Impressions from the Candidate Forum at the Rights & Democracy Summit
What a dynamic day! Over 200 working Vermonters flowed in and out throughout the entire day. It was a great start for us in building towards the 2016 elections where we will be shaking up the political establishment.
We began the day with our partners at Public Assets Institute and Vermont Interfaith Action presenting on building a moral economy in Vermont with panelists Rep. Kiah Morris, Rep. Christopher Pearson, Erhard Manhke and Karen Lafayette.
Workshops through the day focused on important topics like:
Vermont’s Labor Movement
Criminal Justice Reform
Political Organizing and Candidate Training
Jobs, Justice & Climate
Candidates Panel a Big Success
We had an excellent lunch plenary with over 150 people participating to listen to four candidates vying for Vermont’s top political jobs of Governor and Lieutenant Governor. For Governor we had Matt Dunne and Bruce Lisman. For Lieutenant Governor we had Representative Kesha Ram and Senator David Zuckerman.
By and large, we thought the candidates who participated engaged thoughtfully on a number of the critical issues our state faces. Highlights included support for addressing the crisis of student debt and investing in higher education. Candidates were generally well received about their comments about Black Lives Matter, addressing racism in the schools and divesting state portfolios from fossil fuels. Many in the audience thought the candidates could have been stronger around moving towards a $15/hr minimum wage and a commitment to stopping building pipelines and new fossil fuel infrastructure.
Matt Dunne had some really interesting ideas and called for rethinking the state budget process. He said that he could not imagine starting a state budget process without looking at what the needs are, and that we can't come back year after year with a budget deficit driven largely by health care costs where we then cut services to our most vulnerable Vermonters and eliminate front line workers.
On collective bargaining, Bruce Lisman said that state workers shouldn’t have to pay for the mistakes of the last two administrations. and that we should not have so many temp workers. He also said that “A deal is a deal and I would tell members of the union to negotiate as hard as you can because once we’ve done it, we’ve done it. But we also need to have the right size workforce.”
David Zuckerman came out strongly by saying to him “austerity is a four letter word” which would be a big change in philosophy from lawmakers approach to the state budget. A highlight from Kesha Ram was when she clearly stated that she stood in opposition to the house Appropriations and Government Operations Committees letter to the Governor suggesting ways to gut the state employees collective bargaining agreements and thought the Democratic House Leadership should had taken a harder stand against the push to ban teachers’ right to strike.
You can watch the whole thing on CCTV here.
Minter a No Show
The question among attendees was what happened to Sue Minter, as she had confirmed her participation well over a month ago. Many wanted to hear where she stood stood on issues affecting working Vermonters. Just prior to the summit, Sue Minter’s campaign said she had a personal conflict and could not attend. When we saw Minter’s Twitter feed from the day, it was clear that after accepting the invitation, she changed her mind to attend a parade.
The purpose of this panel was to start the conversation on issues facing working families. The conversation will continue until the election. We hope next time Minter will come because Vermonters would like to hear her positions on issues that affect Vermont families and our communities.
Closing Panel: “How could we build Bernie’s political revolution in Vermont?”
The day finished on a very strong note with great panel of Senator Anthony Pollina, Representative Susan Hatch-Davis, Chittenden County State’s Attorney TJ Donovon and Burlington City Councilor Selene Colburn.
We think the discussion was a great start regarding how to move forward including; criminal justice reforms which end policies that criminalize poverty and developing a public infrastructure that will create good jobs that our communities need.
Pollina had some of the most memorable statements the whole day when he said “If you look close enough you can see a for sale sign on the Statehouse and the wealth it represents.” He also clearly stated that change does not start in the Statehouse, but that it starts with us. Stay tuned for more more video from the day.