Summit on the Future of Vermont issues final report

first_imgThe Summit on the Future of Vermont Final Report is now available. The 2009 Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) Summit on the Future of Vermont marked a watershed point. It turned the findings from the two-year Council on the Future of Vermont project into a challenge to Vermonters, and especially the leaders who gathered together for the day, to consider specific ways to work together to advance a positive vision for the future of the state. Over 500 Vermonters participated in the Summit process on May 11, 2009, coming from all parts of the state, from all sectors of government, business, non-profits and communities. It is exciting just to read the names (in Section VIII at the back of this report) of the diverse and dedicated team of Vermonters who devoted their energy and thinking to make the Summit a success.Two suggestions of note from the summary below include reducing carbon emissions by 75 percent, and having 75 percent of the food bought in Vermont be grown or raised in Vermont. The full report is attached.The Summit on the Future of Vermont centered on afternoon sessions where participants evaluated the ideas and directions of the Council s report (Imagining Vermont: Values and Vision for the Future is also available online and can be found at www.futureofvermont.org(link is external)) and considered fourteen categorical areas for action: Agriculture, Civic Life, Clean Energy, Demographics, Digital Age, Diversity, Economic Plan, Forestry and Industry, Healthy Vermont, Higher Education, K‐12 Education, Land use and Development, Preserving the Balance, and Public Transportation in Vermont. Notes from these working sessions form the core of this report and are included in Section IV, with their priorities listed in Section II.VCRD staff is now taking the Conclusions from the Council back to Vermonters in a series of public presentations around the state. Every county is hosting a presentation where the results and priorities will be discussed, and residents can add their ideas for action and implementation. This series of public discussions began on June 10, in Randolph, and will conclude in Brattleboro on July 15.Priority Recommendations From the Summit Working Group SessionsThe following is a report of the priorities areas developed by Task Force groups and gathered at theSummit on the Future of Vermont on May 11, 2009. Each Task Force was asked to report back to theassembly two priority items that could move address the conclusions of the Council on the Future ofVermont project and move a vision for Vermont s future into action. Task Force groups were managedby neutral facilitators and had keynote speakers who began the discussion by exploring the challenges and opportunities in each area. The discussions were designed to cover the following questions: What are the key opportunities ahead in this sector?What are the key challenges in this sector today?How do Vermonters and Vermont organizations work together to overcome obstacles andadvance opportunities in this sector?What are the two priority recommendations for action that this group has for the plenarypresentation and the final report?The Task Force groups included: Civic Life, Healthy Vermont, Clean Energy, Digital Age, Preparing forDiversity, Forestry and Industry, Economic Plan, Higher Education, K‐12 Education, CoordinatedStatewide Land Use Strategy, Working Downtowns and Landscapes, Demographics and AgingPopulation, Public Transportation, and Agriculture in Vermont. Their priorities are listed below.Civic Life: Enhancing the Vitality of Civic Life in Vermont CommunitiesTown meeting is a part of Vermont history and civic life, but due to its once annual structure, it isbecoming increasingly limited as a method of including the diversity of community opinion. At the core, the principle of connection with and communication between community members and public decision‐making is still vital. New models for communication should be designed and developed, ones in which information technology can play a greater role.The Civic Life Task Force group put forth these priorities:1. Explore Regionalism for Infrastructure and Services (such as fire departments, emergency medical and rescue services, and school boards) yet retain and nurture individual community identities. Many local and municipal service providers agree that serious discussion about merging ʹservicesʹ is critical given increased need and diminishing resources. It is crucial, however, that dialogue is structured to ensure that each community involved has a strong voice and does not lose the community connection.2. To encourage community connections, models for celebrations, forums and enhanced community partnerships should be identified and supported. Vermont communities suffer from plenty of divisions, but in future, the breakdown of the Vermont community will come from separations between people who live there. These successful models should then be shared with communities and regions.Healthy Vermont: Promoting Access and AffordabilityThe Healthy Vermont Task Force group identified these priorities:1. Retaining and recruiting high quality health care professionals (HCPs) is a high priority to promote access and affordability to quality healthcare. To do this, better incentives such as loan forgiveness, spousal employment opportunities and housing assistance should all be considered.2. The Blueprint for Health model should be expanded to reach all Vermonters at all ages. To do this, payers who fund the program need to agree to accelerate its dissemination faster than the current timeline. Also, Medicare should be included as a payer to the Blueprint for Health model action that has to be taken at the federal level.Clean Energy: Advancing Vermont s Clean Energy FutureThe Clean Energy Task Force brought the following priorities to the plenary session: 1. Vermont needs to implement the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 75% as described by the Governor s Climate Change Commission and empower the working group established to lead in this implementation. 2. Vermont should support VT Energy and Climate Action Network (VECAN) and Town Energy Committees and other partners in building a statewide carbon challenge to Vermont towns: a Municipal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Contest to lower the energy consumption in their municipality. The partners would work with the Clean Energy Development Fund to build a major award to the winning municipality. Digital Communities: Enhancing Community in the Digital AgeTo level the playing field in Vermont in terms of information technology, the Digital Age Task Force group emphasized the need for 100% accessibility, affordability, and use of digital technology and tools for all segments and populations in Vermont ‐‐ regardless of ability to pay. The specific priorities are:1. The Vermont Telecomm Authority should be supported to fulfill its mission.2. This can be accomplished in part by expanding allowable use of Universal Service Funds by: encouraging federal delegation to pursue elimination in FCC restrictions on use of fundsto allow broadband and cell technology and eliminate restrictions for libraries encouraging state expansion in use of USF and/or creation of new fund using USF as a model for use in subsidizing broadband and cell technology 3. Vermont should also support public/private partnerships to train users to increase productivity, information literacy and civic engagement.Diversity: Preparing for Diversity in Vermont Towns and CitiesThe challenges to a state that has historically been white and homogenous are many, but changing the dialogue, making necessary policy shifts, and affirming the characteristics and advantages of a non‐white, racially and ethnically diverse population are crucial. The Diversity Task Force group issued the following priorities:1. Making a personal change is the beginning of understanding why diversity matters. Intentional behavior change at the personal level has to happen in Vermont today and into the future (examples are: take someone to lunch who doesn t look like you, start a conversation with someone new, attend a celebration or meeting of a group that is not yours).2. Create diverse coalitions in the workplace and do it intentionally and aggressively, so that it will eventually become a habit of Vermont business and non‐profit and policy leaders. Living in Vermont, and achieving the ideal for affirming diversity here, will mean that individuals, businesses, non‐profits and government will have inclusivity in make‐up, design and intent and that diversity will be seen as critical in other sectors, such as economic development, transportation, health care, and education. Diversity will support the missions of these areas, rather than being seen as something additional that they have to take on.Forestry and Industry: Promoting Forest Stewardship and the Forest Products IndustryThe Forestry and Industry Task Force group identified the need for decisive leadership and clearcommunication around the crisis in the Vermont forest sector. They recommend:1. Creating an entity or effort that communicates priorities and coordinates disparate and loosely organized parts of the Vermont forest community. The common threats and emergencies in the Forestry Sector are: 1) Climate Change, 2) Invasive Species and 3) the lack of affordability of owning and operating working lands which is driving the turnover, parcelization and fragmentation of lands so valued in Vermont. This entity would form strategies, take actions and speak with one clear voice about common needs and priorities.2. Unifying coordination efforts with the Agricultural sector. The problems, the interests and the landowners in these areas are common, and traditional products no longer generate enough income to pay for all the public benefits from working lands. Together, these groups should explore a mix of integrated farm and forest markets and products, which truly reflect the value of clean water, air, scenery, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, open space and other values. Together these groups should pursue tax reform to enable farmers and foresters to afford and steward the lands of Vermont.Finally, the mission of these groups or entities need to be clearly communicated to the public so that people in Vermont are aware of their individual efforts and impacts on the working lands. These actions would close the gap between the value that Vermonters place in the working landscape and the realities of the threats that it faces today.Economic Plan: Building a Strategic Economic Plan for Vermont s FutureThe Economic Plan Task Force group identified these priorities:1. The Governor, current and subsequent, should state the need for and lead the effort to create a new vision, goals and economic action plan with measures and outcomes that achieves policies and resources that support non‐government, value added job creation. The Governor shall continually provide the staff and resources to distill and synthesize all the work done by CFED, the Next Generation Commission, and the Council on the Future of Vermont as a foundation for this plan.2. A comprehensive analysis of future growth sectors in Vermont should be conducted so thattargeted state support can be focused on entrepreneurial efforts in those sectors. All sectorsshall be supported from the plan, but a tiered response is also needed to stimulate growth.Higher Education: Advancing Leadership and CommerceHigher education has a critical role to play in supporting most of the priorities identified in the Council on the Future of Vermont study, and already supports the state s economy and brand. A long term collaborative vision and plan for Vermont higher education will help this sector make an even greater future contribution. The Higher Education Task Force group identified two recommendations.1. Develop a broadly based consortium of public and private higher education, business, labor and government leaders who will establish a vision and action steps to promote a bold and compelling higher education community incorporating a diversity of high quality affordable educational opportunities, well connected to Vermontʹs economic, professional, environmental and societal needs, and placing Vermont in a highly competitive national position to attract students, entrepreneurs and businesses. Success will depend upon a commitment by all participants to work to implement the vision.2. Higher education institutions should work together to lower costs for students. Institutions of higher education in the state should form a collaborative coalition to substantially moderate increases in educational costs and overhead, such as: sharing best practices and ideas for efficient use of technology and energy, eliminating unnecessary redundancy and duplication, establishing purchasing consortia to reduce costs of goods, services, materials and employee benefits and exploring ways to optimize use of facilities.K – 12 Education: Renewing Public K‐12 Education for the 21st CenturyThe K‐12 Education Task Force group identified two overarching goals and first steps to achievethose goals.1. First, Vermont legislature, administration and board of education should adopt a unifying statement of official policy that defines educational excellence for the 21st century student in Vermont. The statement should include target objectives that all schools are directed towards and a clear work plan under the leadership of the Commissioner of Education. This statement should come from a broad, organized public engagement process that identifies what Vermonters most want from schools.2. Vermont citizens and Vermont communities should be more invested in public education and understand how it contributes to social and economic well‐being. Working models where schools are celebrated as centers for arts, culture, and events are evident in Vermont and should be expanded. Data collection and measurement of success for schools needs greater consistency and transparency as well.Land Use and Development: Building a Coordinated Statewide Land Use and Development StrategyToday there exists a state of urgency regarding the current system of land use regulation in Vermont in that it is weak, ineffective, uncoordinated and unsustainable and is leading to incremental growth that represents a disconnect between Vermonters expressed values and actions. The Coordinated Land Use Strategy Task Force group recommends: 1. Create a time‐limited, multi‐stakeholder task force to examine land use planning and regulation in Vermont with the goal of overhauling the current system and developing a set of concrete recommendations for legislative action. This process should be disconnected from any legislative session and could take between one and two years to complete.2. Develop a comprehensive public information and awareness campaign to educate Vermonters about the need for change in the state s land use regulatory system and the potential consequences of maintaining the status quo.Preserving the Balance: Working Downtowns, Working LandscapesThe Working Downtowns and Landscapes Task Force group recommends: 1. State government shall invest in both the countryside and community centers by increasing funding in programs that realize this mutual relationship: programs such as the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and the Current Use Program (Use Value Appraisal program).2. A bold public awareness campaign that visually communicates the consequences of our choices for the future of Vermont should be designed and implemented. VCRD can assist in leadership of this campaign.3. The state shall remove vague language from the planning and development language and transform it into a clear and directive set of standards and goals. Consistency in regulatorypractices and compliance enforcement are crucial and town planners need more clear direction about development standards and practices.Demographics: Realizing the Opportunities of an Aging Population and Workforce The Demographic Task Force group determined that:1. The state needs to address the issues of housing density and development in conjunction with an aging demographic. A comprehensive understanding of the options for high density, high efficiency housing options in Vermont town and community centers and downtown areas is needed. For people of all ages, but especially for those who are aging and need access to services, access to alternative transportation and nearby events and programs, downtown housing options are a priority.2. To assist elders in re‐entering or re‐training for the work force in Vermont, flexible hours, and specialized training (especially information technology) are a priority. A vocational rehabilitation training model would be useful in Vermont (work place facilitators) to ensure that older workers get the specific training and personalized assistance that they need.Public Transportation: Building a Rural Public Transportation System Transportation is vital as Vermont plans for its future. This sector not only is a critical piece of Vermont s energy use and carbon emissions, but is also connected with areas such as healthyliving, affordability, school bus transportation and environmental concerns. Leadership is neededin many areas to move transportation awareness forward, and the Public Transportation Task Force group recommends:1. The dialogue around public transportation needs to be changed. Vermonters and leading decision makers need to know that in this state, conditions require the Transportation of the Public. Defining Transporting the Public and communicating it to the public is crucial.2. Transporting the Public definition must include providing mobility and access to all Vermonters through choices that include bike lanes, paths, sidewalks, park and ride lots, complete streets as well as public transit systems and private sector taxi and bus services.Agriculture: Supporting the Progress of Agriculture in VermontThe Agriculture Task Force group prioritized the creation of an operational food system for the state that is environmentally, economically, and socially viable. These are the action items: 1. First, a broad spectrum of stakeholders from the agricultural community in Vermont must define sustainable agriculture and apply strict metrics to the economic, environmental, and social aspects of agriculture.2. With this working definition, investment, policy, education, and dedication of public dollars for agriculture can be targeted and focused on those operations that embody the ideal for Vermont.3. To achieve a goal of 75% Vermont food purchase to be produced in Vermont, a procurement policy of state connected monies will be established and supported. 4. Finally, an education campaign for the Vermont public should be developed. For this to occur, education, production, processing, infrastructure, marketing and energy efficiency must all be considered and supported in looking ahead. AttachmentSize Final Report8.16 MBlast_img

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