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October 2020


Here's hoping that you and yours are safe and healthy. As the pandemic continues to rumble across the nation, we understand even more fully that issues facing the creative sector are, in many cases, the same issues that affect our communities. We take a brief look this month at the issue of broadband, a reality that affects so many of us here in rural Vermont. Thanks to the many Vermonters who are currently hard at work to solve the problem of internet access for all. 

We also take a look at one organization that has pivoted into uncharted, unexpected outcomes. And as we close in on the final weeks of this long presidential campaign, we urge everyone to vote before or on November 3. 

Be in touch! Tell us what you would like to know more about. 

Stay healthy and creative. 

Robert McBride, Southern Zone coordinator

Southern Zone Leadership Team

Robert McBride, Bellows Falls, zone agent
Maria Basescu, Putney; Sara Coffey, Guilford; Anna Drozdowski, Wilmington; Zon Eastes, Guilford; Susanna Gellert, Weston; Sarah Lang, Brattleboro; Matthew Perry, Bennington; Jon Potter, Brattleboro

Newsletter drawings courtesy of Matthew Perry. Thanks, Matthew!
Glad you are reading! Click on the envelope to share this newsletter with your friends and colleagues! Glad you are reading! Click on the envelope to share this newsletter with your friends and colleagues!

Feature :: Pandemic Pivot and Hiland Hill

Bounty at Hiland Hill Garden.
Pivot. The pandemic is challenging us all. Individuals and organizations everywhere are coping, adapting, testing, pivoting. We momentarily shine a light on one organization, Hiland Hill Garden in North Bennington, to learn how one organization turned a long-standing school education program into a broad community service.
Each year for six-eight weeks in the fall and spring, about 175 North Bennington school children, walk across the street to the grounds of the Park-McCullough House to garden. They work in the soil, raise vegetables, and develop a vocabulary. They take food home, becoming food ‘ambassadors.’
This year, the pandemic revealed startling community needs. So what had been a 10-12 raised bed classroom laboratory blossomed into a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) operation on 1.5 acres. Quick moving collaborations sprung up making it possible to raise, distribute, and prep over 10,000 pounds of food, which moved into several communities.
Not only did the students raise vegetables, but, as they went along, they grew community. They solved problems as they arose (the core of the creative process), they learned about sharing into the community, and, as 'ambassadors of goodness,' taught families and community members about food and the pleasures of eating,
You can learn about the whole project on their website or on this Instagram page.

Legislative Update

Groundbreaking Broadband Legislation

by Rep. Laura H. Sibilia--Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham

The federal and state emergency declarations brought about by the global pandemic have highlighted just how many aspects of Vermonters lives are affected by access or to high quality broadband. Vermonters in general and the creative sector specifically rely on high speed affordable broadband to access the global economy and markets, education, healthcare and government services.
The Vermont Legislature passed groundbreaking broadband legislation in the pre-pandemic 2019 session. Act 79 acknowledged that the market regulated development of telecommunications infrastructure had left much of rural and poor Vermont behind and that federal preemption protected for profit internet providers from state mandated expansion. The entire Windham and Bennington County delegations supported efforts to incentivize and support the formation of Communications Union Districts (CUD) which are municipalities formed by two or more municipalities coming together to plan, finance and build universal high speed broadband. 

Two such CUDs formed in 2019 in southern Vermont: Deerfield Valley CUD and Southern Vermont CUD. We are fortunate to have talented and committed volunteers leading those efforts. Our CUDs pre-pandemic formation has been helpful as the governor’s administration, legislators, and community volunteers have raced to bring forward short term solutions and accelerate longer term efforts using Cares Act funding as outlined in Act 137 of 2020.
Rep. Laura H. Sibilia
House Energy & Technology Committee, Vice Chair
Joint IT Oversight Committee, Chair
cell (802)384-0233 @laurasibiliavt 

Two Communications Districts Arise in Southern Vermont

Internet access is a lynchpin for strong community and economic development.

As Rep. Sibilia notes above, the COVID pandemic abruptly revealed the need for reliable, equitably accessible broadband--for education, for health care, for commerce, and for personal productivity.
Across the state, and after years of many separate single-community efforts, Vermonters are banding together to secure reliable, high-speed internet for every household and business. Why? Gov. Scott, responding to strong citizen advocacy, signed a piece of legislation enabling the creation of communications union districts (CUD), municipalities charged to secure broadband access.
A CUD is a state-recognized entity established to focus solely on the provision of high-speed broadband access for all. Each CUD is authorized to conduct and oversee all the business necessary to fulfill its mission, including strategic finances, planning, construction, management, customer service, and negotiations to contract for all services to that end.
"Vermont's long-term strategy for getting broadband to the under-served is CUDs. CUDs are volunteers with no taxing authority trying to solve a $400M problem," explains Tim Scroggins, chair of Catamount Fiber, the CUD serving southwestern Vermont.
This 2019 law permits the use of municipal “revenue bonds” to build a broadband network to serve member towns. However, the law guarantees that the member towns’ taxpayers will not be liable for the repayment of any CUD indebtedness. Repayment is made by adding a fixed user fee to the subscriber’s monthly fee for broadband service.
The two southern Vermont districts are gathering steam--SoVT CUD currently has 12 member towns, and DVCUD just increased to 16. Volunteer efforts all, governing boards meet regularly and are open to the public, subject to Vermont Open Meeting Law.

Each welcomes towns to join this quickly moving effort. The eight statewide districts have also joined a collective association, called VCDUA (Vermont Communications Union District Association). Start here for an overview of the state's eight CUDs.

Is your town engaged? 

Some Broadband Resources and Thoughts

Deerfield Valley Communications District, dba DVFiber
Southern Vermont Communications Union District 
Bill Schubart: The Broadband Imperative: Where's the Leadership
WIndham Region Broadband Project

Action of the Month


Activate your Voice

Already voted? Planning a trip to the polls on November 3? Your voice can help make the difference. 

If you need assistance, contact your Town Clerk. 

Vermont Creative Network News

More than 100 Vermont creatives tuned in Oct. 6 for the Vermont Creative Network's FutureJam, our day of visioning sessions for Vermont's creative sector. They chatted, dreamed, schemed, painted, drew, wrote and imagined.

Take the vision survey
Did you miss FutureJam? Did you attend, but still have more to say? Respond to our quick Vermont creative sector vision survey online by Friday, Oct. 23 and enter to win one of three $25 gift cards. Take survey.
IdeaJam Up Next
We’re coming back with three more fast-paced “jam sessions,” this time focused on ideas. Join one or all. We’ll start with an optional 30-minute speed networking session for creatives to meet and greet. Then we’ll dive into an hour of action planning breakout groups. We’ll be giving away three gift cards at each one!

October 27: Creative Sectors Visual arts and fine crafts, specialty foods, design, performing arts, culture & heritage, film and media and literary arts). REGISTER
November 17: Zones Creative zones/regions around the state. REGISTER
December 1: Stratagies Top strategies for advancing Vermont’s creative sector. REGISTER

Plus, Save the Date! 
December 15 will be a daylong Jamboree – a chance to celebrate, create, reflect, and make plans for 2021. More details soon!

Sign up for the VCN Newsletter :: News from Outside the Box

If you are not yet connected to the state's creative network, we recommend that you sign up for News from Outside the Box, the Vermont Creative Network newsletter. Sign up here

Find our more about the Vermont Creative Network.



Sign up for Common Ground, a powerful connection resource for New England

We encourage every Vermont creative to learn about Creative Ground and get listed. What can you do at Creative Ground: promote yourself with targeted webspace; find potential collaborators and supporters. Sign up here

Find out more about Creative Ground.


Here, you will always find links to key local, state, and national information sites for the creative sector. In addition, we will occasionally post links for right-now situations.


Vermont Arts Council
Vermont Humanities
New England Foundation for the Arts 
Americans for the Arts
National Endowment for the Arts 
Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development
Bennington County Regional Commission 
Bennington County Industrial Corporation 
Windham Regional Commission 
WIndham Region Broadband Project
Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation 

Some Upcoming Webinar Opportunitiesw from BDCC (Brattleboro Development Credit Coroporation)

(NEXT FRIDAY!!) Knowledge Bites Webinar: Municipal Engagement for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Tool Kit (Virtual, October 27th, 12-1 pm)
The Local Solutions and Community Action Team of the Vermont Governor’s Economic Mitigation and Recovery Task Force created this toolkit as an aid to municipalities and local leaders who are looking to expand the vibrancy of their communities. The ideas and recommendations in the toolkit come from Vermonters and in many cases have been implemented with success in communities throughout our state. SVEP will be joined by Jude Smith Rachele of Abundant Sun, who serves on the Local Solutions and Community Action Team and is a co-author of this toolkit. Please join us to learn how your municipality can improve their efforts to promote a welcoming and inclusive spirit in their communities.

Knowledge Bites Webinar: Funders Roundtable, a Primer to the SVEP Grant Writing Workshop (Virtual, November 13th, 12-1pm)
Join SVEP and a slew of funders to hear about what grants are currently available and what they’re looking for in the applications. This event will be updated as funders are added to the agenda. This webinar is a primer to the SVEP Grant Writing Workshop which will be in Mid November (Date TBD). If you are not able to make this webinar, all webinars are recorded for you to watch at your convenience.

Making Fund Finding Fun: A Three-Part Grant Writing Workshop (Virtual, November 18th, 19th, and 20th, 2020)
Join SVEP for their second grant writing workshop. This workshop is back by popular demand! The workshop will be broken into three days, each day with a presentation and small group component. You can sign up for one day, two days, or all three depending on where you are at in your grant writing knowledge and practice. Mark your calendar and check back in for registration and more details.

Knowledge Bites Webinar: Integrated Property Tax Management System Upgrade Project, (Virtual, December 17th, 12-1 pm)
Join SVEP and the VT Department of Taxes to learn about their upgrade of the Integrated Property Tax Management System (IPTMS). “The Department of Taxes, Division of Property Valuation and Review is implementing a new integrated system to collect the statewide education grand list and to manage the statewide education property tax system. The new solution will modernize the collection of municipal and education property tax, and will be a real-time, online system used by every municipality in the state.”

From Concept to Ribbon Cutting, Bringing Great Ideas to Life: A Peer-Learning Project Stewardship Workshop: (Virtual, March 2021, Date TBD) This workshop isn’t scheduled yet, but you can look at the blog announcing last year’s workshop to get an idea of what to expect.
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