Commentary, Opinion

Covid recovery and renewal – building a proposition for the future of Vermont

By Paul Costello

As we come out of the crucible of the pandemic and look to a new year, we need more than recovery, we need to work together to advance renewal and resilience for our communities and economy.

The Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) has been asking Vermonters what recovery will look like. Almost universally Vermonters say that we can’t just go “back to normal” in 2021—there’s no way to go backward, and we need to learn from this crisis. We must go forward to answer some of the fundamental challenges we faced before Covid-19 and also to prepare for the challenges from climate change that we are already seeing and that science predicts will intensify.

We are asking Vermonters what we should do in the next three years to build success for the next 30. What do we need to do today to build foundations for the success of the next generation of Vermonters? What should we prioritize for action? To catalogue the ideas we have heard so far from over a thousand Vermonters, we have built a very preliminary first draft of a Vermont proposition.

The proposition in its current draft is made up of 10 statements. Today, we are testing these statements and want to hear thoughts for improvements, additions and deletions suggested by Vermonters. What are your propositions for the future of Vermont?

Here’s our draft list so far (which will certainly change!):

Part 1: Vermont must ensure universal broadband and cellular access, while using digital tools to promote community, civility and democracy, and to advance local commerce and economic opportunity

Part 2: Vermonters must oppose racism, renew and expand our collective identity, and welcome new Vermonters

Part 3: Vermont must advance creative economic solutions to climate change

Part 4: Vermont must reduce economic disparity, advance economic opportunity and rebuild the middle class

Part 5: Vermont must re-localize energy, agriculture, and business investment for a resilient economy

Part 6: Vermont must ensure all children have access to affordable, quality child care and education

Part 7: Vermont must strengthen business vitality by advancing entrepreneurship, investment, workforce and rural innovation

Part 8: Vermont must reform regional coordination and governance and advance efficiency and foresight in state planning

Part 9: Vermont must protect our lands and waters and advance the economy of the working landscape

Part 10: Together, Vermonters must renew civic engagement and strengthen trust, civility, democratic decision-making, and empower young Vermonters

There are a lot of ideas and potential strategies behind each of these; think of the proposition as a book-length action plan, with these as chapter titles. What are we missing? What have we gotten wrong? What needs to change?

Send us your ideas by taking the Proposition Survey at futureofvermont.org or contact us for a paper copy at [email protected] Sign up to stay in touch with the next stage of this initiative!

Let’s turn into the new year with hope and mutual dedication to build the best possible future for the next generation of Vermonters!

Paul Costello is the executive director of the Vermont Council on Rural Development

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