Friday, April 6, 2007

On Being A Vermonter

What does it mean to be a Vermonter these days? Is it residing in the state? Is it that your family has been here for generations? Do you have an in-depth knowledge of Vermont's formitive years as the Republic of Vermont? There is no litmus test for real Vermonters these days. Anyone can call themselves what they want, it's a fascade really. Real Vermonters are typified by what they endure. The reality is Vermont is a state of many hardships.

Stephen A. Douglas besides debating Lincoln was a native of Brandon, Vermont. His famous quote went "Vermont is a great place to grow up, provided you leave shortly thereafter." This is as true today as the 1800's when Vermont first started loosing its native son's and daughters. Vermont began documenting a loss in the 1820's as canals opened the way to the west.
Today we lose Vermonters because of economic disadvantage.

Wages are low, good jobs and gainful employ are few. The costs associated with living here are outrageous. The problem is Vermont is dominated by low paying service jobs because we are a "tourist state". These jobs are most often seasonal, and very few come with benefits. We need winter and summer clothes, fuel and transportation costs drive up other goods. We need heat in winter, and energy year-round, very little of which comes from here in Vermont. It is a lose, lose situation.

There is the problem of land and taxes here in Vermont. Land is sold at the premium development price here, that often Vermonters are unable to buy into. People who want to put up a house, have a couple kids, maybe a small farm, are being crowded out by McMansions and Condo's. On top of this you add some of the highest property taxes in the nation. Not to mention our sales and excise taxes.

Vermont is dominated by a consumer economy, there is a trade imbalance across our states borders. We produce all sorts of specialty products for export, but need to import nearly all the things we require to live here. The Yankee tradition of making do has gone by the wayside and we've moved on to bigger, better, even broadband, in the backwoods.

What have we lost along with those landless son's and daughters? Look around, the signs are everywhere, community is what has suffered. When a town needed something done they pitched in and made it happen. Now its who's the low bid, and where can we get grant money or aid. Local control used to be something Vermonters prided themselves in, but now most of our decisions are being made in Montpelier and Washington. How many can say they like the decisions that are being made?

As a youth I had but one dream and that was to grow up, live, and die, in the town I was raised. My future in Vermont is questionable. I'm getting married this year, and Vermont is a hard place to start out. All I ever wanted was to be near my family, and now it feels like I'm being forced out by the economic costs of being a Vermonter.

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