Tag Archives: Phil Scott

This Is Your Vermont Republican Party

Christopher-Aaron Felker, spectacularly unsuccessful Burlington City Council candidate and chair of the burning wreck of the city Republican committee, caused quite the stir Monday on the Twitter machine. He tagged the “groomer” label on Democratic and Progressive lawmakers who’ve sponsored a bill to allow minors to seek gender-affirming treatment without parental consent.

There’s hardly a more despicable word you could use to tar a political opponent. You’re basically calling them pedophiles.

It’s beyond the pale. It ought to make Felker persona non grata in polite circles. And in the Republican Party as well.

But it won’t.

It won’t because, Phil Scott notwithstanding, This Is Your Vermont Republican Party. The governor isn’t merely an outlier in his own party; he’s the lone inhabitant on an island that’s slowly sinking under the waves.

Felker took it beyond the pale, but the illustration and the talking point came straight from the VTGOP. Its chair, Paul Dame, might be a bit more restrained than Felker, but he’s operating out of the same defamatory playbook, fearmongering a bill that’s already dead for the session.

So why should we expect the party to punish Felker over one simple additional word?

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Guy’s Gotcha Games

The face Phil Scott makes while listening to Guy Page

One of the minor intrigues around Gov. Phil Scott’s weekly press conferences is “What will Guy Page come up with next?” Page, the sole proprietor of the Vermont Daily Corpuscle (I think I got that right), usually comes out of right field with something straight out of the conservamedia talking point factory. Scott then answers it with his customary studied earnestness.

We got a priceless example yesterday. After asking a bloody-shirt question about an alleged crime wave of drug cartels robbing legal cannabis dispensaries, Page pivoted to the existential:

Governor, you’re the chief executive of an enterprise that includes the Vermont Commission on Women and other groups designed to benefit women. How would you answer the question, “What is a woman?”

The question came straight from Republicans in the U.S. Senate playing “gotcha” with Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Scott smirked, and then proceeded to fumble his answer. I’d run the full transcript here, but it’d be hazardous to your eyesight like staring directly into the sun. The “high points” of Scott’s meander were “I haven’t contemplated an answer to that,” “I just assume that [Commissioners] refer to them as, uh, as ‘her,’ ‘she,’ or ‘her,'” and “I haven’t heard any outcry from the Commission or a Commissioner or that, um, that, uh, entity.” Sheesh.

Oh, for the moral clarity of a straightforward “Gender is a complicated thing. You can’t boil it down to a single factor.”

Scott could have also turned the table on Page. Probably would have been effective, because it turns out that conservatives can’t answer the question either.

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Why I’m Not Doing the Thing I’m Not Doing

I’ve been doing something different this year. Or should I say not doing something. For the first time since probably 2016, I’ve paid very little attention to the modern version of the building pictured above.

The Statehouse.

The center of all things political, right?

Well, no, not really.

I began the 2022 session pursuing my old habits: Checking the weekly committee schedule to see which hearings I might want to audit. I made a list each week.

And then I ignored the list. After the first few weeks, I stopped bothering.

And I have to tell you, I think it’s improved my work as a political analyst. It’s given me a broader view, a much better perspective on the Vermont political scene.

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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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Tired Republican Talking Point is News, According to VPR

This week, Vermont’s Public Broadcasting ConglomerateTM has been releasing Part 2 of its (obligatory full name here) VPR – Vermont PBS 2022 Poll. And today’s story about one result is a study in journalistic imbalance.

The article is about the above question: Would you recommend that a young person stay in Vermont or leave?

The total result goes right down the middle: A bit more “leave” than “stay” with a sizable tranche “not sure.” Within that, however, Republicans were far less sanguine on Vermont as land of opportunity. A full 63% of Republicans said “leave.” Among independents, that number was 32%, and for Democrats it was 43%.

That’s perfectly fine fodder for a think piece. But the story that came out of the VPBCTM sausage factory was basically PR for a tired Republican talking point. A talking point that’s been repeated so often, for so long, that it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Racine Mulls Run for Governor

Doug Racine, the former lieutenant governor, state senator and Human Services secretary, is considering a third run for the state’s top job. Racine had been considering a candidacy for lieutenant governor, but that field has gotten crowded. He told methat as he was gauging potential support for an LG run, he was encouraged to set his sights higher.

His willingness to run, he said, depends on assurances that he’d have the necessary support from state and federal Democratic donors and organizations. “The question is, is it a viable race or not?” Racine said. “The answer depends on the level of support.” He said he’s getting “a lot of enthusiasm” for his potential candidacy, but “that doesn’t pay the bills.” Especially since, he pointed out, the Republican Governors Association has spent millions on behalf of Gov. Phil Scott in 2016 and 2018.

Although, he said, there’s bit of uncertainty on that front. “I don’t know if Trump would let them” spend on Scott’s behalf, Racine said. “Phil is not the most popular guy in Republican circles.”

“Others who have explored a run for governor have something to lose,” he noted. “I’m retired. It’s not like I’d have to leave my job.” That’s a very real consideration for many — especially since a race against Scott is a risky endeavor.

The 69-year-old Racine was the Democratic candidate for governor in 2002; he lost narrowly in a three-way race with Republican Jim Douglas and independent Con Hogan. He sought the party’s nomination again in 2010, but lost a squeaker of a five-way primary to eventual governor Peter Shumlin, whose margin of victory was a mere 197 votes. He was Shumlin’s human services secretary from 2011 to 2014.

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Can We Get Some Transportation Imagination Up In Here?

This, friends and neighbors, is a typical streetscape in Amsterdam. Note the balanced, complete integration of auto, pedestrian, bicycle and public transit.

Meanwhile, here in America, the best we can do is staple bikeways and walkways onto existing streets and roads in ways that put non-motorists in danger and force our buses to fight their way through traffic. And I fear that our coming investments in infrastructure and greenhouse gas reduction will do little to change this dysfunctional reality.

Funny thing. The Netherlands is a far better place to drive than any American city. In fact, it’s been rated the best country in the world to drive in. It’s faster for motorists in spite of the relatively narrow roadways, and it’s a damn sight safer.

And before you can say “Oh, well, the Dutch have always been weird,” their towns and cities used to be car-centric until fairly recently. And they were loud and crowded and difficult to get around in, just like their American counterparts. But the Dutch made a concerted effort to define “transportation” as it should be defined: “getting the most people from one place to another as quickly as possible.” And that doesn’t mean more and wider roads, because more and wider roads actually slow things down.

Vermont’s Climate Action Plan includes a lot of pretty noises about equity, creativity, and alternative modes of transportation. Sounds nice, but Gov. Phil Scott’s plan focuses almost entirely on electric vehicle subsidies and infrastructure. That would mitigate our climate footprint, but it would do nothing to make our transportation system better, safer or more equitable. Right now we have a flood of federal Covid cash to invest; if we adopt Scott’s plan, we will squander this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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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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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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