Captures thousands of Vermonters’ ideas for long-range recovery
As the state was finalizing its budget for next year, the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) released its summary of feedback from thousands of Vermonters who weighed in with their ideas of what we need to do in the next few years in order to have a prosperous and sustainable Vermont over the next 30. The non-partisan VCRD, a cornerstone group in Covid recovery efforts, recognized that in this pivotal moment of the state’s history Vermonters need comprehensive, broad-based, and long-range goals to unite behind.
The Vermont Proposition reflects what is on Vermonters’ minds today and their determination to make the state stronger, healthier, more welcoming and equitable far into the future. As VCRD Executive Director Paul Costello explains: “It is a framework for conversation, not a manifesto.”
The Vermont Proposition was released May 19 in advance of the May 26-27 virtual Summit on the Future of Vermont, which may be one of the largest, most diverse conversations to ever look at all aspects of Vermont’s future. Over 100 leaders in their fields will present their perspectives on the nine key elements of the Proposition. This will lay the groundwork for in-depth discussions by participants from across the state.
Over 490 people were already registered as of May 19.
To see the complete agenda and speaker list visit: futureofvermont.org/summit.
Vermont Proposition: Working together, Vermonters can advance strategies, policies and investments to renew citizen engagement and advance justice, resilience, strong communities, and a sustainable economy that works for all.
Vermont is at a turning point in its history, requiring a new creativity, new engagement, new leadership—to renew and revitalize the state; to advance equity, fairness, and opportunities for all; to protect and enhance our environment and working landscape; and to build the sustainable economy necessary for a resilient future. Let’s act together to build the best possible future for our families, communities and for all that we love in Vermont.
The Proposition draft has been built by the Vermont Council on Rural Development based on interviews with hundreds of individuals, written contributions from more than a thousand people, inputs from local, regional, and statewide Covid recovery convenings, ideas from partners, policy councils, and the tens of thousands of people who have engaged with us over the years to set and advance action to improve life in their communities. The draft is presented as a starting point to promote action in the next three years that will be essential for a strong and prosperous future over the next 30.
The Proposition framework is designed to support policymaking, to prompt public and private action toward a common vision, to empower partnerships of community volunteers, voters, investors, consumers and donors, to support enterprises and initiatives that work toward common objectives for the best possible future for Vermont.
VCRD and partners in this effort will share the proposition draft with the public and over the months ahead build an implementation framework and coalition to advance priorities through communication, advocacy and collective action. All Vermonters are welcomed to join the effort. The draft follows:
- Vermont must ensure affordable high-speed broadband and cellular access for all Vermonters, while using digital tools to promote community connection and democracy, and to advance local commerce and economic opportunity.
It is time to to provide universal and affordable service to all homes and businesses in Vermont. At the same time, state, business and non-profit partners need to work together to systematically advance ways that we use the internet to boost local commerce, agriculture, arts, and democratic engagement to confront challenges presented by digital culture head on.
- Vermont must combat racism, celebrate our diversity today, and welcome new Vermonters of color.
We need to advance a culture of inclusiveness and equity today and recognize the diversity of people who call Vermont home — in public policy, in our communities, and in our hearts. We need to reach out to promote belonging and welcome newcomers to Vermont, especially People of Color, as Vermonters on Day One. This can be a foundation for the creative renewal of our economy and communities for the future.
- Vermont must advance creative solutions to climate change. Creativity in answering the challenges of climate change will provide one of the greatest economic opportunities for Vermont.
Producing more local energy, managing it in the smart grid, electrifying transportation and heating, advancing regenerative agriculture and forestry, innovating in recycling and wise resource use are keys to our future. State policy and investment should systematically dis-incent carbon emissions while stimulating clean energy, infrastructure and green businesses enterprises. Vermont can lead in solutions, and attract and cultivate a new generation of entrepreneurs and purposive youth.
- Vermont must reduce economic disparities, address poverty, and promote opportunities for prosperity for all Vermonters.
With economic disparities at an historic level, and with resulting cultural and social divisions, it is time for this country, and for Vermont to commit to a renewed war on poverty. Fundamental to this is to ensure opportunities for health care and education for all, attacking benefits cliffs that undermine opportunity for low income Vermonters, and especially to seed the development of equity especially toward home ownership.
- Vermont must ensure all children have access to affordable, quality child care and education.
Vermont faces a childcare crisis with negative effects on the economy, communities, families, and our youngest Vermonters. We need to commit together to invest in high quality, affordable and sustainable childcare as a foundation for healthy children who realize their best opportunities, for supporting families, and as a lever for attracting families to the state. We must also support the early education workforce to ensure they have what they need to provide quality care and attract and retain skilled providers.
- Vermont must strengthen local business, entrepreneurship, investment, workforce and rural innovation.
We look to business leaders to mentor the next generation of entrepreneurs; for Vermont to systemically support coworking and incubation centers; to advance microlending and crowdfunding; for the state to use purchasing contracts to stimulate creative growth of small enterprises; to support and cultivate business ownership and entrepreneurship among historically underrepresented populations; to prepare youth for innovation and connecting to national and international remote work opportunities and make it easier for the next generation to afford and make progress while staying in Vermont.
- Vermont must advance efficiency and foresight through state planning and regional coordination.
Co-locating state and regional services in regional centers can reduce costs, simplify communications and make state government more accessible, and equitably distributed throughout Vermont. Developing a coordinative state planning office can add up regional land use and economic development planning, plan and prepare for climate change and other future challenges, address population issues, housing and infrastructure in line with other state and community goals. It can help Vermont both prepare for challenges, and seize opportunities to optimize its future.
- Vermont must conserve our lands and waters and advance our working landscape.
From the first-people Abenaki to today’s farmers and foresters, Vermonters have shaped and stewarded the land as a foundation of our wellbeing and resilience. Today, we must renew the protection of our air, waters, and land, and renew the enterprises that provide the foundation of Vermont’s working landscape. Vermont must pursue the enormous opportunities to sustainably expand local food and forest production of value-added products, and fashion new market opportunities beyond commodity economies to thrive, while ensuring food security and economic foundations for the future of rural families and communities.
- Vermonters must renew civic engagement and strengthen trust, civility, community connection, democratic decision-making, and empower new leaders.
Vermont’s future strength will depend on the commitment and collective action of citizens working as neighbors to advance their communities. Our democracy depends on strong education in civics and practical opportunities for young people to grow leadership skills. Vermont needs to systemically open opportunities for leadership that include the full diversity of Vermonters, especially those that have been historically underrepresented or marginalized, and that engage the next generation and give them the skills and experience to succeed both in careers and in advancing the life of their communities and of Vermont.