The public and the media got no closer to the Romney-Portman sessions than the gate at the foot of the long driveway leading to Healey's house on a remote hilltop in West Windsor, not far from the village of Brownsville in the Town of Reading, although the closest village to the house is South Woodstock. This is the heart of Vermont horse country where two cultures collide, as indicated by numerous Obama-Biden signs outnumbered only by No Trespassing signs.
Only veteran Vermont reporter Susan Smallheer of the Rutland Herald reported on the local context in significant detail. In 2003, the Healeys were one of five families who sued the Town of West Windsor, claiming their property taxes were too high. The case went to the Vermont Supreme Court, which upheld the Healeys and their fellow plaintiffs, leading to their saving $7,000 a year on their local property taxes.
In 2006, the Healeys built their present house, described by neighbors as "a starter palace," as reported in the Boston Globe. The Healeys' property is currently assessed at $3.9 million for tax purposes, with the house assessed at $2 million.
This history, and stories like it, provide some of the context for the September 4 editorial in the Rutland Herald that contrasts the Romney and Healey lifestyles with Vermonters, who vote for policies befitting "a socialistic, European-style principality."
The editorial observes that: "The widening disparity of wealth that has afflicted our nation is less present in Vermont, which means we don't feel compelled to do obeisance to rich folks, though our environmental ethic has preserved a place lovely enough that more than a few have taken up residence, full- or part-time. We expect them to pay their fair share of what our communities need. They can afford it."
"We may not end up with a big house on a hill, but we like the lives we lead," concluded Vermont's oldest daily newspaper.
On his arrival in Vermont on September 3, Romney's motorcade was brought to a crawl for awhile on a narrow back road, caught behind a slow-moving tractor mowing the roadside brush.
There was no complaint from the Romney camp. One Vermonter speculated, "Maybe he was just grateful it weren't a manure spreader."
Romney's stay concluded September 6 without further incident.