Category Archives: Uncategorized

Let Us Now Praise Doomed Policy Proposals

The fine folks at the Vermont ACLU got together Tuesday to unveil a plan that would cut the state’s inmate population by hundreds — which would, among other things, allow Vermont to bring its out-of-state inmates back home. (It’d also save money in a bloated corrections budget.)

Great idea. And in the words of Rice University Prof. Quincy Maddox, “Ain’t nothin’ gon’ happen.”

Seriously, I have to admire the dedication of these public interest advocates who do all kinds of research and put together plausible policy proposals in professional-quality brochures and pdfs that you just know are destined to get the bone-saw treatment in the legislative abbatoir. (Not on the official public tour.)

The plan calls for an end to cash bail (at any moment, hundreds of Vermonters are behind bars for failure to post bail), expanding alternatives to incarceration, better treatment for mental illness and substance use disorders, sentencing and prosecutorial reform, decriminalization of certain offenses including sex work, and better options for released inmates.

For years now, our political leaders have paid lip service to the notion of bringing all our inmates back home. But even as we’ve seen scandals and problems and questionable policies at out-of-state prisons, our leaders have failed to follow through.

This time, as usual, there’s plenty of lip service to be had.

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Dear Candidates: Your top priority is not what you think it is.

When candidates wants to hammer home a rhetorical point, one of their favorite devices is to declare it “my top priority.” Or, weasel wordly, “a top priority.”

Either way, I’ma here to tall you not one of them has their top priority right. Whoever wins, their top priority has already been assigned.

Like it or not, the biggest single item on the next governor’s to-do list will be Lake Champlain. Thanks to our decades of consistent neglect, we are now under orders from the EPA to create an effective plan to limit nutrient flows into the lake, and take extensive action to clean up the lake.

Both will be costly. The former will impose tougher conditions for growth, tougher effluent standards for farms, developers, road contractors, and municipalities. The latter will require spending on a large scale. Which will require large-scale indebtedness, tax increases, or budget cuts elsewhere. Or all three. And it’s got to be done in a way that satisfies the EPA, no matter its effect on entrenched political interests.

Meanwhile, neither the candidates nor the media are giving this the attention it deserves. It promises to be the dominant issue of the next several years. But to hear the candidates tell it, Lake Champlain is nobody’s top priority.

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Skunk at the party

The abrupt end of Norm McAllister’s first trial on sex-crime charges — a case of prosecutorial overreach, malfeasance, or cowardice, or a combo platter of all three — creates a world-class headache for Franklin County Republicans.

DoonesburyGuiltyMcAllister’s second trial is vaguely scheduled for sometime this fall, and will be conducted by the same legal Dream Team that flushed the first case down the sewer. Between now and then, we’ve got ourselves a primary vote and maybe a general election. McAllister has filed for re-election, and there’s nothing to stop him from carrying on.

Well, shame, perhaps. But he’s already proven he has precious little of that commodity. Remember the Franklin County Legislative Breakfast in January, when the recently suspended McAllister not only showed up, but tried to chair the meeting?

There will be a three-way Republican primary for two Franklin County ballot spots, featuring incumbent Dustin Degree, incumbent in-limbo McAllister, and State Rep. Carolyn Branagan.

It wouldn’t be a surprise, at all, if the esteemed ranks of Franklin County Republicans renominated McAllister despite the massive and unmistakable aroma surrounding him. Vermonters are, after all, strongly inclined to support incumbents — or too lazy to do their homework, take your pick.

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Debate Roster or Police Lineup: You Make The Call!

In advance of tonight’s Republican presidential debate, CNN is Tweeting out an unintentionally hilarious promo. The candidate pictures are downright forbidding — they look more like mugshots than anything else. See for yourself:

Yikes. Top row, from left to right: Mafia don, pedophile, real estate con man.

Bottom row: white-collar criminal, creepy stalker

I mean, really. Who chose these images?

Also, too, that Ted Cruz headshot reminds me of something. What is it, what is it…

… Oh yeah.


Shumlin Impresses In Straw-Man Battle

Note: This is a repost of a piece originally posted a couple days ago. The original had some technical glitches; the easiest way to get rid of them was to start from scratch. 

Looks like the Shumlin administration is seriously worried about the future of the Enterprise Fund. After getting quite a bit of blowback over this month’s $1 million thank-you card to GlobalFoundries, the Governor has come out fighting.

Fighting, need I say, a straw man of his own devising.

On Monday, he batted around his own version of what the Fund’s critics have been saying. And three days later, the administration pushed out a report claiming that the Fund more than pays for itself in additional tax revenues.

We’ll see about that. But let’s go back to Shumlin’s inaccurately-aimed remarks from Monday. From Paul Heintz’ Fair Game column:

… the gov balked at his critics’ concerns, saying that state government “better do everything we can” to keep the Essex Junction plant competitive.

“You know, I got a letter from I don’t know how many legislators saying, ‘Nah, you know, don’t do this. It’s a bad idea. You know, we’ve got budget problems,'” Shumlin told the audience, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “I’m like, ‘Really?'”

Noting the fiscal impact GlobalFoundries’ departure would have on the state, Shumlin said, “You think a million bucks is a budget challenge? You know, get your head out of the sand!”

There’s a few problems here. I mean, aside from the impolitic move of verbally tossing a letter from 50 lawmakers into the dumpster. Yes, 50 — not “I don’t know how many.”


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Senate May Do Absolute Minimum on Ethics

That wacky Senate Rules Committee, under the steady hand of First Mate Gilligan President Pro Tem John Campbell, is considering a bold move.

Well, “bold” by their frame of reference. The committee met yesterday and discussed setting up an Ethics Panel along the lines of the weaksauce House version. Mind you, they didn’t decide anything; they’re just considering it.

And, well, if they do actually set up an Ethics Panel, I might file the inaugural complaint (just as I did, fruitlessly, with the House Ethics Panel last year). My complaint would be, ahem, against the Senate Rules Committee. The intrepid Paul Heintz:

The Senate Rules Committee, which has a long history of meeting secretly, held Thursday’s discussion behind closed doors in the Senate Cloakroom. Seven Days has repeatedly asked to be informed of such meetings and was told about it in advance by a member. [Senate Secretary John] Bloomer posted public notice of the meeting Thursday morning on the legislature’s website, just hours before it took place. One other reporter, from the Burlington Free Press, attended.

Is it just me, or is there something fundamentally ironic about a “Rules” Committee repeatedly failing to abide by open-meetings requirements? Nothing says “transparency” like having “a history of meeting secretly.” And in a frickin’ closet, no less.

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Metapost: Technical difficulties

Hi folks, your friendly neighborhood blogger here.

You may have noticed a few formatting bugs in my most recent post. Well, here’s the story.

I came home tonight from a quick trip to Philadelphia (don’t ask) and sat down to write a post about Governor Shumlin’s Enterprise Fund-related tantrums.

And discovered that good old WordPress had gone and updated its posting system. Apparently the old system, which was less streamlined but which I was accustomed to using, is now gone. So I’m playing catch-up with the new system. I hate doing this stuff.

So, my apologies if there are glitches here and there. I’m trying.