Category Archives: Public health

When is a law not a law?

A philosophical question triggered by a specific actuality: a new law intended to inform the public about toxic algae blooms is pretty much a sham.

VPR’s Taylor Dobbs explains how it’s supposed to work:

The new law is know as Act 86, and it requires the Vermont Department of Health to start public outreach within one hour of finding out about a bloom of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria.

Great idea, right?

Here’s the problem: there’s no mechanism to conduct real-time tracking of algae blooms. The Legislature passed a shiny new PR-friendly law — “Look, we’re doing something to ensure your safety!” — but did nothing about turning its good intention into reality. The monitoring effort is entirely in the hands of volunteers, and there’s a huge amount of ground to cover.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Oh, and about that other ubiquitous crime wave…

One of the most eye-opening resuls from last month’s VPR Poll concerned substance abuse. When respondents were asked to name “the most important problem facing Vermont,” 17 percent named “drugs.” The only other issue scoring higher than six percent was “economy/jobs/cost of living” at 28 percent. And when asked specifically if opiate addiction is a major problem, a massive 89 percent agreed.

Even more striking were the figures for personal connections to opioid abuse. 53 percent have been affected by opiate addiction or know someone who has. And 94 percent “personally know” someone who has struggled with addiction.

Practically the entire state.

If we needed convincing that opiate addiction is a serious problem, we shouldn’t anymore.

But let’s take another pervasive issue of a similar scope. An issue that’s usually lost in the white noise, that’s never been the subject of a State of the State address.

Continue reading

Geoffrey Norman is a bitter, fact-challenged man

See if you recognize this place.

 

It’s drug-infested and scandal-plagued; its only growth sector is “methadone clinics.” Government is bloated and ineffective; politicians offer tired bromides or worse. Its politics march to an “angry populist beat” but the electorate is “too old, too tired, and too disillusioned” to turn their anger into action. “Soaring” taxes bludgeon inhabitants into sullen beggary, stripped of the will to resist. Many believe that the place’s “moment has passed.” For-sale signs litter the neighborhoods, as multitudes seek desperately to escape.

In case you don’t recognize this hopeless wasteland or the aimlessly trudging zombie-eyed inhabitants wandering the land, yes, it’s Vermont, and those zombies are you and me.

At least it’s the Vermont that haunts the fever dreams of Geoffrey Norman, best known in Internet circles as the former operator of the late, great free-market blog, Vermont Tiger.

Well, Norman is still around, and is respected enough in conservative circles that he managed to sell an essay to the Wall Street Journal. It’s gloriously entitled “In Declining Vermont, the Mood Is More Resigned Than Angry.”

And if you want to know why some see Vermont as a bad place to relocate or do business, maybe it’s because the readers of the Wall Street Journal are being fed this kind of crapola.

I mean, thanks, Geoffrey, for doing your utmost to defame your home state.

Continue reading

In which I join the ranks of the Vermont Illuminati

Yeah, somebody forgot to invite me to the secret ceremony — or maybe The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy intercepted my invitation, hmmm? — but apparently I have joined the ranks of the secret elect. Yes, I’m in the Firmament of Evil alongside Peter “Capo di tutti capo” Shumlin, Mary “Whirling Blades” Powell, Paul “Carbon Tax” Burns, Shap “The Fixer” Smith, Crea “Moneybags” Linthilac, and whoever else.

I learned of my elevation in a curious way: via Twitter, from one of our staunchest conservatives.

Oooooh, “Orwellian”. Me likey!

Some explanation is needed, I’m sure, for the casual reader.

Continue reading

A little fearmongering from VT Watchdog

Scary headline earlier today:

More than one-third of refugees in Vermont test positive for tuberculosis

Immigrant Resettlement Program. )Not exactly as illustrated)

Refugee Resettlement Program. (Not exactly as illustrated)

That story comes to us courtesy of Vermont Watchdog, a conservative “news” site. But before you go investing your 401K in surgical mask manufacturers, there’s more you need to know.

The story is based entirely on a single fact: Of the 901 refugees admitted to Vermont since 2013, 318 tested positive for TB.

Those numbers were provided to Watchdog by the state Health Department. Scary, right? Aliens among us are bearing potentially fatal diseases, right? Rutland had better pull the plug on that Syrian refugee plan, lest it be overrun by plague-infested furriners, right?

Ehh, not so much.

Continue reading

Moral panic from the Guardians of the Peace

Some of Vermont’s top cops made their way to the Statehouse yesterday to try to derail
the marijuana-legalization train. Their input is certainly worth considering, but they kinda made a hash of it.

Their reasoning, in short:

— Eliminating the marijuana law will create substantially more work for law enforcement.

— Police don’t really enforce marijuana laws now, but legalization will trigger a cascade of problems.

— Law enforcement’s top priority is opioids, and legalizing marijuana will somehow compromise that effort.

Makes my head spin. Without a single toke, even.

The top cops’ bottom line: If you legalize pot, you’d better give us more money.

Pardon me if I don’t see the connection.

Continue reading

“Lock ‘em Up” Lauzon

The mayor of Barre is not known for keeping a cool head. Thom Lauzon once tossed the city manager’s cellphone across the room when it rang during a City Council meeting. Then there was the time a guy in a Santa suit threw a pie in then-Gov. Jim Douglas’ face; Lauzon ran him down and engaged in fisticuffs with the perp.

Oh, and he once chased down a hit-and-run driver, stepping in front of the vehicle to get the driver to stop. Guess how the driver reacted? Fortunately, Lauzon received only minor injuries on that one.

He has, to be fair, done a lot of good stuff as well. He is truly passionate about his city, beyond his own self-interest as an investor in downtown real estate. Although he’s a conservative Republican, he hasn’t shied away from using government resources whenever possible to help pull the city out of its decades-long funk. And he’s made substantial progress. It’s just that his passion sometimes gets a little unhinged.

Now, he seems to be channeling the ghost of Nancy Reagan. VTDigger’s Mark Johnson:

Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon laid down the hammer on opiate dealers Thursday, saying anyone caught selling should receive an automatic 50-year jail sentence.

… Lauzon said he supports treatment programs and wants to see them expanded even further. But he said a greater deterrence is needed to stop people from selling, which he said would cut the supply.

…Lauzon said his proposal would apply to any amount sold, even small amounts. The only exception, he said, should be if an addict requests treatment, is turned away and then sells to maintain his habit.

Let’s pause for a moment and understand a couple of things. Lauzon loves his city. He has seen the effects of the drug trade. Barre is also weighed down by the fact that a fair number of parolees and ex-inmates end up living there — and sometimes re-offending.

Fair enough. But a fifty-year automatic sentence for selling any amount of drugs?

Batshit crazy.

Continue reading