The Cognitive Dissonance is Getting Thick Around Here

There’s a boatload of infuriating details in a story by VTDigger’s Lola Duffort about the ending of the motel voucher program. One of them stood out for me, not because it’s the most telling or most impactful, but because it’s so painfully ironic.

The story opens with Rebecca Duprey, a voucher client who’s struggled to regain her footing after years of evading a violently abusive ex-husband. Her motel stay has given her half a chance, but now she’s facing a return to living in her car with her two sons.

Duprey’s case strikes at the heart of the lobotomy-style disconnect between state policymaking and, well, basic humanity. As it happens, she’s had years-long relationships with two prominent lawmakers — Rep. Anne Donahue and Sen. Anne Cummings. Each has offered assistance to Duprey, and yet each has voted in favor of an FY2024 budget that will force her back on the streets.

That’s all bad enough, but here’s the topper.

When the two lawmakers learned that Duprey was back in Washington County and spending cold nights in her car, they did not reach out to administration officials or state workers, but instead to Brenda Siegel, an advocate and former gubernatorial candidate, who took over Duprey’s casework and found her the room she currently lives in.

That would be the same Brenda Siegel who’s been treated so shabbily by lawmakers personally inconvenienced by her advocacy. She has, in fact, become the face of the housing advocacy community because, due to her lopsided defeat in last November’s gubernatorial election, she’s an easy political figure to dismiss. Which makes the issue easier to dismiss.

And these two prominent lawmakers turned to Siegel to help when they didn’t think anyone else would. Hmm.

The real meat of Duffort’s story is the pu-pu platter of cognitive dissonance presented by lawmakers as rationale for their votes to end the voucher program. Donahue insists she believed the House’s budget would prevent mass evictions — despite the fact that she sat right there during committee hearings and heard Siegel and others tell her the exact opposite.

Cummings took a different tack, admitting that Duprey and her kids would be left unsheltered but, goldang the luck, there’s nothing she can do about it. “I don’t have the solution,” she said, to keeping the voucher program. Duffort then pointed out that, as head of the Senate Finance Committee, Cummings was actually the best possible person to find the money by, say, raising taxes. That brought out the senator’s inner Phil Scott.

“How much would you like your income tax to go up?” she asked a reporter rhetorically, before adding that the governor would veto it anyway.

Okay, well, first, who said anything about raising everybody’s income tax? There are lots of other ways to raise revenue — assuming that you’d have to raise revenue instead of, say, finding the money somewhere else in the state’s eight-billion-dollar spending plan.

And second, what the hell, doesn’t Cummings’ party have a veto-proof majority? And aren’t they passing several other plans that the governor will oppose? Yes, they are. But they can’t squeeze out a penny for the unhoused.

I continue to be baffled at the degree of cluelessness about the humanitarian consequences of ending the voucher program — and, even more bizarre for experienced politicians, the awful political consequences that will follow if we see hundreds and hundreds of Vermonters tossed out on the street in one cruel blow.

But Cummings can’t be bothered to use her power to keep her friend from living on the streets. Sorry, Rebecca. [shoulder shrug]

And here’s a bit of inconvenient truth for Sen. Bobby Starr, who believes that anyone who has a job can find housing: “a stunning three out of every four Vermonters who come off a waitlist to receive a Section 8 voucher ultimately have to return it” because they can’t find housing even when they have assistance in covering the rent.

God. It makes my blood boil.

Meanwhile, in the Land of Collateral Damage, the Burlington City Council is considering a plan to allow the unhoused to camp in city parks. The proposal is unlikely to go anywhere because Democratic voters do like their parks and don’t want them getting all shabbied up by, shall we call them “vagrants”?

Really, what we’d like is for “those people” (as Bobby Starr calls them) is to just go away quietly. Take a bus to Plattsburgh. Find a place to sleep that doesn’t interfere with our recreation or viewshed. They’re causing our political leaders so much bother. Might even cost them a little sleep.

In their beds. Under their roofs. In their houses.

The city park idea may be a nonstarter, but the Good People of Burlington face an unpleasant prospect. Because of its geographical compactness and the presence of many service agencies, Burlington is a magnet for the unhoused. The city’s going to see a lot more of ’em this summer if the state doesn’t extend the voucher program. City parks? Vacant space? Church Street? People holding cardboard signs at major intersections? Get used to it.

It’s one small consequence of the state’s failure to act. There are many, many more. As I’ve pointed out before, the costs of ending the voucher program will be higher than the cost of continuing it. But the costs will be shifted to municipalities, hospitals, charities, law enforcement, public works, and more.

Here’s hoping the Duffort piece is just the beginning of a well-deserved wave of coverage. The inhumane treatment of the unhoused in a supposedly liberal state is simply scandalous. I, for one, am not going to stop saying so.


4 thoughts on “The Cognitive Dissonance is Getting Thick Around Here

  1. Rama Schneider

    Housing, not more kid killing guns or authoritarian action, and no more “I’m alright, Jack, so fuck you” from our governments, not from the Democratic Party or the Republican Party or anything/anybody else.

  2. zim

    I am not surprised in the least and the pen is not ‘mightier than the sword’ – which is little more than a self-serving delusion that valorizes nonsense. It does not matter how much you reveal about the shitty reality of Vermont – liberal white affluence will continue to build walls around itself, horde all the resources and assert its racist and class prerogative while lying through its teeth. The voters in Chittenden, Addison, etc will continue to vote to maintain the status quo of their bucolic middle class white power fantasies and their smug, self-satisfied lawns and opulent real estate values. They are the doppelgangers of the backwoods racists you love to rail against.

    Surprise, surprise – Black folks are migrating in great numbers from blue states to red states As despicable as they may be, at least Republican’s are honest about who they are and how they are going to screw you.

    If it has taken this long for you to realized that this ‘supposedly liberal state’ is little more than a ruse, a bullshit morality play to justify its white supremacy and classholism, then its you who are very late to the game and disconnected from reality. Moral outrage will do nothing to change anything – only organizing to overturn nature of power in Vermont – will but you would never support that if meant your ilk was not dictating.

  3. pmsears8853

    Hello, I invite you to read the opinion piece below and follow the link to the VTDigger article he is referring to. You will also find links to his pieces about Bobby Starr’s reaction to people who are/will be unhoused as of 1 July 2023.

    This article prompts me to ask you all if we have any idea how many families we serve will be unhoused after 1 July 2023. Please let me know how I can help. Thank You | Trish

  4. Fubarvt

    “But the costs will be shifted to municipalities, hospitals, charities, law enforcement, public works, and more.”

    As we all know so well, that’s the point of this callousness.


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