If you’re like most Vermonters, your first encounter with VPIRG was probably when a young person biked up your driveway or knocked on your door to talk about our work. Our intrepid summer canvassers have been a familiar sight in cities and towns all across Vermont for years – and in 2019 alone, they knocked on more than 90,000 doors around the state.
But given the current health emergency, knocking on thousands of doors as we have done for decades just wasn’t going to be possible. We could not risk potentially spreading COVID-19 as we build grassroots support for our collective health and wellbeing.
That’s why this summer we are launching our first ever virtual canvass, contacting our members via phone, email, text, and snail mail to inform them of the issues we’re working on and renew annual memberships.
For more information, check out the announcement from our Executive Director, Paul Burns:
The 2020 Voting, Vigilance, and Values Campaign
If the outbreak of COVID-19 and resulting events have taught us anything, it is that there’s never been a more important time to be working together to protect the public interest. The coronavirus pandemic is a crisis like no other in recent memory. Thousands of Vermonters are facing this crisis newly unemployed and without health insurance.
And the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. In times of great chaos, there are bad actors who will take advantage of those circumstances to erode our democracy, weaken our environmental protections, and enrich themselves at the expense of the public interest.
So, VPIRG has immediately redeployed our resources to focus on three key areas: Voting, Vigilance and Values.
VPIRG has long believed that our democracy works best when as many people as possible participate. In 2020, the way we vote is likely to be different. In the midst of this health crisis, we’re calling for Vermont to move immediately to a system that would have citizens vote by mail from home, rather than in person at polling stations around the state. Since there’s no way to guarantee that the coronavirus emergency will have ended by November, a vote by mail process is really the only responsible way to conduct elections this year.
It is imperative that every eligible Vermont voter that wants to cast a ballot is able to do so. Moving to a vote-by-mail system will require work to ensure that it’s done fairly, transparently, and openly, as well as a massive education effort to ensure Vermonters are able to exercise their right to vote. VPIRG is prepared to lead on this effort.
Vermonters need a watchdog like VPIRG on the beat to help guard against bad actors who believe in the phrase “never let a good crisis go to waste.” We’ve already seen countless examples of consumer rip-offs and vital environmental programs facing rollbacks in the face of heavy lobbying from fossil fuel giants and the chemical and plastics industry.
At a time when people are afraid, confused, and in many cases fighting for their economic and literal survival, it is unconscionable that these industries would try to take advantage of this situation to rollback critical protections and further endanger our health and well-being. That’s why VPIRG will continue to guard against these actions and make sure our elected officials do not allow the big-money special interests to use this crisis to undo the progress we’ve made.
As we respond to this crisis, we do so with our shared values in mind – considering what is best for our people, communities, and environment. This may seem obvious, but in fact the gaps laid bare by the pandemic show that too many of our “systems” – health care, education, housing, economic development, broadband access, justice – are inherently unfair. Some have also observed that compared with the impending climate crisis, this is but a dress rehearsal. In the days and weeks ahead, however, we have an opportunity to shape a recovery and advocate for systems that put the health and well-being of Vermont’s people first.
For VPIRG, that means two things: First, ensuring that those who need immediate help are getting it. We will continue to leverage our 50,000+ supporter base to ensure that Vermonters are pointed to essential resources and to demystify relief efforts so they can access needed benefits.
And second, VPIRG will champion policies in the wake of this disaster that benefit all and leave none behind. That means enforceable climate solutions and adequate protections for our air and water. It means products free from toxic threats, affordable high-speed internet for all, universal healthcare, family leave, and a resilient energy system powered by clean, renewable resources. The COVID-19 crisis is an absolute tragedy. But it also represents a unique opportunity to build the state that we all want to see.
If you agree with this vision … If you want to be part of and build the movement necessary to make this happen … If you want to ensure that the state’s largest public interest advocacy organization has the resources needed to not just weather this crisis, but be a leader in this effort …