Build an Equitable and Restorative Criminal Justice System
Addressing the underlying causes of involvement in the criminal justice system and eliminating its racial disparities will make our communities safer. We owe it to ourselves and our neighbors to make these reforms a reality.
We as Vermonters have a choice to make: will we enjoy a justice system that keeps us safe by addressing people’s needs, or will we live with a system that keeps asking prisons to fix poverty, substance use, and public health? I choose safety. I think Vermonters agree.
I’ve worked for years, both in Vermont courtrooms and in Montpelier, for a system that recognizes and addresses the underlying needs of individuals who get involved in the justice system — poverty, substance use disorder, and mental health challenges.
In my time as a contract public defender, I represented Vermonters who needed help in Chittenden County—and in every criminal courthouse in every county in the state. During my service with the Attorney General’s Office we have worked with partners around Vermont to more than double participation in our Diversion programs statewide, keeping thousands of people out of the standard criminal system and allowing them to repair harm to their communities and get the help they need without enduring the burden of a criminal record.
We have too many people stuck with criminal records who pose no danger to society and who should be able to expunge their offenses—and gain access to better jobs. We need to fully and faithfully implement our “raise the age” laws, allowing young people who make a mistake to avoid the lifelong burden of a criminal record while gaining access to services. We need to reduce the numbers of people who are reincarcerated after being released from Vermont’s prisons—Vermont has one of the highest rates of reincarceration in the nation.
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Eliminate Racial Disparities in Our Criminal Justice System
Vermont has one of the highest rates of incarceration for black people in the nation. We need action to address systemic racism in our criminal justice system.
Vermont is not immune from systemic racism in its criminal justice system. We have one of the highest rates of incarceration for Black people in the nation. In Vermont, black and brown drivers are pulled over at higher rates than white drivers, and police are more likely to search their cars.
We have work to do, including the passage and enforcement of laws that would address police use of force. We need to extend the scrutiny of our justice system to the actions of prosecutors, judges, and defense attorneys who make decisions that result in disparate rates of incarceration. We need to shrink the footprint of traditional law enforcement and expand community supports – including mental health and substance use disorder professionals – to respond to community needs. And we need to change our sentencing laws to lower disparities, as well as increase the use of restorative justice practices.
Promote Access to Affordable Housing Through Downtown Growth
We need to make Chittenden County a more affordable place to live, work, and raise a family.
With inadequate housing stock and serious affordability issues people who want to live here cannot, and businesses struggle to recruit workers. People should be able to live near their work and near transportation hubs. This creates vibrant communities, and it’s good for the environment.
Vermont already has in place policies—including aspects of Act 250—to encourage increased density in downtowns, which is the environmentally responsible way to grow. But long overdue reforms to Act 250 should be pushed forward as soon as possible to further incentivize building housing in population centers. Avoiding sprawl is the environmentally friendly way to grow, and downtown growth should produce housing to meet all needs–from permanently affordable units to mid-market options.
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Support Small Businesses – Through the COVID-19 Crisis and Beyond
Small businesses are the heart of our economy. It is our obligation to ensure that small businesses, and the workers who make them run, pull through a downturn that is no fault of their own.
Vermont’s businesses face an unprecedented crisis. Many of the small businesses that have employed our neighbors, anchored our towns, and brought Vermont dreams to life, are in grave danger as a result of the crisis. It is our responsibility to use whatever tools we have to preserve our vibrant small business community—and the workers who sustain them.
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Economic Justice: Break the Cycle of Poverty By Investing in Children and Families
Each year, Vermont spends nearly 40,000 dollars more on each person incarcerated in our prisons than we do on each student in our schools. We must invest in our children and youth – and their education. This will set all Vermonters up for success and save us money down the road.
29% of Chittenden County’s young children are living in poverty. Research has proven the significant influence of a person’s early years on the trajectory of their life. To build a stronger and more resilient community, we must address early childhood and family needs.
We know that when children and families have their basic needs met we’re one step closer to breaking the cycle of poverty. We must invest in services like Reach Up, equitable paid family and medical leave, universal school meals, and other nutrition programs so Vermont families have a foundation to build upon and our children have the strong start they deserve.
We also must mandate a living wage, so that all families can support themselves with the earnings from a steady job.
Expand Public Transportation to Combat Climate Change
Climate change is a defining issue of our time, and it is our obligation to address the ways Vermont contributes to the problem.
As someone who commutes to work on the bus as frequently as possible, I believe we should support a robust and resilient public transportation system and put in place policies to lower our state’s dependence on private vehicles. The transportation sector remains the largest contributor to Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions. We need to:
- Support the Chittenden County Transit Authority to ensure buses and public transportation options are widely available to Chittenden County residents.
- Build out our electric vehicle infrastructure and encourage the use of electric vehicles.
- Promote bicycling and ensure that our roadways have safe biking and walking corridors.
Increase Access to Affordable, High Quality Child Care
Vermonters need an early care and learning system that meets families’ needs and is adequately supported through state investment.
We need an early care and learning system that is adequately supported through state investment and prioritizes child and family well-being. Instead, we have a system that is subsidized by families’ high costs, and early educators’ subsistence wages and lack of healthcare.
Child care is a critical service that our economy – and more importantly, the future leaders of our state – rely on. We must support our families and early educators through building out the Child Care Financial Assistance Program and strengthening the early childhood workforce. When we do, we’ll all be better off.
Invest in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Here in Vermont we have the highest clean energy employment per capita in the nation. This is an economic success and an environmental success, and we need to double down on this growing sector of our state’s economy.
Climate change is a defining issue of our time. Combating climate change compels us to improve energy efficiency, increase the deployment of low-carbon generating technologies, and reduce the carbon footprint of our transportation system.
We need to continue to improve building efficiency and weatherization programs for low-income residents. Energy efficiency provides local jobs, reduces energy bills, and helps the state meet its energy goals. Chittenden County is ground zero for energy efficiency as the home base of both Efficiency Vermont and the Burlington Electric Department, the two entities appointed to deliver efficiency services in the state.
We need to embrace low-carbon distributed, renewable energy deployment and clean energy innovations, including energy storage, microgrid, and smart-meter technology. Vermont has over 18,900 clean energy jobs–over 6% of Vermont’s workforce–many of which are located in Chittenden County. I want to continue to grow Vermont’s clean-energy economy by cultivating business ingenuity and opportunity and incorporating energy services curriculum and vocational training in our high schools and colleges. To read more, click here.
Healthcare is a Human Right
I strongly support universal healthcare. I believe that the most comprehensive and fairest solution available would be a national Medicare-for-all program. The federal government must act for us to make improvements here in Vermont.
Health care costs are incredibly high in this state and we need to lower them. This should include a mandate for clear and understandable price transparency so providers can be held accountable and people can make informed healthcare choices. We should also reform insurance regulation in Vermont to allow for more customer choice. And we need to shift our healthcare payment model from fee-for-service, which incentivizes more and higher charges, to one based on the health of patients, which would incentivize providing the best care at the lowest cost. Although some efforts have been made to do so, we need a workable system that actually holds down costs.
Create a Taxed and Regulated Legal Cannabis Market
It is long past time for Vermont to enact a taxed and regulated legal cannabis market. This is the most effective way to ensure public safety. It will allow for regulation of cannabis products and provide the funds needed to create a robust state education program around the safe consumption of cannabis–and the dangers that the consumption of cannabis can pose to young people.