Burlington Thought Exchange experiment to tackle minimum wage on Monday

BURLINGTON, Vt. — The “Burlington Thought Exchange” political discussion series is coming back for its second iteration, this time to analyze political dialogue about the minimum wage.

Hosted by Vermont Future Now, the one-on-one political discussions are being staged every couple of months to get non-like-minded individuals to discuss hot-button issues in a civil manner.

This event, round two of the series, will take place 7 p.m. Monday, June 18 at the Study Hall space on College Street. It is free to the public, and food and beverages will be provided.

While the “thought exchange” pilot event in April was about the gun rights debate, this time participants are going to tackle the minimum wage.

WATCH: Burlington Thought Exchange discusses gun control in Vermont

Vermont lawmakers worked this year to raise the state minimum wage from $10.50 per hour, and both the House and Senate passed a $15 minimum before sending it to the governor’s desk, where it died from a veto.

Michael Bielawski/TNR

The “thought exchange” in action.

“There’s no end to topics, so this one is going to be on the minimum wage, which of course has been a big debate of late,” said Asher Crispe, executive director of Vermont Future Now.

“We’re looking forward to engaging a new audience and crew, so we will have a lot of different, new people there,” he said.

In a press release announcing the event, Vermont Future Now describes itself as a “non-profit, non-partisan, civic innovation organization” that seeks to bring together people who might not otherwise engage in political dialogue.  “The series aims to bridge the political divide in our country by facilitating local discussions about pressing political issues,” it states.

Crispe says the key to the experiment is having people with differing viewpoints sit down in a face-to-face setting. The personal interaction runs counter to the social media communication context, which often stokes the flames of harsh discourse and hate speech.

“It only really works if you get people who think very differently in the room,” he said. “As with any free market, I think that in a free market of idea exchange, the best ideas kind of naturally climb to the top.”

He noted that in addition to the one-on-one conversations, there will be guest speakers at the start.

During the two-hour event, individuals will pair up with non-like-minded partners and speak on the topic for a set time before rotating to a new partner. Each participant is graded by his or her counterpart on the ability to engage and maintain a respectful, constructive discussion.

At the gun debate discussion in April, Dan Feliciano, of Essex, won the top spot. He said after the event that he “was trying to understand how a person came to their belief … it just created a better conversation.”

Lilian Traviato, who is helping stage the “thought experiments,” said she hopes to see a diverse group of people who differ not only in political viewpoint, but also in age, gender and race.

“I was very aware of the fact that everyone in the room was white, and we’re representing this idea that we want a diverse mix of political positions and backgrounds,” she said. “We do confine ourselves into bubbles that are similar to us.”

She added that in today’s age of social media, where a computer screen is the only moderator between those interacting about politics, there’s a level of anonymity that doesn’t exist in a face-to-face meeting.

“I think people are more likely to [be verbally aggressive] when there are no immediate repercussions, or when the other person isn’t right in front of you,” she said.

Crispe noted that this time around the group has a promotional video to give the public a good idea of what to expect.

“I think that will help people understand what they are coming to,” he said. “We’re taking the approach that this is an ever-evolving project, and that based on collaborative input from our audience and feedback that we get, we’re going to continue to reshape the experience.

“We’re encouraged and we have a number of other communities that we are going to be announcing soon, and we are going to be doing projects there as well.”

Crispe said his group’s “thought experiment” may soon be coming to Bellows Falls and Manchester.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of Asher Crispe and Michael Bielawski/TNR

11 thoughts on “Burlington Thought Exchange experiment to tackle minimum wage on Monday

  1. “Feelings. Nothing more than feeeelings…” So the Streisand moan goes, a propos to the subject at hand.

    Crispe’s face-to-face setting sounds good until actual discussion (if it can be so called) begins. Then, out come the damn feelings, with no supporting facts, and rational thinking falls by the wayside. It’s not difficult to see that this “discussion face-to-face” BS is meant only to generate feelings in the public sympathetic to the plight of those low on the wage totem. To what purpose…?

    A more productive use of our time would, and should, be used to generate constructive input toward correcting the hostile business and tax climate in the withering Green Mountain State.

  2. Lilian Traviato, thanks for the bigoted, stereo typed comment, I’m Puerto Rican. My mom and dad were born Puerto Rico. Perhaps I should work on my tan.

  3. Vermont doesn’t have the workers nor the tax base to deal with $15/hour.
    If you hadn’t noticed Vermont is looking for taxpayers; they advertise for individuals who telecommute to a state that has jobs. Getting them to live here and not inflict any more ‘for profit’ companies of the Progressive sensibilities is the driver for this scheme.

    Persons with these jobs and skills will want good schools, not indoctrination pits (not available) a social life that doesn’t include heavy drug use and won’t have a mushwit mind that thinks paying inordinately high taxes is desirable.

  4. With a $15.00/hr. minimum wage, the Progressives will push until they get it, I wonder if they realize this is an $11,000 increase per year, for each employee, from the $10.50 per hour. To pay this amount retail businesses will have to sell $22,360 a year more for each employee to fulfill this mandate when the future of retail as we know it now, is already in serious question. Common sense dictates that if this was possible, businesses would have already done so. It is so so easy for bureaucrats to “solve” the problem of a minimum wage providing a living wage by dictating a minimum which will. If the real cause(s) of the problem were properly identified, Progressives might realize most go along with them. Policies of the State and Federal governments have affected those people the most who need a hand up. In a major push for more votes and cheap labor, the government has destroyed the free labor market by opening our borders allowing in an estimated one million illegal immigrants per year. At the same time, they have taken in one million to 1.5 million legal immigrants every year since the 1990’s. Wages are kept artificially low because there is a flood of workers. Last year, 50 states passed over 40,000 new regulations costing companies billions. Furthermore, if the same gage was allowed to measure the actual inflation used 20 years ago, the real rate of inflation would be 10% or more. I could go on all day with the real problem that the minimum wage is not a living wage but the point is we will continue creating more and more “solutions” if the real problem is not properly identified. The “solutions” will bring about a host of new problems. Next, this state will be worrying about what they need to do with all the empty storefronts they created.

  5. Wow, a nice title ” Vermont Future Now ” the future of Vermont is very dismal !!

    As of today the state is in Debt, High Taxes, Education System in Turmoil with no
    direction from our astute “Liberal Legislators ” but wait, they did pass some bills
    this year Pot Bill, Gun Bill(s), Bathroom Bill all are useless and have NO real effect
    on what the Major Problems are within the state !!……….These should make you
    we feel better now……… What’s the latest on the Opioid Crisis, all fixed it must be
    it’s not mentioned .

    Now we have a new Crisis $15 minimum wage , Small Business owner get ready to
    close your doors if this passes and we know our Liberal legislators want it …..Sad.

  6. Question: Why are we not talking about how terribly expensive Vermont is? Everybody knows it. We are not AFFORDABLE! We could easily have homes, 3 bed for $600 per month, college for 70% less, jobs that pay more and suddenly everything works.

    Instead we have the Sanders Shuffle and the Progressive squeeze. Socialism never brought a country our to poverty, it only has taken rich countries and ruined them. We are a poor state, we are feeling the squeeze.

    What Sanders and Company don’t mention in their socialist Scandinavian utopia discussions is the major part the makes the countries great, they are hyper capitalist which allows them to have a big social safety net.

    They are not socialist, they are not poor. You get a business permit in 1 HOUR. they have major industry, shipping, oil, high technologies in many fields, they have an educated populace, they are 70% Lutheran Protestant, they have no minimum wage or time an half, they often work more than 40 hours. They don’t have everyone using the safety net. Perhaps if Vermont adopted some of those Scandinavian ideas we’d be doing better, huh? Funny he leaves al the out of the conversation.

    You can’t get a state or country wit out industry to support 1/3 on public assistance. It’s not a way to prosperity. We make so many things in Vermont unnecessarily difficult, we trap people in multi-generational poverty, we have social programs the support broken families. We can do so much better, we need a change in direction.

    • Plus, the Scandinavian countries save an enormous amount of money by relying on the US for their military defense, avoiding having to pay for that themselves out of their budget.

  7. $15.00 per hour? Merely crumbs. Why not skip the garbage and go right to $50.00 an hour. Think how great that would be. A hamburger for $40, a cup of coffee for only $25. This $15 is merely crumbs (to quote Nancy Piglousy). The tourists will flock to the state to help us out. And Industry (?????) will support this in seconds. Think how great it will be.
    We’ve already taxed industry out, so this should make it final. I can see it now, tour busses driving thru the state showing the flatlanders how beautiful all those windmills on our mountain tops,, the fields with their solar panels, and then stop for a burger and a coffee. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful”.

    • Ah Vermont state, you cant have a billboard on the highway because it would be unsightly, but you can put a thousand solar panels in your field…….because heck – who will even notice them? They look so natural sitting there they almost blend in…..pffft

      • But, but, but they said we wouldn’t even notice them. I’m so confused. What are those ugly panels taking up so many acres of farmland?

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