Gubernatorial forum on a bleak and bloody Sunday

It was a polite crowd of about sixty Franklin County voters who braved the terrible morning news, cold and rain to shuffle into folding chairs and listen to four gubernatorial candidates discuss the issues.

The candidate forum at St. Paul’s in St. Albans was hardly a partisan pitchfork convention, as Phil Scott, noteworthy for his absence, might have expected. An empty chair at the table was the only reference to the missing Lieutenant Governor.

Once the rules of engagement were laid out by representatives of “Rights & Democracy” (organizers of the event), the candidates were invited to give a three minute introduction of themselves.

To his credit, Matt Dunne, who was first to speak, used his three minutes to remember the 50 individuals who were gunned down overnight in Orlando.

After the other candidates had been given their opportunity for a stump speech, the candidates were each in turn asked to answer the same set of questions about jobs and economic opportunity, healthcare, affordable housing, education, energy and the environment. Each response was limited to two minutes and most of the candidates respected the time limits.

Those questions were followed by audience questions, submitted earlier on pieces of paper, with only one-minute allowed to each candidate for a response. There still wasn’t enough time left for all of the audience questions.

In light of the news of the day, I had submitted a question on assault weapons and I know that one other person had asked about efforts to address the dangerous climate of hate and bullying that has recently been in the news. Neither question made the cut.

Of the four candidates, Sue Minter and Matt Dunne made by far the best impression, giving clear and well considered responses that demonstrated their personal strengths as candidates.
Sue Minter is the candidate of greatest public service experience and Matt Dunne projects the dynamism of a quick and entrepreneurial mind. Both came across as capable, comfortable and socially adept.

Peter Galbraith projected passion and determination, and most of his ideas appeared to differ minimally from those of the other Democratic candidates.

The thing that fired him up the most and drew considerable applause from the audience, though,  was the issue of industrial scale wind, to which he is vehemently opposed.  In fact, his energy policy has a great deal more to do with curbing consumption than replacing it with renewables. I have to say, I see a lot to like in that perspective, since there is almost no national effort toward reducing consumption, and emphasis in that area is badly needed.

Bruce Lisman, as well, is opposed to industrial scale wind. He may in fact be opposed to even small scale wind projects, but I am not at all sure. Many of his responses were a little vague, as I remembered from the last time I heard him speak a couple of years ago. He tended to go off question a bit in order to address topics that were of more interest to him, but that left some listeners, like myself, struggling to follow his train of thought.
I believe that, unlike the other three, he does not support increasing the minimum wage even to $12.; but again, he didn’t really say so.
On the subject of marijuana legalization, Mr. Lisman is opposed while the other three support it with some variation in roll-out and management.

All of the candidates were eager to answer the last question the afternoon, “What would you have done differently from the current governor?’  Sue Minter replied that she would not have promised something she couldn’t deliver, and Matt Dunne also said that he would have handled the health care rollout very differently; drawing on his own experience to avoid the software disaster that plagued the Governor’s efforts.  Mr. Galbraith would have given a better account of what the Governor’s healthcare plan would  cost and how he would have paid for it.

Mr. Lisman said there were many things he would have done differently from Governor Shumlin, but pressed with just a minute of response time, he settled for saying that he would have been “truthful.”

I thought it was too bad, given the implications of the day’s headline tragedy, that no opportunity was taken to discuss Vermont’s singularly lax gun regulations, or the growth of hate crimes and bigotry throughout the nation.

I keep hearing that we don’t have a gun problem in Vermont; and many would argue that we don’t have a hate crime problem here, either; but bullying is very real even in Vermont, and we are not an island. Sooner or later, gun ‘problems’ will be visited on Vermont as surely as on our neighbor states.

…But I guess we’ll have to save those issues for another election cycle.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

15 thoughts on “Gubernatorial forum on a bleak and bloody Sunday

  1. Take the year 2010….

    • Essentially there are no gun control laws (in comparison to the rest of the nation);
    • 42% gun ownership rate (19th highest in the nation);
    • 7 total murders (lowest in the nation);
    • 2 murders committed with guns (lowest in the nation);
    • 1.1 murders per 100,000 residence (second lowest in nation);
    • 0.3 murders with guns per 100,000 residence (lowest in nation);

    Do you think gun control in Vermont would reduce our murder rate to zero? Please… Point being, show me a problem (that is not just your ideological predisposition) then I would consider having a conversation. I subscribe to the ‘if it aint broke don’t fix it’ maxim.

    Pushing for gun control in Vermont is nothing more than handing an effective wedge issue to the Right to get working class people to vote against their own economic interests. (As a member of the Progressive Party) it seems like a piss poor idea to me. I would suggest we not import Democratic Party ideology from Washington DC to the Green Mountains for its own sake. Seems we’ve been doing just fine without it, and I (like many) prefer to retain my (Vermont) Constitutional Rights that have worked well for 200 years.

    1. I’m afraid that we still need to have the conversation.

      Just because there have been no mass murders involving assault weapons in Vermont doesn’t mean there won’t be in the future. We are not magically protected from the violence that has surprised other states.

      1. And I suppose we are also not magically protected from National Democratic Party ideology…

        Ever hear the phase “don’t barrow trouble?”

        Or perhaps our goal is to revitalize the Republican Party and perhaps help lift the Libertarian Party to major party status. Sounds like a fools plan to me.

  2. Do you honestly think that if we just never discuss it, the problem of wanton gun violence will never come to Vermont?

    I have NEVER understood the taboo in Vermont against even discussing a little gun control. If we can’t even entertain the discussion in the most liberal state in the union, that’s a pretty weak Democracy.

    No one is suggesting a ban on guns, but surely we can consider outlawing assault weapons, which are pretty definitely anti-personnel, and not about personal defense.

    1. “Liberalism” has not been a particularly interesting or cutting edge ideological frame work for 100+ years. And, with all due respect, your position is a solution desperately seeking a problem.

      If by most “liberal” you mean clear consensus support (outside the city of Burlington) for gun control, regressive taxes on goods and services, helmet laws, leash laws, noise ordinances, zoning laws, pacifism, ATV restrictions, snow machine restrictions, no-cut forestry policies, outlawing of public smoking (even outside), further centralization of State control in Montpelier, etc., then I would flatly state that Vermont is not even close to the most liberal state in the nation (and thank god it is not!).

      If you mean to indicate that we appear to have majority support for single payer healthcare (i.e. healthcare as a human right), increasing the taxes on the rich (and reducing them on working people), increased reliance on a progressive income tax, increasing the rights of unions to organize, moving towards in-state self-sufficiency via renewable energy production & public ownership of dams, democratic expression through local control & Town Meeting, a guaranteed livable wage, universal access to higher education & technical training, then I would agree with you but also assert that this is not liberal or liberalism. These values are progressive in nature; social-democratic on one level, libertarian-socialist on another. And perhaps we can in fact agree that this (in the United States) is rather remarkable and in fact very good.

      We came to this, in part, is because as Vermonters we were not so foolish as to wrap these progressive ideas up in a box complete the laundry list of platform items from the National Democratic Party. Gun control, uber centralization, one size-fits-all zoning of small land holdings, and all the plethora of other issues that do in fact create real wedge issues that alienate the working class (as has happened in most of the rest of the country) have never been part-and-parcel of the deal (so to speak). Thus we have been able to move a progressive agenda forward one step at a time, as a people.

      So, as we look at the South (all of the South), and as we look at the Midwest, and much of the West, do we truly believe it smart or rational to emulate the same failures and Democratic Party ideological packages we have seen there turn a majority of poor and working class people into Republican voters? To do so here, by our own hand, would be pathologically insane.

      I know… “But someone, one day, could use a gun to kill many people right here in Vermont…” Sure. Given a long enough timeline, probabilities would appear in increase (The Gambler’s Fallacy aside)… And you know what, we could have a destructive earth quake too (perhaps we should adopt the same building codes they have in Japan). We could also have a fascist take control of the White House (and then those guns we have now may not seem like such a bad thing). All sorts of things could happen over the next 100 or 1000 years. But the fact remains that over the last 56 years (since 1960) we have had less total murders, 508 [not differentiating those committed with guns, or knives, rocks, sticks, etc.] then the State of Michigan had in 2010 alone (558). And yet some folks appear to be clambering to abolish the Vermont Constitutional Right to bear arms because, why? Because at some point in some future we may become like another place? Or more likely because gun control suits the world view and broad liberal-Democratic ideology which a few have an urge to mimic here in the Green Mountains (even if our experienced and historic reality does not reflect other regions in the US). Crazy. Almost religious in tone.

      You know, it would be more efficient and to the point if you cut to the chase and voted Republican or Libertarian in the next election. After all, pushing a gun control agenda in Vermont is not gonna reduce of gun murder rate (2010) down to zero (from 2), but it will help elect Republicans and give an issue for the Right to build on. So go on. Have fun with that. But I would not expect too many blue collar workers, union members, etc., to be so fast jumping down that rabbit hole with you.

      But look, if folks believe we should do all we can to reduce gun murders in Vermont (2010: from 2 to 1?), ok, let’s start by doing more to eradicate social alienation by creating jobs via public works. If the goal is to reduce the number of suicides (by guns or otherwise) lets adequately fund and staff our mental health systems. If the goal is to reduce accidental gun deaths, let’s have the Hunter Safety Course mandatory in public school. All of these are things that I, as a gun owner [semi-automatic rifle], a Vermonter, and a Progressive can get behind (and I think all of us should). But to degrade our gun ownership rights because, what, Democratic Party ideology? No thanks. I will vote Third (and Forth) Party.

  3. They’re about defense if attacker has an AK or AR by avoiding being outgunned. We live in an increasingly dangerous society with predators who for whatever reason do not respect life, liberty or pursuit of anything good, really.

    We need to prepare for the eventuality that we may need to protect own life or life of loved ones or friends, or…not.

    Must say *I don’t like guns* & am not a hunter. Respect the rights of hunters & humane use of animals for food — trust me no chicken wants to know its ancestors — but if I had to kill and dress an animal would fish or live a vegetarian lifestyle which I do for the most part already.

    Personally find pig roasts barbaric — to see a living created being, slain animal, laid out in such an inglorious fashion disturbing. Love pigs, cute little fuzzy pink ones I’m told were pets. Personally believe life should carry a deep gravitas of respect, wildlife & even some harmless insects other than pestilence.

    But if it comes to the life of a predator & mine or loved one, choice is clear & theirs alone.

    1. Honestly?

      You see the Wild West squared and double-squared, with everyone packing AR’s and AK’s as a reasonable future for America? Bullets flying everywhere as everyone reacts instinctively to threat, real or perceived, with a hail of uncontrolled fire?

      I think we can do better than that.

      1. “Bullets flying everywhere as everyone reacts instinctively to threat, real or perceived, with a hail of uncontrolled fire…”

        -Sounds like the reality being lived in the large sections of the world the US destabilized through invasions, coups, drone strikes, and economic warfare. This is no abstraction. And let’s not forget that we have had (almost) 8 years of the Democratic Party in the White House perpetuating this reality for tens-of-millions across the globe. I just assume not allow that government (Republican or Democratic) an absolute monopoly on the right to bear arms. I just assume not deliver that monopoly to the neo-Fascist Trump or ‘let’s do some regime change in Libya/Iraq Hilary.’ Come to think of it, maybe our Founding Fathers (Ethan Allen, Governor Chittenden, and Seth Warner) had something right. I vote we not sacrifice our Vermont Constitutional Rights on the altar of the National Democratic Party.

      2. Everytime there are more murmurings of RKBA assault everyone runs out & buys guns or at least stocks up on ammo. WalMart is or was semi-permanently sold out all the time regardless.

        Just joined NRA & unemployed presently but see the $49. membership as a necessity. After the election Bloomberg surrogates will be back to perform their evil once again. And public enemy #1 Dicky Sears will be right there to roll out the red carpet & usher them into his committee.

        Whether anyone needs a semi-automatic rifle is up to the owner. “Military-style” a deceptive term. Sale or possession of military weapons & machine guns have been banned for a long tome *I think*. Also was another type of ban by Reagan-memory fails.

        No, don’t think everyone needs an AR or AK, purpose is to avoid being outgunned *by a threat*. Revolver, Glock handgun w or w/o magazine I’m sure would protect anyone just fine but anyone who wants obne should be able to own one.

        This supposed necessary surveillance of citizens & bulk data-collection is not keeping us safer, like others that have occurred FBI had Orlando killer in sights as potential threat but failed to act. Why? So he’d go bonkers, do what he did & then typical blaming & shaming, followed by the predictible antics on Capitol Hill?

        Law enforcement was warned of the shooter by one of those nasty gun dealers. Did nothing or not enough.

        AR not used in Orlando & happened in a gun-free zone:
        LE the ones doing the shooting of unarmed citizens. Soo, illegal to use protection or wear bulletproofs in some areas. Seems like it was also proposed in VT but can’t find a link:

        Citizens should not be the ones to pay for the crimes of the crazy. And, despite gun laws in other states, violence continues. The stricter the gun laws the higher the rate of violence.

  4. Get a grip, Chicken Little.

    Our Vermont Constitutional rights will do just fine without all of us packing assault rifles.

    1. Those who claim we need gun control specifically here in Vermont, ‘because we may not always have the lowest gun-murder rate in nation’ appear to be the ones claiming the sky is falling. And we have done just fine on this issue for 200 plus years without the help and liberal guildence of National Democratic Party.

    1. No but we do have actual facts concerning the 10 years we had a federal assault weapons ban (1994-2004). For that period, in Vermont (and I do like to think we are talking about Vermont) there were a total of 129 murders (again not differentiated between guns and sticks and the like). For the 10 years that followed (through 2014), even though the assault weapons ban was lifted, we had 103 murders. I could also point out that the most amount of murders ever committed in one year in Vermont was in 1976 when we had 26 [more than doubling what we experienced in 2013 & 2014]. I am guessing that not too many semi-automatic rifles were around 40 years ago. I do not in any way claim that these crime rates decreased because of an increased access to semi-automatic rifles. Rather I find it factually telling that their banning (or lack of accessibility) did not decrease the murder rate. Again, in Vermont the citadel of gun control rests in an almost religious (ideological) belief, not in reality. But the reality remains that if the Vermont Democratic Party pushes for such self-defeating (and meaningless) measures, it will turn working class voters into Republican and Libertarian voters. In the Green Mountains, there is plain-and-simple no wining the gun control argument on actual facts. That said, let’s not try to ironically shoot ourselves in the foot because we want to be more like the New York and Chicago liberals. Maybe that’s your bag, but it sure as hell aint mine.

      1. I’m afraid a mortal fear of Republicans and Libertarian voters that would drive me to say nothing about issues of life and death is not my ‘bag.’

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