Friday, July 31, 2009

Victory Day for the LTCM

In the waning business hours of July the LTCM received some great news from the state-our well site has been approved! Henceforth, the final Friday-Sunday of July shall be declared a festival holiday, known as "Jonesfest." Activities will include, but not be limited to, bacchanalian revelry, sunrise hikes, a canoe/kayak race, live music, naked swimming and ironic corporate sponsorship.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rabble! Rabble! Rabble!

After weeks of rest and relaxation in the foothills of Robbins Mountain, we have returned to the valley to complete our project. Our hiatus gave us perspective and a renewed sense of purpose. Our challenger suppressed; the road is now clear. See you all soon!

Brooklyn artist, Liam McWilliams, has provided us with an early look at his new mural which will grace the side of our facility in a few short weeks. You can see more of his work at:

Monday, July 27, 2009

The LTCM does not negotiate with terrorists

I gleaned more information pertaining to the infamous gravel incident reported in the Burlington Free Press article. Cowan attempted to strong-arm a local police officer into charging me with vandalism for an errant piece of gravel that rolled near his building. Luckily, the officer present at the time of the incident acknowledged that no such vandalism occurred. Truth and justice prevail!

I had hoped to deliver an update on Wednesday afternoon regarding the successfully completed mediation with Cowan, however we received a call this morning informing us that he has backed out of the talks. This did not come as a big surprise considering the list of preconditions, demands and ultimatums he imposed before agreeing to mediation. First, he required that police resources be diverted to the talks, and that an officer be present for the mediation. He was supposedly concerned that things would get out of hand. Secondly, he made it clear that he refused to meet unless the property owner was present. It was clear to us that his intention was to engage in splitting maneuvers; a point that was driven home when he said that if his conditions were not met, he would circumvent us and halt our progress by dealing directly with the property owner. Third, he said that he would not show up if I continued to write about my experiences and provide the public with informational updates.

We agreed to respect all of his preconditions in the hope that we could come out of mediation and with a better sense of what his issues were, and why he continued to act as an aggressor towards this project. He was given the opportunity to express his opinions in a safe, healthy manner but chose instead to play games. In our opinion, he may continue to play in the sandbox all he likes-we are done humoring him.

The LTCM does not negotiate with terrorists.

Friday, July 24, 2009

End of week update

If there are questions or comments, please leave them on this page or contact me directly at 802.434.7197...keep an eye out for Part 3 in our series on the Vermont youth diaspora.

Have a great weekend everybody!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Response to the Free Pres Article

I wanted to provide a brief statement regarding the Burlington Free Press article that ran today, particularly on the issue of trespassing. Isaac Cowan and I share a mutual right-of-way that runs directly through both of our properties. It is deeded that his right-of-way is a guarantee, while mine is at his discretion. This means that under normal conditions I am allowed to use my right-of-way, but when he is feeling punitive; he takes my access away and calls it trespassing. He lied to the Free Press reporter and the Richmond Police Department in saying that " [I] was driving on his gravel road, kicking up stones against his buildings." This is a complete falsehood. He had absolutely no legitimate reason to deny me access to the back of my building, so he fabricated one.

I am glad that Mr. Cowan took the opportunity to speak with the reporter. His statements clearly illuminate his inconsistent, malevolent, and evasive manner. It's almost funny that he publicly complains and disrupts our progress for three straight months, then turns around (when a reporter's pen is in his face) and says, "his store's a great idea, and I'm sorry to hear he was thinking of not opening."

We deserve an honest answer as to why Isaac Cowan is determined to make trouble for our community. We ask that he come clean about his actions and true motivations, and that he rescind the trespass notice and honor the long standing right-of-way agreements.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Store update and meditations on community identity

We are still hoping to pursue mediation with our neighbor to gain clarity and resolution. Before we make a final decision regarding the store, it is a conversation that needs to happen. If anyone thinks they can bring him to the table, please don't hesitate to reach out. My understanding is that his complaints stem largely from the Town of Richmond's response to his expressed interest in the property some years ago. He was given a different set of responses from the town than we were. The apparent inequity in that generated his frustration. On that point I can certainly empathize, although I perceive it to be a matter of inconsistency rather than inequity. Richmond has its own interests to protect, and we cannot fault them, provided they do their work openly and honestly.

It is truly unfortunate, but it seems that our store has fallen into the political crossfire of agendas and egos. So many towns in Vermont build their community brand around agrarian roots, rural traditions and artisanal culture. What is the Richmond brand-politics and rumor? How can a genuine identity be realized if the individuals who step out and step up to promote community are ignored or subject to overreaching authority?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Please consider the following...

I understand the great deal of frustration everyone is feeling towards my neighbor right now. He and I clearly have some fundamental differences in our approach to community development, but our struggle should not have extended to anyone else. By removing myself from the situation, I had hoped to ease the tension, not incite further animosity. I sincerely hope that a public boycott against him does not take place. We may not agree or sympathize with his reactive behaviors, but that does not give any group of people the moral ground to impose hardship upon him. We have all recently witnessed the devastating effects of economic hardship in our town. It is unconscionable to think that anyone would employ such a punitive response. It would be an act of pure spite, which I simply cannot endorse.

Prior to recent events, I had reached out for support within the local business community to help mediate his disputes. I expressed my willingness to meet and help him find clarity and resolution-and perhaps some validation. Unfortunately, we were not able to reach him before he precipitated escalation. It seems rather moot at this point, but my approach has always been one of open process and amicable discussion. If my neighbor still wishes for dialogue, he may have it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A final dispatch from the LTCM

Four months ago I contacted the property owner of the defunct Jonesville Country Store in Richmond, with the hope of re-opening it as the Long Trail Community Market. It was intended as a small grocery operation, modeled in the image of the original store, but with a few updates to reflect the time. Despite the challenges, I was determined to open the store. Any obstacles seemed to melt into sweet rewards of experience or success. Recently, I spent some time with friends and co-workers who also grew up in the neighborhood. We sat on the old picnic table and reflected on how special it was that we were blessed with the opportunity to re-imagine the store of our childhood as our gift to the community.

Near a week from opening, it has become quite clear that the road before us is fretted with tumult, and it is with great personal sadness that I formally announce my decision to cease development on the Long Trail Community Market. Our neighbor, who many of you know by reputation, has made it his personal goal to see that our operation does not sustain. He has put as much of the past four months into hampering our progress, as we have in trying to realize our dream. His deliberate actions have taken a financial and emotional toll, forcing us to accept the reality that we cannot sustain under such conditions. It is impossibly hard to leave, knowing that a promise remains unfulfilled to my community of family and friends who shared my hopes and dreams for the store.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Jonesville Secession

Small town propriety dictates that I remain silent on the issues I will present to you in my regular dispatch, but liberties must be exercised, the light must be shed, and a voice must be given to these experiences.

The onerous restrictions forced on small business owners and private citizens in the Jonesville community make quintessential New England tasks daunting and prohibitive. Placing a fence, raising a shed, fixing a sign on an aged and historic store are tasks that invite the unkind hand of local government.

My efforts to re-envision a failed establishment in a long neglected part of the town leads me to feel as if I am the rabbit in a carnival game. Poking my head out into the sun, I am surreptitiously, if not deliberately bopped on the head. My only recourse is to flounder about in anticipation of the next blow.

The largely conditional store opening supposes the notion that little has changed within the town dynamic-morally, ethically or economically. According to the town, we cannot change to meet the needs of our market, but accepting that viewpoint would play lead in the broadcast exercise of planned failure, and perhaps that is their hope. Accepting their chains of condition would force me headlong into competition with my friends and neighbors, whose own enterprises have flourished in the store's absence.

One might consider that in a depressed economy there would be a greater desire to improve the morale and condition of life for all residents, in all parts of Richmond-not just those congregated along the main thoroughfare, where favor is centralized. Efforts to revitalize and renew the communal spirit outside of this beloved scope are met with suspicion and untimely response. While Jonesville languishes in atrophic slumber, Richmond percolates a wicked brew designed to quell, not quench the thirst of an ailing Jonesville.

Richmond is lorded by self-efficacy and vanity, primed in the interests of privilege; show above substance, self-interest above public benefit. This is not the way to a future of prosperity and sustainability. If they are inclined to leech the bitter juice from our thorn trees rather than tap the sweet sap of our ruddy maples, let it be so.

On this day, I say that we are free from their heads of iceberg lettuce. We shall not suffer undue burden. Inequity, no more! Diversion, no more! Jonesville shall rise up from the fertile lands, duty bound and driven to explore our identity and cultivate our potential. I declare our great independence from Richmond!

Welcome to Jonesville.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Vermont's youth diaspora: Part 2

In 2007 the Douglas administration's Pursue Vermont initiative had $116K to play with. To date, no one has moved back as a result of the initiative's efforts…

Young Vermonters can help fix the state's impending tax crisis and effect demographic change. As a young business owner, I firmly reject the Pursue Vermont approach to outreach. I believe we need to empower ourselves, begin a dialogue and take ownership of the issue.

As I stated briefly in Part 1, there is a great deal of hesitancy on the part of the Douglas administration to embrace the Vermont youth. The notion of bringing in a bunch of hipsters, techies, environmentalists and progressive families can't play well to his aged constituency; nor can the prospect of mobilized, technologically literate and networked college students, who have steeped for the past four years in a liberal education, remaining in the state after graduation.

No administration has the right to dictate how I should value my community or how it should value me. My experiences and those of my friends will not be reduced to keywords. My community will not be conditioned by groupthink. It is time to renew outreach efforts openly, organically, and from within the sustaining demographic.

My response to will be an alternative website, which presents an honest view for prospective job seekers, college students and homeowners interested in contributing to the character of Vermont. The vision is clear if we embrace our reality, include every voice and realize the potential in deficit.

We'll bring the ideas. The mountains will do the rest.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Vermont's youth diaspora: Part 1

In his attempt to belay the mass exodus of young workers and college students from leaving the state, Governor Douglas has made one thing perfectly clear: he has no idea what he is doing…and if he does, then his goals are far more nefarious than his melodic droning reveals. The Pursue Vermont initiative, which is his attempt to attract the "right" people back to the state, showcases how hilariously out of touch he is with the demographic needed to round out the state's shrinking tax base. The need to lure the state's prodigal sons and daughters back to town is not a welcome reality for Douglas, who knows that young people are generally not on board with the policies and practices of his administration. Being a man of conviction, Douglas is willing to put his own political objectives over the financial health and stability of the state.

Douglas comes across loud and clear on the initiative's website,, where he adeptly communicates the message that if you are educated, conventional and white, he wants you in a bad way. The copy is littered with enough keywords to crash Google Analytics, and the videos feature aging drones and a few token entrepreneurs.

The "work" section bombards viewers with keywords and little context-"tradition, technology, high-tech, environmental, renewable energy, highly educated, hard working."
It's all well and good to use words like "environmental" and "renewable energy," but I'm pretty sure the Douglas administration isn't a huge fan of solar or wind projects. For an initiative targeting a younger workforce it certainly features a lot of old people. Either they couldn't find any young people to deliver the message, or didn't think to include a young perspective. Anyone notice the red flags starting to pop up?

The "living" section leads off with the following: "A community where you can afford to live, work, and play is important." Hmm…that is important. So, when will we have affordable housing in Vermont? The video on this page continues to feature the same geriatric creatures spouting their Stepfordian views. Bring on the yuppies! There's a lot of talk about community, cultural and social activity on the page, but the people Jim Douglas seems to be targeting for selective entry are not the only people who will contribute to our state's character or tax base. They might however, be the people who will encourage suburban sprawl, environmental degradation and bigger box stores. The highlight of the video is the nervous rambling of restauranteur Al Gobielle, in which he discusses the state's activist climate, and describes it as being aggressively not to far to the right or the left. Apparently, Vermont supports a highly engaged community of activists who are…wait for it…aggressively neutral. I wonder if it was all the aggressively neutral activism that helped legalize gay marriage. What do you think?

The "learn" page featured an image of a guy blowing glass…higher learning anyone? At least Jim has a sense of humor. Unfortunately, this page had to be the most concerning of all. The copy was centered on academic institutions, but the corresponding video lacked one essential element…a college student. Not a big surprise there. Al was back with another great insight-he likes entrepreneurship and young energy, provided it's not too energetic. Does this man live in a bubble…or maybe Shelburne? Most importantly, they kept on message: Vermont supports a small population of educated slices of American cheese. Eat it up.

"Play" was probably the least objectionable page. They got it mostly right, but lacked a visual of social interactions between young adults. There were however, several older people and a token entrepreneur assuring us that there is a social life in Vermont…just not one that extends beyond 8pm unless you happen to live in a city.

In Part 2, I'll discuss why young people need to take ownership of the issue and how to go about affecting change using truth and common sense; things the Douglas Administration seems to be in short supply of.