For those just joining us, The Veepies are my occasional awards for stupidity in the public sphere. We’re still setting a brisk pace in that regard. So, here we go…
The We Gave You a Crappy Half-Apology Because We Had To, But We Really Didn’t Mean It Award goes to the Bennington Selectboard. Last month, the town reached a settlement with former state representative Kiah Morris over the police department’s actions, or inactions, regarding threats against Morris. This came after the state Human Rights Commission issued a preliminary finding that the Bennington PD had discriminated against Morris and her husband James Lawton. As part of the deal, Bennington had to issue a formal apology. And it was kind of half-assed, blame-the-victim stuff: “It is clear that Kiah, James and their family felt unsafe and unprotected by the town of Bennington.”
See, it’s not that the town did anything wrong; it’s just that Morris and her family felt unsafe. Put the onus on the victim. But wait, there’s more!
Whatever little value there was in that “apology” was completely undercut by the town’s attorney Michael Leddy, who insisted that there are “no reasonable grounds to believe” that the town was guilty of discrimination, and by Selectboard chair Jeanne Jenkins, who told VTDigger last week doesn’t believe the police department discriminated against Morris.
All they will acknowledge is that Morris “felt unsafe.” Well, Morris and her family have since relocated to Chittenden County, so problem solved, I guess?
After the jump: Empty climate rhetoric, Medicaid money for school cops, and propping up a dying industry.
Next, the Do As We Say, Not As We Do Award goes to three Scott administration officials for a rousing essay posted last week on VTDigger about how we face a “moral imperative” to confront climate change. The three were Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore, Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn, and Public Service Commissioner June Tierney, and the essay was all about how we must act quickly and decisively to confront the menace of climate change. They called it a “moral imperative,” even.
This, from the administration that’s tried to slow-play climate action — and from the governor who vetoed the Global Warming Solutions Act.
Well, Scott has a climate action plan now, but it’s only because he can pay for it with federal Covid relief money. He has consistently opposed any climate measure that would cost Vermonters a single dime. You’d think that a “moral imperative” would be worthy of some investment.
Extra Bonus Shamelessness: The essay touts the GWSA and the Climate Action Council it created. No mention of Scott’s veto, or of his contention that the Act was somehow unconstitutional. All hunky-dory now.
On to the We Have a Very Broad Definition of Health Care Award goes to the Vermont Agency of Education. According to the Vermont ACLU, the Agency has allowed two public school districts to use federal Medicaid money to pay for police officers in their schools.
The ACLU noted that the decision “runs counter to Medicaid’s purpose of providing medical assistance, rehabilitation, and other services to families, including students with disabilities.” Well, yeah.
What makes this doubly ridiculous is that there’s no evidence that cops in schools actually do any good. It’s law enforcement mission creep, just like the discredited DARE program that had police officers give Nancy Reagan-style “just say no” speeches in the schools.
Finally, the We’re Betting Big on Buggy Whips Award goes to the state government for spending nearly $300 million to prop up Vermont’s declining dairy industry. That’s according to state Auditor Doug Hoffer, who combed through state budgets to identify all the ways we spent money to support dairy farms.
Look, I know, cows are picturesque and dairy farms are sooooo… Vermonty. But that money is a band aid on a brain tumor. The economics are all wrong and getting worse. That’s why the number of dairy farms in Vermont has shrunk from over 4,000 in 1969 to fewer than 650 today, despite generous state support.
Stephen Collier, counsel to the Agriculture Agency, argued that the industry still generates over $2 billion a year in activity, but then essentially admitted that it’s also a matter of image. It’s a prop, “a huge part of Vermont’s identity as a state, especially in rural areas.”
Look I get it. Cows. But for a long stretch of Vermont’s early history, we were all about sheep. There were more than a million of ’em in Vermont. It was what we did. (Well, that and clearcut our forests.) But the sheep boom went bust, and Vermont’s identity didn’t shrivel up and blow away. It changed, it adapted. It can do so again.
I know it’ll never happen because Vermont doesn’t do change, but it’s time to take a serious look at the dairy industry’s place in our state. It’s not an unalloyed good; it’s a major contributor to our water quality problems. “Agricultural activities are a major nonpoint source of phosphorus in the Basin and may also contribute significant quantities of sediment and toxic substances, such as pesticides,” according to the Lake Champlain Basin Program.
That’s what we’re paying for?