Vernon town council accountability isn’t limited to the election

| 01 Nov 2021 | 06:28

    To the Editor:

    I have spent the majority of my 35 years on this planet living in Vernon. I have seen this town as a bustling place with vast entertainment. I remember the early ‘90s, when every parking lot at Action Park was full, and cars lined up down 94 waiting to get in. Rightfully so! Vernon had what is now one of the most legendary amusement parks in history.

    Excluding the dangerous mistakes they made, it offered Vernon many great things. Activities such as bungee jumping, indoor skydiving, a brewery, a legendary Octoberfest, and numerous food options in the village they had across 94. People came in droves. I also can remember in ‘98 when Intrawest came in and saved Vernon Valley/Great Gorge and created Mountain Creek. I remember the people who came then too, many of them from all over, including sponsors for a televised half-pipe competition. I can remember all the promoters who came, the events that went on, the big names, and again the people from all over who wanted to come visit Vernon. The Playboy Club was before my time, but many of Vernon’s longtime residents have stories about the big names it attracted, along with the people.

    I have also seen this town struggling, like in ‘97 we had a ski resort that could not afford to open. I remember Vernon in 2009 having numerous houses in every neighborhood sitting empty from foreclosure.

    What’s been the most concerning to me has been the last few years living in this town. A Vernon in limbo, a status quo, boring, average, sleepy, and mediocre. Some will try and say “Good, that’s how we want it!” and I can understand that to some extent. But I’ve also witnessed those same people complain about the effects living in a sleepy-town brings. Those same people complain as they drive to Warwick to eat and drink and complain that taxes are too high. There are frequent comments such as “I don’t understand how living in a town that houses a ski resort means that my taxes are not lower.” Those same people complain Legends sits empty, and why won’t someone do something. Those same people say main street sucks, why don’t we have more businesses. Yet, when things like the pump track get proposed they go off again objecting and saying what’s the point. Well I think the point was to try and attract people to it and thus get more businesses on main street so you’ll stop complaining our downtown sucks as you drive to Warwick....

    When it comes to the town council, I can also remember the many changes. With the positives of Action Park, also came a town council hand selected to enable them. Something that I believe still haunts this town to date.

    As the town council elections approached I opened my paper to learn about the candidates. I found two members running for re-election. John and Andrew. As someone who keeps involved in my community, I have had the pleasure to speak to Andrew numerous times, as well as heard John’s opinion on them. I was very pleased to see they wish to continue doing this. Both are very reasonable and focused to make Vernon better, to bring back the business, to bring back the people, and to create the business revenue we need to lower taxes. Most of all I have watched them work together with the council, even when they don’t agree, to get things done. Because inaction and interfighting will yield a mistake I’ve seen in the past, and it’s the worst thing possible for this town.

    What came next was less pleasing. I saw a name that keeps coming up in this community, a vocal individual, who is highly polarized around politics. This individual was vocally against any retail marijuana sales last summer. This same individual was recently at a board of education meeting opposing masks in schools (yet this decision is made at the state level). All I can see is this individual bringing polarized issues into a place they have no impact on. Further, this individual is a former school board member. What I see here is someone pushing a personal agenda and if elected, a council loaded with contention and grid lock. The last thing this town needs.

    Further I noticed two names I do remember, and low and behold one of their bios even mentions to vote for both of them on Nov. 2. These two folks are a ghost of Vernon town councils past, and I recall them being around when the township got us into the mess with the sewer. It might be another time former should remain former.

    Regardless of the outcome, the focus going forward needs to be on not having a town council that is filled with interfighting. We need a town council that continues to focus on creating business opportunities in Vernon, one that reflects the residents. For example, a town that voted 75 percent in favor of legal marijuana sales, should not have town council members trying to prevent retail sales. Further when those opposing it go on to say they want to lower taxes, the detachment from reality starts to show. Even if they want the status quo of us being a town people drive through to enjoy the towns around us, at the very least we should have the tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales. Saying you want to lower taxes is a great talking line, but you have to have a plan, and the best plan is by increasing the business tax revenue. Otherwise they will continue coming to us and raising our taxes. If we build it, they will come, we most certainly have seen that before in this town.

    I am hopeful for our town. I want people once again to not only drive through to enjoy the things around us, but stop in to enjoy the things we have. Going forward we need to hold our town council responsible for proper liquor license distribution. We have eight liquor licenses in Vernon, three of which are sitting in pocket, which means they are not being used. The town going forward needs to vote no when these three business entities appeal to allow the license to remain in pocket. The state sunset laws will apply and they can either sell them, use them, or lose them. I know Vernon most certainly could use a new option to eat, drink, and put on entertainment.

    It’s time people stop driving through Vernon to get to these things. It’s time we stop leaving Vernon to find these things. It’s time for a new chapter in this town’s future that brings back the good things I can remember, and does not make the mistake of bringing back the bad things I remember all too well.

    Rick Thompson