All boot, no cattle

So the five major-party candidates for governor got together earlier this week for Gov Pitch, a forum on boosting Vermont’s economy hosted by the fine folks at Fresh Tracks Capital. A couple of items caught my attention: Bruce Lisman’s curious choice of footwear, and the impenetrable vagueness of the Phil Scott campaign.

First, Bruce’s Boots.

Four of the five were dressed for business, including well-polished footwear in black or brown. Bruce Lisman, apparently desperate to come across as a true-blue Vermonter, sported a pair of beige shitkickers — the kind of boots you’d normally wear in a barnyard. Here’s a piece of a Seven Days photo:

Matt Dunne, Bruce "Boots" Lisman, Shap Smith

Matt Dunne, Bruce “Boots” Lisman, Shap Smith

I seriously doubt he ever wore those to his digs in the dark heart of Wall Street. Then again, we’re kinda-sorta supposed to forget about his decades-long immersion in the culture of high finance and accept him as a born-and-bred Vermont boy. Just like, mmm, Rich Tarrant.

Anyway, nice try, Bruce. But in the future, you might just stick with the Guccis and try to prove your bona fides with the substance of your remarks.

On to Phil Scott, whose campaign has trumpeted his LEADERSHIP but said little to indicate where, exactly, he wants to LEAD us.

I realize it’s early, and the campaigns have only begun to roll out their plans, but Scott’s is the most substance-free to date. And because he’s spent the last five years securely ensconced in the Lieutenant Governorship, what we most need to learn is what kind of executive he would be.

His campaign website is a crisp one-page effort, bearing a short letter announcing his candidacy to the voters with a few tired nostrums. He asserts that it’s time for “a different direction” in the governor’s office but reveals nothing about the nature of that direction. He promises to be “a steady hand at the helm” and provide “balanced leadership,” which sounds like a return to the good old days of Jim Douglas middle-muddle.

His performance at the Gov Pitch was no more revealing. He repeatedly hammered on Vermont’s alleged “affordability crisis,” which I presume is dog-whistle for “cutting taxes.” The problem is, you can’t cut taxes deeply enough to make a real difference in affordability without eviscerating state government. As for the other side of this affordability crisis coin, rising the tide to lift all the boats, Scott had distressingly little to offer.

He mouthed the usual Republican gripe about bureaucracy and red tape, but his prescription was a measly “sometimes… government officials [should] stay out of the way a bit.” Other candidates had specific ideas on how to encourage business and improve relations with government.

On Vermont’s graying demographics and our need to retain and attract more young people, other candidates offered ideas while Scott fell back on his “affordability” schtick, which is a remarkably shallow response to a multifaceted issue. Also,

“What we have to do again to try and attract businesses to try and attract our youth to stay is to create a more affordable environment,” Scott said.

Lather, rinse, repeat. “Try” and “try”, but nothing on how or what to try.

And on the subject of high-speed broadband and cell coverage, Scott offered a big bucket of icewater.

“I’ve heard a lot of governors promise cell service, promise last-mile broadband, without success. And I don’t think that we should sit here and promise that’s going to happen either. I think technology is changing. I think it will catch up to us eventually,” Scott said.

Oh goodie. It’ll catch up to us eventually, and in the meantime I guess we’ll just sit here and wait.

In his closing statement, Scott warned his fellow hopefuls about the dangers of overpromising. Well, one thing’s for sure: our Lieutenant Governor was not at all guilty of that.

Phil Scott has a lot going for him. He’s a nice guy, he’s got an impressive resume in and out of politics. He’s energetic and charitable and brave and clean and, I’m sure, reverent. But as Lite-Gov, he hasn’t had to take any tough stances or risk offending people. If he wants to become the state’s chief executive, he’ll be taking on a fundamentally different role.

He has a long time to sharpen his Gov Pitch. But as of right now, it seems like he wants to transfer the nebulous banality of his current sinecure to our highest and most demanding office. He might win the election anyway, but he’s not laying the groundwork for a dynamic or productive administration.

It’s like Bruce’s boots. Just because you’re wearing a pair of shitkickers doesn’t mean you’re prepared to kick some shit.

7 thoughts on “All boot, no cattle

  1. Joseph Donaldson

    Phil Scott is a very low, low energy Donald Trump. Catchphrases and no clear grasp of the issues. I wouldn’t doubt he adds fear into the equation, once the campaign season is in full bloom. Actually, his affordability rant is the first spoke on the fear wheel, so maybe sooner. Your comparison to Jim Douglas is true enough, but I don’t think Phil is as full of himself as Douglas, but given the smoke that’s been blown up his behind for years now, maybe I’m wrong.

  2. newzjunqie

    I see nothing in common between Scott & Trump except they are male, and earthlings residing in the US running for office.

    Where did this ‘low energy’ thing get started? Trump. F’k him. Energy to Trump = blowhard. Takes energy but not much of an accomplishment.

    Scott’s ‘energy’ can’t be too ‘low’ or he would not be in business working construction of all things or racing – these are accomplishments VTers can relate to, not necessarily attending political whosie-whatsies being quizzed, queried, firing soundbites and inventing bumper-sticker slogans. It’s theater.

    One of the most important aspects of VT esp for business is predictable environment. I’m not for tax or other incentives to keep business here, they should be low interest loans, what’s wrong with SBA – a federal program? However it would be nice to know that once one is firmly entrenched another new law from liberal lalaland isn’t coming down the pike from year to year or regime to regime. This is partly the reason for Erisa – to ensure a company can provide well for employees w/o destroying an established business and this regime wants that too.

    The companies fleeing our collectivist hell, faulted for not having ‘VT values’ are leaving to merely stay afloat and compete in a competitive environment. All financial giveaways from VT should come with strict enforcable clawbacks. They leave they lose it all. Personally I would not even accept it if that were the case.

    The reason this resonates with me is I was about to start a business but when I started looking closely at the climate, taxes and all the rest especially health care debacle I realized I could do it in lets say NH and have more certainty and support. This is why VT has to pay ppl to start businesses.

  3. Walter Carpenter

    “the companies fleeing our collectivist hell, faulted for not having ‘VT values’ are leaving to merely stay afloat and compete in a competitive environment.” And not to mention tax havens where they can stash their tax dollars to avoid paying taxes, and how much have Vermont taxpayers given these companies to stay here? IBM, GMC, etc, all have had state dollars courtesy of us taxpayers given to them. And having been in the construction industry, I wonder how Scott’s company treated their employees. Did they give bennies to some, but not others; how many employees, for example, did not have health care as part of their employment at Scott’s company and the state taxpayer had to pick it up because the company would not? And so on….

  4. newzjunqie

    Not just the ones who have received considerable backing in the form of taxpayer incentives are leaving – plus I addressed this in comment.
    And the funds were given to them before the health care debacle hit the fan. Joke is on VT courtesy of the dimwits and numbskulls in our supposed exceptionalist state as there is now no incentive to stay once they have made their fortunes.

    Sams was an outfitter and anchor store in Bellows Falls they left years ago & are now looking to get out of business in VT entirely:
    “I have actually discouraged my daughter from getting into the business.” “… sales dropped by 2 percent last year. That’s the opposite of what has been happening at the stores in Keene, N.H., and Hadley, Mass.”

    “The Keene store is going to expand this summer by a little more than 50 percent. It has a great future there.” The Hadley store is also going strong, he said. But, said Borofsky, he has been reading the tea leaves for a number of years, and he doesn’t believe the business climate in Brattleboro is going to get better any time soon. “The business climate gets worse and worse here and it gets better on the other side of the river,” he said. “On the east side of the Connecticut River there has been nothing but growth. But on our side, for about 30 years, it’s been in decline.”

    And now, for the third time, Town Meeting Representatives are going to discuss whether to approve a 1-percent local option sales tax on top of the state sales tax of 6 percent.

    C&S left Brattleboro for Keene NH years ago, though employees could commute to Keens, not far away, Brattleboro lost a huge business’ from tax base.

    Borofskys and Cohens outstanding business ppl and longtime residents supporters of the community Brattleboro was fortunate to have them.

    Another large employer G&S Precision expanding to Chesterfield:

    BRATTLEBORO >> The state is getting behind an initiative to help one of Brattleboro’s largest employers to remain in the area … The company has received initial approval of over $1 million in Vermont Employment Growth Incentives and a commitment of Vermont Training Program funds.
    There again, if G&S moves employees will retain jobs as it’s just a few miles away but job related business and the tax base will be in NH. And the sad fact is we have to pay ppl to come to VT and pay them to stay. No way to run a railroad imho.

  5. Walter Carpenter

    “The business climate gets worse and worse here and it gets better on the other side of the river,” he said. “On the east side of the Connecticut River there has been nothing but growth. But on our side, for about 30 years, it’s been in decline.” I don’t know. I am originally from NH and there has been a whole lot of decline there was well in parts of the state. Some of the NH towns along the river are still pretty glum, and they also have poverty. The people have fewer benefits there, small businesses are getting creamed (my brother is a small business owner in NH) with insurance costs and so on, and fees or other taxes to make up for their no income tax pledge. What’s booming (if you want to call it that) is the bulge of Massachusetts into the state and a lot of that is shopping malls. And New Hampshire has businesses leaving too, also going to low wage countries and tax havens where they can avoid taxes. The thing about the $1 million incentive to precision or the GS is that they will take the money, of course, courtesy of the taxpayers, and leave anyway at some point down the road. They play the same game all over the country as they do here.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Almost all the growth in NH is in the southeastern corner, and it’s almost entirely due to its proximity to Boston. Along the border, the Upper Valley is booming on both sides of the river. Is Springfield doing any worse than Claremont? Nope. Is St. Jay doing any worse than, say, Littleton? No. I think the only border area where you can honestly make a case for taxation being a problem is Brattleboro/Keene. Otherwise, Vermont taxes have very little to do with any economic difference between the two states.


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