I have to apologize to the good people of Vermont on behalf of Franklin County, for having sent Norm McAllister to sit with the big boys and girls in the Senate this year.
Mr. McAllister is clearly setting his sights on the curmudgeon-in-chief position at the Statehouse, because in a singularly ill-advised debut proposal, he has chosen to target bicyclists and tourists for a revenue shakedown.
He proposes a $20. annual registration fee for all those who wish to bicycle in the state of Vermont, whether they live here or not.
Mr. McAllister thinks those free-wheeling Canadians ought to pony-up for more than just goods and services while they are here!
The Freshman Senator is so put out by the enormous amount of money the state invests in wider lanes and bicycle paths that he is declaring pay-back time.
Nevermind that more bicycles translate to less automobiles, which means less wear-and-tear to conventional roadway infrastructure, less pollution and less demand on parking facilities; nevermind that bicycle tourism is one of the things that sustains an important Vermont industry even in years when the snow conditions disappoint.
So, while other places are trying to find ways to encourage more people to abandon their cars for bicycle travel, Vermont…AKA, the greenest state in America…is supposed to take the road less travelled 😉 and, in effect, penalize cyclists for their eco-friendly mode of transport?
Does Mr. McAllister realize that some cities even provide fleets of bicycles that people may borrow for free?
You have to understand that Mr. McAllister numbers among his constituents some pretty pedestrian-and-cycle unfriendly communities.
The Selectboard of the Town of St. Albans (not to be confused with the City of St. Albans, where I live) is so fundamentally hostile to basic sidewalk maintenance (nevermind bicycle lanes!) that they have, for years, resisted the elected Planning Commission’s efforts to create a Town plan that would include such frivolous pedestrian amenities.
In fact, that same five-man Selectboard is now attempting a fundamental power grab that would permanently eliminate any opposition from the Planning Commission. They have proposed a Town charter on the March ballot which, if adopted by voters, will eliminate the elected Planning Commission altogether and replace it with one conveniently appointed by the Selectboard.
And even though the proposed charter would include provision for both a local sales tax and the opportunity to impeach elected officials; there is, for instance, no inclination by the power block to expand the elected Selectboard or to introduce a ward system whereby the different areas of the town and their very different socio-economic demographics would be equally represented at the table.
Past elections have routinely returned the same reactionary slate to power time and time again. Less than five-hundred people, or only about 12% of the population, have chosen these guys by their votes. Poor voter turn-out would seem to be to blame for the stagnant situation in the Town.
This is largely due to the fact that, with new housing development representing much of the population, the Town has become a bedroom community for people whose working lives play-out in other towns and even other counties. It will be years before that bedroom community becomes sufficiently invested in what goes on politically close to home to actually make a difference in local elections.
Since the Town has the largest population in the county, similar dynamics of disengagement were largely responsible for sending Mr. McAllister to the Senate this year.