Daily Archives: June 11, 2015

Story Time, 2010 Primary Edition: in honor of Deb Markowitz

Well, the briefest of gubernatorial trial balloons has settled to the floor, like the birthday balloon that got a half-shot of helium. Deb Markowitz, Agency of Natural Resources Secretary throughout the Shumlin administration, has taken her name out of the running. In an email to Seven Days’ Paul Heintz, she wrote:

“I will not be running for Governor this time around. I want to be able to continue to fully focus on the important work of the agency to address the important environmental, energy and economic issues facing Vermont.”

Fair enough. It kinda seemed like she was a token woman on everybody’s list rather than a real top tier contender. Which is a shame, because she could very easily have been Governor instead of Peter Shumlin. And the way his administration has turned out, we might have been better off with Markowitz.

We’ll never know, of course. But let’s take a stroll down Memory Lane, just to show how close we came to that particular alternate reality. And how a possible bit of trickeration (the Nixon folks called it ratf*cking) might have kept her out of the corner office.

Continue reading

Rent-to-own abuses reined in

On Monday, Governor Shumlin announced something or other. Everybody paid attention.

On Tuesday, he signed a bill that will help a lot of people. Pretty much nobody paid any attention.

S.73 is a consumer protection bill whose primary purpose is to prevent rent-to-own stores from preying on the working poor. When I was a guest on the Mark Johnson Show after the legislative session and he asked me which piece of legislation would have the most impact, I said that for some, it wouldn’t be education reform or RESET or the budget or Lake Champlain; it’d be S.73.

Rent-to-own stores, at their worst, are a lot like payday lenders: they allow the poor to acquire consumer goods like furniture, electronics, and appliances with little or no money up front. Instead, they charge monthly lease rates. In some cases, a consumer will pay far more over the life of a lease than they would have if they’d paid cash (or had a credit card) up front. Like 200% more.

It’s usury by another name.

Continue reading