|VERMONT SECRETARY OF STATE - Jim Condos|
|State of Vermont
Office of the
Secretary of State
Volume 1 Number 4
|Table of Contents|
|Last month I was honored to be the keynote speaker at the 54th annual Town Officer Educational Conferences sponsored by the UVM Extension Service. It is hard to describe the excitement I felt talking with local officials from around the state, hearing your stories, your concerns and receiving your advice and encouragement. I thank you for that.|
|I was also
struck with admiration by the level of commitment that so many of you have to your
communities -- your willingness to work hard, despite confusing laws, limited resources
and the great demands of your constituents. The people of Vermont should be proud of the
many local officials who so generously share their time, skills and experience to help
make our communities a better place.
At the Town Officers Conference we spoke a lot about local control. In Vermont, local governments are creatures of the state with only the authority to act and respond to local problems that have been delegated to it by the state (this is called "Dillions Rule"). Problems arise because the legislature enacts laws for all towns and cities. But in Townshend or Corinth or Franklin, there are unique problems that dont fit into the statutory framework - and with no local authority to address them we can get awfully frustrated.
Despite the challenge of lack of legal authority, Vermont communities have displayed an extraordinary ability to resolve their own problems. This is a daily reminder of the preemptive power of local control. Perhaps local control exists at the despite lack of legal authority because, in many ways, the law doesnt solve the problems of local government: problems of personality conflict, problems of allocating limited resources, of deciding what constitutes right and wrong. Clearer laws, better laws can help, but while this is a nation and state of laws, experience is the life of the law, and how officers do their jobs is often as important as what they do.
Educational programs like the Town Officers Educational Conferences are important in that they bring us together to learn about the laws that govern our actions. Perhaps even more importantly, however, the TOECs and similar programs also allow us to share practical ideas about how to make local government work. They remind us of the principles of fairness and justice that govern what we do whether legally required or just right. It reminds me of the words of comedian Richard Pryor - "justice is just us!"
Deborah L. Markowitz
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