We need to hear from you. It comes down to that.
This project — Ideas for the Future of Vermont — is a conversation. The Vermont Council on Rural Development has, after months of conversations and surveys, came up with 10 propositions that are the crux of what is important to Vermonters. They are the very things that define our quality of life here. These propositions are certainly not all of those factors, but boiled down, they certainly provide the essence of Vermont.
But knowing how best to protect and still adapt our state at the same time is a tough measure. Policy-makers and lawmakers have their thoughts on what has to happen to make Vermont a better place. But it is citizens whose voices matter most.
So we are very proud to be taking part in this partnership that we believe is an opportunity for Vermonters to discuss our future in a thoughtful and meaningful way. Late last year, Paul Costello approached me about getting a commentary into the paper about the propositions and the work that VCRD has been undergoing. From that conversation came a spark.
A few years ago, The Times Argus and Rutland Herald asked readers to help shape our coverage for 2018. In a project called “Into the Issues,” we wanted to chase down topics that readers told us were important to them. The multimedia project — print, photos, podcasts and recorded panels — was designed to peel back an issue to its root — why is (topic) happening in Vermont. Then over the course of a week we would provide analysis and offer possible solutions.
Readers gave us solid feedback, but the public problem-solving initiative proved too ambitious for our already strained newsrooms. Rather than taking up an issue weekly, or even monthly, an investigative series was produced quarterly. But out of that project came some memorable on-stage interviews with Boston Globe Spotlight’s Sacha Pfieffer; the administrator of the Pulitzer Prize, Mike Pride; singer-songwriter and activist Roseanne Cash; and a dozen statewide experts discussing effects of the opioid crisis. Those were recorded by local public access stations, Central Vermont Television or ORCA Media.
Overall, “Into the Issues” provided a wonderful arena for reader engagement. While at its individual levels, it had purpose and great results, it did not ultimately serve the purpose we intended: We were looking for a brain trust.
Paul and I discussed “Into the Issues” and how parts of that framework might be incorporated into Ideas for the Future of Vermont. Very quickly we realized a partnership between VCRD, the papers and a public-access component provided the platform that would support a worthy discussion.
On these pages during the next 11 weeks, you will be introduced to the propositions through an expert on the topic. Consider that a prompt. Then, take a few moments, and type up your thoughts and submit them to us at email@example.com.
On a given week, we will give space here to letters on a particular proposition. Additional responses on that topic will be found online at www.timesargus.com/opinion/vermontideas/ or www.rutlandherald.com/opinion/vermontideas/.
But responding to a prompt is only part of a discussion. We need to be informed on the issues. That is why the partnership with Greater Northshire Access Television (GNAT-TV) is so important to this process. Each week, the public-access station with host Andrew McKeever will facilitate a discussion about a different proposition. Those discussions, also called Ideas for the Future of Vermont, will be made available to other public-access stations across Vermont.
The Vermont Access Network has a statewide reach, which gets this discussion into the homes of every Vermonter. (It will air weekly on GNAT-TV’s public channel 1074 on Monday at 3 p.m.; Wednesday at 8 p.m.; and Saturday at 9 p.m., and always available on demand at www.gnat-tv.org) Links to the shows will be available within The Times Argus and Rutland Herald pages listed above. Take the time to listen to the panel discussions; read the commentaries, respond and be certain to check out all of the reader responses.
We are all hoping that this brain trust provides a vetting of issues facing Vermonters, as well as the first steps toward guaranteeing a future of Vermont that we all can feel we had a hand in shaping.
You have heard from us. Now let us hear from you.
Steven Pappas is the executive editor of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald.