Sister States

Posted on December 15, 2010 by

About once a week I take a walk in the Santa Monica Mountains on a ridge or interior trail in Tomescal, Santa Ynez, Topanga or another nearby canyon where chaparral-covered slopes shut off all clues to city-life below and then open up to beautiful peaks with aerial views of the Los Angeles basin from the pacific to downtown.

The Santa Monicas are 3,000 miles from the Green Mountains.  But rambling through LA’s urban-rustic parkland invariably recalls my time in Vermont, a state with a total population which could fit between Sepulveda and La Brea.

Though I left 30 years ago, Vermont is an important reference point in my life, particularly for my political views; it’s where I cut my teeth as a statehouse reporter for a now defunct progressive weekly called Vanguard Press.

I’m proud of my former and present states, especially in light of the November vote in which both electorates replaced retiring republican governors with democrats and maintained substantial liberal majorities in our legislatures.

And of course I thoroughly enjoyed the gutsy old-fashioned filibuster of President Obama’s tax deal by Sen. Bernie Sanders (who, like me, found Vermont by way of Brooklyn).

On a variety of issues: land use, civil unions and health care, for example, the two states have shown great affinity.  (No, I’m not ignoring sharp difference in such areas as criminal justice).

So, therefore, I’d like to propose that California and Vermont become sister states.  Despite the size, population and economic differential (the California deficit is more than four times greater than Vermont’s entire state budget) we should celebrate our shared values.

In this era of tea party ascendance, let’s join forces across the continent to promote progressive solutions.

We can send delegations (I volunteer because I know the geography) and construct a web site to showcase mutual interests.

And finally (and this is what I was getting to all along) I want to congratulate my pal of forty years, Anthony Pollina, for his election to the thirty-member Vermont State Senate from a district which includes the nation’s most sparsely populated capital city, Montpelier.

That municipality of 8000 was my departure point for Los Angeles at the beginning of the Reagan era when I was still in my twenties and all excited and ambivalent about my big move west.

Comments (4)


  1. Don Gauthier says:

    Sister states, great idea! As a geographer, I recognize the physical distance decay factor but I can also appreciate and testify to the close ties of affinity between places. My family is from upstate New York and my uncle Ed has a dairy farm in Winooski (near Burlington). California is big in cheese and dairy products, too!

    Perhaps, between these two progressive states we could realign the nation.

  2. I met Bernie Sanders for the first time in 1972 at the People’s Party National Convention in St. Louis. He was then with the California Peace and Freedom Party’s sister party, Vermont Liberty Union Party. He was known as Bernie “barefoot” Sanders because when he ran for Governor on the VLU ticket, he was so poor his shoes were in tatters.

    At that time, he made a brilliant analysis of Vermont’s economic conditions and explained that this was why they’d eventually win in the state, by hammering away at economic issues: most Vermonters effectively lived on less than the minimum wage.

    As we can see from his success, Bernie was right on the mark, but moved on to form his Progressive Party in Vermont as he developed differences with the Liberty Union, although they still exist as well.

  3. There’s the East Coast, and the West Coast, and everything in between is the South.

  4. Phil Raider says:

    Prettiest capital building I ever seen.

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