Tag Archives: Kyle Midura

What if Phil Scott loses?

In my second-most-recent post, I listed all the bad news visited upon Vermont Republicans over the past few days. I ended by asking “What if Phil Scott loses?”

I’ll get to that question, but in the meantime, WCAX released its own poll showing Scott with a seven-point lead over Sue Minter, which has triggered much rejoicing Chez Phil.

In his lede, WCAX’s usually reliable Kyle Midura made an unwarranted inference: since the VPR Poll had shown a statistical dead heat, the TV poll shows that Scott is “pulling ahead.”

Which, c’mon now. These are two polls from different organizations with possibly differing methodologies. (We don’t know because WCAX hasn’t released any details. VPR has disclosed all of that.) Drawing that direct a line between the two polls is misleading at best.

What we have are two data points. One (VPR) from an in-state academic polling outfit, one (WCAX) from a New Jersey-based for-profit firm.

Pollster Paul Braun engaged in some speculation that ought to unnerve those placing a lot of weight on his survey. He credited the WCAX gubernatorial debate for driving Scott’s alleged momentum — when, in fact, debate audiences tend to be very small, and the impact of debates on public opinion is also small. (Unless you pull a Trump, of course.) There is no evidence to support Braun’s assertion.

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Pot’s last stand

Monday’s the big day for marijuana legalization. The House is set to hold votes on two very different versions — so different, it’d be fair to say they are diametrically opposed. And therein lies the problem: the momentum toward legalization has splintered. Governor Shumlin and House Speaker Shap Smith, who both favor legalization, could pull a rabbit out of a hat — and that’s what it would take: a last-minute snatching of victory from the jaws of defeat.

Ironically, one possible outcome of the legalization drive is not any loosening of the law, but instead a crackdown on buzzed driving.

Unlikely, but possible. The most probable scenario is some sort of incremental, unsatisfying move that will provide a fig leaf of political cover for those (starting with Shumlin) who invested heavily in this fight. What might that be? Perhaps a nonbinding statewide referendum. Perhaps, as WCAX’s Kyle Midura said on “Vermont This Week,” some loosening of the state’s medical marijuana law. Perhaps something that’s not even on the table at the moment. Monday could be a long day on the House floor.

There are two major obstacles. First, not enough pro-legalization movement in the House, which was always the most likely killing ground for the idea. Second, the Senate and House took such different approaches that there’s no room for compromise.

The Senate took a top-down approach, establishing a regulated market for marijuana. It specifically rejected a grow-your-own exemption, arguing that it would weaken the broader effort to control the consumption of marijuana.

The House bill that will be considered on the floor Monday is centered on grow-your-own. It would create a licensing process for people who wanted to grow small amounts for personal consumption. Precisely what the Senate didn’t want.

Rarely do I find myself saying this, but I agree with the Senate.

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A bit of an own goal by the Minter campaign

“So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

— Revelation 3:16

One of the minor sidelights of our state campaign season is the issue of endorsements, especially on the Democratic side. Do you support the hometown favorite, or the party stalwart? The one who wants to be the 44th male president, or the one who wants to be the first female?

You can sense the pressure in the way things filter out. Established officeholders who don’t have to face the electorate? Peter Shumlin and Pat Leahy go for Hillary Clinton. Officeholder who will be on the ballot this year? Peter Welch is studiously neutral.

Non-officeholders contending for top Democratic nominations? Matt Dunne, Dave Zuckerman, and Kesha Ram have all endorsed Bernie.*

*As a correspondent informed me, I made a quick-draw mistake there. Zuckerman and Ram are officeholders, of course. I wrote in haste, and I apologize to Zuckerman and Ram for the attempted impeachments.

And then there’s Sue Minter, who hadn’t said anything publicly about the race until this week, when she half-heartedly indicated a preference in an interview with WCAX’s Kyle Midura. It wasn’t pretty.

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Bunched Knicker Syndrome Strikes Top Solon

BKS: “a sense of heightened distress keenly felt by the self-important following a minor annoyance.”

Kudos to WCAX-TV’s Kyle Midura for coming up with a frothy little confection of a political story that’s sweet to the taste, vanishes in the mouth like a good meringue, and leaves you wanting just one more bite. Or maybe the whole damn pie.

The story’s about the Tuesday “news event” featuring Congressman Peter Welch and Transportation Secretary Sue Minter at a photogenically decrepit bridge in East Montpelier. They were backdropped by lime green and orange-vested construction workers as they bemoaned the lack of Congressional action on long-term transportation funding.

And it seems that there are some hurt fee-fees from a pair of politicos who think they ought to have been invited. Republican Pat Brennan, chair of the House Transportation Committee, and might-as-well-be-a-Republican Dick Mazza, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, were left jonesin’ for a little camera time.

“We are heavily involved, so you would think we would’ve been asked to be there,” said Rep. Pat Brennan, R-Colchester.

As for Mazza, he cemented his well-earned reputation as the least Democratic of all Democrats by complaining that the presser included a partisan attack on Republicans in Congress. That’s right: a Democrat accusing Democrats of playing politics. The horror!

“I was told that it was a non-partisan news conference, but I didn’t see anyone other than the Democrats,” said Mazza.

Wait wait. He “was told”? That seems to imply he knew about the presser in advance. If so, he’s got no complaint. But let’s move on.

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Another closed door in the People’s House

Constant readers of this blog (Hi, Mom!) will recall that earlier this month, I wrote a letter to the House Ethics Panel asking for a review of Rep. Adam Greshin’s actions regarding H.40, the RESET bill. For less constant readers, my complaint centered on this: Greshin authored an amendment to H.40 stripping away an increase in funding for Efficiency Vermont. (EV had already gotten Public Service Board approval; until this year, legislative review was a mere formality.) He also aggressively lobbied the House and Senate for his amendment.

EV gets its money through a surcharge on utility bills. As co-owner of the Sugarbush Resort, a voracious consumer of electricity ($2 million/year), Greshin stood to gain considerably if his amendment passed.

Well, the Ethics Panel has responded. And as expected, it was a whitewash. Greshin, so they say, did nothing wrong.

I’ll get to the substance of its decision in my next post. First, though, I need to address the process.

Between sending my letter and receiving the Panel’s reply, I didn’t hear anything about it. During the roughly one week between receiving my letter and drafting its ruling, the Panel conducted a review with help from Legislative Counsel. It also met with the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and with Greshin himself. (Correction: The panel met with counsel to the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, but not with the Committee itself.)

None of those meetings were noticed publicly. I was not informed. I was not given the opportunity to be a party to the proceedings.

It seems that the House Ethics Panel has a closed-door policy.

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Slippery, short-tempered and fumbling: just another day for John Campbell

There are two important takeaways from this afternoon’s kerfuffle outside the office of Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell. Most of the attention, including mine, is on his closed-door meeting with the entire Senate Natural Resources Committee and his confused rationalization for banning the media. Campbell actually blocked the doorway, twice, as Seven Days’ Paul Heintz and WCAX-TV’s Kyle Midura tried to gain entry.

The closed-meeting aspect certainly deserves more scrutiny, maybe even a court challenge; but we shouldn’t lose sight of the equally offensive substance of the meeting. That involved Campbell’s attempt to single-handedly amend — or possibly derail — a major piece of energy legislation known as the RESET bill.

The House had passed the thing. It had gotten through Senate committees with minor changes, and reached the final stage (third reading) on the Senate floor. And then, at the last minute, Campbell bigfoots the whole process. Legislative rules required that the bill pass the Senate today (Thursday) in order to be considered by the House on Saturday, when it’s scheduled to adjourn. If the Senate passes the bill Friday, which seemingly depends on Campbell’s good graces, the House would have to agree by a three-quarters majority to suspend its rules in order to vote on the bill.

So there’s a chance this very important bill won’t pass, and it’s all thanks to your Senate President Pro Tem.

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The Shummy Shimmy

Before the November election, I’d planned to write a post-election piece offering my services to the Shumlin administration for the newly-created position of Shitkicker-In-Chief. The duties would include pointing out the flaws in administration reasoning, deflating egos when necessary, and the occasional loud guffaw.

The idea was based on my belief (hahahaha) that the election wouldn’t be close. When Shumlin won by a shoestring, I thought my idea was irrelevant. The election was a more effective shitkicker than I could ever be.

Seems I was wrong, because the Governor has quickly fallen back into to some bad habits. One of his worst is his almost-complete inability to admit that he was wrong about something — even if it’s something trivial. It makes him appear small-minded, overly defensive, duplicitous, and condescending.

This habit is again on display in the foofaraw over releasing documents related to single-payer health care.

For those just joining us, when the governor announced in December that he was ditching single-payer, WCAX’s Kyle Midura asked a provocative question. Here’s the exchange, as reported by Seven Days’ Paul Heintz:

“Will you waive executive privilege for all backdated documents at this point related to this question so we can see what you knew when?” Midura said.

“There is nothing to hide on what we knew when, so we’d be happy to show you any documents you wish to look at,” the governor responded.

Emphasis: “any documents you wish to look at.” And Midura’s use of “this question” is generally seen as referring to Shumlin’s decision on single-payer.

Naturally, multiple media outlets made public-records requests for any related documents. And that’s when Shumlin backtracked: the administration withheld “hundreds of pages of documents related to single-payer,” reports VPR’s Peter Hirschfeld.

Shumlin never wrongShumlin says he never intended for him comments on Dec. 17 to mean that he’d release all internal communications related to single-payer.

“Now no governor ever divulges inter-staff conversations, but what we did divulge was all the data that led us to the conclusions that we came to,” Shumlin said.

Okay, I can see that point of view. But why did he promise, on Dec. 17, to release everything?

Evasive maneuvers, Mr. Sulu!

So far, we’ve heard two different explanations.

In an email to Heintz, the Governor’s legal counsel Sarah London asserted that Midura’s question referred narrowly to “the specific question of Medicaid reimbursement rates.”

On the other hand, Shumlin told Hirschfeld that he thought the question referred only to documents involved in a lawsuit by Rep. Cynthia Browning.

“Well as you know we had a fairly well-publicized court case … where we were asked to divulge all the data, studies and information about every detail that led us to the disappointing conclusions that we came to about public financing,” Shumlin said. “I assumed that his question was simply, are you going to continue to withhold that data? Or are you going to share it?”

It got even worse when Shumlin tried to clarify his position at a news conference yesterday:

“If you listen to the entire question, I answered it very clearly. And what I said was, the question I understood — I had it played back to me, so I think I got it — was, ‘Are you going to release the documents that, frankly, hadn’t been released before?’ You may recall Cynthia Browning requested them and we went to court and the court ruled in our favor. ‘Are you now going to release those documents? The documents that give us the data, all the dates, what you’ve done, all the studies?’ And I said, ‘Of course, we are. We want Vermonters to have that information.’ If you took the question as something else, you should’ve asked it that way. You didn’t.”

The Shummy Shimmy.

It’s one of his worst features: ducking and diving in a transparent effort to avoid admitting he was wrong.

I guess they could still use a Shitkicker-In-Chief.

Here’s a little free advice. Or consider it part of my S-I-C job application. Here’s what he should have said — and it’s not much different from what he did say.

“I apologize for misspeaking on Dec. 17. I should not have promised to release ‘all documents,’ because every administration needs some measure of privacy in its internal policy discussions. Any chief executive would agree with that.

“We have provided as much documentation as we can. The information we have released should be more than adequate to understanding how we arrived at our decision. I hope you, and the people of Vermont, can appreciate our position.”

There. Was that so hard?

The occasional apology would go a long way toward changing Shumlin’s image for the better. The long-term benefit would far outweigh the immediate discomfort.