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Bikers Rule! 

Inside Track

Howard Dean, in sweat-soaked shirt and shorts, was the star Sunday-morning attraction as the $3.5 million triple-spanned bridge and causeway across the mouth of the mighty Winooski River officially opened. It was a wee bit of a ride down memory lane, too.

The dream of a bikepath along Burlington's lakeshore, a bikepath that would one day connect to Colchester, Grand Isle and Mont-real, first surfaced almost 25 years ago with the formation of a tiny do-gooder group called the Citizens' Waterfront Group.

A young doctor who had recently completed his residency at the Mary Fletcher Hospital teamed up with a young lawyer who had be-gun practicing in the Queen City.

Dr. Dean has since gone on to become an American household word, while Rick Sharp has faded from the spotlight.

Few people still remember Sharp's role. In fact, his name was glaringly absent from Sunday's program.

Mr. Sharp was in the big crowd, though, and Ho-Ho graciously gave credit where credit was due.

"This would not have happened without Rick Sharp," said Gov. Dean, pointing out Rick in the crowd for a generous round of applause.

"I was the doctor, but he was the lawyer," said Dean. "He could figure out how to make all this stuff work."

Dean also highlighted the contributions of his former secretary of transportation, Brian Searles, and State Sen. Dick Mazza of Colchester, the longtime powerful chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Ho-Ho called Mazza "my best friend in the Senate for the entire time I served."

Our once-favorite presidential hopeful also recalled a lesson he learned years ago from North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt.

"Jim Hunt once told me," said Dean, "that 90 percent of what we do is urgent. The other 10 percent is important."

"This is important," said Ho-Ho, "because it will last long, long after people have no idea who put this together. They will be incredibly grateful," he predicted, "that we were willing to go to the mat and spend $3.5 million -- less than one-tenth of 1 percent of our budget -- to make sure this happened. I am so grateful to the people of the state of Vermont who were willing to push this through!"

One unheralded hero of the bike-bridge project was unable to attend, but was fondly remembered nonetheless. Former Colchester Selectboard Chairman Bill Macleay was out for a bike ride along Colchester's Lakeshore Drive one Sunday morning two years ago this month when he was struck and killed by a drunk driver with her small kids in the back seat.

The current Selectboard chair, Dick Paquette of Shadow Cross Farms fame, told the crowd, "Bill Macleay would have been so pleased to see this. It was one of his top priorities."

Local Motion Director Chapin Spencer echoed the Egg Man's tribute to MacLeay. "Bill was a tireless advocate for this project," said Spencer. A memorial bench in MacLeay's honor, he noted, has been installed on the Colchester side of the bridge.

Ah, sometimes life's not fair, is it?

If anything, the grand opening of the beautiful bridge and causeway is proof that good things take time. Persistence is the key.

Dick the Egg Man waxed philosophically: "This was not an easy project to move forward. However, nothing that is worthwhile is easy to accomplish."

Amen.

P.S. Gov. Jim Douglas brought his own bicycle from Middlebury and pedaled the last two miles north from Leddy Park. Hey, we're in the middle of a campaign, folks.

Unfortunately for Gov. Scissorhands, we didn't see his bicycling butt on TV.

Same with Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle, his Democratic opponent.

In fact, get this -- Clavelle and Douglas were dressed like twins! Each was attired in a green knit shirt with tan pants. Must be the Vermont gubernatorial look, eh?

The duo also appeared to be following one unwritten political rule: Male candidates should not bare their knees.

Former Gov. Dean, however, is not running for anything at the moment. He wore shorts, as he and his beloved wife, Dr. Judy Dean, pedaled the entire 6.5 miles up the bikepath from their South Cove hacienda. Unlike the candidates, however, Ho-Ho and Judy walk on the wild side -- they rode without bike helmets, the wind in their hair!

Biker Jim? -- Our governor has spent his entire adult life in politics and, believe me, it shows. On Friday, two days before the big Bike Bridge ribbon-cutting, Gov. Douglas issued a press release: "Governor Announces $2 Million Available for Bicycle and Pedes-trian Projects."

It took a few people by surprise, including members of the State Senate and state bicycle path advocates.

That's because, since taking office, Douglas has not exactly championed the pedal projects. In fact, Gov. Douglas was so miffed at his predecessor's spending on two-wheeled travel routes while letting the potholes grow, the new governor quickly instituted a moratorium on bicycle projects last year.

"This now apparently lifts the moratorium," said one surprised bicycle advocate.

However, Circ Highway Jim finally may not have had a genuine conversion. Seven Days has learned Douglas is doing no more than what the legislature passed -- over his objections!

Under the golden dome, bikepaths have no better friend than the Senate Transpor-tation Committee chaired by Sen. Dick Mazza.

Mazza told Seven Days he and Sen. Phil Scott, the Republican race car driver, were both surprised by the governor's $2 million announcement last week. Despite the Douglas administration opposition and that of the GOP-controlled House, said Mazza, they had been able to slip only about $90,000 into the budget this year to keep the bikepath program barely alive and eligible for federal funds in the future.

The $2 million Douglas is talking about, said Mazza, is money that will hopefully be appropriated over the next three to five years no matter who is governor.

Nonetheless, Gov. Scissorhands gets high marks for timing and spin. Balls, too. That's what it takes to take credit for the the accomplishments of your opponents. You'll know the race is getting close when Jimbo starts taking credit for the medical marijuana legislation he stubbornly let become law without his John Hancock attached.

And in the last six weeks we've seen a whole lot more of Gov. Jim Douglas on the streets of Burington than the Burlington mayor he's running against.

GOP's Short Bench -- The Vermont Republican Party came up short filling the six-seat ticket for Chittenden County State Senate. With the dust settled, it looks like the GOP has only been able to fill four seats, including, of course, their sure thing: State Sen. Diane Snelling of Hinesburg.

Joining Princess Di on the Republican ballot are Kate Purcell of South Burlington, Michael Quaid of Williston and former State Sen. Dennis Delaney of Charlotte.

Over on the Democrat side, it turns out former State Rep. Sally Fox changed her mind at the last minute. The Essex Fox had put out a press release in late June announcing her intended State Senate bid. But she mysteriously failed to file nominating petitions by the deadline.

Fox could not be reached for comment.

Her absence leaves her party with a full slate of six candidates and no need for a primary battle. Currently, Democrats hold five of six Chitten-den County seats in the State Senate.

The comeback campaign of Delaney, a cancer survivor, is a wild card. Dennis looks to be the only R who could upset the apple cart.

Statewide, the Republican Party of Vermont is looking like it's hanging by a thread. Fortunately, the thread is called Gov. Jim Douglas and Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, and it's a stronger thread than some would like to think.

The GOP was unable to field candidates for state treasurer or secretary of state. Outside of Gov. Scissorhands and Doobie-Doobie-Doo, the only Republican statewide candidate with an outside shot is Randy Brock. Brock is challenging Chainsaw Liz Ready for state auditor, but so far he appears to be interested only in slinging very old mud at Queen Elizabeth.

The Favorites! -- As for GOP incumbents Douglas and Dubie, both have to be considered favorites for reelection despite Vermont's left-wing liberal image.

That's because both work hard at projecting moderate, middle-of-the-road images. Seasoned insiders we've chatted up in the last few days are united in their belief, regardless of their political affiliation, that Douglas and Dubie will win a second term.

The expectation is that our governor will win reelection with about 53 percent of the vote. It's the middle that will decide.

By the way, expect a "Democrats for Douglas" media event shortly. The usual business types and utility execs. Looks like Scissorhands is holding on to what we used to call the "Howard Dean Democrats."

In the Lite-Gov race, the expectation is that the publicly funded campaign of Progressive Steve Hingtgen will be able to do enough damage to whichever Democrat wins the September primary -- Jan Backus or Cheryl Rivers -- to ensure Dubie's second ride into victory lane.

At least, that's what several respected insiders are convinced of.

Yours truly isn't ready to sign on just yet.

What fun would that be? Ice hockey training camps haven't even opened yet. The leaves haven't begun to turn.

Give me a break!

Political Spellcheck -- English majors, sit up. Certainly you've heard of the "Vowel Theory of Vermont politics." Or rather "The Curse of the Hanging Vowel?"

Unlike Gov. Douglas, Peter Clavelle's name obviously ends in a vowel. Did you realize that Vermont has not elected a governor whose named ended in a vowel since Carroll S. Page was elected in 1892?

Been a while, eh?

However, sauce for the goose can be sauce for the gander.

Take Republican Brian Dubie, our favorite American Airlines pilot. If a last name ending in a vowel is truly a political curse, Doobie-Doo will never succeed Douglas as governor.

Brian is the fifth Lite-Gov in the last century with a vowel on the end of his name. His predecessor, Democrat Doug Racine, shares in and actually proves the validity of the Vowel Theory.

When Racine finally ran for governor in 2002, he ran smack up against the the Curse. We all know what happened, eh?

We're not saying it cannot be done, but any Ph.D. will tell you that if Burlington's Mayor Clavelle wants to be Vermont's Gov. Clavelle, he going to have to break the Curse of the Hanging Vowel.

Or else, he's going to have to buy a consonant.

Gov. Peter Claveller?

Or, even better, buy three consonants: Gov. Peter Roclaveller?

A lot of Republicans aren't that bright, you know.

The Opposition -- There are early signs that Democrat Peter Clavelle's gubernatorial opposition may also include a TV station.

Coverage of Candidate Moonie's recent press conference was eye-opening.

Clavelle's point that day was that Jim Douglas has failed to lead on health care and is in bed with President George W. Bush as Bush's "cheerleader-in-chief" in the Green Mountains (though Douglas only utters the President's name behind closed doors these days.).

And though he mentioned Bush by name more than 20 times in his opening statement and during the question period, the name of "George W. Bush" never made WGOP, er, sorry, WCAX's report that evening.

By contrast, the Rutland Herald even ran a second-day story focusing exclusively on Clavelle's George W. Bush strategy.

In fact, most of the Ch. 3 report was Douglas administration Secretary Mike Smith's rebuttal of Clavelle's attack. WCAX political reporter Anson Tebbetts identified Mr. Smith as a "spokesman for the the Douglas campaign and the administration."

Really?

Quick, what's that FBI phone number?

If it were true that Smith is double-dipping as administration secretary and Douglas campaign spokes-man, Smith is in deep doo-doo.

Mr. Mike, you see, is on the taxpayers' payroll, not that of the Douglas campaign. Perhaps Ch. 3 can't tell the difference?

Secretary Smith corrected the record this week, telling Seven Days, "I speak on funding issues for the administration. I am not a spokesman for the campaign."

Hope someone tells WCAX News.

In addition, Ch. 3 resisted identifying Clavelle on-screen as a Democrat. This despite the fact that he sought and won the Democratic Party nomination for Burlington mayor in December 2002. He also was listed on the ballot as a Prog. Upon winning, WCAX kept identifying him as only a "P."

Clavelle complained, we're told by City Hall sources, to News Director Marselis Parsons. Marsillyiss, sources say, insisted that Clavelle show more proof of his Democratic Party affiliation, such as contributions and support for Democrat causes and candidates.

It wasn't until six months later, in October, that Ch. 3 began letting viewers know that the Democratic Mayor of Burlington was in fact a Democrat. They began identifying Clavelle on-screen as a "P/D."

You'd almost think he was bisexual or something.

However, when the TV news story is about Clavelle the Democratic Party candidate for governor of Vermont, Ch. 3 only uses the "D."

Of course, one of the key strategies of the Douglas campaign is to ignore Clavelle's Democratic Creden-tials and forever label him "Progres-sive Pete."

We'd suggest that Clavelle's earliest act of Democratic affiliation occurred back in June 2002, when he loudly and publicly endorsed Democrat Doug Racine for governor. At the time, the Progressive Mayor was sending a clear signal to Progressive Anthony Pollina that another gubernatorial run by Tony the Prog was not a good idea.

It certainly appeared Tony got the message and stayed out of the race -- for all the good it did Racine, eh?

Damn vowels.

Final Note -- The big news story in Burlington this week is a nasty one: a 25-year-old woman's body found in the woods of Ripton. Police say she was murdered in Burlington and dumped there. They say it was a coke deal gone bad.

Besides the homicide, one suspect has committed suicide. Welcome to modern Vermont.

Police Chief Tom Tremblay called it "another example of the dangers of drug use and involvement in the drug culture."

But the "drug culture" is but a creation of an illogical, flawed and corrupt drug policy that creates the "drug culture" of violence and death.

More people died in Vermont last year from overdoses than car accidents. Heroin and cocaine are cheaper and come in more potent doses than ever.

Who's going to be the first Vermont political leader to stand up and say the obvious -- that the way to eradicate the current dangerous and harmful "drug culture" is to eradicate the insane "drug policy" that created the mess in the first place?

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

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About The Author

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

Bio:
Peter Freyne, 1949-2009, wrote the weekly political column "Inside Track," which originated in the Vanguard Press in the mid 1980s; he brought it to Seven Days in 1995. He retired it shortly before his death in January, 2009. We all miss him.

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