Opinion

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Opinion
Walters: Conservative Operative Wins Influential Post in Scott Administration

Posted By on Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 12:21 PM

Tayt Brooks’ biography on American Majority’s website - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Tayt Brooks’ biography on American Majority’s website
When governor-elect Phil Scott announced five new hires on Tuesday, most of the attention focused on Al Gobeille and Susanne Young, his first two cabinet nominees.

But the last of the five names should not be overlooked: Tayt Brooks will take a newly fashioned position on the fifth floor of the Pavilion Building. The hire is notable both for the job itself and its future occupant.

His title will be “director of affordability and economic growth initiatives.” Those were the cornerstones of Scott’s gubernatorial campaign — and remain his oft-repeated top priorities.

Brooks will be Scott’s point man on both. In an interview Wednesday, Jason Gibbs, the governor-elect’s choice for chief of staff, tried to downplay Brooks’ role as “a nuts-and-bolts job.” But those are the very nuts and bolts that hold the entire vehicle together.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Opinion
Walters: Down the Center Lane With Phil Scott

Posted By on Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 8:58 PM

Governor-elect Phil Scott at Barre’s Thunder Road SpeedBowl - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • Governor-elect Phil Scott at Barre’s Thunder Road SpeedBowl
Editor’s note: John Walters, Seven Days’ next political columnist, will take over “Fair Game” in January.

Even as governor-elect Phil Scott appears to lean right in his early choices for top administration posts, he hewed a cautious, centrist line Tuesday morning in an interview with Seven Days.

“I believe that there are many coalitions,” the Republican lieutenant governor said, referring specifically to the housing policy arena. “I seek to find areas where we can agree. And if we all have the goal of more housing — more affordable housing — then how we get there is going to be the challenge.”

Indeed. Scott brought up the issue of affordable housing unbidden, after discussing the overarching theme of his pending administration: affordability and economic opportunity. He was clear in making the issue a priority but noncommittal about how he would address it. Government grants, tax incentives, guided zoning, easing the permitting process?

“It’s probably a combination of all of the above,” he declared.

As Scott continued to speak, that issue of permit reform quickly returned to center stage. “Why is it that it takes so long to get a permit through the process, even for those who are trying to do good?” he asked, before descending into rhetorical swampland:

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Morning Read: Protesters Rip Up 9/11 Memorial Flags at Middlebury College

Posted By on Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 10:55 AM

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Middlebury College students marked the 12th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks yesterday with a display of 2,977 miniature American flags in front of Mead Chapel. The memorial, organized by the school's College Republicans and College Democrats groups, has happened every 9/11 for nearly 10 years, according to the Middlebury Campus.

This year, though, things went awry.

The Campus reported that five people ripped the flags out of the ground and tossed them into trash bags because they were planted on sacred Abenaki ground.

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Forbes Calls Vermonters "Stupid" For Closing Vermont Yankee

Posted By on Tue, Sep 3, 2013 at 9:54 AM

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This week's winner of the "Ignoranus Award" — what the Washington Post Style Invitational once defined as "someone who is both stupid and an asshole" — goes to James Conca for his Sept. 1, 2013 Forbes piece titled, "Who Told Vermont To Be Stupid?" In it, Conca writes that:

"The Great State of Vermont threw away cheap clean energy this week out of ignorance and fear. Vermont chose to be stupid, and will hurt the environment as a sidebar."

After paying lip service to the "official reasons" Entergy cited for closing the 41-year-old plant, Conga declared that "we all know the real reason. Nasty politics and ignorance. The latter is forgivable and rectifiable with a little homework. The former is not."

Ugh. There's nothing more infuriating than someone smugly calling you stupid and lazy for not doing your homework — who was too lazy to do his own. Here are some quotes from the author who claims to "cover the underlying drivers of energy, technology and society." It appears he could use some extra time in study hall: 

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Opinion: More Press Sensationalism, Popular Hysteria and Counterproductive Policy in the Case of Sex Offender Timothy Szad

Posted on Sun, Aug 11, 2013 at 8:11 PM

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Ed. note: Poli Psy columnist Judith Levine wrote this post.

“Vermont on edge as officials warn boys aged 12-13 to be on alert as pedophile rapist is getting out of jail on Friday.” That’s the headline in ... the UK’s Daily Mail 

The release of Timothy Szad — convicted in 2000 of snatching, handcuffing and sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy — is apparently world news. 

It’s also the usual story of press sensationalism, popular hysteria and counterproductive policy.

On July 15, the police announced that Szad would be released on July 26 from the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vt., after serving his maximum sentence. The notification said Szad completed sex-offender treatment in prison but warned that he is at high risk for committing another crime.

This risk assessment is based on a formula assigning points based on the offender’s age, social and criminal history, the victim’s sex and other factors.

On July 16, WCAX reported that Springfield, where Szad was to live with his parents, was “on alert.”

July 17 the Eagle Times of Claremont, N.H., posted Szad’s physical characteristics. Cafemom.com, a national forum, warned mothers of Szad’s release.

Every news item basically said: Lock up your blond, blue-eyed 12- and 13-year-old boys. They all drew similar comments: “sickening,” “scary,” “They should all be castrated.”

After Fox44 television posted Szad’s sex-offender registry listing on Facebook, someone put up a photo of a truck emblazoned with a decal reading “Save a Deer. Hunt a Pedophile.”

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Will a Prog Run for Gov? Nope.

Posted By on Thu, Aug 8, 2013 at 12:21 PM

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"Should Progs challenge Shumlin in '14?"

That's the question Burlington Free Press reporter Terri Hallenbeck put to Vermont Progressive Party leaders in Tuesday's paper. The occasion for the query was the Progs' upcoming state committee meeting (at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Bethel Town Hall), which will feature an hourlong strategy session focusing, in part, on whether to run a candidate against Gov. Peter Shumlin, a second-term Democrat.

So should they? Maybe. But will they? I highly doubt it. Here are two reasons why:

Reason 1: For a bunch of lefties, Prog Party leaders have become mighty pragmatic.

Since 2008, when Progressive activist Anthony Pollina and Democratic House Speaker Gaye Symington split the left-of-center vote and handed Republican governor Jim Douglas a fourth term, the two parties have avoided statewide confrontations. In 2010 and 2012, the Progs flirted with a guber run, but backed out both times, preferring to focus on building their ranks in the legislature.

That strategy has mostly worked. 

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Former Presidential Candidate Spends Big on Full-Page — and Kooky — Ads

Posted By on Fri, Jun 28, 2013 at 5:56 PM

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Readers of the Burlington Free Press opened their papers today to find a head-scratcher of an ad at the center of the A section.

Across the "double truck" centerfold is a slightly incoherent advertisement by John D. Haywood, the former presidential candidate who sued student journalists at St. Michael's College for libel — and $51 million — claiming their article about him for a class project cost Haywood the 2012 New Hampshire primary.

The Democratic primary. The one with Barack Obama in it. In which Haywood lost to the prez by a margin of 115 to 1.

Haywood's ad quotes a Freeps article about his libel lawsuit getting tossed by U.S. Magistrate Judge John S. Conroy, then asks, "Is my lawsuit a product of pettiness and sour grapes as found by Magistrate Judge Conroy? With all briefs now on file, that very question is soon to be decided by the Judges of the Court of Appeals. Vermonters must keep an open mind, as only enactment of a National Health Service will terminate the greatest financial crime ever perpetrated against the American people —"

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Friday, February 22, 2013

The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2013 at 4:00 AM

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Paul Heintz is on a well-deserved vacation at an undisclosed location (OK, it's Dominica), so I'll be your Scoreboard host today. Without further ado, we present The Scoredboard for the week of Friday, February 22:

Winners:

The Air Guard — Brig. Gen. Steven Cray's election as adjutant general puts a fighter pilot in the Vermont National Guard's proverbial cockpit. Just watch out for those F-35 helmets!

Lawmakers who want to support gun control but worry it'll cost them — Castleton's new poll should give some cover to legislators on the fence about high-capacity ammo, background checks and other gun-control measures. Runner-up winner: Jon Margolis and Vermont Public Television for scooping (with permission) Castleton's own poll results.

Six-figure salaries — Jane Knodell is earning a hefty paycheck while on leave from UVM. But it's proving a liability in her run for city council.  

Mike Kilian — The Freeps' associate editor was promoted up the Gannett corporate ladder this week when he was appointed executive editor of the Daily Times (and eight weeklies) in Salisbury, Md. Warning to Maryland record keepers: Prepare to disclose!

Gnar shredders — Jay Peak and the NEK got a two-foot dump. So why am I still sitting here at my desk?

Paul Heintz — For taking a sweet vacation in an undisclosed (but presumably sunny) location. Runner-up loser: Andy Bromage, for getting left behind to blog in his stead.

More losers after the break...

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

New Feature: Kill This Bill!

Posted By on Thu, Feb 14, 2013 at 2:17 PM

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This just in: Lawmakers in Montpelier are churning out bills like mad. And some of them are just plain goofy. To that end, we're introducing a new feature for Off Message: Kill This Bill! A look at the worst, weirdest, silliest and biggest-waste-of-time proposals to emerge from under the Golden Dome.

To date, House lawmakers have introduced 280 pieces of legislation, while their Senate counterparts have offered 112 bills. Most of those will never even get a hearing, much less become law. Hell, some don't even originate with the lawmakers who put their names on them — it's routine for legislators to file bills at the request of constituents back home.

But that doesn't mean lawmakers won't spend precious time considering this stuff. Exhibit A: Tomorrow afternoon, the House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee is set to tackle the pressing matter of what should be the state dog. For reals. Rep. Warren Kitzmiller (D-Montpelier) and many others are sponsoring H.171, "An act relating to recognizing as the state dog any adopted dog."

To which we say, kill this bill!

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What's Shummy up to With His $17 Million Switcheroo?

Posted By on Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 9:31 AM

If there's one thing to know about Gov. Peter Shumlin's legislative chops, it's this: When you're playing checkers, he's playing chess. And he's probably just a few moves shy of taking your king.

Which makes it hard to imagine the governor didn't anticipate the tripartisan shit-storm kicked up by his proposal to fund child care subsidies for low-income Vermonters by cutting a popular tax credit used by other low-income Vermonters.

The $17 million switcheroo has been panned by Republicans, Progressives and even Shumlin's fellow Democrats, who have variously called it "half-baked," "a tough sell," "worse than a broad-based tax," and a case of "balancing the state budget on the backs of some of Vermont's poorest citizens."

The debate is still young, of course. Shumlin only announced his plan last Thursday during his inaugural address and likely won't reveal many of its details until next week's budget address. Who knows? Maybe it'll catch fire once we know more about it.

That said, it's never too early to get all cynical and suspicious-like. Does Shummy have some ulterior motive in putting forward a plan that would surely rile up Montpelier's chattering class? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, we here at Off Message are happy to provide... (drum roll please)...

The Cynic's Guide to Shumlin Conspiracy Theories:

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