Category Archives: Uncategorized

Supermajority Disappoints on Housing Crisis

Yesterday will go down as a case study in how legislative realpolitik works — or how Democratic supermajorities shoot themselves in the foot. Choose your own adventure.

In two separate venues yesterday, majority Democrats negotiated against themselves instead of flexing their political muscle. And the real losers were the thousands of Vermonters experiencing or facing homelessness.

In the early afternoon, the House Human Services Committee approved a memo to House Appropriations spelling out its underwhelming version of a plan to try to avoid an explosion in homelessness. A few hours later, a House-Senate conference committee approved the 2023 Budget Adjustment Act, with House members agreeing with the Senate version that cut $3 million from the emergency motel voucher program. The program would continue through the end of June, but with reduced eligibility after the end of May. More than 750 households would lose their eligibility a month early.

The conference committee move was a master class in keeping away from prying eyes. The House named its three members last week; the Senate followed suit on Monday. The very next day, the committee met with effectively no advance notice and quickly approved a “compromise” that favored the Senate on every area of disagreement. The meeting was over in less than 25 minutes. And only afterward was there any public disclosure of what the committee had approved.

This is all according to procedure, mind you. Conference committees don’t have to give advance warning of meetings. They often fit in their business when the opportunity arises. But usually their meetings include at least some debate. In this case, there was little to none. The deal was done behind closed doors.

This may be within the rules, but the lack of transparency is galling. As was the committee’s acceptance of the Scott administration’s assertion that cutting eligibility is actually the charitable thing to do. The argument goes that there isn’t enough capacity in the program so we should focus the available space on those in the direst straits. Some would say there’s a difference between sticking to the state’s roster of motel units and making a real effort to expand the pool, but I quibble.

House Human Services shared an unfortunate process with the conference committee. As far as I can tell, the proposed memo to Appropriations wasn’t posted online before it was approved by Human Services — and still hasn’t been, as of this writing.

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Ashley Bartley, Badass

Her political career is little more than a year old, but State Rep. Ashley Bartley (R-Fairfax) has already established herself as a force to be reckoned with. For starters, there’s the fact that she launched her bid for office while giving birth.

It was, I think, eight hours into birth, that I turned to my husband and asked how he would feel if I ran for the Vermont House of Representatives. His response, which pains me to say was the correct one; “let’s get through the next 72 hours before we talk.”

Said husband is Jeff Bartley, former executive director of the Vermont Republican Party, now a member of the band of exiles alienated by the VTGOP’s hard right turn. He probably thought he’d heard it all until that moment.

Anyway, they did have the talk and she ran for office.

And, skipping ahead to the end, shortly after taking office in January, she lost her job for the apparent crime of Being a Legislator.

Bartley told her story Wednesday afternoon to the Senate Government Operations Committee. (Written testimony here, YouTube video here, Bartley’s testimony starts at the 46:40 mark.) The panel is considering S.39, a bill to raise lawmakers’ pay, entitle them to health insurance coverage, and — among other things — give them legal protection against the professional retaliation that befell her.

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Here Come the Right Wingers for Your School Board

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.

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Stealth Conservatives: With a Little Help From the Press

Today’s edition of Stealth Conservatives features two Kindly Old Grandpas, or so their newspaper profiles might lead you to think. On the left, in the photographic sense only, is John Lyddy, the previously discussed election truther running for House. On the right, in every possible sense, is Peter Caldwell, Republican candidate in the solid blue Middlebury House district.

Both received the benefit of kid-gloves treatment in their local newspapers. These candidate profile pieces are often cranked out in a hurry, out of a sense of obligation rather than due diligence. But in a day when many Republicans are purposefully concealing their ultraconservative views, our political media need to do better.

In July, the Brattleboro Reformer published an extremely friendly profile of Lyddy, who has repeatedly exposed his extreme views on social media. The uncritical piece depicted Lyddy as a goodhearted retiree who simply wants to serve his community. And it completely ignores his attendance at the January 6 insurrection (and insistence that the Democrats stole the 2020 election), his veiled threats against elected officials and government agencies, and his advocacy for “a brief correction by civil war” to remove Democrats from office.

Yeah, just a brief civil war.

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The Fearmongering Continues Apace

Shit’s flyin’ these days around the subject of crime in Burlington. In spite of the actual crime statistics, and in spite of the voters’ thorough rejection of Law ‘N Order Lite candidate Ted Kenney, the news can’t stop hyping the largely imaginary epidemic of lawlessness in the Queen City.

Yes, there’s been a substantial jump in gun incidents, and although three fatal shootings may be just another Tuesday afternoon in big cities, it’s a lot by Burlington standards. Nobody wants a hail of bullets from their Welcome Wagon. Otherwise, though, Burlington has quite a bit less crime — including violent crime — now than, say, ten years ago.

But some people, prominent white people, feel unsafe. And if prominent white people have a feeling, it must be a real problem, right?

I mean, we’ve got Moderate Nice Guy Phil Scott out here lying about defunding the police: “…with all due respect to Burlington, they defunded the police. They did that.”


Not unless you think “defunding” means “a modest temporary reduction.” Which it doesn’t. Look, if we’re going to ceaselessly demagogue every cut to the police budget, criminal justice reform is gonna be a long time coming.

Last Friday, a gaggle of conservatives under the rubric of “Keep Vermont Safe” held a Panel Of Grievance in Burlington City Hall. VTDigger, for some reason, sent a reporter and a photographer to cover the event. And cover it they did, despite a pitifully small turnout. “Roughly two dozen,” Digger reported. There were almost that many people on stage.

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Pre-Primary Campaign Finance: Gov and Lite Gov

Hey, the final pre-primary campaign finance filings are in! Let’s start with the races for governor and lieutenant governor.

The topline in the governor’s race is that Phil Scott isn’t even trying. For the LG race, it’s two royals and a bunch of paupers.

The incumbent governor, sitting blithely atop some crazy good poll numbers, came as close as he could to not having a campaign at all. He raised $12,660 in July, bringing his campaign total to just under $50,000. Scott took in a mere 16 donations in the entire month of July.

That $12,660 included $4,000 from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and another $4,000 from Barre City Councilor (and former mayor) Thom Lauzon. The entire rest of the human race gave Scott less than $5,000.

His Democratic opponent, Brenda Siegel, worked hard for not a lot more money. She raised $15,786 in July and $56,471 for the campaign. But while Scott had only 16 donors giving an average $813, Siegel had 191 donors in July, for an average donation of $83. Thus the problem with running a people’s campaign: You need a ton of small donors to make up for a handful on the other side.

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Metapost: Now Accepting Donations

Sharp-eyed readers will notice I’ve added a third page to this blog. It’s a place where you can give a donation — one-time, weekly or annually — in the amount of your choosing.

No pressure, no paywall, no “premium content.” Purely honor system. If you enjoy what I do here, I’d appreciate a token or three of your appreciation.

Thanks, and now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Super PACs: A Necessary Evil. And Not Always Evil.

I wrote something near the end of my recent post about Lt. Gov. Molly Gray’s negative campaigning that bears closer attention. Gray has been attacking her primary opponent, Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, for maybe accepting, or inviting, or leaving the door open to Super PAC spending in the campaign.

Her attacks are greatly exaggerated, and I hope to God they don’t pay off in the August primary. (I’m not against Gray as a candidate, I’m just against the negative bullshit.) But there may be knock-on effects for future Vermont Democratic campaigns. Gray is poisoning the well regarding Super PACs and, I’m sorry, but in our current campaign finance landscape, we can’t live without them. As I wrote previously,

Progressive Super PACs have been a necessary addition to the political armory as a counterbalance to all the conservative Super PACs that litter the post-Citizens United landscape. To forswear all Super PAC money is to disarm yourself in the middle of a gunfight.

Super PACs were created after a 2010 court ruling. In the words of, “Super PACs may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates.” Super PACs cannot donate directly to candidates or coordinate in any way with candidates.

After that court ruling, a whole bunch of conservative Super PACs sprung into being. They threatened to throw our entire political system off kilter through the sheer power of virtually unlimited money.

Then, Democratic and progressive groups started organizing their own Super PACs. They managed to reset the balance — at the cost of setting fire to colossal amounts of cash.

And Molly Gray wants to give up that advantage for the short-term sake of her political fortunes.

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For Nolan, It’s Bad News All the Way Down

Christina Nolan’s longshot bid for U.S. Senate got quite a bit longer last week, with the filing of first-quarter campaign finance reports. For starters, as expected, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch did what he’s always done — fundraise the hell out of his opposition. He pulled in $839,000 and spent roughly half of that, bringing his total warchest to a daunting $2.96 million.

Nolan? She received $157,000 in donations and spent about one-third of that, leaving her a smidge over $100K in cash on hand.

Sort of.

Thirteen of Nolan’s donors gave the maximum $2,900 for the primary campaign. Eight of those 13 also gave an additional $2,900, which must be reserved for the general election. That adds up to $37,700. One other person gave $5,000, of which $2,100 must be spent on the general. So her effective cash on hand — money she can spend between now and August 11 — is only $61,747. Which means that right now, today, Welch’s kitty is effectively an astounding forty-eight times as large as Nolan’s.

Ouch. Double ouch with nuts. I was going to make a David v. Goliath reference, but this is more like Bambi v. Godzilla. If this race wasn’t done and dusted already (hint: it was), these filings remove any remaining whispers of doubt.

But wait, there’s more! Bad news, that is.

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Lightning Round!

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.

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