same as assigning blame. Blaming and shaming do not belong in Essex elections. It needs to stop.
Paula DeMichele, Essex
Applauding health care efforts
Five years after most of the provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) came into effect, the healthcare law is still a political hot button issue that has been embroiled in legal challenges since President Obama signed it into law in 2010. Republicans have tried multiple times – unsuccessfully – to repeal the law. The US Supreme Court has upheld the ACA in two previous challenges, and it now appears to be headed for a third review, with Vermont joining a multi-state coalition seeking to uphold the law’s constitutionality. In the meanwhile, the Vermont house has introduced legislation (H.129) calling for universal primary healthcare in Vermont by 2023.
Despite impressive gains in health care access since the ACA’s implementation, the law did not go far enough, as it did not achieve universal, equitable healthcare coverage. From a public health perspective, we should build on the successes of the ACA by moving toward Medicare for All in order to finally achieve universal, equitable coverage.
Paying for such a system is always contentious, and that is a hurdle facing H.129. However, as the bill’s lead sponsor noted, “By investing in universal primary care, we can improve population health… save lives and save money.” Numerous studies have shown that this could happen at the federal level also.
I applaud our Progressive Vermont legislators for renewing the call for universal primary health care in our State. Perhaps this time around we can provide a model for the rest of the nation to follow.
Support for Murray
Please consider supporting Patrick Murray in the selectboard election. Patrick is a native Vermonter with a huge amount of enthusiasm for serving our community. I’ve had the chance to work closely with Patrick on the unified school board for the last couple years. He stands out for his dedication to listening to constituents and ensuring their voices are heard at the table. Patrick is also extremely honest and straightforward. He says exactly what he really means. When he disagrees with someone, it is respectful and doesn’t get personal. He would be a great addition to the selectboard team.
I moved to Vermont in 2011 and it wasn’t easy to figure out which elections I was eligible to vote in. So, a friendly reminder that selectboard represents the whole Town, including the Village. You can vote already at 81 Main Street. I hope we see a good turnout so we can know the result is representative of what the whole community wants from our leadership! And then come back the next month to vote the school budget and board members!
Anybody but Wrenner
As this year’s election approaches, I go back to the previous year’s election where the funding of the Essex and Essex Jct. recreation departments was brought forth to be done by a “Special Taxation District.” Of which, I, on election day observed as others surely did Irene Wrenner standing outside the voting area saying we don’t need “STDs” and waving and or passing out condoms. That somehow we should equate the funding of the recreation department with a “Sexually Transmitted Disease”! This kind of negative branding has been used very successfully by our current president whose racist and sexist conduct has been nothing but divisive to our country and destructive to the country’s growth to become a tolerant and respectful society.
The “Special Taxation District” recommendation was brought forth by a group of Essex residents who volunteered their time to look at the best way to fund the combined recreation department. Whether I or any other resident agreed with their conclusion or recommendations is irrelevant, what matters here is that we have a thoughtful and respectful dialogue of the issue. The people that volunteered their time and did the best job they could deserved to be heard and treated respectfully and not have a selectboard member wave a condom in their faces and yell we don’t need STDs. Let’s all remember these people are our friends and neighbors and we should be able to have this debate in a civil manner. In the age of “Me Too,” isn’t one of the messages that people need to be treated with respect and dignity? Irene’s grandstanding, theatrical, degrading display was a crass assault on the sensibilities and fabric of the entire community and a direct insult to the community members that worked on this proposal. As I mentioned earlier we see this kind of name calling at the national level and like many of my neighbors, we are sick and tired of this.
If we are going to start correcting this sorry state we need to fix it at the local level first. For myself and I hope many of you as well on election day can say no to this type of degrading behavior by voting for Patrick Murray and Annie Cooper.
Craig H. Smith
Opposing Wrenner’s re-election
After moving here in beginning of 2016, I enjoyed getting to know Irene Wrenner because she acted focused on giving the Town residents a voice on public safety using public lands and roads. I offered to run around Essex Junction and distribute fliers to vote no on the Recreation merger, and stood with her in front of Essex High School with signage hanging over me on voting day. Many times I defended her at selectboard meetings when she was attacked by other female selectboard members. But, after hiring a personal attorney to help me speak at the October 15 firearm Ordinance Meeting stating statues that make the Town liable if passive exerciser gets shot by a stray bullet on a public road in conservation area, Irene proposed the hunting season be extended from March to December! I was flabbergasted!!
All that talk of transparency giving a voice of public safety was just, “all talk!” I’m extremely disappointed in her being on the selectboard and believe it’s time to get more forward thinking candidates on the board who truly are for the safety of the residents who move here because of the parks and recreation destination areas here in Essex and Essex Junction. I will vote Patrick Murray and Annie Cooper.
One of many Hillside Circle residents using Saxon Hill Road and trails.
Essex Rescue committed to high-quality care
The article on Garnet Transport Medicine in last week’s edition (Feb. 21) highlighted a few of the concerns held by a number of members of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) community. These concerns were developed in response to Garnet’s public information and the manner in which it was released. Essex Rescue has been an integral part of the community and the local EMS district for almost 50 years. We continue to work to ensure the health and safety of our community through direct service and by monitoring changes in the local system.
All new EMS services in the district must go through a standard application process with the state Department of Health and district board. Essex Rescue and other area services will watch this process closely and engage where appropriate to support the short- and long-term stability of the medical response system for our community and our partner agencies. In the meantime, our community members can rest assured that we will continue to provide high-quality, affordable, and community-oriented medical care, as always. Thank you to the community and our elected officials for your support!
Hillary Danis, Essex Rescue