Essays

Ethics Meltdown in Legislature

The Legislature is at an impasse trying to decide whether to establish and adequately fund a statewide ethics commission that has real enforcement capability. There’s been considerable favorable testimony by Vermonters, ethicists and our secretary of state, Jim Condos, who has been a relentless champion of government transparency, inclusion and establishing such a commission. Each time VTDigger runs a story on ethics legislative testimony or ethical lapses by state officials, comments from Vermonters run almost universally in favor of establishing such a commission. Legislative arguments against it are unconvincing: In this year of budget constraints, we can’t afford another government bureaucracy ($330,000 of $3.5 billion); (less than 1/100th of a percent) Financial disclosure of possible conflicts will discourage Vermonters from …
Continue reading

Posted in Essays, Opinion | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Vermonters Want a Real Ethics Commission

The Vermont legislature is at an impasse trying to decide whether to establish and fund a statewide Ethics Commission. There has been considerable favorable testimony by Vermonters, ethicists, and our Secretary of State, Jim Condos, who has been a relentless champion of government transparency, inclusion and establishing such a commission. Each time VTDigger runs a story on ethics legislative testimony, the comments from Vermonters run almost universally in favor of establishing such a commission. Legislative arguments against it are disingenuous: In this year of budget constraints, we can’t afford another government bureaucracy ($300,000 of $3.5 billion); Financial disclosure of possible conflicts will discourage Vermonters from government service; We’re all good people and we all know each other; What if an …
Continue reading

Posted in Essays, Opinion | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Coming of Age

I’m sitting in a dentist chair recovering from my latest oral sandblasting when the dentist pops in for his mandatory “dental consult” – a “drop-in with remarks,” as my grandmother used to say, which adds $150 to my bill. He has noted a possible “trouble spot” on my left sublunary molar tusk – I forget the exact dental nomenclature – and explains “our” plan for me entering the afterlife with gleaming teeth and rosy gums. I ask about the cost. “About $4800,” he whispers, none of which is covered by Medicare. I ask if he has any stopgap fixes for, say, $200? Sensing futility, he displays his own pearly-whites and leaves for the adjacent examining room, where perhaps a better …
Continue reading

Posted in Essays, Opinion | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Open Letter to Vermont Legislators

As the new legislative session ramps up, I’d like to offer some thoughts. Don’t micromanage complex issues. We already have too many laws and administrative statutes, many poorly drafted, ambiguous, or conflicting. Some actually confound good behavior. Our problems can’t be enacted away. They’re substantial and demand clarity of vision, courage, and leadership. A good captain looks over the bow of his ship, not the stern, and our two-year terms for governor and legislators confine us to short-term fixes for long-term issues. Senator Snelling is introducing legislation to move to a four-year term like the rest of the country —  except New Hampshire, which shares our fealty to the past and insouciance about the future. This issue surfaces every few …
Continue reading

Posted in Essays, Opinion | Tagged , | Leave a comment

You Can’t Have It Both Ways

When my daughter was in kindergarten in the small town of Lincoln, a wave of enthusiasm swept through her small classroom for vegetarianism and, like many of her friends, Anna announced to us she was a vegetarian. We honored her choice and several days later, when running errands in the metropolis, her older brother asked if we could go to Al’s and get a burger. I agreed and when we got there suggested Anna could have a grilled cheese sandwich. Somewhat offended by my suggestion, she opted for a burger. When I reminded her of her earlier decision, she expressed surprised that vegetarianism precluded having a hamburger. President Obama is a grown up, however, and should veto the bill emerging …
Continue reading

Posted in Essays, Opinion | Leave a comment

9/11 Redux

At 8:30 the morning of 9/11, I was sitting on the porch at the Inn at Shelburne Farms having breakfast with CBS, NPR, The NY Times, BBC, WNET, WGBH and a number of other media decision makers. We were 25 in all. It was the end of a conference our company held at the Inn each year in the calm between Labor Day weekend and leaf peeping season. A distressed colleague came over to our table looking asking to speak with me. He said his wife had just called him and that a small plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers in Manhattan. I decided to keep mum until I had confirmation and more detail. Jim returned 20 minutes …
Continue reading

Posted in Essays, Opinion | Leave a comment

UVM Quarterly Essay: Apppreciation of Exeter Professor George Bennett

BILL SCHUBART ’68 Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence. On the strength of a sonnet I had written at Exeter, I was accepted into a senior creative writing class taught by legendary Harkness professor George Bennett. Over his forty-five-year career he taught several American writers like James Agee and the poet Charles Pratt. Mr. Bennett sat at the head of an oval Harkness table, saying little other than to occasionally ask unsettling questions about a work we had read or written, or to challenge an assertion by one of us, or to catalyze a flagging discussion that we were expected to sustain for the length of the class. Once, as a …
Continue reading

Posted in Essays, Opinion | Leave a comment

Vermont in 2019, A Look Back at Today

Ten years ago, Vermont’s largest employer with revenues in the low billions was having severe difficulties balancing its budget. The imbalance was in the tens of millions of dollars and the board was deadlocked in its debates about whether to retain the many products and services offered by the enterprise and simply raise prices, or whether to simply reduce the number of its service offerings, focusing on those services the market was willing to pay for. Sadly, little or no strategic planning had been done nor had it collected actual market data other than anecdotal enthusiasm for its products and services. The problem had reached a crisis point and came to a head when board members and the Chief Executive …
Continue reading

Posted in Essays, Opinion | Leave a comment

Open Letter to the Board of the Vermont Arts Council

February 21, 2009 An Open Letter to the Trustees of the Vermont Arts Council Dear Trustees, I am writing this as an open letter as I was unable to attend your public hearing in Burlington last evening because of a scheduling conflict. You have asked how you are doing and I write to address that issue. Among the people that I know who have a deep affection for the Council and others who have worked there or been otherwise associated with it, there is general agreement that the Council has become largely irrelevant to Vermont artists and major arts presenters. There is of course a reluctance to say this at your hearings as some are still grant recipients and in …
Continue reading

Posted in Essays, Opinion | Leave a comment