Tag Archives: Brenda Siegel

Finally, Someone Challenges Phil Scott

Our Democratic “leaders” have been studiously avoiding the long-odds task of running for governor against Phil Scott. The Dems have made a habit of this — not only during Scott’s tenure, but also under Jim Douglas. The top Democrats ducked and covered until Douglas decided to step down, and then there was a land rush of suddenly-eager candidates.

For the party that otherwise rules the roost in these parts, it’s a disgraceful history.

But now, finally, in early May for Pete’s sake, we have a Democrat in the race: Brenda Siegel, activist, advocate, two-time candidate for statewide office and, as she likes to say, the only person to beat Scott in the public arena. You may recall the epic sleep-out on the Statehouse steps that shamed the governor into reversing course on emergency housing.

Siegel braved the onset of winter. She stared down the governor. That’s the famously genial guy who never bothered to step outside his office and meet with Siegel and her allies. It’s no surprise that she’s willing to go where no other Democrat is willing to go: into the arena with Phil Scott.

She deserves all the credit in the world for that. And other potential candidates, who are clearly waiting for Scott to retire, deserve their share of scorn.

But… can she win?

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Siegel Joins Racine in Mulling Circle

Two-time statewide candidate Brenda Siegel is “seriously considering” another run for governor, joining former lieutenant governor Doug Racine in the Mulling Circle(TM Pending). Siegel is a citizen Statehouse advocate on poverty, substance use and other issues, known for her seemingly endless energy and willingness to ruffle feathers along the way — a trait rarely in evidence in the polite world of #vtpoli.

“We’re not going to out-nice the Nice Guy,” Siegel said. “Phil Scott has to be off balance. When you ask yourself who’s been able to put him off balance, I think the answer is pretty clear.”

Is that a veiled reference to Racine, also a famously nice guy? Uh, I believe so.

Besides, she added, “I know what it takes to beat the governor. I’ve done it twice.” Siegel was referring to last year’s fight to decriminalize possession of small amounts of buprenorphine, which Scott signed reluctantly, and last fall’s renowned protest in which Siegel and some allies slept on the Statehouse steps for 27 nights until they won major changes in the state’s emergency housing program — changes Scott had stoutly resisted.

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The Fix Is In

Another day, another Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor. Ex-LG David Zuckerman makes four, and ex-LG Doug Racine may make it five.

Meanwhile, the Democratic field for governor is seen in the Artist’s Rendering above.

Nobody. No one. Not a soul. Zero, zilch, nada.

Dip into the Democratic rumor mill?

Crickets. No sign that anyone in Democratic circles is even considering a run.

It’s already too late for a relative unknown to mount a competitive statewide campaign. By “relative unknown,” I mean anybody who’s never held or won a major-party nomination for a statewide office. See: Christine Hallquist, 2018. After getting a late start, she didn’t have enough time to both (1) introduce herself to the electorate and (2) do the necessary fundraising.

Yup, the fix is in. Phil Scott, presumptive governor-elect. Two More Years!

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I’d Hate to Call It Lying, but…

At his Tuesday Covid briefing, Gov. Phil Scott was either lying or uninformed when he answered a question about the hotel/motel emergency housing program. Neither is a particularly good look.

Scott was asked about a claim by homeless advocates that the state has more money for emergency housing but isn’t using it. Meanwhile, they say, some people are being turned away. “I just don’t believe that that’s the case,” Scott replied. “We do have a program. We are taking care of those in need… We are protecting those who need our help.”

Sounds good. But a few moments later, Human Services Secretary Mike Smith undercut those bland assurances. Smith was asked about expanded access to emergency housing when the weather gets cold.

“it’s gonna be limited because we still are housing 1500 people,” Smith replied. “The Issue is the availability of hotel and motel rooms as we move forward. We are scouring the state right now for buildings we could use as temporary shelter sites for those individuals.”

And then the kicker:

We’re turning away some people, unfortunately, that do qualify under existing program because we don’t have the hotel and motel space that we would like.

Well now. Scott says we’re helping all those in need. Smith says we’re already turning people away, and that could get worse when cold weather increases demand.

Which is it, boys?

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Old Veepies Never Die, They Just Get Stupider (UPDATED)

Note: Second item has a significant update. Press WILL be admitted to Winooski/Enosburg soccer game.

Oh, you thought you were done with this, did you? Yeah, my awards for stupidity and/or obtuseness in the public sector have been on sabbatical lately — it’s been harder to see the funny this fall, mostly due to the ongoing pandemic. But here we are again! On the docket: Noblesse oblige at the homelessness protest, barring the media from a soccer match, an especially stupid Covid rationalization from Team Scott, and Bennington Justice rears its ugly head.

We have multiple awardees for the It Was Quite Literally The Least We Could Do Award. The recipients include Gov. Phil Scott, House Speaker Jill Krowinski, and Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint. Brenda Siegel and Josh Lisenby, advocates for restoring the full emergency housing program, held what VTDigger helpfully called “a small rally” on Monday at the site of their Statehouse protest/campout. Apparently Siegel and Lisenby have cooties or something, because neither Krowinski nor Ballnt attended in person and Scott continues to resist meeting with them.

The Speaker and Pro Tem did issue a statement for Siegel to read, in which they endorsed full restoration of the program. Which is interesting since, as the governor points out on every occasion, they agreed to the springtime deal restricting the program. Nice of them to belatedly come down on the side of compassion. And while Scott could really use a spark of humanity, he refuses to meet with the advocates. But hey, as VTDigger put it, “they were granted an interview on Monday with Sean Brown, the commissioner of the Department for Children and Families.” Wow. “Granted an interview.” How noblesse oblige of them.

Brown reportedly said the administration would consider reopening the full program when/if (climate change, y’know) the weather gets really cold. Which tells you the administration sees this first and foremost as a PR problem. They want to be as stingy as possible, but they could do without pictures of freezing protesters or homeless people with hypothermia.

Onward and downward…

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The Governor Sounds Retreat

The Detritus of Gov. Scott’s Emergency Housing Policy, Left Behind In His Retreat

What a stouthearted guy. What a champion of principle.

What a fraud.

All it took was a few days of bad publicity to induce Gov. Phil Scott to execute a complete 180 on the state’s emergency housing program. After days of resolute insistence that the program had to expire as scheduled this Friday, he turned tail and ran — announcing in a written statement (courage!) that he will allow the program to continue until the end of this year. Between now and then, the federal government picks up the entirety of the tab. Which meant that his now-inoperative stubbornness on ending the program was nothing but a bit of fluff, a purely political stance, since ending the program now wouldn’t have saved the state a dime.

And really, the year-end deadline is equally meaningless since, as VTDigger reported, the Legislature has already apportioned $36 million in federal Covid relief money to keep the program running indefinitely into the new year.

It’s not often that Scott gets caught in a purely political act. But that’s exactly what this is. There can be no valor, no respect, in this abject retreat.

And this is the second time he’s pulled this maneuver. He did the same in September: Insisting on an end to the program only to capitulate when things got a little hot.

The real shame is that it would have been simple for him to retake the high ground.

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The Ignorables (Updated with notice of two Legislative hearings)

When last we met, I castigated Gov. Phil Scott for his needlessly cruel posture on the emergency housing program, which he insists on shutting down next Friday when it won’t save the state a damn dime.

This time I’d like to widen the frame, and point out that there ain’t nobody making a public stink about this craven retreat from basic humanity. Well, that’s not entirely true; some people, including tireless advocate and two-time statewide candidate Brenda Siegel, have been banging the drum. Otherwise…

Media? An occasional story on VTDigger, and that’s about it. No questions on the subject at Scott’s Tuesday presser.

Legislative leadership? I haven’t heard a peep*. Maybe that’s because they agreed to the original plan to kill the program last spring, so they feel an uneasy sense of complicity. Or maybe it’s because the unhoused aren’t a core constituency.

Update: Two legislative commitees are holding hearings on the program next week. House General Etc. is on Monday morning at 9:00, Statehouse Room 11 or streamed online. The Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules will meet next Thursday at 10:00 in Statehouse Room 24 and streamed online. Hopefully these hearings will prompt some kind of action, and produce some media attention to the issue.

Vermont Democratic Party? Not as far as I can tell. Nothing on its website. The VDP has issued a measly three press releases (according to my inbox) in the last month-plus, and emergency housing was not mentioned at all.

Vermont Progressive Party? You’d think so, but (again, as far as I can tell and I’m open to correction*) no. No press releases, no public statements.

*Correction: I’ve learned that the Progressive Party issued a press release in favor of continuing the emergency housing program in July, when it was first scheduled to end. Since then, Prog lawmakers have continued to speak out in support of the program.

Why the silence? Because we treat the unhoused as if they’re a separate and inferior species, living among us but not really of us. They are The Ignorables.

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Where Are the Real People?

Two Senate committees, Judiciary and Health & Welfare, held a joint hearing Thursday morning about H.225, the “bupe bill.” It would legalize small quantities of buprenorphine, an opioid that’s often used as a substitute for, or a path away from, more dangerous street opiates. It passed the House by a lopsided 126-to-19 margin.

The fact that the hearing happened at all was a positive development. Last we heard, the bill was stuck in Senate purgatory with leadership wondering if they had time to properly consider it. The shape and substance of the hearing seems to indicate that the Senate will act on the bill. (The two-part hearing can be viewed here and here on YouTube.)

For one thing, the two committees met jointly. That’s not something they do very often. For another, they heard from a broad spectrum of witnesses — and Judiciary has set aside time Friday morning for committee discussion. By legislative committee standards, this is warp speed. (Also, Judiciary seems to be offended, but effectively chastened, by unfavorable media coverage of its obstreperousness, including multiple rants in this space. Suddenly the committee is expediting a number of bills that passed the House by huge margins.)

The witness list leaned heavily toward representatives of the justice system. Otherwise there was one UVM doctor, two Scott administration officials, two people who deal professionally with substance use disorder treatment; and former candidate for governor and lieutenant governor Brenda Siegel, the only witness on the docket without some sort of official imprimatur.

To me, there were two striking things about this hearing. First, the witness list was short on people with actual experience with substance use disorder and recovery. Second, there was a nearly complete lack of “real people,” i.e. non-credentialed members of the public.

This is standard operating procedure for legislative hearings. They tend to feature a relative handful of lobbyists, advocates, public officials and the like. And I think this is a serious problem for the lawmaking process.

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Ingram’s Parting Shot

Anyone else remember this? From August 2019

State Sen. Debbie Ingram brought her political career to a close, whether she meant to or not, when she endorsed Republican Scott Milne for lieutenant governor today. The progressive Democrat had finished a distant fourth in a four-person race for her party’s LG nomination. bagging less than nine percent of the vote.

And honestly, it’s hard to see her move as anything more than sour grapes.

After all, she followed up her primary loss with an intemperate opinion piece blaming her candidacy’s failure on the media for ignoring “diversity candidates.”

So her solution is to support a white cis man over a Democratic woman? And to posit Milne as the right man for the job because of his business experience? That seems entirely out of bounds for one of the more progressive members of the Senate — one who made her political bones as an advocate for social equity of all kinds.

Then again, she did pledge last year to support Congressional term limits, a longtime conservative talking point. (I don’t remember this at all; it came up in a Google search today.) So maybe she is less conventionally progressive than she seemed.

But the Milne endorsement, combined with her post-defeat opinion piece, certainly opens the door to a “sour grapes” interpretation.

After the jump: The media and “diversity candidates”

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Where Are The Ashes Of Yesteryear?

Objects In The Mirror May Be Fuzzier Than They Appear

The following was written in 2003. I’d ask you to guess the author, but I’ve already given away that game.

I should be a Democrat. From Massachusetts, mother a teacher and father a civil servant, family of Kennedy-philes… I’ve got a long life of political activism ahead of me. My loyalties are to ideas and not a party, so if my energies are not going to the Dems, they’ll be going somewhere else.

… Younger people like myself can understand the importance of getting the message to different types of voters. But we also understand the nature of a chameleon, and we don’t want to vote for a leaf and elect a reptile.

That’s a short excerpt from “Letter from a Democratic Party Pooper, and it was indeed penned by Young Tim Ashe, progressive firebrand. The letter was included in Crossroads: The Future of American Politics, written in 2003 by the future governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. (This tidbit came to my attention courtesy of urban archeologist and Twitter buddy Ed Adrian.)

In the letter, Ashe bemoans the Democratic Party’s habit of tacking to the center. He certainly sounds like a former Bernie Sanders staffer and future Progressive Party officeholder. He doesn’t sound much like Ashe the Senate President Pro Tem, who’s known for cosseting the chamber’s old guard, a cadre of change-averse centrists.

So. Which Tim Ashe is running for lieutenant governor?

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