(Headline is a paraphrase of Charles Bukowski, everybody’s favorite wholesome all-American writer)
Got a full slate once again, including how the feds’ ignorance of Vermont’s governmental structure is screwing up Covid relief, a couple of lazy media tropes on display, an ex-cop dumping on his hometown, and… wait for it… the first-ever Own Veepie. Let’s get to work, or whatever this is.
Let’s start at the U.S. Treasury, which earns the We’re Not Bending Our Rules for You; You’ll Have to Do the Bending Award thanks to its ignorance of Vermont’s structure of governance. Unfortunately, this has thrown a great deal of uncertainty into federal Covid relief for cities and towns. The federal aid is meant for state, county and municipal governments, which is fine in a state with robust county governments. In Vermont, the counties do very little and have minimal budgets.
Even so, the feds have insisted that our share of the loot be distributed on their standard formula. This means that cities and towns will get substantially less than previously thought — like, roughly two-thirds less. This was first reported late last week by the Times Argus, based on communications to the Barre and Montpelier city councils. Several days later, VTDigger posted a much more complete accounting. The Legislature will decide how to redirect the “county Covid funds,” and could do so however they wish. That’s a worrying prospect, but Digger says that state leaders agree that the money should go to cities and towns. That’s good, but why do we need to clean up the Treasury’s mistake?
One more thing: According to Digger, the Treasury granted exceptions for other states with weak county governments (Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts) but not Vermont. Why not? Are we too small to warrant the Treasury’s attention?
Still to come: Inadequate reporting times two, a temper tantrum from a former top cop, and the Veepies come back to bite me.
Next we have the Context Ain’t Nothing But a Book Written By an Inmate Award, which goes to Seven Days for eschewing all perspective in a recent article on a brouhaha over a proposed equity policy in the Essex-Westford school district. The two sides are presented as earnest community members. Equal weight is given to their views. There is not a hint that local opposition is fueled entirely by the “critical race theory” scapegoat that’s being peddled nationally by conservative politicians and media outlets.
And which has nothing whatsoever to do with the proposed equity policy. But the opponents are presented as locals with a point of view about their schools, not as hardline activists, many of whom don’t live in the district, peddling falsehoods. There’s even a heart-warming photo of Ellie Martin reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, despite the fact that she doesn’t live in the district and doesn’t actually appear anywhere in the story itself. There’s no mention of the fact that she’s a staunch Trumper who chairs the Underhill Republican committee and helped organize the bus trip from Vermont to the January 6th insurrection. And yes, Underhill is not in the Essex-Westford school district.
Media outlets make a big deal out of only reporting what they themselves have uncovered. That’s a noble thought, but it wrings a lot of context out of stories and makes them far less useful to readers. It also means that the background and history of long-simmering issues is rarely reported. I wish they’d find a better way to fulfill their ideals without offering readers this kind of bland, misleading pablum.
On to the other media misbehavior honoree. The We’ll Keep Beating This Dead Horse Because It’s Fun or Maybe Good Exercise Award could be given to the media in general, but we’ll award it to our local miscreant, VTDigger, for the latest in the apparently unending series of pieces about businesspeople who can’t find enough workers. This is precisely one-half of the issue, and it gets virtually all the coverage.
The Digger piece focused on Champlain Islands hospitality businesses, already suffering from a year-plus of closures and occupancy restrictions. I’m sure their complaints are legitimate, but what about the fact that many of the businesses in all these articles offer poverty-level wages? At the absolute minimum, all such future articles should include information about the pay, benefits, predictability of hours, and advancement prospects of these unfilled jobs.We might find that people are just done with working irregular hours for a paycheck that won’t cover the rent.
Our next prize, the If I’m Far Enough Away, the Folks Back Home Won’t Hear About This, Now What’s This Internet Thing Again? Award goes to former Burlington police chief Brandon del Pozo. The new “Fair Game” guy Mark Johnson reports that Del Pozo was recently testifying before a New Hampshire legislative committee when he decided to unload on the “socialists” back home who came after him with “their knives out” and hounded him out of his job, no thanks to Mayor Miro Weinberger’s total lack of support for the chief. At the time, del Pozo’s departure was a matter of mutual agreement, supposedly based on his mental state following a near-fatal bicycle crash.
Also, part of the controversy that ended his tenure was about an anonymous Twitter account he used to taunt a frequent police critic. Well, he told the next-door neighbors that the fake account was merely what “‘many, many, many’ people have done.” Oh really? I don’t know if he thought the folks back home wouldn’t get wind of his out-of-state testimony, but if so, well, he loses that one. And he further shreds his local reputation.
Finally, the last Veepie is for Yours Truly. It’s the Behind Every Successful Woman Is Another Woman Who Doesn’t Get Enough Credit Award, for my recent post in praise of Lt. Gov. Molly Gray’s incredibly rapid rise to political success. What I failed to mention in my recounting of her very successful run for LG is that a lot of credit belongs to her campaign manager Samantha Sheehan.
Yeah, I was focusing on the person in the spotlight, but not mentioning Sheehan was an oversight. If I were running for office in Vermont, she’d be the first person on my wish list. She would have been an excellent hire as executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party when that office came open earlier this year. I have no insight on exacxtly who made what tactical and strategic decisions in the Gray campaign, but obviosly Sheehan was heavily involved in all of it. I didn’t mention her contributions, so I find a bright shiny Veepie on my front porch. See, I’m an equal opportunity kind of guy.