Tag Archives: Aly Richards

In Which Let’s Grow Kids Suddenly Discovers That Phil Scott’s Child Care Advocacy is Mostly Lip Service

Let’s Grow Kids” has been around the block a few times. It is, according to VTDigger’s Final Reading, “the state’s leading child care advocacy group.” There’s no way they don’t know the score.

How to explain, then, that LGK endorsed Gov. Phil Scott for re-election and did not endorse his Democratic challenger Brenda Siegel?

If you come up with an explanation for that, then riddle me this: How is it that LGK is shocked and disappointed that the governor still holds to his consistent position — that he wants to do something to improve child care but he won’t sign on to tax hikes or LGK’s benchmarks for progress? In the words of VTDigger’s Final Reading:

Scott has long called for additional investments in child care, but never on the scale that advocates argue will be necessary to make a real dent in the problem. Crucially, he’s remained consistent in his belief that the state does not need to levy new broad-based taxes to expand access.

Key words: “remained consistent.” His stance cannot possibly be a surprise to LGK leadership or anyone else who’s been paying attention. It couldn’t have been a surprise when LGK was deciding on its endorsements last year. It’s not only his approach to child care; it’s his default on any social issue. He acknowledges the need, but refuses to commit actual resources to the task. Or actual effort, for that matter.

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Is this the time for business as usual?

It’s an annual rite at this time of year: a changeover in the upper levels of the administration. It usually involves some key departures, a shuffling of the deck, and the elevation of those who have served in a lesser capacity.

The latter began on Wednesday for the Shumlin Administration, with promotions for press liaison Sue Allen, campaign manager Scott Coriell, and education adviser Aly Richards. Loyal servants, rewarded for their work.

But should they be?

I have nothing against these folks. As far as I know, they deserve their promotions. But a broader question is on my mind:

Praise and promotions were freely distributed when Shumlin was riding high. Should the same be true after a poor administrative year and a disastrous campaign?

Further: Are these promotions a sign that Shumlin, at some fundamental level, doesn’t get it? That it’s business as usual on the fifth floor?

The Governor has made the right noises. But the current situation calls for a lot more than that. You can say “The buck stops here” all you want, but if the buck stops and gets tossed in a drawer, it’s a meaningless statement.

After the election, I saw a gleam of hope: Shumlin does his best work in crisis, as we saw after Tropical Storm Irene. This election was the closest thing to a personal Irene for Shumlin. My hope was that he would seize the opportunity, thoroughly evaluate everything he and his people do, and boldly set a new course.

So far, given his frequent deferrals to legislative leadership and his dispensation of Jobs For The Boys (And Girls), I’m having my doubts.

In addition to a personal reckoning by Shumiln, there ought to be a personnel reckoning. During the campaign, I wrote that the continued problems of Vermont Health Connect called for some clear direction and, probably, the rolling of some heads.

In addition to Doug Racine’s, that is. Racine may have had his failings at Human Services, but it wasn’t like he got a lot of help from Shumlin. Plus, he had little to do with Vermont Health Connect. He was expendable, not because he was the biggest problem, but because he wasn’t really part of the team. Mark Larson, who was far more responsible for VHC but was clearly one of the boys, was shunted to the side but kept his title and is still drawing a salary for duties and responsibilities unknown.

Is Governor Shumlin capable of evaluating his staffers and functionaries with the cold eye of reason, and demoting or defenestrating those who’ve contributed to his administration’s malaise?

We’ll see. He promises more personnel changes to come. But I have to say I’m not optimistic. If the changes have more to do with the desires and ambitions of his staff than with a sorely-needed overhaul of the Shumlin Machine, then his third term is off to an inauspicious start.