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The Newport Daily Express - Independent Gov. Candidates Play Ball, Answer Questions

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Location: West Glover, VT

The Newport Daily Express - Independent Gov. Candidates Play Ball, Answer Questions

Christopher Roy

About 50 local residents took an opportunity to question three of the five gubernatorial candidates during a question and answer session that was held after a couple of informal softball games on Sunday.

Nicole Colston, campaign manager for Sam Young for Governor, explained the "bring it to the ball field event" was supposed to bring all of the candidates together.

But the only gubernatorial candidates who attended the event were Young, Tony O'Connor and Anthony Pollina. Governor James Douglas sent members of his campaign staff to play softball, but they didn't answer questions after the game. Democrat Gaye Symington had no representation at either the ball game nor the question and answer period. She was on her way to the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Moderator Bethany Dunbar, the editor of the Chronicle, read questions that were written on index cards.

Young said the homeless problem in the state can be solved by building affordable housing.

"It's a matter of resources," he said. "We have trees, let's build homes."

O'Connor, a triple amputee who has always held a job, said he does not understand how people can be homeless. He said he's washed cars, been a social worker, worked for an amusement park, and ran the projection equipment at the former Derby Port Drive-in. But, there is nothing wrong with giving homeless people a 12-by-12 room with a shower that can be used as transitional housing, he said.

"Nobody in Vermont should be out on the street," he said. "The best way to help the homeless is find them employment."

Some of that employment could come from bringing the electric car industry to the state, said O'Connor.

Pollina said affordable housing is tied to poverty and low income. He said good jobs need to be created, because the average family can't afford the average Vermont home. He also said working wage income tax should not be higher than investment income tax.

Instead of expanding health care O'Connor wants the small- town type doctor who would charge patients $25 to return.

Pollina said the state has quality health care, but does not have a health care system. Like other states, Vermont has an industry that has a patchwork system that creates a lot of bureaucracy and a lot of cost-shifting. Expanding programs such as Medicaid, which pays less, are driving doctors out of state.

"It's good to expand coverage for people who don't have it, but we are not doing anything to lower the cost for people who pay insurance premiums," said Pollina.

Young said he could be the only candidate running for office who would appreciate having health care. He said the state does not have a health care problem, it has a private insurance problem.

"There shouldn't be profit in health care," said Young.

Pollina said the permitting process for alternative energy projects need to be streamlined. He wants Vermont Yankee to be phased out.

Young insisted that, instead of creating more power, Vermonters need to conserve energy. The majority of power that is produced is lost in the grid and production, he said. Part of the solution, said Young, is breaking apart the grid and creating smaller zones.

The simple answer, stated O'Connor, is making the permitting process easier. He said the only thing the government should do is ensure the power plant is safe. He is adamant that Americans need to get away from oil dependency. He is also against nuclear power plants, but cautioned that Vermont Yankee can't close down yet.

O'Connor said Vermonters should be able to make a living, noting that everyone, with the Internet, could have a small home-based business.

Small businesses are what Vermont is all about, Pollina said. But, taking the health care insurance burden away from them would be very beneficial to it's owners. And the permitting process needs to be more streamlined.

Young, who has been involved with several area small businesses, said the telecommunication infrastructure needs to be upgraded. He said some Vermonters still can't get an adequate Internet connection.

"We need to be creating the information jobs," he said. "We're not going to see a big boom in farming jobs."

Young suggested more manufacturing jobs be created and regional distribution centers open.

Pollina said he does not have much of an opinion on lowering the current drinking age from 21 to 18. He said someone who is allowed to go to war should be old enough to drink. But, he would stay with the current age for now. His biggest concern is that young people would drink and drive.

Young said the drinking age won't stop someone who really wants to drink and the age limit promotes binge drinking. Instead he said a culture of responsible drinking needs to be created.

O'Connor, who favors lowering the drinking age to at least 18, said his nephew has been to Iraq three times, but was not allowed to drink a toast at his own wedding.

"I think we should look at the possibility of having no drinking age at all in the State of Vermont," he said, adding the children should be able to have a drink in the parents' home. "Train them what drinking is and what drinking is not."

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