In November 2006, I believed that merging our community into one governing body was the right way to go. I worked hard for the merger proposal which passed by a close margin. Then it was overturned in a February recall election with just over 2/3 of the original voters participating. Fortunately, the legislature then made recall elections harder to succeed, which has strengthened democracy by making all votes count the first time around.
I still support merger, but especially because this time around both locally elected boards worked really hard for a really long time to dive into what consolidation would look like in every department. A yes vote supports the hard work of all your elected officials. The boards work and meet together regularly; this did not happen when I was a village trustee the last time around. They have really done a thorough job in the ensuing 14 years.
But even if you don’t share that opinion, I’d ask you to consider the long view of our community as the Town of Essex. Long before, and after, the creation of the village as a municipality in 1893, extraordinary leaders from both ends of town represented Essex in the Vermont legislature. No one cared what part of town they lived in; they were distinguished local citizens expected to represent all interests fairly; by all accounts, they did. It’s a fairly recent phenomenon that there has been town-village discord, and we can put that to rest forever on March 2.
I’ll also offer an opinion based on having served on the Government Operations Committee of the Vermont House during the last merger vote. It’s true that in 2007 the legislature had no appetite for intervening after the merger failed in a recall vote, but they clearly wished that both municipalities would solve the governance question locally. If we again give evidence that we cannot, they may well be empowered to allow either community to act unilaterally to make charter changes to address tax or service inequities.
It is certain the committee will not act on a representation bill outside of the merger plan which they already strongly object to; this has been spelled out clearly in a 2020 letter to both boards. There seems to be lingering wishful thinking about this certain outcome, but if equal representation is your primary goal, it is contained in the merger plan. A yes vote will be the only way to ensure its passage.
So, my fingers are crossed, hoping for a positive outcome. As a lover of our local history, I imagine that Essex luminaries like Timothy Bliss, Asa Brigham, Marshall Castle, Lucius Butler, Simon Tubbs, Abram Stevens, and Erastus Whitcomb are looking down on us and hoping for a restored unified community!