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August 06, 2010

Fringe Friday: Emily Peyton

DSC06670 Welcome to "Fringe Friday" — our new weekly web series about the independent and minor party candidates running for governor, U.S. Senate and U.S. House. Each Friday we'll profile a different  candidate seeking higher office in the Green Mountain State, many of whom are pitching more radical ideas for bettering the lives of average Vermonters.

For our first installment, we interviewed Independent Emily Peyton of Putney (pictured), a candidate for governor making her first run for public office. While "fringe" might seem disparaging, we don't mean it that way. Vermont has a strong tradition of putting independent and third party candidates on the ballot, giving voters the option to choose from a wide menu of ideologies. Still, these candidates rarely garner more than 1 percent of the vote, perhaps due to their less-traditional ideas, or poor organization or even lack of media exposure. As such, they remain on the fringes of the state's political system.

Candidate: Emily Peyton

Office sought: Governor

Age: 51

Hometown: Putney

Education: Marlboro College (2 years; did not graduate)

Occupation: Activist, Filmmaker, Full-time Mother

Family: Peyton grew up In East Dorset, Vt., Princeton, N.J., and Cambridge, Mass., the daughter of musicians. Her father was a composer at the New England Conservatory and her step-mother was chair of the Vocal Department there. Peyton was trained in music notation theory and says she's penned operas and musicals. Her partner is a mechanic. She has two children: Joe, 20; Max-Anthony, 19


Platform: Peyton wants to radically overhaul how Vermont conducts banking, lending and community development. Her proposal has four "cornerstones." The first is a state-owned "Bank of Vermont" that would control the state's $4 billion treasury and use it to make loans to Vermont businesses and individuals in need of capital. The second is a system of so-called "common good banks" in every community in Vermont, essentially a pool of money controlled directly by a board that approves individual loans, with general guidance from the individual depositors. The point is to direct bank "profits" back into the community and not to CEOs. The common good banks would exist mostly as online entities, working in partnership with Vermont credit units, and would have no corporate management structure, or corporate payroll, to speak of. The third cornerstone, borrowed and adapted from Progressive/Independent Anthony Pollina, is to create a "Vermont credit card" that would reinvest a portion of interest payments into Vermont's small farms and enterprises. Lastly, Peyton wants to create a "Vermont Unit of Exchange," or V.U.E., that would be an alternative compensation system for low-paid laborers, artists, Vermonters on social services and those struggling to pay tax bills.

I sat down with Peyton yesterday at Magnolia Bistro in Burlington, where she greeted me with with a big hug. (Afterward, Peyton made a short video introducing herself and her agenda. Scroll down for that.)

Seven Days: Who is your political hero?

Emily Peyton: Mother Teresa. I like a combination of [Ralph] Nader, Ron Paul and [Congressman Dennis] Kucinich and I've encouraged them to work together and they've begun to. Princess Diana and her work. To a certain extent, Martin Luther King, but I didn't like that he cheated on his wife.

SD: What's the very first thing you would do as governor?

EP: Be thankful. Working on being very grateful that we are in a state that has enough connection to the Earth that we can make the transformation that needs to happen.

SD: What's the first official action you would take, once you're conferred with the powers of the governor's office?

DSC06658 EP: Well, I'm going go keep my focus on creating these financial needs. I have a lot of views about our health care system. I think it's absolutely criminal that people have to be mandated to make a profit for a finite group of insurance companies. I think that's unconstitutional as a matter of fact. And I also think our western health care system, without looking at the pharmaceutical companies' intent to keep people sick in order to buy  pharmaceuticals, and simply looking at how to fund, to get people access to it, is incomplete. Also, the numbers of illnesses that have sprung up as a result of the corporate food industry — our stomach cancers, our diabetes — have just ballooned in the last decade. Our health care system needs to be purified.

SD: What do you think is the biggest threat facing Vermont.

EP: The biggest threat of all? Economic war waged against Vermont by corporate interests. That's as cruel as any other war.

SD: How would you come up with $100 million in cuts or tax increases to close Vermont's budget deficit? Actually, the deficit's going to be much higher next year, but $100 million is a nice round number.

EP: Well, there's one source of income that hasn't been tapped that in all fairness should be. We're in this fix because of derivatives, because of the bankers who have engaged in gambling activity with these hedge funds and the fact that the Congress ignored the will of the people in bailing out the banks. What we're looking at is a Wall Street Transfer Tax. Right now, all those transactions are happening tax free. Yet, because of the bailouts, each person is going to be responsible for something to the tune of $44,000. Now we need to understand that the spiritual depravity that leads these people to accumulate wealth and ignore the importance of compassion, needs to be addressed. One percent is called a Tobin tax on these transactions, which would generate a lot of money, millions. What is fair is fair. If everybody here is paying a sales tax of 6 percent and 10 percent on meals and rooms tax, then people who are exchanging derivatives, which is essentially gambling behavior, can pay 6 percent sales tax on that as well.

SD: So it would be a state-level tax passed through the Vermont Legislature, applied to transactions? How much do you think that could raise in a year?

EP: It would be very speculative. One percent, I think it could raise about $750 million, close to $1 billion. ...We've got a paradigm shift to accomplish. We've got to change the whole feeling on being taxed and having things taken out of our pocket.

SD: Name three skills you have that would make you a great governor.

DSC06205 EP: I generally inspire people to work their hardest and do their best. And I delegate very well. And I don't know if it's a skill — I think it's a quality — I'm not self-motivated. I'm motivated for the good of all.

SD: What do you think is the biggest misperception people might have about you?

EP: I'm much more conservative on a personal level than people might think. I don't smoke pot. I'm not even addicted to chocolate. I do like a cup of coffee. I'm not as wacky as it seems. I'm very honorable and honest with my personal relationships.

SD: What can Vermont do to strengthen its arts scene?

EP: The Vermont Unit of Exchange will do that. It will give credit to those who are working in the arts and being creative. Where I live in Putney — Putney has the highest number per capital of artisans in the entire country. What that means is that it, somehow, because of its intrinsic connection with nature, inspires creativity. And that is a resource that that area, and Vermont as a whole, has. We ought to be capitalizing on that and also enabling our artisans to be connected with the rest of the country as a Mecca for art and a place to come to be inspired, a place for writers to come.

SD: What's the last book you read?

EP: I read numbers at a time. I'm reading an autobiography of Nikola Tesla right now.

SD: Do you think Michael Jacques should get the death penalty?

EP: I'm not up to speed with Michael Jacques.

SD: He's the man who murdered Brooke Bennett, the 12-year-old girl. He's on trial in a federal death penalty case.

DSC06652 EP: Death is not the final door that spirits go through. ...I think it's a mistake for society to think that by killing the person they're killing the spirit, because the spirit is everlasting. I also can see that certain people have been so misaligned and so wounded that they won't ever be safe people. But killing them is not going to solve anything.

SD: You're running to make a point, right? Or do you really think you can win?

EP: I'm running to win. Since I was 5 I knew I was going to be a major politician. And then I was disgusted. I thought I'd rather be a whore than be a politician. But events since Bush, it's become clear why there's a  need for my voice. But it's going to be on my terms.

Emily Peyton, I'm sorry. You seem compassionate and forward thinking, and you probably would represent my views better than any of the major candidates. But you cannot have my vote. I have to vote for a candidate with a chance to defeat Dubie (who is homophobic and opposes abortion rights), because that is the contest that's been set.

I wish that we had a voting system where I could choose whether or not to vote for you based on what I think of you and your ideas, instead of having to vote strategically. The results of our elections do not reflect the views of the electorate, never mind the broader population (many of whom refuse to vote in protest).

Please, join with me in diverting our transformative efforts from their rigged game; let's work instead for fundamental change. You are not eroding their power, you are strengthening it. They have designed your role into their system, and they have a lot of practice using people like you as foils. Stop feeding their madness. Join with me instead in the struggle to bring Democracy to Vermont for the very first time in modern history.

And just which candidate is that? For god's sake cant' the Dems find a candidate?

good luck with that mungo... please, keep "not voting" for the sake of all of us

@Oy Um... the democrats are in the progress of choosing a candidate through something called a primary. Less than two weeks left until you get your answer.

@BoltonFreek I'm not sure you understood what I said. I am planning to vote in the November election. Unfortunately I feel compelled by the structure of our system to vote strategically, so my vote will represent only my preference among the likely winners, not who I would prefer from the whole field of candidates.

"Seven Days: Who is your political hero?
Emily Peyton: Mother Teresa."

She sounds like George Bush, telling us Jesus Christ was his political hero.

Although, I suppose, both Christ and Mother T spent as much time in political office as Emily Peyton ever will.

Emily Peyton: too conservative for the Republican Party. Hey - have you decided yet whether it's ok to hang out a sign in your restaurant that says "no blacks, gays or Jews allowed"? Last I heard, you found this question too difficult to answer.

I'm sure you'll pray for me.

Your sort of politics would get you the Tea Party endorsement in a bible-belt state.

Is there a suggestion that Emily Peyton is racist in some regard or I am just imagining things?

I can't find any evidence that Emily Peyton owns a restaurant, either. you should really check your sources, Fran!

Anyone who lists their profession as "activist" is probably unemployed and unemployable. It is an annoying word that has no meaning. "Ist" means an adherent or follower or believer of something. "Active" means, well, active. So an "activist" is an adherent or follower or believer in "activity"?

Are you too embarassed to say that what you do is knock on doors for reinstating the gold standard and all the other wonderful causes out there? That you make phone calls and harass people? That you organize "neighborhood meetings"? That you lead "marches" for "justice" down Church Street? And that you write cranky letters to the editor?

People, stop calling yourselves "activist." Media, stop referring to people as "activists."

Hey Murphy; guess MLK and others like him have no significance in your opinion? Activists are the catalyst of change; those who whine about them are nothing more than little bugs that end up splattered against a windshield, or, being the lowest of the low on the food chain, eaten by the bigger fish.

It was predictable that someone would invoke the name of MLK.

MLK is a hero.

He did not refer to himself as an "activist."

Al "Tawana Brawley" Sharpton is an "activist."

Big difference.

And your implicit comparison of Ms. Peyton to MLK borders on the blasphemous.

You SHOULD grow up - any comparison to MLKs agenda can ONLY be compared to an activist - and I never made any "comparison" between MLK and Peyton - so figure out your problem with being able to stay attentive to what you're reading as opposed to what you are reading INTO.

But, there is no difference to be made between activists in terms of activism. MLK - he's a hero activist who was also able to lead and motivate his followers. Peyton, a small potato activist that no one wants to listen to. BIG difference.

"I never made any "comparison" between MLK and Peyton"

Yes you did. The dialogue was about Emily Peyton and the overused term "activist" when you threw this predictable gem in:

"Hey Murphy; guess MLK and others like him have no significance in your opinion?"

Um . . . that's called an implied comparison.

And then you followed that up in the last paragraph of your last post by making a DIRECT comparison between Peyton and MLK.

Back to my point: this story is a perfect example of the abuse of the term "activist." This apparently unemployed college dropout, who seems to be infatuated with Lady Di but who doesn't seem to know who Michael Jacques is, calls herself an "activist" (and we are not even told about what). If this isn't a debasement of the term "activist," I don't know what is.

And of course she's running for Governor. Only in Vermont, baby. Only in Vermont. Well, probably California, too.

I knew Emily in college. I know her to be a gentle and kind person, it doesn't surprise me in the least that one of her heroes is Mother Teresa, and I like her political ideas. As to the sign in the restaurant crack, and too conservative for the republicans, those are so far off base that I can only think you must be thinking of someone else, good luck and godspeed Emily. I doubt that Vermont will be much better off with a Democrat than a Republican, sad to say, but Vermont would, I am certain be much better off with Emily as governor.

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