Before Gov. Peter Shumlin gets carried away with the “success” of Act 46, he ought to take into account his own twisted standard of success.
He and House Speaker Shap Smith traveled to Essex Junction on Tuesday to celebrate the decision by residents of Essex, Essex Junction and Westford to merge into one large school district. Act 46, the school consolidation bill, was designed in part to encourage this sort of merger, which will create a district governed by one school board from districts that had been run by five.
It is not a new idea. For years residents of Essex and Essex Junction have been contemplating the division of power among multiple entities, including the town and village, as well as divided responsibility for numerous schools.
In fact, Essex is the sort of place made to order for consolidation. It has become a large suburbanized region and the second most populous municipality in the state. Like Burlington and Rutland, it has become its own metropolitan area, and the fragmentation of power began to make less and less sense.
Until now, the voters of the town have resisted consolidation. What is different now? The state has kicked in tax incentives that make the change more worthwhile to taxpayers. That is success of a sort. But a lot of things can be bought with money. It is not necessary to denigrate the democratic process in Essex to observe the role of money in this decision about democratic governance. […]
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