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Schubart: Ethics and Strategy

Whomever we elect to lead us for the next two years, we’ll need to confront two gaping holes in our governance: strategic planning and ethics.

Our last few decades ought to have alerted us to the need for both. Lacking these essential guardrails, we fall prey to the egos and legacy whims of our political leaders and are left to choose from their menu of needs rather than our own.

Strategic planning looks through the lens of known facts at real trends affecting Vermont and its people – economic, demographic, social, and environmental. It quantifies current challenges and opportunities and measures them against known trends and data. It offers scientific rather than ideological solutions.

Ethics establishes sensible guidelines for what is acceptable behavior by those elected to serve the public and be rewarded for their service. Above all, it’s a court of first resort for legislators and administration managers. It provides leaders with clarity on acceptable behavior. As a court of last resort, it adjudicates the difference between public service and self-dealing.
Under the current administration we have spent some $200M investing in an IT project, the end game of which many of us believe in – a national health service for all. But when the dream cratered in Congress, we went off the rails here at home trying to create our own single-payer system.

We have unfilled jobs for lack of qualified candidates. We have an elderly population ageing out of their family homes with few options for energy-efficient, affordable housing. We’re urbanizing and concentrating wealth and growth in Chittenden County. Our mental health treatment options are so sparse that mental health problems have devolved to schools and prisons. Pharma and drug lords have seeded a scourge of opiate addictions here. Meanwhile, in the last session, politicians decided that GMO labeling and marijuana legalization were priorities.

We’re in the midst of the single largest scandal in Vermont’s and the SEC’s history for which this administration bears significant responsibility. We have a state senator entangled in questions of unethical sexual behavior who could have benefited from some advice. It’s human to want to believe we’re good people and will act as such, but to err is human… as the saying goes.”

To imagine that our leaders and legislators are error-proof is nonsense. We need a non-partisan strategic planning resource and ethics commission in Vermont.

And we need it now.

Bill Schubart lives and writes in Hinesburg. His latest book is Lila & Theron.
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