Daily Archives: July 29, 2014

Hey look, it’s New Media hucksterism!

If you happen to Follow the Freeploid’s Twitter feed @bfp_news, you would have seen this timely message hogging most of your desktop today.

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Gosh, now there’s an offer I can’t possibly refuse. Look at that 21st Century meeting space! It just practically screams “innovation,” doesn’t it? Formica-topped Tables! Aligned in straight rows facing frontward! Uncomfortable chairs! A wall-mounted monitor! Fluorescent light fixtures in a drop ceiling! Cabinets! Door! Illuminated exit sign! All yours for “as low as $150”!!! (Rate applies from 2-4 a.m. weekdays only. Ten-meeting minimum. No refreshments offered or allowed.)

The Freeploid may call it, with deep aspirational longing, an “Innovation Incubator.” I call it a “meeting room,” same as it ever was.

If this is an example of the Freeploid’s vision of innovation, I weep for the future of Vermont’s Largest Newspaper.

 

 

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School consolidation: It’s coming

Interesting sidelight from Saturday’s meeting of the Democratic State Committee. Various candidates for statewide office spoke to the Committee, seeking its endorsement… including Governor Shumlin. He delivered an energetic stem-winder of a speech, citing accomplishments and goals and thanking the party faithful for making it all possible.

There was one glaring omission from his list of issues: Public school funding and organization. Not a word.

Then he took a few questions, and longtime committee member Bill Sander asked directly about school consolidation. He’s not a fan.

The Governor’s answer was a masterpiece of pointillism, the technique in which, sez Wikipedia, “small, distinct dots of pure color are applied in patterns to form an image.”

The image that emerged: School consolidation is on the way.

He first credited legislative leaders for their “courage” in bringing up the idea earlier this year. Of course, they showed equal amounts of the opposite of courage in ditching the idea when the negative reaction came in waves.

That negative reaction in mind, Shumlin offered a “collaborative” approach which, boiled down to essentials, consists of “We’ll convince you that our plan is right.”

“I’ve asked my Education Secretary to sit down with local schools and show them the math,” he said, “and let the local communities discuss how best to proceed.” He calls this “a partnership, especially with schools that are becoming too small.”

He spoke, not of saving money or centralizing decision-making, but of educational opportunities. He pointed to schools too small to field a football team or cast a theatrical production; of a lack of “a critical mass to provide an educational experience” in classes with only a handful of students.

“Take it from that perspective,” he concluded, “Providing a quality educational experience, plus cost, and we’ll work through it together.”

Yes we will. We’ll work through it to a preformed conclusion.

I’m not necessarily against consolidation, but let’s be honest: as far as the Governor is concerned, the debate on the big question is fundamentally over. Now, it’s a PR blitz and detail work.

The Progs’ problem child

As I’ve often said before, I have no patience for the petty disputes and long-held grudges that are often a feature of Dem/Prog relations in Vermont. And although there have been minor offenses aplenty on both sides, I think the Democrats have some additional responsibility to be the adult in the room. They’ve been around a lot longer, and they already rule the roost; the Progs are hardly a threat. Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau famously compared US/Canada relations to an elephant and a mouse sharing a bed, and the same can be said of the Dems and the Progs: The Prog mouse can disturb the Dem elephant (instant mixed metaphor, sorry) by accidentally tickling it. The elephant can disturb the mouse by rolling over and crushing it.

That said, there’s a member of the Progs’ statewide ticket who is, inadvertently, doing all he can to annoy the elephant. That would be Ben Eastwood, Prog candidate for Secretary of State.

Yes, the same Ben Eastwood who shot down a motion to endorse Democratic incumbent Jim Condos by calling him a “crony capitalist” because of his former employment by Vermont Gas Systems. Which also, it must be said, gave Eastwood a clear shot at the Prog nomination.

Well, Eastwood has spent the first couple months of his “campaign” barely addressing the office he’s running for, and making often-incendiary comments on his current fixation: the Israeli military action in Gaza. He’s agin’ it, very strongly. And he has a right to express his opinions, but when I look at his Facebook page of message after message about the Middle East, I wonder if he’s really serious about becoming Secretary of State. The last time he mentioned the campaign on his Facebook page was June 12, when he’d just finished collecting petition signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Yes, I know he’s not going to win and so does he. But if he accepts a party’s nomination for a high office, he should at least present the appearance of engagement.

Beyond that, he’s been picking a fight with a couple of well-known Democrats over on Green Mountain Daily — Dem state committee alternate member Jack McCullough and Montpelier City Clerk John Odum by name. The details of the argument are many, and if you want to follow it, click on the link. The point is, Ben Eastwood, Progressive Party candidate for Secretary of State, is stirring up trouble with Democrats on an issue that has nothing to do with Vermont politics. He should know better, and he should be more responsible.

After all, this is happening at the very time that Dean Corren, Progressive candidate for Lieutenant Governor, is actively seeking Democratic support — and trying to overcome any bruised feelings that might exist from past Prog-to-Dem insults.

Seeking support from, among others, the colleagues and friends of Jack McCullough.

Here’s a tip, Mr. Eastwood. If you accept the honor of a party’s nomination, you assume responsibility for being a public face of your party and fostering your party’s image and prospects. You have a duty to focus on your own campaign and the office you seek, and temporarily stick a sock in it regarding other issues.

Any member of the Democratic state committee would be well within their bounds if, when called upon by Dean Corren, they asked him about his running mate, Ben Eastwood. It’d be perfectly appropriate for any member of the media to ask Corren if he supports Eastwood.

In addition to the trouble Eastwood is stirring up right now, there’s also the problem of his publicly-available record. He is either a vaccine truther or he’s strongly sympathetic with those who believe that vaccines are poison. He’s vehemently opposed to wind power. And he’s given hints of secessionist leanings.

To top it all off, remember the Progressive gubernatorial primary two years ago, when the Progs chose not to run a candidate and anti-wind extremist Annette Smith launched a last-minute write-in bid to secure the Prog nomination? Party stalwart Martha Abbott agreed to put her name up as a write-in, to keep the nomination from falling into Smith’s hands. After all, it would have been harmful to the Progs’ aspirations to have a person with an extreme and non-Prog agenda as the party’s standard bearer.

Well, Eastwood apparently wasn’t aware of Smith’s candidacy until after the fact, but he then wrote “I wish I’d known about Annette Smith’s write in campaign, and I would have written her in…” 

He would have written in Annette Smith over Martha Abbott? In spite of the clear and obvious wishes of his own Progressive Party?

And now, two years later, he gets one of the top spots on the Progressive ticket?

He certainly isn’t treating that honor, nor the office of the Secretary of State, nor the Progressive Party, nor the Democrats, with the respect they deserve. In so doing, he is hurting the Progs’ case to be taken seriously as a fully-formed, mature party capable of governing. Having someone like Eastwood on the statewide ticket makes ’em look more like a larger Liberty Union Party than a convincing alternative to the Democrats.

Serious-minded Progs, the likes of Corren and Chris Pearson, must be desperately hoping that Eastwood’s candidacy comes and goes without doing too much damage to the Progressive brand they are working so hard to create.