Editorial: As we pause to give thanks

  • Len Angelli, right, of Grantham, N.H., carries trays of food while putting together 1,800 Thanksgiving meals on Wednesday, Nov., 24, 2021, at Sacred Heart Church in Lebanon, N.H. Volunteering with him are Jerry Bieszczad, of Grantham, N.H., and his sons John and Ed. For the dinners, Angelli cooked 136 turkeys, 700 pounds of potatoes, 700 pounds of squash, 45 pans of stuffing, 40 pans of carrots and made 14 five-gallon buckets of gravy. Meals are delivered on Thanksgiving Day. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

Published: 11/21/2022 11:31:27 AM
Modified: 11/21/2022 11:31:19 AM

With feasting on the menu for the coming week, we offer today a few editorial appetizers in the hope that they provide food for thought at Thanksgiving.

One of the things for which we will be giving special thanks this year is the return to the democratic norm of the concession speech, in which losing candidates graciously acknowledge defeat, congratulate their opponents and encourage their supporters to keep fighting the good fight. It was striking and encouraging that during this month’s midterm elections, candidates in several high-profile national races who embraced Donald Trump’s 2020 election-denial myth did not dispute their own losses and conceded in timely fashion. As Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a history professor at New York University, told The New York Times, “Accepting defeat means acknowledging that facts matter, that the will of the voters matters, that reality-based thinking can prevail.”

We are also darn grateful that we didn’t bother to learn a single thing about cryptocurrencies before FTX imploded. In this case, ignorance was truly blissful. We’ll wait for the Michael Lewis book to find out what it was all about.

What is it called when 350 school officials, educators, community members, law enforcement representatives, emergency services professionals and school mental health counselors get together at a conference center in South Burlington to discuss school safety? Vermont calls it the annual Governor’s School Safety Conference. We call it an unjustified abuse of the executive session privilege.

The news media was barred from the event because of “the sensitive nature of the subject matter and in order to facilitate an environment that supports inclusive learning and encourages participants” to speak candidly, according to the organizers. Did it not occur to the co-sponsors, the Agency of Education and the Department of Public Safety, that anything that’s said in front of 350 people is unlikely to remain confidential? Or that the general public might have a keen interest in this vital topic and could benefit from news reporting?

Norwich and Hartford are without town managers, yet again. There’s never a good time to be without municipal leadership, but budget season just might be the worst. Developing a budget is not only a matter of ensuring funding for continuing operations; in well-run communities, it is also a way to implement policies adopted by the Selectboard and establish priorities for the future. Beyond that immediate handicap, both communities have to consider that a near-constant churn of top administrators followed by long periods of temporary leadership creates a reputation for instability that is bound to shrink the pool of highly qualified candidates interested in the permanent job. Both Selectboards should determine whether structural issues or unclear expectations are undermining stable governance before they begin a new manager search.

In Hartford’s case, it has been nearly a month since the board suddenly put Town Manager Tracy Yarlott-Davis on administrative leave, with the apparent expectation that she will not return. No explanation has been forthcoming. The Selectboard chairman says the board “has been advised” not to comment, presumably by its lawyer. If that’s the case, we hope that current board members and future candidates will refrain from all the happy talk about promoting transparency in government. If the board feels legally bound not to tell the public anything for nearly a month about what led to Yarlott-Davis’ departure — arguably the most important decision it makes — then any claim to transparency is risible.

About 15 years ago, the holiday gift catalog was declared all but dead, a victim of the Great Recession, higher mailing costs and online shopping’s march of progress. So how is it that this year we find our mailbox stuffed almost daily with glossy, colorful catalogs from retailers of just about every description? Our unscientific answer is that browsing for gifts online has proved to be a poor substitute for the serendipity of turning the physical page and discovering an intriguing gift possibility for a discriminating, hard-to-please relative or friend — just as ordering a book online cannot replicate the experience of joyful discovery made possible by browsing library or bookstore shelves.

This is also the time to give thanks for the kind-hearted and public-spirited souls (in which the Upper Valley abounds) who make it their special mission each Thanksgiving to share food and fellowship with the less fortunate. Their moral clarity is a welcome beacon in dark times and a joyful affirmation in better ones.

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