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Conference Scheduled in Vermont on Political Civility

A conference set for Saturday in Montpelier focuses on the state of civility in political discourse in politics and how Vermont compares nationally.

The “Civility and Free Expression in a Constitutional Democracy” discussion is a program of the American Bar Association division for public education. The Vermont Bar Association is one of nine state organizations to receive grants to delve into the topic at a state level. Kevin Ryan, Director of Education and Communications, says there is a national perception that the tone of political and legal discourse has deteriorated, so they plan to assess where Vermont stands.

Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz believes she was invited to be a panelist due to her experience as Vermont Secretary of State from 1999 to 2011. She says national political exchanges have become very discouraging.

The VT Council on Rural Development is charged by the Farm Bill to coordinate rural policy. Executive Director Paul Costello describes the organization as similar to a community organizer. He says civility begins with the local community, but nationally the lack of civility is causing challenges in accomplishing tasks.

Vermont Public Interest Research Group Executive Director Paul Burns says the conference Saturday is the start of the exploration to change the negative dialogue.

The conference “Civility and Free Expression in a Constitutional Democracy” is scheduled Saturday from 8:30 until noon at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Montpelier.