State House candidates Ryan, Chase touch on variety of issues during Windham forum

By Cynthia Prairie
©2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

More than 40 people turned out on a stormy Tuesday night — in person and on Zoom — to hear the first candidate forum for a seat in the Vermont State House from the new Windsor-Windham District of Athens, Chester, Grafton and Windham.

Eva Ryan at the Windham forum. Screenshot from Zoom.

Democrat Heather Chase and Republican Eva Ryan, both of Chester, answered a series of questions at the Windham Meeting House, an event organized by the Windham Community Organization and moderated by Mike McLaine, Windham’s Town Moderator.

With only two minutes to answer each question, the candidates sounded rushed, but managed to get through.

Chase, a nurse and small business owner who serves on the Chester Select Board, said that three issues that are on the top of her mind are housing, economic development and climate change, adding that they are all interconnected.

Ryan, a mental health counselor,  stated that family was the central issue, encompassed by education, child-care, drugs and immigration. She added that it was important to return to families taxes from the state and federal governments. She then mentioned law and order, training and funding of police and the sheriff’s office.

Addressing the issue of low- and reasonably-priced homes, Ryan related that she knew of someone who had to take a significant wage decrease to move to Vermont and could not find reasonably priced housing, until stumbling upon an apartment on Craig’s List. Her solution was to loosen regulations to allow more construction. “There are so many regulations,” Ryan said.

Heather Chase at the Windham forum. Screenshot from Zoom.

Chase said housing in Vermont is in a “crisis situation.” It is difficult, she added, to construct middle class housing, since construction costs are high. She suggested working with the Regional Planning Commissions and addressing the long-term rental vs. the short-term rental situation.

The candidates were asked to offer practical steps to address climate change. “All Vermonters can agree that we love our environment,” Chase said. “We are at a critical point here.” She suggested providing “adequate and steady long-term funding … to build more efficient homes and reduce carbon emissions with electric vehicles.” She cited several steps the Chester Select Board has taken including hiring goats to clear a hillside instead of using machines; erecting a solar field; and setting up two electric charging stations.

Ryan said that climate change “has challenged our transportation department,” adding that it is difficult for her to imagine a neighbor having to chose between medication and heat. She also emphasized protecting trees as a carbon-reduction method.

Concerning reproductive rights and Article 22, which will be on the ballot, Chase said that as a nurse, she will vote yes on Article 22, which will enshrine bodily autonomy in the Vermont Constitution.

Article 22 says: The right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty protected by this Constitution and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.

“As a legislator” Chase said, a woman’s decision to have or not have an abortion “is not my business.” Chase added, “There is quite a bit of propaganda and fear-mongering about Article 22 … I trust women to make their own decision.”

Ryan said, “I truly believe a woman has a right to choose.” But she added, “Eighty-six percent of abortions performed last year — and it’s taxpayer money going to those abortions — were (made for) emotional or economic (reasons).” She suggested other ways to support women emotionally and financially who have to make those decisions.  However, she added, “It should be between doctor and patient.”

Concerning the overall graying of Vermont and loss of brain-power from children leaving the state, Ryan said, “We should encourage families. In Hungary, they paid to have more” children and “protected the integrity of the community.” Chase said, “I’m the mother of four and they left Vermont for other opportunities.” She added, “We need to attract more young families,” and provide more training to keep them here including in the trades such as plumbing, construction and excavation.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Andrew Malaby says:

    Thanks for this synopsis. It hit the highlights and gave me some insight into the candidates. Is the zoom recording available for viewing?