Tag Archives: Taylor Dobbs

When is a law not a law?

A philosophical question triggered by a specific actuality: a new law intended to inform the public about toxic algae blooms is pretty much a sham.

VPR’s Taylor Dobbs explains how it’s supposed to work:

The new law is know as Act 86, and it requires the Vermont Department of Health to start public outreach within one hour of finding out about a bloom of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria.

Great idea, right?

Here’s the problem: there’s no mechanism to conduct real-time tracking of algae blooms. The Legislature passed a shiny new PR-friendly law — “Look, we’re doing something to ensure your safety!” — but did nothing about turning its good intention into reality. The monitoring effort is entirely in the hands of volunteers, and there’s a huge amount of ground to cover.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Phil Scott Leadership Watch: Presidential mush

Looks like Marco Rubio has belatedly realized his Comic Insult routine was doing him no favors.

JENKS, Okla. — Someone in the rafters shouted: “Donald Trump has small hands!”

“We’re not talking about that today,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in response. “It was fun while it lasted.”

… He still called Trump “a con artist” but there was little talk of the businessman’s small hands, or spray tan, or his large private plane.

Yeah, they had to take the Rubot into the shop for a little reprogramming. Because making jokes about Donald Trump’s spray tan and dick size were making Marco look… eh… just a tad unpresidential.

They were also devastating to Phil Scott’s endorsement of Rubio, which posits the notion that the Florida Senator “can build consensus” and treats “the process with respect” and “has a calming effect.”

Speaking of Phil Scott, he finally issued an official statement about his endorsement. Which, curiously, has not been posted on his website; it was simply sent out to his email list. VPR’s Taylor Dobbs posted it on his Twitter feed; you’ll find it After The Jump.

Continue reading

Feeling a little jet-lagged, Governor?

Okay, look. Personally, I don’t have a big problem with the Vermont Gas pipeline. It would mean Vermont is consuming more natural gas — but we already consume quite a bit, so it’s not like we’d be losing our fracking virginity. (Much of our natural gas consumption is in the form of electricity generated in out-of-state gas-fired plants and purchased on the spot market.)

You ask me, I’d say don’t build it. But Vermont faces far greater environmental challenges, and I’m not sure why the Vermont Gas pipeline became the poster child for activists. If they wanted to have a positive impact on climate change, they’d be better off advocating for renewable energy and lower dependence on out-of-state sources including natural gas, nuclear, and ecologically destructive “industrial” hydropower from Quebec.

That said, Governor Shumlin pulled a substantial boner upon being repeatedly interrupted by anti-pipeline activists at the Paris climate summit.

Continue reading

Cops at the monolith

I have a useful phrase that describes my general approach to new technology: “ape at the monolith.” It refers to the opening scene in “2001: A Space Odyssey” when the apes react to the monolith’s appearance by screaming and throwing stuff. That’s pretty much how I respond to new gadgets and software, except I usually keep the screaming inside my brain.

Well, the Burlington Police Department seems to have the same problem.

VPR’s Taylor Dobbs has a “funny if it wasn’t so sad” report about a shooting incident in September. The incident itself wasn’t funny; a Colchester man was wounded by Burlington police. Today, authorities cleared the officers of any wrongdoing.

From the way the incident was described, it sounds like the right call. But we have to take the officers’ word for it because they turned off their body cameras during the incident, fearing that the cameras’ red lights would compromise their safety.

Trouble is, as Dobbs reports, the users’ manual says the red light can be disabled without turning off the camera.

Continue reading

Our mental health sandcastle, part 2

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

A few months ago I was chatting, off the record, with a former Shumlin administration functionary. The subject turned to post-Irene mental health care, on which I have been very critical of the administration. This person expressed pride in the new Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital, calling it a “showplace” and urging me to take a tour.

And perhaps I will. But here’s the thing.

Building a building is the easy part. You can usually rustle up the necessary funds, with or without auctioning the naming rights. Government money, grant funding, foundation support, private donors — all are attracted to flashy new things.

It’s a lot less flashy to operate the building once the ribbon has been cut. Management, maintenance, operating costs; attracting and maintaining quality staff and motivating them to excel; creating the systems that will ensure performance equal to the bright shiny promise of the new edifice.

Am I talking about the new state psychiatric hospital here? You betcha.

The hospital has never been fully and properly staffed. Hard work and low pay — and a dangerous work environment — have proven to be strong disincentives to recruitment, and VPCH has suffered from a high attrition rate.

I’ve been hearing background chatter about this, but recently we’ve seen two stories documenting VPCH’s troubles.

Continue reading

The gang that couldn’t dig straight

That was quite a heapin’ helpin’ o’ bad news served up by Vermont Gas this morning. It announced yet another big cost increase for Phase 1 of its pipeline project, and asked state regulators to put the case on hold.

Which is, if nothing else, a sign that they realize how bad their situation is. How bad?

Yeeeesh. Company officials insist the pipeline is still economically viable, but it’s a lot less viable than originally thought. That changes the cost/benefit equation — which should include the environmental questions — quite a bit. In other late-breaking realizations…

Mm-hmm, I’ll bet. As I wrote in early September, Vermont Gas has been its own worst enemy, coming across as bullies with landowners, and as questionable managers with state regulators.

Whether its bumblefuckery is enough to shelve the project remains to be seen. Today’s announcement is the beginning of a new phase in the history of this proposal. Up till now, the economic arguments in favor of the pipeline had been strong enough to overcome resistance from the environmental community and a small number of landowners.

Those arguments are a lot less strong today. Vermont Gas has given the state a big fat excuse to kill the project — at a time when Governor Shumlin (to be entirely political about it) desperately needs a high-profile issue on which he can pander to the left. Well, if he wants one, he’s got one.

Update. The Governor has released a statement, and yes, he sees an open door in front of him.

Although I am pleased that the new leadership at Vermont Gas is taking the time to reevaluate the proposed projects, this further cost increase is very troubling. In the coming weeks my administration will be evaluating all of this new information and looking at these projects as a whole to ensure that they remain in the best interest of Vermont. Meanwhile, I expect Vermont Gas to also reevaluate its communications and negotiations with affected landowners to help improve relations. I trust those steps will continue.