I consider myself a long-time champion of local democracy. I co-wrote with Frank Bryan a book subtitled “recreating democracy on a local scale” (The Vermont Papers, 1989). But over the years I have occasionally had the thought that there can also be a problem with local democracy, when powerful outside forces are brought to bear on local decision making.

In the fall of 2017, New Hampshire’s individual health insurance market was in jeopardy. Nationally, some states were seeing all participating insurers exit the individual market, leaving Americans with no options to purchase an individual market health plan. The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) vision for a reformed individual market was wobbling under the weight of increased costs and financial losses that made the market unsustainable for both consumers and insurers. The ACA needed a change, but Congress was gridlocked over how to approach it.

We are within striking distance, if not already reaching peak foliage season in the Green Mountain State. Our home is surrounded by trees in the backyard, and some have already begun shedding their leaves. I first noticed some of the changing colors in late August-early September in our yard, and shortly after that, some began falling. We have plenty of more to go, but our grass is starting to show signs of the impending autumn ritual of leaves falling.

Nearly everything we do today is connected to the internet. Sending emails, checking the weather on our smartphones, even refrigerators and doorbells communicate with the cloud via internet connection. Our first responders, schools and businesses are not different. Police and fire need broadband for their phones and radios to keep us safe, students need connections for remote learning, and owners rely upon the internet to process payments and promote their business. Unfortunately, there are many places in America where dependable internet is unavailable, especially in rural areas.

In 1997, in Brigham v. State, the Vermont Supreme Court concluded that the Vermont constitution requires the provision of substantially equal educational opportunity to all students. The court declared the state’s education funding system unconstitutional because it resulted in wide disparities in per-pupil expenditures.