Village Annual Meeting ballots are arriving in the mail alongside opinion pieces on the Plan of Merger. We urge every voter who has questions on any ballot articles to seek out reliable sources for information. We recommend www.greateressex2020.org for merger information, the Village Annual Report at www.essexjunction.org for information on the Village municipal items and www.ewsd.org for the school related items.
We miss Village Annual Meeting. Sharing a community dinner while talking about local issues and catching up with neighbors is one of the many things that make our Village special. We are missing this opportunity to engage in person on the important issues in front of us, but the use of mail-in ballots does ensure all voters who want to vote can do so easily. Although all our social media outlets are engaged in talks of merger and separation – this voting opportunity is also about the Village and EWSD municipal budgets; Trustee, Moderator, Library, and School Board elections; as well as other important municipal items. Please take the time to read and vote on the articles on both sides of the ballot.
We do support the current Plan of Merger of the Town of Essex and the Village of Essex Junction into one new community that will value the unique identities of our various neighborhoods while ensuring we have the focus and resources for future opportunities and challenges. Over 70% of Village voters supported merger in the November 2020 election and over 80% in the March election. And yes, we are frustrated that we are voting again. But this is democracy in action. Due to a mere 19 vote difference in the March vote residents worked within the statutory framework for a reconsideration vote. We support their efforts and encourage everyone to vote. This question is found at the bottom of the ballot under Special Meeting Town of Essex, VT Article 1.
We also support the Village Article 6 which is a non-binding resolution directing the Trustees to create a charter for an independent City of Essex Junction – or in other words a charter to separate from the Town of Essex – if the Plan of Merger fails. We have heard from numerous residents that the status quo is not acceptable and if merger doesn't pass, they want a clear path for change. Conversations about our combined or separate futures have occurred over decades. The conversation that led to this Plan of Merger consideration started over 3 years ago. Although we want the Plan of Merger to pass, we know the Village will need to begin focusing their efforts on its own future challenges and opportunities if it fails. Sending a substantial amount of our tax revenues to services that are duplicative to ones in our own community is not sustainable.
But we need to be clear – separation is not guaranteed. Trustees and community members will need to work diligently to craft a new charter. Then another Village community wide vote will need to occur. Finally, the Legislature would need to approve the charter passed by our community. Each step will encounter tough decisions and hurdles that may not be overcome. While merger provides a clear path to efficiency, transparency, and immediate action.
Community member’s perspectives on merger are as vast as our beautiful mountainsides. Here we provide our perspective: many years ago, Heart and Soul of Essex discovered that the Town of Essex and Village of Essex Junction residents possess a clear set of shared values – Education, Community Connections, Safety, Thoughtful Growth, Health and Recreation and Local Economy. We believe these values hold true today and that the commitment to make Essex the best it can be runs deep. We will strengthen these values with the passage of our current merger plan that provides tax equity and fair representation. We will strengthen these values as we forge a new path forward holding strong to what makes us each special while uniting behind one vision.
Rep. Karen Dolan
Rep. Lori Houghton