Some people in the Scott administration strike me as experts in their field who don’t necessary buy official policy, but stick it out in hopes of influencing said policy. Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore is at the top of that list, as is Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine. Sometimes when Moore is shilling the company line she seems less than 100% behind what she’s saying.
But inviting lawmakers to discount her testimony? That’s a new one.
Moore appeared on January 26 before the Senate Natural Resources Committee. The topic was S.5, the Affordable Heat Act, previously d/b/a the Clean Heat Standard. Moore was there to deliver dire news about the short-term costs of the Act and the lack of in-depth research on its consequences.
She acknowledged that her “back-of-the-envelope math” could “easily be off by a factor of two here.” She even said it would be “pefectly reasonable” for committee members to be “offended” by her guesstimates. VTDigger reported these remarks but failed to express how unusual, if not downright weird, it is for a state official to cast such doubt on their own testimony.
Mind you, these caveats weren’t off-the-cuff. They were part of her written testimony. Here’s the passage in full.
The administration is openly opposed to S.5 and, indeed, to any strong steps against climate change. In that context, one would suspect that administration officials would, if anything, exaggerate the negative impacts of S.5. And Moore openly courted that kind of suspicion.
If you see this woman at your local school board meeting, buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
This is Amy Hornblas, a resident of Cabot who’s made such a pest of herself that one school board has barred her from speaking at its meetings. She also quit her post on the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission (CVRPC) over its alleged “climate of fear, censorship, and intimidation” that’s “similar to living under Communism or Fascism.”
Hornblas has a real obsession with masks. She believes they’re a hazard to physical and mental health. She sees a vast conspiracy to suppress evidence of the downside of masking. And she’s traveling outside her home town to wherever a mask mandate might rear its head.
Hornblas is, among many other things, the instigator of the Vermont Mask Survey, which I thought was merely a bad memory from the pandemic’s early days. But no, she’s still flogging it as some kind of proof that masks are Bad For You.
We are once again heading into Town Meeting season and all the local elections that come with it. And once again, far-right conservatives are targeting school boards with the goal of banning critical race theory, Black Lives Matter, gender education, and all the other stuff that’s paving the way for a Communist America by producing a generation of brainwashed kiddies.
I’ll be on the lookout for specific candidates, especially where the conservatives put together “tickets’ of like-minded hopefuls. Tips appreciated.
Our first entry may or may not run for her school board, but she’s encouraging like-minded folks to run by waving the bloody shirt of “woke-ism” as fervently as she can.
He name is Martha Hafner, a resident of Randolph Center and a retired educator who’s up to her neck in conservative conspiratorialism. She’s also the brains behind Save Our Schoolchildren and its truly terrible website that will remind you of the bad old days of GeoCities or AngelFire.
The screenshot above is from a brief and wretched YouTube video urging people to run. Bad graphics, stock images, and a soundtrack that must be experienced to be believed.
SOS’ website and Facebook page are a shrine of conspiracy theory’s greatest hits.
Our county sheriffs are engaged in a Sideshow Bob rake routine, and the timing couldn’t be worse. The Legislature is considering a package of reforms to the system, including an end to profiteering off contract work and tightening up the standards for unprofessional conduct.
And the sheriffs seem bent on ensuring the reforms become law.
We’d previously seen numerousdisgracefulaspects of the sheriffin’ trade. Now, just in time for committee hearings on the reform bill, we’ve got a fresh crop including more badness from former Orange County sheriff Bill Bohnyak, a retiring sheriff tossing bags of loot around the office, and the questionable finances of a newly-elected sheriff who won office despite facing an assault charge.
This item is almost too petty to report. But if it was that petty, then why did the Vermont Democratic Party do it?
I’m referring to a change made last year to the party bylaws that seems to be aimed squarely at Progressive/Democratic Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman.
Follow me into the weeds. The VDP allows its top officeholder at the state level to appoint a nonvoting member to the party’s executive committee. Under the former bylaw, that would be Zuckerman. But the appointment was, in fact, made by Treasurer Mike Pieciak.
That’s because the bylaw now specifies that it’s the top officeholder with “D” as their only or first party designation. Used to be, Zuckerman’s “P/D” would qualify. Indeed, during his first tenure as LG he named Ed Cafferty to the committee. (And Cafferty is, in fact, a loyal Democrat of long standing.)
This rule change didn’t matter when Democrat Molly Gray was LG. But it does now that Zuckerman is back in office.
Now, this is small potatoes to be sure. It’s a nonvoting member of a party committee. But again, if this is so trivial, why bother making the change? We’re talking about the sequence of two capital letters here. Is P/D really that different from D/P?
Every reporter loves to get a scoop — a story with some impact that you’ve got all to yourself. It’s a badge of honor, to be sure. But more often than not, it doesn’t make much of a difference.
The latest comes from Seven Days‘ Courtney Lamdin, who hit the sweet spot by uncovering a lucrative side hustle negotiated by the Burlington Police Officers Association. It made a deal with a luxury condo development to provide security with off-duty city cops.
Her story may affect the outcome of the hottest issue on the Burlington ballot: A proposed police oversight board that would exclude members of the force from serving. That idea has prompted opposition from Mayor Miro Weinberger and Interim-For-Life Police Chief Jon Murad, among others.
Well, Lamdin’s article makes me think there’s a real need for police oversight, and it would be best done without any officers on the board.
Hey, remember when Seven Days was the “alternative” newspaper in Burlington?
Well, if there was any doubt that the scrappy underground outfit has adulted itself into the establishment, last week’s “From the Publisher” column settled it once and for all. If you were to Google “White Privilege,” you might very well find a link to the piece.
The essay’s subject is the former Greater Burlington YMCA building at College and South Union Streets, now derelict and unused. It’s sad, but publisher Paula Routly sees it as emblematic of an entire city on the edge of an abyss.
Paula Routly is a real contributor to the city life and culture of Burlington. She and co-founder Pamela Polston are to be admired for what they have built. In a time when other print publications are shadows of their former selves, Seven Days is an invaluable part of Vermont’s media ecosystem.
But that column. Woof.
Whiny. Entitled. Fearful. Classist.
Lest you think I exaggerate, I call your attention to the last paragraph of the essay.
The city of Burlington is in a spot of bother over “numerous errors’ in its Waterfront Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district. According to Auditor Doug Hoffer, the city owes the TIF district $1.2 million and owes the state Education Fund nearly $200,000, because it couldn’t keep proper accounts for its Waterfront TIF. He also found that the city spent $173,000 on bike path improvements that were, uhh, outside the TIF district. Since the total scope of waterfront improvements was $16 million, those mistakes add up to almost 10% of the whole ball of wax. Not inspiring, that.
But Hoffer doesn’t blame Burlington so much as the complex structure of the program itself. In a way, this shouldn’t be surprising; after all, it’s comically difficult to even explain the TIF concept in lay terms, let alone successfully manage one of the damn things.
But heck, let’s give it a shot. A tax increment financing district allows a municipality to incur debt for infrastructure improvements needed for development in the district and pay the debt out of future higher tax revenue. If it works, everybody wins. But the devil’s in the details, and there are hordes of pesky details in Vermont’s TIF program.
Whew. I think that’s in the ballpark at least, but don’t cite me as gospel. The point is, TIFs are complicated as all getout, and Hoffer’s audit indicates that it’s too much for our cities and towns to handle. In his words, ““Managing the complexities of this TIF district proved challenging for even the largest municipality in Vermont.” Says here if we can’t build a program amenable to proper management, maybe we should ashcan the whole thing.
Since the beginning of his fourth term, Gov. Phil Scott has been busily drawing lines in the sand and daring the Legislature to cross them. It’s a strategy that seems to borrow much more from his years at Thunder Road than from his allegedly collaborative approach to governing.
But he’s not stopping with public defiance of the Democratic majority. He’s also putting out a series of aggressive policy stances that threaten to further inflame relations with majority Democrats. First there was the proposal to shift state retirees’ health insurance from Medicare to Medicare Advantage, the Potemkin Village of senior coverage. That proposal was cheekily unveiled during campaign season, when you might think he’d at least pretend to be friendly to the state employees’ union. Second, his proposal to spend $900,000 to study an issue that’s already being studied by the state’s Climate Council.
And third, the Department of Public Safety’s transparently political plan to publish a politically motivated (and dismally stupid) crime “heat map” that won’t help the public understand crime trends but will give the administration another cudgel for its attacks on criminal justice reform.
Gov. Phil Scott delivered a budget address full of “investments’ in Vermont’s future. It’s a great concept, but he fails to apply it consistently. Public sector expenditures he favors are “investments,” but other stuff is just wasteful spending.
The most recent example of this came with the release of a new report on the costs of improving Vermont’s wretched “system” of child care. (As with health care, it’s not so much a “system” as an abstract sculpture made of chicken wire and spit.) The RAND Corporation figures the price tag is between $179 million and $279 million, depending on how generous the package is.
Scott spox Jason Maulucci offered the usual bromide: Scott really, really cares about child care, just not enough to raise any revenue for the purpose. It’s the governor’s customary Susan Collins kind of caring.
The assertion underlying Scott’s position is this: Raising revenue for child care is pretty much exactly like putting tax dollars in a big pile and setting it on fire. Trouble is, there’s all kinds of evidence that improved child care would more than pay for itself — both in short-term economic growth and longer-term outcomes for kids.
You might even say it’s a bargain. Well, I’d say so.