The Mad River Valley candidates for the Vermont House of Representatives took to the debate stage on Tuesday, October 25, to discuss The Valley and statewide issues.
In a forum presented by The Valley Reporter and MRVTV, candidates were given opportunities to give their professional and personal opinions on a variety of issues. Topics included health care, alternative energy, education, the economy and social issues. The Big Picture, Waitsfield, hosted the event.
Adam Greshin, I-Warren, and Maxine Grad, D-Moretown, are the incumbent representatives for Washington-7 and they are seeking their fifth and ninth terms, respectively. They are being challenged by Jake Sallerson, I-Warren, and Marie Leotta, R-Waitsfield.
In their opening statements, both Grad and Greshin touted their experience serving as representatives and said that they would love to continue serving their community.
Grad spoke first, reiterating that her experience is what makes her most capable, especially serving as chair of the House Judiciary Committee. She wants to continue her work enhancing community safety and vitality.
Greshin opened up by clarifying for the crowd that he is an Independent and his record shows just that. He has served on both the House Health Care Committee and the Ways and Means Committee. His proudest moments, he said, are when he has stopped bad legislation from leaving those committees.
Greshin is also a member of the Mad River Rotary Club, the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Warren School Board.
Leotta told the audience that she does not consider herself to be a politician and still doesn’t although she is running for office. Motivated by serving her community, she wants to see spending decreased and is upset by the amount of taxes Vermonters are being forced to pay.
Sallerson is running for the House with a new form of platform that he believes is most effective for democracy. He wants to bring the issues that representatives are tasked with solving to his constituents.
Rather than supporting his own agenda or his own positions, he wants to represent the position of his community as a collective body.
Mental health and Vermont Health Connect dominated the section on health care.
Greshin told the audience that he believed decentralized mental health care is a good idea, stating that people feel most comfortable close to home.
For Grad, it isn’t a matter of centralized or decentralized. She is more focused on seeing parity between mental health care and the rest of the health care field.
Sallerson lamented the fact that mental health patients are not treated as immediate patients, believing that it needs to be treated like anything else. “You wouldn’t turn anyone away with a broken bone; you don’t turn away someone who has mental health [issues],” Sallerson said.
He thinks that Vermont needs to take a hard look at how people view the issue as well as how it is treated.
Leotta spoke about a farm that employed mentally challenged community members in Waterbury. The farm was closed, which Leotta said deeply upset her.
“I am not as well versed in mental health here in Vermont as I’d like to be,” Leotta said, but she also said that society cannot ask that police to be mental health practitioners in the community and that there is room to improve the mental health community.
Both Grad and Greshin believe that Vermont Health Connect should not be abandoned. Greshin also said that he sponsored a bill that would move Vermont to a combination of state- and federal-based exchange.
Sallerson said that he would bring the issue to the community to find out what they believed and Leotta said that she does not believe the system is effective and it is costing Vermonters too much money.
ALTERNATIVE ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE
The first question regarding the possible carbon tax that could be implemented in the state garnered differing opinions again.
Sallerson started off by saying that he doesn’t believe in taxing individuals, saying that it isn’t effective. He would look more at the organizations providing fossil fuels and other carbon-emitting materials.
Greshin does not see the tax as a viable option for Vermont. “At the state level I just don’t see it working,” he said.
Leotta said she agreed with Greshin, and said she is vehemently opposed to the carbon tax.
Grad believes there is room for conversation for a carbon tax but is certainly aware of the burden a regressive tax might put on Vermonters, so legislators need to be that much more careful.
The conversation moved to hydropower.
Both Greshin and Grad agreed that hydropower was a good source of energy and should certainly be in Vermont.
“I’m at a loss as to what to say about a micro-hydro dam or anything micro-sized. I could talk to you about Hydro-Quebec better than I can talk about this subject,” Leotta said. Leotta also said that she would support micro-hydro if it came up in Vermont and would work with local communities to implement it.
Sallerson said that he too was unfamiliar with micro-hydro but is very interested in all renewable energy.
Leotta is also against any commercial wind in Vermont; she likened it to billboards on highways and she doesn’t support it for the state.
Both Greshin and Sallerson agreed that the topic was a community concern and should be decided by the towns and their residents.
Grad said she was in favor of properly sited wind installation. It is very important to get completely off of fossil fuels, she said, which is why she supports it.
PLACES TO WATCH
The candidates also touched on education and social topics, such as Act 46, early childhood education, Vermont’s heroin problem and marijuana legalization. See next week’s issue of The Valley Reporter for further coverage of the forum and the candidates’ positions.
To watch the forum, there is a recording of it on The Valley Reporter’s Facebook page and it will be available on Mad River Valley Television at mrvtv.com or on Waitsfield Cable Channels 44 and 45.