Welp, I forced myself to go back and watch last week’s gubernatorial forum on Vermont’s economic future in a time of climate change, as the organizers dubbed it. And I found something fascinating on the Republican side. As in the way a child is fascinated by turning over a rock and watching the critters disperse.
On the one hand, you had a guy who acknowledges the reality of climate change and the human role in it, but doesn’t want to do anything to address it. On the other, you had a guy who questions the scientific consensus on climate change but has a bunch of ideas that are kinda-sorta related to the issue.
Candidate A is Bruce Lisman. Candidate B is Phil Scott.
Most of this essay will concern Scott, because (1) his presentation was an appalling mess, and (2) he’s going to win the primary, so Lisman’s brand of environmental unconcern is of little relevance.
Yet another slate of endorsements graces my inbox today. This time, from Vermont Conservation Voters, the nonprofit organization that lobbies the Legislature and educates voters on its environmental priorities.
VCV’s list focused on contested primaries in the House and Senate, “looking for candidates with demonstrated leadership on environmental issues,” according to VCV political director Lauren Hierl.
My cynical eye immediately turned to the absences on the list, and there are a couple of notable ones.
The group is not endorsing incumbent Democratic Senators Phil Baruth and Alice Nitka.
As I surf the web, the banner ads for Phil Scott and Bruce Lisman continue to follow me like the shambling monster in “It Follows.” Last week, I noted the graphic-design shortcomings of both campaigns’ efforts — with Lisman’s being the worse of the two.
Well, maybe they read my post, because they’ve put up a new and much better banner ad.
You’ve got to hand it to Matt Dunne. If my email inbox is anything to judge by, he’s got the most active, persistent fundraising operation of any gubernatorial candidate.
And he’s borrowed an old trick from the public radio playbook: ginning up a false sense of urgency.
Public radio fundraising isn’t aimed at the vast majority of listeners. More than 80 percent of the audience will never give a dime. Roughly ten percent are loyal donors who don’t need convincing.
A pledge drive is aimed at the five to ten percent who listen frequently, who know that public radio depends on listener support, and who are predisposed to make a contribution — but never quite get around to it.
This is where the sense of urgency comes into play. Call Now! Because Right Now is a crucial time! We’ve got a matching gift or a challenge pledge or a prize drawing or we’re about to hit a milestone.
When candidates wants to hammer home a rhetorical point, one of their favorite devices is to declare it “my top priority.” Or, weasel wordly, “a top priority.”
Either way, I’ma here to tall you not one of them has their top priority right. Whoever wins, their top priority has already been assigned.
Like it or not, the biggest single item on the next governor’s to-do list will be Lake Champlain. Thanks to our decades of consistent neglect, we are now under orders from the EPA to create an effective plan to limit nutrient flows into the lake, and take extensive action to clean up the lake.
Both will be costly. The former will impose tougher conditions for growth, tougher effluent standards for farms, developers, road contractors, and municipalities. The latter will require spending on a large scale. Which will require large-scale indebtedness, tax increases, or budget cuts elsewhere. Or all three. And it’s got to be done in a way that satisfies the EPA, no matter its effect on entrenched political interests.
Meanwhile, neither the candidates nor the media are giving this the attention it deserves. It promises to be the dominant issue of the next several years. But to hear the candidates tell it, Lake Champlain is nobody’s top priority.
Commerce Secretary Patricia Moulton was far too busy to comment on the sudden, unexplained departure of Gene Fullam as head of Vermont’s EB-5 office, but she did manage to make time for a live interview on Thursday’s “Vermont Edition.” Subject: EB-5.
Inexplicably, host Jane Lindholm didn’t ask about Fullam’s departure. A deal, perhaps?
Immediately preceding Moulton was State Auditor Doug Hoffer, who’s been critical of the grant programs administered by her agency. Among other things, he pointed out that it’s impossible to prove whether the state grants actually create economic activity that wouldn’t exist in their absence.
And then Moulton came on and admitted that those programs operate on the honor system. Regarding the Vermont Economic Growth Initiative, she said:
… we believe the CEOs, when they sign an application, that the material is true and correct.
Okay, so after less than one year on the job, the director of Vermont’s embattled EB-5 program has resigned. And nobody is saying boo about it. No explanation, no praise for the departed, just No Comment across the board.
Nothing to see here, folks. Move it along.
Well, sorry, but if there’s one area of state government where That Dog Won’t Hunt, it’s the scandal-plagued EB-5 program.
Plus, we’re not talking about some schmo plucked from bureaucratic obscurity to caretake EB-5 through the fag end of the Shumlin administration. When he was hired in August 2015, Gene Fullam appeared to be the idea candidate.