Saturday March 9, 2013

It is a well-known fact that when an individual, family, company, government or society, are in denial, serious ramifications follow.

Recently, it was reported in the Rutland Herald, that not since 1944, has the population of Vermont declined. In 2012 it declined and Vermont along with Rhode Island have the distinction of the only states that had a population decrease in the reporting period. The short- and long-term repercussions will not be good news.

The question is our legislature addressing this issue? No, because their focus is on adding a 1-cent tax on soda pop. Which, along with assessing out-of-state bicyclists a road use fee, are much more important issues requiring their immediate attention.

Their next door neighbor, the governor, also finds it important to be in Washington gaining photo ops in his capacity as the chair of the Democratic Governors Conference, than having to deal with his state's citizens out-migration. No one in a leadership role within state government wishes to address the news of a decline in population.

The decline in state populations adds to the evidence that Vermont is heading into a "perfect storm." Added, to this, the federal government is looking to cut in a huge way, the dollars it sends to the states, Vermont is no exception.

And another aspect of the "perfect storm," the state has huge unfunded projects -- namely, a $250 million highway infrastructure. Couple this with the Affordable Health Care monster for which no one really knows what it will eventually cost -- even after we had provided a consulting firm from Massachusetts, $300,000, to inform us on what it would cost. And of course, very few in Montpelier, have any desire to tell us how billions in unfunded state pensions will be made up?

So let's stay in denial and not address the financial issues that will surely come about one day, as our population continues to free-fall. Who will have the courage to speak out on the impact it will have on businesses, state tax revenues, lack of volunteers for Vermont's thousands of nonprofits, town and school boards not to mention fire and rescue services which are in constant need of volunteers.

This is not the first time Vermont's leadership has been in denial.

The last, was about 20 years ago and the denial was that Vermont would never have the illegal drug trafficking and use problems more common to the "big cities." One would have hoped that the recent drug bust that took place in Bennington County with the arrests of over five-dozen users and dealers would serve as a "wake-up call." It appears the only folks who are not in denial are those involved with enforcing Vermont's drug laws and they are being overwhelmed by the number of drug pushers.

There once was a time in this bucolic state, when one would never had thought of locking the door of their residence or for that matter consider owning a gun for home protection. Have the legislators thought to address this significant change in the lives of their constituents?

As a transplant to Vermont from a place just north of New York City, it was never a necessity to lock one door at home or possess a gun -- and never conceiving the thought that it would ever be necessary in Vermont. One can only surmise that here in southwestern Vermont, the rash of home break-ins means that the drug pushers/users, have "planted their flag" -- it is quite unfortunate.

The present drug problem is in some ways, a close kin, to the statewide municipal and nonprofit embezzlement problems, in that we have, up until today, only seen the tip of the problem. And isn't it ironic, embezzlement has been another issue Montpelier has been in denial about.

Someone needs to shake our leaders out of their present state of denial when it comes to the decline in population and the drug crises in Vermont. Lives and property are at risk -- it is time for our leaders to declare a state of emergency. Just as they would have if a pending storm was on the horizon -- threatening lives and properly.

A resident of Arlington, Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column.