Public Policy Forums @ CAPA
9/14/17 - States' Rights: The Struggle Between the President and the States
CAPA kicked off its Public Policy Forums with States' Rights: The Struggle Between the President and the States, with guest speakers Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan and Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos.
"We're delighted to launch this series with these distinguished guests, who are doing such important work in our state at this critical moment in history," said CAPA Director Susan Sgorbati, who is co-teaching the CAPA course hosting this series with Vermont State Senator Brian Campion.
The forum, which was attended by a packed audience of both students and members of the Bennington community, began with brief introductions by Condos and Donovan who covered their personal philosophies towards working in the public realm, relevant experience in the field, and what their respective positions typically entail on a day-to-day basis. Having served in a number of governmental capacities—everything from city council to state senator to civil litigation lawyer—for the past several decades, the two collectively boasted an impressive track record of civil service and advocacy.
The remainder of the forum consisted of an open Q&A-style session between the attendees and the two state officials. The resulting dialogue was powerful, and shed light on the growing dichotomy between the state vs. federal governments. A wide array of topics— including voter fraud, recidivism and the causes of criminality, environmental activism, and civil rights under the current administration and different courses of action to take—were all touched upon and discussed at length.
“Tolerance, equality, unity, freedom. These are the issues that, when you boil it down, come down to the tension of federalism and basic civil rights. Nobody will agree with every decision you make, but when making decisions, you can’t check which way the political winds are blowing,” said Donovan on dealing with constituents who express their disapproval in choices made by the state government. “At the most basic level,” Condos said, “government is customer service. We represent the people of the state of Vermont and the job is to help Vermonters and reflect the overarching values of the state.”
The event was also covered by the Bennington Banner (article here).
CAPA's Vermont Legislative Series forums addressed policies and recent bills passed in the Vermont legislature; topics included The Vermont Renewable Energy bill (Act 56), the Vermont Education bill (Act 46), the Vermont Clean Water bill (Act 64), Student-Centered Learning (Act 77), and Building a Healthy Bennington. These forums were created for the Bennington College community and for the citizens of the Town of Bennington and the Village of North Bennington communities, with the goal of educating students and the public about current restructuring of educational governance and the current policies around energy, water, education, health, and more in the state.