“Lock ‘em Up” Lauzon

The mayor of Barre is not known for keeping a cool head. Thom Lauzon once tossed the city manager’s cellphone across the room when it rang during a City Council meeting. Then there was the time a guy in a Santa suit threw a pie in then-Gov. Jim Douglas’ face; Lauzon ran him down and engaged in fisticuffs with the perp.

Oh, and he once chased down a hit-and-run driver, stepping in front of the vehicle to get the driver to stop. Guess how the driver reacted? Fortunately, Lauzon received only minor injuries on that one.

He has, to be fair, done a lot of good stuff as well. He is truly passionate about his city, beyond his own self-interest as an investor in downtown real estate. Although he’s a conservative Republican, he hasn’t shied away from using government resources whenever possible to help pull the city out of its decades-long funk. And he’s made substantial progress. It’s just that his passion sometimes gets a little unhinged.

Now, he seems to be channeling the ghost of Nancy Reagan. VTDigger’s Mark Johnson:

Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon laid down the hammer on opiate dealers Thursday, saying anyone caught selling should receive an automatic 50-year jail sentence.

… Lauzon said he supports treatment programs and wants to see them expanded even further. But he said a greater deterrence is needed to stop people from selling, which he said would cut the supply.

…Lauzon said his proposal would apply to any amount sold, even small amounts. The only exception, he said, should be if an addict requests treatment, is turned away and then sells to maintain his habit.

Let’s pause for a moment and understand a couple of things. Lauzon loves his city. He has seen the effects of the drug trade. Barre is also weighed down by the fact that a fair number of parolees and ex-inmates end up living there — and sometimes re-offending.

Fair enough. But a fifty-year automatic sentence for selling any amount of drugs?

Batshit crazy.

Haven’t we tried this already? The War On Drugs, harsh mandatory sentences? How did that turn out? Oh yeah: Astoundingly high prison populations and a drug problem that’s worse than ever.

In his 2014 State of the State address, Governor Shumlin focused entirely on the opiate epidemic. He began a new emphasis on treatment and prevention.

Two years ago.

For Lauzon, that’s long enough.

“Normally we allocate resources to a problem and we affect the data somehow. And as I look at this data, we’re not affecting the underlying data — the number of addicts is simply going up. The problem is getting worse, the cost is getting higher, not only the financial cost, but the emotional cost,” he said.

All true. But hell, Mr. Mayor, it’s been two measly frickin’ years. And Shumlin’s initiatives have yet to be fully funded because of the state’s ongoing budget issues.

I’m sorry we haven’t managed to wipe out a multifaceted social issue with deep roots and a long history in two years’ time. But you can’t solve the drug problem with the policy equivalent of throwing a cellphone across the room.

5 thoughts on ““Lock ‘em Up” Lauzon

  1. chuck gregory

    Somebody needs to educate Lauzon– and a whole lot of other people– about the basic economics involved in banning the legal use of a (for some) pleasure-inducing substance. Almost obody is alive now who lived through how well that worked out when we banned alcohol. I believe it was J.K. Galbraith who said, “A reform lasts only as long as the memory of the last person who effected it.”

    Prohibition was a disaster, just as our prohibition of heroin is a disaster. Lauzon ought to learn about the economics of legalizing it and controlling its production, marketing and sales: Incentive to make a living selling it illegally goes way down as the price goes way down, people who make a living selling it legally will risk losing a comfortable living if they sell it off the market, and people who want to deal with their addiction won’t be deterred by the prospect of a visit from a SWAT team if they admit they have a problem. That’s just for starts.

  2. Wallace S. Nolen

    Perhaps Lauzon ought to clean up his own properties! Starting with the failure to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by fixing the numerous properties he has where not one single parking lot is in compliance. The ADA requires a properly lined and signed “VAN ACCESSIBLE” parking space for the first space. Show me a single on of his properties that is in compliance with that requirement alone!

    See: http://www.newenglandada.org/ada-checklist

    Do not even go to other violations of the ADA!

    Maybe if he became disabled he might start thinking about complying (along with other Barre City landlords) with the ADA. Perhaps the disabled (enforceada.com) might start bringing lawsuits in federal court against Lauzon and other landlords and maybe when Lauzon and other landlords wind up getting sued we’d start to have been environments for the disabled.

  3. Sue Prent

    What Mr. Lauzon apparently fails to understand is that locking up a non-violent offender for fifty years is as much a punishment for taxpayers as it is for the perp. Obligations for ecades of housing, catering and other contracted services go together with each of these sentencing decisions; and that is not even considering the social arguments against such draconian measures.

    All in all not a very “conservative” position to take.

    1. verplanck

      modern conservatism is getting other people to pay for your ideas. I say let Mr, Lauzon have at it with his proposal, with only the use of city taxpayer dollars to lock up all the offenders.

  4. brandonbatham

    I mean, are we really surprised? This is the same Mayor Lauzon who advocated that all convicted dealers ought to receive the death penalty back in 2007 (http://www.timesargus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070225/NEWS01/702250401/1002/NEWS01).

    His views on this issue–and indeed his temperament–are way out of the mainstream. Just take a look at how the Mayor responded to a critical commenter in the VTDigger comments section: http://vtdigger.org/2016/03/10/barre-mayor-would-put-opiate-dealers-away-for-decades/


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