Curiosity — and perhaps a sense of ethnic pride — led Aris Deljohn to the Harvard Allston Education Portal (Ed Portal) on a recent fall evening.“I came to see what you were going to say about my [Greek] cousins,” the Allston-Brighton resident joked. “I wanted to know if you were going to say something good or not.”“Well, it’s a mix,” teased Keith Stone, a teaching fellow at Harvard University, smiling.The exchange, part of the lecture series offered at the Ed Portal, wasn’t focused on current events. The free seminar was part of several “in-person dialogue sessions” exploring the popular HeroesX series, an online class that focuses on the modern relevance of the “Ancient Greek Hero.:Created for audience members ranging from the casually interested to history buffs, the dialogue sessions delved into the stories of Greek heroes, exploring how the old mythos echoes profoundly through our culture today.“A hero in tragedy, and in the epic, is a person whose emotions are larger than life. A hero experiences suffering that is so much bigger, so much more intense than we do. We call this ‘pathos,’ which translates to passion,” said Gregory Nagy, the Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and professor of comparative literature, as well as the director of the Center for Hellenic Studies. “The whole point of a hero is that they make mistakes, too — but they make them bigger, and more severe. It is healthy to be aware of the lives and emotions of someone who is bigger than you are. That’s one of the reasons why we have heroes.”In September, during the launch of HeroesX, Harvard’s Keith Stone, (from left) worked with Sarah Chiu of Allston, while the Ed Portal’s Jackie Bruey assisted Allston resident Bob Gale.In a format similar to a book club, members of the community explored the entire HeroesX course over several weeks. One meeting was streamed live to hundreds of HarvardX participants across the globe. Led by either Nagy or Harvard teaching fellows, the sessions explored the heroes, myths, great epics, and rituals of ancient Greece.“I’m really excited to be here tonight with those of you tuning in from around the world, and here in person,” Nagy said to a crowd of nearly 60 at the Ed Portal. “This whole process [of online learning] is a learning experience for all of us.“I’m not just the professor. I like to consider myself a fellow learner,” he said. “The term MOOC [massive open online course] means so much more to me. For me the ‘C’ is not just about being a course. It’s about content, communication, community … and conversation.”Those four C’s seemed to resonate with the participants — both earlier this fall, and recently with Nagy. Why does the ancient Greek hero still hold such fascination today? Perhaps because humans themselves have not changed that much.“All humans remain the same: we love, we hate, we chase the same things as people did millennia ago,” Deljohn said.The next Allston dialogue session will be held Dec. 4 from 7:15 to 8:15 p.m. at the Ed Portal, 175 N. Harvard St., Allston.
Although the General Fund (GF) budget gap of $51 million addressed in the FY 2013 Governor’s Recommended Budget was less than the gap previously estimated (October 2011) – FY 2013 is the fifth consecutive fiscal year requiring the resolution of a GF budget gap. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin presented his fiscal year 2013 budget to the Legislature January 12, 2012. The federal stimulus program (American Recovery & Reinvestment Act or ARRA), which was used to cover the base GF operating budget gaps for fiscal years 2009, 2010 and 2011, has essentially ended – requiring the State to close the projected FY 2013 GF budget gap.The Governor’s FY 2013 Budget Recommendations present the General Assembly with a balanced budget that maintains services, continues advancement in important programs for the future and deals with the added challenge of recovering from the devastating damages caused by Tropical Storm Irene.While the analysis shows small GF gaps for FY 2014 through FY 2016, the Consensus Revenue Forecast due to be revised and adopted by the Vermont Emergency Board at its January 18, 2012, meeting will likely at least partially close or eliminate the gap for the out years. For Detail of Governor Shumlin’s FY 2013 Executive Budget Recommendations, offered to the Legislature on January 12, 2012, go to this LINK.Click on these links for Shumlin’s STATE OF THE STATE and BUDGET addresses.CONSENSUS REVENUE HISTORY AND FORECASTGeneral Fund Revenue Forecast Recovers to Pre-Recession LevelsOn July 22, 2011 the Vermont Emergency Board adopted revised General (GF), Transportation (TF) and Education (EF) Funds Consensus Revenue Forecasts for the remainder of FY 2012 and for FY 2013. The General Fund for FY 2012 was projected to be within 1% of meeting the FY 2008 pre-recession level, while FY 2013 was projected to exceed FY 2008 by 5.6%. The Transportation Fund and Education Fund forecasts for the remainder of FY 2012 were projected to exceed the FY 2008 levels by just over 1% each, with FY 2013 projected to grow by 2.8% and 4.2% respectively. It has taken four fiscal years to see revenue levels return to the pre-recession high points.However, these revenue increases have not yet been enough to close the FY 2013 General Fund budget gap. This year, the Governor’s FY 2012 Budget Adjustment and FY 2013 Budget Recommendations have been submitted in advance of the January 18, 2012 Emergency Board meeting. This means that the Consensus Revenue Forecasts used herein are those presented to and adopted by the Board at the July 22, 2011 meeting. FY 2013 BUDGET RECOMMENDATIONS FY 2013 General Fund OverviewPIE CHARTS: Above, spending. Below, funding source.A combination of base and one-time adjustments, and the use of reserve funds, were employed to bring the GF budget appropriations into line with available GF revenue.After agencies and departments submitted their FY 2013 budget requests, the full impact of the upward budget pressures was known. The upward pressures and the loss of federal and special funds resulted in a FY 2013 budget gap of $51 million.In prior years, the Governor’s Budget Recommendations were calculated based on the Consensus Revenue Forecast adopted by the Emergency Board just prior to the Governor’s budget address to the General Assembly – normally mid to late January. This year, however, the Governor’s Budget Recommendations are being submitted in advance of the January Emergency Board meeting and are therefore based on the July 2011 Consensus Revenue Forecast.The Governor’s budget recommendation includes language to appropriate up to $15 million GF to Public Safety, if it becomes available from a January 2012 Consensus Revenue Forecast increase.The same amount of TF would be moved from Public Safety to Transportation for additional infrastructure improvements and Irene recovery projects. Any GF Revenue increase in excess of $15 million will be reserved in the Human Service Caseload Reserve to offset future Human Services needs. Highlights of the Governor’s FY 2013 Budget: Proposes a FY 2013 General Fund (GF) increase of 5.3%, 2% of which covers reductions in federal and special fund sources, and lives within available revenue.Continues, and in some cases expands, Irene aid to towns, businesses and individuals.Continues support for priorities such as Health Care Reform and access to high speed internet and mobile services.Provides for the GF transfer to the Education Fund at statutory level.Provides the funding to maintain the three Budget Stabilization Reserves for GF, TF and EF at their statutory level.Begins a phased increase in GF Budget Stabilization Reserve by 0.25%, or $3.09 million for FY 2013.Fully funds State Employees’ and State Teachers’ retirement.Invests $8 million in innovation at UVM and VSC.Increases by $1.48 million, more than double FY 2012, GF support for Fish & Wildlife.Continues $4.8 million GF support of the Next Generation initiative in accordance with the Workforce Development Council recommendations.Provides for the largest Transportation budget in VT history.Increases the Transportation paving program by 35.9% and the bridge program by 16.7% over FY 2012.Increases the Town Highway programs by 128.5%, including Irene related projects – up 15.1% excluding Irene.Provides $200,000 of additional GF funding to the Office of the Attorney General for the fight against child pornography.Provides $10.2 million to cover FY 2013 GF Pay Act.Provides $20 million GF to restore lost federal funds for base Medicaid match.Provides $6 million GF for Tobacco programs base spending.Proposes redirection or delay of approximately $18 million in previously approved capital projects to pay for Irene recovery of the State Waterbury Office Complex and Vermont State Hospital.The Shumlin Administration offered these 2011 Accomplishments:Agency of Agriculture:Created the VT Farm Disaster Relief Fund, in partnership with the Vermont Community Foundation, to raise over $2.25 million for farms impacted by Irene.Distributed $1.5 million of capital funds, leveraging over $5.7 million in federal funds, for water quality improvement.Enabled 13 new dairy processing plants to come on line.Directed over $1 million in federal grant funds to Farm-to- Plate efforts, leveraging over $1.5 million in additional project investment.Launched online licensing to enable Vermont businesses to renew, and pay online, their retail products and weighing and measuring device licenses.BISHCA:Spearheaded Vermont’s first-in-the-nation effort to develop an affordable, administratively simple and high quality health care system.Supported the creation of the Green Mountain Care Board, charged with developing payment reform, delivery system integration and administrative simplification proposals.Licensed 41 new captive insurance companies.Agency of Commerce and Community Development:Initiated a pilot program to attract recent college graduates to Vermont. More than 25 have already taken advantage of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program.Brought new jobs to Vermont: WCW, Inc. is moving from New York to Vermont, creating 120 new jobs for Vermonters, and expansions at companies like Commonwealth Dairy in Brattleboro, SB Electronics in Barre, Revision Military in Essex, Mack Molding in Arlington, Sonnax in Bellows Falls, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in Waterbury and Essex Jct., just to name a few.Agency of Human Services:Department for Children and FamiliesSaw its 3SquaresVT caseload grow to 47,833, earning the State a USDA high performance bonus of nearly $390,000 for having one of the top six program access rates in the nation.Created the Vermont Rental Subsidy program, allowing 75 to 80 families and/or disabled individuals to transition to permanent housing more quickly.Low-Income Weatherization Assistance program won a competitive grant from the US Department of Energy to bring sustainable energy resources to low-income Vermonters.Completed nearly 5,000 child abuse and neglect investigations and assessments, nearly double the number completed four years ago.Worked in collaboration with the Vermont Department of Education to gather and analyze input on simplifying and improving publically supported Pre-K (2007 Act 62) in Vermont.Worked with other groups to create a first of its kind housing subsidy intended to be a bridge for individuals and families who are in need of stable housing.Department of CorrectionsShifted prison populations to enable more Vermonters to be brought back from out-of-state prisons to serve their sentences in Vermont correctional facilities.Transitioned the women’s prison population to the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, creating new opportunities for women to reenter our communities safely.Department of HealthVermont was ranked the Healthiest State in the Nation ‘ due in part to high rates of high school graduation, lower rates of infectious disease, low violent crime rate, and high use of early prenatal care.Vermont received the first and only ‘A’ on the March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card.Vermont was named third best state for children’s access to health care.The department worked with the Vermont National Guard and other groups to deliver more than 30,000 respirators and 240,000 pairs of gloves for safe cleanup after Tropical Storm Irene.Distributed more than 1,200 free drinking water lab test kits to residents with private wells that may have been contaminated.Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent LivingSecured an $18 million, three-year federal grant to help move individuals from facility-based care to home-based care. +Helped 1,622 Vermonters with disabilities find work.Reduced repeat applications for general assistance by over 150 people.Department of Vermont Health AccessContinued to serve 166,000 Vermonters with high quality affordable health care. +Received approval of a federal Health Care Exchange implementation grant for $18 million.Continued expansion of the Blueprint for Health across Vermont with primary care medical homes and community health teams.CONNECTVT:Worked with the Legislature to obtain approval for an expedited permitting process to manage the volume of project applications.Worked with private providers, who completed building more than 1,200 fiber miles.The Vermont Telecommunications Authority gave initial funding to two innovative strategies to build a rural roaming carrier network to support the expansion of cell service to reach underserved ‘nooks and crannies’ and low population density areas of the State.Established Vermont as the leader in the nation in Smart- Grid deployment.Agency of Natural Resources:Launched a comprehensive, long-term plan to make real progress in cleaning up Lake Champlain.Created a program to replace old outdoor wood-fired boilers to reduce the unhealthy smoke they produce.Required manufacturers and sellers of computers, cell phones and other electronic devices to provide convenient ways for Vermonters to return used electronic devices for proper disposal.Established a Climate Cabinet to implement a new, ambitious energy plan, and to help prepare Vermont for the climate changes we already see coming.Public Service Department:Issued the 2011 Vermont Energy Plan, which calls for 90 percent renewable power by 2050.Agency of Transportation:Provided Irene emergency repairs on 531 miles of closed roads, 200 damaged bridges and 34 closed bridges – all completed by the end of 2011.Completed $20 million in repairs following the spring floods, while keeping VT Routes 2 and 78, the only two roads connecting the Lake Champlain Islands to the Vermont mainland, open at the peak of the highest Lake Champlain water level in recorded history.Partnered with New York to complete the Lake Champlain Bridge between West Addison, VT and Crown Point, NY.Advanced the first project to go to construction under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s U.S. High-Speed Intercity Rail Program.Organized a task force to advance projects to replace the long-stalled Circumferential Highway project, in conjunction with the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission.Education:Served more children in high quality preschool programs ‘ up 30 percent in the last 5 years ‘ a key foundation for a child’s success in school and beyond.Vermont students continue to outperform their peers across the country in Reading and Math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the SAT and AP exams. More students are taking these exams (despite decreasing enrollment), and Vermont’s scores continue to rise.Vermont’s high school graduation rate is one of the highest in the country. Nearly 90 percent of our students graduate from high school within four years.Applied for a waiver from the USDOE to the No Child Left Behind Act, which would refocus the work of the department in the coming months and may allow students to use a high school assessment such as the SAT or ACT to measure their college and career readiness.Public Safety DepartmentVermont Emergency Management successfully managed the response to the extreme flooding and damages from Tropical Strom Irene, developed a donations plan that will become an annex in the State Emergency Operations Plan and coordinated with FEMA to help communities complete their requests for public assistance. To date $16.5 million has been approved for mitigation and more than $48 million has been paid for individual assistance and small business assistance.In 2011, Vermont’s 55 roadway deaths were the lowest since 1944, due to the collaborative enforcement and educational efforts by State, county and local law enforcement.Vermont has seen a 50 percent reduction in fire-related deaths in the past seven years. Changes addressing fire protection issues have contributed to this reduction, including increased inspections of existing residential buildings, public education, and legislative changes. Source: Vermont Agency of Administration