Daily Archives: September 17, 2015

Brainstormin’ with Mr. Google

The candidate works the room.

The candidate works the room.

Matt Dunne, former state senator, current Google exec and Democratic candidate for governor, is slow-rolling his campaign unveil with a series of Community Forums around the state. On Tuesday night, he made a stop in downtown Montpelier; about 20 people gathered in the upstairs offices of Local 64, a coworking space. (Appropriately trendy location, yes?) Some nibbly snacks were on offer, as well as appropriately local beer. (Your Reporter contented himself with an excellent iced tea purchased at the North Branch Cafe downstairs.)

The takeaway: ehh, it was a perfectly cromulent way to low-key a campaign launch. Nothing wrong with the idea. But I have to admit, I take these kinds of events with a massive grain of salt.

First, it’s not exactly a new concept. Bruce Lisman reintroduced himself to Vermonters with a Listening Tour, and Phil Scott spent a few nights last winter holding Economy Pitches. If Matt Dunne is trying to present himself as a different kind of candidate, borrowing chapters from the Phil Scott Playbook isn’t the best way to make that case. (Nothing against Phil, he’s just not a cutting-edge kind of guy.)

Second, when I walk into a room containing oversized pads of white paper on easels and a goodly supply of Sharpies, something inside me shrivels up a little. I guess it’s all those idea sessions I sat through in my previous working lives. The assembled are addressed with great earnestness, we offer ideas, they get written down on the white pads, the full pages get taped to the walls, everybody leaves, and — in my experience — nothing much comes of it.

Dunne promised otherwise. “The whole list will be posted online,” he said at the event’s conclusion. After seeking further input, he said, the ideas gathered at the forums “will be incorporated into our platform.”

I kinda hope not. But we’ll get to that later.

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Can’t we find a Democratic budget expert? Please?

The Shumlin administration is a lame-duck affair. Top staffers have begun to leave, and it’s awfully difficult to hire outsiders for openings that will only last a little more than a year. So, people get promoted from within or shuffled around. I imagine by next summer, the administration will look like a last-place baseball team in mid-September: plenty of scrubs trying to act like major leaguers.

The latest departure: budget chief Jim Reardon. His replacement: prison chief Andy Pallito.

Okay, fine, maybe Pallito is the best person for the job. But he, like Reardon, was a prominent holdover from the Douglas administration. Which brings us to the question above: Can’t we find a Democratic budget expert? Please?

This is of a piece with Democrats relying on Neale Lunderville as their number-one fixit man. Hirings like these reinforce the stereotype that Republicans are serious administrators while Democrats are softies. (This stereotype isn’t actually true, at least not at the national level. Since Jimmy Carter left office, Republican Presidents have done far more to increase the national debt than Democrats.)

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