Sibilia listens, talks issues
by Jack Deming
Aug 04, 2014 | 2319 views | 0 0 comments | 70 70 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Independent candidate for the Windham-Bennington House seat answers a question at a campaign question and answer in Dover Wednesday evening as Jollene Mahon looks on.
Independent candidate for the Windham-Bennington House seat answers a question at a campaign question and answer in Dover Wednesday evening as Jollene Mahon looks on.
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DOVER- Campaign season is off and running across Vermont, and with Windham and Bennington counties featuring open seats in the Senate and House, candidates are beginning to get the message out, and listen to the voters. The local race for a state representative seat, currently held by John Moran, features two challengers, both running as independents. Both residents of Dover, Philip Gilpin Jr. and Laura Sibilia have thrown their hats in the ring and begun their campaigns with lightly-advertised and -attended question and answer sessions. Sibilia held one such session Wednesday evening at Dover Town hall, where she listened to the concerns of voters.

Sibilia focused on the subjects she has been most involved with, education and economic development, and listened to concerns on health care and energy, subjects about which she said she is continuing to garner knowledge and opinion

Charles LaFiura said that he is concerned about Medicare recipients and those content with their current health care plans being forced to contribute to a single-payer system in the future. LaFiura coupled his concerns about health care with the state’s need to attract more retirees with a change to the inheritance tax. “The inheritance tax in Vermont has actually made me consider moving out of state,” said LaFiura. “What you might consider is carving out a rule that if you haven’t lived in Vermont for a certain period of time or you’ve earned your assets out of state and they are managed out of state, you are not subject to the tax. Otherwise you may see these people shying away.”

Judy LaFiura said that she believes taxes are uneven and that she would like to see more local taxes put into local infrastructure and into institutions such as libraries.

Sibilia asked what the group thought about the current economic climate in the valley, and whether they felt it was getting better or worse. Charles LaFiura said that while he felt it was improving, the valley still needs a sense of growth where the “constant drumbeat for economic development” is no longer necessary.

“I feel really hopeful about what I’m seeing,” said Sibilia, who works at the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation and is a member of Southeastern Vermont Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies. “I was not particularly hopeful after the flood as to whether the valley would be able to recover, and now we’re seeing development from the Hermitage to EB5 investments coming into the region through Mount Snow and that makes me even more hopeful.”

Sibilia also said the region needed to continue on the path of marketing and branding, and perhaps shying away from individual efforts to a broader, all-inclusive approach. In towns like Whitingham and Readsboro, Sibilia said that grassroots efforts like the Readsboro Arts Festival and the restoration of the Bullock Building in Readsboro, and the recent start-up of the Whitingham Farmers Market were positive signs of economic development in towns that have struggled in recent years. While the Mount Snow Chamber of Commerce readies a branding initiative for the entire valley, Sibilia said it is important to keep focused on marketing, and continue talking with small towns about what they need in order to grow as a part of this cohesive effort.

“We have above-average education levels here,” said Sibilia. “We have a highly educated workforce which is a little mismatched with our employers, but we should be able to be really nimble. I think it’s a lack of focus, and I’d like to see a broader state focus, and I would love to be able play some part in that.”

Speaking to Dover residents, Sibilia also focused on the $11 million spent by the town on education tax each year. Sibilia said that while Dover has a high-quality school, there needs to be a focus on making sure that Dover’s tax money is spent on improving schools that may not have the same qualities.

Sibilia’s next campaign stop is scheduled for August 15 at the Readsboro Inn.
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