Commentary Series

Mon-Thurs 8:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Sundays at 10:55 a.m.

More than 50 commentators provide perspective and opinion about current events, topics of interest, and often showcase the work of writers and storytellers. The VPR Commentary Series is produced by Betty Smith-Mastaler.

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Everybody has a vice and handbags are mine. In fact, I can easily justify a new purchase at the expense of other priorities, including my retirement fund. And recently, as I was admiring the latest addition to my collection, I thought about the parallels with state spending priorities and their impacts on business outlook.

When I was a reporter covering the Northeast Kingdom and the Upper Valley, I spent countless evenings in small towns listening to people wrangle about whether or where to erect wind turbines or solar arrays.

A recent television documentary on Pope John Paul II and a close woman friend has brought back memories of two encounters I had with her in 1999 as I was writing a history of the Burlington Diocese.

As the legislative term winds down, it’s time to consider what happened, what didn’t, and more important, why? Many Vermonters are vocal about wanting their government branches to change how they do business; others have altogether given up on government’s ability to better their lives. And while it’s fine to distrust and criticize government leaders, an outright anti-government stance, unfortunately, denies help, hope, and invites tyranny.

In many ways I feel like the least qualified person on the planet to write about Prince. I never saw him perform live. And with his passing last week, I never will.

When we still hadn’t had significant snow by the end of January, I started hoping for a Valentine’s Day snowstorm like the one that redeemed the winter of 2007. That was the first snowfall that season and rescued people like me who love winter from the despair of a barren season.

Burlington is currently debating a proposal by a New York City development corporation to build a fourteen story tower above Burlington’s historic Church Street Marketplace. And while fourteen stories may not sound like a lot in New York City, here in Vermont, the legal and policy implications of this proposed project are broad and far reaching.

It's hard to know where to begin talking about the collapse of the EB five program in the Northeast Kingdom. We’re not at the beginning and we’re certainly not near the end. And just as certainly, all is not lost from an economic development point of view.

I once heard Sir Christopher Ricks observe that a scholar is someone who tells you something you didn’t know, and a critic is someone who tells you something you hadn’t noticed. Ricks himself is both a great scholar and a great critic – which is why he was knighted in 2009. He’s now a professor at Boston University.

At a time when we’re increasingly concerned with economic inequality, Vermonters might want to consider the difficulties faced by 51% of our state’s population – women and girls. 

On July 21, 1969, the day after the first moon landing, The New York Times published a poem called Voyage To The Moon by Archibald MacLeish on its front page. Today, that seems almost as miraculous as the landing itself. But back then, poetry was still part of the everyday fabric.

The Democratic battle for New York was feisty – and arguably a turning point. Now that it’s done, there’s potentially worrisome news for both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

You may have heard about the person who posed an awkward Woman Question to veteran journalist Gay Talese, age 84, at the recent Power of Narrative conference in Boston. Well, I was that person, and that moment touched off “a national social media firestorm."

I was enjoying an article by political historian Michael Kazin in a recent issue of The New York Times Magazine about the term “populist” in American political history - a term that this election cycle has been applied to both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Vermonters who live around Burlington Airport may notice a flurry of military aircraft and helicopters this week as they transport a number of senior military officers to Norwich University to celebrate the Centennial of the Reserve Officers Training Program, or ROTC.

One-third of the children in Burlington and Winooski public schools are students of color, including new Americans who are English language learners. With the demographics in our region shifting so dramatically, government agencies, educational institutions, businesses, and nonprofits are grappling with inadequate cultural competency in trying to serve these myriad populations.

Kristi Rugg / National Park Service

I’m often asked, “What’s your favorite national park?” It’s a question that gets me excited, thinking about all the parks I’ve been fortunate to visit. But it’s a tough question, too, since there are so many good choices — more than 400 of them! So let me answer by talking about what people like to do in national parks and some of the best places to go for these activities.

There are many actors in the Jay Peak/Q-Burke tragedy playing out on our Northern Vermont stage.

I think everyone in Vermont felt extreme disappointment when they heard the news of the SEC investigation of the Q Burke and Jay Peak owners. I know I did.

The EB-5 program was supposed to bring economic salvation to the Northeast Kingdom. Until I left VPR last year, I covered this story as a field reporter, beginning with the press conference at Jay Peak resort in 2012, where Bill Stenger mapped out the projects he said would create 10,000 jobs.