The library in my town of Cambridge, the Varnum Library, hosted a Candidates Forum last night for Zac Mayo and Lucy Rogers who are running for an open seat in the Vermont House of Representatives, representing Cambridge and the neighboring town of Waterville. It was an extraordinary event, and it gives me renewed faith in our democracy.
Both Lucy and Zac are young (30 or younger) and both are putting considerable energy into this campaign – knocking on doors and meeting with people affected by government such as small business owners, childcare providers, healthcare providers, and many others. There are differences between the candidates, but they both grew up here, went through the local schools, went away for a time, and came back. Both Zac and Lucy are clearly committed to serving the people of Cambridge and Waterville.
The most striking thing about the campaign, especially in light of current national politics, is their shared commitment to civility. At the end of two hours last night of respectfully making statements and answering questions, Lucy and Zac sang a song together for the benefit of the audience. I’ve never seen anything like it in any political campaign:
We in Cambridge and Waterville are indeed fortunate to have two young people of such high quality campaigning to be our elected representative in Montpelier.
I also want to commend the Varnum Library for organizing last night’s event. It was very well done. Moderator Lucie Garand did a great job. Last night’s forum was a shining example of why libraries are important to democracy.
There were many good questions last night, but other than questions about schools, I don’t recall any questions about local government. I have questions for Zac and Lucy about local government. I did not ask these questions last night because I did not know how to present them in a way that either the candidates or the audience would understand them in that forum. They require some background explanation.
The rest of this post is my questions. My questions are informed by my experience on the Cambridge selectboard, but my questions and comments are my own. They do not represent the selectboard’s views.
Lucy and Zac:
My questions relate to this theme:
What is a proper relationship between state and local government?
That’s not a question for you to answer directly; it is only a theme to think about as you consider my specific questions below. This theme is similar to the question in the header of this blog: What is a proper relationship between a free people and their government? I guess I think a lot about relationships. The relationship between state and local government is an appropriate issue for a legislator to think about (among other issues) because it is state government that defines this relationship.
Question 1 – Home Rule
Vermont is a Dillon’s Rule state. My understanding of Dillon’s Rule vs. home rule is at the link in the preceding sentence. A long-standing policy position of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns is to support “a home rule amendment to the Vermont Constitution.”
1. Would you support a home rule amendment to the Vermont Constitution?
Questions 2 and 3 – Open Meeting Law
In my time on the Cambridge selectboard, I have found the Open Meeting Law to be unlike anything I have ever encountered before. My understanding of the law is at the link in the preceding sentence. No one seems happy with the Open Meeting Law as it currently stands. Some want it tighter, some want it looser. The legislature is constantly tinkering with this law.
2. What changes to the Open Meeting Law, as it applies to local government, would you suggest or support?
The Open Meeting Law applies to local governments and the executive branch of state government, but the legislature exempts itself from the law.
3. Would you support making the legislature subject to the same Open Meeting Law that applies to local government?
Thank you for your willingness to be our elected representative in Montpelier.
UPDATE 10/12/18: Seven Days published an article by political columnist John Walters about the Candidates Forum at the Varnum Library. He wrote about how Zac and Lucy concluded the evening with a duet of “Society” by Eddie Vedder. Yes, it was inspiring! There is video at the link: Vermont Political Debate Ends in Harmony … Literally.