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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One response to the current political climate is that the number of people involved in political organizing and working for social justice throughout the state has increased substantially.

Greene: Call Me

Mar 6, 2017

I’ve been calling my representatives in DC - and other people’s too. I’ve urged, begged, scolded and thanked. I actually prefer writing, but I’ve been assured by ex-senate-staffers that calls work because they must be tallied. They say emails and petitions can be ignored, while snail mail is slow because it must be tested for toxins and explosives.

One recent, wet morning, I shuffled into the meeting room. The coat rack held a cross-section of Vermont outerwear—fancier dress coats, parkas smeared with that gray muck we all get from bumping into our cars, and a good number of gritty Carhartt jackets.

When I was a reporter covering the Upper Valley, I did a story about a controversy that erupted on the Norwich list serve. Issues often come to a boil on that email forum. This one, I thought, was amusing, yet it touched serious issues that can rile people up - like the environment and public safety.

My town merged schools with a neighboring town about six years ago, and it’s been a great success. Newfane and Brookline have had a history of shared services since 1948, when the NewBrook Volunteer Fire Department was established.

In hydroponics, plants are fed in a greenhouse setting with fertilized irrigation water instead of soil. And when I was a commercial organic vegetable grower some thirty years ago, I would have been hard put to find any hydroponic lettuce growing in Vermont.

With a new democratic spirit sweeping the land, I thought it might be helpful to offer town moderators and selectboard members a little practical advice so New England won’t be left in the dust come Town Meeting Day.

The snow is melting, redwings and waterfowl are showing up here and there, and some sugar makers have already boiled sap. An early spring seems to be underway, even as our concerns rise for the health, perhaps the survival of American democracy. It’s town meeting time once again.

Watts: Town Meeting

Feb 28, 2017

During the recent Congressional recess, stories about town hall meetings dominated the news. Large crowds attended the events. In some cases shouting down their Congressman. Some legislators avoided the meetings saying the process had been corrupted. Outside agitators were stirring the pot. President Trump tweeted about the “so-called angry crowds” calling them “sad.”

We may be finally witnessing the death throes of the conservative “trickle-down” mantra that advocates for lower taxes on “job creators” and “hands-off” government regulation.

In the face of calls for the abolition of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, one can appreciate just how much is at stake by looking at the life of Robert Frost.

Tom Davis liked to say that he was born with a “social justice gene.”

Son of Republican Governor Deane Davis and grandson of a Vermont State Treasurer, Tom was aware of political issues from a young age. Visitors to the Davis’ Barre home included 1940 Republican presidential nominee Wendell Willkie.

Almost a century ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, Carrie Buck’s mother had been institutionalized for what was then called feeblemindedness.

Five years ago, when St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire built a new science and math building, a decision was made to suspend a nearly six-foot diameter, white latex-painted globe called Science-on-a-Sphere from the ceiling of the third-floor conference room.

Immigration has always played a vital role in Vermont’s history. First, a sparse but long-established Native American population was joined by the English – the first European settlers in what became Vermont. Then came Italians, Spaniards, and French Canadians, followed by more recent waves of refugees – Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians, Bosnians and Somalis, among others.

Mares: ESOPs

Feb 22, 2017

Switchback Brewing, with a thirty thousand barrel production capacity and 30 employees now joins half a dozen other breweries around the country that have established ESOPs - or Employee Stock Ownership Plans. More than six thousand other U.S. firms are now ESOPs, with a total employment of more than fourteen million workers.

For more than 200 years, Vermonters have come together on or around the first Tuesday in March to elect local officials, vote on budgets and discuss the important issues of our time.

Recently, I went to a performance in Burlington by Lewis Black, the comedian from The Daily Show known for an onstage delivery filled with agitation and outrage.

Vermont has many national treasures living quietly among us, and one of them is Addison County resident Eli Clare. His latest book, Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure, is revelatory, a clarion call for changing the medicalized disability narrative of defective brokenness. A transgendered man living with cerebral palsy, his insights challenge existing notions of what is “normal and natural” as he affirms, “There’s nothing wrong with our disabled body-minds.”

All presidents seek to employ new media to enhance their power to connect directly with the public. Few were more successful than Franklin Roosevelt with radio and John Kennedy on television.

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