Responses from Lucy and Zac

In my previous post (Questions for Zac and Lucy), I posed questions for Zac Mayo and Lucy Rogers, candidates for the Vermont House of Representatives representing my town of Cambridge and the neighboring town of Waterville. Please see that post for background about my questions, which are about local government. This post contains responses from Lucy and Zac.

Please also see my previous post for comments about the Candidates Forum at the local library on October 10, especially the duet that Zac and Lucy sang at the end, including links to a Seven Days article and a segment on the CBS Evening News (“On the Road with Steve Hartman”). There is video at those links. That duet went viral!

Responses to my questions:

Question 1 – Would you support a home rule amendment to the Vermont Constitution?

Response from Lucy:

The hierarchical structure of our government is such that town government ultimately answers to state government, and state government ultimately answers to national government. Within this framework, the specific dynamics of this hierarchy can vary. Vermont is a “Dillon’s Rule” state, meaning that towns can only do whatever the state has specifically given them authority to do. Other states are “Home Rule” states, meaning that towns can rule themselves unless the state specifically prohibits their actions.

Both Dillon’s Rule and Home Rule have advantages and disadvantages. Rather than switch entirely to being a Home Rule state, I think the first step is to work in the state legislature to ensure that we are protecting local control within the Dillon’s Rule framework. Specifically, a current issue with Dillon’s Rule is that it is responsible for granting the state the authority to restructure educational systems through legislation such as Act 46. I think the legislature should come together to make a decision that we believe each town knows best what the children in that town need, and that we respect local decisions about local schools. In the legislature, I will fight tirelessly to protect local control of small schools.

Response from Zac:

I believe a home rule amendment would be a welcome change for Vermonters. In my opinion, allowing towns to act only within what is directly permitted (Dillon’s rule) discourages creativity and seems out of touch with the ‘local control’ Vermont has long supported. Further driving my belief for this change is my observation that legislation is largely reactive, not proactive. If a town were to act outside the best interests of their residents, I am confident the state would react to serve those people that were provided that disservice. Lastly, since the very involved process for amending our constitution requires popular vote ratification, we can be sure all Vermonters have a say and not just the current representatives in office.

Question 2 – What changes to the Open Meeting Law, as it applies to local government, would you suggest or support?

Response from Lucy:

Open Meeting Laws are extremely important to keeping our Vermont government transparent and accessible. The issue with Vermont’s Open Meeting Law as it currently stands is that it does not take into consideration the different circumstances that small towns with small groups (such as a 3-member selectboard) may encounter. If two of the three members of Waterville’s selectboard met at the school’s chicken pie supper, they would not be allowed to discuss any business relating to the town. This greatly hinders progress, and eliminates the opportunity for great ideas to arise out of casual conversation over chicken pie. I think an amendment to the Open Meeting Law that would keep the spirit of the law intact while making it more reasonable for small towns would be to say that discussions about town business are allowed outside of warned meetings as long as 1) no final decisions are made outside of warned meetings, and 2) one of the members present at these informal discussions provides a detailed summary of the discussion at the following warned meeting.

Response from Zac:

I agree with the intent of the Open Meeting Law and I would not like to see the intent changed. However, I am always concerned with any policy that inhibits communication, since lack of communication is usually one of, if not the root of most societal issues. Preventing our public servants from engaging with each other outside of official meeting times, simply because they add up to a quorum, seems like a great way to discourage efficiency. So long as policy changes do not occur outside those official meeting times, I would encourage every interaction possible between our office holders whenever they desired.

Question 3 – Would you support making the legislature subject to the same Open Meeting Law that applies to local government?

Response from Lucy:

I believe that the legislature should be subject to the same Open Meeting Laws as local governments. Some of the issues described above are specifically relevant to small boards or committees and do not need to apply to meeting bodies as large as the state house or senate. Otherwise, I think it makes sense to apply the same Open Meeting Laws to both the state government and local governments in order to keep them accessible and transparent.

Response from Zac:

I would like the same standard to be present ‘across the board’ to include the legislature. Double standards allow for the feeling of an unjust system and that is highly undesired. Having said that I would not like the legislature to fit the town’s Open Meeting Law but make the local government and executive branch match the legislature’s standard or in this case exemption.

From George:

Thank you, Zac and Lucy, for your responses!

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