Political Capital: Hartford, Vermont

Political capital can be defined as “the ability of a group to influence the distribution of resources within a social unit or the trust the community has in a politician to make decisions for the community” (Green & Haines, 2016). Because many different individuals and groups hold and exert power, both formally and informally, within a community, it can be difficult for those not deeply connected with the community to identify who is really influencing decision-making processes and resource-allocation discussions.

One group in the town of Hartford which has exerted various forms of power within community decisions is the Hartford School Board and its individual members. In 2015 a member of the school board and former educator at Hartford High School stated in a meeting that he was concerned about Hartford students being exposed to the heroin epidemic currently facing the state of Vermont. The member of the board also wrote several op-eds to the local newspaper, the Valley News, using the same tone of outrage and terror. Without facts or first-hand accounts, the eccentric board member was able to raise quite a bit of panic in the community.

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A change was made in school policy on how a drug dealer would be punished if caught in response to heightened concerns from the member of the board and some community members. As a result, a local news source, WPTZ, aired a piece on the high school portraying it in the same light as the board member by using three stock photos of drugs in a misleading fashion (NBC 5 WPTZ). Staff and students became outraged at what they felt was a terrible misrepresentation of the reality of the situation. At this point, the legitimate concerns of the community about the state-wide epidemic had been blown way out of proportion all because one board member had enough political power to say anything he wanted.

 

Sources:

Green, H., & Haines, A. (2016). Asset Building and Community Development. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Learning.

NBC 5 WPTZ. (2015, February 26). New Punishments at Hartford Schools. Retrieved October 27, 2016, from http://www.mynbc5.com/article/new-punishments-at-hartford-schools/2824742