Local democracy in Vermont remains untainted by modernity. In small towns all over the state, people gather in meeting halls, school cafeterias, community centers and churches to hold the annual town meetings on the first Tuesday of March. Every registered voter is welcome; outsiders are not. Except for the clothes people wear, the comfort of central heating and occasional cable TV cameras, these meetings look and sound much as they did 150 years ago.
It was in this public-spiritedness that over 20 towns considered a resolution at this year’s meeting on March 4 to direct their legislators to create a state bank for Vermont. The vote does not have legally binding effects. It is only advisory. But it offers a important indicator of public sentiment on legislation being considered. The bills pending before both houses of the Vermont state legislature would transfer 10 percent of tax dollars to a publicly held agency, VEDA, the Vermont Economic Development Authority, and would give VEDA a banking license. The proposal would completely transform the way state revenues are used to finance public services.