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.

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