Daily Archives: September 16, 2014

Vermont Health Connect Triggers Zombie Apocalypse; Milne Camp Issues Press Release

Earlier today, the Shumlin Administration announced that the Vermont Health Connect website had been taken offline until mid-November to repair its functionality. Fine. A good step, managerially speaking.

It does, of course, create a prime opportunity for the Governor’s Republican challenger to launch an all-out attack on VHC’s failures. Unfortunately for the VTGOP, its “challenger” is Scott Milne. Who, instead of organizing his own news conference and blasting Shumlin with (cough) a “laser-like focus,” what did he do?

He issued a lame, predictable press release. (Which I can’t link to because it’s not posted on his website.)  (Oh wait, there it is. Took him a while.)

No, no, NOOOO.

Don’t crank out a few unmemorable paragraphs of partisan bumpf! Get out in front of the cameras! Get your face and your attack on the teevee news! Gitcher pitcher in the papers!

Well, admittedly, if Milne held a news conference he’d have to answer questions. And as usual, he has no answers.

“I’ve been meeting with some of the top health care leaders in the state throughout my campaign, discussing the right path for Vermont moving forward. I will continue to do what Gov. Shumlin should have been doing: engaging medical professionals, Vermonters looking for affordable care, and insurance providers to develop a solution to healthcare that expands access and provides more options to consumers.”

Mahatma Milne, The Man Without A Plan.

Lasers, lasers everywhere

This morning, the Shumlin Administration did a very good thing. It announced that the Vermont Health Connect website will go offline for several weeks, to try to fix its problems before the start of the next open-enrollment period on November 15. In the meantime, VHC access will be offered through a call center.

If the Administration hadn’t taken this drastic step, the repairs would have had to be postponed until after the open enrollment period —  in February, right at the time when lawmakers will be asked to approve single-payer health care. And how could they do so, if VHC wasn’t yet working properly?

So yes, this is a positive development. I hope we get progress reports in the interim, and I really hope they can pull it off by mid-November. That’d clear the decks for single-payer.

Also today, while the Governor didn’t take my advice (shocking, I know) and “fire some folks,” he did shuffle Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson off to the side:

Shumlin moved oversight for the insurance program from Larson’s department and placed it under the leadership of Miller, the governor’s longtime troubleshooter and former secretary of commerce.

… Larson appeared at the press conference but did not speak.

I’ve been told that the Governor is loyal to those who are loyal to him, and is loath to let people go. (Didn’t apply, obvs., to Doug Racine.) Which is a laudable trait, but can sometimes go too far.

Anyway, give Larson other stuff to do. Fine.

I do have one other suggestion for the Governor: find a new metaphor. Today:

“We have more work to do to make sure Vermonters have a well-functioning website by November 15,” Shumlin said at a press conference in Winooski. “I’m focused on that goal like a laser.”

That “laser focus” thing sounds great, but not when he uses it every time he faces a challenge. December 2012:

“There isn’t a Democratic governor who doesn’t understand climate change is the challenge we must focus on like a laser,” he said.

Also December 2012: 

Shumlin also told House Democrats to “focus like a laser” on health care implementation.

At the September launch of his 2012 re-election bid:

“When I ran two years ago I promised that I would focus like a laser on getting tough things done to create jobs and better economic opportunities for Vermonters.

This past June, signing a bill promoting clean heating technologies:

“For years, through Efficiency Vermont and other organizations, our state has focused like a laser on reducing our electric energy consumption.

Old Habits Die Hard: Back in 2002 when he was running for Lieutenant Governor, Shumlin promised a three-for-one deal:

There are three things I’m going to focus on like a laser beam. The first is bringing about fair prices for prescription drugs. …The second issue is juvenile justice. …The third is job creation.

One of the rules of handling metaphors: they lose their impact with repeated use.

Mr. Empty Suit steps to the mic

“I’ve got plenty of great ideas.”

So said Republican Scott Milne during Saturday’s gubernatorial debate. His comment came after Governor Shumlin repeatedly slammed his failure to give “us one single plan” on a variety of issues.

And then Milne, predictably, failed to name any ideas.

Well, he did have one: a two-year cap on property taxes, which would put public school into a dire budget situation because many of their costs will continue to rise. It’d force spending cuts from the top down, the very opposite of his claim to be in favor of local decision-making. But hey, at least it was an idea.

Otherwise, nothing much. At another point he said “I’ve got two ideas.” The first was that the Governor had spent too much time out of state. Which is not an idea; it’s an attack.. The second was the property tax cap.

Sigh.

As I said in an earlier comment, Milne managed to exceed the minimal standard of competence, e.g. he didn’t poop his pants. Shows you how dismal his campaign has been, that keeping his shorts clean seems like an accomplishment.

As for actually putting forward an inspiring message, nope. Not at all. He hammered repeatedly on the same old attack lines he’s used since launching his campaign: Shumlin is “the most progressive, radical Governor” who insists on pursing single-payer health care. Milne’s idea for health care reform?

“I will be working very hard with people to get something figured out.”

That is, word for word, what Scott Milne actually said.

On trying to keep young people in Vermont, his only contribution was to assert that the Shumlin Administration “has not been business friendly,” and Vermont needs “a new tone” in its dealings with business. F-sharp, perhaps?

When asked about problems at the Agency for Human Services, he pivoted back to his attack on the troubled rollout of Vermont Health Connect, and cited it as an example of poor management. When he actually addressed AHS, he said we need an agency that “puts the family first.” How imaginative.

When asked about cutting state spending, he gave a halfhearted shoutout to the discredited Challenges for Change initiative, then said “I’m not into cutting,” and then said property taxes are too high.

Confused?

In his closing statement, Milne referenced his late mother Marion’s run for State House in 1994 when, as Milne tells it, a local politico gave her no chance to win. But she ran anyway and won. And so can Scott Milne, if people only believe. And he closed with a bombshell: “Vermont needs a different path. I believe it needs a more moderate path.”

Having, once again, failed to give any real hint of his preferred path for Vermont. It’s been defined almost entirely in the negative: He wouldn’t repeat the alleged mistakes of Governor Shumlin.

And, as I reported earlier, he’s postponed a meeting with VTDigger’s editorial board because his platform isn’t ready yet.

Scott MIlne’s campaign is very close to flat broke. Its campaign manager just resigned. The best you can say about Milne’s debate performance is that he didn’t flame out. But he did nothing to advance his campaign, to provide a substantive option to Shumlin. Or to Dan Feliciano, for that matter.

He did okay by his standards, but that’s not nearly good enough.