Last year, when we tapped some locals to read their tea leaves, we got a few prescient predictions. For example, Vermont Rep. Jim Condon was on the money when he forecast, "Smoking in bars will get banned." On the other hand, his suggestion that health care would expand was D.O.A. Maybe he meant the costs?
Thom Hartmann, a nationally syndicated talk-radio host who lives in Montpelier, forecast financial disasters due to the country's ballooning deficit. We'd say 2005 was characterized by a number of disasters, monetary and otherwise. Was Hartmann right that "Bush is going to get a bloody nose for his agenda"? Depends on who you ask.
Was R.U.1.2.? Director Chris Kaufman right that "a few more people in Vermont will stop seeing queer people as perverts, clowns or style gurus"? Did cartoonist/musician James Kochalka nail it when he suggested, "Rock 'n' roll will come back to life and crawl from its grave, and then die again"?
We sure don't know, but never mind: Fresh starts await.
This year we asked our panel to tell us both what they think will happen and what they hope will happen in 2006. As you'll see below, predicting and pining do not always follow the same path.
On to 2006.
Director, Unadilla Theatre
What a turnabout '06 was! The ticker-tape parade with Bush standing in an unarmored car amid the swirling Iraqi crowds cheering his big erection in Liberation Square, where Saddam's statue was pulled down only four years before, was only the beginning. The invasion of Iran and the overthrow of the mullahs surprised most Vermonters nearly as much as Bush's Nobel Peace Prize. To have subdued Iran so easily and without the loss of American life after such minimal use of atomic weapons was only possible by the elevation to Middle East Commander, by Defense Secretary Rice, of General Rainville.
The subsequent defeat of Sanders by Rainville in the Senate race was greeted with astonishment in Chittenden County. The governor, however, said he had predicted it at a senior citizen center ribbon-cutting ceremony in East Perkinsville many months before.
The big news in the fall was the construction of five new theaters in Burlington, all to be headed by East Calais' Unadilla impresario Bill Blachly and funded entirely by state reductions in home heating-oil assistance, food stamps and aid to dependent children. Blachly was quoted in the alternative news publication Seven Days (sadly fallen on hard times in the changed national atmosphere) as saying, "Vermont has finally got its priorities in high gear." All five theatres will open simultaneously," he said, "with The Sound of Music.
Chair of the Vermont Progressive Party
1) Progressives will double our number in the Vermont House in November 2006.
2) A Progressive will be elected to a statewide office.
3) Bernie will be elected to the U.S. Senate from Vermont.
1) All three parties will cooperate and pass a Vermont Health Insurance plan that will self-insure all residents in one health-care pool. Every Vermont resident will get an insurance card entitling them to health care from their provider(s) of choice.
2) We will find a way to save the remaining Vermont farms and start some new ones.
3) We will agree on a plan to close Vermont Yankee and replace it with a combination of alternative sources of energy that will benefit Vermont's economy. Windmills will become symbols of a working landscape and of Vermonters' independence from foreign and out-of-state oil. Biomass and woodchip plants will become a new and growing industry, providing new crops for farmers and new industry for the rural areas of our state.
4) Vermonters will have good jobs at fair wages because the economic development dollars will be used to give tax breaks to Vermont-based (not globalized) businesses that won't decide to move offshore.
5) There will be enough affordable housing so no one is homeless.
6) All our neighborhood schools will become vibrant community centers, through cooperation between city/town and school administrations.
Chair of the Vermont Democratic Party
I think Vermonters will elect responsible, creative, open-minded men and women to serve in public office.
I hope I'm right about my answer to #1. Also, for my 3-year-old daughter Lila, I hope Johnny Damon re-signs with the Red Sox.
RIGHT REV. THOMAS C. ELY
Episcopal Bishop of Vermont
1) An increase in religious tolerance, awareness and understanding among peoples of different faiths.
2) A willingness on the part of people to respect the dignity of every human being.
3) An openness to listen and learn from one another across the religious spectrum.
4) An increase in the efforts of people from all religions to actively work together to combat disease, poverty, hunger and violence.
5) A more tolerant attitude of welcome and inclusion within the broader religious community toward gay and lesbian persons.
6) An increase in our environmental awareness and concern about the future of God's creation.
I have no idea about how people will or will not embrace and live out these hopes, and so my divination is insignificant. My hope, however, is strong.
Librarian, Bailey/Howe, UVM
In an attempt to appease librarians, Congress will make minimal changes to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and leave other troubling sections of the law untouched, while there will be continued efforts to frighten Americans into giving up their privacy and other civil liberties.
Remembering the Palmer raids, internment of Japanese Americans, McCarthy, COINTELPRO and Watergate, Americans will realize that government unconstrained by the rule of law is something to fear and resist. They will call on Congress to consider whether the actions of the past several years rise to the level of impeachable offenses.
President, Keller & Fuller, health-care and public policy analyst and writer
Prediction on health-care reform:
Some will claim to have found the silver bullet, but, once again, it will be shown that there is none. There will be more hearings, more heat and, if we are lucky, some light. As the end of the session, and election season, approaches, the politics of "claim" and "blame" will raise their ugly heads and threaten to wipe out the hard work of so many good people.
That it doesn't happen this way, and that we don't let a vision of the perfect prevent adoption of the good.
Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University and founder of the Second Republic of Vermont
In Vermont, I hope the politics of human scale will continue to trump the politics of the left and the politics of the right.
President Bush will order a pre-emptive military strike against Iran, Syria, North Korea or Venezuela, and the price of gold will reach $600 per ounce.
Artistic Director, Vermont Stage Company
Vermont Stage will continue to play to sold-out houses and a major donor will start a VSC endowment/new theater fund.
George Bush will be forced out of office and our new President (Barack Obama?) will lead the world in addressing global warming, poverty and education.
Executive Director, CCTV Center for Media & Democracy
Because of people power, Congress passes a law that requires all telecommunications companies -- cable, phone, broadcast, satellite -- to set aside 10 percent of their capacity and 5 percent of their gross revenue for public media and communications.
While the door of corporate media and communications continues to shut on the foot of the public interest, projects like Burlington Telecom will be a model for communities across Vermont. It's happening. Seventy-nine dollars, triple play -- you can't beat that number.
Programming Director, Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College
I'd like to see President Bush turn over matters of state to the artists of our country, who will find inspiring, articulate, sensitive and ingenious ways to solve the nation's debt, homelessness and health-care issues, and will broker lasting international partnerships that end conflicts beyond our borders, as well. I'd like to see audiences for live performance quadruple, and for every citizen of the Upper Valley to consider the power and transformative quality of live performance -- whether it be music, dance, theater or performance art -- to be absolutely essential to his or her daily life.
Artists will continue to struggle against an administration that neither understands their extraordinary vision nor particularly values their role in society. Despite this, they will make some of the most beautiful and striking work we've ever seen. Though our citizens as a whole will not exactly break down the doors stampeding into our theaters and art galleries, those who love the arts will continue to be moved and inspired by seeing art -- and will wonder why all their neighbors haven't discovered what they have!
1) I'd like to see more chefs and restaurateurs build strong relationships with local farmers and small producers in order to put a diversity of locally grown food onto their menus -- at all levels of the business, from lunch counters to white tablecloth places.
2) I want more people to cook at home for themselves, for their families and for their friends.
3) I want no one to go hungry.
1) People will continue to pay greater attention to where their food comes from.
2) The demand for meat and poultry from small-scale farms -- as opposed to the factory-raised stuff -- will continue to grow.
3) Those who do find the time to cook at home will be better off for it.
CEO, Resolution; Chair, Fletcher Allen Health Care
The hegemony of huge companies that have controlled the arts is really crumbling. Interesting and innovative technologies enable artists in music and film and artwork and writing to find greater audiences and develop their own channels to people who like their work. I'm thinking of everything from the new print-on-demand stuff to putting your music on the web to podcasting for film producers. A central organizing body -- somebody who really made the technology accessible to artists -- would be really helpful. That would be an appropriate role for the Vermont Arts Council.
Artists will be distracted from their art trying to figure out the new technology. Very few artists are technologists.
1) Instead of smoke breaks, Americans begin to take daily cloud-watching breaks.
2) Holiday office parties will involve sparkly costumes and energetic song-and-dance numbers.
3) Consumerism will become an outdated fad, and the holiday season will be celebrated with presents of love, affection and peace on earth.
4) Brangelina -- Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie -- will be left to lead their lives in peace.
5) The effort spent monitoring celeb bumps, humps and lumps will be directed toward finding a cure for AIDS and cancer.
6) Celeb rags will be replaced by gory fairy tales that people read out loud to one another by the fireside.
7) Scientists develop a magic pill that makes you feel good about yourself, no matter what your body shape. Plastic surgeons become creative hairdressers and interior designers.
8) Busy work will be replaced by daydreams.
9) Being a deadbeat artist becomes a respected occupation with a subsidized income from the government.
10) There will be serious income redistribution, national health care and no more hungry, uninsured children.
1) Americans will continue to work through their breaks and wonder why their lives feel rushed and empty.
2) Holiday office parties will involve generic small talk and diluted water-cooler gossip.
3) The must-have gift of 2006 will be the multi-purpose cellphone that can be used as a phone, a camera, to access the Internet, help you with your intimacy problems, scratch your rear end and prevent plaque.
4) Brangelina will adopt a small country and begin a new uber race of Bennetton babies, which will be the subject of a new reality TV channel, "The Mighty Universe of Brangelina."
5) The offspring of Jenaffleck -- Jen Garner and Ben Affleck -- and Federbrits -- Kevin Federline and Britney Spears -- will compete in the fabulous new reality TV show, "But Can the Celeb Babies Spit Up?"
6) TV will become one endless metastream of celeb regurgitation and countdowns until there is nothing new or fresh allowed.
7) Angelina Jolie will get swollen earlobes on a humanitarian trip to Africa and this will inspire a new obscene plastic surgery craze: injection of collagen to enlarge the earlobes.
8) Melanie Griffith will take it too far and will not be able to hold her head aloft.
9) Busy work will become our favorite hobby outside of work.
10 ) Being a deadbeat artist prompts derision, pity and, in some states, jail time.
11) The poor will get poorer and the rich will get richer. The poor will get fatter and the rich will get thinner, and the deadbeats will get weirder while the celebs colonize the moon.
Owner, Blueberry Hill Inn
Tourism will continue to grow at a lackluster rate. The Vermont industry will be challenged by adjoining New England states, and others who are budgeting many more dollars in promoting their respective states. In years to come, Vermont will have to be more aggressive in promoting the Vermont brand. We also need to be concerned about the loss of working landscape, and that could have an effect on Vermont tourism.
On the international level, and with the strengthening of the dollar, we probably will see a small decrease in the number of international visitors.
On environmental and forestry issues, the Green Mountain National Forest Plan will be unveiled in February. We should expect more designated wilderness areas, regulations on the use of ATVs on forestlands and the designation of the Moosalamoo region as a national recreation area.
Tire burns, windmills and water quality will continue to dominate the headlines environmentally.