OPINION: Vermont and a rare moment of comity

OPINION: Vermont and a rare moment of comity



Driving around in southern Vermont last week, I couldn’t help noticing that the state has quite a few trees (462.3 billion, by my count, although I may have missed a few on those occasions when I felt it might be better to keep my eyes on the road). And some of the Green Mountain State’s charming little burgs punch well above their weight, culturally at least.

In Bennington, for instance, they have a battle monument that’s more than half the height of the Washington Monument but looks twice as tall because it rises from the center of a compact village of only 15,764 souls. This weekend in Brattleboro, population 12,046, they’re actually putting on a Wagnerian opera, “Tristan und Isolde.” And just up the road in Bellows Falls, population 3,004, you can have lunch at the ancient Miss Bellows Falls Diner, a proud product of the Worcester Lunch Car Co.

By and large, the main roads I saw in Vermont are in very good shape. Only on back roads do you find what one local called “Vermont speed bumps.” Which, of course, reminded me of home.

On the way back, we decided to shun 91 and follow U.S. 5 down to Northampton and then Route 10 — the old College Highway — the rest of the way. It takes longer, but it’s easier on the nerves than I-91, which seems to turn into a linear parking lot every time there’s a fender-bender or any kind of repair work in progress.

I should be grateful, of course, for any evidence that the state of Connecticut can occasionally be caught repairing or maintaining its transportation network — something that all recent governors have talked about but few have done anything about. Instead, I squawked all last winter and spring about the potholes, and having to memorize where all the worst ones were on my daily route, and now I’m grousing about construction delays when they finally get around to fixing them. My bad.

Although I can’t buy into the view that spending $100 billion or so on our roads would somehow turn this state overnight into some kind of heaven on Earth, with strong economic growth and reasonable taxes, I can at least give the present governor, Ned Lamont, a thumbs-up for putting his foot down on frivolous bonding. Mr. Lamont insists on prioritizing spending for transportation infrastructure instead of the pork-barrel projects state lawmakers always want, if they want to be re-elected.

Mr. Lamont says that Connecticut’s borrowing is out of hand and wants state government to go on a “debt diet,” while focusing on bonding for school construction, transportation, and not much else. This is in contrast to his predecessors — from John Rowland, with his big bucks for the Westport Country Playhouse, and a “Town Center Vision project” in Morris, and a “restroom facility and tourist kiosk” in Essex; to Dannel Malloy, with those subsidized Aer Lingus flights between Hartford and Dublin, and a museum in Norwalk, and a health center in Danbury, and sidewalks in New Haven.

Anyway, this is putting Mr. Lamont at odds with many of his fellow Democrats and into cahoots with Len Fasano, leader of the Senate Republicans.

That sounds shockingly similar to bipartisanship. You know: Democrats and Republicans working together.

In Connecticut? I must be dreaming.

Reach Glenn Richter at grichter@record-journal.com.


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