There are five candidates in the race to represent Berkshire, Franklin, Highgate and Richford in the Vermont House of Representatives, the Franklin-5 district. Franklin 5 has two seats in the district. Both Republican incumbents, Steve Beyor and Al Pearce, decided not to seek reelection. There are two Democrats, two Republicans and an independent in the race.

Josh Aldrich
Republican

There are several reasons why I am running for the Vermont Legislature. The main reason is my Vermont friends need a strong voice. My voice will be heard. I will be that rep that will stand up to anything and make sure myself and Vermonters are being heard. I was born and raised in Franklin County. Having 20 years involvement in my community as a rescue personnel. This has given me the opportunity to hear several ideas, many stories, concerns that has affected each Vermonter. There are several issues that need to be focused on. Some of those issues include, high taxes, affordability, clean water, safety, and keeping local control in our schools. While being involved in my community and having open eyes and ears for two decades now, it’s shown me how we need someone that will not only stand up but someone who will present all ideas and concerns.

Daniel Neadeau
Democrat

I am Daniel Nadeau and I am running for Franklin-5 state rep. I am running because I believe Highgate, Franklin, Richford, Berkshire want a young person that has more to say then no new taxes. Someone that has a positive outlook for our district and its future. There our many issues in Vermont that we must work to solve. We need young people that understand the changing landscape so that northern Vermont can prosper. I have lived and worked in northern Vermont my entire life and the local businesses our the hearts of rural Vermont. The problems in Franklin-5 our many of the same issues that other parts of Vermont our dealing with the drug addiction crises and providing good paying jobs to keep our young adults in Vermont.

Linda Collins
Independent

I am running for Representative because I have been involved in community service and town government for years. I am the chair of the Richford Selectboard, which I’ve been for 10 years, making me familiar with municipal laws and parliamentary procedure.

I am a member of the NOTCH Board of Trustees and have seen the growth of the medical center from one small building in Richford, to six clinics, two dental practices and a pharmacy, making me aware of health issues and affordable care in Franklin County.

As a high school English teacher for 30 years at Enosburg Falls High School, I have taught approximately 3,000 students. I am aware of the problems and possibilities for young people. I am very interested in education and the right of the voters to decide what is best for their towns and districts, as well as affordability for students who want further training after high school.

I think people who know me would agree that if I start a project I finish it.

Shane Rhodes
Republican

 

Charen Fegard
Democrat

I am running for State Representative in Franklin-5 (Berkshire, Franklin, Highgate, Richford) because our communities need somebody in the statehouse working hard on their behalf. People deserve fair taxes, good jobs with decent wages and benefits, affordable healthcare, local control over K-12 education, and opportunities for higher education that don’t cripple our youth with lifelong debt.

I have worked in the civil service, both the non-profit and private sectors, and had my own small businesses. I have learned that when we work together respectfully, using accurate information, common sense, and good faith, we can accomplish our common goals. It may not be easy, but it is possible.

State officials have put the cost for cleaning up Lake Champlain at $1.2 billion over 20 years. There is still no agreed upon funding source for this work. How do you think the state should fund its clean water efforts?

Aldrich:
We all want clean water, and it sure won’t happen overnight. It makes me wonder how the state can come up with a $1.2 billion amount without even knowing how its going to be funded. Funding should have been figured out before any dollar amount was brought to the table. I think the question should be, do we really need to budget $25 million a year? Why not do half of that? Anything is better then nothing. I feel if half was budgeted each year it would make funding a little easier. To answer the question of how it will be funded, NOT by raising any taxes or new fees. Let’s apply for all available grants. let’s make polluters pay for polluting. All fines for polluting should be used towards clean water. I feel that would be a great start for funding clean water.

Fegard:
I hope to gain better understanding of the inner workings of Vermont’s lawmaking process and to scrutinize existing systems for opportunity. In May, 42 years after the Bottle Bill was passed, S.285 was signed into law, ceasing to give well over $1 million each year in unclaimed bottle deposits to the beverage industry. Starting October 2019, that money will be used to help fund clean water programs, like cleaning up Lake Carmi. Can other financial oversight corrections be used help to clean up our waters? Recreation fees might be another source of funding, but we need significant federal funds. Mitigating future water pollution while cleaning up many decades of nutrient loading is no small task and will require thoughtful, detailed research and cooperation.

Collins:
Lake Champlain is, of course, very important to Vermonters for recreation and tourism. Pollution of the
lake did not occur overnight and will take many years to remediate. In Richford, as in other
communities, we are already looking at ways to reduce phosphorous runoff. Sen. Leahy fought for and
has obtained federal funds to get started on cleaning the lake, at least for this year. The money is
aimed at reducing phosphorous pollution from urban run off, farms and sewage treatment plants.

We need to push for EPA Grants, Technical Assistance Grants and Brownfields grants to help with the
project. The communities along the lake should be encouraged to get involved in the clean up. We also
need to continue studies on how to correct the problem. Possible ways of raising funds, in addition to
grants and federal funding, might be an increase in the room and meals tax or a designation of funds
from the lottery.

Rhodes:
In my opinion we could do fund raisers. We may have to raise the cost of boat registration. Maybe even divert some of the money that is taken in from hunting and fishing licenses. This is a hard thing to come up with. And we would have to sit down and have serious discussions with many different people to try to work this problem out. And I don’t believe that we would have to raise taxes. I believe that we could cut a little spending here and there and use that money saved in those places to use on fixing the lake. But this will have to be a bipartisan fix no one person can fix this. Furthermore not even ten people will be able to fix this issue.

Possession of a small amount of marijuana in Vermont is now legal. In your view, should the state move forward with a regulated market for marijuana or leave things as they are now?

Aldrich:
We’ve got to think about people’s lives on the roads and streets before we can even think about a regulated market. The safety of each Vermonter needs to be considered during this entire process. We need to come up with a road side test to determine if one’s under the influence of marijuana in both the House and Senate. There are multiple steps left to take within this process. Also, there needs to be a way to monitor each sale site. It may need to be set up in a way like state liquor control for alcohol and tobacco.

Fegard:
In this complex issue, I will defer to what the voters of Franklin-5 want.

Concerns I have include: normalizing marijuana is likely to increase use, especially among youth, the potential for conflict between state and federal law, and that law enforcement lacks tools to accurately detect marijuana intoxication for DUI purposes.

The potential benefits are that marijuana could become a profitable agricultural asset for the state, helping both farmers and the programs that are funded by the tax revenue.

I would agree with regulating and taxing marijuana only if: regulations for any growing, ownership, and use include enforced mandates to keep it out of the public and out of reach of minors, and a significant percentage of those taxes collected are used to finally provide adequate funding for mental health and addiction services in the state; and only if it is the will of the voters.

Collins:
I wasn’t in the legislature when this bill passed but perhaps they should have thought this out before it was legalized. It seems there are other factors, such as enforcement for operating under the influence of marijuana that should have been decided at the time. There will definitely have to be discussions about pot and how it will affect the workplace especially those that require drug testing by federal law. Law enforcement should be a part of that discussion and their advice taken seriously.

Nadeau:
I am undecided on the issue of marijuana legalization. However I do think the current law has some well known loopholes that need to be fixed and it to be made clear to both sides what is legal and what is not. I agree that each region of Vermont should be able to develop there own rules on the issue. However I think its a poor idea for it to be on a town by town basis because that will make it much harder to enforce.

Rhodes:
I don’t believe that marijuana should be all out legal. I do believe that it is a gate way drug and it will move some people to bigger and heavier things. And we have a big enough problem now with these hard drugs on our streets. I do see that it isn’t a good thing to lock someone up or ruin a young person’s life over a small amount of marijuana. However, I do not believe that it should be openly accepted in our society.

This past session the legislature approved a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024, which was then vetoed by Gov. Phil Scott. Do you support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour?

Aldrich
I think it would be great to have a $15.00 min wage, but the entire picture needs to be looked at here. We’ve got to think about all the small business owners who are struggling now because of all the taxes. With a $15.00 min wage on top of all the taxes it would head small businesses into a direction of failure and closure. I’m all for an increased wage, it just needs to be workable for all. We’ve all said it a time or two in our lives, everything goes up except for wages. If elected as one of your next State Reps I’ll be willing to work for an increase in wages just not a $15.00 increase at this time.

Fegard:
People need decent wages for their labor, so that nobody workingfull-time qualifies for public assistance. The working poor are not being subsidized by our taxes; employer payrolls are. The taxpayer burden exceeds food-stamps because the stress of struggling on low wages contributes to many problems that Vermont DCF and other state agencies must respond to. Publicly traded businesses consistently provide shareholder profits at the expense of employee well-being. Often, top tier management make high six figure salaries or more, while paying poverty wages to workers who are the backbone of the company, providing actual goods and services. They can and should pay $15 per hour or more.

That said, small, Vermont businesses often operate at the edge of survival. Local business owners have shared that they value their employees and wish they could pay them more and remain open. I would not force them to increase wages. They will catch up when they can.

Rhodes:
I do not believe in raising the minimum wage. I believe that if we can drop restrictions and taxes on the small business owners, then they can hire more employees and pay them a better wage. I believe that most people are not greedy they just have to stay afloat. If they are making ore money than they will hire more people and pay better wages. And if we in force this minimum wage I believe that many small mom and pop businesses will have to lay off some of their help to stay in business.

Collins:
Of course there are two sides to this issue. Costs for consumers are rising every day, milk prices are down and it’s almost impossible to live on minimum wages. There should be an increase. However $15 may cause small businesses to close, leaving no jobs at all. Employers may even cut hours giving employees less money but expecting the job to get done. N.H. has a minimum wage of a little over $7 an hour, which is very low, and they are right next door. Good for employers but not employees. I believe currently we are the sixth highest minimum wage in the nation and will be close to California if we raise it to $15. There has to be a raise but not so high it will close small businesses. At the same time, we should compare ourselves to other states in New England and their minimum wages and be the leader in pay and the leaders in making the state a more affordable place to live. The pay should also be high enough that people benefit from going to work.

Nadeau:
I believe that we need a $15 an hour wage for the simple reason that wages have not kept up with the cost of living. People are working harder and longer then ever before and they should have the wages to reflect that. When I graduated high school you could get two sodas for $2 from any gas station in Vermont. Now those same sodas cost 3.50 and we our expecting families to live on those same wages.

With both dairy farmers and their vendors struggling after four years of low milk prices, what action, if any, do you think the state should take to assist farmers and other agricultural businesses?

Aldrich:
Farmers here in Vermont employ a large amount of employees, especially here in Franklin 5. Berkshire has one of the largest farms here in Vermont and employs a great number of workers. We need to do something to make milk prices higher then what it cost to make the product. Right now there’s too much milk globally and a fair amount is being dumped. With having such a supply, it’s driving the price of milk way down. June 1was a deadline for a program called Margin Protection, a type of insurance designed to help farmers who are spending more to produce milk than they get for selling it. I’m hoping as many farmers as possible signed up for this program. Vermont put in its budget $450.000 to help Vermont farmers pay for premiums towards this program. We as Vermonters don’t want to see any farms go under,;we’ve had to many as it is. If elected as one of your next state representatives, I’ll be sure to give all VT farms my full attention to help out in any possible way.

Collins:
I want to continue to see hay and corn growing in our fields and even though the smaller farms are disappearing, many of our larger Franklin County farms are still family owned and operated. We need to keep this lifestyle safe. After talking with local farmers it appears that most milk pricing problems stem from the federal government control and new tariffs. Farmers want a management plan and margin protection program to control prices so millions of pounds of milk are not dumped in manure pits. Montpelier needs to help promote this plan. Also our Washington delegation and Vermont Ag Commissioner need to negotiate in Washington and make it clear farmers are in an urgent economic crisis. With school starting and holidays coming more milk will be used. Maybe to stabilize the use all year more milk products should be used in summer school feeding programs, prison meals and foreign aid. We pay for these programs anyway let’s spend it wisely.

Rhodes:
I believe that this is a hard issue that is plaguing our state. I do not understand the broad picture to be honest on how this all works. But I do totally understand that this problem needs to be addressed soon so that we do not lose our family farms that have been in operation here in Vermont for many many many years. As with most issues as difficult as this one, we need to have real and honest conversations with all party’s involved. And we need to do it now. With people leaving this state in high numbers, we can not afford to loose more.

Fegard:
Milk oversupply and low prices happen largely because Washington D.C. politics hinder reform of the Federal Milk Price Order and the Farm Bill.

Vermont can support dairy producers and other farmers. Expand production facilities for yogurt, ice cream, and cheeses to raise demand, milk prices, and create jobs. Let’s incentivize retailers, restaurants, and schools to prioritize Vermont dairy and farm products.

Land Trust Programs and Current Use provide financial relief for farms and working forests.

More research and development funding and support for on-farm electricity generation through manure digesters and other biofuels will diversify farm income and help localize our electric grid.

Reform state regulations regarding on-farm slaughter and meat sales to protect food safety while making it possible to expand and diversify our farm industry.

Higher solids standards in fluid milk can enhance nutrition and support quality, while decreasing oversupply. Dairy producers could choose cooperative, two-tier pricing systems to limit milk
over-production and support higher prices.

Nadeau:
My father used to be a dairy farmer with around 50 cows and the sad fact is that markets have changed. Milk just does not have the holding power it used to and technology has made it so much more of it is in the market space. So with increased production and competition the market reacts by dropping the prices in order to compete. Its a hard issue to fix because the basic market that supported it has shifted. Also its not an issue that can be remedied by simply having the state step in because the underlying issues would not go away. The only way we can help them is by supporting local products and by trying to change buying habits. I would also back legislation to give preferential treatment to local dairy farmers and to create a fund for transiting farmers into other fields.

Do you believe the gun laws passed by the legislature this past session need to be reversed, will work just as they are, or that additional measures are required?

Aldrich:
I am a huge supporter of the 2nd amendment and always will be. All new gun laws that were put into place was a waste of everyone’s time in Montpelier. I was at a few of the rallies that 1000’s of people attended and voiced their concerns about S.55 I truly feel it’s not a gun issue. The issues are mental health issues. Let’s start by providing more help to those who are in need of help. I feel that guns should not be a hot topic like they have been. If someone starts the appeal process for S.55 id be in favor of the appeal. It’s the person behind the gun, not the gun.’

Fegard:
Vermont’s hunting culture is important and puts food on the table for our and many other families. In rural areas, where 911 response time can be long, home protection motivates many gun owners. Both are protected by Vermont’s Constitution, as is armed defense against tyranny.

S.221, creates a court process to require people to relinquish their firearms for up to six months if they are at “extreme risk” of suicide or violence. H.422, the Domestic Assault Law, provides specifics about when, why and how firearms may be removed and then returned within three business days, if the accused is deemed not an “extreme risk” and the firearms are not needed for evidence. These laws will save lives, especially women leaving abusive relationships and people struggling with suicidal depression.

S.55’s magazine limit is entirely unenforceable, won’t save lives, and should not have been included. It faces reasonable challenge under Vermont’s Constitution.

Collins:
I grew up with guns and had my own at ten; this was the way of life for my generation who had fathers in WWll and Korea and hunted every season. I would never suggest taking anyone’s second amendment rights away however, at times laws have been amended because of the times we live in. In today’s society multiple shootings are an unfortunate reality. I would want to look at the law again because it appears some parts of the legislation are unenforceable and don’t address the real issue . It may be more difficult, but focus should be placed on early detection and prevention.

Lawmakers need to get over personal bias and come up with a compromise that doesn’t infringe on capable gun owners yet looks out for the safety of the general public.

Rhodes:
This is where I take a hard stand against all gun laws. The term’s shall not be infringed. To me this means just that SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED! Also in a state with some of the lowest gun crime in the nation per capita why on earth did we need this. I just simply do not understand. So yes I would try my best to work and try to repeal these unlawful gun laws that where put in place.

Last session, the General Assembly approved a bill which would have used a payroll tax to create a paid family leave system. Gov. Phil Scott vetoed the bill. Should Vermont offer paid family leave? If so, how should we pay for it?

Fegard:
Paid family leave is standard in about 200 countries, ranging from weeks to a year. While small Vermont businesses cannot afford any more expenses, large, publicly traded corporations can, many of which pay little or no taxes. Shareholder profits and multi-million-dollar CEO salaries have increased at the cost of American workers, and paid family leave is less available today than decades ago.

Workers provide the actual goods and services that make businesses successful. Family leave reduces medical costs and costly staff turn-over, while increasing overall health and productivity in our schools, businesses, and communities. It also increases female parity in the workforce as most caregiving is done by mothers and daughters. If there is a way to legally and justly set size and profit criteria, I would support paid family leave for that category of business.

Rhodes:
While I think this maybe a handy thing to have in place at times. It makes me question weather or not Vermonters can afford another tax taken out of their hard earned paycheck. We are taxed quite high now. And the thought of another tax always makes me take a step back and take a really good hard look at it before I ever agree with it. And how many people thus far have had family emergencies and made their job and family keep going. To get through whatever problem they may be facing. And today most company’s will work with an employee to help them through what troubles they may be having in their lives from what I have seen in my cases or others in different jobs throughout.

The period for voluntary mergers under Act 46 is coming to a close, and some communities facing a mandated merger of their school district are deeply unhappy. Should the state continue on the course it set when Act 46 passed, particularly since districts across the state merged voluntarily under the rules established with Act 46, or should changes be made to accommodate those who are unhappy over potential district mergers?

Aldrich:
While having 7 children of my own Act 46 is a serious attention getter and a serious issue  facing Franklin 5 district which includes towns of Berkshire, Franklin, Highgate and Richford. Back when it went out to each town for a vote, people of their towns voted and voted NO. When communities vote and have a large number of votes not supporting it, it should be stopped right then and there and re looked at. There’s been several meetings across our county and across the state with hundreds turning out to voice their opinions and the secretary of education and the education board isn’t taking any advise from the people at at all. That is wrong and totally unprofessional. We need to be heard.  We need act 46 stopped and stopped now! We need to continue to fight this out and make sure our voices are heard. If elected as one of the next State Reps I will always listen and make sure not only the voices in my district are heard but all voices within our state are heard. Together we can make noise and get things done. Thanks to all who have dedicated their time to this disaster. I am in favor of a Appeal if brought forward.

Fegard:
A school that chooses not to merge into the State’s plan has the option to “Evaluate its current ability to meet or exceed State goals set out in Act 46, Sec. 2; meet with other districts in the area to discuss ways promote improvement in the goals throughout the region; and submit a proposal to the State Board, individually or with other districts, to maintain its current structure, work with other districts in some way other than merger, or merge with other districts to form a different governance structure.”

Schools that have met the off-ramp criteria for geographic isolation from another school with capacity, high performance with low costs and existing relationships with other districts or SU’s to ensure the full complement of services for students at low cost should be allowed to off-ramp as provided for in the law, but which is being disregarded by the Agency of Education.

Collins:
Definitely changes need to be made to accommodate districts. Voters in Franklin Five have voted NO twice and still face pressure from the state. At an Act 46 meeting last week I was surprised to learn that legislators voted without hearing all the concerns from towns. I was also surprised to learn the make up of the board, some went to private schools and one  is a one year educator. These people are making the decisions that affect our future. Any decisions on mandated mergers should be postponed until the next legislative session after more testimony is given. As a thirty year veteran teacher I was hard pressed to find anything in Act 46 beneficial to students that couldn’t be solved locally. If people want to pay to keep their schools they should be allowed to do so. One town should not be forced to take on another town’s debt. Taking a school out of a town affects its pride and personality. Some polls rate Vermont as fifth in excellent education in the nation. New England and VT are consistently in the top ten so there is no rush to change. Don’t tell people to vote and at the same time tell them their votes won’t matter. This should be a local decision.

Rhodes:
Yea I believe that no district should be forced to do anything. To me forcing people to do what the state wants with their children and schools is on the verge of being against the constitution. And bottom line with the way our system is supposed to work. So in closing no the state should not force the merger and they should work with people to help them find a way to work within the guidelines of Act 46 that’s is good for both parties.

Last year, Vermont’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality, Affordable Child Care found that almost half of Vermont’s infants and toddlers with working parents are not in a regulated child care program either in a center or at home. What, if anything, should the state do to address the gap between available child care slots and need?

Aldrich:
After speaking with home childcare providers and licensed centers staff it has given me some extra insight on this matter. Back in September of 2018 several new regulations went into effect for programs and has made things a bit more challenging. The new regulations make it hard to find qualified staff for certain positions. Then they want decent pay due to having a college education, which in results there is an increase in childcare rates. As the state offers child care financial assistance to help cover some of the cost, there is still a gap in the middle class. If elected as one of your State Reps I’ll always inform all involved about any programs that will help in any way.

Rhodes:
Well only opinion. The state is in Involved with enough. At some point we Ned to back off on spending and let the individual keep more of his or her own earnings. I don’t believe that the government is particularly good at anything and the first thing they will do is burden things with rules and regulations to the point that it will cost the tax payers twice or three times as much as of we left it alone. I think it’s time to start looking at the spending that is going on and start to cut where we can so that people can keep more. Then they could afford the daycare of their choosing.

Fegard:
In over 70% of Vermont families with young children, both parents work. Quality childcare is essential to increased productivity for working families and for their children when they reach adulthood. Quality childcare reduces future costs in healthcare, public education, and corrections. Every dollar invested in early childhood yields at least 7% return per year later on.

Having both operated a registered home daycare and used after school care as a working single mom, I know the issue well.

A strong economy with good jobs is the solution to attracting and maintaining quality childcare. Families who earn more than enough to comfortably pay bills, can afford topnotch childcare. A strong economy encourages current childcare providers to stay in business or expand and new facilities to open. I will work to attract good jobs to our area so our economy can support childcare facilities, which are important in supporting our young families.

Collins:
In Vermont the number of new child care center openings is not keeping up with the closings. With approximately 40,000 children in daycare our rural communities are in need of safe and properly run sites.About fifty home based programs have been lost for various reasons including stricter state regulations regarding hygiene  training and safety. Some of the challenges facing day care providers, in addition to the new regulations, are a lack of health insurance benefits which sends them to other jobs, more required training and  difficulty collecting payment from parents .

Daycare providers need a network of their own for advice and questions. There should be scholarships available for more training and if rates are raised for childcare assistance they should be, if not already, be paid directly to the provider. People who want to work and need child care should receive some assistance in tax refunds. This is not only a problem for low income parents but middle income as well, especially if care is needed for more than one child. The state should also increase the number of day care inspectors so we can provide quality care. In our rural communities we need more home based sites and need to assist providers in any way we can.

Connectivity — access to high speed internet and cell phone service — is limited in many parts of the state and efforts to provide that access have, thus far, not been entirely successful. What do you think the state should do to bring internet and cell phone access to rural areas?

Aldrich:
When dealing with connectivity, there’s several ways of looking at it. High speed internet along with cell phone service is used on a daily basis, With both personal use and work environments. With having 20 years experience in public safety as a EMT I’ve experienced several times needing good service and just couldn’t find it. We as Emergency workers depend on Good cell coverage. Our local rescue squads use cell phones to communicate with online medical control when there’s radio Interference. Having rescue calls out in rural areas makes it very hard to communicate via cell phone when needing to request meds for certain rescue calls. When our radios are down we rely on cell phones and if there’s no cell service within that area it then becomes life threatening and a Safety concern to all involved. Each election, candidates always want to improve connectivity, let’s all get together and make things better for all involved at times this is affecting peoples lives and jobs. As your next Rep I’ll be sure to work hard to get good service across our state.

Fegard:
Today’s businesses require reliable, high-speed internet, but 21 percent of Vermonters lack internet that meets FCC standards for broadband. Many people in my district lack reliable communication services, waiting weeks for repairs on cables so old that wires break off in technicians’ hands. The cost barrier is caused by Vermont’s rural, wooded landscape as well as corporate prioritizing of shareholders over funding enough workers and equipment to keep up with demand. We can reduce installation costs by altering regulations to allow power companies to string communication cables on their poles and bill users for communication services as they do utility costs. Internet service providers can pay to use the network and provide telecomm packages for subscribers. Electric cooperatives in other states have done this successfully. I write this from the Town Office because my phone and internet have been out since the storm on Sept. 21 and won’t be fixed until after Oct. 2.

Collins:
We definitely need more access to high speed internet to prevent our isolation from the rest of the country and to encourage people who need it for work to settle here. Because of our geography it would be very expensive to install. However, service has improved since 2010 thanks to Federal grants. Still there are only about 60 providers in the entire state and no options to shop around. Many of our students have been provided with I Pads and need access for success at school and in the workplace. We need to find more cost effective ways to expand service.

Nadeau:

I believe we need more investment into our rural communities in order to help them. Young people don’t want to live areas were this is not easily accessible.

Rhodes:
I don’t believe that this is an issue for the state government. And I truly believe that because of the rural areas in Vermont this issue is going to be a hard one to fix. I worked with fiber optics that are needed for high speed internet. And it is very expensive to install and there are so many miles of nothing to cover to get this to many people that it is going to cost millions or billions to get this done. To me, I think we need to work as communities with the internet providers. And the state government should stay on the background until absolutely necessary.

Affordability has become a buzz word in Vermont politics, with a suggestion that either a high cost of living, high taxes or both make Vermont unaffordable, driving out young families and those on fixed incomes. Do you think this is an accurate view? Would you define affordability differently?

Aldrich:
Vermont is a state that’s all about taxes. Every time we turn around it seems like there’s a tax due or added to something. With having so many taxes it’s hard for individuals and families to get ahead. A lot of people are having to work two jobs to make ends meet. With having so many taxes it’s stopping families from doing things. For instance, rooms and meals tax, sales tax, education tax property tax the list goes on and on. This is a affordability problem with having so many taxes Vermonters are having a hard time staying afloat. During my campaign you’ve seen that if I’m elected a vote for me is a NO vote for any new taxes. I will work hard to get this tax disaster under control and make Vermont more affordable for all.

Rhodes:
Yes high taxes and high cost of living is to me what makes this state hard to live in. And we need to do something to lower these costs. Work with the towns and cities to lower spending on subsidies. And regulations. We need to start thinking of the people that work rather than the ones that do not. And then we will start to become more affordable to live I believe.

Fegard:
From the 1940’s-1990’s, working full-time almost guaranteed success. Today, many elders cannot ever afford to retire. Stagnant wages and the outsourcing or automating of good-paying jobs have shrunk household incomes. Since 2008, most financial gain has benefited the wealthiest 1 percent, leaving us behind, while the average CEO pay jumped to over 400 times their workers’ incomes. Assistance benefits end at such low incomes that working families are often denied essential help. Health insurance and higher education costs jump every year. Vermont’s industry dearth and rural landscape burden residents with stiff property taxes. Good jobs, often in urban areas where housing is expensive, lose income gains to increased rent or long commutes.

Let’s support business development and growth, especially in rural areas, fix the benefits cliff to support working families, scrutinize benefits fraud at the personal and corporate levels, and insist on efficiency and accountability in every department of our government.

Every candidate agrees there’s a need for rural development in our communities. How specifically would you facilitate rural development?

Aldrich:
As most know, for any new development to proceed ACT 250 gets involved. I feel that ACT 250 needs to be reformed and evaluated to a point where permits are more affordable and an easier process. Permits cost thousands of dollars and the process can take several weeks to months. I am a firm believer that if the ACT 250 process was more friendly and affordable more developers would consider Vermont, which would bring more jobs and help our communities across Franklin 5 and the entire state. I am thrilled to hear one of our smaller state airports located in Highgate is going to be expanding its runway to allow cargo planes to land and take off which will lure businesses and help grow our economy. If elected, I’ll work with other lawmakers to try to get ACT 250 more workable for all.

Rhodes:
The very first thing we need to do is lower the business tax rates. Then start to entice companies to want to come here. New York offered a 10- year tax-free rate for new companies in Northern New York. That doesn’t seem like a bad idea. To me personally right now the infrastructure isn’t sufficient to support large commercial traffic either we would need to start work on the roads and bridges so that large trucks and the trains could start running again. But we need to entice companies to come and right now they have no reason in the world to come here and all the reason to leave

Fegard:
Rural America is suffering as wages stagnate, people neglect local stores, small businesses fold, and big business concentrates in urban areas.
Highgate is expanding its airport runway to accept small cargo planes, which can entice businesses to locate here. We need reliable, high-speed internet, which should be regulated as an essential safety and communication service.

People have suggested attracting tourist dollars by developing extensive trail system for ATV use, with insurance, registration and respectful use modeled after VAST.

Let’s: expand production facilities for value-added goods, like yogurt, ice cream, and cheeses; incentivize retailers, restaurants, and schools to prioritize VT dairy & farm products; fund more research, development and support for agricultural diversification, value-added products, and on-farm electricity generation through manure digesters and other biofuels; reform state regulations regarding on-farm slaughter and meat sales to protect food safety while making it possible to expand and diversify our farm industry.

Candidates were asked to make their final, brief pitch to voters.

Aldrich:
I ran for State Rep in 2016 and had a close race for Franklin 5. I decided to run again because I won’t give up on something I want to do where I can help make a difference. I am entering into my 20th year as a EMT on Richford ambulance. I was appointed by Governor Shumlin in 2015 to serve on the drug and alcohol council. A vote for me is a vote for NO new taxes or fees, a more affordable VT, affordable healthcare, create a better economy, create more jobs and decent wages, fight for local control in our schools, fight for affordable education, clean environment and always stand up for our 2nd amendment. If elected a promise I can make to all voters is I’ll always listen and be sure to bring all concerns and ideas to the table.Nov 6th please cast your vote for Joshua Aldrich for State Rep.

Fegard:
I am working to knock on every voter’s door because I believe in democracy, hard work, and showing up. Meeting with someone, listening to them, and looking them in the eye when you shake hands means something. I’m running for office because our district needs strong representation from someone who will take the time and effort to study issues and argue effectively for our best interests. Please get to know your candidates, our character, ability, and work ethic. We are more than an R or D. I post all five of our answers to both newspapers’ Candidate Questions on my website, CharenforHouse.com. You will elect two of us. If you have questions for me, please ask. I hope I earn your vote. If elected, I will post updates in the papers and host monthly meetings during session so voters continue to have access to both me and information. Thank you.

Collins:
As a high school English teacher, I have experience not only in educational practices but in reading and interpreting information, an asset in Montpelier. For 10 years, I graded thousands of AP English and SAT essays, from all over the country, for the College Board. My service on the NOTCH Board has given me experience in affordable health care, and as Chairman of the Richford Select Board, I am familiar with municipal law and procedure. For several years, I was a news reporter for the Free Press and radio news director at WWSR covering politics and government as well many controversial topics. I have spent my career listening to, and solving problems for a variety of issues. We need to strengthen our communities first, which will make Vermont stronger. I am not afraid to speak up for our district and welcome input from voters. I have been endorsed by both Democrats and Republicans and because of this, and my experience in these areas, I can work effectively with both sides and have the ability to lead in a respectful manner.

Rhodes:
If you want some one that will always tell you the truth whether good or bad, then I’m the person you want to vote for. I believe we need more of this in Montpelier. Too many promises have been made and not kept, I know the major issues that are facing us right now and this us a turning point for Vermont. And I think it is time for people that are not true politicians to be in office. And if you feel the same way please vote for Shane Rhodes on Nov. 6. Thanks.