This week, hundreds of Vermonters came together to think about what is best for our state. While there were lawmakers present, this group of individuals were all experts in their respective fields. They were convened as part of the Vermont Council on Rural Development’s Summit on the Future of Vermont.
Held remotely, the two day summit (Wednesday and Thursday) took a deep dive into 10 propositions that VCRD has developed in an attempt to “advance strategies, policies and investments to renew citizen engagement and advance justice, resilience, strong communities, and a sustainable economy that works for all.”
That is heady work. But when you convene a brain trust of Vermonters, things start to happen. As they should.
“This is a defining moment for Vermont,” the introduction of Vermont Proposition states. “The intersecting crises confronting Vermont today have revealed a need to reimagine our social compact, rededicate to shared values and ideals, and recommit to bold action.”
It goes on to state, “Doing so means embracing new Vermonters, building infrastructure for the future, strengthening civic society, transforming our economy, and driving new economic opportunity in an era disrupted by climate change, technology and globalization.”
The nonpartisan VCRD is known for bringing partners together to have hard conversations. They work with communities to help prioritize challenges, and set strategies toward resolving them. And the organization, headed up by Paul Costello and a legion of dedicated staff, strive to problem-solve at both a micro and macro level.
Setting forth to examine what we need to do as a state seems like an impossible and potentially contentious task. And it is.
Which is why everyone was summoned to one space to chat.
A family meeting of the entire state, if you will.
And nothing was left off the table.
In fact, the table was set long before this week. VCRD started the idea of propositions more than a year ago, conducting interviews across the state, gathering data and anecdotes. Over months they heard from thousands of Vermonters who each shared unique perspectives.
Then, with a draft of 10 propositions in hand, they sought to broaden the discussion, and share the ideas with all Vermonters. The Times Argus and Rutland Herald shared space on these pages over the last 10 weeks to further inform, educated and solicit input.
So this week was another benchmark in the ongoing process VCRD has laid out. What is gleaned from the summit will be added to the mix that will become a staggering compilation.
Toward what? Hopefully, a roadmap either around or over outdated policies that have been holding Vermont back from growth across sectors, or strategies to unknot attitudes that keep tripping up our leaders.
Here is a sampling of what has been learned. Vermonters are dedicated to working together for a future where Vermont:
— Attracts youth and answers our demographic challenges.
— Preserves, protects and renews participatory democracy.
— Does our part to answer climate change.
— Engages young people on the land and strengthens the land-based economy.
— Protects the natural resources, environment and beauty of the land and waters.
— Expands racial justice, equity, inclusion and the diversity of the state’s population.
— Reduces poverty and economic disparity and expands prosperity and opportunity.
— Strengthens the resilience of local communities.
In addition, we advance telecommunications; modernize regional governance and state long-term planning.
In effect, these propositions aim to chart a modern vision to improve the lives and opportunities for every Vermonter, be it families, children or individuals.
These are reassurances we need right now. The fact that we are being asked to think well beyond today, and to connect with colleagues, friends and neighbors toward a better tomorrow is a bold gesture toward answering the question: What do you want?
We commend everyone who participated in this week’s summit, and look forward to watching your commitment to our state manifest in glorious ways. And we thank VCRD, from the bottom of our hearts, for bringing the family together.