2VR | 2015 Issue
Welcome to our 2015 e-zine issue of “2VR—Green Mountain Noise.”
Editor/Publisher Rob Williams
Web Editor Julliet Buck
To deliver provocative independent solutions-oriented journalism and commentary focused on Vermont’s emerging independence movement in the face of unique 21st century challenges: peak oil, climate change, and U.S. imperial excess.
Designer Kayla Hedman Writers Ian Baldwin Rachel Carter Matthew Cropp Gary Flomenhoft Peter Forbes Pete Garritano Greg Guma Gwen Hallsmith J. Marvin Herndon Lizzy Hewitt Jim Hogue Ralph Meima Alana Moriarty Bruce Post Heidi Spear Helen Whybrow Rob Williams
GREETINGS FROM THE GREEN MOUNTAINS!
Photos Margo Baldwin Gary Flomenhoft Jim Hogue Dylan Kelley Ralph Meima Magdalena Naylor Michael Taub Rob Williams Theron Williams Featured Peter Forbes Ian Baldwin Margo Baldwin Ben Walsh
Slow journalism for revolutionary times. In this issue, we celebrate our Vermont neighbors doing the good work of building a more resilient and independent Vermont for a new century. Pushing for public banking, revitalizing our working landscapes, celebrating food sovereignty, inventing a new craft beer culture, considering Commons-focused initiatives and legislation, spotlighting hidden climate geo-engineering activities, exploring the potential of cannabis legalization for our once-and-future republic - you’ll find all this and more in this issue. And don’t forget to grab and read our new book—Most Likely To Secede: What the Vermont Independence Movement Can Teach Us About Recreating Community and Creating a Human Scale Vision for the 21st Century—our collection of more than two dozen writers and thinkers provocatively imagining a new and more independent future for Vermont, reviewed here in these pages. We hope you will dive in, slow down, reflect on, digest, and enjoy the stories and images presented here in “Green Mountain Noise.” We urge you to get involved—visit www.2VR.org for more writing, information, and merch—and send us your ideas for stories and initiatives.
Cover photo: Rob Williams “Guy Fawkes” at Vermont Commons parade. Photo: Theron Williams 2vr.org
And, as Winter relinquishes Its icy grip on our Green Mountains, we celebrate the coming of another season of spring to Vermont—with opportunities to get out and play in our once-and-future republic. Free Vermont, and long live the Untied States! Rob Williams Editor and Publisher, 2VR
Cow Power in Vermont’s Mad River Valley Photo: Rob Williams
THE 2015 ISSUE.
SLOW JOURNALISM FOR REVOLUTIONARY TIMES
p. 20—Progressive Eclipse: Burlington After Bernie p. 12—Infographic: Claiming Vermont’s Commons: From Banana Republic to Sovereign Commonwealth p. 46—Vermont Cannabis Collaborative Testimony
Food & Drink:
p. 18—Relocalizing Vermont’s Foodscapes p. 34—Funding Farms for Vermont’s Future p. 40—Revolutionary Spirits? p. 48—From Food Sovereignty to Food Revolution
p. 15—The Next Revolution: Bookchin is Back! p. 42—Growing Books: Chelsea Green Celebrates 30 Years p. 44—Excerpt: A Man Apart p. 54—Review: Most Likely to Secede p. 62—Excerpt: Inter States
p. 56—Banking on Vermont’s Future p. 59—Hang the Bankers
p. 52—Vermont’s Education ‘Reform’ Initiative 2015
Vermont Food Systems. story p. 18
p. 7—Interview: VPIRG; Energy Independence p. 10— Review: Furious 7 p. 38—Geoengineering the Climate
A Gwendolyn Hallsmith
Montpelier, VT Former Montpelier town planner. Co-founder of Vermonters for a New Economy and Executive Director of the Public Banking Institute. @ghallsmith - “Banking on Vermont’s Future”, p. 56
A Ben Walsh
H B A
Montpelier, VT Climate & Energy Program Director for the Montpelier, VT–based Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG). @bcwalsh_vt - “Interview with Ben Walsh of VPIRG”, p. 7
B Jim Hogue
Calais, VT Historian, radio producer, and actor. - “Hang the Bankers”, p. 59
B Elizabeth Hewitt
Warren, VT Hewitt is a Vermont native of the Mad River Valley currently living and writing overseas. - “Funding Farms for Vermont’s Future”, p. 34 Heidi Spear Fayston, VT Businesswoman, mother, and chair of the Fayston School Board, and the co-founder Vermonters for Accountability in Education Funding (VAEF). - “Vermont’s Education ‘Reform’ Initiative 2015”, p. 52
C Peter Forbes
Mad River Valley, VT Conservationist, farmer, and author. peterforbes.org - “Excerpt From A Man Apart”, p. 44
C Helen Whybrow
Mad River Valley, VT Writer, homesteader and raiser of sheep. - “Excerpt From A Man Apart”, p. 44
F Matthew Cropp
Burlington, VT Self-described “co-op geek.” @MattCropp - “Revolutionary Spirits”, p. 40 Gary Flomenhoft
F Burlington, VT
Rob Williams, Photo courtesy of Kate Williams
C Rob Williams
Mad River Valley, VT Professor, publisher, musician, and historian. @freevtyakker - “Interview with Ben Walsh of VPIRG”, p. 7
D Rachel Carter
Plainfield, VT Homesteader; communications director at the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. @RachelCarterPR - “Relocalizing Vermont’s Foodscapes”, p. 18
E Ian Baldwin
Chelsea, VT Co-founder of Chelsea Green Publishing; served as publisher of Vermont Commons: Voices of Independence news journal. chelseagreen.com - “Geoengineering the Climate is Happening Now—And There’s a Problem”, p. 38
E Margo Baldwin
Chelsea, VT Runs Chelsea Green Publishing in White River Junction, VT. - “Growing Books: Chelsea Green Celebrates 30 Years”, p. 42
A professor of ecological economics, currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Australia. - “Claiming Vermont’s Commons: From ‘Banana Republic’ to Sovereign Commonwealth”, p. 12
Ian and Margo Baldwin of Chelsea Green Publishing celebrate 30 years; interviewed by 2VR Publisher Rob Williams, p. 42. Photo courtesy of Margo Baldwin
Greg Guma Burlington, VT Ralph Meima Author of The People’s Republic: G Brattleboro, VT Vermont and the Sanders Renewable energy advocate and William Boardman Revolution, novelist. Spirits of Desire and Dons of @rmeima Time. He has lived in Vermont “Excerpt from Inter States”, p. 62 since 1968. - “Progressive Eclipse: Burlington After Bernie”, p. 20 Bruce Post H Essex, VT Pete Garritano Former senior staff member for F South Burlington, VT several members of the Vermont Farmer and car dealer who ran congressional delegation and now for Lieutenant Governor on a writes and lectures on Vermont Vermont Independence ticket in environmental history. 2010. - “Review of Most Likely to Secede”, - “The Next Revolution: Bookchin p. 54 is back!”, p. 15
Kayla Hedman F Burlington, VT Digital & creative marketer, designer and fitness instructor. @kaylahedman Hinda Miller
F Burlington, VT
Former State Senator/Chittenden County & Co-founder of Jogbra. - “Vermont Cannabis Collaborative Testimony”, p. 46
H Colchester, VT
An MJD student at Saint Michael’s College with a deep and abiding interest in all things food-related. - “From Food Sovereignty to Food Revolution”, p. 48 J. Marvin Herndon - “Geoengineering the Climate is Happening Now— And There’s a Problem”, p. 38
Vermont Independence— start’em young. Photo: Magdalena Naylor.
Funding Vermont Energy Independence, Protecting Vermont’s Commons 2VR PUBLISHER ROB WILLIAMS INTERVIEWS VPIRG’S BEN WALSH 2VR: Describe the Energy Independent Vermont campaign— what are your goals? WALSH: The organizations that are part of Energy Independent Vermont believe we have a responsibility to tackle global warming while we still can. Vermonters have seen a preview of what’s coming in Irene—we can’t afford to sit on our hands and wait for Washington, D.C. to take action any longer. What’s more, helping people cut their dependence on fossil fuels will save Vermonters serious money on their energy bills. So, our goal is to put a price on the carbon pollution created by fossil fuels in Vermont, and use a portion of that money to create an Energy Independence Fund to help Vermonters cut their energy bills and fossil fuel use. Our proposal would also cut other taxes Vermonters already pay— like income and business taxes— to protect them from fossil fuel companies passing on the cost of the pollution tax. Some Vermonters may bridle at the notion of “taxing” fossil fuel corporations—can you elaborate
on this idea? Fossil fuels create carbon pollution, which is causing global warming and all the problems that come with it—there’s no question about that. Right now though, those costs are being borne solely by people impacted by climate change, like the farmers and homeowners who lost everything in Irene. So our plan says oil and gas companies shouldn’t get to pollute Vermont for free anymore, and instead requires these companies to pay a tax on the carbon pollution created by the fossil fuels they sell. Oil prices have dramatically dropped in the past few months. Why should Vermonters get involved now? Even with today’s cheaper oil prices, Vermonters are still spending a whole lot of money because of our dependence on fossil fuels. Our plan would provide help for Vermonters trying to cut their fuel use and fuel bills. It’s also important to know that nearly all the money we spend on oil and gas goes straight out of the Vermont economy. That means a plan like this one, which cuts our
collective fuel bill, will keep money in Vermont and help grow our economy. In fact, we commissioned an independent economic analysis to look at how this proposal would affect Vermont’s economy. It found that keeping that money in Vermont would, among other positive effects, create thousands of jobs. If folks are interested, they can find the full analysis at bit.ly/ REMIvt. How can Vermont citizens involve themselves in this campaign? That’s a great question—there’s no doubt that Vermonters deciding to speak up in favor of the kind of action we need on climate will be essential to the success of this effort. The best way to get involved would be to get in touch with our organizers. Where can Vermont citizens find our more information? Folks should check out the Energy Independent Vermont website: energyindependentvt.org. It has both a succinct summary of our proposal and much more in depth resources, for people who want to dive into the details. 2VR
Founded in 1972, VPIRG is the largest nonprofit consumer and environmental advocacy organization in Vermont, with over 30,000 members and supporters. In 1975, the Vermont Public Interest Research and Education Fund (VPIREF) was established as VPIRG’s 501(c)3 outreach and education arm. For over 40 years, VPIRG has brought the voice of average Vermont citizens to public policy debates concerning the environment, health care, consumer protection and democracy. vpirg.org
VT’s Beer Co-op
The Full Barrel Cooperative Brewery and Taproom’s aim is to build support for the establishment of a consumer co-op brewery and pub in Burlington, Vermont. Inspired in part by the success of Black Star in Austin, TX, Full Barrel Co-op started organizing in March 2014, and legally incorporated as a co-op in February 2015. Their growing community is currently in the process of recruiting members and volunteers, compiling ideas, holding informational meetings and parties, and, of course, brewing and drinking excellent beer!
Sign of the Times. Photo: Rob Williams
If you want to get involved, like their Facebook Page, and/or pledge to become a member! fullbarrel.coop
Cannabis Collaborative HELP VERMONT GO GREEN TO MAKE SOME GREEN.
STEERING COMMITTEE MEMBERS:
Hinda Miller, Former State Senator/Chittenden County & Co-founder, Jogbra Will Raap, Founder, Gardener’s Supply Company and Intervale Center Alan Newman, Founder, Seventh Generation and Magic Hat Brewing Company Dan Cox, President, Coffee Enterprises Michael Jager, Founder/Chief Creative Officer, Solidarity of Unbridled Labour Judy MacIsaac Robertson, Founder, Highland Sugarworks, Inc., Owner/Marketing Strategist, Harvest Limited, LLC Brian Leven, Former Vermont Deputy Secretary of State, Former Vermont Legislative Counsel, and Attorney in Stowe, VT
Read their Testimony on page 46
Vermont business owners have joined forces to create the Vermont Cannabis Collaborative, an initiative to legalize marijuana in the Green Mountain State. Their website includes a fivestep initiative, including Industry Optimization; Regulation and Taxation; Education, Training and Workforce Development; Medicinal Plants Innovation Hub; and Community Engagement. On the Collaborative’s website, there is a great deal of research about Vermont’s current marijuana culture as well as national trends from the RAND Drug Policy Research Center. They then highlight the economic advantages that legalizing marijuana could have—job creation, tourism, tax revenue and more. In 2013, 58% of folks answered positively that the use of marijuana should be legal. Educate yourself at: vtcannabiscollaborative.org
2VR’s Guy Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund WHO WE ARE.
The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, located in Montpelier, Vermont, was created by the Vermont Legislature in 1995 to accelerate the development of Vermont’s green economy. We provide early stage grant funding, technical assistance, and loans to entrepreneurs, businesses, farmers, networks and others interested in developing jobs and markets in the green economy.
The Guy Fawkes mask came to represent broader protest after it was used as a major plot element in ‘V for Vendetta’. After appearing in Internet forums, the mask became a well-known symbol for anti-government and anti-establishment protests around the world. 2vr.org
Excerpt from Most Likely to Secede FOOD.
Everyone eats, and so we are all linked to the economic, environmental, political, and cultural issues surrounding food, whether or not we recognize these connections. During the past decade, an increasing number of people worldwide have become more conscious about the sources, quality, and environmental effects of their food. They are seeing how the globalized, corporate food industry causes extensive harm to communities and ecosystems around the planet. It puts small farmers off their land, pumps petrochemicals into the soil, introduces genetically modified “Frankenfoods” into croplands and diets, and transports agricultural produce thousands of miles, consuming huge amounts of energy, before it reaches consumers, excessively refining and processing our food along the way. Millions of people have begun looking for alternatives, and a popular movement for healthy, local and sustainably produced food has begun to spread across the United States and elsewhere in the world. Read more in ‘Most Likely to Secede’ 2vr.org
Fast Cars, Family Values, and the Franchise BY ROB WILLIAMS
Piqued over Peak Oil? Concerned about climate change? Worried about Wall Street? Wincing at the sad state of U.S. imperial excess— drone warfare, full spectrum dominance, global hegemony, the corporate takeover of our electoral system, the “we’ve been down this road before” dynastic cycle that is shaping up to be another Bushversus-Clinton corporate-friendly presidential slugfest? Have no fear! Hollywood summer blockbuster movie season is here! It’s only April, you say? Snow and skiing slowly giving way to Mud Season ruts a’plenty? True enough—but in the theaters, we’re off to a blistering early season action movie extravaganza, marked by the release of the nearly 2 ½ hour adrenalin-powered mayhem that is “Fast and Furious 7.” For those of you unfamiliar with one of the most successful Hollywood action movie franchises of all time, here’s a quick primer. The seven (?!) “Fast and Furious” films are built on a preposterous proposition: take a merry multiracial posse of sports-car-racing outlaws and watch them evolve
into an elite global task force capable of executing the most exotic super-secret spy missions with a nod, a wink and a snap of their uber-buff fingers. Captained by the gravelly-voiced Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel, all muscle), assisted by FBI rogue agent Bryan O’Conner (the ill-fated actor Paul Walker, who died in a real life car crash as Furious 7 finished filming) and the aptlynamed agent Hobbs (franchisefriendly Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the pearly-white-toothed body builder whose biceps are as big as my entire body), the Furious team graduate from desert “race war” car events (FF1) to, in this latest seventh installment, a global race/chase to obtain the “God’s Eye” global surveillance program, designed by “Ramsey” (Nathalie Emmanuel), the sexiest hacker ever seen in a Hollywood film movie (Mark Zuckerberg, eat your heart out). Along the way, Team FF faces evil villains (Jason Statham plays his “legitimate English badass” character to the hilt) and execute the most spectacular extended
stunts ever seen on the silver screen. The two most stunning? A fifteen-minute action sequence that BEGINS with an army of cars parachuting out of a giant transport plane over Azerbaijan’s Caucasus mountains, and ENDS with, well, I don’t want to give it away. How to top this? Drive a sports car at high speed through the near-top of all THREE Etihad Towers in downtown Dubai—one after another—in a tux. Truly. And oh yes, a celebration of the surveillance state—from device-by-device global reconnaissance to the power of drones to track and destroy. U.S. imperial planners must LOVE this film. Never mind that the acting is mediocre, the plot absurd, the editing clumsy, or that “Escape From New York” B Movie actor Kurt Russell makes an extended appearance (as “Mr. Nobody”— indeed). This is Hollywood, baby! “Furious” has it all: fast cars, short skirts, mountains of bling, super-exotic locations (London, Tokyo, Azerbaijan, Dubai, and the Caribbean) , a killer soundtrack, and a gorgeous cast of characters who are “family”—which is to
say, they are loyal to each other to the end. Indeed, ironically, the film’s underlying message is about looking out for family above all else—an odd but oddly home’y statement for an action film of this sort to make. If any of this sounds appealing,
then do NOT miss this film on the big screen. The vertigo-inducing stunts in “Furious 7” are truly spectacular—worth the price of admission, plus the popcorn. And if you are a Furious fan, the cast’s tribute to actor Paul Walker’s passing at film’s finale is truly moving in
a strangely powerful way—art mirroring life once again. “Furious 7” sets a very high (and fast) bar for mindless escapist action-adventure this coming blockbuster movie season. Strap on your helmets, buckle your seat belts, and we’ll see you at the movies this summer.
Students marching beneath the "Carbon Bubble" at The People’s Climate March. Photo: Dylan Kelley 350.org
CLAIMING VERMONT’S COMMONS: FROM “BANANA REPUBLIC” TO SOVEREIGN COMMONWEALTH BY GARY FLOMENHOFT
believe Vermont should be an “owner” state. You might say that Vermont was founded in a battle over ownership rights, as Vermonters led by Ethan Allen enforced their New Hampshire land grants against competing claims by absentee NY landlords with titles from New York state. Ethan and the Green Mountain Boys ran the New York claimants out of town multiple times at gunpoint and occasionally torched their property between 1771 and 1774. Ethan won the battle, but we’ve lost the war for ownership over our property to out-of-state owners. They’re not taking our land this time, just everything else. Maybe you didn’t notice or maybe you’ve succumbed to the prevailing dogma of market fundamentalism that says the market should decide everything. If Ethan did that we’d be living in New York. Recall that the courts ruled consistently in favor of New York’s claims, and Vermont even had to pay compensation to New York when it became a state. Some say the Vermont Republic joined the union to settle New York land claims, and get the New York landlords off their backs. New York is not called “The Empire State” for nothing. Nowadays empires are formed not by invasion, but through legal and economic means.
“Do you hear that big sucking sound of our money flowing out of state?” While you weren’t looking, Vermont became a colony to out-of-state corporations, a banana republic without the bananas. To prove it, let me lay out the facts and define an owner state:
OUTSIDE OWNERSHIP OF VERMONT’S ASSETS The prevailing economic pattern in Vermont has been likened to a “leaky bucket.” Out-of-state companies, primarily from Canada, own most of the profitable resources of the state (listed at right), which is more typical of an underdeveloped colony than a modern state. Vermont prides itself on its “buy local” culture, but banking and other out-of-state industries extract profit from the state on a massive scale. This does not seem to be compatible with the self-reliant ethic of the state. Paraphrasing Ross Perot, “Do you hear that big sucking sound of our money flowing out of state?” Alaska was once confronted by this situation. Maybe it was more obvious, as outside fishing interests, especially huge factory ships from Japan and other countries liquidated fish stocks leaving local fishers impoverished.
owns: of VT’s natural gas company
of VT electrical utilites
LIST OF OUTSIDE OWNERSHIP OF VERMONT’S ASSETS:
Here’s what former governor Wally Hickel said in 2009 at the age of 90, to a conference in Durban, South Africa. “In Alaska we live on the commons. We benefit from the commons. We care for the commons. From common ownership of our land and our resources, has emerged a new model for modern society. We call ourselves the Owner State. And what we own is the commons. We believe our model surpasses both capitalism and socialism. When this approach is understood, worldwide, there will be no legitimate reason for poverty; especially in Africa, a continent so rich in resources. This year , Alaska marks its 50th anniversary as one of the 50 United States. But we are different from all the others. Prior to statehood, we were a colony, and a helpless victim of mining, fishing, and shipping monopolies. They plundered our resources, and left our people ignorant and in poverty. Just as multinationals today plunder South America, Asia, and Africa, sucking the wealth from the resource-rich wealth commons, leaving the rightful owners hungry and destitute… I urge you to study the building blocks of the Owner State. We are far from perfect but our experience can be helpful as you reclaim your commons.”
• Gaz Metro (Quebec) owns 100% of VT’s natural gas company—Vermont Gas • Gaz Metro (Quebec) owns Green Mountain Power (GMP) and Central Vermont Public Service, Co (CVPS): 70% of VT electrical utilities, which gives... • ...Gaz Metro (Quebec) majority control of VELCO transmission lines • Trans Canada (Ontario) owns the vast majority of hydropower in Vermont: 580MW on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers. All power generated is sent to Massachusetts, none to VT, as there is no major electrical connection within the state • OMYA (Swiss) owns most of the mineral rights in VT • Ice River Springs’ (Ontario) plant in Pittsfield, MA bottles over 90% of bottled water produced from VT’s water • More than $1 billion leaves the state annually to pay for energy like motor fuel and heating oil
It was the experience of foreign factory ships liquidating fish stocks such as salmon in Bristol Bay that led Republican Governor Jay Hammond to create the Permanent Fund and dividend when the oil industry came in. After huge oil reserves were discovered on the North Slope, he wanted to avoid a repeat of the fishing debacle, where better-financed foreign companies dominated an industry and left the locals destitute. Alaska created the owner state, where citizens own the oil, not oil companies. The state collects 12-15% royalties for oil extraction, some of which is placed in a trust fund; a sovereign wealth fund called the Alaska Permanent Fund. Residents receive a dividend check every year from interest on the fund. By contrast, Vermont collects nothing for use of any of its natural resources, one of only 11 states who don’t .
• TD Bank (Ontario) has 22% market share of deposits in Vermont and... • ...TD Bank (Ontario) receives 2/3 of Vermont state cash funds as deposits ($236 million), which it can use to leverage credit globally • Out-of-state headquartered banks (led by People’s United and TD Bank) have a 64% market share of deposits in Vermont, compared with 23% share for out-of-state banks in North Dakota, which has its own state bank 
FDIC Share of Deposit (SOD) Report for Vermont, June 30, 2013
Sailing into Vermont’s independent future. Photo: Gary Flomenhoft 
By the way, that includes use of the atmosphere as a dump for pollution, including CO2 and other greenhouse gasses. Emission fees are very low for toxics to non-existent for carbon. The closest comparison to Alaskan oil in the Vermont energy sector, are the major dams in Vermont and on the Connecticut River bordering New Hampshire, 580 Megawatts worth. Consider the peak load in the entire state is around 1100MW. Local towns such as Bellows Falls and Rockingham tried to buy their dams, but were out-bid by the better-financed TransCanada Corporation. The dams came up for sale during the Douglas administration, but Douglas opposed acquisition by the state, or offering any assistance to towns or local firms. Let the market decide, he said. Look at nearly any valuable resource in Vermont, and you will find it has out of state owners. This does not just apply to natural resources, it extends to other assets such as broadcast spectrum, Internet service providers, banks, real estate, and the list goes on. When government revenue is not collected on common wealth, then government turns to taxing private wealth and income, which is a greater violation of property rights. Note that Alaska has no 
income or sales tax, and receives over 80% of its revenue from natural resources, on top of having the Permanent Fund and oil dividend. The discussion of taxes in Vermont usually revolves around how much or how little to tax income and sales, rather than other options like rent on natural resources and other common assets. What should Vermont do to become an owner state? Start by collecting rent for use of common wealth, and then gradually take back ownership of assets within the state from foreign corporations. We calculated total rent from common wealth could generate as much as $10,000 per person in Vermont . What are these assets? Minerals, water, land, broadcast spectrum, hydropower, fish and wildlife, air emissions, forests, bank seigniorage, stock speculation, wind, etc. Cut taxes on productive enterprise, but not on speculation in stocks, bonds, and real estate. Create a sovereign wealth fund to protect our commonwealth for the future. Put our state and local revenue in public banks for investment in Vermont. Pay dividends to citizens to alleviate poverty. In this manner Vermont can become an owner state, instead of a resource colony of Canada, which it is now.
Exporting the Alaska Model: Adapting the Permanent Fund Dividend for Reform around the World. Eds. Karl Widerquist and Michael Howard. PalgraveMacmillan, St. Martinâ€™s Press, NY, NY 2012. Pages 85-107)
THE NEXT REVOLUTION: BOOKCHIN IS BACK! By Pete Garritano
he Next Revolution is a recently released compilation of posthumously-published essays by political thinker and former Burlington resident Murray Bookchin. Murray’s daughter Debbie edited the book, and although Bookchin passed away in 2006, his wife Bea still lives in the area and the book is dedicated to her. The nine essays were written between 1990 and 2002, and serve as a summary of Bookchin’s evolving political philosophy. A first-time Bookchin reader would be best served scanning the book and reviewing unfamiliar terminology before diving in. Murray selects best practices from communism, Marxism, libertarianism, socialism, and other ideologies to offer solutions to our failed political system. Chapter one, written near the end of his life, describes communalism, which Bookchin likens to socialism for the 21st century. He critiques capitalism and its “grow or die” mantra, which is causing the destruction of the earth’s ecosystems and possibly life on earth. Libertarian municipalism, another of Bookchin’s ideas, is the return of control to the local community. It is the basis of “communalism” and encompasses such aspects as economic decisions of the community which would be made by local council and assemblies, not a larger state. Bookchin believes that the dismantling of the current capitalist economic model and its replacement with communalism is of utmost importance. Without this profound political shift, Bookchin suggests there can be no chance for a rational society based on the needs of everyone. The book’s next chapters focus on social ecology. One of Bookchin’s basic tenets promotes a kind of environmentalism that does not pander to state institutions, but once again relies on individuals as a foundation for success. Bookchin points to the failures of the Green Party and their adherence to the current corrupt political system as
the main cause for the failure of the movement. He also suggests that a federation of communes all tied in to municipalities rather than the state would offer more rational solutions not based solely on capital accumulation. A capitalist economy is at direct odds with a rational sustainable ecological model. Face to face democracy, decentralization, localism, and self-sustainability are all discussed in chapters relating to Bookchin’s main theme: libertarian municipalism. These ideas all seem very familiar to Vermonters and especially secessionists, but as Bookchin repeatedly points out, these concepts rely on the dissolution of the statist model. Many Vermont citizens advocating for a Second Vermont Republic (Secessionists) support such restructuring. Unlike secessionists, however, Bookchin believes Vermont could continue to remain part of the United States even after making these deep
political and structural transformations. The final chapters deal with nationalism, anarchism, and the future of the
left. Bookchin explains how these ideas have evolved over the past century. Nationalism almost always involves statism and results in war. Bookchin points out that nationalism should never trump human interest and the need for a just society In the final chapter, which is entitled “The Future of the Left,” Bookchin also reviews the history of the left as a workers rights movement. He points out that in today’s capitalist economy, we have the wealthy well off, the comfortable, and the poor. The first three groups have no need or desire to be part of radical change and the fourth has not the means or opportunity. He implores the left to shake off dead traditions like capital accumulation and expansion. In conclusion, Bookchin states that progressive advancements in knowledge, science, ethics, and enlightenment will lead to the development of a rational and rounded civilization. Sandy Baird, a professor at Burlington College, often attended talks held by Bookchin and still meets with his widow Bea occasionally. She recalls that one of Bookchin’s main contributions to thought was the idea that as humans progress, they are increasingly able to live with more freedom, explicitly freedom from the state, which includes, rather idealistically, all domination and hierarchy. Bookchin’s main ideas stressed personal freedom, which he believed could not be achieved within the confines of an authoritarian system like the state. He believed that humans were reasonable and possessed consciences, and therefore would be able to build reasonable institutions and reasonable societies if they chose to do so. Some critics have taken Bookchin to task for being too utopian. Next Revolution readers can engage with this posthumous collection, which offers an accessible window into one of Vermont’s most radical political philosophers, and decide for themselves.
CCTA strike, a driver speaking to the crowd at a victory rally. Photo by Dylan Kelley.
FOOD & DRINK
Local food movements are trending across the country. For some, it’s the next “in” thing to do, but for many Vermonters, supporting local agriculture has been a way of life long before it was trendy. So where does the term “food system” fit in when talking about local food? Everyone from academics to government officials are referring more to food systems when discussing sustainable agriculture, the future of farms, how to feed our growing population, and food equity challenges. Also referred to geographically as a food shed, the food system includes all components of how food is produced and distributed—everything from farm viability and labor costs to consumer demand and food access to education and energy. Our current food system is out of balance. We are far too reliant on food grown and distributed outside of our region and decisions made outside of our control. Even in locally-conscious Vermont, only an estimated 5% of the food consumed by Vermonters is actually produced here. There are seven core areas that comprise the food system, and all of them need to work in harmony to successfully relocalize Vermont’s food system:
Nutrient management is the effective use of nutrients--primarily nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium—from food waste, livestock manure, cover crops, and synthetic fertilizer to other amendments that minimize negative impacts of nutrient losses on the environment while providing sufficient nutrients for crop and animal growth throughout their life cycles.
2) Farm inputs are resources such as land, soil, fertilizer, animal feed, seed, labor, equipment, and energy that are essential for food production. Inputs are the expenses of a farm, and so changes in input costs have a significant effect on the viability of a farm.
Production is the actual activity of growing and raising food which includes different scales of production (e.g., small, medium, large) for different markets (direct to consumer, retail, wholesale). Major categories include dairy production, livestock grown for meat, maple syrup, fruits and vegetables, grains, honey, beer, hard cider, spirits, wine, and fish. Processing converts raw produce and animal products into added value food that can be transported longer distances, keep longer on store shelves, and meet consumer demands.
Wholesale distribution is the aggregation and resale of food to institutional, commercial, and retail (e.g., restaurants and supermarkets) markets.
Retail distribution is the selling of food direct to either consumers through CSAs, farmers’ markets, and farm stands or direct to retail locations including grocery stores, country stores, food co-ops, schools, hospitals, and restaurants. Consumer demand drives the marketplace. Where our food comes from and where people buy food are key variables for understanding how to boost consumer demand for local food products.
The entire state of Vermont has pulled together to develop the most comprehensive food system plan in the country to strengthen the working landscape, improve the profitability of farms and food enterprises, maintain environmental resilience, and increase local food access for all Vermonters. Known as Vermont’s Farm to Plate Initiative, the state is now in its fourth year out of ten where businesses, government, and non-profits are working together to develop Vermont’s
farm and food economy that builds upon the Vermont brand and our working landscape. Vermont’s rich agricultural heritage and traditions helped pave the way for Vermont to be a national leader in the local food movement. Embracing the past while educating ourselves on the current state of our food system will empower us to work together to grow our farm and food economy and increase access to local food for all Vermonters—both goals of Vermont’s Farm to Plate Initiative. To build upon our role as a national leader in the local food movement, it is becoming increasingly important to support “regional” after “Vermont” as the Northeast works to define the regional food shed. Each of the New England states is participating in the “New England Food Vision”—an aspiration for New England to produce at least 50 percent of its food by 2060. The regional food system approach is what will ultimately move the dial and bring a broken system back into balance. Learn more about how Vermont is relocalizing how food gets from farm to plate, both in our state and the region at www.VTFarmtoPlate.com.
PROGRESSIVE ECLIPSE: BURLINGTON AFTER
This series examines one of the most successful progressive movements in the last half century, its charismatic leader Bernie Sanders, and its loss of local power and direction. It is being released in weekly installments by the Campaign for Preservation & Change at http://gregguma.blogspot.com/
BY GREG GUMA
It’s time for a change. Real change.” That was Bernie Sanders’ slogan in his 1981 campaign for Mayor of Burlington. The race had begun as a long shot but Bernie turned his shoestring operation into a real challenge. Nevertheless, even on March 3, 1981, Vermont Town Meeting Day, the incumbent and the local Democratic “old guard” still expected a decisive victory. After all, Ronald Reagan had been elected President only four months earlier. Sanders was no threat, they assumed, nothing more than an upstart leftist with a gift for attracting media attention. He wanted open government, Sanders said, and different development priorities. He opposed an upscale Waterfront project and an Interstate access road to downtown. He supported Rent Control. “Burlington is not for sale,” he declared. “I am extremely concerned about the current trend of urban development. If present trends continue, the City of Burlington will be converted into an area in which only the wealthy and upper-middle class will be able to afford to live.” The incumbent mayor, Gordon Paquette, was a working class guy from an “inner city” ward who had grown up delivering bread and started his political career in 1958 as a Democratic alderman. By managing a patronagebased coalition known as the Republicrats, he had reached what turned out to be the pinnacle
of his power as Burlington mayor from 1971 to 1981. People called him Gordie, a street-smart political operator who knew how to appeal to Irish and French Canadian residents while meeting the needs of the business community. Comparisons with Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley were not uncommon. But demolition of an ethnic neighborhood near the Waterfront and a “master plan” to replace it with an underground mall, hotel and office complex had made him some enemies. Cracks in the façade of public calm slowly opened toward the end of the 1970s. Speculation drove up land values and rents, deepening the city’s chronic housing shortage. A restless youth culture emerged. Despite decent commercial growth, revenues couldn’t keep pace with the need for services. And the next steps in the city’s “urban redevelopment” vision would be disruptive—a highway into the center of the city, private waterfront development, and a pedestrian mall in the heart of downtown. The total cost, including public and private funding, was projected at more than $50 million. The local atmosphere was anxious and unsettled. In January 1981, Paquette was nominated after a caucus fight for a sixth term. In previous races he had sometimes run unopposed. This time he prevailed in the caucus over Richard Bove, owner of the popular local Italian restaurant that bore his name. Afterward, Bove bolted the party to run as an Independent. Since Paquette was still a Republicrat at
heart Republican leaders decided not to oppose him and instead banked on his re-election. His main opponent became Sanders, a former “third party” radical running as an Independent who opposed Paquette’s proposed 10 percent increase in property taxes and promised to work for tax reform. He had never before run for local office, or even attended an entire City Council meeting. The recently formed Citizens Party, which had backed environmentalist Barry Commoner in the 1980 presidential election, ran three candidates for the Council, also known as the Board of Aldermen. The incumbents generally attempted to ignore their opponents, assuming that these electoral activists had no chance of upsetting the status quo. But Bernie Sanders was hard to ignore, and local leaders of both major parties underestimated the growing influence of neighborhood groups, housing and anti-redevelopment activists, young people, the elderly, and the city’s countercultural newcomers. They also shrugged off the possibility that some of Paquette’s past supporters might want to send him a message. By the time Sanders and the mayor finally faced each other over a folding table at the Unitarian Church tempers were hot. Bernie exploited rising local anger by linking the mayor with Antonio Pomerleau, the whitehaired godfather of Vermont shopping center development. Pomerleau was leading in efforts to turn Burlington’s largely
Bernie Sanders takes the oath of office as mayor in Burlington, Vermont, April 6, 1981.
vacant waterfront into a site for commercial and condominium development.
Two, the same place that had given Paquette his first term on the City Council 23 years earlier.
“I’m not with the big money men,” Paquette protested. Frustrated and desperate to counter-attack, he warned that if Sanders became mayor Burlington would become like Brooklyn. He looked honestly shocked when people hissed at him.
Prior to Sanders and the Progressives, Burlington had become a cultural backwater run by an aging generation, unresponsive to the changing needs of the community. If you attended a council meeting the first question often was, “How long have you lived here?” Political competition was the exception. Clannish Democrats and compliant Republicans made the rules.
On March 3, with a few thousand dollars, a handful of volunteers and a vague reform agenda, Bernie Sanders won the race for mayor by just ten votes. Burlington had elected a “radical,” a self-described socialist who was determined to change the course of Vermont history. A Citizens Party candidate for the City Council, Terry Bouricius, meanwhile became the first member of the party elected anywhere in the country. In an odd twist, Bouricius won in Ward
The next three decades proved just how much the political establishment underestimated Sanders’ appeal, not to mention the potential for a progressive movement in the city and across the state. By 2011, the Queen City was known nationally for its radical mystique and “livability,” transformed from a
provincial town into a cultural Mecca, socially conscious and highly charged. Over the years Burlington’s progressives not only consolidated a base in local government, they challenged the accepted relationship between communities and the state, and helped fuel a statewide progressive surge. They also weathered the storms of succession struggle. Three progressive mayors managed Burlington for 29 of the 31 years after Sanders’ first win. Although Democrats continued to dominate the City Council during most of that time, and a Republican candidate for mayor could still win, a multi-party political system had changed the shape and style of city government, and, beyond that, fundamentally altered Vermont’s political landscape. next chapter, next page
FEATURE A LEGACY AT RISK October 6, 2011
It was hard to ignore the rumblings of a political upheaval. Another election for mayor was coming up in Vermont’s largest city, a multi-million dollar Burlington Telecom lawsuit accused the administration of fraud and breach of contract, and the mayor faced widespread criticism—often from within his own Progressive Party base. The atmosphere was as volatile as it had been in three decades.
and now perhaps the party’s best hope for an alliance with Democrats. There was also Assistant Housing Director Brian Pine, another former member of the council, and Ward 3 Progressive Councilor Emma Mulvaney-Stanak. Mayor Kiss was mum about his plans, even at Party meetings. But the push for someone to challenge him, along with an upsurge in local activism on issues like his attempt to forge a climate change
Four candidates to replace Mayor Bob Kiss had announced by early October, and at least three more were considering it. The official list included three Democrats—Airport Commissioner Miro Weinberger, State Representative Bob Kiss and Kurt Wright. Jason Lorber and City Councilor Bram partnership with Lockheed Kranichfeld—and one Republican, Martin, pointed to a tumultuous Kurt Wright, a council member winter political season. No matter and state lawmaker who had come what the weather, the upcoming close to beating Kiss three years debates were sure to be heated, earlier. tense and well-attended. All of them were hammering Kiss about BT finances and other examples of what they considered the administration’s mismanagement, deceit and failure to communicate. One of the possible contenders was State Senator Tim Ashe, a former City Council Progressive
Questions were also being raised about the election process itself, specifically about whether people should continue running with party labels. In September the City Council had narrowly rejected a resolution to look at changing the city charter to eliminate party designations
for mayoral and City Council contests, but only after a debate so intense that Board President Bill Keogh had to angrily hammer his gavel and call a halt. The discussion highlighted the unique nature of Burlington’s political landscape, three political parties uneasily sharing legislative power, and an executive branch run by Progressives for all but two of the last 30 years. It had all begun in March 1981 when Bernie Sanders unseated long-term incumbent Democrat Gordon Paquette by just 10 votes. Three decades later, despite agreeing with Progressives on many issues, local Democrats saw a strong chance of recapturing the city’s most powerful job for the first time in decades. The reasons for their optimism: Burlington’s finances were in trouble and the mayor was unpopular, widely considered neither accountable nor transparent enough. On September 16, that view received a boost when Moody’s Investors Service warned that the city’s financial woes could lead to a further downgrade in its credit rating. At Miro Weinberger’s campaign announcement on September 13, held next door to City Hall in a former firehouse managed by Burlington City Arts, the first-time candidate charged that Mayor Kiss had put the city in “an exceptionally poor
negotiating position.” An apparent reluctance to discuss the details of Burlington Telecom finances had “left a mood of anger and anxiety about our future,” he charged. The 41-year-old housing developer also criticized the administration’s failure to secure funding before starting on a $14 million airport parking lot expansion.
Kurt Wright had made his official announcement on September 18 during appearances on a morning TV news program and local radio talk. Also promising to restore trust and credibility, he said, “Job No. 1 for me will be to restore fiscal responsibility to the city and restore our credit rating.” As a Republican who had run twice before, he knew that the less people thought about party allegiances the better chance he had with what had become
Jason Lorber, the first candidate to enter the race, had a similar critique. Weighing in on the Telecom lawsuit, the state legislator and gay rights activist, who made a living as a consultant and standup comedian, said BT’s woes were a prime example of the need for change. Although promising not to assign blame, he nevertheless accused the mayor of failing to be sufficiently open about city affairs. Local residents “don’t want decisions being made behind closed Jason Lorber was first. doors,” he charged. On his campaign website, Bram Kranichfeld, a criminal prosecutor at the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office, defined himself as “the people’s choice” and said he wanted to “restore trust, accountability and fiscal responsibility.” At 31, he was the youngest candidate, and counted among his backers a former Democratic mayoral candidate, Paul Lafayette. Although Kranichfeld had opposed the move to drop party designations, he frequently talked about a “nonpartisan approach.”
over the years a decidedly liberal electorate.
Politics by the numbers When Mayor Peter Clavelle decided to retire in late 2005 after 15 years in office, he and his allies didn’t believe that another Progressive could be elected, or that the local party would long survive. As a result, a number of local progressive figures decided to endorse Hinda Miller, a Democratic state legislator and entrepreneur running to succeed
him. The leaders of Burlington’s Progressive Party weren’t willing to accept that prognosis, however, and turned to Kiss, a veteran human services bureaucrat and state legislator. He ended up beating Miller by about 9 percent and became the first Burlington mayor elected using instant runoff voting. Rumors circulated that some GOP supporters were urged privately to give Kiss their second place vote rather than indirectly help the Democrat. In any case, the conclusion that the city’s progressive era was over proved to be premature. In office Kiss continued along a pragmatic, sometimes progressive path— lean budgets, “modest growth” and innovations like BT, a municipal cable, phone and Internet service operation. Business Week called Burlington one of the best places “to raise your kids,” and the Centers for Disease Control crowned it the nation’s “healthiest city.” In the 2009 race, despite various political affiliations, five mayoral candidates embraced a similar mixture of liberal rhetoric and practical proposals that first emerged during the Sanders era. Wright talked about leadership and Democrat Andy Montroll argued that Burlington was “coasting along.” Neither questioned how the city was being run.
FEATURE there were only two Progressives, both representing Ward 3, heart of the city and once a Democratic stronghold. Kiss was beleaguered from both the right and left by criticisms about openness, finances and BT, a major progressive initiative at risk of being sold or sparking a major financial crisis. Thirty years after Sanders first local victory Democrats dominated the Council, and along with Republicans, envisioned a return to executive power. Standing, Miro Weinberger; watching at right, Tim Ashe, Jason Lorber and Bram Kranichfeld.
During one debate, Montroll said that the best course was to focus on “what we have,” while Independent challenger Dan Smith stressed the need to “reinvent ourselves” in a “post-partisan” era. The only substantive criticism of Kiss revolved around his handling of accounting and personnel matters. In the end, 8,980 people voted— about 1,000 less than had three years earlier—and Kiss was reelected. In the initial IRV count, however, Wright received 2,951 votes, beating Kiss by almost 400. In the second round of the runoff, the votes of independent Dan Smith and Green Party candidate James Simpson were redistributed to the remaining three. Wright was still ahead, with 3,294 votes to 2,981 for Kiss. But when Montroll’s votes were redistributed for a third round, Kiss pulled ahead with 4,313, beating Wright’s 4,061. The
Republican’s supporters were not pleased and mounted a campaign to repeal IRV, which they succeeded in doing by 52 to 48 percent the following year. In 2012, the race would be decided the old way, the top vote-getter over 40 percent. The question was whether Kiss would even seek a third term. He was no longer popular or even trusted with many locals, and seemed tired of the games. But even if he opted out, the Progressive Party faced an uphill battle with almost any candidate. That’s why politicians like Ashe, with ties to both Progressives and Democrats, were being recruited, and why Pine talked about reaching out beyond the base. Burlington’s “third party” had evolved from an informal coalition after Sanders became mayor into part of a statewide electoral organization. At its height, it had almost half the seats on the City Council. But in 2011
As Bernie put it back in 1981, it was time for a change—real change.
WHEN LOCKHEED CAME TO TOWN The chances were never great that Vermont’s popular US Senator, widely known as an Independent, a socialist and a congressional hero of the left—would run for President in 2012. But that didn’t stop people from talking about it—and not for the first time. In Bernie Sanders’ old political stomping grounds, however, populist anger was aimed at the overtures he and Mayor Bob Kiss were making to Lockheed Martin and Sandia Laboratories. On August 8, 2011 after six months of debate, the City Council had voted 8-6 in favor of nonbinding community standards for proposed climate-change partnerships, prompted by an agreement between the mayor and Lockheed. The resolution called for standards which, if they were followed, would exclude working
with weapons manufacturers and environmental polluters. After the vote Kiss was defiant. Discussions with the corporation would continue, he announced. The city attorney added that the mayor wasn’t bound by the Council’s decision in pursuing such an executivelevel agreement. Nevertheless, a few weeks later the talks ended. Apparently aware of the local mood, the defense contractor backed out of the deal in an e-mail message to the Burlington Free Press. As Lockheed spokesman Rob Fuller put it politely, “While several projects showed promise initially and we have learned a tremendous amount from each other, we were unable to develop a mutually beneficial implementation plan. Therefore Lockheed Martin has decided to conclude the current collaboration.” It sounded like a Dear John letter—and a bow to public pressure. In reality, the courtship was just beginning. Sanders refused to comment. But his typical view of corporate criminals and wasteful military spending was well known; in fact, it was part of what had made him a compelling figure. Consider his fiery speech in October 2009 on the floor of the US Senate, taking on Lockheed Martin and other top military contractors for what he called “systemic, illegal, and fraudulent behavior, while receiving hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money.”
Among the crimes he mentioned were these: Lockheed Martin had defrauded the government by inflating the cost of several Air Force contracts, lied about the costs when negotiating contracts for the repairs on US warships, and submitted false invoices for payment on a multi-billion dollar contract connected to the Titan IV space launch vehicle program. Sanders called the corporation a “repeat offender” that rarely faced serious penalties. “It is absurd that year after year after year, these companies continue doing the same things and they continue to get away with it,” he proclaimed. And yet he had invited Sandia Laboratories, which is managed by Lockheed Martin for the Department of Defense, to establish a satellite lab in Vermont. In fact, he’d been working with Vermont utilities, energy enterprises, the university and business leaders on the plan for more than two years. Sanders also accepted the proposal that Lockheed-built F-35s be based in the future at the Burlington International Airport. If the fighter jet, widely considered a massive boondoggle, was going to be built, Sanders argued that some of the work should be done by Vermonters (Rutland’s GE plant had contracts to build an engine) and Vermont National Guard jobs should be protected. In other words, he was just bringing home some “bacon” for his state. Sanders first visited Sandia’s headquarters in New Mexico in
2008. “At the end of the day,” recalled Les Shephard, Sandia vice president for energy, resources and nonproliferation, “he turned to the laboratory director and said, ‘I’d really like to have a set of capabilities like Sandia in New England—and very much so in Vermont.’ And that’s how it all evolved.” Despite concerns about Lockheed’s consistently bad behavior Sanders didn’t think inviting a subsidiary to the state would help them get away with anything. Rather, he envisioned Vermont transformed “into a real-world lab for the entire nation” through a strategic publicprivate partnership. “We’re at the beginning of something that could be of extraordinary significance to Vermont and the rest of the country,” he predicted. It was a highly optimistic picture: Businesses, ratepayers and researchers would get a boost, a Department of Energy planning grant would jump start the research, and more government support would follow as the project gained steam. Sandia Vice President Richard Stulen meanwhile confirmed Sanders’ pledge that no weapons development work would be involved. The focus, they promised, would be cutting edge research on cyber security, “smart grid” technology and stopping hacker attacks. Sandia’s motivation? As Stulen explained it, Vermont’s small, compact energy infrastructure was an “ideal place” to create a model for the rest of the country.
FEATURE The Feds were impressed with the work underway on forwardlooking renewable energy technology and a willingness to “tinker with related policies and regulations.” Sandia defined the lab’s mission as energy “security.” For Vermont, the carrot was the prospect of jobs and a chance for local enterprises to get a “global competitive edge.” The letter of cooperation between Mayor Kiss and Lockheed made a similar argument. Lockheed Martin Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Dr. Ray O. Johnson stressed national security and “the economic and strategic challenges posed by our dependence on foreign oil and the potential destabilizing effects of climate change.” A local partnership, he said, would “demonstrate a model for sustainability that can be replicated across the nation.” Kiss insisted that the climate crisis required radical action, while Sanders felt comfortable simply ignoring his critics. Yet both claimed, remarkably, that they never discussed or coordinated their positions. Cracks in the Coalition Mayor Kiss claimed that his introduction to the idea of a partnership with the corporate giant began in Richard Branson’s
“Carbon War Room.” The result was a Dec. 20, 2010 “letter of cooperation” signed with Lockheed Martin to address climate change by developing green-energy solutions. The plan was vague, mentioning only “sustainable business models” and analysis, and “energy and transportation technologies.” Yet Kiss envisioned future fuel efficient vehicles, improving the use of steam from the cityowned generating station, and generally turning “swords into ploughshares.”
Despite years of anti-corporate, peace movement rhetoric the two main elected leaders of the state’s progressive movement had both decided to make research and development deals with a powerful corporation—one that many people considered a war profiteer and a corporate criminal. It was no shock that this policy “coincidence” set off a local revolt and a period of self-assessment. Military contracts represent less than five percent of Vermont
GDP, but substantially more in the Champlain Valley, home base for the two largest recipients, General Dynamics and Simmonds Precision. Between 2000 and 2011 around 600 companies received $7 billion in contracts. Chittenden County was the big winner but there were smaller businesses employing people in almost every Vermont County, producing guns, ammunition, “quick reaction” equipment, explosive components, missiles and aircraft parts. The main Congressional booster for military contract jobs was Vermont’s senior US senator, Patrick Leahy, who frequently made appearances at factories to announce big contracts. On the other hand, Burlington also had a rich history of social activism. In fact, over three decades it developed a series of progressive foreign policy initiatives. As Ken Picard explained in the weekly Seven Days, the debate over Lockheed Martin touched on “a bigger issue about Burlington identity and the corporations with which it chooses to associate: Given the dire predictions about imminent and catastrophic climate change, should the city accept Lockheed Martin’s technical help, and ample dollars, in the interest of achieving the greater good?
“Or, should Burlington refuse to lend its name and reputation to help burnish the image of the world’s largest maker of weapons of mass destruction? In short, is Lockheed Martin ‘beating swords into ploughshares,’ as Mayor Kiss had characterized it, or engaging in corporate greenwashing at Burlington’s expense?” Those weren’t easy questions to answer, or even discuss. But an early opportunity came on February 7, 2011. City Hall’s Contois Auditorium was crowded that night as the Council considered the mayor’s deal with Lockheed. In a scene reminiscent of the early days of the Sanders era, dozens of local residents told their leaders why they didn’t like the idea. An August follow up attracted a similar audience and the same concerns. The proposed arrangement reinforced emerging questions about Progressive leadership. After Kiss was re-elected in 2009 major financial trouble was uncovered in the financing and operation of Burlington Telecom. Without public notification $17 million had been borrowed from city coffers to build the system. The apparent plan was to get new commercial financing that would allow repayment, then announce the violation of the utility’s license to the Department of Public Service. BT also borrowed $33.5 million from CitiBank, and wasn’t able to handle the payments. By September, 2011 the municipal enterprise was under interim management and actively looking for a private partner. But the
prospects for finding a “white knight” while holding onto a public stake weren’t bright, and the scandal had meanwhile damaged the mayor’s reputation, not to mention the future prospects of his Party. With that backdrop, left-leaning residents and younger activists were shocked and upset that the administration also wanted to partner with a corporation that Sanders himself considered one of the biggest corporate predators— number one in contractor misconduct with 57 violations and $577 million in fines and settlements. In February, the City Council had instructed Kiss to put the deal on hold until they had more information and a public hearing was held. Their resolution also called for serious effort on climate change and local standards for companies hoping to work with the city. The mayor ignored them. At the same time Sanders flatly refused to discuss the situation, avoiding interviews about Lockheed, F-35s or his alliance with Sandia. And when he was finally caught off-guard at a speech in Boston a few days after the February City Council vote and asked about local objections in Burlington, he testily told the inquiring journalist he was just misinformed. There was simply no opposition in Burlington, the senator said. In any case, the City Council had voted to set standards for partnerships that clearly excluded a corporation like Lockheed Martin. And opposing that policy
were a coalition of conservative Democrats and Republicans, including mayoral candidate Kurt Wright. That put the city’s Progressive mayor and the movement’s de facto leader on the same side as hawks and other conservatives. The anti-Lockheed resolution was proposed by another Progressive, Mulvaney-Stanak, and was backed by the only other Council Progressive and several Democrats, including Ed Adrian, a frequent critic of the Kiss administration who proposed outright rejection of Lockheed. The overall dynamic dramatized a developing rift between the base of both parties and their leadership. By October, it looked as if Kurt Wright might actually win the upcoming mayoral race. Even if Kiss opted not to run again—or was rejected at a Progressive Caucus—his party needed to heal some serious divisions and find a way forward. Once again, some Progressive “thought leaders” were coming to the conclusion that their best hope was a sympathetic Democrat. If they didn’t find the right one, the coalition that had launched Sanders and changed Vermont politics could lose control of local government, perhaps permanently. Others were more cynical, speculating that it might be better for progressives—at least in the long run—if in the short run a Republican ran City Hall.
next chapter, next page
BURLINGTON GETS OCCUPIED Thousands of people were taking to the streets, protesting the growing global disparity of wealth and income. Beginning on Wall Street a decentralized rebellion had spread nationwide, and was on the verge of turning into a significant multi-issue mobilization. By October 2011, the fledgling movement had reached at least 150 communities across the country and more overseas. In the nation’s capital a
group calling itself Occupy DC set up camp in McPherson Square, a few blocks from the White House; more events were being planned from New York and Boston to Chicago, Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco. In Burlington, hundreds of people began to gather as part of the broader uprising, giving voice to local anger about economic inequality and the excesses of banks and economic elites. Inspired and emboldened by the wave of protests, they promised to
return each week until the roots of problem were addressed. They also began to discuss whether a local “occupation” should occur. On a typical Sunday, after a warm up in City Hall Park, the group would march and sing their way up Church Street’s pedestrian mall as shoppers watched. Then, without having requested a permit, they’d turn down College Street to the Citizens Bank, a convenient symbol of excess across from City Hall. Standing in front of the bank door, people
took turns addressing the crowd, which repeated key phrases so that everyone could hear. Participants were also learning a new language, one linked in turn to a radical democratic process. “You go bankrupt you lose your house,” shouted organizer Matthew Cropp on a Sunday in early October. “The largest banks in this country go bankrupt and they get a free ride from the government. They get billions of dollars in bailout money.” Each sentence was repeated by about 125 people. The local protest was part of what was now called Occupy Wall Street, or the 99% movement. Spokespeople—it claimed to have no leaders—described it as a decentralized, non-violent rebellion against economic tyranny that had burst forth through social networks, websites, and a loose alliance of groups and activists. On June 13, as part of a “day of action” in New York, a group had attempted to occupy Zucotti Park, a public space close to Wall Street and the New York Federal Reserve. Although that early attempt to “occupy” the park failed a People’s General Assembly was formed, and by October Zucotti had become the site of what was looking like a permanent encampment attracting thousands and serving as the nexus for decision-making and broader action plans. On September 17, Adbusters magazine issued a public call
to Occupy Wall Street, which immediately became known as OWS. Radical groups with names like Anonymous, A99, and US Day of Rage were among the earliest to endorse its goals. According to David DeGraw, editor of AmpedStatus.com, the unifying principle was that, “anything you can do to rebel against the system of economic tyranny in a nonviolent manner is welcome.” It was radical, but in some ways mirrored the outrage and defiance of the conservative, antigovernment Tea Party movement that had preceded it. After weeks of rallies, police eventually arrested 700 protesters for attempting to block Brooklyn Bridge. This hardly discouraged the movement. In fact, more people joined. OWS wasn’t focusing primarily on the government, although it did have a legislative agenda. Its primary targets were “banksters” and corporate forces that had destabilized the economy and widened the gap between the rich and poor while enriching themselves. Burlington’s OWS wasn’t just complaining about Wall Street; its objective was to give the growing activist urgency a local focus. Social networks made it possible both to mobilize people within hours and provide local examples of larger problems. “We need to start looking here in Burlington with our homeless shelters being more than three
times of capacity,” suggested local organizer Jonathan Leavitt. Months earlier Leavitt had been a leader in the local anti-Lockheed mobilization. Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman Peter Welch were among the first officials to back the goals of Occupy, and even offered some legislative proposals to address its grievances. For example, Welch was opposing attempts to add banking fees to checking accounts. He called the plan by Bank of America and Citibank to charge users a monthly fee for the use of their debit cards “simply shameless.” At a time when consumers are struggling, “they stick the knife in by charging customers to get access to their accounts,” Welch charged. “When will enough be enough for big banks?” Sanders meanwhile praised the protesters for “shining a national spotlight on the most powerful, dangerous and secretive economic and political force in America.” He floated a list of ideas to change the financial system, including a proposal to break up banks that were supposedly “too big to fail,” cap credit card interest rates, provide low-interest loans to small businesses through the Federal Reserve, end excessive oil speculation, force Wall Street to invest in job creation and impose a fee for speculative investments like credit default swaps and derivatives. At Marlboro College, Ralph
Meima, director of the school’s Sustainability Management graduate program, launched an online “crowd-sourced” Google document that let contributors around the world help to develop an American People’s New Economic Charter. Crowdsourcing had recently emerged as an Internet strategy to promote diverse, democratic input. Contributions varied from the profound to the superfluous. The overall goal was to create a comprehensive list of legislative, regulatory and social reforms consistent with the new movement. Billed as an “experiment in total inclusion and transparency,” Meima described his project as “a declaration of the economic changes that the 99 percent want to see come out of the Occupy Wall Street movement.” Labor leaders also backed the general goals of the Occupy movement, according to AFLCIO President Richard Trumka. During a conference with reporters he announced, “We are going to support them in any way we can. We’re not going to try to usurp them in any way.” The poster for an October 15 Montpelier rally captured the mood with this pointed headline: “The War of Wealth.” The schedule for the day included a solidarity rally at City Hall, then a March to the Statehouse and a people’s General Assembly.
Similar events were organized in Burlington, Brattleboro and Rutland. In Burlington, more than 500 people marched for two hours, taking their jobs and justice message from downtown to the University of Vermont campus. In Montpelier, 300 turned out on the steps of City Hall and the Statehouse. At this point, almost half of all Americans felt that the economic system was personally unfair to them, according to a Gallup poll. A big reason was that they were getting the picture: The top 1 percent had amassed greater net worth than the “bottom” 90 percent. And, in an unusual generational twist, more people under 30 viewed the concept of socialism in a positive light than capitalism. The movement’s objective was nevertheless ambitious—to occupy parks, schools, corporate offices, streets, basically anywhere and everywhere—until something substantial was done about what was now being called economic tyranny. It was an uncomfortably apt description of the current “world order.” On the other hand, many in the movement expressed shock at the heavy-handed official response, as if they had discovered something new about the relationship between the state and those who disagree. Others tended to be overly suspicious about cooptation or thought that even unions
and moveon.org were political “Trojan horses.” Still others suggested that their efforts to create self-governing communities represented a breakthrough of paradigm-altering significance. Was it hubris, naiveté, or just idealism and youthful ambition? Many saw OWS as a counterculture, a transformational social experiment. To survive, they argued, it would have to remain separate and uncompromised by the dominant culture. The problem was that, in order to fully participate in its non-hierarchical, consensusbased process, people had to make it a central part of their lives. This posed a problem for those without that much “free time.” Combining 18th century democratic principles with 21st century methods, Occupy activists wanted to change the political culture. And to some extent, they were starting to succeed, shifting the focus from debt and deficits to wealth inequality. But they also wanted much more. As writer Todd Gitlin explained, “They wanted to produce a society of their own, and half believed they were producing it.” By late October OWS activists in Burlington had launched an encampment at City Hall Park. As long as some basic rules were followed, announced Mayor Kiss, he was prepared to be flexible. Things went well at first, in contrast with the violent
confrontations between police and protesters that shut down encampments elsewhere. But an impromptu concert in the park led to the relaxation of normal rules one night, and the next day some campers were still intoxicated—including Joshua Pfenning, a 35-year-old homeless man. His death that day from a self-inflicted gunshot wound was traumatic for the local movement, and especially for those who had tried to help Pfenning. It also marked the abrupt end of the Burlington encampment. By this time, however, almost everyone was talking about the
1%, the few with most of the wealth—bankers, energy tycoons, hedge fund managers and the rest. And as filmmaker Robert Greenwald pointed out, there was an even smaller elite—the top 0.01 percent, wealthy military contractors. That made the welcome being given to Sandia Laboratories and Lockheed Martin by Vermont’s progressive leaders even more troubling for local liberals and peace activists. As protesters on the streets chanted “We are the 99%,” election season was just heating up in Burlington. At a Democratic debate two days after declaring his
candidacy for mayor, State Sen. Tim Ashe, a former Progressive member of the City Council, proposed an unusual alliance— fusion with the Democrats to defeat the Republican challenge from Kurt Wright. Yet on the F-35s and partnering with a predatory corporation, leading progressive critics of concentrated wealth and the military-industrial complex like Bernie Sanders and Bob Kiss were making basically the same arguments as their conservative opponents. Most local Progressives preferred to ignore it and focus instead on survival.
Coming next on For Preservation & Change: The Fusion Option Read more by Greg Guma online at http://gregguma.blogspot.com/
The Vermont Farm Fund helps farms grow and recover in times of need.
BY ELIZABETH HEWITT
In the early hours of a January morning 2011, Pete Johnson’s three-story barn caught fire. The structure was at the heart of Johnson’s Craftsbury organic vegetable operation. It housed equipment for washing and packing vegetables, walk-in refrigeration units, and tractors—in addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of food in storage. The hit to the business was severe. But before Johnson, familiar to many Vermonters as the Pete behind the organic mesclun, arugula, and spinach common to the state’s produce aisles, could even take in the scope of the destruction, donations started flowing in. Johnson was flooded by a tidal wave of generosity from every corner of the state. Between fundraising, loans and grants, the farm raised about a quarter of a million dollars to go toward rebuilding, helping Johnson to get back on track. But for Johnson, the story didn’t end with his rebuild. He was floored by the support he received from Vermonters, and was determined to find a way to give back. “I was lying awake one night worrying about it all,” Johnson said. That’s when the idea came to him: a no-frills, transparent loan fund to serve Vermont farmers. The Vermont Farm Fund is the realization of a simple concept. On one end, the Fund patches a systemic glitch in farm insurance, providing small and midsized farms a much-needed resource when a natural Photo: Rob Williams
disaster knocks them back. On the other end, the Fund seeks to support Vermont farmers as they take on the new reality for the stewards of Vermont land. Farming is not just about agriculture; it’s about entrepreneurship. “You can give $1,000 to the Farm Fund, and ten years from now it’ll be on its third or fourth time around,” Johnson said. “It’s a powerful concept that everybody involved ends up feeling good about.” Financial risk is one of the realities of modern farming. Unlike the expansive wheat fields of the Midwest, or even the apple orchards of the Champlain Valley, many Vermont farms are not eligible to buy traditional federal crop insurance. So most of the farmers behind Vermont’s berries, kale, squash, cucumbers, salad greens, and rainbow of heirloom tomatoes do not have any insurance to count on when the rivers rise or the hail comes.
that usually keep a farm going into autumn, and with substantial damage to the soil. Locker was one of the first to apply for a loan through the Farm Fund, only half a year after Johnson lost his barn. The Fund gave Kingsbury Farm a $10,000 loan. “It was great, it was super easy,” Locker said. “I think I spent more time driving up to Craftsbury than doing anything else.” For Locker, the loan helped to rebound from Irene. The funds went towards getting greenhouses up and running again, and towards getting back on track with an effort he had been working on for two years to build up topsoil on the land. At the end of the year, Locker was financially where he’d hoped to be. Kingsbury Farm ended up paying the loan off six months early.
To some extent, the Farm Fund helps to staunch that gap. As Johnson experienced WHEN, an unforeseen catastrophe can have a lingering impact on a farm.
Besides, Locker noted, the experience with the Farm Fund is totally different than dealing with a traditional bank loan.
“It feels a lot better to think that the interest goes into a revolving door instead of into the massive investment world,” Locker said. “It really seems like they’re investing in my state and my community.”
Nestled on the narrow valley floor by the Mad River in Warren, the Kingsbury Farm grows six acres of vegetables, and a quarter acre of veggies in greenhouses. Many of the vegetable were just reaching maturity in late August 2011 when the Mad River ran over the banks and inundated much of the farm’s cropland. They lost most of their storage crops—things like carrots, winter squash, parsnips that have a long shelf life. They also lost their greenhouse crops, and greenhouses themselves. Tomatoes, peppers, and herbs were washed out. “We ended up with potatoes and rutabaga,” Aaron Locker, the farmer, recalls. “Odd things we couldn’t do much with.” The farm itself is owned by the Vermont Food Bank, and Locker pays rent on the property in food. The bulk of his business comes through CSAs, which normally start up in June and run through the end of the season. Because of the unusual agreement, Locker needs to produce a high yield in order to both pay his rent and generate some income. So after the flood subsided, Kingsbury Farm found itself without greenhouses and without most of the crops
Photo: Rob Williams
With the financial pressures on Vermont farms, farmers have to do double duty: working full-time in agriculture while also working as an entrepreneur. “What worked three years ago doesn’t necessarily work now,” Locker said. “People are starting to look at these things as more businesses and less lifestyle decisions.” He fully expects that he will return to the Farm Fund at some point to make use of their other type of loan for business development. Since Irene, the Farm Fund has grown in scope and
mortgaging their house to get some money. That doesn’t feel so good.”
ZACH WOODS HERB FARM When the barn burned at Pete’s Greens, Jeff and Melanie Carpenter of Zach Woods Herb Farm made a donation to help with the recovery effort. They were on the email list when Johnson announced the Farm Fund, and were part of a business association with him. The Hyde Park farm had a growing following. The medicinal organic herbs and teas they grow on their 30-acre property were in high demand. “One of our biggest challenges in the fourteen years we had been farming had been in keeping up with the demand for our products while at the same time maximizing profitability,” Jeff said. The Carpenter’s realized that they needed to take steps to increase their efficiency and start automizing to up their production.
Photo: Rob Williams
mission. The board has members from different aspects of Vermont agriculture across the state, and the turnover as well as donations to the fund have seen it grow. Johnson said the Fund is open to change. “We often don’t really know what we are until we’re asked a certain question,” Johnson said. In addition to emergency loans, the Farm Fund offers business builder loans to help farmers cover the investments they need to make to expand their operation. Many farmers that are in need of cash to jump-start a next step in their agricultural venture are young, early in their career, and without a lot of assets, Johnson said. Those candidates would have trouble getting a traditional loan from a bank. “If you have a business that grossed $20,000 to $40,000, they’re not going to talk to you,” Johnson said. “Typically, people in that position would be
When it came time to find a source of funds for the new investments, they looked to the Farm Fund. In part, they were drawn to the low interest rates and the easy application process. But it was also about being involved in a process that serves the long-term interests of Vermont’s small farmers. “We really liked the concept of working directly within the farm community to borrow money that would eventually be paid back and used to help other farmers like ourselves,” Jeff said. With the loan from the Farm Fund, they purchased harvesting and post-harvesting equipment. Instead of using knives to cut their herbs by hand in the field, they now use tractor-mounted equipment. The equipment helps the Carpenters to serve a wide range of customers, Jeff said. On a single day, they may pack fresh mint leaves in ice to ship in bulk across the country, and need to harvest and dehydrate Arnica for small-scale local sales. “Farming and business have to go hand in hand in a successful farming operation,” Jeff reflected. “I originally got into farming to avoid the desk job lifestyle but I soon realized I still had to face my ‘inner demons’ by spending time sitting at my computer crunching numbers and answering emails.”
IAN BALDWIN AND J. MARVIN HERNDON One of us, a nuclear chemist and physicist, lives in San Diego; the other, a life-long environmentalist and publisher of books on sustainable living, lives in Vermont. An unsettling and growing grievance links us: the erosion of the beauty of blue skies overhead. San Diego’s seemingly endless blue-sky days have ceased to exist as the norm. In the spring of 2014, Herndon noticed pervasive spraying by tanker-jets whose persistent white trails formed feathery, cirrus-like clouds that combined to make a grayish-white haze, obscuring his city’s formerly radiant blue skies. By November 2014, these strange trails were a near-daily phenomenon, massing like odd foaming white worms that coalesced, cloaked, and dimmed the California sun. Contacting city officials and San Diego’s media in December about the possible health hazards of the haze in the skies brought no response. Many Americans are concerned and are asking themselves who has let loose this anarchy in our skies, and why? We find ourselves stranded in our search for an explanation of this aerial scarification: no one either dares or cares to speak about it. We’ve learned it’s an off-limits topic—except inside the world’s largest information labyrinth, the Internet, where theories, rumors, and rampant disinformation abound. To break this unnatural
silence and further a public dialog, what educated surmises can we make? The idea of spraying toxic chemicals into the air to modify weather, originally termed “rainmaking,” was first demonstrated in the 1940s following the end of WWII. During the war and immediately after, according to military and science historian Kathleen B. Williams, “a revolution took place…Military stimulation of science and technology became institutionalized” and was supported by huge federal funding for both “industrial laboratories and academic institutions.” The Cold War cemented this system in place and it has grown ever since as an integral part of the national security state system. The Pentagon alone funds on the order of 70 percent, and the National Science Foundation another 5 percent—together three-quarters— of all scientific research. Much of this research functions as “secret” or “top secret,” as is certainly the case for weather modification science. Some of the early governmentindustry-academia weather modification research resulted in programs like Project Skywater (1961–1988), the US Bureau of Reclamation’s effort to engineer “the rivers of the sky,” the US Army’s Operation Ranch Hand (1961–1971), of which the herbicide Agent Orange was an infamous part, and its Project Popeye
(1967–1971), used to “make mud, not war” over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. These are but a few examples of many, all of them secretive at the time they were engaged. The global furor over our planet heating up due to human-caused (anthropogenic) CO2 emissions was launched when NASA’s James Hansen testified before Congress in the hot summer of 1988 and predicted humanity faced a catastrophic future. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established that same year. In 2009 the Pentagon publically declared global warming a national security threat and in 2013 Admiral Samuel Locklear called it the biggest longterm security threat in his region, the Pacific Ocean. On February 10, 2015 major media reported on the National Academy of Science and the U.S. Intel community’s 2-volume publication calling for more geoengineering research. Geoengineering offers two basic approaches to the problem of global warming: Remove and trap carbon dioxide, or block sunlight from reaching the Earth. Trapping carbon dioxide is a difficult, prohibitively expensive, undeveloped technology. Blocking sunlight is almost universally recognized by geoengineers as being relatively inexpensive, easy to implement, and moreover has a precedent in nature: major volcanic eruptions inject ash into the atmosphere
which may remain suspended for a year or more, dimming sunlight and momentarily cooling Earth. Mining and milling rock to produce artificial volcanic ash in sufficient volumes to launch a full-scale geoengineering program to cool the planet is, however, an outrageously expensive and cumbersome idea. We suspect some persons or agency inside the nation’s massive clandestine operations complex posed an inexpensive alternative, a seemingly pragmatic alternative, but one with consequences far more dire to life on Earth than global warming might ever be. Coal burning by industries, mostly electric utilities, produces heavy ash that settles out, as well as much lighter fly ash that used to go up the smokestack into the atmosphere but is now captured and stored because of its well-known adverse human health effects and damage to the environment. Thus there is a readily available, almost unlimited amount of an extremely low-cost waste product with the proper grain size for aerosol spraying, one that requires little extra processing. But there’s a hitch. From 2001 to 2014 certified laboratories measured samples of post-spraying rainwater from rural northern California, France, and New Zealand. High levels of aluminum, as well as barium and strontium, were reported. EU research carried out between 2011-12 on similar rainwater samples collected in Germany, France, and Austria also found large quantities of aluminum,
barium, and strontium. Our principal reason for believing that coal fly ash is used in the massive spraying overhead is that the chemicals measured in postspraying rainwater occur in the same relative proportions as those typically found in water mixed with coal fly ash. Although aluminum comprises 8% of Earth’s crust, it is immobile in
rocks. It is not a normal contaminant of rainwater. Consequently neither animals (including humans) nor plants have developed a natural defense to chemically mobile aluminum. Yet it is showing up around the world in rainwater sampled after suspected spraying. Unfortunately there is a grave problem with spraying a substance that readily releases aluminum in a highly mobile form. Aluminum is a known neurotoxin. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease reported in 2013 that “Aluminum is found in higher concentrations in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients,” and in that same year the journal Clinical Biochemistry
also expressed “growing concern that aluminum is involved in the development of this devastating condition.” Aluminum is suspected of playing a role in several neurological diseases with currently explosive growth profiles, including autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ADHD, and others. The use of coal fly ash, which comprises the nation’s second largest industrial waste stream, as a source of particulates for global climate control would be a mortal miscalculation. It would mean we are poisoning the life forms of our own planet. Sixty years ago the notable mathematician John von Neumann observed: “We live in a world of unending progress. But technological advancement poses as many difficult questions as it answers.” The essential point, the governing point of our democratically ordered civilization, is that important questions can be asked, must be asked, and are asked, in order for answers, the right answers, to be discovered. When questions cannot be asked, or acknowledged, for whatever reasons, including reasons of national security, then our civilization faces a dubious prospect. This is especially true about the air we breathe. Geoengineering is underway. It urgently needs public scrutiny and debate. Photo (center): Independent Lieutenant Govenor candidate Pete Garritano waves the 2VR colors. Photo: Rob Williams
FOOD & DRINK
Revolutionary Spirits? Craft Beer’s Identity Crisis and the Co-op Solution BY MATTHEW CROPP
Over the past decade, craft beer has grown from a small, quirky community of brewers and consumers into a dynamic economic sector that netted $14.3 billion in sales in 2013. While overall beer production declined 1.2% in that year, craft beer production increased by 17.2%, and the number of new breweries opening has been rising meteorically. While this trend has been great news for beer drinkers who favor a full-flavored, locally produced beverage over the watery commodity beer put out by A-B InBev and MillerCoors, it has been causing serious consternation for the brewing giants. That anxiety was amply apparent on Superbowl Sunday, when Budweiser ran an ad that disparaged craft beer drinkers while ham-handedly denigrating one of the products of a craft brewery it had acquired a few days prior. If the existing trends continue, Big Beer’s oligopoly status, and the profitable advantages that such market position entails, will be increasingly difficult to maintain. In response to this long-term threat to their bottom lines, the big players have started muscling their way into the
craft-brew market, sparking off a string of controversies. First, they tried their hand at making “craft-like” beers out of whole cloth that embraced the aesthetics of the community, with Blue Moon being the most successful example. When that tactic failed to reverse the major brewers’ declining market share, they began eyeing local and regional craft breweries for possible acquisition. In 2011, A-B InBev made waves when they purchased Chicago’s Goose Island, and in the past few months they’ve raised further eyebrows by snapping up several iconic Pacific Northwest breweries, including 10 Barrel and, most recently, Elysian Brewing. However, this strategy of purchasing craft brewers outright has been problematic for the major players. The Brewers Association’s maintains that a “craft” brewer must be “less than 25 percent […] owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer,” so any outright purchase by one of the large brewers automatically forfeits the acquired firm’s claim to craft status in the eyes of the
leading craft brewing trade association. A term has even emerged to describe the product of such bought-out brands: “crafty” beer. Furthermore, much of the value of most craft brewers’ brand derives from the often almost cult-like devotion of their fans. Those fans immensely cherish the localized identity and independence of their breweries, and, after many years and often thousands of dollars of product purchased, the sale of the brewery to the likes of A-B InBev can feel like a deep betrayal. Intense social media backlash has become the norm in these situations, which raises doubts about the effectiveness of direct acquisition of craft brewers as a viable strategy by which the big brewers might re-establish their total hegemony over the beer market. What use is it to purchase a brand, if the brands loyalists who make it profitable will jump ship for an independent alternative as soon as the change in ownership casts doubt on its authenticity? In the face of this challenge, large breweries have responded with tactics aimed at obscuring their ownership stake, so that a facade of local control and character can be maintained, while the profits accrue to their shareholders. One example of this practice in action can be found in the case of the “Craft Brew Alliance,” a publicly traded company that includes the Red Hook, Widmer Brothers, Kona, and Omission Brands. While it has “Craft Brew” in its name, the alliance fails to meet the Brewers Association definition due to a 32.2% A-B InBev ownership stake. A second, more innovative example is Alchemy and Science. An “independently operating subsidiary” of Boston Beer Company (whose continued “craft” status is the result of the Brewers Association tripling the maximum production ceiling to accommodate them), A&S was created by Magic Hat founder Alan Newman after he sold that brewery to the first in a series of owners (it currently resides in the portfolio of Costa Rica-based Florida Ice & Farm Co.). A&S has purchased or created a handful of brands with moderate success thus far, but their strategy of submerging ownership beneath several layers of shell companies/identities is one that offers a potentially viable strategy for limiting the backlash sparked by direct acquisition by a major brewer. Finally, the most shadowy mechanism for divorcing a brewery’s ownership from its operations without creating an easily traceable trail is private equity. Exempt from many of the disclosure requirements of publicly traded companies, it can be difficult-to-impossible to determine which individuals and/or companies are using a particular fund as a vector for their investments. An example of this mechanism in action is Massachusettsbased private equity firm Fulham and Co., which purchased Vermont’s Long Trail Brewing Company in 2006. Long Trail, in turn, acquired Otter Creek Brewing in 2010, and Otter Creek also now produces the Wolaver’s Organic and Shed brands. So, if a consumer wants to know who owns Wolaver’s or Shed, one has to trace through two further layers of craft breweries to get to the private equity firm. Then, when one examines the most recent SEC filings of Fulham
and Co., all that can be determined about the investors is that there are 55 of them, that they have each made a minimum investment of $5,000,000, and that the total sum total invested in the fund is $227,693,000. Beyond that, the identities of the ultimate owners of Long Trail/Otter Creek/Wolaver’s/Shed (as well as Fulham’s other holdings) is shrouded in mystery. In the face of such increasingly sophisticated strategies aimed at undermining the independence of craft brewing and re-consolidating control of the industry in the hands of a few mega-corporations, what can be done to stem the tide? Happily, some innovative breweries are challenging the dominant ownership paradigm and pioneering models that offer hope for the future of creative, independent craft brewing. For larger craft breweries, one of the most exciting developments has been the growing embrace of selling to the employees as an alternative, ethical exit strategy for retiring founders. New Belgium’s experience was featured in a recent documentary about employee ownership entitled “We The Owners”, and, in 2014, Harpoon Brewery followed suit. Both of those companies have used the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) model for selling to their employees, and the newly forming 4th Tap in Austin, Texas will be the first brewery in the U.S. to utilize the worker co-op structure. A second encouraging trend also got its start in Austin: consumer cooperative brewpubs. The model offers a powerful and tangible way to use broad-based ownership to structurally support the emotional and identity investments that many consumers make in their favorite breweries, and Black Star Co-op Pub & Brewery is a powerful proof of concept. It opened its doors there in 2010, and five years later they have more than 3,000 consumer member-owners, each with an equal share of the company. Their success has inspired similar start-up co-ops in cities around the country, including in Burlington, where, after a year of organizing, the Full Barrel Cooperative recently incorporated and elected its first board of directors. As more co-ops continue to mature around the country, they offer a powerful opportunity to re-shape the landscape of the brewing world in a democratic and generative way. In the end, what makes the craft beer scene so special is the passion people have for the product and the community. It’s a sector that emerged very much against the wishes of the big brewers, but to the benefit of the millions of consumers who are no longer forced to decide between a handful of varieties of tepid monopolist booze-water. However, the incentives driving the brewing behemoths to re-assimilate the craft brewing community into their empires are large, and growing larger with each year of the craft beer sector’s continued success. The most recent buy-outs are canaries in the coal mine. If we want to defend the spirit of innovation, collaboration, and community that makes craft beer special, it is time to begin a serious conversation about who owns, and should own, our beer. MC
Growing Books: Chelsea Green Celebrates Thirty Years 2VR PUBLISHER ROB WILLIAMS INTERVIEWS MARGO AND IAN BALDWIN 2VR/GMN: First of all, congratulations on thirty years of independent publishing. How does that feel? Margo: It feels great! Sort of like having kids and seeing them graduate or get married or have children. You mostly forget all the hair-raising distress and anxiety that they put you through along the way but also love and success and fun. It’s like most of life that way because it’s all made up of people. Ian: It feels good. I doubt we thought much beyond three, at most five years when we started, or even later. But the idea of starting a publishing “house” lurked somewhere in the recesses of our imaginations, I suspect. And now, thirty years later that is what feels good. When you began Chelsea Green in 1984, did you imagine you’d be going strong in 2014? Margo: No, but mainly we never looked that far ahead. The business plan had us selling the company and making money for our early investors, ha! Ian: We never thought that far ahead, at least I certainly didn’t. We spent our first eight years in a struggle for mere survival that was at times harrowing. In the book’s “Foreword,” Ian writes of publishing as being about “the beauty of craft.” Can you say more about this, and maybe cite some examples from the Chelsea Green canon that speak to this wonderful phrase? Margo: Ian is right about The Man Who Planted Trees setting our course aesthetically as well as content-wise. In a perfect book, it all comes together, the writing, the design, the illustrations (if there are any), the cover, the type. We tried to adhere to that path, not always successfully, but we tried. And also, it was a matter of scale. We operated at the level of a publishing “house.” The staff and authors were family, not always nice ones either,
but it worked at that level. We never grew to a real corporate size and we never wanted to. I think it would lose its magic if it did. Ian: The seed for the company was planted at Christmas 1982 when Margo gave me a copy of the great Spanish poet Vincente Aleixandre’s World Alone (Mundo a Solas). It was designed, printed and published by Michael McCurdy and his one-man Penmaen Press in Great Barrington, Massachusetts that same year. A jewel. We were amazed to see that a little unknown press published a Nobel laureate’s work the way such literature should be published, as craft, with fine wood engravings. We persuaded McCurdy to illustrate and design Jean Giono’s The Man Who Planted Trees for us, our third book. That book and its Penmaen Press antecedent laid the groundwork for our aesthetic, not rigidly or narrowly, but as an attitude we took to everything we did thereafter. You’ve worked with literally hundreds of authors— what are the most important lessons you have learned about publishing? Margo: That when it works right, it’s a matter of instinct and heart, not calculus and numbers. The most important decisions we made were based on
our gut feelings. We also figured out that to survive as a small publisher you have to be niched, focused on a particular content area so that the marketing for every new book can be manageable. Finally, we have endured and are successful because we were able to stay on the leading edge of our specific categories. We didn’t have to compete on price because we had the only book or the best book in organic gardening, or natural building, or renewable energy. So even though we were often ahead of the curve and that hurt our sales initially, as the culture moved in our direction, our books sold more and more over time. A great example of this is Eliot Coleman, who we started publishing in the 1980s but whose books are still the key books today in terms of leading edge organic agriculture. Another example is Sandor Katz, who almost single handedly started the fermentation movement. Also, we priced our books up to maintain our margin and because we knew the value was there. A lot of publishers think they need to compete on price and they quickly go out of business. That’s a game for the big guys who can push a lot of product into the marketplace and see what sticks. Ian: There’s no short answer. One is, be patient. Authors come in all sizes and shapes. Some are sweet and trustful. Others are the exact opposite. Most lie in between. Some will burn you out with unremitting demands, if you let them. It’s vital you fight back—or be devoured. Many authors, many, become good friends. And what is more rewarding than friendship? The publishing world has witnessed some tremendous transformations—the move from analog to digital, for example—these past three decades. Can you speak to both the challenges and opportunities for independent publishers afforded by the arrival of The Digital Age? Margo: Well, there are a lot of different parts to this transformation. Indeed, Amazon has transformed the business in ways that were key to our survival. Mainly this had to do with making our backlist available to everyone all the time, but also because they discounted our books, making them more affordable to many more people. And as Ian says, their terms were infinitely better than the rest of the industry, which was a tremendous boon to our cash flow. I know it’s fashionable these days to bash Amazon, but from the perspective of a small publisher, they made the marketplace much more democratic. Previously the sales channels were completely dominated by the biggest publishers, who pretty much controlled the two national chains and dominated the independent
book stores. It’s hard to stay in business if you’re never paid, or paid in 4-6 months, or paid in returned, damaged books. Amazon changed all that. Now we are concentrating on selling our books from our own website and growing those sales so that we are in direct contact with our customers. We also show up at a lot of conferences and shows where there is face to face contact with our authors and readers, like NOFA Vermont or Mother Earth News fairs. We put a lot of resources into getting our authors out there for various kinds of speaking events and it pays off. In terms of ebooks, I’m not sure that all the hype about ebooks is more than that—hype. At least for our kinds of books, highly illustrated reference style how-to nonfiction, it’s just not that significant. People who buy our books still prefer the printed book. If we start doing romance novels, that may change! Narrative nonfiction without illustrations sells better as an ebook, but it’s still less only about 10% of our sales. I would say that ebooks function as the new mass market paperbacks, i.e., primarily disposable genre fiction. Ian: My wife is the reason we transitioned successfully into the digital age, almost if not quite seamlessly. In fact the great and hidden secret of the digital revolution is that the first revolutionary entrant into that universe, Amazon, proved to be a huge boon to independent publishers with savvy. Why? Because Amazon threw out the Depression-era economics of consignment bookstore sales right out the window. Meaning that when times were tough in the late 30s the big trade houses allowed bookstores to order their books without paying for them: they paid for an order only when it sold through, and only net of returns, which could prove crippling to all parties. We were oppressed by this system, along with everyone else. Cash flow was a nightmare that would never end due to bookstores and their wholesalers paying for orders 110 to 130 days later, and then often via returns, which were often damaged. A hugely wasteful and economically cancerous system. Amazon came along and said: we’ll pay you Net 30, no returns. It revolutionized the economics of publishing, especially for cash-strapped independent presses. Nor did the benefits of the digital age stop there. With an electronically-based seller like Amazon, all our books could be available to customers regardless of location, or time. No book need go out of print, but may be and almost universally is stored electronically, either for sale as an ebook or available on a POD basis. Amazon led the way out of a corrupted and economically corroded system.
BOOKS Your favorite three Chelsea Green books—can you name them? Margo: I don’t have three favorites! That’s like asking who your favorite child is! Ian: Impossible to answer, really, except for Giono’s The Man Who Planted Trees. After that there are many candidates, far more than two. The Man Who Planted Trees first because it became for us our leitmotif, our lodestar: the subject, the writer, the values, the design, the illustrations all combined to make a perfect statement about us—our aspirations as publishers. For me it was a tremendous accomplishment to help persuade and encourage Eliot Coleman to become an author. His three books helped pioneer the post-Rodale organic farming movement in America. Also, to win the competitive sweepstakes for Donella Meadows (and her co-authors Dennis Meadows and Jørgen Randers) to do the second edition of their international bestseller The Limits to Growth, which we then published as Beyond the Limits to Growth. Otherwise I’d say Diane Wilson’s An Unreasonable Woman and John Lash’s Not In His Image were each important and deeply satisfying books to launch. Really there are so many!
E XC E RPT A Man Apart: Living A Durable Life
For me Dickinsons Reach is where I see and touch all these things that society doesn’t value: intentionality, skill, work, beauty, respect for people and place, and I see how valuable they are. Nothing at Bill’s can be stuffed into a bank account. It’s his utter security here, at the margins of life, at the far edge of town that attracts us. Bill wasn’t driven here by antisocial tendencies or by a crime record. He wasn’t running away from anything by choosing to live the way he did. He was running toward something, embracing the desire to live sanely in a world of death-making things. He was pulled there by his belief
Are you optimistic about the future of publishing? Margo: Cautiously optimistic about publishing, fairly pessimistic about the fate of the world. So given that publishing has to exist in a future world, not at all sure how it’s going to play out. I think what we’re doing is sustainable, but using paper as a resource? Not sure about all that. If we manage to make a transition to a more sustainable no-growth economy and manage to figure out how to ratchet down our carbon emissions, there should be a place for publishing books. But those are big Ifs! Ian: I am. The unknown is, a generation or two from now will the printed book lapse quietly into oblivion? Pessimism about books and publishing has persisted for virtually my entire life in the business (almost half a century), so I’ve learned to be chary of premature invitations to the funeral. However the Digital Age portends radical changes in how we communicate ideas. The social media instill a new form of consciousness. I’m not sure what it is or will be, but my grandchildren will be completely conversant with it. The monosyllabic code. But I see they also read and love books!
By Peter Forbes and Helen Whybrow
in nonviolence and his sense of beauty. He was searching for nonviolence because he had grown up among violence, and he was hungry for beauty because he had already seen so much ugliness. We ourselves were drawn, not to his seclusion but to these values. Every article, and there have been dozens, that feature Bill and call him either quaint or a hermit overlook the much bigger and more important story of what it takes to make your own life, to be an introvert, to take the time in solitude to examine oneself, and then to live by what one finds. What’s missing from most of those articles is an understanding of Bill’s personal politics, the hard choices he made to conform his
way of living to his way of thinking, and to see what one person can do to live more fully within his convictions. By that I mean Bill was motivated mostly by ideals: fairness, beauty, democratic ideals and practices that leave no one out, personal power and community health, respect for all beings. And I learned as much from his failure to live up to his ideals as I did by his successes because the failures enabled me to see him as more whole. Years ago Bill and I were together when a census form showed up in the bundle of mail that I brought in from town. We sat together in that ever-inspiring, four-storied, and handmade home trying to answer the questions on the form.
Number of phones? Number of televisions? Bill looked at me with each question and made a crack like, “What phone? Will you call them on my phone, Peter, and tell them to stop sending these damn forms?” How many cars? How many bathrooms? How many bedrooms? Dishwasher or not? Heat with gas or electric? Garage or driveway? Bill had some fun with the form, but when it was filled out, I resigned myself to the picture that this definition of being an American painted of Bill: an old man, living alone without plumbing, television, computer, phone, or driveway, out at the end of a footpath in the distant pucker-brush of Maine. It was a picture of poverty, but what I experienced was a man of great wealth. True wealth. What I saw was abundance. A person who had influenced thousands, left a big mark, was his own creation. And I saw sadness, too. There were things he wanted and had not done, such as truly embracing others living their lives on his land. His life was all about education, the life of a community, creating a better society, and yet he could not accommodate other people’s visions and could only take people close-up in short doses. Bill achieved that really big goal of having community form and stay at Dickinsons Reach only very late in life as he was confronting old age and preparing to die. Bill is one of those unusual Americans who shun public visibility as avarice and yet is a worthwhile public figure. While many who visited Bill did not
agree with his ideas or would not be willing or able to live like he did, nearly all left challenged and inspired by what they encountered. He was authentic to the core at a time when so much feels fake, false, and undurable. I am inspired by how Bill and a few others I have only read about like Henry David Thoreau of Walden Pond or Anna and Harlan Hubbard of the Ohio River have led lives in protest against mainstream society. The same is true for Wendell Berry, a writer who has shaped—for the good—thousands of lives, including my own. Like them, Bill does not attend protests, he lives one. And when I get all caught up, as I sometimes do, in analyzing and naming society’s big problems, and
in creating efforts to address those problems, then getting on planes to raise money to address those problems, Bill would bring me back to fundamentals and humility with a statement like, “Peter, that’s all well and good, but there’s nothing you could ever say or write that’s as important as how you live your days.” From Bill I have learned how the manner in which my life radiates and touches people has more potential for change than anything else I could say or do. Permissions: This excerpt is adapted from Peter Forbes and Helen Whybrow’s A Man Apart (March 2015) and is printed with permission from Chelsea Green Publishing.
Testimony Senate Government Operations March 27, 2015 Hinda Miller RE: Cannabis Conversation
For the record, my name is Hinda Miller and I am hear to testify on Cannabis discussion currently being had in your committee. Thank you, Madam Chair and to the entire committee for offering me the opportunity to come before you and offer some ideas, considerations and suggestions we feel you should include in your process. I am here representing both the Vermont Cannabis Collaborative and my own views and will let you know when my thoughts fall into one or the other category. • VTCC was formed by a group of visionary, local entrepreneurs who have been fortunate and savvy enough through each of our early, bold endeavors to realize not only economic pros-perity individually, but also to be a part of good job creation in Vermont, all while helping to create and maintain, the Vermont Brand. Our members include: Alan Newman, Dan Cox, Judy McIssac Robertson, Michael Jager, Will Raap • We formed VTCC as a way to help guide the legislature and work with state government to offer our business acumen to the complex issues facing this body with regard to moving for-ward on this issue in the Vermont Way…Just as you try to do with all of your important legislative initiatives and policies. • As seasoned entrepreneurs and successful business owners who care very deeply for our state, we have a great deal to offer to this committee regarding best practices in several areas, including, but not limited to: • The artisanal approach • Product development • Supply and distribution • The Vermont Brand- Messaging • Workforce development • A Common Sense Commerce Approach • The regulatory process ( including testing, labeling, etc.) • We believe that a controlled, regulated market, with a strong evidence-based educational and prevention campaign does a better job of keeping Cannabis out of the hands of children than the underground, criminal market that exists today. We all know that the Drug War of the past several decades has been a dismal failure. We also know that Prohibition does not work to reduce teen (or anyone’s) use of substances, but tightly regulated and controlled markets do.
• If you were to take a revenue generation approach to this issue, we would suggest an in-vestment of the appropriate amount of resources be cycled back into the system for education, prevention, substance abuse treatment and criminal justice. • VTCC would suggest that you start with a very slow, incremental approach to this issue, under a regulatory model, with expansion being tied to specifically set, successfully met bench-marks along the way. • Benchmarks could include the societal, criminal justice, use and abuse, workforce development and the tourism and economic impacts to the state, just to name an important few. As you will have measurable benchmarks to guide you, you can adjust accordingly when needed, and expand in the areas where and when it makes most sense. Vermont would be the first state to do this by legislative action and we advise a creep, crawl, walk, run philosophy to whichever direction on the continuum of options you are considering. We’ve seen the continuum scale presented to you by Bobby Sand, and are sure there are additional ideas from your own good thinking and from others who have contributed to this committee this session. • VTCC would like to partner with you as you continue your deliberations and explorations over the coming months, in preparation for January 2016. We already possess the business expertise and experience that could be very beneficial to you, and we have already been researching the areas we need technical assistance ourselves and are currently partnering with those who share our vision and provide certain practical components unique to the Cannabis plant itself and its many usage applications and the processes involved with developing those products. • In that vein, we have formed sub-committees of our group tourism, and economic development, to name the first few. We are soliciting members with the right expertise, the time, and the desire to work together thoughtfully, holistically, and in keeping with Vermont’s values and integrity—knowing the importance of always keeping the Vermont Brand and the “Vermont Way” intact. To close, I would like to say that again, that within our group, we have many great, successful minds who are willing to help you in several areas in which we specialize; from thinking about business formation and types, ( we would suggest Benefit or even “B” corps, if you go the regulatory route), to product cycle development, to testing and labeling, and also to tourism and marketing, and workforce and economic development. VTCC wants to be an active participant in this process and sincerely hope you will make use of our expertise and desire to help create a system that is looked upon as successfully as our MMJ Registry and Dispensary systems are by other states and by the patients that currently use those systems. Respectfully submitted by, Hinda Miller VTCC
FOOD & DRINK
From Food Sovereignty to Food Revolution By Alanna Moriarty
young college student strolls leisurely down the campus nature path. As she nears the end of the trail, a branch catches her clothing and a vibrant red raspberry catches her eye. She eagerly savors its sun-ripened sweetness. This sounds like a fairy tale doesn’t it? It’s not; it was my very own experience a few months ago at a small liberalarts school in Vermont.
Lake Champlain. Or can it? When I buy Cabot brand cheese, or coffee from Keurig Green Mountain, am I really “buying local?” They are both locally-based companies that just happen to sell their products nationally. “We are a national company based in Vermont, but we’re not really a local company anymore,” says Winston Rost, Farmer Relations Manager at Keurig Green Mountain.
[nationally] now. Not even close.” Local food could be the remedy. The more a community supports and relies on smaller, family-owned farms, the less they rely on imported goods and national companies like Monsanto. But it’s easy to say that every county needs a system of small family farms and farmers markets. Is it really that simple?
It’s 2014 in the United States: we have thousand-square-foot grocery stores packed with dozens of assorted fruits and vegetables, all fresh, dried, or frozen. No one picks wild berries from bushes to bring home and bake into pies anymore. But why? Why don’t we forage Vermont’s thousands of acres of forest for fresh food? It’s not as if we are a densely-populated state with no arable land. There is so much potential for Vermont to completely restructure its food production system, from the strong local-food movement to the advocacy for GMO-labeling. Vermont is arguably the best place in the U.S. to begin the transformation from behemoth factory farms to community-based agriculture.
So here’s the dilemma: at what mileage does local cease to be local enough? I could argue that once there is no longer a mapleflavored version of every available food that I have gone too far from home. Philip Ackerman-Leist, author and professor at Green Mountain College, believes the definition is about much more than physical geography. In his recently published book Rebuilding the Foodshed, he says a successful local food system must “fit the community in question and its surrounding environment,” as well as sponsor food sovereignty. Food sovereignty is the idea that people, individuals who live in a geographic location, have the right to determine their food and agricultural policies. This includes everything from GMO labeling to where you buy apples. Food sovereignty activists seek to adjust and democratize food production and agriculture. “If [the food system] was more diversified, which I think is needed nationally and in Vermont, it would actually meet our food needs,” said Theresa Snow, Executive Director of Salvation Farms, in a phone interview.
The United States has the most arable land of any country in the world. I’ll say that again: out of all the recognized countries on planet Earth, the U.S. has the most land available and suitable for farming. In 2007 alone, over 408 million acres of land were used to raise food crops. That is still less than one-fifth of our total land area. Of all privatelyheld land, about 25 percent, or 613 million acres, is used as grazing land for livestock, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That is a lot of field, a lot of plants, and a lot of animals. But is it enough? Here in Chittenden County, about 20 percent of the population faces issues with food security, notes the United States Department of Agricultur). Those who live in areas of low food security, otherwise known as food deserts, do not have easy access to healthful, affordable food. This could mean that a household does not have a car or access to public transportation, or that there are no grocery stores within a half-mile radius, which is considered to be walking distance. In urban settings, food deserts are often whole city blocks with only convenience stores and fast food chains. In more rural areas, a
Who wants to start a revolution? We’ve all heard the rhetoric: “Buy fresh, buy local,” or “Local food: taste the difference!” It looks better, tastes better, is better for you—or so they say. But how local is local? During the school year I live just outside Burlington, the land of farmers markets and small dairy farms. My local can be as close as the weekly market in Winooski, a larger one in Burlington, or perhaps even one in New York, just across
“We are not meeting those needs with what we are producing
ARABLE AVAILABLE LAND
household may be surrounded by crops that are not edible, like soy, and the nearest grocery store may be four miles away or more. If we have hundreds of millions of acres of land being farmed, and hundreds of millions more that can be farmed, why is a quarter of our population going hungry? In the past twenty years, the number of acres used for food production decreased from 987 million to 914 million acres—that is more than an eight percent decrease (EPA). In that time, the U.S. population has increased from 263 million to almost 317 million people—over a 20 percent increase. It seems almost counter-intuitive to decrease the amount of land farmed for food when our population is increasing at such a rapid pace. It’s not as though we are facing a housing shortage, and need the land for living area. One of the problems lies in the food system itself: when everything is owned by corporate conglomerates like Monsanto, small farmers cannot make a livable wage. Once farmers go broke, they leave. It is a “rural bloodletting,” as one observer explained. “When farms go out of business, the local businesses that depend on them also disappear.” This damages local economies, creating food deserts where there could be a system of co-ops and farmers markets, while increasing dependency on foreign imports. So we’re losing farmland to unnecessary housing, and farmers to minimum-wage urban jobs. The solution to this is pretty simple: the federal government could subsidize farms and food crops, and offer tax breaks to organic farmers. If there is
incentive, people will go….right? Maybe not. We’ve all seen the organic food section of our local big-name grocery store. Often, it is rather small; a basket of organic apples at the end of an aisle, a few heads of lettuce placed apart from the rest. This produce often looks different from their peers, with their misshapen bodies, dull skin, and smaller overall size. Why would we pay more for them? Is the FDA Organic label really worth an extra dollar or two per pound? I’ll let you in on a secret: organic food costs just as much as “conventionally grown” produce. Don’t believe me? Here’s a little tidbit: the government spent $15.8 billion on national farm subsidies in 2012 alone. Vermont farmers received over $11 million, almost entirely to dairy farms. That’s not always a bad thing! Government subsidies, including crop insurance, is what has kept our ever-shrinking farming industry alive and the consumer costs down. However, these subsidies most often go to corn and soy producers, leading to an overabundance of these crops and a shortage of “edible crops.” Corn and soy have become the cash crops for modern farmers, much like tobacco in the Old South. They have been turned into biodiesel, plastics, and sugary syrups in an attempt to combat this gross overproduction. Consumer demand has little to do with what crops are grown in the United States, which is exactly the opposite of what we have always been taught about business. There is simply too much
risk and too little profit in growing the produce we see in our grocery stores, and so the government tries to subsidize that a bit, too. Organic food is different. In order to have an organic label, farmers must go through an intense certification process that can cost up to two percent of their yearly income. Two percent may not seem like a lot, but two-thirds of USDA-recognized farms are classified as “mid-sized,” and make less than $20,000 in net income per year. Because of this expensive and time-consuming process, most certified organic farms are owned and operated by large-scale industrial businesses like Monsanto. So what does this have to do with local food? While buying organic is better for your body and the environment, it can also open the doors for smaller farmers. The next time you visit a farmers market, ask the person at the tent about their growing processes. More than likely, they will be using fewer pesticides than traditional growers, if any at all. They are also less likely to be GMO. This could be for economic as well as environmental reasons: not only are pesticides expensive, but they are extremely destructive. When large-scale growers spray pesticides over hundreds of thousands of acres of land, it will inevitably contaminate the water supply of the entire county. Additionally, the two most common chemicals found in pesticides, atrazine and glyphosate, are proven carcinogens and have been linked to breast cancer. In buying locally, or even organically, you can help reduce or completely bypass these malevolent practices and support
FOOD & DRINK
financial, legal, disability or other concerns,” consulting with them to not only fix these problems, but also to improve communication and reduce accidental injury. In buying local food, you are supporting small farmers, giving them the resources to increase their standards of living and possibly even expanding their land area. Buying locally also reduces our overall dependency on foreign-grown food products, diminishing the environmental toll of processing, packaging, and shipping. “Agriculture is the ground zero of climate change,” said Robert Parkhurst of the Environmental Defense Fund. “It helps so much if you can offer farmers a little money. You just need that little push to get them over the hump (Johnson).” In supporting farmers, you reinforce the local economy, cut down on negative environmental impacts, and you could even help break the shackles companies like Monsanto have on the people who literally give us life. United States citizens are overweight. It’s nothing we haven’t heard a thousand times before: 35 percent of Americans are categorized as medically obese. That’s over 78.6 million people. But what does that have to do with local food? Let’s start with the basics: low-income households are more likely to be overweight and have weight-related health problems than those considered “middle” or “upper-class.” This goes back to the food deserts described earlier. But even when full-service grocery stores or farmers markets are available, they may still be inaccessible to
low-income families. “Healthy food is often more expensive, whereas refined grains, added sugars, and fats are generally inexpensive and readily available in low-income communities,” either in supermarkets or convenience stores. When faced with limited funds, or when receiving government assistance through programs like SNAP, households often try to stretch their food budgets by purchasing cheap, processed, calorie-dense food. State officials in Michigan realized this, and created the Double Up Food Bucks program. Those who are eligible for federal SNAP benefits can visit local farmers markets, and whatever they spend on fruits and veggies is matched up to $20 to spend on other SNAP-eligible food items. This encourages healthier eating habits and the support of local food systems. Additionally, certain grocery stores in the Detroit area have adopted this program through November, so families can still have access to these benefits once farmers markets have closed for the season. Schools are also incorporating more local food. The Vermont Food Bank recently started a School Food Pantry To-Go in collaboration with Feeding America to serve students and families in need. Beginning in April 2013, JFK Elementary in Winooski introduced this program with the hope of providing families with fresh, nutritious food. Since its inception, this Food Pantry To-Go has begun work with Rutland Northeast Elementary School, Rutland Northwest Elementary School, Molly Stark Elementary School, and JFK Elementary School.
It can be extremely difficult to access fresh and affordable food, especially with a low household income. But programs like Double Up Food Bucks and the School Food Pantry, designed with local families in mind, are encouraging more people to spend their money on fruits and vegetables as opposed to fast food and prepared meals. It’s not only good for the local economy, but for the health of the next generation. Knowing about the benefits of local food systems is one thing— acting on that knowledge is another entirely. So what can you do? Keep it simple: start small by buying one kind of organic produce per shopping trip. It can be bananas one week and apples the next. See what works for you. Alternatively, if it is farmers market season, find a variety of fruits and vegetables you already like and compare them to their “traditionally-grown” cousins from the supermarket. Once you start trying these locally-grown foods, it can be easier to branch out and try new things. After you’ve found a variety of foods you like, prepare a meal! Cooking food together is beneficial on many levels. Obviously, it provides sustenance for yourself and your family, and you know exactly what is going into your meal and can make it to your specific tastes. There is also the added benefit of bringing the family together. It can seem daunting to bring the whole family into the kitchen, especially if you have small children. But studies have shown time and time again that making meals together fosters familial connections, appreciation
for family members, allows for the teaching of “life lessons,” and creates memories. Even the pickiest of eaters is more willing to try something if they’ve helped to create it! “I have learned that the best way to teach people something is to make it fun, and to have it taste good!” says Joyce Cellars, Community Relations Manager of the Intervale Center. In order to get people interested, you have to make them care. As the saying goes, the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach. You could even make it a monthly or bimonthly event: a family trip to the grocery store or farmers market to buy food for that night’s meal. “Food is the biggest example of how young people, older people, people of all ages can get that connectivity back and feel that they’re making a difference, said Heather Lynch, Sustainability Coordinator at Saint Michael’s College. “We’re in a society that takes things for granted, and food is one of those things.” If you don’t have the time or talent to cook, there’s always container gardening. Container gardening is an easy way to grow your own fruits, vegetables, or herbs with little space or energy. Essentially, if you have a pot, soil, and water, you can grow your own food! Vegetables like carrots, peppers and tomatoes don’t take up much space, nor do most kinds of berries (Iannotti). This is even viable in areas considered to be food deserts; seed packets only cost a dollar, and it’s easy to get dirt from outside. Even old milk jugs and other empty containers can be re-purposed as a planter. It really doesn’t take much. There are
all kinds of little ways to bring fresh, local, nutritious foods into your own home, no matter what your income level or geographic location. So now what? People everywhere are making a difference, from growing tomatoes out of milk jugs, to gleaning extra produce from fields, to buying food from farmers markets. It’s not just about what we eat, but about the rights of those who grow it. The local food movement is all about the connections we make: to our neighbors, to our land, and to ourselves. “Everyone else is in their own world, with their own time frame, on their own track, and it’s amazing what a process it is to take a vision and make it into something when it isn’t just money and bricks and mortar, it’s actually building movement and change with people,” said Snow. Sure, buying local food is good for economy, and yes it is good for the environment. But at the end of the day it all comes back to people. Cellars agrees, “It’s about knowing where your food comes from, and knowing who grew it. It’s about understanding the complexities and difficult choices that we have to make to feed ourselves sustainably in our changing world. And, finally, it’s about shared responsibility – for each other, for our natural resources, and for making sure that farming is a viable livelihood.” In supporting local food systems, you are exhibiting pride for the place you call home. So I’ll ask my question again. Who wants to start a food revolution?
VERMONT’S EDUCATION “REFORM” INITIATIVE 2015: BAIT & SWITCH UNDER THE GOLDEN DOME Our Vermont Governor, Secretary of Education and legislative leadership all say they have heard us loud and clear—we have a property tax crisis here in the Green Mountains and they must address it head on. They acknowledge the continuous rise in education spending, note our extraordinary 1 to 4.67 staff to student ratio and say they have a strategy to deliver results. All that is the setting of the bait. These same leaders then put the blame on small schools and districts for high spending and climbing
BY HEIDI SPEAR
property taxes, reference highly inaccurate class size analysis, and promise to address our spending and property tax woes in two primary ways: increase tax burdens for small and shrinking districts and force consolidation. That is the switch that is ignorant at best, and dishonest at worst. Using Agency of Education (AOE) data, the below chart shows the actual distribution of high spending levels across districts by size and relative savings from efficiency gains:
High Spending Distribution and Efficiency Impact District Size > 2000
Total Students (2 yr Avg)
Total Expenditures (2 yr Avg)
Net Expenditures per Student (2 yr Avg)
Impact Actual High Exp -> Avg*
# of Operating Districts
% of Total Students
TOTAL 86,731 $1,548,767,596 $17,645 $106,521,455 265 * Impact measured as savings across size cohort if above average spenders reduce to average.
This chart reveals a couple key conclusions: • Districts with 100 or fewer students educate just 4.7% of our total student population and spend just 4.7% of our total education expenditures. They are clearly not the source of our spending or tax problems or our means to solve them. • Current large districts often consume far above the average cost per student, not spending less, despite their potential to leverage economies of scale. • Without addressing system-wide high spending, redistributing students from small districts to large districts could prove very costly indeed, not even considering the cost of consolidation itself.
I’ve written many times about why the above figures—the ones that most closely reflect actual resources consumed to educate the total number of students educated in each district—are important to consider when evaluating inequity, spending and accountability, but our elected leadership do not agree. They openly oppose inspecting actual spending data in overseeing a $1.6 billion service operation with a spending problem. That said, when considering the AOE preferred methodology to appraise relative funding (equation below), the conclusion to target small schools becomes disturbing at best. the conclusion to target small schools becomes disturbing at best.
Education Spending (a much-varied subset of Total Spending) Equalized Pupils (Act 60/68 weighted student counts far different from Total Students) 52
Using AOE data, Campaign for Vermont was nice enough to chart this distribution out for the public:
Is it looking more and more dishonest to assign blame, as they have, and insist that consolidation will solve our spending and tax problems? Using actual spending data or very manipulated Act 60/68 data, the financial justification for their policy push is a sham. Let’s revisit the talking points they hit again and again in our media (with the media’s gracious assistance): The Problem: small districts a small classrooms a gross inefficiencies a unaffordable burdens a skyhigh property taxes The Solution: increase tax burden to operate small schools + incentives to consolidate + impose consolidation a affordable education in Vermont No data supports this characterization of our problem or the wisdom of this solution. I understand that there can be benefits to consolidation and, in fact, I am advocating for it across our own Supervisory Union. However, that doesn’t make baiting and switching the public about what created our property tax crisis and what will solve it any more appropriate. Our leadership is using the public’s anger and fear to advance their longstanding agenda to consolidate authority further
from the voting public rather than to actually address the root cause of our problem or high spending itself. We have a system-wide spending problem. Montpelier fundamentally undermined accountability for resource consumption and property tax increases with the implementation of Act 60/68. By cloaking high spending and insulating a majority of homeowners from the ramifications of approving budgets—no matter how high—it fostered ever-increasing expenditures, undermined affordability and helped stagnate our economy. Act 60/68 has broken the connection between property wealth and spending, but it has not met its ultimate purpose: to fulfill the Brigham mandate to deliver substantial equity of opportunity. Some dismiss reform, arguing that our old Foundation Formula was deeply inequitable. It was! However, our old Foundation Formula and our current, unsustainable Act 60/68 Formula are not our only options. This is a false choice. Our student population has declined 20% over the past 15 years. Predictably, state leadership blames external factors, but this phenomenon was neither inevitable nor universal. Student populations have risen slightly nationally and increased dramatically in some regions. Our own extraordinary decline is a performance indicator—one we must face and rectify ASAP. A relatively high cost of living and a persistent shortage of economic opportunities will not draw young families to Vermont. Nor will sweeping, mandated consolidation of indeterminate design. Appalachia doesn’t have to be our fate, but if our elected leaders continue to take no accountability for state performance, ignore our affordability crisis and drive policies that assume perpetual decline across 95% of our state, you can be sure that Appalachia is our future.
MOST LIKELY TO SECEDE: SUCCEEDING WITHOUT SECEDING BY BRUCE S. POST In his book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Neil Postman juxtaposed George Orwell’s fear of a society that would ban books against Aldous Huxley’s dread that no one would ever want to read them. Most Likely To Secede is a book that deserves to be read. Most Likely To Secede is a compendium of essays or “dispatches” from Vermont Commons: Voices of Independence news journal, the philosophical underpinning of the Vermont independence movement. Secession’s proponents envisioned a new Second Vermont Republic emulating elements of Vermont’s independent First Republic, which lasted from 1777 until Vermont became a state in 1791. I personally am not a secessionist. My exposure to Vermont Commons consisted of occasional glances at its essays, and I share a concern that Ron Miller, one of Most Likely’s editors, expressed, “It troubles me to think of the Bill of Rights, environmental protection, civil rights protections, and other social and political advances now enforced by the federal government seriously compromised if that authority is dissolved.” Yet, as Miller lamented how the federal government itself was compromising those advances,
Photo: Rob Williams
I, too, cannot ignore the threats posed by the corporatist statism that passes for American—and Vermont—democracy today. The tide of the secession movement may never have been high, and its wave may have crested, particularly since the 2012 death of its most visible proponent, economist Thomas Naylor. Its ideas, though, have not. Most Likely to Secede organizes many of those ideas in four thematic parts: Empire and Overshoot; Global Problems, Local Solutions; Decentralism and the Vermont Tradition; and Sovereignty
and Secession. Each major part includes an introduction that frames the general theme(s) to be developed by the essays within each respective part. Part Two—Global Problems, Local Solutions—embodies the heart of the book. The lengthiest and most detailed segment, Part Two is divided into specific, topical sections: economics, money, energy, food, information, community and resilience. Each of these sections is further subdivided into separate essays. Helpfully, each individual section has its own introduction.
Otherwise a reader could get lost in a thicket of essays that spans the period from 2005, when Vermont Commons was first published, until 2011. Still, given the detail and information contained in many of the individual essays, the editors could have a provided a better roadmap by briefly and specifically summarizing each author’s essay in the section introductions. A reader could then triage those topics that most interest them without having to first wade through the numerous other articles. Ian Baldwin, a cofounder of Vermont Commons, was perhaps too modest when he wrote, “Our bag is full of questions seeking answers.” Most Likely does more than ask questions; it provides its share of answers, too. What emerges from that interplay of questions and answers is the book’s ethos, it fundamental values and ideas. Rowan Jacobsen, in his essay “The Cultivation of Our Own Tradition,” wrote, “I don’t care about ‘sending a message.’ What I do care about, deeply, is allowing all that is precious in Vermont to survive, and to thrive.” By identifying what they find most precious to Vermont, Most Likely To Secede’s writers make noble contributions toward a new Vermont polity: human scale solutions, a food system where Vermont can feed itself, community-based discourse, education and health care, alternative energy systems, and environmental solutions that are respectful not only of the land but of the larger biotic
community. Ben Falk underscores this ethos succinctly: “What if the same cultural process that stimulated the social-justice and green causes coalesced into a massive force and began to replace a consumer society with a society of producers based in decentralized, egalitarian, human-scaled, smaller units of organization? … Starting from the home scale and working outward, to the neighborhood, village, city, and region.” Of course, that is a big “what if?” Like Falk, Jerry Mander, in his book In the Absence of the Sacred, saw the potential of “nascent movements such as bioregionalism and Green politics” to question dominant societal assumptions. Yet, those assumptions will not topple easily; they fight back hard when challenged. When they do so, Mander warned, “it becomes okay to humiliate—to find insignificant and thus subject to sacrifice—any way of life or way of thinking that stands in the way of a kind of ‘progress’ we have invented, which is scarcely a century old.” Even in Vermont, the forces the Vermont Commons movement questions cannot tolerate rivals to their regime and will provide plenty of push-back. It is easy to think that the Vermont Commons folk have had their days in the sun, that Vermont has moved on. Yet, before anyone dismisses Most Likely to Secede, let them read today’s Vermont headlines: continued environmental deterioration; threats to our smaller
communities and schools; forcing the F35 war machine on neighborhoods close to the Burlington Airport; and a neo-liberal philosophy that, while paying lip service to Vermont values, is all too cozy with elites and corporate forces that, in one incarnation or another, have almost always dominated our state. Going forward, Vermont Commons might do well to correct two shortcomings in Most Likely To Secede: • First, it is too monochromatic and andocentric. Exclusively white, no people of color; too many men, too few women; and • Second, its love of Vermont should not blind it to our own state’s shortcomings. For instance, our energy system is dominated by the gargantuan Montreal-based Gaz Metro and its proxy Green Mountain Power. Many Vermonters are now learning the hard truth Richard Foley and Hervey Scudder’s essay identified: “regulatory agencies regulate us, the public. Not the agencies’ partners, the corporations.” These Vermonters could be part of the movement. In the end, publisher Rob Williams suggests a remedy: “a broad and inclusive process by which Vermonters relearn and remember … place and community by rediscovering older and more traditional ways of doing things, and combining them with the best of twentieth-century wisdom….” Now, that’s an idea most likely to succeed.
Photo: Michael Taub
Banking on Vermont’s Future BY ROB WILLIAMS
Background: 2VR has long supported independent financing for our once-and-future republic, and last year—2014—was a big one for making political and economic inroads with the concept of a public bank for Vermont, including a town meeting campaign in which dozens of towns considered the idea in public forum. Now here we are in 2015, and you’d think our elected officials in the Statehouse have completely forgotten about this revolutionary idea, supported by towns in town meetings across the state last spring. Silly them. This interview conducted by 2VR publisher Rob Williams with Montpelier’s Gwen Hallsmith (pictured above), Vermont’s leading champion of public banking, explores how a public bank for Vermont could help us solve our fiscal woes at a time when we could use some fresh thinking under the Golden Dome. Bring on the public banking license!
2VR/GMN: Here we are in Vermont—2015. The big news facing the state is a projected $100 million budget shortfall. As a proponent of a public bank for Vermont, what’s your reaction? GWEN: $100 million is close to what we’re sending out of state (or if it stays in state, it goes into the pockets of the high income bond holders) every year in debt service. If we were keeping the interest payments in state government instead of sending them to Wall Street and the 1%, we would have a lot more money to spend on public priorities. Now this won’t all happen in one year, it takes time to build it. A banking license is key, though, because it allows the state to use the somewhat fictional fractional reserve bookkeeping process, where dollars can be in more than one place at the same time. They are on your balance sheet as deposits, and the same dollars are also the assets you use for loans. Most of us are stuck in what I call the gold standard mentality. We imagine that there is something, somewhere, gold, or other real tangible assets, that moves around to make our money. We have not been on the gold standard since 1974. We are now on the debt standard, and so the ability to issue credit forges the almost magical wealth creation process. We need to recapture the public ability to issue credit in the same way the private banks do to solve our most pressing public problems. The state legislative session has already identified and “framed” a number of priorities for this legislative session, including education funding reform,
picking up the pieces of Governor Shumlin’s defunct universal health care initiative, renewable energy project expansion, and cleaning up Lake Champlain. How might a Vermont public bank offer ways to support these initiatives? In addition to being a source of lower cost loans for public improvements, public banking is also a revenue stream that is outside the usual tax process. So our alternatives are not just raise to taxes or cut programs—the interest payments on debt of all kinds can be a new source of revenue. Consider Vermont governor Shumlin’s now-defunct single payer proposal—the governor scrapped his plans for universal single payer health care one month ago, citing the proposal as “too expensive,” assuming money would be raised through new taxes. Your thoughts? This administration has been unwilling to look outside the box for revenues. They have been unwilling to buck the banking and insurance industry, or to raise taxes on high-income people in the state. It’s not hard to see why—a large majority of the folks who occupy the legislature and the administration would be taxing themselves and telling their friends—it’s a very clubby place these days—to take a hike. Difficult times take innovation and a willingness to change structures that aren’t serving us anymore. When you’re benefiting from the existing system, it’s hard to develop the intestinal fortitude to change it. I haven’t seen a lot of courage or creativity come from
the folks in power in Montpelier. So we continue to fiddle while Rome burns. Talk about public education funding reform and a public bank. Proposals have explored school consolidation, changing income sensitivity modeling, capping budgets, establishing “per pupil” spending thresholds. How does the idea of a Vermont public bank change this conversation and offer new solutions? We look too much at the operations spending side, not enough at the capital costs and revenue side. But that said, our schools are top heavy. We have more superintendents, usually paid three or four times what a teacher earns, per capita than most any other state. But they have lobbyists in Montpelier who ensure that we don’t touch that structure. We could do more with business managers that serve many school districts if we disconnect the business management from the curriculum development and leave the latter to the school principals, without all the superintendents. It retains local control where it’s appropriate—in the programs the children are taking, and achieves the efficiency of scale for the cost side. But public banks can help change the conversation as we look at the debt service of our school districts and try and find a way to recycle that revenue stream locally. Public banks can be mobilized for public finance at every level. Cities around the country are now trying to establish public banks at the municipal level, and while our cities and towns in Vermont are probably too small to have a public
BANKING bank themselves, public banks that serve municipalities, in addition to the state, would go a long way toward saving costs and adding revenues. It’s that simple. 2VR/GMN: What about cleaning up Lake Champlain? We know, for example, (and Governor Shumlin made a bit deal of this in his 2015 inaugural speech) that one of the biggest causes of lake pollution is phosphorous runoff from our dairy farms. Can a public bank offer support here in some way? GWEN: Dairy farms need methane digesters and low interest financing to really make a dent in their nonpoint source pollution. Public banks can provide lower cost financing to dairy farms, and the revenue stream the interest payments provide the state can be a source of cleanup grants where financing is not the answer. Most Vermonters regardless of politics seem committed to expanding our renewable energy footprint—more energy conservation, as well as wind, solar, and hydro projects, managed in appropriately scaled ways. How might a Vermont public bank assist here? This is a case where there is a direct comparison to North Dakota. The investments we make in public dollars for renewable energy can be returned tenfold to the public coffers as we simultaneously cut operating costs, keep the revenue stream from energy expenditures here in Vermont rather than sending it to Saudi Arabia or Texas, and reap the interest payments on the loans that are made to the entities that install the renewable infrastructure. It’s a win-win-win, with little or no down side.
Talk about college student loan debt. I work with university students throughout Burlington— and many of them are concerned about their ability to pay off their student loans. How might a Vermont public bank help here? The old days of indentured servitude were actually an improvement on our current higher education system. People worked as slaves for seven years, but at the end of seven years, you not only were free of your debt, but you got a piece of land to set up your farm and profession. Now, we saddle our young people with so much debt, they will never be able to afford a house or a start-up business. Meanwhile, they can’t get jobs after they have paid for four years of higher education because so much of our privately owned national money is tied up in stock market gambling, not job creation of any sort. So they become wage slaves to our low paid service sector—for life. The only way they can get out of it is through permanent disability or death. It’s a national shame and tragedy and will certainly make us a poorer nation in the future. The Bank of North Dakota makes choices every year about the student lending it does. Student loans there are at 1 and 2% and they offer loan forgiveness for doctors who stay in state, or for people who go into professions in public service. Meanwhile, this is possible in part because of the revenue stream the bank offers the general fund. Any final thoughts, and where can we go for more information about a Vermont public bank? I have to offer kudos to Beth
Pearce, our State Treasurer, who has been willing to go as far out on a limb as she has to take on local investment of her funds without a banking license. She has to work with all the bankers, so taking a stand against them is a very difficult thing for her to do politically and professionally. But I have found that the vast majority of the people in the administration just don’t understand the power of banking, or the potential we have if we take on our own banking license. Credit creation is a core function of our economy, and for most of modern history, this has had a public component. We have lost our public credit, and we pay an invisible interest tax to Wall Street with everything we make or do now. It makes the obvious taxes we spend pale in comparison—it amounts to about 40% of everything we buy. With capital-intensive things like public housing, it’s more like 75%. We need to keep pressure on the legislature to maintain the progress we’ve made with the 10% for Vermont program. But until we have a new administration, I don’t see a lot of potential for more courageous action, unfortunately. I would like to be proven wrong. I had high hopes for Governor Shumlin, but except for closing Vermont Yankee, he has not kept his promises and has not shown the kind of courage we need to address some of our most difficult problems. Visit our Vermonters for a New Economy Facebook page to find out more. And let’s keep advocating for a Vermont public bank!
HANG A FEW BANKERS by Jim Hogue (in the guise of Ethan Allen)
Performed at the Vermonters for Liberty Annual Meeting Held at the Vermont State House On January 24, 2015 Photo courtesy of Jim Hogue
hris Hedges has written an article about how the speculation of the “Too Big To Fail” Banks poses a serious threat to the economy and to our existence as a constitutional republic. He ends the article with these words: “We won’t be saved by anyone in Washington. We will have to save ourselves. We will have to transform our communities, cities and states into places where the consent of the governed is no longer a joke. We will have to take back power, which in a corporate state is financial power, from the venal class of speculators who hold us hostage. In open defiance we will have to build our own independent institutions. Of course the speculators will fight back. And they will fight dirty – they know the consequences of this revolt. Public banks are not just about theeconomy. They are about liberty.” The Bank of England was formed in 1694, and the
world has been on a war footing ever since. The central banks lend money they create to governments. The people pay the interest. It’s that simple. I repeat: the central banks lend money they create to governments. The people pay the interest. For what purpose does our government borrow the most money and what are the only real threats that the central banks cannot tolerate? They lend the most money for war, so it is peace they cannot tolerate. Nor can they tolerate sovereign or public money because it cuts them out of the loop. They can’t lend it at interest. What events since 1750 have caused the banks to take action and what actions have they taken? The Bank of England outlawed Colonial scrip. This led to the War of Independence. Their blocking of US sovereign currency led to the War of 1812. Breaking up central banks led to assassination attempts against Andrew Jackson. Greenbacks arguably led to the
You can read the article at http://www.opednews.com/articles/Overthrow-the-Speculatorsby-Chris-Hedges-Banking_Capitalism_Loans_Parasites-131230-520.html#comment465216. 
death of Abraham Lincoln. Presidents Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy all moved to free U.S. citizens from the central banks. What did Garfield say just before he was shot? “We cannot overestimate the fervent love of liberty, the intelligent courage and the sum of common sense with which our fathers made the great experiment of Self-government.” And Lincoln: “The money powers prey upon the nation in times of peace and conspire against it in times of adversity. They are more despotic than monarchy, more insolent than autocracy.” Today: Find me a designated villain who didn’t preside over a sovereign, state, public, debt free currency. Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and now even Russia and, can you imagine: China. But almost half of banking throughout the world is now public! From North Dakota to Germany. What’s a bankster to do? (They have already instigated a war against Russia via the Ukraine. There are plenty of William Kristols, Donald Kagans and Victoria Nulands to make it happen.) But there aren’t that many Jamie Dimons to order them to do it. It’s to Dimon in particular that I dedicate the title of this speech, and also to those who reward him and give him immunity from prosecution. Back to the history: Vermont had a profitable state bank from 1806 to 1812. I don’t think you are supposed to know that. It took a while for Vermont to create its own state bank for reasons that may astound you. Banking as a profession did not have a good reputation. It seems that in those days, people had an understanding of how banks worked and what they did. Here’s what our Vermont forefathers said as they considered allowing bankers to operate. Here are 3 of the 8 reasons for disallowing banks in Vermont: #3 “Banks, by facilitating enterprises both hazardous and unjustifiable, are a natural source of all that class of vices which arise from the gambling system and which cannot fail to act as sure and fatal, though slow, poisons to the republic in which they exist.” #5 “Banks have a violent tendency, in their natural operation, to draw into the hands of the few a large proportion of the property at present fortunately diffused among the many. The tendency of banks seems to be to weaken the great pillars of
a republican government, and at the same time to increase the forces employed for its overthrow.” #6 “As banks will credit none but persons of affluence, those who are in greatest need of help cannot expect to be directly accommodated by them.” The solution, the best of all possible worlds, was just around the corner. In 1804, the Vermont legislature recommended that the arguments regarding banking be put before the people, and that a vote on a banking bill be held in 1805. This was done, and the proponents of banking made a good case that banks would solve the many problems that Vermonters faced, including counterfeiting, inefficiency, and the draining of capital by out-of-state (“foreign”) banks. In 1805, supporters presented petitions for banks in Windsor and Burlington, and Titus Hutchinson backed a bill “establishing a State (public) Bank.” Though the legislature passed it, the governor and council did not concur. In 1806, “Petitions to the legislature for bank charters were numerous.” The legislature voted on petitions for private banks, which lost by two votes, after which a bill was introduced to establish “The Vermont State Bank.” This bill “passed by a large majority, the governor and council concurring.” The charter insured that the officers of the bank adhere to sound and prudent policy, monitored by a committee from the legislature. In 1807, the directors’ report concluded “The obstacles that were inseparable from an institution established on principles hitherto unattempted in the banking system have been happily surmounted and the practicability of those principles established. The high credit and extensive circulation of our bills, we trust, are sufficient to inspire the public confidence, and to insure a continuance of their patronage. Under the fostering care of the legislature, we are induced to believe that this institution may become highly conducive to the convenience of the citizens, and a productive source of revenue to the state.” It did. It’s demise, in my opinion, was orchestrated by those who could not tolerate the threat of a good example. No one was assassinated; a hostile army did not invade and slaughter the people of Vermont. The Vermont State bank was destroyed by peaceful
means—counterfeiting, intimidation, fraud, corruption, and manipulation by the Boston bankers. I wrote about this in an article published at 2VR.org about a year ago.
Excerpt from Most Likely to Secede
I am telling you all this because of our mutual passion for liberty and our mutual understanding of sovereignty. What is sovereignty? Who is the sovereign? You are here today because you have a pretty good idea of how to answer those questions. Every one of you has a good answer. Whatever it is, remember this: The sovereign is the person under whose authority a currency is created and accepted. Create the money and you are the sovereign. Today you will learn about a system that does this, and I’ll mention two such systems now: Amy Kirschner’s business to business mutual credit system in Burlington is one, and the other is called rCredits. I have left information about it on the table outside. rCredits actually gives the buyer and seller 10% more rCredits every time they use them, and it uses the US dollar as the measuring stick. In other words, goods and services are priced in rCredits as though they were dollars, but unlike dollars they are the opposite of a debt system. They are a credit system. And I’ll be happy to talk to people about how that works at any point during the day. Without any further accusations against the worthless witless brainless treacherous gutless underhanded groveling mean-spirited treasonous pompous arrogant self-serving destructive cowardly unctuous whores, leaches and panderers whose mission it is to divide up the world and the peoples of the world and to pillage pillage and pillage . . . I conclude with a parting reminder that what they can’t pillage, they destroy, while the best and brightest stand around holding candles that belong up their asses and ours for giving the bastards everything they want so they can pillage some more with our treasure and with our friends and our children. And we take it and grovel and call ourselves free . . . and some have the nerve to call themselves sane while our employees at the trough devour our private and our common wealth and shovel it on to their detestable accomplices: the maggots, the tapeworms, the traitors, and the enemies of planet earth.
MONEY. Reorienting the current economic system toward local enterprise, community needs, and sustainability will require a multifaceted effort, from changing consumer habits to making major policy changes in the face of entrenched economic interests. Several Vermont Commons authors have focused on one aspect of this transformation that they believe to be particularly essential—the need to rethink the role of money in the exchange of products and services. The nature of money is usually taken for granted; it is generally accepted as a neutral, objective medium for making the value of economic goods. Further, even when it is considered, money proves to be a complex and abstruse concept, involving moral, political, and historical dimensions that defy easy resolution. Any comprehensive analysis of the present crisis, and any viable model of resilient social order, must wrestle with these issues and provide a thoughtful plan for financing and mediating economic transactions. The articles in this section suggest places to begin this task. Read more in ‘Most Likely to Secede’ 2vr.org
An excerpt from the Inter States Trilogy
Inter States: Emergent Disorder 67 – RUMORS FROM THE BORDERS Sunday, November 4th, 2040 (late morning) “Wouldn’t you know it,” said the plump woman with a kind laugh. Christine smiled politely, and took another sip of her tea. What was her name? Christine could not remember. It was embarrassing. There had been quite a few newcomers to the congregation in recent months, many of them fresh arrivals to the area, between refugees and Vermonters retreating home. This woman had become active quickly. She was already volunteering with the Altar Guild. Betty? Or Berta? Christine did not know, and it was stressing her. Her cup rattled on her saucer. She laughed nervously. A distraction conveniently presented itself. Mrs. Heller was coming down the stairs into the Undercroft, and appeared to need assistance on the lower steps, where the bannister ended prematurely. “Oh!” exclaimed Christine. “I’ll just…” She smiled and gestured as she drew away toward the stairwell, setting her teacup on a cart in passing. The others smiled and nodded. “I’m coming, Mrs. Heller,” she called, moving quickly toward the elderly woman standing cliff-hung above the final slopes. Several other churchgoers were right behind Christine, bustling to help Mrs. Heller land. Mrs. Heller’s face rose above the scrum of Samaritans, an unsteady
blend of gratitude and indignation. Up the dim stairway above her waited the shadowy outlines of others trying to reach the Undercroft for their customary tea and snacks after the ten o’clock service. There wasn’t much Christine could (or needed to) do. Helping hands escorted Mrs. Heller down. She debouched into the better-lit function room, and the congestion above her cleared. As Christine turned to retrieve her tea, a familiar voice called down to her from the stairs. She looked. It was her old friend Sue Bailey. They both waved. “I didn’t think you were here today,” said Sue breathlessly as she caught up with Christine. “Didn’t see you when we were sitting down.” “I snuck in a few minutes late,” admitted Christine with a guilty smile. “We got a late start this morning, and the horses spent most of the ride protesting against the rain.” A series of heavy downpours had started in the early hours, and even as they spoke, the roar of more rain could be heard above the chatter of conversation. “Oh, is Jake back?” asked Sue. “Jake? No, he’s on his way back from the emergency Congress in Philly today.” She glanced at her
BY RALPH MEIMA
watch. “I think his train leaves in less than an hour.” “Oh, ‘cuz you said ‘We’,” Sue explained. “Oh.” Christine caught her assumption. “Oh, no. Jessamyn and the girls and me.” She nodded her head over toward the tea table, where Jessamyn was talking with someone and the girls were loading up on crackers and jam. “Jessa and the girls are staying with me this weekend. Chris has been called up by the Guard and he’s over in Bennington, at the border.” Sue frowned. “Seems like everyone is being called up. Dave is scheduled to go up to Burlington tomorrow.” “Is he still flying?” Christine sipped the rest of what had quickly become cold tea. “He’s not flight-certified because he hasn’t done enough training, but he can navigate and do other things.” She shrugged. “We’ve barely had time to talk about it. He’s been in the fields fifteen hours a day for weeks. And I’ve been in the kitchen and barns…” “At least you have lots of helpers, even when he’s away.” Christine smiled. “Or?” Sue laughed wearily. “Yeah, most of them now. Leah and Justin
are still only ten, though.” She rolled her eyes. Sue and David Bailey had seven children, all of whom worked in some capacity on their large farm up the valley from Christine’s parents’ house. “Our hands are what I’m worried about. Everyone’s still around, but Jason – you know, the red-headed guy – is one of the new sheriff’s deputies that have been called up – hundreds of them – and we might lose him part of the time.” “We’re going to have – or need! – lots of helpers soon,” said Christine with a nervous laugh. “You are?” asked Sue. “Why?” “My mother’s whole family…” “What?” Sue indicated that she could not clearly hear what Christine was saying. Someone from the vestry was making an announcement across the room, and the noise level was swelling. Christine stepped around a corner, away from the Undercroft and into the hallway that led to the Choir Room, beckoning for Sue to follow her. Once in the corner’s soundshadow, they both smiled in relief. “So what were you saying about your mother?” Sue looked concerned. “Is she OK?” “OK? Oh, sorry, no, nothing to do with my mother directly. No.” Christine took a breath. “My mother’s sister Florence and her whole family are moving up here – something like six or eight of them. Four generations. Things are not
going well down in Washington and they are already on the way.” “Oh, no,” said Sue with alarm. “Were they affected by the hurricane?” “Yes, well, indirectly, I gather. Everyone’s OK. But it’s not a good situation.” She lowered her voice. “I don’t think they have enough to eat for the winter.” “Isn’t that awful,” said Sue. She shook her head. “Dave knows someone with the same thing going on.”
around, through.” Sue nodded. “Oh yes, know what that’s like.” They both laughed. “But, you know, it may be hard to know what to do with people who have been, well, forced. You know, tensions, regrets…” Christine shook her head and shrugged. “Cross that bridge when we come to it. First we have to just get everyone settled with a bed to sleep in.” They both glanced back into the Undercroft, which was starting to empty. “Want more tea?” Sue nodded. They both walked back to the table and refilled their cups from the nearly empty teapot.
“Mother’s excited,” said Christine. “She’s close to her sister. Everyone says she’s a good person, though I don’t really know my aunt very well, not since I was little...” She Photo courtesy of Ralph Meima glanced at her watch involuntarily. “Jake has “So some of them may have to stay met her many times, down south. with us. We have room. Jessa is He likes her.” helping me clean up and put stuff “I don’t know what I’d do if I away.” suddenly had that many more “Can they be helpful? I mean, mouths to feed,” said Sue with a what can they do? You know, city tone that Christine found a little people…” Sue revealed her farmdisapproving. “Especially with it er’s mentality without reservation. suddenly being so hard to get a lot of things that come up from Mass “I don’t think that’s a problem,” and Connecticut, with their states said Christine. “I think they’re of emergency. I was just looking pretty much like us.” She for spices and rice the other day, chuckled. “It’s going to be interand I couldn’t find…” esting having so much family continued on page 64
BOOKS “They’ll be feeding their own mouths pretty quickly, I would think!” retorted Christine. “Most of them aren’t babies.” She looked at Sue askance. “Jake says there’s a labor shortage, with all the new people. He says there’s good land sitting idle, greenhouses to build, and lots to do. My aunt was running big greenhouses in Washington…”
“What?” Christine lowered her head to hear better.
“Well, there you go,” said Sue with a skeptical laugh.
Sue turned her head and looked sidelong at Christine. “I thought your man was the national politician and mine was the dirt farmer!”
“No,” said Christine with an emphatic smile and wider eyes. “I’m really not worried! My cousin Claudia’s daughter is apparently very good with horses, and her brother was in the Army until recently.” Sue put her hand on Christine’s arm. “Sorry to sound like I’m pooh-poohing. You know your family. But with Dave’s call-up I’ve been hearing all sorts of things about what’s going on at the borders. Most of these poor people don’t have families to come stay with.” It was her turn to lower her voice. “Did you know that more than five-thousand people arrived at the border on 91 yesterday – in only one day - and that they’re not letting most of them in? They are sending some to a whole new camp the State’s setting up on the old Yankee nuclear plant grounds. Under guard! The rest have to stay in Massachusetts. Which I’m sure Mass isn’t very happy about.” “No!” answered Christine. “Really?” “Yes,” said Sue. “The migrant camp at the Visitor’s Center is full. I know because the Myrick men have been down there doing construction all week, and you know what else Dave said?” Sue started whispering.
“There’s Chinese and European relief supplies coming down there from Quebec – the Guard is letting it through at Highgate – even though they’re not supposed to. To feed them.” “Who’s not supposed to?” Christine looked confused.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I mean, I know about the relief standoff, but it’s only about troops, not about supplies. If they’re just being shipped in from Canada…” Now Sue looked confused. “Oh. I see. No foreign troops, but, supplies are OK?” Christine frowned doubtfully. “At least, I think so…” Sue corrected herself, falling into a whisper again. “But there are foreign troops. Dave said he saw foreign trucks on the interstate yesterday, a whole column, driving south.”
Sue nodded uncertainly. “Oh my God,” said Christine. “I’ll have to ask Jake about this.” She shook her head slowly, the fingers of one hand to her chin. “Oh my God. I wonder if my aunt and her family will have any trouble getting in. Isn’t it all crazy?” They stood in silence for a short moment, finishing their tea and reconnecting with the scene around them. “Well, it’s good that Jake and your mother like them,” resumed Sue, in a noncommittal tone. “And they’re family…” Her eye caught something behind Christine. “Oops. I have to go. Dave’s making eyes at me.” She flashed a lippy smile across the room at her husband, who stood surrounded by children and teenagers in raincoats. He gave her a dour look back. “Bye. Let’s talk during the week.” “Yes,” said Christine, glancing around for Jessamyn. “Let’s.” Seeing her opportunity, Jessamyn glided over to her, trailing her youngest girl, who was holding Jessamyn’s index finger and pulling in the other direction.
“Really!” Christine looked shocked. “I thought this was what all the fuss was about in Philadelphia the past couple of days. The President was locked up because she allowed it. A total no-no. And the Guard is just doing it? Maybe they’re only Canadian trucks…”
“Chrissy,” said Jessamyn in her careful, pursed-lipped manner. “We ought to leave.”
Sue frowned and knitted her eyebrows. “I think so. Dave wouldn’t make it up… He never makes anything up.”
“Is this the new hurricane?” asked Christine absently.
“Are you sure?”
Christine’s eyes, following Sue’s departure through the groundlevel door, shifted to the large window beside it. The window framed a background of trees tossing in the rain and wind.
“Oh, no, it couldn’t possibly be,” replied Jessamyn with a tone of authority. “That’s still way down
Photo courtesy of Ralph Meima
in the Gulf.” She pulled on her coat, and turned to her girls to supervise their coat-dressing. Christine realized she needed to go back upstairs to retrieve her own raincoat, but for a moment could not tear her glassy stare away from the fluttering trees. Under heavy, gray skies, the trunks heaved – maples, white pines, birch trees – their burnt-off summer green mixed with the dismal yellows of autumn. The downpour intensified, drumming like some enormous machine on the roof above the entrance. It felt like the whole church was vibrating. The rain turned the playground outside into a boiling kettle of gravel and mud. “I hope the roads don’t wash out again,” said Christine, re-emerging from her reverie. “They will if we don’t get moving!”
said Jessamyn illogically. “I just can’t stop thinking about Aunt Florence and everyone, out in weather like this.” Jessamyn was buttoning up her youngest’s coat. “Well, they’re in a truck, anyway.” Her tone betrayed a lack of enthusiasm for their impending arrival. “Of course, I know that,” said Christine, now fully present again, and ready to re-engage with her bossy little sister. “But half of them are out in the back of Aunt Florence’s open wagon, right?” She flashed her eyes at Jessamyn. “Would you like to trade places with them? And have your girls along for the fun of it?!” “I wouldn’t put myself in such a situation in the first place,” said Jessamyn dismissively.
Christine laughed drily. “Oh you wouldn’t, would you? Do you think they chose this? You never know what’s just ahead,” she said. “There but for the grace of God…” Jessamyn was silent, but her buttoning fingers spoke eloquently. “Anyway,” said Christine, “it’s still going to take them a few days, and I pray that they don’t run into any trouble.” “So do I,” said Jessamyn. “And have better weather.” “Yes,” said Jessamyn.
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Vermont Workerâ€™s Center rally in Montpelier. Photo by Dylan Kelley.
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In this issue, we celebrate our Vermont neighbors doing the good work of building a more resilient and independent Vermont for a new century...