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Addison Independent Candidate Q&A

AI: Economy - Vermont faces a multi-front threat to its economic wellbeing, including slow sales in many sectors and high unemployment due to the coronavirus. But Vermont has long struggled to attract and retaining enough businesses that provide good-paying jobs, which some argue lead to the state’s stagnant population and a declining younger demographic. If elected, what measures would you propose to bolster Vermont’s economy?

CE: I believe the following measures would be helpful for the Vermont economy:

1. Increase the availability of childcare. This means continuing to invest in pre-K programs while also supporting more options for age 0-3.

2. Enable renewable energy development again. Wind isn’t happening at all and even solar projects have been forced into semi-dormancy over the past several years through excessive regulation.

3. Lean into the electrification of transportation: From buses, to cars, to utvs, scooters and bikes, electric vehicles have arrived. If we build a good infrastructure — not just charging stations, but also safer routes for slower traffic — we will bolster the tourist economy while helping Vermonters transition to carbon-free transportation safely and affordably.

4. We need to continue ramping up our work on broadband expansion so that remote work opportunities exist across all 14 counties.

AI: School outcomes - What will you do to help schools improve the way they provide Vermont children (and adults) the skills needed to fill jobs, or create jobs, in the state?

CE: We need continued investment in our tech centers to ensure they have the programs that the local economy demands. I would like to see tech centers provide opportunities for students to work in their field of interest during high school if possible, through accredited internships with local companies. I believe this model could be especially powerful for healthcare job training, particularly with nursing and pre-med students. We could create more programming around healthcare in general, as well as expanding licensing opportunities at tech centers. At the same time, we should strengthen the relationship between tech center nursing programs with the excellent VTC nursing program. Of course our public school students should also have the opportunity to pursue a more traditional college-prep curriculum. But for those students too, there should be opportunities to try out different trades or professions before figuring out their next educational or professional destination. 

AI: School consolidation - How should/can state officials work to maintain, or consolidate, small schools, and what are the costs and benefits of maintaining, or consolidating, our school districts? 

CE: Right now, this isn’t a decision for state lawmakers but for school board members and local voters. Each district will be advised by their superintendent about the costs and benefits of closing schools. As a member of the MAUSD board, I have joined in discussing multiple scenarios. The most extreme of these would close four of our five elementary schools, bringing students from all five towns to Bristol for preK-12 education on two campuses. The presumed benefits of this would be significantly reducing operational costs and adding some programming, while stabilizing existing programs. As for the costs of this approach, towns would lose their schools, which currently meet families and students closer to home while serving as community hubs. Additionally, MAUSD would give up four buildings for no compensation, though they are in good working order and carry little debt. By contrast, operating preK-12 on two campuses in Bristol would likely require renovation and a construction bond.

AI: Environment -There is a lot to address here: water quality, climate change, protecting open land. As a lawmaker, what areas of the environment would you put your energies toward and why?

CE: My priorities for environmental legislation center on addressing climate change through emission reduction efforts as well as through resiliency-building. Second to climate is clean water and of course those causes are strongly linked. During the past biennium I was happy to vote for new, significant funding for lake cleanup. And just this past week I was proud to cast a vote to override Governor Scott’s veto of the Global Warming Solutions Act. We need the GWSA to hold us accountable to our stated climate goals. Additionally, we need to participate in the regional transportation climate initiative. The revenues from that agreement could be used to invest in the necessary infrastructure to transform our transportation sector in Vermont. I was interested to hear the Governor announce a new tax credit for research and development of electric transportation technology. I applaud that effort, and would like to see more ideas like that rolled out. 

AI: Health care - Vermonters have bemoaned the high cost of medical care and health preventive maintenance for a long time. What existing public policies would you support, what new policies would you push to institute, and what would you abandon?

CE: I think it is time to re-evaluate the performance of the accountable care organization, OneCare. I was hopeful that an ACO model could help contain healthcare costs for Vermonters. If OneCare’s goal of holding cost increases to around 3% a year were achieved that would be a huge improvement. However, we haven’t seen the needle move much so far and participation in the OneCare program appears to be unsustainably low. I think time will tell, but maybe not much more time. At this point, I believe we need to focus on achieving universal access to primary care. Eliminating barriers to primary care will make us all healthier and less expensive to insure in the long run. I was a co-sponsor on a universal primary care bill in the last session, but the effort really didn’t get off the ground. I will take this cause back up in 2021 if re-elected and help to push for a better outcome.

AI: Agriculture - Most Vermonters don’t live on farms, but we all enjoy the benefits of living in a farming community. How are we going to support this industry? What existing laws need to be changed and what new ones need to be introduced? Who pays? 

CE: In this biennium we passed a ban on poisons known as neonicotinoids in common household products, due to their disastrous effects on our bee populations. Relatively little farming would be possible without bees and other pollinators, and it’s critical for us to understand how our food security is intertwined with these species’ population health. Similarly I think that efforts to protect our waterways and lakes are closely linked to the agricultural potential in our state. In the coming biennium I would like to see a ban on glyphosate moving forward since it is a presumed carcinogen for humans. 

Candidate’s Choice:

On Institutional Racism in Vermont: Racism exists in all types of institutions across our country and our state as well. Acknowledging this reality is a step towards fixing the problem. When we look at policy around criminal justice, policing, public education, housing and personal finance we have to keep this reality in mind. Each bill should be viewed through such a lens, so that the question is asked: Is there an opportunity in this legislation to promote equity, either through policy or investment? I see this approach to legislating as an ongoing ethical imperative. Pursuing a just society and a just economy will strengthen us all, and could deliver a kind of prosperity we have not experienced before in the Green Mountains.