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Forum, March 4: The Pledge and an Election


Friday, March 03, 2017
The Pledge and a Town Election

Reading the article in the Feb. 26 Sunday Valley News about the controversy between members of the Hartford Selectboard caused me some concern (“Hartford Selectwoman Faces Backlash,” Feb. 26).

On the one hand there is Mike Morris, who admittedly displayed poor judgment in passing along an email cartoon caricaturing the Obamas and Eric Holder (which I haven’t seen, so I am not in a position to classify it as either racist or not). On the other hand is Rebecca White, a 22-year-old “rising star” and fellow Selectboard member and vice chair, who has taken it upon herself to demand that Morris resign because, in her words, “I have not forgiven him” (for his lack of political correctness?).

Small wonder — in order to forgive, one must have a well-established sense of right and wrong, or sin if you will, and an awareness that we all commit sins against God and others and need forgiveness from someone greater than ourselves. White, a self-proclaimed atheist, seems to lack that dimension in her make-up.

Then there is the matter of her refusal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag (as a symbol of our great nation) at Selectboard meetings. I can understand that as an atheist she would rankle at the words “under God” (added to the original version by Congress in 1954), but to stand mute throughout the entire pledge seems over the top. Even Mike Morris, a veteran himself, is willing to extend grace on this point, having recently learned a very difficult lesson himself.

Let’s take a look at White’s recent history: a recent graduate of UVM, community organizer for a solar company, and a first-time home buyer in Wilder. She has lots of seasoning and maturity ahead of her if she will acknowledge her need of it, but God help the citizens of Hartford if she doesn’t. Maybe the voters need to thank her for two years of distinguished service and allow time for that to happen. I plan to write in Lannie Collins March 7.

William A. Wittik

Hartford

White Brings a Fresh Perspective

I have known Becca White for most of her life. I was delighted when she chose to run for the Hartford Selectboard several years ago because I knew she would bring her deep passion for her home community, incredible work ethic and commitment to Vermont values to the important decisions facing the largest Vermont town in our region. I have not been disappointed.

White has brought a fresh perspective to the issues facing a changing town. She has both been a voice for fiscal responsibility and efficiency, as well as an advocate for the environmental stewardship that matches the values of the town. White also brings the perspective of a young person who knows how important it is to be a truly welcoming community if the Upper Valley is going to become a place where young people will return and thrive. Anyone who knows White knows she will work with anyone to move her community forward and she is not afraid to speak her mind. A listener and a doer with deep roots in Hartford. We couldn’t ask for anything more in our community leadership.

As a property owner in White River Junction and passionate advocate for the greater Hartford community, I encourage my neighbors in Hartford to vote to re-elect Becca White in Tuesday’s election.

Matt Dunne

Hartland

Supporting Hanover District Budget

The Hanover Finance Committee is an appointed town committee comprised of Hanover residents charged with reviewing financial matters of the town, and offering guidance to local school boards, town officials and residents. As part of its deliberations on the proposed FY18 Hanover School District budget, HFC members reviewed budget data, attended budget and School Board meetings, and conferred with board members and school administrators. The resulting HFC opinion statement has been published in the Hanover School District Annual Report and is summarized below.

During a public meeting on Jan. 27, the HFC voted unanimously to support the proposed FY18 Hanover School District Budget and all warrant articles.

The proposed budget will increase spending by 0.98 percent, and will increase the school tax rate by 0.77 percent. Although voting to approve the budget, HFC members noted with some concern that the moderate increase was due, in part, to a significant reduction in out-of-district special education costs. Much of this savings was absorbed by substantial increases in health insurance, retirement benefits and salary, as specified by existing contracts.

The Hanover School District has experienced dramatic fluctuations in special education costs in recent years as a result of increased enrollment in our internal program, New England Center for Children, and external placement in day- or residential programs. The HFC is therefore concerned that future increases in retirement, benefits and salary costs will have a larger effect on school budgets. If those occur in years in which special education costs also increase, the effects on budgets and taxes could be substantial. To reduce the impact of such fluctuations, the district allocates funds to the special education reserve each year, which are then used during years when significant and/or unexpected expenses arise, thus diminishing budget fluctuations and lessening the impact on taxpayers.

During FY18 budget development, the HFC recommended that the Hanover School Board take advantage of the drop in expenses by increasing reserve account funding for FY18. Instead, the reserve allocation was cut from $100,000 to $50,000. The HFC recommends significant, steady allocation to special education reserves in future years.

Heidi Postupack

Chair, Hanover Finance Committee 

Hanover

Gish Is Thoughtful and Fair

I am a member of the Sharon Planning Commission and have worked with Kevin Gish for the past five years. I have found him to be thoughtful and fair and recommend him for the Sharon Selectboard.

Susan Sellew

Sharon

Backing the Dresden Budget

The Hanover Finance Committee is an appointed town committee comprised of Hanover residents charged with reviewing financial matters of the town, and offering guidance to local school boards, town officials and residents.

During a public meeting on Jan. 27, the HFC voted unanimously to support the proposed FY18 Dresden School District Budget and all warrant articles. The proposed budget will increase spending by 2.48 percent, resulting in a 3.3 percent increase in net assessment to Hanover and a 6 percent increase in net assessment to Norwich, based on projected student enrollment.

In developing the FY18 Dresden District Budget, the goal of administrators and the Dresden School Board was to propose a budget within a target increase of between 1.75 percent and 2.75 percent. Due to late notice of significant increases in contractual health insurance and retirement benefits, this goal proved difficult to achieve, and required a flurry of Dresden and SAU 70 board meetings until the end of January. The Dresden School Board ultimately presented and approved a final budget on Jan. 24 that met the initial guideline set early in the fall of 2016.

While enrollment at Richmond Middle School and Hanover High School are holding steady or trending down slightly, the high school has been experiencing a welcome, albeit moderate, increase in tuition students. With a 10 percent projected increase in tuition revenue, this influx is enabling the district to maintain staffing and programs for the benefit of all students in the district. It is important to note that contractual obligations of the district, such as health insurance and retirement benefits, continue to be among the most significant drivers of budget increases.

Kari Asmus

Secretary, Hanover Finance Committee

Hanover

Awfully Warm in New Hampshire

Feb. 24 marked the highest temperature ever recorded for February in New Hampshire, 73 degrees Fahrenheit. It is with a great feeling of dread that we watch the indisputable effects of climate change on our world, and heartbreaking to contemplate the totally different world our children and grandchildren are going to inherit.

The image of an Earth without polar bears, songbirds and many other species is stunning. Now is not the time for either self-righteousness or guilt; rather, now is the time for every single person to make a change or, preferably, a few changes in his or her lifestyle. There is an endless list of possibilities, among them: if one can afford it, solar panels, a hybrid vehicle or energy efficient appliances. On a smaller scale, there could be walking instead of driving, canvas shopping bags, water bottles filled at home rather than a plastic one from a vending machine, avoidance of plastic in general whenever another material is available, and stopping to consider before making a purchase where it came from and where it will end up. The list is only limited by our imaginations.

Watching the news, or even reading it, is enough to fill our minds with a noisy chorus of unsettling information. We could lie awake at night worrying about the economy, political issues or even our favorite celebrities, but the reality is that none of it will matter if we don’t work to preserve our planet. As the saying goes, “If you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?” In this case, our “body” is the only home that all of us share.

Linda and George Armstrong

Lebanon

Changed My Mind About Trump

I hereby retract and disavow those remarks I made in my letter printed on Feb. 18 under the headline “Hypocritical Caterwauling,” with which I characterized those who have raised their voices in opposition.

After Trump’s tramping on the First Amendment freedom of the press by barring selected media outlets from attending a press briefing in the house owned by the American taxpayer, I realized that I permitted this footloose administration to pull the wool over my eyes and wish I had never written those remarks.

This has become a very serious matter.

I wholeheartedly support the Vermont Senate’s unanimous vote to block any attempt to “federalize” Vermont law enforcement.

John E. Jersey

Hartland