DERBY - Jim Guyette of Derby Line is running for the Vermont State Senate as a Democrat. Guyette had been considering throwing his hat into the ring about a year and half.
Guyette is seeking office for what he calls "simple" reasons. â€śThe economy sucks, up here in particular, and our politicians donâ€™t seem to be interested in doing anything about it,â€ť he said. â€śI feel there are a number of things that can be done to improve the economic situation up here.â€ť
Guyette is not sure if there is a lack of political will, no backbone or no imagination. Whatever the case, Guyette said he has imagination, a backbone and a lot of ideas heâ€™d like to try at the state level.
â€śScrapping Act 250 would be at the top of the list,â€ť said Guyette, who feels Act 250 has lived beyond its intent. â€śItâ€™s used primarily now for anyone who has an ax to grind, a little bit of money and too much time on their hands. As it is, itâ€™s not working for us, so we have to do something about it.â€ť
Guyette would like to change the stateâ€™s policy and attitude towards the economy in the Northeast Kingdom. He said there seems to be a hands off attitude towards economic development or having ideas on how to deal with the regionâ€™s economic problems of constant high unemployment, under employment and poverty.
â€śIt goes on decade after decade,â€ť said Guyette. â€śI think itâ€™s high time it stopped.â€ť
One of Guyetteâ€™s solutions is to give corporate tax freedom for 10 years to attract new businesses to the area. â€śThese businesses donâ€™t exist, so weâ€™re not losing anything,â€ť he said. â€śBut, he people they hire will be putting money back into the community, paying their property taxes and spending their money in local businesses.â€ť
Guyette would like to see Orleans and Essex Counties declared economic zones as well as permit reform and zoning reform, both local and statewide.
â€śThereâ€™s been this idea that our politicians tend to know what theyâ€™re doing up here,â€ť said Guyette. â€śWell, yeah, they know what theyâ€™re doing - they're doing nothing. I think it's time that the state got involved and provided a little bit of oversight into this problem.â€ť
Guyette said he is pro-business and WalMart is just a symptom of the problems the region has. Itâ€™s not so much about WalMart as it is economic change and reform in the Northeast Kingdom. He doesnâ€™t necessarily believe WalMart is the ultimate ideal as an employer, but WalMart does provide jobs.
â€śI donâ€™t harbor an anti-WalMart attitude; I harbor a pro-business attitude,â€ť he said. â€śWhether itâ€™s WalMart or Doll Mart, it makes little difference to me. They want to come here, fine, let them come here.â€ť
Guyette is willing to help companies come to the region.
â€śInfrastructure improvements would be a big start,â€ť he said. Guyette would also like to see road improvements plus a truck lane between Gilman and St. Johnsbury, and between Newport and Franklin County. â€śSort of like a superhighway improvement where you have that third lane for trucks.â€ť
Guyette favors a natural gas pipeline but calls wind power a distraction. He said it should be up to towns to decide, but feels there is a lot of outside interest by a few individuals.Â
â€śIâ€™ve traveled to California and didnâ€™t see any big piles of birdsÂ andÂ bats at the foot of them,â€ť he said of large wind farms. â€śEven at the big wind farms, I really didnâ€™t hear anything.â€ť
Guyette said local people donâ€™t have a lot of experience on wind and donâ€™t know whom to believe.
The state has had some big problems, particularly with Vermont Yankee, said Guyette, who is not sure how he feels about nuclear power. He said if the owners have not maintained the plant, it doesnâ€™t deserve to remain open, but he feels he needs to do more research.
Guyette would like voters to understand there is a deep-seated idea among local politicians that the Northeast Kingdom needs to be kept like it is for the outsiders.
â€śWe cannot have any development, because we have to keep the tourist industry,â€ť he said. â€śWe have to keep it pristine for somebody who doesnâ€™t live here and doesnâ€™t vote here, and I think thatâ€™s wrong.â€ť
Guyette stressed he isnâ€™t saying the NEK needs to look like Detroit, but doesnâ€™t believe that young people deserve to be waiters and waitresses working at minimum wage.
â€śTourist related jobs pay nothing,â€ť he said. â€śThere is no future to them, never has been. The idea that the tourist industry will save us has been going around since I was a kid and thatâ€™s the biggest piece of baloney that the local politicians have sold on the locals for decades.â€ť
Guyetteâ€™s message to voters is, â€śJust remember, your kids are going to either leave or be stuck in these minimum wage jobs. I believe in tourism a component of the economy, but I donâ€™t believe as a stand alone type of thing we have been living with for decades.â€ť
Local politicians like to push tourism, because itâ€™s easy, Guyette said.
Guyette works at Tivoly in Derby Line.