Mr. McAllister’s bumpy ride

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.  

“I think they’ve had a free-ride for quite a while and it’s time that they need to be part of this,”

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.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

9 thoughts on “Mr. McAllister’s bumpy ride

  1. Cyclists that live here own houses, property and cars. We pay fuel taxes (when we use our cars), and we pay property and income taxes. As well as registration fees and taxes on our vehicles.

    It’s been debunked that the gas tax is exclusive to fixing our roads (most of the fixing money for local roads comes from property taxes and the general fund), and that the roads that do see gas tax $$ are likely the roads that cyclists and pedestrians do not use.

    This is essentially unenforceable. Most folks have bikes in the garage or shed. Kids bikes? Or just ‘racing’ bikes? Should we add a levy to my Fatbike (designed for snow and soft surfaces) because it gets a poor miles to calories rating? Or would I get a special ‘big bike’ write down like the SUV / light truck nonsense that was pushed through under Bush? Who is going to stand on a street corner and enforce the homeless folks?

    And yes, since most cyclists have automobiles, any time you pass a bike or two or three, remember that there might be less wear and tear because of it, and you might find a parking space because of it. And it’s likely that a cyclist supports their local shop.

    If there were a tick box on my tax return to donate an extra 20$ or $40 to a dedicated bike and pedestrian infrastructure fund (like the loon line), I would do that, much as I supported the efforts in BTV for a dedicated bike path maintenance line item in our parks and rec budget.  

  2. … those damn bicycles chew up the roads so bad. Much worse than the overweight big rigs that are quickly rutting the new pavement on I-89.

    No wait, it makes no sense at all. Carry on!

  3. The Selectboard of the Town of St. Albans … have, for years, resisted the elected Planning Commission’s efforts to create a Town plan that would include such frivolous pedestrian amenities.

    This may be a small nit to pick, but Planning Commission members are appointed, not elected, as you wrote. From the Vermont statute on the appointment of members to a Planning Commission:

    Section 4323. Appointment, term and vacancy; rules

    (a) Members of a planning commission shall be appointed and any vacancy filled by the legislative body of a municipality.

    Title 24, Section 4325 elucidates the powers and duties bestowed upon Planning Commissions. Simply put, this section of the statute essentially authorizes Planning Commissions to act in an advisory capacity for the town, or municipality’s legislative body on planning and land development.

    While it may be true that members of the Town of St. Albans Select Board have resisted the town’s Planning Commission efforts, the only “recourse” for members of Planning Commissions who feel aggrieved by such a lack of support for the Commission’s ideas is to run for election to the legislative body.

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