Keelan: so many crises, so little unity

by Don Keelan

In my 34 years as a Vermont resident, I don’t recall witnessing so many simultaneous crises that exist today. I experienced the controversy of Civil Unions, ACT 60 and the gold towns, the housing recession of 1989, and the Great Recession of 2008.  Tropical Storm Irene and Covid-19 brought severe crises conditions to the State, and in time, we got through them by working together. 

Don Keelan

Today is a different story. The media informs us that Vermont has many more crises, and we are by no means united in establishing a priority. Each particular interest group wants its cause recognized as the most important. The result is predictable: nothing gets resolved. 

A list of some of the crises would include, and in no particular order: mental health, access to health care, access to child care, law enforcement reform, reform of Vermont’s incarceration system, lack of workforce housing as well as affordable housing, climate change and meeting the 2025 climate action goals, opiate deaths, lack of broadband, lack of a workforce for government, industry, the trades, retail, and health care. Add to this list the aftermath of the pandemic in our health care centers, schools, and workforce.

And outside our State’s borders are the national issues of inflation, the war in Eastern Europe, illegal immigration at the southern border, supply-chain disruption and a possible economic recession, tripling of fuel costs, and nuclear disarmament concerns with Iran, North Korea, and now Russia.

The realization is that those passionate about their (organization’s) cause are unwilling to have it placed anywhere other than at the top of the crises agenda. As such, every issue/crisis/cause is framed ‘number one.’ Where then is our leaders’ focus? Not where it should be, but to the loudest cause-seeker who has their immediate attention.

While I cannot say to any specific degree, I will state that two decades ago, Vermont did not have so many experts in health care, policing matters, incarceration issues, opiate addiction, climate change, housing, and diversity/inclusion and equity.  Today we do, and they want their cause placed at the top of the “food chain.” 

This is not to say that each cause is irrelevant and doesn’t require attention. What is missing is whether we can come together and decide, as a state, what we must deal with first. Isn’t this precisely what our State Motto addresses, Freedom and Unity?

If we are to be unified collectively, we must decide the greatest crisis confronting our State today. The lack of a workforce is decimating our government agencies, physical and mental health services, public safety, manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, retail, and volunteerism. 

To address the lack of a workforce, we need to address, as a sub-group, the area of housing, childcare, and mental health. If we can return to the workforce those folks who are at home in need of child care or are now in recovery, it will make a huge dent.   

We have all heard the phrase, “due to a lack of staff…,” the bank is closed, the road will be plowed, 911 will attend to you in due course, your favorite restaurant is closed, or it will be next month before we can fix your faucet. Of even more significant concern: your surgery is delayed, or we just don’t have the nurses and doctors. This is not hyperbole, but, in fact, what exists today and is becoming more acute.

If Vermont is to indeed display the motto created after Tropical Storm Irene, “Vermont Strong,” then it must cease insisting that every single cause/crisis needs to be placed at the top of the list. Let’s get back to 2011 and have the courage to prioritize what we need to do: be unified and strong, not my cause should be first.

The author is a U.S. Marine (retired), CPA, and columnist living in Arlington, VT.

Categories: Commentary

Tagged as: ,

8 replies »

  1. The problem that I see here is that the body that we have elected to address these issues proclaims that they can “walk and chew gum at the same time”, when it is very obvious that they can not. They don’t have a clue on how to prioritize, or triage issues, so that the most important ones are necessarily at the “top of the list” and they won’t admit that. It has always been my contention that the legislature should 1st, set a budget, then live within that budget, as every citizen in the state is expected to do. If the legislature had an established budget to work with, we would hopefully because of monetary, and time constraints, see fewer frivolous “feel good’ bills for them to deal with, allowing them to get out of Dodge (Mount Peculiar) sooner,and save tax payers money. Can you imagine if you or I went out shopping, maybe bought a new car, did some home improvement projects, and then came back to our boss and told him or her that because I did this I need a raise ? That is how legislature operates. We are their bosses, our taxes are their budget. We need to say no! They need to set a budget, and live within it, as we are expected to do.Then, and only then will they take their obligation to use our tax money wisely, and only as needed seriously because to do this, they will have to set priorities.

      • How about this then ? They are supposed to be responsive to their constituency? Of course living in Washington Co. that means that I am “represented” by Andrew Perchlic, Anthony Pollina, and Anne Cummings in the Senate, and Janet Ancel is “my voice” in the House, so I am very accustomed to being treated like a turd in a punch bowl when it comes to my concerns.

  2. Hey guys, as spring approaches and I dust off my old golf shoes, I couldn’t help but get out my tin-foil hat and refit it for another spring-summer-fall season of my favorite show, ‘Wheel of Fortune – CONSPIRACY THEORY’.

    Now that we know (tsk-tsk) – that the 2020 elections were pure as the driven snow, that the mRNA vaccine (I mean experimental gene therapy) really does work, that masking works, that shut-downs saved our souls, that inflation is temporary, that gasoline prices are just fine (as adjusted for inflation anyway), that the southern border is under control, that we’ve saved the planet from climate extinction (I have two, count ‘em, two EV charging stations at my house) , that our children are learning wonderful things in school (virtually or in-person), that at least half of the public ‘gets it’ (depending on which half you’re talking to), and that 30 trillion dollars-worth of $100 bills stacked on pallets weigh more than three times as much as America’s largest aircraft carrier (named the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford no less)…

    – with all of this great news, these Grateful Dead lyrics from Uncle John’s Band come to mind. ‘Cause when life looks like Easy Street There is danger at your door.’

    So, lest we’re lulled into thinking everything is going well, consider this latest tin-hat trope.

    Never mind that:
    ( – The federal government collected a record $1,806,838,000,000 in total taxes through the first five months of fiscal 2022 (October through February), according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released today.

    What? Me worry?

  3. Perhaps we need to consider that each of the Vermont issues Mr. Keelan lists have their root cause in legislative attempts to “fix” said problem. Perhaps the attempt for a solution is the problem?

  4. “The government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.” Gerald Ford

Leave a Reply