Tag Archives: Dave Gram

Get on the bus

I have this crazy notion.

I see a luxury bus, decked out with signs and photos of the Democrats’ statewide candidates. I see it spending a long weekend barnstorming around Vermont, stopping in various towns and cities.

Inside the bus, I see Sue Minter, Pat Leahy, Peter Welch, and Bernie Sanders, plus David Zuckerman, TJ Donovan, Jim Condos, Beth Pearce, and Doug Hoffer*. Legislative candidates join them for rallies held within their districts.

*Random order. Please take no offense, Doug.  

The events draw substantial media coverage and energize the party faithful. They showcase liberal politicians united behind a single ticket — and, most crucially, a gubernatorial candidate in an uphill battle against a popular Republican.

What would it do for Sue Minter to have Vermont’s very popular heavyweights actively showing their support? It might just be the thing to put her over the top.

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Sausage Party II: I think We’re All Dicks on This Bus

Aw, fer the love of Mike. There goes the eyelid again.

The Vermont media corps followed up their reliance on a teeny-tiny (and entirely male) pool of pundits with a rousing encore this morning.

First, I come across an article by VTDigger’s Mike Polhamus* about the wind energy issue in the gubernatorial race. And there’s our man in Middlebury:

Eric Davis, a retired Middlebury College political science professor, said the voters most fired up on the wind turbine issue are people in rural areas who live near existing wind projects.

Now, that’s the kind of unfiltered conventional wisdom that money just can’t buy.

And then, just when my eyelid was settling down, I open up VPR’s webpage and find a piece by Bob Kinzel that not only quotes Davis at length, but throws in a healthy dose of Garrison Nelson for good measure.

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Welp, the mouse died.

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about the marijuana debate entitled “They labored mightily and brought forth a mouse.”

Turned out I was overly optimistic, because the mouse didn’t make it.

No legalization. No grow-your-own. And as for the House’s idea of a study commission (thx to Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck, who never would’ve gotten this into the Free Press):

“Fuck the commission,” a frustrated Senate Judiciary Committee chair Dick Sears (D-Bennington) said after his effort to create a public advisory vote failed. “The commission was unnecessary.”

Agreed. Especially since the commission would have apparently been funded with money diverted from opioid treatment. Sheesh.

The only good thing about this: the House’s brilliant idea of a new saliva test for buzzed driving also failed. That’s the test with no clear scientific basis, according to a state-sponsored study.

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State Senate trying to Norquist ethics reform

Vermont’s Most Sclerotic Deliberative Body has been taking its time with a proposal to set up a state Ethics Commission. Much more time than they took with legalizing marijuana, and probably longer than they’ll take with the frickin’ budget.

Why the slow play? Well, the Senate’s point person on ethics reform makes it abundantly clear.

Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham and chairwoman of the Government Operations Committee, said, “Because the press keeps saying that we’re the only state without an ethics commission and clearly we have something to hide … I don’t really believe that.”

Credit to the Associated Press’ Dave Gram for capturing that entry into the Quote of the Year competition.

Jeezum Crow. The Senator in charge of ethics reform doesn’t believe ethics reform is necessary. She blames the media for fomenting “a lack of faith in government officials.”

Methinks the good Senator has been in Montpelier too long. She’s been so deep in the system for so long, she’s lost all perspective.

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GlobalFoundries: Too big to fail?

Chittenden County is blessed — and a little bit cursed — by the presence of a large high-tech employer: GlobalFoundries, formerly d.b.a. IBM. The Essex facility is a major driver of the area’s economy, and the entire state’s economy for that matter.

And GlobalFoundries knows this, and they seem to know they have us over a barrel.

This is my inference based on a new report by the Associated Press’ master gardener Dave Gram, who has used public-records requests to discover the extent of GF’s demands on the state.

We already knew about the questionable $1 million from the Enterprise Fund. Gram now brings us tidings of a $17 million highway project that GF wants fast-tracked. It would involve improvements on Route 22A, which happens to be the most direct route from the Burlington area to New York State. (22A goes straight through downtown Vergennes. Hope you like your new highway, Vergennians!)

But otherwise it’s of little utility to intra-state traffic. For general transportation, trade and tourism puposes, improvements to US-7 would be more efficacious. But I have a feeling that what GlobalFoundries wants, GlobalFoundries will get.

(Now, if GF can convince New York State to build a decent highway from the Vermont border west of Rutland to I-87, then that would be a great benefit to the western Vermont economy as a whole. If they can do that, then our investment in 22A would be a worthwhile tradeoff.)

GlobalFoundries also wants state backing for “payments to GlobalFoundries from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multi-state pact that spins off money to states with a low carbon footprint.” Gram’s report doesn’t go into the reasoning behind GF’s request; in the absence of more information, I have a feeling that there are more pertinent uses for the money.

But hey, GlobalFoundries is a yoooge employer, and its loss would cripple Vermont’s economy. We may not have much choice.

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Our mental health sandcastle, part 1

And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

— Matthew 7:26

Here’s something that close observers won’t find surprising at all: fresh signs of trouble in Vermont’s mental health care system. In my next post: staffing shortages and other troubles in the system’s crown jewel, the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital. This time: Again with the Brattleboro Retreat.

The Vermont attorney general’s office is conducting a criminal investigation into the Brattleboro Retreat following a whistleblower’s complaints about alleged Medicaid fraud at the private psychiatric hospital, The Associated Press has learned.

Ruh-roh. The AP’s Dave Gram quotes AG Bill Sorrell as characterizing the probe as “not narrow in scope,” and that it goes beyond the whistleblower’s complaint into other areas.

As for that complaint:

[Former Retreat staffer Thomas] Joseph alleged a yearslong pattern of instances in which, if overcharges showed up in patient accounts, Retreat staff would not make refunds but instead would change the account to reflect a balance of zero.

If the accusations are true, the Retreat would be in deep shit with Medicaid, which (according to Gram) supplies the Retreat with roughly one-fourth of its total funding.

Yeah, that’s not an enemy you want to make.

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The Shappening

Shap SmithWell over a hundred people gathered in the midday sun today, to hear House Speaker Shap Smith officially launch his candidacy for Governor. The crowd was enthusiastic, and nobody keeled over from heatstroke, so there’s that. Several state lawmakers were on hand. So too, interestingly, was Governor Shumlin’s recently departed chief of staff Liz Miller. She wasn’t wearing a “Shap” sticker that I could see*, so maybe her presence was mere coincidence. Mo Vegas is, after all, the place to be.

*Tattoo, perhaps.

And if Peter Freyne were still alive, Mr. Speaker might have acquired a new nickname: the Prag Prog.

I say my record is one of pragmatic progressivism.

He also unveiled a campaign logo, “Shap” in large white letters next to a green outline of Vermont, all set against a deep blue background. I would have been tempted to go with “Shapleigh,” but that’s probably why I’m not a candidate.

Holding the event in Morrisville was, I thought, a good move. It emphasized his status as a Vermonter rather than a Statehouse insider, and underlined his speech’s emphasis on ensuring opportunity in every part of Vermont, not just Chittenden County.

My big takeaway: the event highlighted his strengths as a candidate and the big challenges he will face. Most of which revolve around the same thing: his position as Speaker and his central role in Democratic policy initiatives of the past several years.

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