Tag Archives: Rutland

Falafel Waffle: Compassion without substance

Unfortunately for Phil Scott, Wednesday night’s gubernatorial debate in Rutland happened a mere few hours after federal officials had approved the settlement of Syrian refugees in that city.

I say “unfortunately” because that brought the refugee question front and center, and Scott did nothing to distinguish himself as a leader. In fact, he did quite the opposite: he took both sides on the question. In the process, he gave substantial deference to the opponents of the plan while undercutting its advocates. Many a dog whistle was blown.

His non-answer has been widely reported in the media, but I went back to the video and transcribed the whole thing. It’s worse than I thought.

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It’s summertime, and racism is bustin’ out all over

Perhaps in honor of our nation’s birthday, there’s quite a bit of sobering news for those who believe that Vermont is above all this racism stuff because, well, we’re Vermont!

Actually, I’d compare us to Scandinavian countries before the first waves of darker-skinned immigrants. They didn’t have racism because there wasn’t any reason for it to spring forth. But you add in some brown people — or even the idea of adding in some brown people — and boy howdy, turns out your attic is full of spiders.

We have, of course, the ongoing disgrace in Rutland, where opponents of setting 100 Syrian refugees might go so far as to eject the best damn mayor their city has ever had. And don’t try to sell me that the anti-refugee contingent are upset over process. That’s an excuse. No, they’re afraid of dark-skinned people wearing heebie-jabbies.

Exhibits B and C are separate reports detailing “stark racial disparities in Vermont policing and incarceration,” per VTDigger; Exhibit D is a series of truly disturbing incidents of racism in, of all places, Craftsbury — the summer home of Bill “Spaceman” Lee and an epicenter of Northeast Kingdom counterculture.

And the cherry on top of this shit sundae: Governor Shumlin urging federal authorities not to harass or “hassle” members of the Rainbow Family Gathering. I wonder if he’d express the same sentiment if it was, say, a Hip-Hop Nation event at Mount Tabor.

Call me cynical, but I doubt it.

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A little fearmongering from VT Watchdog

Scary headline earlier today:

More than one-third of refugees in Vermont test positive for tuberculosis

Immigrant Resettlement Program. )Not exactly as illustrated)

Refugee Resettlement Program. (Not exactly as illustrated)

That story comes to us courtesy of Vermont Watchdog, a conservative “news” site. But before you go investing your 401K in surgical mask manufacturers, there’s more you need to know.

The story is based entirely on a single fact: Of the 901 refugees admitted to Vermont since 2013, 318 tested positive for TB.

Those numbers were provided to Watchdog by the state Health Department. Scary, right? Aliens among us are bearing potentially fatal diseases, right? Rutland had better pull the plug on that Syrian refugee plan, lest it be overrun by plague-infested furriners, right?

Ehh, not so much.

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Lawmakers Lament Lost Opportunity to Grandstand

Full marks to Rutland Mayor Chris Louras for rolling out the welcome mat to 100 Syrian refugees — and for stoutly defending the decision against the inevitable backlash.

He drew the connection to America’s tradition of welcoming immigrants of all kinds — and he pointed out that immigrants, by and large, are a strong economic plus for struggling cities.

“Their arrival will signal a new wave in the ongoing economic growth of the region,” Louras added. “As our forefathers’ arrival added to the rich cultural melting pot of Rutland County, our newest residents will enrich and expand the tapestry we cherish today.”

Plus, Rutland will probably get some authentic Middle Eastern food out of the deal.

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At the very least, the Mitchells owe us some answers

Your Publisher's mugshot.

Your Publisher’s mugshot.

Hey, remember when Catherine Nelson was arrested for re-enacting that A-ha video with her car and various downtown Rutland fixtures? Two days before her promotion to Publisher of the Rutland Herald and Times Argus?

And remember outgoing publisher John Mitchell’s inadequate explanation of the whole thing?

Well, this week it got worse. She pleaded “no contest” to charges stemming from that incident. And in the process, we learned something strange and troubling about her taste in drinking buddies. Paul Heintz:

Nelson finally admitted that she had been drinking with a man named Henry Hance, a habitual offender who, according to the Herald, has been convicted of more than a dozen DUI and drug charges, along with assault, arson and grand larceny. An hour and a half after her own DUI, Nelson blew twice the legal limit.

I’m sure those who follow the news in Rutland are painfully aware of Mr. Hance. RutVegas is full of, shall we say, colorful types; but Hance has got to be in the Top Ten. His record of violent, criminal, drug-dealing behavior covers his entire adult life.

So why the freakin’ hell is the new Publisher of the Rutland newspaper — one of the city’s most prominent citizens — hanging around with one of the city’s worst citizens?

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Five thousand Syrians

Full marks to Governor Shumlin for refusing to succumb to the hysteria gripping so many of his fellows, and keeping the light on for Syrian refugees in Vermont.

“The refugees from Syria are no different than the refugees from anywhere else in the world,” Shumlin told reporters. “I would encourage us to do what Vermont has always done … It’s the spirit of all Vermonters to ensure that when you have folks who are drowning, who are dying in pursuit of freedom, that Vermont does its part.”

At last count, 16 governors had said they would refuse to accept refugees from Syria. Including, shamefully, New Hampshire Democrat Maggie Hassan.

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A very coordinated campaign

The Vermont Democrats know what they’re doing.

Well, that’s not news. But when you look closely at scheduled activities for the last full week before Election Day, you realize how narrowly they’re targeting a handful of key races. And using their big guns to do so.

Is Bernie standing on a box?

Is Bernie standing on a box?

First, there was the weekend-long victory tour, headlined by Gov. Shumlin and Sen. Bernie Sanders, and also featuring Dean Corren. They stopped in Bristol, Proctor, Hinesburg, and St.Albans. Which, at first glance, might make you wonder why not Montpelier or Burlington.

Well, because they don’t need the votes there.

Bristol is the home district of two powerful state representatives: David Sharpe, ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, and Mike Fisher, chair of the Health Care Committee, which is kind of important to the Governor’s single-payer agenda. Sharpe and Fisher face a well-funded Republican with a very familiar name: Valerie Mullin.

I don’t know if she’s related to Sen. Kevin Mullin, but a popular name is a significant advantage for a political newbie. And the Republicans are hoping she can knock out Fisher or Sharpe.

Then comes Proctor, in Rutland County — one of the key State Senate battlegrounds. Republicans are hoping that Brian Collamore can knock off appointed incumbent Eldred French and give the GOP all three Rutland County Senate seats. Democrats are hoping they can save French and get William Tracy Carris into the Senate. Or at least hold onto a seat, preventing a Republican pickup.

The third stop was in Hinesburg, which doesn’t seem like a terribly high priority. The town’s two House seats are safely Democratic. Hinesburg is part of the Chittenden County district in the Senate, with five Democratic incumbents and one Republican. The 5-1 split is likely to remain intact, although Democrat Dawn Ellis has run a spirited campaign, and Republican Joy Limoge has raised quite a bit of money. I don’t think the Dems are too worried about Limoge, but maybe they see an opening to knock off Republican Diane Snelling. Or maybe they just wanted to hold one rally within easy driving distance of the Burlington-based TV stations.

The final rally was in St. Albans, perhaps the most hotly contested community in all of Vermont. There are two Democratic incumbents in the House, Kathie Keenan and Mike McCarthy. The Republicans hope to win at least one of the seats.

And, of course, St. Albans is the population center of the Franklin County contest for two Senate seats, currently split between the parties. Republicans hope to grab both seats in November, while the Dems want to hold their ground or possibly even take both.

The point about Democratic targeting is reinforced by Gov. Shumlin’s schedule for this week. He walked in the Rutland Halloween parade Saturday night; on Monday he’s holding a press conference in Rutland and speaking to the local Rotary Club. And on Thursday, he’s holding a press conference in St. Albans.

Near the end of the week, he’s giving a pair of high-profile speeches in Burlington that should draw TV coverage: the annual meeting of the Vermont Economic Development Agency on Friday, and a fundraiser for Vermont Parks Forever on Saturday.

The Republicans, by contrast, seem to be completely uncoordinated. Not that they have anyone with the drawing power of Shumlin or (especially) Sanders; the closest thing they have to a political celebrity is Phil Scott. Not really in the same league, especially as an inspirational speaker.

And I haven’t seen any signs of any real coordination among Republicans. You’d think that Phil Scott, as the party’s top officeholder and most popular active figure, AND as the guy who wants to make the party more inclusive, would be actively engaged in some party-building and promotion of legislative candidates.

Maybe he has been; if so, it hasn’t exactly been high profile.

In any case, the main point is this: the Democrats are doing exactly what they should be doing in the final days of the campaign.