Monthly Archives: May 2016

But why, VPR?

Vermont Public Radio is the most richly endowed media operation in the state. It sits securely atop the nonprofit world as well, and many nonprofits privately bemoan VPR’s ability to suck all the oxygen out of the room.

It does a lot of good stuff. But once again, it has taken a step that makes me question its civic-mindedness. We think of VPR as a news organization; but when you look at how it spends its time and resources, you have to conclude that what it really is, is a lifestyle brand for comfortable white folks. VPR has three primary functions, in this order:

1. Outlet for NPR and other network programming. Carriage fees eat up a large percentage of VPR’s budget.

2. Producer of infotainment programming aimed at those near the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy.

3. News organization.

The latest emission from Your Favorite Lifestyle Brand is a podcast entitled “But Why?” It’s a platform for children to submit questions about anything and everything, and provide engaging and easily digestible answers.

This follows VPR’s other recent infotainment initiatives:

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Berniesourcing

Just call him Mr. Moneybags.

Rep. Chris Pearson, candidate for State Senate, suddenly finds himself with a $60,000 war chest — thanks to Bernie Sanders.

Yes, the second wave of the Political Revolution is here, and it’s a tsunami of campaign cash, courtesy of Bernie’s unmatched network of small donors. This, folks, is a Big Biden Deal.

On Tuesday, Sanders posted a list of eight candidates for state legislature. Pearson was one of them. Anyone making a contribution through that webpage would see their money split nine ways — one share for each candidate and a ninth for Sanders.

As Seven Days’ Paul Heintz reports, in a matter of hours Pearson had received $30,000. That’s now doubled to $60,000. And it comes from an incredible 12,185 individual donations — or about two-fifty apiece.

What this means for Pearson is that he won’t have to go begging for money. He’s already got 50 percent more than he thought he needed for the entire campaign.

Just from Bernie. In less than four days.

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Something you should know about that Bernie allegation

The Burlington College closure has a chance of causing trouble for the Bernie Sanders campaign, since his wife Jane played a key role in sinking the college under a mountain of debt. There are whispers of a federal probe, and now Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck reports that VTGOP Vice Chair Brady Toensing claims to have “new information” linking Senator Sanders to the case.

“I was recently approached and informed that Senator Bernie Sanders’ office improperly pressured People’s United Bank to approve the loan application,” Toensing said in letters to U.S. Attorney Eric Miller and to Fred Gibson Jr., the acting inspector general of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

There is cause for skepticism aplenty; Toensing is a Republican official, and he refuses to say anything more about his sources or his new information.

But there’s one more thing you should know, and Hallenbeck didn’t catch it.

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Burlington needs to grow.

One of the things that always perplexes me about anti-development activists in Vermont is how fragile they believe our state’s character is. To hear them tell it, a single development here or there will forever alter Vermont for the worse, and trash our pristine image.

Myself, I believe our state’s character is built of stronger stuff, and can withstand a reasonable amount of development.

Ditto Burlington, a small town by most standards but our largest metropolis. There’s a kneejerk reaction to any growth or development proposal in the city, as if it will be forever shattered if it has a few tall buildings or more people, or if we were to mix some housing into the artists’ colony in the South End, or just about anything else that might add to the population. .

Well, as a person who lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan longer than I’ve lived anywhere else, I can tell you that a city can accommodate a frightening amount of growth without losing its character. Ann Arbor remains a funky town full of interesting, creative people, even though it has a lot of tall buildings downtown and a lot of in-fill development.

Yeah, the traffic sucks, but it’s always more or less sucked.

Beyond that, I believe in a simple propostion: Burlington needs to get bigger. For the sake of its people and its economy — but more importantly, for the sake of Vermont’s future.

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Shummy just can’t help himself

From The Life of Shumlin, by Parson Weems:

“When Peter,” said she, “was about six years old, he was made the wealthy master of a hatchet! Of which, like most little boys, he was immoderately fond, and was constantly going about chopping everything that came in his way.

One day, in the garden, where he often amused himself hacking his mother’s pea-sticks, he unluckily tried the edge of his hatchet on the body of a beautiful young English cherry-tree, which he barked so terribly, that I don’t believe the tree ever got the better of it.

The next morning the old gentleman, finding out what had befallen his tree, which, by the by, was a great favourite, came into the house; and with much warmth asked for the mischievous author, declaring at the same time, that he would not have taken five guineas for his tree. Nobody could tell him anything about it. Presently George and his hatchet made their appearance.

“Peter,” said his father, “do you know who killed that beautiful little cherry tree yonder in the garden? ”

This was a tough question; and Peter staggered under it for a moment; but quickly recovered himself: and looking at his father, with the sweet face of youth brightened with the inexpressible charm of all-conquering truth, he bravely cried out, “I can’t tell a lie, Pa; you know I can’t tell a lie. A huge gust of wind sprang up out of nowhere and blew down your precious cherry tree.”

One of Governor Shumlin’s least endearing traits is his inability to avoid an expedient falsehood, even if it’s transparently obvious to eveyrone in the room. Well, once again he couldn’t help himself yesterday when touting a change in the estate tax that will give a bit of relief to rich folks and business owners.

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Republicans can stop yammering about utility rates anytime now

Here’s a little shock to the system. Vermont’s own Green Mountain Power has some of the lowest electricity rates in New England. GMP has the second-lowest residential rates of any regional utility, the third-lowest commercial rates, and the absolute rock-bottom lowest rates for industrial customers.

New England industrial electric ratesYou know how the Republicans are always complaining about the high cost of power and how it’s forcing businesses to flee? Well, it’s horseshit, and they need to cut it out.

The data comes from the Edison Electric Institute, so don’t try to tell me somebody’s got their thumb on the scale.

It’s true that Vermont has relatively high power rates compared to the rest of the nation, but that’s because of built-in structural disadvantages for all of the Northeast, not because of excessive regulation or our green power policy. Indeed, it’s a testament to GMP management that it’s kept rates so low while moving aggressively toward a renewable future. It would also appear that Vermont’s regulatory structure is a lot smarter than it’s given credit for.

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The race for governor will offer a stark contrast

This year’s election will trigger a turnover at the top perhaps unprecedented in Vermont history. A new governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and new heads of the House and Senate will all be in place by next January. And heading into the campaign, Vermont’s two major parties are offering completely different visions of the state of our state and the mood of its people.

Republicans see Vermonters as tired of high taxes, government intrusion, and the restless reformism (as they see it) of the Shumlin administration.

You’d expect Democrats to be treading cautiously. They are in the tightrope position of simultaneously defending their tenure in power, and crafting a distinctive profile going forward. Not to mention its persistently strong incrementalist tendencies.

However. Driven by Bernie Sanders’ overwhelming success in our primary, the party is moving leftward. There is a sense that Vermonters are ready for even more decisive change, even more government, a more aggressive push to lift up the downtrodden and blunt the sharp edges of capitalism.

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