Energy pioneer Mary Powell

Mary Powell has been president and CEO of Green Mountain Power since 2008. Powell and GMP have been pioneers: the utility is the first to help its ratepayers go off the grid, the first to offer residential solar customers the Tesla Powerwall battery and the first and only utility to achieve B Corp certification. Powell is among the few women in the country to lead an energy utility.

In May 2018, the National Audubon Society awarded Mary Powell its Rachel Carson Medal, given to women who have advanced the cause of conservation. The award is named for the marine biologist and author of The Silent Spring, whose work is credited with helping create the modern environmental movement. Powell discusses how she shook up a stodgy energy utility to make it more nimble and responsive to customers, why an electric utility supports renewable power, “leading with love,” and surviving cancer and the loss of her house in a fire. (June 20, 2018 broadcast)

Mary Powell, President & CEO, Green Mountain Power

 

Is inequality in America irreversible?

America’s 3 richest people — Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Jeff Bezos — now own more wealth than half of all Americans. This extreme inequality is unsustainable, but many politicians accept it as irreversible. In his new book, Is Inequality in America Irreversible?, scholar and activist Chuck Collins diagnoses the causes and drivers of inequality and proposes policies to roll back inequality and build a national movement for change. Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies where he directs the Program on Inequality and co-edits Inequality.org. He is author of Born on Third Base, and, with Bill Gates Sr., Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes. (June 13, 2018 broadcast)

Chuck Collins, senior scholar, Institute for Policy Studies, author, Is Inequality in America Irreversible?

Chernobyl: The hidden history of the world’s worst nuclear disaster

In 1986, a nuclear reactor exploded in Chernobyl, then part of the Soviet Union. In the years since, thousands of people in the region have died of radiation-related illnesses, but the story was covered up within the former Soviet countries. Harvard historian Serhii Plokhy was a young university professor on a train not far from Chernobyl when the accident happened. In his new book, Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe, Plokhy recounts how the Soviet leaders did not speak about the accident for 18 days after the nuclear meltdown. Drawing on newly released files from the KGB and other sources, Plokhy gives the first detailed account of the Chernobyl accident, and argues that it ultimately contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and could happen again in the US, North Korea, Iran or elsewhere. (June 13, 2018 broadcast)

Serhii Plokhy, Professor of Ukrainian History, director of the Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University, author, Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe

Shattering the silence on sexual harassment & assault: Lisa Senecal breaks her NDA & tells her #MeToo story

Lisa Senecal had a choice: the entrepreneur in Stowe, Vermont, could abide by her nondisclosure agreement (NDA) and remain silent about the sexual harassment and assault that she says she experienced while applying for a job at Inntopia, a national business based in Stowe. Or she could speak out about Craig DeLuca, the former Inntopia president who she accuses of preying on vulnerable women, including one who recently filed a lawsuit against DeLuca and Inntopia. Senecal has decided to speak out. On June 2, 2018, she wrote an article for The Daily Beast: “The NDA Protected Our Predator. I’m Breaking My Silence, Because Women Deserve Better.”  Senecal is a communications and marketing entrepreneur and cofounder of The Maren Group, which focuses on serving people experiencing discrimination in the workplace and higher education. She is a commissioner on the Vermont Commission on Women. Senecal hopes that by telling her story, other women will be empowered to tell theirs. (June 6, 2018 broadcast)

Lisa Senecal, co-founder, The Maren Group, author, “The NDA Protected Our Predator. I’m Breaking My Silence, Because Women Deserve Better.” 

Broken promises: Ed Secretary Rebecca Holcombe on how Gov. Scott is raising taxes & rejecting voters

Rebecca Holcombe served as Vermont’s Secretary of Education under two governors. She was appointed in January 2014 by Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, and kept on in January 2017 by Republican Gov. Phil Scott. She was a driving force behind Act 46, Vermont’s landmark school district consolidation law passed in 2015 that reshaped the landscape of school governance. Holcombe abruptly resigned from Gov. Scott’s administration on April 1, 2018. Two months later, she slammed Gov. Scott in a widely published op-ed, accusing him of rejecting the will of voters on local school budgets and breaking his campaign promises by increasing taxes — while saying he was lowering them. This is Holcombe’s first extended interview since leaving Scott’s cabinet. (June 6, 2018 broadcast)

Rebecca Holcombe, Vermont Secretary of Education, 2014-2018

Is Gov. Scott faking a crisis? Ashe & Johnson hit back at “manufactured political battle”

On May 22, 2018, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott vetoed four bills passed by the Legislature, including legislation that would have raised Vermont’s minimum wage to $15 and established a paid family leave program. Scott previously vetoed legislation regulating toxic chemicals, and he is expected veto the state budget and tax bills. The Vermont legislature convened in a rare special session to address the vetoes. The state budget has only been vetoed once in state history prior to Gov. Scott’s tenure; this will be Scott’s second budget veto. What is the crisis? Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe and House Speaker Mitzi Johnson say there is none. “This is a manufactured political battle,” says Ashe. “We have a governor who is playing off bogus plans…. If he wants to stand behind destroying our schools, that’s on him.” (May 23, 2018 broadcast)

Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe

Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson

The power of Thinking Big

Robert U. Craven is CEO of the New Hampshire-based GMO-free nutritional supplement maker MegaFood. Craven is an advocate for Thinking Big, and discusses how his company addresses priorities such as ending nutritional poverty. He discusses practical ways to apply “change-the-world” thinking to businesses, and why he is on a mission to promote “Big T Transparency” in business–which MegaFood does by having live cams throughout their factory that can be seen on their website. Craven, the keynote speaker at the 2018 VBSR Spring Conference, also talks about what he learned from several lifechanging experiences: his father’s early diagnosis of cancer, and Craven’s recent decision to donate a kidney. (May 16, 2018 broadcast)

Robert Craven, CEO, MegaFood

The business case for charitable giving & second chances

At the 2018 VBSR spring conference, Mickey Wiles of Working Fields and Theresa Snow of Salvation Farm discuss why they give second chances to people with challenging employment histories. And Kate Williams of 1% for the Planet and Michael Cyr of Skinny Pancake explain the business case for charitable giving. (May 16, 2018 broadcast)

Mickey Wiles, CEO and founder, Working Fields

Theresa Snow, executive director, Salvation Farm

Kate Williams, executive director, 1% for the Planet

Michael Cyr, marketing director, Skinny Pancake

 

Hero or villain? Author Reeve Lindbergh on the double life of Charles Lindbergh

In 1927, at the age of 25, aviator Charles Lindbergh made the first solo transatlantic flight. He won a $25,000 prize, and was immortalized. Lindbergh and his wife, author Anne Morrow Lindbergh, soon became known as “the most famous family of the twentieth century.” Five years after his famous flight, Lindbergh suffered a tragedy: his 20-month old son Charles was kidnapped and murdered in what became known as the “crime of the century.” During World War II, Lindbergh was a leader of the America First movement that opposed going to war with Germany and espoused anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi policies. President Franklin Roosevelt accused Lindbergh of being a Nazi. Lindbergh died in 1974, but in 2003, it was revealed that he had three German mistresses and had fathered seven children.

Vermont author Reeve Lindbergh is the daughter of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She is a noted author of more than two dozen books for children and adults. In her newest book, Two Lives, Reeve Lindbergh writes about growing up in this famous household and how she navigates between her public family while leading a “quiet existence in rural Vermont.” In this interview, Lindbergh discusses her father’s controversial politics, her brother’s murder, the discovery of her father’s secret lives and her German half-siblings, Pres. Trump’s embrace of a new America First policy, and her life as a writer in Vermont. (May 9, 2018 broadcast)

 

Reeve Lindbergh, author

Can a former anti-Semite & a Jewish extremist make peace?

Can enemies make peace? A former anti-Semite and a former Jewish extremist are reaching across the divide to change the Muslim-Jewish relationship. Their efforts occur as more than three dozen Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers in the last three weeks in protests against the Israeli occupation. Yossi Klein Halevi, author of a new book, “Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor,” and Imam Abdullah Antepli discuss their effort to bridge the political and cultural abyss. They discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Pres. Donald Trump, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and their personal journeys from hate to understanding. (April 25, 2018 broadcast)

Yossi Klein Halevi, author, co-director, Muslim Leadership Initiative, Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem 

Imam Abdullah Antepli,  Muslim chaplain, Duke University, co-director, Muslim Leadership Initiative

 

Breaking into the Hollywood boys’ club: Nell Scovell pulls back the curtain

Even if you don’t know the name Nell Scovell, you’ve probably seen her work and laughed at her jokes: she’s written for The Simpsons, Late Night with David Letterman, Murphy Brown, created Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, and co-wrote the 2013 blockbuster book Lean In with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. She has also written jokes for President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Scovell has just penned a new memoir, Just the Funny Parts…and a Few Hard Truths About Sneaking into the Hollywood Boys’ Club. She talks about her funny and not-so-funny experiences confronting sexism, the #MeToo movement, writing for celebrities, dealing with rejection, her advice to others on how to break in to male-dominated industries, and offers a joke for James Comey, if he needs one. (April 18, 2018 broadcast)

Nell Scovell, author, TV writer, producer, director

Tackling toxics: Will Vermont side with industry or citizens?

In the aftermath of the discovery in 2016 of widespread contamination of drinking water around Bennington, Vermont, citizen’s groups have lobbied for laws to tighten restrictions on toxics. But on April 16, 2018, Gov. Phil Scott vetoed legislation intended to help protect children from toxic chemicals in toys and other products. The Vt Senate overrode the governor’s veto, 22-8, three days later, leaving the fate of the veto in the hands of the House. The legislation, S.103, would give the Commissioner of Health greater authority to regulate toxic chemicals, provide more information to consumers about toxins in children’s products, and require testing for toxins in new drinking water wells. “In the choice between protecting kids and pleasing industry lobbyists, [Scott] went with the lobbyists,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG). Burns discusses the battle over toxics in Vermont, as well as the future of renewable power, regulating data companies, and the future. (April 18, 2018 broadcast)

Paul Burns, executive director, Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG)

The long road to gun control in Vermont

On April 11, 2018, Gov. Phil Scott strode onto the steps of the Vermont State House and signed into law the first major restrictions on gun ownership in the state’s history. The move represented a dramatic about face for the Republican governor — and the culmination of a years-long organizing effort led by gun safety advocates, legislators, and most recently, thousands of Vermont high school students. Sen. Philip Baruth proposed one of the first gun control measures in 2013, only to withdraw the legislation after it received no support that year. Moments before joining Scott for the bill signing, he reflected on the long and often lonely fight to enact gun control in Vermont, and what lies ahead. We also hear from callers with their views on the new laws. (April 11, 2018 broadcast)

Vermont Sen. Philip Baruth (D-Burlington)

Business leaders demand action on clean water & carbon

Five Vermont CEOs recently wrote an open letter to Vermont Gov. Phil Scott urging him to support studies for clean water and decarbonization. “We, as leaders of companies that employ more than 800 Vermonters and account for over $1 billion in sales each year, are concerned by your refusal to seek new information and analysis to address threats facing our state,” wrote CEOs Joey Bergstein of Seventh Generation, Jostein Solheim of Ben & Jerry’s, Jen Kimmich of The Alchemist, Bram Kleppner of Danforth Pewter and Mark Curran of Black River Produce. “Two critical studies which will address threats to Vermont’s economy and environment – one to identify funding to improve water quality, and one to study the economic costs and benefits of decarbonization – have received broad bipartisan support in the General Assembly. Yet you’ve declared that neither study should be funded,” the letter stated. “Hope is not a strategy.” Shortly after meeting with the CEOs, Scott issued a letter to the Legislature restating his opposition to the studies. We talk with CEO Bram Klappner about what is at stake and why businesses are speaking out. (April 11, 2018 broadcast)

Bram Kleppner, CEO, Danforth Pewter

Is our economy stacked against women?

As part of marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we speak with Rickey Gard Diamond, author of Screwnomics: How Our Economy Works Against Women and Real Ways to Make Lasting Change. Diamond explains that she invented the term screwnomics to refer to “the economic theory that women should always work for less, or better, for free.” Diamond recounts her story of going from being a single mother on welfare to being the founding editor of Vermont Woman, and discusses why the #MeToo movement’s time has come.  (April 4, 2018 broadcast)

Rickey Gard Diamond, author, Screwnomics: How Our Economy Works Against Women and Real Ways to Make Lasting Change

Stand up: How to speak out & win

We mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a conversation with author Gordon Whitman about his new book, Stand Up! How to Get Involved, Speak Out, and Win in a World on FireWhitman is director of policy for Faith in Action. He has taught at the University of Pennsylvania and helped build grassroots organizations dedicated to fighting racial and economic injustice around US. He discusses today’s tipping points and why #NeverAgain students, teachers and women are winning now. (April 4, 2018 broadcast)

Gordon Whitman, author, Stand Up! How to Get Involved, Speak Out, and Win in a World on Fire

Are we living in a post-truth world?

Are we living in a post-truth world, where “alternative facts” replace actual facts and feelings have more weight than evidence? Is the the attack on truth and the media a step towards authoritarian rule? Lee McIntyre, author of Post-Truth, says this phenomenon has roots in the denial of scientific facts about smoking, evolution, vaccines and climate change, as well as fake news, among other things. He discusses the politicization of reality and how to combat post-truth. (March 28, 2018 broadcast)

Lee McIntyre, author, Post-Truth, research fellow, Center for Philosophy and History of Science, Boston University

How Heady Topper is brewing social change: The Alchemist’s Jen Kimmich

Heady Topper, the legendary and elusive IPA from The Alchemist named one of the top 100 beers in the world, has spawned a cult following — and social change. Alchemist co-founder Jen Kimmich is an influential political activist who serves on the boards of the Vermont Public Interest Group, Vermont Council on Rural Development, Main Street Alliance, and Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, among other organizations. She has been at the center of efforts to pass paid family leave, reduce climate change, and raise the minimum wage. She discusses her commitment to good business and good politics, the work of the charitable Alchemist Foundation and its college scholarship fund for local high school students, and why she and her husband, Alchemist co-founder John Kimmich, insist on brewing local and staying small. (March 28, 2018 broadcast)

Jen Kimmich, co-founder, The Alchemist

Vermont’s secret Olympic pipeline

In February 2018, the US women’s cross-country ski team team won the first ever Olympic gold medals in their sport. Olympic skiers are now returning home, which for many of them is to Craftsbury, Vermont. This small northern Vermont community has become a pipeline for Olympic cross-country skiers, many of whom are part of the Green Racing Project at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. About half of the athletes on the Green Racing Project team competed in the 2018 Olympics. We talk with Judy Geer, founder of Green Racing Project, her two daughters who competed in the Olympics, and another recently returned Olympic cross-country skier to learn the secrets behind their success. We also discuss why American biathletes, who fire guns as part of their sport, are now speaking out in favor of gun control. (March 21, 2018 broadcast)

Judy Geer, Concept2, director, Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Green Racing Project, 1976, 1980 & 1984 Olympic rower

Hannah Dreissigacker, 2014 Olympic biathlete, member, Green Racing Project

Emily Dreissigacker, 2018 Olympic biathlete, member, Green Racing Project

Caitlin Patterson, 2018 Olympic cross-country skier, member, Green Racing Project

 

Walkout and speak up: Students and teachers take on gun violence & austerity budgets

Can students and teachers change the story on gun violence and school cutbacks? One month after the school massacre in Parkland, Florida, students across the country and throughout wintry Vermont walked out of class to demand new gun safety laws. Student activist Hazel MacMillan, a junior at Harwood Union High School in Moretown, Vt., speaks to us from the Vermont State House about student-led efforts to press for stricter gun safety laws and where the movement goes from here. And Vermont NEA president Martha Allen reacts to Pres. Trump’s demand to arm teachers, and how educators are resisting school cutbacks. (March 14, 2018 broadcast)

Hazel MacMillan, student activist & junior, Harwood Union High School, Vt. 

Martha Allen, president, Vermont National Education Association

“Schools are not prisons:” Pedro Noguera on real school safety

Will arming teachers, hardening schools, and putting cops in the halls make schools safer? Or will it just result in students going to jail instead of the principal’s office? What is missing from the conversation about school safety? Dr. Pedro Noguera is Distinguished Professor of Education at University of California Los Angeles and director of the Center for the Transformation of Schools. He is a regular commentator on education issues on CNN, MSNBC, NPR and other national news outlets. He argues that prison-like security makes schools less safe. What is needed is a comprehensive approach to tackling poverty and trauma in students’ lives, a major driver of violence and disparities. (March 14, 2018 broadcast)

Dr. Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor of Education, UCLA, and director, Center for the Transformation of Schools

From Nazis to Watergate to Trump: Legendary WaPo editor Harry Rosenfeld connects the dots

An unsung hero of the Watergate scandal was Washington Post editor Harry Rosenfeld, who directed Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein in their Pulitzer Prize winning exposes that brought down Pres. Richard Nixon. Rosenfeld was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1929 and, after witnessing German attacks on Jewish owned businesses and synagogues, he emigrated to the US with his family ten years later. Rosenfeld began his newspaper career at The New York Herald Tribune, then joined The Washington Post as Metro Editor. After 12 years at the Post, he left to become editor of the Albany Times Union. In 2013, Rosenfeld wrote From Kristallnacht to Watergate: Memoirs of a Newspaper Man. Now 88 years old, Rosenfeld describes life under Hitler, how he hired Bob Woodward and the back story of covering Watergate, the vital role of a free press, and the parallels he sees between the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany and in the U.S. under Trump. (March 7, 2018 broadcast)

Harry Rosenfeld, editor, Washington Post & Albany Times Union

How Vermont embraced gun safety: Gun Sense VT founder Ann Braden on the challenges ahead

In December 2012, Adam Lanza, 20, shot and killed 26 students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. Ann Braden, a stay at home mother of two in Brattleboro, VT, decided enough was enough. Shortly after the Newton killing, she gathered 12,000 signatures on a petition calling for universal background checks on all gun sales in Vermont. Braden looked for an organization pursuing common sense gun safety in Vermont, but didn’t find any. So she started her own. In early 2013, Braden founded Gun Sense VT. Her tireless efforts are now paying off.  In the wake of another school shooting in Florida and the arrest of a would-be school shooter in Vermont, Gov. Phil Scott has reversed his earlier opposition and now backs several gun control measures. Braden recently stepped down as director of the organization to finish writing a young adult novel and run for State Senate in 2020. She applauds the student-led #NeverAgain gun safety movement and says, “My hope is that when someone raises a question about gun safety, that we can discuss it rationally and move forward.” (March 7, 2018 broadcast)

Ann Braden, founder, Gun Sense Vermont

 

#NeverAgain: Vermont student activists demand gun safety

20180228_135812.jpgIn the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people, students from around Vermont have streamed out of their schools and into the Vermont State House to demand new gun control laws. They are part of a national grassroots student movement for gun safety saying #NeverAgain. The response has been remarkable: Gov. Phil Scott has reversed his previous opposition to gun control and now backs universal background checks, confiscation of weapons from those deemed an “extreme risk,” and raising the minimum age to 21 for someone to purchase a gun. Nationally, major retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart will no longer sell guns to anyone under 21, and serious discussion about gun control is now on the table. Students have led this movement and intend to keep up the pressure with protests, walkouts, and appearances in the State House. We speak to three student activists who traveled to the Vermont State House to demand action and say #NeverAgain. (February 28, 2018 broadcast)

Meagan Filkowski, senior, Harwood Union High School, Moretown, Vt.

Gabe Groveman, 8th grader, Twinfield Union High School, Marshfield, Vt.

Hannah Pandya, senior, St. Johnsbury Academy, St. Johnsbury, Vt.

Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas: Transforming activism into law on sexual harassment & gun safety

The Vt Commission on Women reports that 60 percent of women say they’ve experienced sexual harassment at work, and most of those say they have experienced retaliation for speaking up about it. Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (D-Bradford) is lead sponsor of a bill to change Vermont’s sexual harassment laws to ban non-disclosure agreements and protect victims’ rights. She says that the #MeToo movement inspired the legislation in Vermont. She has also advanced legislation that would put a price on carbon, and discusses the need to keep up the pressure for new gun safety laws. Copeland-Hanzas was first elected to the Vermont House of Representatives in 2004 and is the former House majority leader. (February 28, 2018 broadcast)

Vermont Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas

Vt. Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman: Vt. is not protecting most vulnerable

Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, the lone third-party lieutenant governor in the country, often finds himself at odds with Republican Gov. Phil Scott. Zuckerman argues that Scott is not keeping his promise to protect the most vulnerable while cutting budgets. Zuckerman also discusses his support for a $15 minimum wage — despite acknowledging that it will be difficult for him to afford with his own employees on the organic farm that he operates with his wife. Zuckerman discusses why he serves and how Vermont must lead on having a just economy. (February 14, 2018 broadcast)

Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman

Is Vermont’s renewable energy revolution over?

Gov. Phil Scott says he is committed to the goal of having Vermont meet 90 percent of its energy needs with renewable power by 2050. But Vermont is moving in the opposite direction: Renewable Energy Vermont says that in 2017, there was a 50 percent drop in new net metered solar projects. Are new state policies killing renewable energy? And how is Pres. Trump’s new tariff on solar panels affecting the renewable sector? (February 7, 2018 broadcast)

Olivia Campbell Andersen, executive director, Renewable Energy Vermont

Dan Kinney, co-founder and member-owner, Catamount Solar

 

Do Vermont schools spend too much? Rep. Dave Sharpe says no

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott promised not to raise taxes, but he is now presiding over the largest property tax increase in memory. What happened? Gov. Scott says that schools spend too much. But Rep. Dave Sharpe, chair of the Vermont House Education Committee and a former teacher, dismisses this charge and says the tax hike was brought on by Scott’s policies. Sharpe also discusses new plans for how to fund education, and expresses skepticism about the governor’s proposal to provide free college to members of the Vermont National Guard — and no one else. (February 7, 2018 broadcast)

Rep. Dave Sharpe, chair, Vt House Committee on Education

The fastest women in the world: The remarkable rise of the US Women’s XC Ski Team

The U.S. earned its only Olympic medal in cross-country skiing in 1976, when Vermont skier Bill Koch captured silver. That may soon change: The women of the US cross-country ski team are serious contenders for an Olympic medal in South Korea in 2018.

In this Vermont Conversation, and author, coach and skiers discuss the remarkable rise of the US women’s cross-country ski team from being perennial back-of-the-pack finishers to winning numerous medals in world championship races. Author Peggy Shinn says it “attests to the power of a transformational leader, a coach who connects with his athletes, the super-fast individual skiers who are also conscientious teammates–and a bit of good luck.”

Peggy Shinn, author, World Class: The Making of the US Women’s Cross-Country Ski Team

Matt Whitcomb, coach, US Women’s Cross-Country Ski Team

2018 Olympic US Women’s Cross-Country Ski Team members:

  • Liz Stephen, 3x Olympian from E. Montpelier, Vt.
  • Jessie Diggins, 2x Olympian from Minnesota, trains in Vt with team from Stratton Mountain School 
  • Sophie Caldwell, 2x Olympian from Peru, Vt.

VT Attorney General T.J. Donovan: Yes to reform, no to private prisons

On January 23, 2018, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan issued a statement strongly opposing a plan by Gov. Phil Scott to build a $140 million 925-bed private prison in Vermont. “Vermonters should ask some tough questions about whether there is a better way to address the need for correctional facilities in the state of Vermont,” wrote Donovan. Attorney General Donovan explains why he has taken the unusual step of coming out strongly and early against the governor’s plan. “I hope his leadership on this issue can be replicated nationally,” responded ACLU deputy director Bill Cobb. (January 24, 2018 broadcast)

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan

James Lyall, executive director, ACLU of Vermont

Bill Cobb, deputy director, ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice

Ashley Sawyer, Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, formerly incarcerated

Can we end mass incarceration?

According to the ACLU, Vermont currently incarcerates approximately 1,700 people. That’s three times the number of people it incarcerated in the 1980s and 50 percent more people than in the late 1990s.  According to the Sentencing Project, Vermont imprisons Black men at a higher rate than any other state. All this comes at great cost: the FY17 budget for the Department of Corrections was $142 million.

On January 24, 2018, the ACLU of Vermont launched Smart Justice Vermont. This is part of the National ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice that was launched in 2014 with a goal of cutting the national prison population of 2.3 million people in half. We discuss how Vermont, and the US, can take concrete steps to end mass incarceration. Cobb also discusses his experience being incarcerated in Pennsylvania. (January 24, 2018 broadcast)

James Lyall, executive director, ACLU of Vermont

Bill Cobb, deputy director, ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice

Katrina Battle, founder, Milton Inclusion & Diversity Initiative

The Post and the leaker: Daniel Ellsberg speaks

The Post is a new Hollywood movie about the dramatic decision by the Washington Post (together with the NY Times) to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971. The movie features Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. The real-life star of this drama was Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the top-secret history of the Vietnam War to the newspapers. Ellsberg was a former Marine and adviser on the Vietnam War to Presidents Johnson, Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.  The Pentagon Papers revealed that top US government officials had been lying about the Vietnam War to the American people.

For leaking the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg was charged with theft, conspiracy and violations of the Espionage Act, but his case was dismissed as a mistrial when evidence surfaced about the government-ordered wiretaps of his phone and break-ins of his psychiatrist’s office.

Daniel Ellsberg is now 86 years old and remains active in the peace movement. I interviewed Ellsberg in 2015, when this originally aired on the Vermont Conversation. (January  17, 2018 broadcast)

Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers leaker

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State of Working VT: As inequality deepens, Gov. Scott faces self-inflicted property tax hike

Vermont’s economy is growing slowly, but income inequality has deepened. That’s the conclusion of the State of Working Vermont 2017 report issued by Public Assets Institute. The report shows that 1 in 9 Vermonters — including 16,000 children — live in poverty. Paul Cillo, founder and president of Public Assets Institute, discusses these issues and explains how Vermont faces record property tax hikes in 2018, a crisis resulting from Gov. Phil Scott’s actions last year. (January 10, 2018 broadcast)

Paul Cillo, founder and president, Public Assets Institute

The people’s treasurer: Beth Pearce

State treasurers are not typically viewed as crusaders for economic justice. But Vermont State Treasurer Beth Peace has quietly and doggedly championed programs, some of them first-in-the-nation, aimed at strengthening the economic security of working people. She pushed for passage of one of the broadest public retirement programs in the country, Green Mountain Secure Retirement, which will enable small businesses to offer retirement plans to over 100,000 employees. She also oversees a statewide local investment program, under which the Vermont State Treasurer invests 10 percent of its cash reserves into local initiatives. In December 2017, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility gave Pearce its Public Servant of the Year Award “for her work to establish a public retirement system, clean up Vermont’s waterways, and to address the impacts of climate change through state investments.”

Pearce, 1 of just 9 female State Treasurers in the U.S., is serving her fourth term as Treasurer after being appointed to the position in 2011. She is the newly elected President of the National Association of State Treasurers. (January 10, 2018 broadcast)

Beth Pearce, Vermont State Treasurer

Trailblazers: Vt Sen. Becca Balint & Rep. Kiah Morris on #MeToo, activism and politics

Vermont Sen. Becca Balint and Rep. Kiah Morris are political trailblazers. Balint, the Senate Majority Leader, is one of the first women to be elected to Senate leadership and the highest ranking openly gay legislator in the state. Morris is just the second African American woman to serve in the Vermont legislature. In separate interviews, the two leaders talk about the “sea change” for women in politics in the wake of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, how they mix activism, advocacy and politics, and their personal journeys into politics. (January 3, 2018)

Vt. Senator Becca Balint, Windham County, Senate Majority Leader

 

Vt. Rep. Kiah Morris, Bennington

Bill McKibben & Ken Squier: Media, resistance & the way forward

32637A rare meeting of two icons: Bill McKibben, author, activist and founder of 350.org, and Ken Squier, owner of WDEV Radio Vermont and a legendary sports broadcaster who will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January 2018, held a public conversation moderated by Vermont Conversation host David Goodman on December 6, 2017 at Bridgeside Books in Waterbury, Vermont. McKibben’s latest book, Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance, is a story about a septuagenarian radio man and his people-powered independent radio station that lead a resistance movement against growing government tyranny. McKibben acknowledges that Squier and WDEV provide the inspiration for this fable. Squier has been an outspoken advocate of independent media and McKibben is a longtime fan of WDEV (and an occasional guest) when not traveling the world leading the movement to halt climate change. The two discuss the world under Trump, the vital role of an independent media, and the way forward. (December 27, 2017 broadcast)

Bill McKibben, author, founder of 350.org

Ken Squier, owner, WDEV Radio Vermont, legendary sports broadcaster, NASCAR Hall of Fame 2018

How the GOP “lost its soul:” Republican strategist Stuart Stevens on Trump and his enablers

Stuart Stevens has been a top Republican strategist in the presidential election campaigns of Mitt Romney and George W. Bush. But Stevens has been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump and now describes himself as “homeless” in his own party. He talks about why he wrongly predicted Trump could not win, how Trump has used racism as a core strategy, why fellow Republicans have backed him, and how the GOP has “lost its soul.” Trump has tweeted that Stevens is a “dumb guy” and a “clown.” An author of seven books, Stevens, a part-time Vermont resident, also discusses growing up in Mississippi and his book about spending a season watching football with his 95 year old father. (December 20, 2017 broadcast)

Stuart Stevens, author, Republican strategist

Don’t cry for the fallen: Madhulika Sikka on downfall of once-mighty media men

Matt Lauer of NBC, Charlie Rose, of PBS and CBS, Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, John Hockenberry of NPR – all of these powerful men of the media have one thing in common: they no longer have a microphone due to sexual harassment allegations. Are these men getting their just due, or being denied due process and unfairly punished? For answers, we turned to Madhulika Sikka, the public editor of PBS, where serves as an independent internal critic of the network. Prior to joining PBS, she was the award-winning executive producer of NPR’s Morning Edition, executive editor of NPR News, and worked at ABC News Nightline with Ted Koppel for 13 years. Sikka recently argued in an article in The Daily Beast: “Stop lamenting the ‘loss of talent’ of the men who have been removed. If we examine the lost opportunities of so many women as a result of the structural obstacles to their growth, advancement, and power, that work could fill up all our time.” Sikka discusses the fall of the media’s mighty men, her book about dealing with breast cancer, and her latest project, 52 weeks 52 books 52 women, a website and podcast. (December 13, 2017 broadcast)

Madhulika Sikka, Public Editor, PBS

Ethan Allen, poser? Revisiting Vermont history

Journalist-turned-historian Mark Bushnell has been writing about Vermont history since 2002 for the Rutland Herald, Barre-Montpelier Times Argus and VTDigger. His latest book, Hidden History of Vermont (History Press, 2017), takes a new look at some old stories. He questions whether Ethan Allen, leader of the fabled Green Mountain Boys during the American Revolution, was the war hero he is said to be. Bushnell also explores how Vermont missed the chance to give women the vote, and it’s key role opposing Sen. Joe McCarthy. We revisit these and other hidden bits of Vermont history. (December 13, 2017 broadcast)

Mark Bushnell, historian and author, Hidden History of Vermont

Can local food save the world?

Vermont’s local food movement is a national leader. There are ambitious goals: the Vermont Farm to Plate plan calls for 10% local food consumption by 2020, while the New England Food Vision aims for 50% of all food consumed in New England to be from local sources by 2050. But we have a long way to go: Currently just 7% of Vermont’s food is sourced locally. We discuss the history and future of the local food movement, and a new documentary series on Vermont PBS, The Local Motive.  (December 6, 2017 broadcast)

Holly Groschner , CEO Vermont PBS 

Scott Campitelli, VP of Content, Vermont PBS

Mark Curran, co-founder, Black River Produce

Michael Cyr, marketing director, Skinny Pancake

Samantha Sheehan, VBSR, Local First Vermont

Billionaire Bonanza: America’s oligarchs

A new report, Billionaire Bonanza 2017, shows that the three wealthiest Americans — Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Bill Gates of Microsoft, and investor Warren Buffet — have more wealth than the bottom half of all U.S. households combined. “If left unchecked, wealth will continue to accumulate into fewer and fewer hands,” says Josh Hoxie, report co-author. “The time to reverse this trend is past due.” Hoxie, a former staffer for Vt. Sen. Bernie Sanders, is director of the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-editor of Inequality.org. He discusses America’s new oligarchy, how the 2017 Republican tax overhaul will rob the middle class to pay the rich, and how citizens can push back. (November 29, 2017 broadcast)

Josh Hoxie, co-author, Billionaire Bonanza 2017

Terri Hallenbeck on two decades as a Vt. political journalist

Terri Hallenbeck started work for the Burlington Free Press in 1998, where she served as copy editor and assistant metro editor. She joined the paper’s capital bureau from 2005 to 2014, when she left to join Seven Days, where she was the staff writer covering state politics until November 2017, when she left journalism to work for Middlebury College. She talks about the gubernatorial campaigns she has covered, how she persuaded Gov. Peter Shumlin to give her a final interview, her experience reporting one of the first stories about a patient who used Vermont’s death with dignity law, and the changing face of journalism in Vermont. (November 29, 2017 broadcast)

Terri Hallenbeck, journalist

What the U.S. can learn from Finland

“If you want the American Dream, go to Finland,” said British politician Ed Miliband. This is the premise behind Finnish journalist Anu Partanen’s book, The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life. Partanen discusses what the U.S. can learn from Finland about love, taxes, education, and happiness. She describes how Finnish mothers receive 10 months of paid maternity leave, how Finnish schools lead the world in quality and performance, and how Finnish people are happier by many measures — all for a similar level of taxation as middle-class Americans. Finally, she reflects on how she will pass on these Nordic values to her newborn daughter, an American citizen. (November 15, 2017 broadcast)

Anu Partanen, author, The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life

Reuben Jackson: Poetry, jazz & dissent

Reuben Jackson has been the host of Friday Night Jazz on Vermont Public Radio since 2012, a job he has just announced that he will leave in 2018. Before this, he was curator of the Duke Ellington Collection at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. for 20 years. Jackson is also an accomplished poet and an educator with the Young Writers Project. Jackson discusses his poetry, jazz, and his experience as an African American in one of America’s whitest states. He also reads his poem, “For Trayvon Martin.” (November 8, 2017 broadcast)

Reuben Jackson, poet, VPR jazz host

Sarah Browning: Poetry of provocation & witness

Sarah Browning is co-founder and executive director of Split This Rock: Poetry of Provocation & Witness, and an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. She talks about poetry as protest, white supremacy and privilege, her work organizing poets, and the annual Split This Rock poetry festival. She also reads from her new collection of poetry, Killing Summer. (November 8, 2017 broadcast)

Sarah Browning, poet, co-founder, Split This Rock

Bill McKibben: Radio Free Vermont & resistance

Could an aging Vermont radio man, aided by a crew of Olympic cross-country skiers and craft-beer drinking fellow travelers, lead the resistance to Donald Trump? That’s the plot of Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance, the latest book by author and activist Bill McKibben. The central character of McKibben’s first novel bears an uncanny resemblance to Ken Squier, the legendary owner and broadcaster of WDEV, the independent radio station that he and his late father have run since 1931 (on which the Vermont Conversation airs). “This is James Bond meets A Prairie Home Companion, and no one but Bill McKibben could pull it off,” writes author Naomi Klein.

McKibben is the founder of the grassroots global climate change organization 350.org and author of a dozen books, including The End of NatureEnough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age, and Deep Economy. He talks here about resistance–fictional and real–how he has been personally targeted by the fossil fuel industry, why craft beer matters, and his recent travels to Alaska and Africa in search of climate solutions and sanity. (November 1, 2017 broadcast)

Bill McKibben, author and activist

Power Struggle: The epic battle to shut down Vermont Yankee

Vermont’s lone nuclear power plant, Vermont Yankee, operated from 1972 until 2014, when the plant shut down for good under intense political and financial pressure. POWER STRUGGLE is a new feature-length documentary by filmmaker Robbie Leppzer about the political battle to close Vermont Yankee. We speak with Leppzer and Arnie & Maggie Gundersen, key figures in the VY battle, about the story of how nuclear power ended in Vermont, the after-effects of the 2011 nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, and the future of nuclear power.  (October 25, 2017 broadcast)

Robbie Leppzer, award-winning independent documentary filmmaker, Power Struggle

Arnie Gundersen, nuclear engineer and whistleblower

Maggie Gundersen, Fairewinds Energy Education 

 

Can a business change its culture?

Rob Miller wanted to shake things up: the president and CEO of Vermont State Employees Credit Union (VSECU) wanted to make his company more transparent. And he wanted to be more responsive to customers. First, he had to change the business culture. He talks about how you pursue passion and purpose and change the culture in “unexpected places.” (October 25, 2017 broadcast)

Rob Miller, president and CEO, VSECU

 

#MeToo: Women fight back against sexual harassment and assault

The #MeToo campaign, in which women are taking to social media to share their experiences with sexual harassment and assault, has shined a bright light on what women deal with daily at work and in public. This campaign has been energized by revelations about how Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein routinely sexually assaulted, touched and humiliated countless women. Two experts discuss what sexual harassment is, their personal and professional experiences with it, and how women can fight back. (October 18, 2017 broadcast)

Cathleen Barkley, Executive Director, HOPE Works, Burlington, VT

Sarah Robinson, Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

Is the media fair to Pres. Trump?

Pres. Trump insists the media is “terribly unfair” to him. Is it? Jesse Holcomb, formerly of the Pew Research Center and currently a professor of journalism at Calvin College, dissects media coverage of Trump, and delves into the quality of news articles on the right and left. He also explores the influence of far-right Breitbart News and its affiliates. Holcomb’s research finds that fewer than half of news stories about Trump for right-leaning audiences cite more than a single source, while 70 percent of stories for left-leaning audiences cite multiple sources. Holcomb says that the media “needs to take a look in the mirror” at how it has contributed to the rise of Trump. (October 18, 2017 broadcast)

Jesse Holcomb, Calvin College, Columbia Journalism School’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Pew Research Center