Vermont Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) discusses criminal justice and policing reform in the age of Black Lives Matter protests and police brutality revelations. He also discusses reducing Vermont’s prison population and ending the “warrior mentality” of police. (July 1, 2020 broadcast)
Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington), Chair, Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee
According to the ACLU of Vermont, “Every metric we have shows that Black Vermonters face systemic barriers to education, health care, employment, and justice.” Too often, conversations about racism consist of white reporters (like me) asking black people to explain their lives. In Vermont, this reflects the fact that most media outlets have few to no people of color on staff, an outgrowth of a system of white privilege that has provided countless opportunities for whites to advance in the world of journalism, while people of color are left off the airwaves and out of print. Maroni Minter, campaigns director at ACLU of Vermont and my nephew, discusses his own experiences with racism as an African American man in Vermont, and leads a conversation with Vermonters of color in a wide-ranging discussion about race and racism in one of the whitest states in the US. (June 17, 2020 broadcast)
Immigrants and undocumented workers on Vermont’s dairy farms have been hit with a triple crisis: the coronavirus pandemic, the collapse of dairy farms, and the ongoing threat of deportation by ICE. Farmworkers, led by Migrant Justice, are demanding support to weather the multiple crises. “We may not be USA citizens, but we are Vermonters. We are sustaining the industry. There is an irony of being called essential workers but at the same time not being taken into account,” says Marita Canedo of Migrant Justice. (May 27, 2020 broadcast)
Molly Gray is a fourth generation Vermonter who grew up on a family farm and now works as an assistant attorney general in Vermont. She is running for Lt. Governor of Vermont. If elected, she would be just the fourth female lieutenant governor in Vermont and the first in over two decades. Gray graduated from the University of Vermont in 2006 and worked for Rep. Peter Welch’s (D-Vt.) first congressional campaign. She then served as an aide to Welch in Washington, D.C., went on to work for the International Committee of the Red Cross, then returned to Vermont attend Vermont Law School, where she graduated in 2014. Gray describes herself as “a product of Vermont” who knows how to unite people to get things done. She discusses why she’s running, how she differs from other candidates, and how issues such as paid family leave are personal for her. (May 6, 2020, broadcast)
The images are becoming a symbol of our time: 800 cars in line at a food shelf in Pittsburgh. New York City residents lined up for blocks to receive free food. In Vermont, food shelves are experiencing a spike in demand. Now a new study from UVM reveals that there has been a 33% increase in food insecurity in Vermont since the COVID-19 outbreak began. We discuss the rise in hunger in Vermont and what is being done to address it. (April 22, 2020 broadcast)
Meredith Niles, assistant professor, Nutrition and Food Sciences Department, University of Vermont
As Vermont grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteers are stepping forward to play key roles in their communities. We talk with Vermonters involved in mutual aid and community-level response to the pandemic. (April 9, 2020 broadcast)
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools and students to transform overnight. Classes have gone from in person to online, meals are being served not in school buses instead of cafeterias, and teachers are conjuring new ways to maintain bonds between their distant students. We look at the challenges confronting the Harwood Union Unified School District in Vermont. We talk to teachers, students, food service workers, and administrators to hear how they are adapting to the new normal. And we hear how one 3rd grade teacher inspires hope and humor among her students everyday. (April 1, 2020 broadcast)
Tom Drake, principal, Warren Elementary School
Jonah Ibson, teacher, Harwood Union High School
Aliza Jernigan, 11th grade student, Harwood Union High School
Brigid Nease, superintendent, Harwood Union Unified School District
Katie Sullivan, grade 3/4 teacher, Warren Elementary School
Paul Morris, food services co-director, Harwood Union Unified School District
This week, Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman announced that he would run to replace Gov. Phil Scott, who is widely assumed will run for a third term in 2020. If Zuckerman were to defeat Scott, he would be the first candidate to defeat an incumbent Vermont governor in 60 years. Zuckerman is a Progressive/Democrat who will run on the Democratic ticket, and he will first have to win a Democratic primary against former Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe. Zuckerman talks about the issues that matter to him, his strategy for winning and how he got into politics. (January 15, 2020 broadcast)
Vermont Lt. Governor David Zuckerman, candidate for governor
Dan Hock began volunteering at Bike Recycle Vermont in 2005 while attending Saint Michael’s College. Bike Recycle was a social enterprise with a mission of giving bikes to those in need. It was located across the street from Old Spokes Home, a much loved Burlington bike shop founded by Glenn Eames in 2000. In 2015, Hock and several others raised $300,000 and bought Old Spokes Home from Eames and integrated Bike Recycle into it. The bike shop and nonprofit moved into a new location in early 2019. Old Spokes Home — its motto is “creating access to bikes and the opportunities they provide for our whole community” — is now a thriving social enterprise and a commercial business. Hock discusses the role that bikes can play in transforming the lives of low-income people and his journey as a former bike racer and global cyclist to being a co-owner of a bike shop with a social mission. Dan Hock was named a 2019 VBSR Young Changemaker of the Year. (August 21, 2019 broadcast)
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
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
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
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? 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
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.
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)
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
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.
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:
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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).
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.
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.