Emilie's vision: Each Vermonter, from the most vulnerable to the most privileged, regardless of birth or circumstance, has a real opportunity to live their life without fear of threats, intimidation, or violence, and with equal protection under the law.
Vermont is no stranger to the racism, sexism, xenophobia, and bigotry that characterize much of the history of our country. And Vermont’s history has some high and low points: from abolishing slavery to promoting eugenics; from pioneering civil unions to our current deeply biased incarceration rates. At this turning point in our history, we must build a community that strives to include—demographically, socially, and economically.
Since 2017, Emilie has been working with a statewide coalition to advance a Vermont Equal Rights Amendment. A resolution in support of the Amendment was passed unanimously by the Senate in February, 2018. The new Vermont Equal Rights Amendment recognizes the need for equal rights for all under the law: “Equal protection under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of race, sex, age, religion, creed, color, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin.” This is the next step in some wonderful work already being done in partnership with our legislature and activist communities: anti-bias police work, racial justice oversight, culturally diverse curriculums, oversight for preschool suspensions and expulsions, and the continued widening of conversations about what it means to be a Vermonter. As a legislator, Emilie will prioritize these important conversations about how to invest in our communities and who has a right and opportunity to do so.
Emilie's vision: Every working person earns a livable wage and has dignified working conditions.
Vermont is not too expensive, and our taxes are not too high—our incomes are too low. Over the last decade, annual wages at the bottom grew by only $500, while those at the top got a $6,000 raise. Currently we have an economy split between low-wage, temporary jobs and slightly higher-wage salaried jobs that still barely pay enough to cover the student loans required to obtain them. Vermont is a state that prides itself on strong relationships, capable hands, resourceful small business owners, innovative managers, and high quality of life. Vermont needs to develop industries that build on these specific local assets—rather than engage in a race to the bottom to attract more business-as-usual. We succeed when we build our apprenticeships, grow our worker co-ops, and provide flexible and humane work arrangements. We need wages that reflect and support the reality of our expenses—including good quality housing, health care, and food. When workers are respected for their time and skills, the entire organization sees benefits, from increased employee retention to better problem solving. And when we invest in our community infrastructure and quality of life, from IT to public recreation spaces, businesses attract qualified and happier employees.
Emilie has spent 20 years working at the intersection of economic and community development—brokering partnerships between government and industry, training government employees in accountability and change management, and working tirelessly to remind everyone at the table that economies exist to support communities rather than profits. This experience will allow her to work with people from all sectors and backgrounds to build an economy that works for our communities.
Emilie's vision: We have an economy that creates good jobs while we take bold action to protect the environment and address climate change. Vermont builds on its long history of resiliency, competency, and respect for the land by committing to its farmers, homesteaders, and craftspeople. Vermont’s strong regulatory framework supports continued growth of industries like green power, hemp, and craft brewing towards the continued conservation of our precious resources.
Vermont’s strong history of land-use planning, current use taxation, and support for small scale farm infrastructure have given us a state with a landscape that is the envy of our neighbors, and an economy that is dependent on our view. We’re at a tipping point, with threat of climate change, increasing out of state ownership of our mountains, sugarbush, and homesteads; polluted waterways; and lead and other industrial contaminants in our soil, and building stock.
If we are to maintain a landscape and land-use that benefits all Vermonters, we must continue a regimen of regulation, structural supports for small producers, and attention to who owns our land and who profits from its use. Our lake clean-up needs funding, our emissions need to be curbed, and our energy infrastructure needs to be decentralized. Control of our commons, including waterways, and respect for our farmers needs and livelihoods will preserve the landscape we all depend on—and strengthen the community we all strive for.
We have tremendous work to do on climate change: to make our communities more resilient, to come into alliance with other states and nation, and to engage in serious mitigation—especially if we are going to meet our stated goals of 90% renewable by 2050. There is no one solution to a challenge as complex as this one, but we must invest boldly and consider non-market solutions so all Vermonters can have a part in the solution.
Emilie's vision: Government is trusted to hold us to our best selves—to allocate joint financial resources equitably and sufficiently, and to carry out our laws. Everyone has access to quality healthcare, education, affordable housing and social supports paid for with a progressive and fair tax system.
When we live in a community where we (ourselves and our neighbors) can trust that our basic needs will be met, then we can make the next step together: towards vibrant streets, caring neighbors, and positive growth. Taxes are a tool of social good, to fund our communities’ joint needs; they enable us to make decisions, deliberately and democratically, about the just distribution of resources. While we work to strengthen our economy and grow wages, the eligibility process for our state benefits (housing, welfare, food stamps, medicaid, childcare) needs to be integrated to lower the burden of paperwork on both the state and the citizen. As we design how people receive benefits, we must also align when people receive benefits to be sensitive to the needs of both working and nonworking families—what we now call a “benefits cliff” must be a slow and steady “off ramp” that sets community members on their feet when they’re ready, without risking family stability or inflicting moral judgment.
Emilie's vision: Vermont families are supported by progressive taxation, strong education systems, positive recreation opportunities, accessible child care and family medical leave, functional transportation, and nutritious foods.
Families are complex arrangements, sometimes chosen, sometimes born. And however we come to them, they are the first node of our social, economic, and political networks. In the absence of specific policies to support families, women—and often children—bear the brunt. Family medical leave, minimum wage, accessible child and elder care, and flexible and supportive work arrangements are necessary if folks living in families are going to participate in social networks, including mutual aid and the democratic process. We know that growing up in poverty makes it more difficult for adults to maintain good health, graduate from high school, and make comfortable wages—and we also know that a community with strong social connections and a strong safety floor (meeting basic needs) leads to healthy adults and positive economic outcomes. Policies like subsidized child care and family medical leave, when used as part of wrap-around support for a family unit, give youth, working adults, and elders, the health, flexibility, and time to contribute to their communities.
Emilie's vision: Schools are the centers of our rural communities. Teachers are respected and adequately resourced. Every child is met in their particular needs, and leaves school with the appropriate tools to serve their community, participate actively in democracy, and thrive in the workforce.
Our public school system was founded with three specific (and sometimes competing) goals—to prepare citizens to participate meaningfully in the work of democracy, to prepare youth for the workforce, and to get children off the streets and factory lines and into a caring environment. Even after 150 years of layered reforms, communities still require these three services of their schools: citizenship, training for the economy, and childcare. When we invest in our schools with these three purposes explicitly in mind—rather than implicitly at odds with each other—we can craft community-driven institutions that support today’s families while building a future generation’s opportunities. When we have realistic conversations about the place of schools in our rural communities, and how they serve as the connectors to our future and to each other, we can see that everyone benefits from a system that has historically been one of the best in the country. In today’s economy this means:
We need to realign our school funding to include the full spectrum of youth: birth through 22.
We need to acknowledge that schools can and often do serve as community centers, and they need to be resourced appropriately.
We need a school funding formula that is equitable to those receiving funding, progressive to those funding it, and stable enough for long-term planning.
It is especially important to unpack the issue of framing and narrative about our rural community schools. Vermont prides itself on local control—our local communities control our town meetings and our community schools. As we find solutions to some real demographic shifts—people moving away from rural regions, an aging population, a shrinking middle class—we need to look to the long term health of our communities. How do we ensure that all of our students have equitable access to education regardless of location or family income? How do we make our funding formulas transparent enough that communities feel investment in them? Given changing demographics, how do we use our existing infrastructure and investment fully? And most importantly, how do we have community conversations about these issues so we can move beyond zero-sum equations and towards a state that puts children at the center of its communities’ futures?
Public goods, commons, and “natural monopolies” should be regulated as such, including medicare for all and publicly controlled utilities.
Emilie's vision: Vermonters have ready access to clean energy, reliable and affordable telecommunications, and quality healthcare. We have public funding for public spaces, telecommunications, electricity, and healthcare.
The costs of healthcare, housing, electricity, and connectivity, are rising exponentially faster than our ability to pay, and the proceeds for these collective investments are not returning to the pockets of Vermonters. When our collective resources, both financial and physical, are committed towards a project—be it our highways, or housing developments—these projects should be structured with the needs of Vermonters first and profits second. Every one of us, regardless of income or birth, benefits from electricity, telecommunications, and healthcare. We already have public participation built into our regulatory process, but this seems to be in name only. By increasing participation and clarifying accountability, we can bring more Vermonters into the process. To better regulate these “natural monopolies,” we must lower costs, correct incentives, and remember that when more of us prosper, more of us will prosper.