The Candidates Speak — on the Arts
The Council recently visited with the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor. We asked about statewide issues, a personal connection to the arts, arts education and programs for youth, the new administration’s role in the creative economy, and Vermont as a cultural destination. Candidates were also given the opportunity to say what immediate priorities they would set for the creative community.
We posed the same six questions in every interview. Responses are summarized on this page. Full transcripts of each interview are available through these links: Matt Dunne | Peter Galbraith | Bruce Lisman | Sue Minter | Phil Scott
The Council Asks
Question 1, Addressing Statewide Issues
Like many other states, Vermont faces many economic and social issues. We also know that 85% of Vermonters agree that arts and culture are vital to their community’s life.
- Can you provide examples on how you would integrate the arts, culture, and creative community in solving social problems (or in enhancing opportunities for greater social or civic engagement)?
- How would you use the creative sector to drive economic development across the state?
Matt Dunne Q1 | Peter Galbraith Q1 | Bruce Lisman Q1 | Sue Minter Q1 | Phil Scott Q1
Question 2, Your Personal Connection
We’ve all had defining moments in our lives, where a cultural experience (a performance you have attended, or a work of art you have seen in person, etc.) has made a lasting impact on your personal or professional life.
- What personal experience with arts, culture, or creativity has had an impact on your life and your view of Vermont? How has that impact changed you?
Matt Dunne Q2 | Peter Galbraith Q2 | Bruce Lisman Q2 | Sue Minter Q2 | Phil Scott Q2
Question 3, Arts Education and Programs for Our Youth
Art instruction increases achievement across all academic disciples and develops the whole child. We also know that 94% of Vermonters agree that the arts should be integrated into K-12 public school education.
- What will you do as Governor to champion arts education with our youth both in our schools and in our communities?
- How will you balance the importance of arts education with the push for primarily technical education (STEM)?
Matt Dunne Q3 | Peter Galbraith Q3 | Bruce Lisman Q3 | Sue Minter Q3 | Phil Scott Q3
Question 4, The New Administration’s Role in the Creative Community
The State allocates funding each year for the Vermont Arts Council, the Vermont Humanities Council, and others that serve Vermont’s creative community. Some are concerned that the state’s capacity to support the programs and activities that are vital to the community are insufficient.
- If you share this concern, please share your ideas on how you might address them. For example, what three revenue sources will you create or use to increase the state’s financial investment in the creative community? What specific program priorities related to the creative community are you particularly interested in investing in?
- If you don’t share this concern, please let us know what you believe is the path forward for the creative community. What specifically should the state be investing in to ensure the vitality of Vermont’s creative sector?
Matt Dunne Q4 | Peter Galbraith Q4 | Bruce Lisman Q4 | Sue Minter Q4 | Phil Scott Q4
Question 5, A Cultural Destination
While Vermont is characterized as a special place, many believe the state has yet to effectively leverage the strength of our arts, culture, and creative community as a means for branding and attracting residents, employees, and visitors.
- How would you utilize our state’s cultural assets to make Vermont a place where people want to live, work, play, and visit?
Matt Dunne Q5 | Peter Galbraith Q5 | Bruce Lisman Q5 | Sue Minter Q5 | Phil Scott Q5
Question 6, Your Priorities
The start of a Governor’s term often sets the administration’s tone and priorities.
- When elected, what actions will you take in your first 100 days to provide support and resources to the creative community?
Matt Dunne Q6 | Peter Galbraith Q6 | Bruce Lisman Q6 | Sue Minter Q6 | Phil Scott Q6
The Candidates Respond
Question 1, Addressing Statewide Issues
We are facing a variety of different challenges in our state. Having grown up here and now raising a family here, I have not seen these kind of challenges in my lifetime. We’ve got poverty rising. We have an opiate epidemic. We have a demographic that is getting older and we’re seeing the impact of all these things on the state budget, on stretched social service agencies and on our communities in general. I’m running for governor because I believe we need to go in a new direction. As you know, I have spent most of my career, one way or another, involved in working with the arts community and creative community (which overlap but aren’t exactly the same) to try to strengthen the economy of parts of Vermont and across the state, but also to make a difference in the lives of young people and those that are struggling.
We face challenges our state, including young people who are living in communities that used to be agriculture and are now frequently large tract suburbia, and you see the heroin epidemic that’s growing. All the research shows that the ability to engage young people in productive and creative activities is a powerful, powerful way to ensure that they stay on the right track and don’t engage with the kinds of activities that are high risk. With heroin as prevalent as it is, potentially deadly, I think it really important that we focus on prevention in order to reduce the heroin epidemic. The arts are a critical way to be able to do that. That’s one of the things that I get excited about even in the face of this very, very difficult time because you don’t do prevention by showing scary movies. You do prevention by giving someone a pathway to do something that gives them fulfillment and a strong trajectory.
In fact, that arts education economy is one that is an untold story in Vermont whether it’s the College of Fine Arts here in Montpelier, or the Circus School in Brattleboro. It’s a growing part of our economy because any economic development you want to be exporting value and importing cash. That’s how it’s got to work in Vermont. We are creating institutions that leverage our fantastic brand while actually creating that economic capacity in our state to grow.
Well, perhaps a word of background. In 1958, my father wrote a book called “The Affluent Society,” which challenged the conventional wisdom. That was a phrase that he actually invented. The conventional wisdom was that our well-being is measured simply by GNP: by how much we produce, of goods and services. He argued for other values as well and notably, protecting the environment and the arts.
This has been part of the Galbraith family philosophy my entire life, or almost my entire life. It seems to me that the arts are an integral part of our life. Culture is everything. You walk down State Street and you come to this building and you have around it, a little sculpture garden with flowers. Art is something that belongs in public spaces. It’s something that is very appropriate with museums and places that people can visit and in public buildings.
I was on the board of the Shelburne Museum for a dozen years. I was an avid supporter of the Fleming Museum. These things cycle and cycle. I’ve helped promote artists, some of whom you may have heard of, at earlier stages of their career, introducing them to people. I’ve got a big interest in arts generally.
I think the arts in our economy is going to be really important. I have in mind selling the state to the world, not just as a place to visit and see bucolic Vermont, or a place simply to pass through on the way to Canada or something, but rather as a place to live, a place to start a business, and a place to work for others.
I read Richard Florida’s work, which I loved, and there are examples where the arts and the rest of the real economy are running side by side and intertwined, and that provides not only a place, oftentimes a place to go or a place to be seen, but it gives us a sense there’s a bigger world than what we just notice in our little store here, a little store there, and then there’s an opportunity to intersect with someone who is providing real pleasure.
I am inspired by our creative economy and remember well how it took over our main street in downtown Waterbury during the After Irene Floodgates Art Project. I have seen art in so many ways drive social awareness and social change and obviously, provide inspiration.
I want to reflect for a moment on the AIDS Quilt Project. When the AIDS epidemic was really at its peak, I went to many different presentations of the quilt itself. I saw it in downtown Boston, and in Washington, DC. It drew together thousands of people to raise awareness about AIDS in a powerful, emotional way. Art drives awareness and social change. Art can also drive our economy.
So you may see my economic development strategy evolves around two programs, one is called “Invest Vermont” and the other is “Innovate Vermont.” “Invest Vermont” is building upon what we’ve been doing in our downtowns and villages and as part of the Downtown Program that I have been in, really, for the last 12 years. Arts and culture is very much a part of a strategic economy-building in our downtowns. It’s about restoring our historic buildings but it’s also about bringing arts and culture into the forefront of what drives the growth of our downtowns.
I see Vermont as being at the forefront of starting its economic revival, and I believe that we haven’t spent enough time talking about that over the last number of years, about what we can do to help ourselves.
What we have is we have this stagnant population in Vermont, and we have this shifting demographic. We’re getting older and we’re not backfilling this age group from 25 to 45. We’ve lost 30,000 people out of that category alone in the last ten years since the last census.
We need to rebuild that sector, is what I’m driving at, and I believe that’s through trying to attract the youth, trying to find ways that the opportunities for them to stay, being able to afford to stay. Because I feel that we have this crisis of affordability here. But I think it all stems from this demographic challenge.
So, the arts, I think, plays into that quite well. We sell our quality of life and we talk about that quite a bit, but I think it can be better, and I think that certainly the arts, in terms of attracting all different types of diverse communities together, is important.
Question 2, Your Personal Connection
I was brought up in a household that was passionate about the arts in a variety of ways. My father played the violin. I played the violin. He actually took me around to the three churches in Hartland and we used to play on Sundays at different times when I was in second and third grade. We played duets. It was memorable. In fact, fast forward a little bit when I was running for office at the ripe age of 22, I think I actually got my majority in that race based on people remembering me coming and playing in their church. They would mention it over and over when I would come around especially in North Hartland or with older retirees who I hadn’t been in contact with because I was at college or in high school but they remembered that.
But the moment (since you ask the question) that changed my life was when my father picked me up after school unannounced on a June day near the end of school and we drove straight from Hartland Elementary School to Shelburne Farms to go to the Mozart festival on one of those beautiful, beautiful nights. We met up with some friends up there that I didn’t see very often because they were up in Chittenden county. We lay out on a blanket, eating food and listening to the most amazing music imaginable and looking up as the sun set and the stars came up, and then driving back what felt like the middle of the night was a memory that I will always cherish because it was only a couple of years later that my dad passed away.
I also found out later that he had forgotten to tell my mom that he was picking me up so there was a little drama on the far side. This was in the days before cellphones. Nevertheless, it was a magical, magical experience for me and one that certainly stuck with me on how powerful the arts can be on an emotional level as well as all the economic impact and everything else that we talk about so much.
Actually, to be fair about it, probably the thing that was most profound was taking Fine Arts 13 in college which, in the year I took it, was simply European painting from 1500 to 1900; having black and white photographs in the books of works of art to look at and memorize. Then setting off to Europe with those books and making a point of trying to see every single one.
Now, 45 years later, I’m close to having succeeded at that. I love art, I love theater; I think of extraordinary performances that I’ve attended, and again, the great museums of which I am a patron and supporter. They are shape-defining experiences. When I go someplace, I want to see the arts.
As a child, another fellow and I were often deposited at the Fleming Museum for some program, and it was really babysitting. I don’t think we always behaved as we should’ve at that age. But we did extraordinary things. At least I got a keen appreciation and met an occasional artist. Anyway, I can’t paint or draw, to be clear. Seeing it was really quite interesting and it captured my interest. Some people go to flea markets. I haven’t actually done that very often, but I like going to studios. I like going to museums. When my daughters were young, we had mandatory trips. I took one of my daughters to an extraordinary exhibition of a woman in lower Manhattan who had built a replica of New York City – The lower half of New York City – with bottles. You could only see it for one week, and then it was going to be destroyed in a grand celebration. How she did it, I’m not sure I remember exactly, with some drawings around it. Then later it was destroyed. My daughter and I talked about it for quite a long time.
I think it should be part of people’s lives. Just not as important to others as it might be to me or to you certainly, but sometimes we don’t realize what we’re seeing is art, and it’s just interesting.
I would point to some impactful community art that I have experienced post-Irene, which really shows what art can be in terms of healing, in terms of community-building. In my hometown of Waterbury, following the devastation of our downtown from flooding during Tropical Storm Irene, to help us move through our grief and loss, we used art. And I say “we” — I just participated as a person who showed up and did my own art as a member of the community. The folks focusing on this created the opportunity for community members to use art as a way to heal. And there were materials and anyone could do anything. And it all ended up on display as part of the After Irene Floodgates Art Project. It was displayed in a downtown business that had been damaged. The building was unusable at that time, but it is now a popular craft beer store. But for a while it was this temporary art gallery, putting into the public space people’s experience, their pain, their loss, and their hopes and their dreams. It was very intense.
I also want to mention is Waterbury’s River of Light. It was a community art project three months after Irene, and it was led by our local elementary school art teacher, MK Monley. Other local artists like Sarah Lee Terrat were also involved, and graphic designer Laura Parette. And we had an artist-in-residence, Gowri Savoor, who taught us how to create illuminated lanterns. I just became a community member who experienced the River of Light. It was essentially a lantern parade.
The River of Light engaged all of the children in the school and community members. The power of community to actually be resilient and recover from this devastating event and the beautiful things that were in the whole community came out. It was dark and this beautiful River of Light wove slowly through our recovering downtown. It was unforgettable. Now the River of Light is an annual event.
So I see art as part of social impact, I see healing, I see inspiration that I’ve had personally and I see community building and strength and coming together. Those are the ways that I’ve experienced art and see what it can and must continue to be.
There were times when growing up, again I’m from a blue-collar community, that I just assumed that I didn’t have an artistic bone in my body. That could be true in some respects, but we all have something to offer. I found out that I am a craftsman. I love to work with my hands, I love to create things, build things out of wood, fabricate things out of metal. That makes you an artist in a whole different way. It’s just the way you view it.
It’s just incredible what you can do. You use your basic skills to do that but you don’t think of yourself as an artist. When I was at UVM, I took an art course because we were required, but I found out that I’m not bad at a literal type of drawing. I can do that, especially with pencils and shading and so forth. I enjoyed that.
Question 3, Arts Education and Programs for Our Youth
The research now is very, very clear which is that the arts incorporated into school actually makes a difference in student performance. There are some pieces which are particularly interesting to me. When students play stringed instruments, how that affects math. When you look at the ability to use art in storytelling, how that helps connect the dots and being able to build a narrative in general. It also allows for hands on education in the wide form of creative work that is now so important to students who decide that they’re going to work with their hands rather than working at a desk. It is something that I believe is important to education not just to create well-rounded citizens which I think is real and true, but also to make sure that we’re getting the best outcomes for Vermonters.
I intend to work very closely with the Secretary of Education under my administration to make sure that it is a fundamental component of every education for students in the state of Vermont. We also know that introducing it as early as possible, just like with all things in education, will have the largest impact, but also to work with many of our innovative nonprofit organizations to be able to bridge schools that may not have the individual capacity to deliver the kind of arts education and the diversity of arts education that we would all like to see.
First, I don’t buy the idea that emphasizing STEM is going to better equip young Vermonters for life. I think that, first, some of it is way overstated because there are, in fact, no jobs out there going begging for so called STEM positions. In some of these fields, there’s a significant oversupply. The whole premise was based on a catchy phrase and it was inadequately researched, particularly in the Vermont context.
Secondly, I believe what people prepares people well for life is a well-rounded education which absolutely includes, in an integral way, the arts, music, drama as well as literature and humanities. There are really two aspects to it. First is to encourage kids to explore their creative potential, whether it’s drawing, painting, singing, playing a musical instrument, or acting in a play.
We have big mandates in front of us, and a governor and legislature that have spent their brains out leaving us with not enough to invest in important things. Education’s under a lot of pressure because it’s directly related to people’s property taxes. The whole issue of what we can afford to be. Can we afford to live in our own homes? Can we afford to stay in our own community?
Oftentimes, the arts are the butt-end of the debate about where we spend our money. I think I can be a spokesman on behalf of the value of an arts — I wouldn’t call it an economy, but — the value of an arts culture in a state like ours. That is not the only thing we’re going to sell to the outer world and to our own citizens, but it’s one of those essential ingredients. Will it win the battle over learning science? I don’t think it’s a battle at all. I think it’s a non-mutually exclusive parallel in which we should be talking about the arts for those … Everybody should experience it and those kids who are interested should have the channel. For those of us who find STEM to be the best way and the most attractive way to progress through school and through the world, they should have it. They’re not exclusive.
I have an idea of spending at a rate of about 2% a year for the next three years so we can rebuild our capacity to invest. What happens at a local level’s is hard to say, but I’ll be an avid and active spokesman on behalf of the arts and culture.
It’s about integrating. We have this drive towards STEM which is more cerebral and math-driven. That is because of the goal of creating a workforce for the future for so many businesses in Vermont who are challenged to find qualified workers. Part of what I aspire to do in my “Vermont Promise” program is to actually get two years tuition-free at Vermont Technical College and Community College of Vermont to really help move people into ladders of opportunity, to break the generational cycle of poverty, and to build that workforce and help grow the economy.
But I absolutely believe that arts and the whole development of a person are essential to all of our education and to the driving of that workforce, too. When you go, for example, to our career tech centers, you can see art and creativity exhibited in everything. It is what drives innovation. It isn’t just math — it’s math brain plus creative brain that is actually creating new innovative solutions. So I think we have to see the whole person, we have to continue to believe in the arts as essential and certainly ensure (it continues).
The artist-in-residence program is something I really see as critical, especially in the early years. There are so many more ways that art — and for me, personally, music — have changed my life and my kids’ lives: being a part of a play, being part of a musical production, being part of expressing yourself differently from being just another kid in a classroom, or being a jock.
I think they’re integrated more than we accept or maybe envision. I, again, went to Spaulding. I did my college prep in the morning because I wanted to move on, but I also was involved in the vocational tech program. I took two years of machine trades, and something that I’ve learned an incredible amount of doing with precision. Again, it’s artistry with machines, creating and building things. We had that throughout Vermont. You’ll find that the masters, the real machinists craft incredible things here in Vermont that we can be proud of.
In STEM, with the science, technology, engineering, math, all of that could be revolving around the arts as well. They’re all interrelated, and we need to make sure that we are able to tap into that, to really drive that creativeness that’s inside all of us in different ways, and expose that. Because you never know what it’s going to bring in your future.
Question 4, The New Administration’s Role in the Creative Community
The first area that I would be interested in addressing may not be what people typically think about which is the Art in State Buildings program which in Vermont has always been a part of the capital bill, although frequently a contentious one which is very unfortunate because the ability for us to creative buildings that hopefully will last for hundreds of years need to be in places that state employees and the public want to work in and visit. The ability to have the cultural aspects to be part of that welcoming I think is very, very important. I think it’s unfortunate that we are, as I understand it, one of the few states that actually puts a cap on the percentage of a total project that would go to Arts in State Buildings. One of the first things that I would do is request removing that cap because I believe that for the small portion of the overall project, you get a lot more value in a state building that it’s not simply a box that someone has to go to every day but is actually some place that inspires confidence from the public as well as inspires the people that are coming there everyday to serve Vermonters.
In other areas, I would be looking for ways to make sure that all of our cultural institutions are ADA accessible…I would also be looking for ways that we could use our limited state dollars to leverage additional dollars, to be able to encourage the vibrant philanthropic community both here in Vermont and people around the country who love Vermont and love to see it as a demonstration state, as a place where things can be done and shown to make a difference in lives, to be able to bring in more resources than we already have today.
The arts are incredibly important. It doesn’t mean that the state’s role in the arts is going to be incredibly important. Look, the state of Vermont has limited resources and it has a finite mission. Much of the mission is education, healthcare, roads; public safety. All of those are the fundamental public services, which, incidentally of course, support the creative community as they do other communities.
To talk about the central role of the arts and public education, that’s very easy for me because public education is a function. Can the state play … and should the state play a small additional role in support of the arts and the humanities in the state? Yes.
You should elect me governor because I’m the one person speaking about needing a vibrant economy. I don’t talk about a silver bullet of having 700,000 people. That’d be another 80,000 people arriving on our doorstep. There’s a comprehensive need to restore an economy that actually grows, that creates real jobs, and throws real tax revenues into our government so we can afford to spend in the right places. I can tell you that the arts are important to me.
I’ll be as protective as I can of your needs, and would expect to speak to you often about what I think is the broader culture in arts economy. But we need to develop a strategic budget. We need to choose three or four of the most important, big things and find the ways to cover secondary, even tertiary, needs as well. I can promise you that I’ll be a governor that is mindful of the broader needs, but will try to bring to you a government that’s more responsive, with talented people in areas that are crucial; of technology that works and the capacity to get things done.
I think it’s about how we leverage everything we do. We can talk for example about art and infrastructure. We have the Danville (Transportation Enhancement Project) success as an example of how we actually bring art and culture into a downtown infrastructure project to be able to think outside the box, and about how we use the existing programs we have to leverage more.
I learned a lot both as a community activist and as a state manager that state managers can’t do it all. We’ve got to leverage in every way we can and we have to go after grants! One of the things where the state doesn’t have enough capacity is grant writing. It’s a small thing but there are so many opportunities out there that we have to actually be collaborative. I think that you will find in me a governor who is very collaborative, and always looking for partnership and leveraging.
Well, I need to be honest. I think that we’re in a bit of an affordability crisis in Vermont, and we’re going to have to, for the short term, try to live within our means. I appreciate the fact that we want to leverage as many federal funds as we can. I know you receive money nationally, and it probably requires a match. We want to make sure that we can leverage all we can, so I want to protect that. But I think that we continue to try and do whatever we can to work together into this creative economy, because it’s going to be all hands on deck.
How do we pull together in the same direction in order to do it? It isn’t about this versus that. It’s more how do we do it together, because it will benefit all of us to recognize that a healthy economy, a vibrant economy, will lift elbows. We’ll be able to succeed in ways that we can only imagine at this point. It’s solvable, it’s doable, but there’s going to be a bit of … Regardless of who becomes governor, there are significant fiscal issues that are going to be waiting at the doorstep.
Question 5, A Cultural Destination
We have the best brand in the world and it is oriented around quality. It’s oriented around an environment which is pristine. It’s oriented around a ruggedness that I think people associate with Yankee frugality. That helps a lot with getting 20% more for maple syrup or any of the food products that we create. The problem is that we have, in some ways, only limited to those particular pieces and it served us well and we built it up over a period of time. Vermont Life was a brilliant, brilliant idea to set a sense of this unbelievably beautiful state in the minds of people around the country and frankly around the world. What we need to do is take that incredible brand and expand what it actually means because we have things going on in the state that no one can imagine at this point.
The story of the vibrant arts community in the state is critically important as is the story of the entrepreneurs who have been successful almost despite the focus of the state.
The top priority for Vermont is to make it a place where people want to live. I’m strongly supportive of tourism but I’m really concerned about the quality of life for Vermonter, for people who live here, for Vermonters. That, obviously, includes quality schools and for tertiary education.
It’s one reason that I’ve proposed that we provide four years’ free tuition at all Vermont state colleges as well as reduced tuition at UVM which would cost 28 million paid for by repealing $28.5 million in special interest tax breaks. There’s addition money that comes raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which is another part of my agenda. In terms of the arts, again, I think art should be part of public institutions.
I believe this is our moment. We have a very special place. We need to do some work. We need a budget that works. We need to work on some environmental things too, like the lake. I think the arts is an effective draw.
I’m completely biased. I like museums and I like art and I visit studios. I think we have more to offer than we get credit for. Packaging that in a way that resonates with people, not just in our state, but in those around us is really the catch.
I see the ways in which we use our tourism dollars: How are we leveraging our communities? Let’s face it, the state has such limited resources and our tourism budget is always at risk. How can we build off of it? I have a plan for outdoor recreation and the outdoor industry and leveraging our assets, whether it’s our state parks, our mountains, our hiking trails, our mountain bike trails. How do we get more people to come and recognize Vermont for all that it is?
I think we have been fairly limited in how we market Vermont. When we have communities with the kinds of community plays, the kind of art and museums, I don’t think that we do enough to actually accentuate that in our marketing. So that’s one way to help make sure that as we do our “Invest Vermont” we have these vital downtowns, and how all of them are looking to art and culture as part of the nexus that they promote and build.
Leverage in every way I possibly can. I would take advantage of that all I could, because I think we do have a great story to tell but I don’t think we’re doing it in a constructive way. I don’t think we’re doing it with a common theme or message. I think that that’s part of it. It’s very difficult to market, and very expensive. Look at our campaigns for governor. Normal people would spend a million to two million dollars on a total campaign. You’re marketing yourself, in Vermont, and most people you would think might know who you are. But after spending a couple of million dollars marketing yourself, you can still go to pockets of Vermont and find that people have no idea who you are, have never heard your name.
That, I think, highlights the challenge that we have with limited resources trying to attract others outside the state. We need to put a marketing plan together that is common to most, so that we can all develop maybe the same theme. Whether it’s “innovative by nature,” whether it’s “one foot in the pasture one foot in the factory.” I’ve heard some variations of these. If we can develop a common theme and then run with it, so we all are saying the same thing, and have maybe just a little bit of what we do attached to that, I think that that’s something that could be beneficial in the future. We have to work together. We can’t do it in silos.
Question 6, Your Priorities
This may sound like an odd answer to that question, but one of my top priorities is going to be to address our housing shortage. We have gone from having a housing crunch to a homeless crisis in our state. As is true in many parts of the country where creativity has started to happen where the artists have gone first then come in other kinds of innovative companies that follow suit, development and gentrification, and suddenly those people who’ve been a part of it all along suddenly are priced out of the market as well as risking not having the kind of diversity that makes those communities interesting and not a monolith.
As we move forward with the proposal I’ve made both in doing a large bond to do efficiency work in our apartment buildings … but also a $200 million bond to get us caught up on housing and do it in downtowns, do it with the with the style that young people want to live in which is not in a two-acre lot with a picket fence. It’s in a very cool apartment with high ceilings where you can ride your bike or walk to places to socialize, to work and shop. By doing that, I think it will do a huge amount for the vitality of our downtowns and it will do a lot for the arts and culture that can be part of driving that overall economy.
I think it’s fair to say throughout my term in my office, I will be a participant; participating, attending, cheering on artistic events, partly because I enjoy doing them anyhow. In terms of my 100 days, my legislative focus is going to be on a handful of key priorities that will really change the state of Vermont.
I’ll tell you what they are. They are immediately going to the $12.50 cents minimum wage and to $15 by 2021 so that it can support the anti-poverty program we could have in the state. It will make Vermont affordable for those for whom it is now least affordable. It will boost the local economy and it will save taxpayers up to $80 million … Because people make so much that they won’t get the income tax put in. That’s priority one.
The first hundred days are going to be spent doing a whole bunch of things. We need a budget, and I think we’re going to discover that’s going to be harder than we imagined pulling one together by January. We need talent flooding into our state’s government, to run agencies and departments…[We need] a list of things that we need to do so that we actually have a budget that makes sense. Eventually, that clears the way for what I would call investments and other things, including the arts.
I’m naturally curious about the world, and think that there’s an opportunity for the arts to play a central role in our future. I can promise you that you can call me and we’ll go see something. I can promise you I want to do that
In my first 90 days I will establish a variety of task forces. I am very focused on the four sectors of innovation in terms of driving our economy. I also want to have task forces on the outdoor industry and the creative economy.
I know that there are always things going on in our state, but not everyone knows about what everyone else is doing. I certainly saw this during Irene. I hope we can create the opportunity for people to collaborate and come up with suggestions to drive forward. That’s my vision. I want to build upon these task forces because when you get leaders who are excited about leading innovation to actually work together and come up with strategies, it’s part of what I hope to do as part of a statewide strategic plan.
Well, first of all, it’s all about hiring your administration. I would really pay attention to who was secretary of different departments that have a structural mind, that have the ability to work with others to utilize a budget. To be creative themselves. And to understand that we really are all in this together. I hope to have a bit of a cultural change in state government.
I think that we should be treating our citizens better. I think our different bureaucracies, our different departments, our different agencies, and it’s no fault of their own, but I believe that it’s just a leadership change at the top. To lead by example and to treat our businesses, treat our individuals better, and treat them as customers. And again to understand that I will focus on trying to make Vermont more affordable, and to focus like a laser on trying to restore and revitalize this economy in Vermont that I think is truly unique. We just haven’t told the right story, we haven’t focused on the right things, and I think that the future’s bright if we play our cards right here.