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Land for me, but not for thee

Brandon's and Middlebury's town fathers might be well advised to read histories before continuing their decades-long and ever-more-expensive-to-reverse bypass opposition.

In Tennessee's own Northeast Kingdom (just as in Vermont, the handful of counties north and east of Washington) the village of Jonesborough has benefitted enormously from a 1950s era bypass. The bypass effectively segregates the downtown-destroyers-through traffic and large-lot commercial development-from the local traffic and small-scale commercial activity the village was built for. But, far more typically, lifeboaters (or the Incumbents' Club, if you prefer) are consistently, vigorously, and skillfully pursuing their no-growth agenda. Sometimes, they say so quite clearly.

Consider, for example, the musings on the virtues of no-growth by Marianne Ward of Burlington.

Ms. Ward writes in a recent letter to the editor in Rutland that "Vermont's population growth is a result of a whopping 3 million people being added to the U.S. population each year..." and so on. She cites high fertility rates and illegal immigration. She goes on to cite a 1970 VNRC survey finding that 68 percent of the locals then wanted zero growth or even better, shrinkage.

Actually, Vermont has the lowest fertility rates in the nation, well below replacement levels. If it weren't for the inmigration of (mostly, but who knows?) Subaru and Volvo-driving retirees from New Jersey and elsewhere to raise the population from 390,000 in 1960 to 621,000 today, raising average age and income levels, the outmigration of young adults with their children at highest-in-the-nation rates would have shrunk Vermont just as they wish.

Here's the delicious irony: folks who profess no growth and population reduction are the majority of the over-200,000 who have flooded in to Vermont over the last four decades; they boosted the state's population to nearly twice its former head-count-while it's the growth and development, capital-investment and opportunity-seeking folks who have fled, leaving behind the opposite of their own objectives.

If the New Jersey inmigrants had really wanted to keep Vermont "...A place that offers a better quality-of-life..." (in Ward's words), they would have stayed home. They didn't. As Ms. Ward writes in her letter to the editor, "There are more out-of-staters living in Vermont now than people who were actually born here."

Former Vermonter Martin Harris lives in Tennessee.

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