Rochester passes resolutions after lengthy discussion

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(Host) Vermont’s annual Town Meeting Day is upon us but a number of communities held their meetings Monday night. In Rochester nearly a third of the evening was taken up with discussion about several non-binding resolutions.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) There was some discussion but the first two hours of Rochester’s town meeting was mostly a series of nearly unanimous choruses of approval as voters elected town officers, and approved expenditures. But the tone changed when it came to the non-binding resolutions at the end of the town meeting warning.

“We should not get into the discussion of this at this point because we’re going to divide the town into two parts and it’s going to be very, very divisive.” (Applause)

(Zind) Despite those reservations, many were intent on discussing the merits and drawbacks of the contentious issues addressed in the resolutions. One calls on local and state officials to work to create a universal, publicly financed health care system. Several speakers condemned the idea.

“How you can create a system which is going to work within this state on a universal basis confounds me. It is a failed concept.”

(Zind) Others said passage of the resolution would prod the Legislature into taking action on health care reform.

“A vote in favor of this petition is a vote to send a message to our legislators that covering everyone is the only moral choice we have.”

(Zind) The universal health care resolution passed by a comfortable margin.

Next up was a resolution condemning the war in Iraq and the use of National Guard soldiers in the conflict. Again, there were differences of opinion. Some felt that passing the resolution would be an expression of support for Guard members and their families.

“In this particular case, not in every case – not in the case where there’s a real and present danger, in this particular case I think Vermont needs to stand by its own. That’s what we’re known for.”

(Zind) Another speaker said Vermont needs to stand with the rest of the nation in a time of war.

“When did we secede from the union? Because this is an amendment that says that we are separate. I think we are part of a wonderful whole.”

(Zind) Several people questioned why a resolution concerning the use of the National Guard also called for withdrawing all U.S. troops from Iraq. After that section was removed, a vote was taken and the resolution passed.

After a lively discussion of the first two resolutions, Rochester voters quickly approved a third that calls on the Legislature to declare a special day to celebrate Vermont’s independence. Voters will meet again in May to consider the town’s school budget.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Rochester.

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