As we have been continually reminded in the recent scorched-earth campaign, words matter. President-elect Trump's campaign rhetoric has awakened hateful behavior and speech in our country. Trump's appointment of Stephen Bannon (his campaign CEO and former chairman of the alt-right website Breitbart News) is an ominous sign that the normalization of bigotry which marked his campaign will continue into his presidency. Not okay.
Working with a group Vermont lawmakers, today Jim and I released the following statement. We want to remind President-elect Trump and all those we represent that, in the wake of this election, our values have not changed.
We have a lot to be proud of as Vermonters.
We pride ourselves on being a community that embraces diversity. One that protects the environment which sustains us. A community that strives to uphold justice for every person, regardless of the color of their skin, their gender identity or expression, whom they love, whom or what they worship, or whether they were born here or elsewhere.
We are proud of our decades-long history standing against hate and intolerance. We led the Nation as the first state to abolish slavery and again as the first state to declare through our Legislature that all people deserve the right to marry, regardless of whom they love. In the wake of this divisive election, we must hold up the accomplishments of our past while resolutely opposing any attempt to roll back the rights and liberties that so many have fought so hard to achieve.
Many Vermonters and Americans are concerned that this past election rewarded and normalized behavior objectifying women, denigrating racial and religious minorities, and disparaging those with disabilities. They are worried that civil liberties protected by the Vermont and United States Constitutions may be under threat. Let us be clear that this election has not changed our Vermont values, and we will continue to reject misogyny, racism, and bigotry. Discrimination and violence have no place in our State. “Freedom and Unity” is more than our State motto, it is a charge that we embrace without reserve.
We cannot let this divisive election weaken our commitment to this charge. Each of us must stand with our neighbors by refusing to accept any action fueled by intolerance or discrimination, and call out any injustice so that we can join together as a community to denounce it. We must all be active citizens in the fight against oppression. Our cities, towns, and communities, like our hearts, must remain open to all who are seeking shelter from hate.
There is no doubt that the decisions of our incoming President and the next Congress may impact federal support for Vermonters from all walks of life, and we are committed to working diligently with every resource we have, and with all partners nationally and locally to lead our State through the challenges we may face.
As a state we will stand together to reject any efforts that seek to erode the rights, civil liberties, and Constitutional protections that embody the fabric of our democracy. We refuse to move backward and instead will stand as a beacon of progress for this country in the months and years ahead.
We have a lot to be proud of as Vermonters, and we refuse to let that change.
Last week, I was at the fall meeting for Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Partners for Community Wellness where Sara Kobylenski (pictured here with PCW chair Bill Boyle) received the Ambassador Award for her extraordinary leadership at The Haven. I've worked with Sara on the board of Mascoma Savings Bank for the past four years. She is an inspiration.
On November 15th, the bi-annual Vermont Housing Conference was held in Burlington. (Anne Duncan Cooley, who runs the Upper Valley Housing Coalition, is pictured here.) A key theme at the conference, which you'll hear from any economic development professional in Vermont: housing is economic development. There is a shortage of housing in Vermont not only for those who are clients of The Haven, but also for middle income families. The vast majority of VT housing stock was built prior to 1979, and the vacancy rate for rental housing in the Upper Valley is around 1%. The #1 concern of growing VT businesses is not taxes nor over-regulation, it's the inability to find enough workers. And it's tough to find workers when workers can't find a place to live.