Tag Archives: Jenney Samuelson

Further Adventures in “Slum Management”

The pace of news continues at breakneck speed on our developing and self-inflicted dehousing crisis. This installment’s title is courtesy of Barre Mayor John Hemmerick, whose city is desperately trying to plan for the first installment of The Great Dehousing, which is now only a couple of days away.

In central Vermont, two charities have combined to raise over $15,000 (the goal is $20K; chip in here if you can) for tents and sleeping bags and such to distribute to the soon-to-be-unsheltered. The city of Montpelier is looking into a possible winter shelter at the city’s Recreation Center, and Barre is hoping to offer shelter at the Barre Auditorium. The problem there is not so much setting it up, as staffing it. The city doesn’t have the means, and local shelter operators are already doing everything they can.

Both cities are discussing the seemingly inevitable encampments that will follow Our Great Leaders’ decision to end the motel voucher program that provides shelter to 80% of Vermont’s unhoused. Mayor Hemmerick offered this comment to The Bridge:

It is a sad day in America and Vermont when tiny municipal governments must look to … informal settlement and slum management policies to do the unthinkable in the wealthiest nation on earth: sanction substandard encampments and living conditions.

Slum management, folks. That’s where we’re at in good old caring old Vermont.

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Whoops, the Governor Let the Cat Out of the Bag

Wow, for a minute there I thought our looming homelessness crisis had been averted. It sounded like Gov. Phil Scott had swooped in to make the big save.

At his weekly press conference on Wednesday, the governor said the following:

At a time when Vermont has historic surpluses, we’re going to have $200 million probably at the end of this fiscal year in surplus, it’s hard to communicate to Vermonters as to why we’re…

I know what’s coming next! It’s clear as day: It sure is “hard to communicate” as to why we’re fixing to throw two thousand-plus Vermonters out on the street by ending the motel voucher program when we are, in fact, swimming in loot!

I mean, obviously the governor is about to announce that we can afford a temporary voucher extension at the same time we invest in permanent housing solutions.



Here’s the full sentence.

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Sorry About That, Struggling Vermonters

I’ve got a post sitting on the backburner called “We Have No Idea How Well State Government Performs.” The thesis is that Vermont’s government is woefully deficient in checks and balances. The Legislature is too slammed to do any green eyeshade stuff. The executive branch provides the bulk of the available information. The Joint Fiscal Office does some useful things and so does the auditor, but their reach is limited.

So we’ll probably never know who’s responsible for the monumental screwup with the Vermont Emergency Rental Assistance Program (VERAP). It’s out of money, folks. Rental assistance will diminish in a month and disappear entirely for thousands of households before the onset of winter. Oh, and utility assistance will end before the calendar turns to 2023.

According to the administration’s own numbers, 3,015 recipients will see their rental benefits end on September 30. Another 5,400 will get reduced benefits through the end of November, and then nothing.

The explanations on offer are threadbare, sheepish and inadequate. There are broad hints of administrative malfeasance.

This ought to be a scandal. Will it be? Based on past performance, probably not.

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Playing Politics With Mental Health

Acting Human Services Secretary and Effusive Wireless Advocate Jenney Samuelson

As our political leaders, state and national, try to reassure us that the post-pandemic future is now, one of their favorite rhetorical devices is mental health. The danger to our physical health is nothing compared to the toll of isolation, fear, absence of normal activity, and apparently how facemasks cut off blood flow to the brain. Our leaders aren’t simply pushing us back to the assembly line of work and consumerism; they are the good guys, protecting us from Covid’s frightful toll on mental health.

Take, for example, Edjamacation Secretary Dan French implying that those of us still worried about the pandemic are pushing our kids into the abyss. At this week’s Gubernatorial Agenda Promotion Event, he talked of reducing the anxiety level in schools by getting everything back to normal. In other words, if you’re still concerned about prevention, if you’re constantly badgering kids to wash up or stay home if they’re sick or — horrors — force them to wear a mask or do so yourself, you’re complicit in fostering a pandemic of mental illness.

Nowhere in any of this do we hear about the mental and emotional toll of living with the pandemic, of the continuing vigilance that many of us feel compelled to maintain even as French and Gov. Phil Scott pretend that those stresses don’t exist.

Masking is a two-way street. I wear a mask in public spaces, but it’s much less effective if other people are unmasked. Meanwhile, our leaders are practically tearing the masks off our faces. Oh well, the concerns of marginal Vermonters like the old, the immunocompromised, the disabled, and anyone at elevated risk are absent from the administration’s equation.

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Welcome to The Governor’s Weekly Agenda Promotion Event

These things used to be weekly updates on the Covid-19 pandemic but, as of today, that’s no longer the case.

For the second week in a row, Gov. Phil Scott opened the event by declaring he had nothing to say about the pandemic. Instead, he used his platform to tout an administration policy priority. And the first administration official who followed Scott the lectern wasn’t Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine or Virus Vaticinator Michael Pieciak or Education Secretary Dan French.

No, it was the person pictured above: Public Service Commissioner June Tierney.

Needless to say, she didn’t talk about Covid. She talked about Scott’s plan to enhance mobile phone service by spending $51 million on new cell towers.

Right off the bat, we get two big tells that the state of the pandemic is no longer the chief subject.

Then came Strike Three. WCAX’s Calvin Cutler wanted to ask about the medical monitoring bill making its way through the Legislature, so he opened by noting that his question was “off topic.”

Scott’s response? “It’s not off topic for our weekly press briefings.”

That’s a new, and I’d say deliberate, change on the governor’s part.

So, per Scott himself, we no longer have weekly Covid briefings. We have weekly administration Happy Hours broadcast live across the state. In an election year, it begins to look less like public information and more like free publicity.

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