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

Ken Squier: A life on the air

Ken Squier 2017 has been an eventful year for Ken Squier: he became the first journalist ever inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, he sold Thunder Road, the race track that he has owned for over a half century, and he has put his beloved WDEV radio station up for sale. In its Hall of Fame announcement NASCAR paid tribute to him: “One of NASCAR’s original broadcasters, Squier began his career with the Motor Racing Network  in 1970. It was his golden voice that took NASCAR to a national audience thirsting for live coverage, giving his insider’s view of what he famously described as ‘common men doing uncommon things.’” Squier reflects on these milestones, growing up on the air, the fight to preserve independent media, what he is proudest of and his advice to young people. (July 19, 2017 broadcast)

Ken Squier, owner, WDEV Radio, NASCAR Hall of Fame 2018 inductee

Is Vermont the next anti-union state?

In his first few months in office, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has attempted to level fund K-12 education and weaken teachers’ collective bargaining power. Scott’s moves have elements in common with the strategy of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other Republican governors who have launched bitter fights with public sector unions. We explore whether Vermont is part of a national campaign to undermine unions. “Take this fight seriously and unite and push back harder than you’ve every pushed back before,” warns Wisconsin union leader Amy Mizialko. (May 10, 2017 broadcast)

Martha Allen, president, Vermont chapter, National Education Association

Amy Mizialko, vice president, Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association

Transcription available here.

An alternative to austerity

Are social service cuts necessary? One Vermont, a coalition of advocacy and social service groups in Vermont, argues that proposed state budget cuts will hurt the vulnerable, and can be avoided by closing tax loopholes for the wealthy and lowering tax rates for all. Three advocates make the case against austerity budgets and for a progressive alternative. (April 19, 2017 broadcast)

Stephanie Yu, One Vermont Coordinator, Public Assets Institute

Dan Hoxworth, Executive Director of Capstone Community Action

Ed Paquin, Executive Director, Disability Rights Vermont

Is there life after prison? Dismas House offers hope & second chances

Is there life after prison? For 30 years, Dismas House of Vermont has been a welcome home for those leaving prison. There are now four Dismas Houses in Vermont: Burlington, Rutland, Winooski and Hartford. The mission of Dismas is “is to reconcile former prisoners with society and society with former prisoners.” The success of Dismas can be seen in the fact that the recidivism rate for its residents is about 15 percent; the recidivism rate nationally is over 70 percent. The cost of living at a Dismas House is about $19,000 per year, versus about $60,000 per year to incarcerate prisoners in Vermont. We explore this innovative approach to working with former prisoners with staff and residents. (March 22, 2017 broadcast)

Richard Gagne, House director, Dismas House, Burlington

James King, resident, Dismas House, Burlington

Jan Tarjan, executive director, Dismas of Vermont

High taxes, bad business climate, youth exodus, and other myths: Doug Hoffer challenges conventional wisdom

Vermont State Auditor Doug Hoffer keeps a watchful eye on the numbers, both in his official duties and as a frequent contributor to local blogs and comments. Here, he takes down some persistent economic myths.

Doug Hoffer, Vermont State Auditor

Tom Stearns: From teen seed merchant to Small Business Person of the Year

Tom Stearns launched High Mowing Organic Seeds in 1996, and in its first year sales were $2,000 and he was the sole employee.  Twenty years later his company has grown to be one of the top organic seed companies in the U.S., and today has more than 60 employees.

Stearns was named Vermont’s 2016 Small Business Person of the Year by the Small Business Administration. He was recognized for growing his company, increasing sales, employee growth and contributing to the local community.

High Mowing Organic Seeds is a farm-based company that produces and distributes vegetable, flower and herb seeds throughout the U.S. and Canada. High Mowing Organic Seeds is the first organic company guaranteeing all of its seeds are non-genetically modified organism verified.

Stearns talks about his journey from being a teenager fascinated with seeds to being part of a burgeoning national local and organic food movement. (March 23, 2016 broadcast)

Tom Stearns, owner and founder, High Mowing Organic Seeds

 

 

Vermont’s craft beer revolution

In 1988, the Vermont Pub & Brewery opened for business as the first brew pub in the state. Today Vermont craft beers are taking the state, and world, by storm. Out of state visitors now flock to Vermont to bring back a sample of brews, such as The Alchemist’s Heady Topper and beers from Hill Farmstead, that have become cult classics.

All this is happening against a backdrop of consolidation in the beer industry. On October 13, the world’s leading brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, announced its plan to take over its main rival, SAB Miller. If the deal happens, it will be the biggest merger in brewing history, creating a company with sales of $55 billion. It means one mega brewer could soon own nearly half the world’s top beers.

But the microbrewers are posing a challenge to the megabrewers. In 2013, sales of craft beer (by volume) exceeded the sales of Budweiser, America’s top selling brew. And 44 percent of Americans between the ages of 21 and 27 have never tried a regular old Budweiser. We talk about Vermont’s craft brew phenomenon with its pioneers.

Steve Polewazyck, owner, Vermont Pub & Brewery

John Kimmich, co-owner, The Alchemist

Dave Juenker, owner of Blackback Pub, a craft beer pub in Waterbury, Vt.

Steve Cook, deputy commissioner, Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing

Vermont’s renewable energy revolution

Nearly five percent of the Vermont’s workforce now participates in clean energy activities, and the clean energy economy has grown nearly 10% since 2013, according to a new study from the Vt Dept. of Public Service.

The clean energy sector comprises over 2,500 businesses employing more than 16,000 workers. Businesses project roughly 1,000 more workers by March 2016, a growth rate of 6.2%.

We look at the current state of renewable energy in Vermont and the challenges ahead.

Gabrielle Stebbins, executive director, Renewable Energy Vermont

The new face of homelessness in Vermont, 8-19-15

Vermont has the highest rate of homelessness in New England; at least two thirds of Vermont households do not earn enough to afford the average fair market rent — which is $1,015 for a 2 BR apartment in Chittenden County, 44% higher than the national average. The wages required to afford that rent are $19.48 an hour or $40,518 a year. That may help explain why Vermont’s homeless population rose by 9% in 2014. To talk about the drivers of homelessness and what works to prevent it:

Becky Holt, Development & Communications Director, Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS)

Janet Green, assistant director of rental assistance for the Burlington Housing Authority, where she has worked since 2011. Part of Green’s job is to manage the Authority’s housing for homeless people.

Melissa, a 28-year old mother who has been homeless and now lives in subsidized housing

Lessons from the 2004 Dean for President campaign

In 2003, Heath Eiden, a Vermont filmmaker and director of Stowe Media Group, traveled through New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa to chronicle Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s presidential campaign. Eiden’s film, Lesson from an American Primary, recounts the meteoric rise and fall of the campaign. Dean’s campaign is generally considered the first presidential run to make effective and extensive use of social media as an organizing and fundraising tool. The filmmaker discusses the lessons that emerged from the campaign trail.

Heath Eiden, director, Lessons from an American Primary

Climate journey: Biking round the world for climate change

Recent college graduates Morgan Curtis (Dartmouth ’14) and Garrett Blad (Notre Dame ’15) are riding their bikes 10,000 km from Vermont to Paris (climatejourney.org), where they will finish at COP21, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, in December 2015. As they bike across New England, eastern Canada, Iceland, Scandinavia, and the UK, they “are writing, photographing, filming, collaging and painting, telling stories of individuals and communities mobilizing for a just transition to a climate-stable future.” They talk about what motivates them to ride, how they will deal with fatigue and saddle soar, and what they hope will come of their climate journey.

Mark Bittman, NY Times food columnist: “Food is a social justice issue”

Mark Bittman writes (mostly) about food for the NY Times Opinion pages, and is The NYT Magazine’s lead food columnist. He is the author of the bestselling cookbooks, VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 and How To Cook Everything,  has published over 15,000 recipes. But Bittman also writes about a variety of social justice issues, from police brutality, inequality, the fight for a living wage, to climate change. Bittman talks about his background as a community organizer, his love for food and his insistence that “fast food is poison,” and how food is a social justice issue. He also discusses his articles about Vermont’s innovative eateries and the local food movement.

Beyond Austerity: An alternative to budget cuts; Marijuana legalization & a new app to engage citizens

Is there an alternative to austerity? As the Vermont legislature considers over $100 million in cuts to close a budget gap, One Vermont, a group of social service advocates and businesses, proposes to balance the budget without budget cuts.

Jack Hoffman, Public Assets Institute

Andrea Cohen, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility

Karen Lafayette, Vermont Low Income Advocacy Council

Julie Tessler, Vermont Council of Developmental and Mental Health Services

GRASSROOTS ACTIVISM and TECHNOLOGY 

We talk with the founder of New Grassroots, a new web app that aims to connect legislators with concerned citizens, and advocates of marijuana legalization, who are among those trying out the new approach.

Benjamin Brown, chicken farmer, founder and CEO, NewGrassroots

Matt Simon, New England Political Director, Marijuana Policy Project

The future of education in Vermont

Vermont education leaders explore the future of education in Vermont and analyze Town Meeting 2015 results, in which 20 school budgets failed.

Paul Cillo, founder and president, Public Assets Institute (first half-hour)

Jeff Francis, Executive Director, Vermont Superintendents Association (second half-hour)

Stephen Dale,  Executive Director, Vermont School Boards Association

Is there an education funding crisis in Vt?; Preventing suicide

Education funding: Does Vermont have an education funding crisis? We discuss this issue, school consolidation, and the effectiveness of the Act 60 education funding reform law with:

William J. Mathis, managing director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder and the former superintendent of schools for the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union in Brandon, Vermont. He was a National Superintendent of the Year finalist and a Vermont Superintendent of the Year. He currently serves on the Vermont State Board of Education and chairs the legislative committee.

Suicide: Why does Vermont have a higher suicide rate than the national average? What are the warning signs, and what prevention resources exist?

Corey Gould, president of board, VT Chapter the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, licensed psychologist, Gifford Medical Center

JoEllen Tarallo-Falk, director, VT Suicide Prevention Center, Executive Director, Center for Health and Learning

Staying alive in avalanche country; The future of health care reform in Vermont

Surviving in Avalanche Country: In the aftermath of the death of two US Ski Team members in an avalanche in Austria this week (including 20 year old Burke Mountain Academy graduate Ronnie Berlack), there is renewed interest in the science and art of staying alive in avalanche country. We speak with the journalists behind The Human Factor, Powder Magazine’s new groundbreaking 5-part series on surviving avalanches:

John Stifter, editor, Powder Magazine, who survived an avalanche in 2012 that killed three friends

David Page, author, The Human Factor, Powder Magazine

Health Care Reform in Vermont After Single Payer: What’s next for health care reform in Vermont now that single payer has been abandoned? Four experts weigh in:

Rep. Bill Lippert, chair, House Health Care Committe

Neal Goswami, Vermont News Bureau Chief

Dan Barlow, VBSR public policy manager

Bram Kleppner, CEO, Danforth Pewter, and supporter of single payer

Governor Phil Hoff: Changing Vt. from Red to Blue, 7-30-14

Gov. Phil Hoff, the first Democrat elected governor in Vermont in over a century, permanently changed the politics of the Green Mountain state during his tenure, 1963-1969. Hoff — who pursued sweeping initiatives in civil rights, education, and was the first Democratic governor to break with LBJ and oppose the Vietnam War — is widely recognized as the founder of progressive politics in Vermont. Hoff celebrated his 90th birthday in June 2014. He talks about his victories and defeats, his relationship with Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, his struggle with alcoholism, his views on universal health care and education, his legacy, and he offers advice to today’s leaders.

Can sustainable food save Vermont & the world? 7-23-14

We look at how sustainable food and agriculture has transformed the Northeast Kingdom community of Hardwick and Vermont, and the lessons this holds for the world.

–Sarah Waring, executive director, Center for an Agricultural Economy
–Tom Stearns, High Mowing Seeds, and board president, CAE
–Todd Hardie, Caledonia Spirits
–Terry O’Brien-Reil, Eden Ice Cider and Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center, Newport

Vermont’s clean energy economy, 6-25-14

Gov. Peter Shumlin released a report this week showing that Vermont’s clean energy industry now employs over 15,000 workers at some 2,600 locations and comprises about 4% of the state’s workforce. We discuss the state of and prospects for Vermont’s clean energy industry with Gabrielle Stebbins, executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont, Duane Peterson, founder of Suncommon (residential solar); Karl Bissex of Clean Edge Energy (biomass/wood heating); and George Twill of Efficiency Vermont (efficiency).

Partners in business & life: Judy Geer & Dick Dreissigacker of Concept2, 7-24-2013

Judy Geer and Dick Dreissigacker, co-owners of Concept2, makers of high end oars and rowing machines in Morrisville, talk
about their partnership in business, life and in their community. They are also co-owners of the nonprofit Craftsbury Outdoor Center and Hosmer Point Camp in Craftsbury, Vermont.

David Blittersdorf & All Earth Renewables, 6/19/2013

All things All Earth: Vermont renewable energy pioneer David Blittersdorf, founder of wind energy company NRG Systems and solar power company All Earth Renewables, talks about his green journey, the importance of mixing business and politics, and his advice to new graduates. Andrew Savage of All Earth discusses the company’s innovative green employee benefits.