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?
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.