Daily Archives: October 27, 2014

And the first one bites the dust

The seasonal slasher flick that is the Burlington Free Press has claimed its first victim. Reporter Lynn Monty has been kicked out the door for refusing to go through the “degrading and demoralizing” experience of “interviewing for a job I already had.”

Last week, Freeploid staffers had to re-interview for newly-defined jobs as part of Gannett’s Newsroom of the Future initiative. Seven Days’ Paul Heintz reports that Monty had an interview scheduled, but at the last minute she couldn’t bring herself to go through with it.

“I opted out of the interview process and they laid me off. …I loved my job, but I don’t love Gannett. I will make a new way for myself that doesn’t compromise my integrity.”

… According to Monty, Gannett plans to pay her the difference between unemployment insurance compensation and her full salary for six weeks — one for each year she spent at the paper.

Ooooh, six whole weeks! That’ll take her right into… mid-December.

Merry Christmas!

One other note that strikes me as extremely convenient:

An internal document obtained two weeks ago by Seven Days indicated that final decisions from Gannett were due this week, though Monty said she expected them next week.

Yeah, we’ll expect you all to work your asses off through Election Night, but no guarantees after that.

Happy Thanksgiving!

How can I miss you when you won’t go away?

Audio accompaniment to this blogpost:

Well, good ol’ “Bitter Bob” Hartwell, outgoing Republicrat Senator from Bennington, has left his fellow Senators a parting gift: the op-ed equivalent of a flaming bag of poo, entitled “What Senate Democrats Must Do.”

Hartwell’s public statements have shifted to the right in recent months, starting with his infamous skepticism about climate change and continuing through his comments to VTDigger last week that the Democrats have gone too far to the left:

“There’s too much spending, there’s too much social engineering, going on. Our party is getting out of line,” he said.

His opinion piece is more of the same. It reads as though it comes, not from the moderate Democrat he claims to be, but from somewhere to the right of Phil Scott. Indeed, it’s a big fat sloppy wet kiss to the Republican Party, delivered one week before Election Day. I’m sure the timing is coincidental, cough, hack, choke.

Bitter Bob, doing research for his opinion piece.

Bitter Bob, doing research for his opinion piece.

He accuses the Democratic Party of becoming “more ideological and, therefore, less effective and more poorly focused on the real issues.” By which he means, the “real issues” that concern Bitter Bob Hartwell.

He then slaps around Democrats and the Shumlin Administration for the “poor rollout of Vermont Health Connect” and says “The Legislature must determine to put an end to the single payer scheme unless it can clearly show significant savings…”

A reminder: There are two goals in advancing single-payer. One is to bend the cost curve, and the other is to provide universal access to health care. If Bob is only interested in the former, well, I’m glad he will no longer represent the Democratic Party in the new biennium.

Then he gets to property taxes and school funding, which “inexcusably, the Legislature has done virtually nothing to control…” Remind me: wasn’t Bob Hartwell in the Legislature himself?

Also, in one badly-written sentence, he appears to endorse Scott Milne’s proposal for a freeze on property taxes.

Then he takes a dump on the Senate Education Committee for “a most unacceptable performance” in failing to address the issue to Hartwell’s satisfaction. He’s talkin’ to you, Dick McCormack, Don Collins, Phil Baruth, Bill Doyle and David Zuckerman.

Somehow I don’t think Bitter Bob was talking to his colleagues this way when the Senate was still in session and his words could have had some impact. Indeed, it’s hard to tell from this essay that Hartwell was a fairly influential member of the Senate majority instead of an innocent bystander.

He then slams “Vermont’s intoxication with large scale renewable energy,” which fits in with his doubts about climate change. It also buttresses his self-congratulatory impulses, as he upbraids the Senate for refusing to pass his bills to create new obstacles in the path of renewable energy.

After that, it’s on to the core Republican talking point: “Vermont continues to spend too much money,” especially on social services programs, and bitches about “throwing money at problems” in a way that’s straight out of the Angry Jack Lindley playbook.

Hmm. Angry Jack and Bitter Bob. The worst Vaudeville act ever.

And then Hartwell rants about something that’s only a major issue in his own mind: the legislature’s failure to repeal the Bottle Bill, which, he says, wastes money, contributes to carbon pollution*, and “shoves businesses… into New Hampshire.” And he takes a gratuitous slap at VPIRG — or, as Hartwell puts it, “one so-called ‘research’ group.”

* Which, according to Bob himself, isn’t really a problem.

The “get off my lawn” ranting continues for several more paragraphs, in which he bemoans the fact that nobody in the Senate is as wise as Bob Hartwell and unleashes a bunch of howlers, including:

— The Senate fails to act “as a team,” and instead pursues “the interests of each committee with little understanding of the effect… on the state as a whole.” Considering his hijacking of the Natural Resources Committee in pursuit of his favored hobbyhorses, that’s pretty rich.

— Vermont should be more like New Hampshire.

— Our economic doldrums have nothing to do with national trends, “but rather by policies internal to Vermont.”

— Dean Corren is a liar.

Yeah, that’s one huge stinking flaming bag of poo. Thanks, Bitter Bob, for giving us a farewell gesture that reminds us all how lucky we are that you’ve decided to get outta Dodge.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Pfft! There goes another conservative talking point

Vermont conservatrives have been making some hay lately by raising fears about Medicare. The idea is that Governor Shumlin is plotting to take over Medicare, and who knows what will happen to your benefits after that.

Well, first of all, Medicare benefits are protected in federal law.

But more importantly, here comes a tidbit from VTDigger’s Anne Galloway: 

Two recent stories about the relationship between Medicare and Green Mountain Care, the state’s planned universal publicly financed health care program – often called single-payer – were inaccurate. The stories were based on statutes on the Legislature’s website that had not been updated.

The stories outlined accusations made by Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Dan Feliciano and Orange County Senatorial candidate Bob Frenier. The same charge has been made in a radio ad produced by the Ethan Allen Institute.

As Galloway explains, the legislature amended the health care law earlier this year, removing the section calling for state oversight of Medicare. And, she says,

State officials have said they are no longer seeking to administer Medicare as part of Green Mountain Care, and the law reflects that change.

The problem, apparently, is that the legislature’s website was not properly updated and still contains the old version of the law. And, as Galloway concludes, the charges about a state takeover of Medicare are “inaccurate.”

This should clear things up, but somehow I can’t see the conservatives dropping a nice juicy talking point just because it happens to be wrong.

A very coordinated campaign

The Vermont Democrats know what they’re doing.

Well, that’s not news. But when you look closely at scheduled activities for the last full week before Election Day, you realize how narrowly they’re targeting a handful of key races. And using their big guns to do so.

Is Bernie standing on a box?

Is Bernie standing on a box?

First, there was the weekend-long victory tour, headlined by Gov. Shumlin and Sen. Bernie Sanders, and also featuring Dean Corren. They stopped in Bristol, Proctor, Hinesburg, and St.Albans. Which, at first glance, might make you wonder why not Montpelier or Burlington.

Well, because they don’t need the votes there.

Bristol is the home district of two powerful state representatives: David Sharpe, ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, and Mike Fisher, chair of the Health Care Committee, which is kind of important to the Governor’s single-payer agenda. Sharpe and Fisher face a well-funded Republican with a very familiar name: Valerie Mullin.

I don’t know if she’s related to Sen. Kevin Mullin, but a popular name is a significant advantage for a political newbie. And the Republicans are hoping she can knock out Fisher or Sharpe.

Then comes Proctor, in Rutland County — one of the key State Senate battlegrounds. Republicans are hoping that Brian Collamore can knock off appointed incumbent Eldred French and give the GOP all three Rutland County Senate seats. Democrats are hoping they can save French and get William Tracy Carris into the Senate. Or at least hold onto a seat, preventing a Republican pickup.

The third stop was in Hinesburg, which doesn’t seem like a terribly high priority. The town’s two House seats are safely Democratic. Hinesburg is part of the Chittenden County district in the Senate, with five Democratic incumbents and one Republican. The 5-1 split is likely to remain intact, although Democrat Dawn Ellis has run a spirited campaign, and Republican Joy Limoge has raised quite a bit of money. I don’t think the Dems are too worried about Limoge, but maybe they see an opening to knock off Republican Diane Snelling. Or maybe they just wanted to hold one rally within easy driving distance of the Burlington-based TV stations.

The final rally was in St. Albans, perhaps the most hotly contested community in all of Vermont. There are two Democratic incumbents in the House, Kathie Keenan and Mike McCarthy. The Republicans hope to win at least one of the seats.

And, of course, St. Albans is the population center of the Franklin County contest for two Senate seats, currently split between the parties. Republicans hope to grab both seats in November, while the Dems want to hold their ground or possibly even take both.

The point about Democratic targeting is reinforced by Gov. Shumlin’s schedule for this week. He walked in the Rutland Halloween parade Saturday night; on Monday he’s holding a press conference in Rutland and speaking to the local Rotary Club. And on Thursday, he’s holding a press conference in St. Albans.

Near the end of the week, he’s giving a pair of high-profile speeches in Burlington that should draw TV coverage: the annual meeting of the Vermont Economic Development Agency on Friday, and a fundraiser for Vermont Parks Forever on Saturday.

The Republicans, by contrast, seem to be completely uncoordinated. Not that they have anyone with the drawing power of Shumlin or (especially) Sanders; the closest thing they have to a political celebrity is Phil Scott. Not really in the same league, especially as an inspirational speaker.

And I haven’t seen any signs of any real coordination among Republicans. You’d think that Phil Scott, as the party’s top officeholder and most popular active figure, AND as the guy who wants to make the party more inclusive, would be actively engaged in some party-building and promotion of legislative candidates.

Maybe he has been; if so, it hasn’t exactly been high profile.

In any case, the main point is this: the Democrats are doing exactly what they should be doing in the final days of the campaign.