Daily Archives: October 30, 2014

Scott Milne borrowed a bucket, and he’s going to clean up Lake Champlain

The ever-constipated Campaign of Ideas has pooped out another rock-hard nugget… this time, by way of emailed press release without any live contact with reporters.

And no wonder. Even Mahatma has to realize this one’s a clunker.

It’s a two-part plan to clean up Lake Champlain.

I repeat: “two-part.”

And part one is:

Catalyze the cleanup of Lake Champlain without raising new revenue.

Yes, part one is nothing more than a restatement of the overall idea.

Step two is even worse: he wants to raid an existing fund to pay for a tiny fraction of cleanup costs:

Amend the “Vermont Housing and Conservation Trust Fund Act” to allocate the part of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board’s funds used for conservation to cleaning up Lake Champlain.

(Bold type is Milne’s.)

I've got just the idea for you! Low mileage, runs good, new battery & tires. Don't mind the rust.

I’ve got just the plan for you! Low mileage, runs good, new battery & tires. Don’t mind the rust.

The appendix to part two is renaming VHCB as the “Vermont Housing and Lake Champlain Cleanup Trust.”

And that’s it. That’s his entire Lake Champlain cleanup “plan.”

Okay, a couple of small problems right off the bat.

This would strip VHCB of its ability to do any other conservation work: conserving farmland through the purchase of development rights; helping preserve natural areas, historic properties, wildlife habitat; purchasing land for new parks and wildlife areas; and helping provide public access to conserved land.

— It would provide, by Milne’s own estimate, a measly $7.4 million per year for a cleanup that’s estimated to cost $150 million. In the absence of a comprehensive plan, that money won’t have much impact.

Milne isn’t bothered by robbing VHCB to pay for the lake; indeed, he says there’s no need for VHCB to do any conservation:

Milne said more than half of Vermont’s land is either owned by the state or federal government, or under some sort of easement that prohibits development today.

“I say half of our state being set aside is good enough for the next five years,” according to Milne. “Let’s have this board and these dollars go towards affordable housing and cleaning up the Lake.

Hmm. He thinks there’s more than enough conserved land in Vermont. And this is the same guy who wants to suburbanize a chunk of land off I-89 in Hartford. And who has said he’d like Vermont to take a more New Hampshire-style approach to conservation and development.

Which makes me suspect that Milne wouldn’t like to see any new regulations on farmland or developed areas or wastewater treatment.

Oh, I forgot another small problem with the plan: There’s no way in Hell the feds would buy it. And we’re under pressure from the EPA to do some real substantive stuff. This ain’t it.

I think I see why he slipped this one over the transom and avoided interacting with the media. Even by Milne’s standards, this idea is a real clunker.

(Note: As of this writing, Milne hadn’t posted the plan on his website. I’m sure he’ll think of it sometime.)



Freeploid clickbait FAIL

The Burlington Free Press is allegedly entering the Brave New World of Journalism’s Future: an age with resource-starved newsrooms, reporters scrambling to fill multiple “content streams,” Orwellian job titles like “Content Coach” and “Engagement Editor,” little or no copy editing, and a fixation on “audience analytics,” i.e. clickbait. Stories will be pursued, written, and even rewritten in response to the perceived interests of the audience. And note: we’re not readers anymore. We’re “news consumers” or something.

But if this is indeed the future of the Freeploid, it’s off to a rocky start. Yesterday, we learned the identity of Ebola Guy, the Vermonter who spent most of October in West Africa on a solo mission to fight Ebola.

It’s a big damn sexy story that pushes all the right buttons. It’s got important public policy implications: How did this guy get to Africa and back? How was his return handled by local, state, and federal authorities? What does it say about our Ebola containment efforts?

At the same time, it’s an eyeball grabber. Peter Italia is a full-on nutball who has claimed to use time travel and other “special powers” to cure disease and bring back people from the dead. His Facebook page is chock full of juicy stuff, chronicling his trip to Africa and detailing many of his cherished beliefs.

Also, I’ve heard that there are more dimensions to the story yet to come out — some on the serious policy questions, some in the “WTF” hot zone of audience curiosity.

The Freeploid’s Mike Donoghue managed to get quite a bit of detail yesterday and posted a story online last night.

But did they feature it on the website?

No. The primary slot on the homepage was about a high school soccer game.

Today’s print edition banishes Donoghue’s story to page 3; the front page has a run-of-the-mill piece on Vermont officials preparing to deal with Ebola cases.

And this morning, even after a solid 12 hours of “audience analytics,” the homepage STILL doesn’t feature Italia:

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 11.30.31 AM

All I can say is, c’mon, Freeploid. If you’re going to burn your journalistic soul on the altar of “audience analytics,” you could at least do a good job of it.

Postscript. The Freeploid pulls an old favorite trick in Donoghue’s piece: doggedly refusing to give credit to other media outlets. You wouldn’t know it by reading Donoghue, but it was WCAX-TV who first identified Italia and scored a phone interview with him. I’ve said it before, but this is the kind of thing that makes the Free Press disliked by many others in the media world. It’s arrogant, it’s wrong, and in the long run it does nothing to elevate the Freeploid or diminish its rivals.