We could point to any number of things that made 2017 unique. As for local news events, readers can catch up with some of them in Mike Eldred’s year in review article on the front page.
There is no doubt that 2017 was a year of dramatic political change at every level: local, state, and national. Locally, school district consolidation was the main change that just about every nearby community undertook. Voters considered district merger initiatives brought about by Act 46. Those include the Windham Central Supervisory Union towns of Wardsboro and Dover for a side-by-side merger, with Jamaica, Townshend, Newfane, and Brookline merging as part of the plan. Marlboro opted not to join with Dover and Wardsboro, taking a go-it-alone approach. In the Windham Southwest SU, Readsboro and Halifax and the Twin Valley district towns of Wilmington and Whitingham all agreed to join hands. Stamford opted out of the side-by-side plan and is pursuing a merger with neighboring Clarksburg, MA. The local school districts are headed into uncharted territories and there are still many questions to be answered about the mergers and their potential pitfalls and benefits. We hope 2018 will shed some light on some of those questions and provide a few answers.
Statewide, a new governor took office at the beginning of the year, and Republican Phil Scott brought with him some very different ideas from his Democratic predecessor, Peter Shumlin. Scott has called for fiscal restraint across all areas of state government, has urged school districts to tighten spending, and waged a last-minute battle with House and Senate leaders over a plan to negotiate school district insurance contracts at the state level, instead of by individual districts. While he ultimately lost that fight, there is no doubt that Scott did not take residence in the corner office of the Capitol to continue Montpelier’s business as usual. The incoming year is an election year, and all the state representatives, senators, and leaders will be up for election again. Where that desire to change state government takes Scott and his administration in an election year should be fascinating to watch, as will voters’ reactions.
Speaking of not continuing business as usual, who could have missed what happened in Washington, DC, once Donald Trump was sworn in as our 45th president. Having won the 2016 presidential campaign with a promise to, among other things, “drain the swamp” in DC, Trump embarked on dismantling just about every federal institution and program in the nation’s capital. Despite much bluster on many issues, it wasn’t until late in December that Trump coaxed the Republican Congress to pass a significant piece of legislation, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017. Exactly who gets the cuts and who gets jobbed remains to be seen. But Trump was finally able to trumpet about a major piece of legislation. As we head into the new year, we wonder if the president will be able to coerce more of his agenda through Congress, or if the divides that showed in the Republican majority will continue to stymie some of Trump’s initiatives. Only time will tell, and in the meantime many will be left wondering just where our country is headed.
All those changes and more have led many people toward feelings of uncertainty as the year ends. How that all plays out in 2018 and beyond remains to be seen. Chances are the bumpy ride of 2017 will continue for a while longer.
As we head into 2018, we wish all of you the happiest of new years and say so long to the past. Some may say good riddance. Others may be sorry to see it go. Regardless of how one thinks about it, 2017 was quite a year.