… as many of you know, 46 percent of registered voters didn’t vote in November. That’s 209,000 Vermonters whose only choice on November 2 was not to show up. They decided it wasn’t worth it, or it didn’t matter, or it wouldn’t do any good, to make their voice heard. My experience shows that’s just not the case… I don’t think any of us fully realized until November 2 what that frustration had turned into; it turned into 209,000 people who had apparently given up… Civic involvement isn’t something that’s only relevant on even-numbered years.
All of us here in the Legislature need to reach out to those folks and welcome them in, even when we might not agree with their views. We need to open our doors. In order to live up to the intentions and the expectations of our accessible government, we ourselves need to be more accessible. That will mean different things for each of us. For me, that means literally opening my office door downstairs a morning or two a week and inviting you in for coffee and conversation. It means opening my virtual doors…
When I challenge Vermonters to get involved, I’m not just talking about the work we do in Montpelier. Because I really believe we all want to help each other; sometimes we just need to know how… one theme that I’ve stressed… is self-reliance, and its partner, volunteerism. In my mind, those are two sides of the same coin. Being self-reliant doesn’t just mean looking after yourself, although that’s important… But self-reliance also means looking after our neighbors, and giving them the support they may need to get to the next step in their lives.
That has a lot of implications.
That means buying local, and supporting the merchants on Main Street instead of the website in California.
That means helping Vermont’s manufacturers to identify suppliers and trading partners who are here within our borders or close by in our region.
That means making it easier and more affordable for more of us to eat local food, supporting our farmers, reducing transportation costs, and getting fresher and healthier things to eat.
That means investing in energy policies that help us become more independent.
Personally, I suspect that a great deal of the collective frustration that caused those 209,000 people to stay home on November 2 was the sense that our elected officials and candidates kept talking about the goals — creating jobs, jump-starting the economy, and helping our most vulnerable — but didn’t talk enough about how we would get there. Buying local and encouraging innovative local partnerships are part of my vision for how we do it…
Our challenge in Montpelier is to come up with solutions that will strengthen Vermont. Your challenge is to come up with solutions that will help your neighbor and strengthen your community. If we all work together, we will strengthen the legacy of the state that we love to call home.