As the Legislature winds down, the political news is coming thick and fast. Got several items worthy of comment including Gov. Phil Scott’s generic condemnation of persons unknown, a better use for the state’s “extra” money, three potentially interesting House races, and a depressingly rote report on last night’s Congressional debate. Let’s GOOOO!!!
Scott condemns… somebody. Perhaps because of the killing of Fern Feather, the governor (or his comms staff) took to Twitter and amped up his language condemning hate speech in the political arena. He cited “disturbing hostility toward the transgender community” and lamented that Vermont “is not immune to this.” It was a good statement, as far as it went.
But he failed to mention the source of all the hostility: his own Republican Party. He also failed to name the two individuals responsible for bringing the hate home: VTGOP chair Paul Dame and Burlington Republican Committee chair Christopher-Aaron Felker. As long as the governor refrains from identifying those responsible and refuses to step into his own party and deal with this garbage, his words are sadly empty, In the vernacular, it’s time for him to grow a pair.
Scott Ignores Public School Infrastructure. In a nice example of bad timing, Gov. Phil Scott renewed his call for tax cuts at his Tuesday presser. Then, the following day, an analysis of school infrastructure documented an “aging portfolio” of buildings with deferred maintenance issues. One especially troubling note: Roughly half of all Vermont public school buildings are known to have hazardous materials present.
The Legislature ordered the Agency of Education to commission the study, so the Scott administration is well aware of its findings. And yet, the governor didn’t address school infrastructure in his plan to spend all those federal relief dollars. At the very minimum, he should have addressed the need for better air quality in the schools to help fight future pandemics. But no, he wants job training, economic incentives, and tax cuts.
Some interesting House races shaping up. For the first time in nearly 15 years, the people of Montpelier will get the chance to elect someone new to the House. My former employer The Montpelier Bridge broke the news that longtime Rep. Warren Kitzmiller will not seek re-election after 22 years in the House. Kitzmiller was appointed to the vacancy created by the death of his wife Karen, who’d been a state rep for 11 years. That’s 33 years of Kitzmillers. The city’s other seat has been occupied by Mary Hooper since 2009. Expect a dogpile of Democrats to enter the field for this rare opportunity. Given the city’s affinity for incumbents, it’s great job security — and a really short commute to boot.
Down in the southwest, at least one person has declared for the seat held by state representative and general shit-disturber Linda Joy Sullivan. The Bennington Banner reports that 31-year-old organic farming advocate Mike Rice of Dorset will run as a Democrat emphasizing the need for a new generation of political leadership. Plenty of Democrats are hoping he can rid them of Sullivan, a legend in her own mind. For her part, Sullivan says she’s undecided and “weighing a few different options.”
Finally, two incumbent lawmakers from Rutland were reapportioned into the same district. Both Peter Fagan and Tom Terenzini have said they are undecided about running for re-election. (Neither has filed a campaign finance report this year.) Leaders of all parties must be rooting for Fagan, who’s the universally respected ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, while Terenzini is a very conservative backbencher who rarely contributes to the legislative process.
Did We Watch the Same Debate? I have to take exception to VTDigger’s coverage of the Congressional debate it hosted Wednesday night. The event was an impressive and largely civil exchange featuring a lot of agreement among the four candidates. Reporter Riley Robinson, part of Digger’s excellent political team, somehow saw the same event as a contentious affair in which the candidates “carve[d] out distinct policy positions.”
In fact, they agreed far more than they disagreed. Robinson’s piece is a product of the political press’ reflexive search for conflict. Sure, there were points of contention, but they were rare and expressed with civility. To focus on those occasional instances is to paint a fundamentally deceptive picture of the event. Fail.
Finally, I don’t know if “Lightning Round” is one of a kind or if it will become an occasional feature. Depends on how often there’s a surfeit of political news to catch up on.