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Against The Grain Masthead.png
Bitter Together, Better Apart

February 1, 2021

Many of us have epiphanies, moments of clarity that come upon us unexpectedly.

For me, that occurred last summer on a trip up Brigham Hill Road to Full Circle Gardens.

I was out of my pandemic bubble, walking amid a glory of perennials: purple cone flowers, irises, hostas. I felt as if I were in a world apart … at peace. I could breathe.

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Such a contrast to the previous four years of inter-municipal squabbling.

In 2018, when the latest merger effort kicked off, a pro-merger T-shirt bore the slogan “Better Together.” Events since have proved we were anything but. We are worse.

Merger debates haunted us, seeding our political environment with toxic feuds, Facebook ripostes and Front Porch Forum sniping. Against that backdrop, the ride to Full Circle Gardens was a balm for my soul. 

East on Route 15 from Five Corners, left on Old Stage, left on Brigham Hill and again once more into the gardens. A scant four miles. Symbolically, it seemed a distance as vast as the Earth is to the sun.

The contrast between the gardens and Five Corners is as different as different can be. One, flowers; the other, fumes. The buzz of bees, the squeal of brakes.

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Just as oil and water don’t mix, town and village would perpetually have clashing needs and contrasting visions. The former predominantly rural and spacious, the latter largely urban and constrained.

Yes, if the Legislature allows the Village to secede from the Town, my taxes likely will go up, just as they would have under merger. And yes, under the Village’s secession movement, their taxes might go down but not necessarily.

This though is not about taxes. It is about two distinctly different geographies, each with its own “personality.”

For me, I’m imagining a future for a new town, not a city. I will no longer publicly differentiate myself as someone who lives "in the Town outside the Village,” as if the “Village” is the center of our local universe and I am some kind of second-hand citizen because I do not live there.

Handled fairly, the establishment of a new Town of Essex (perhaps Essex Center?) and a new City of Essex Junction can be a win/win for both.

Now that would be a revelation!

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Bruce S. Post, a former Selectboard member, often writes and lectures on Vermont environmental history.