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Kid Stuff 

Gov. Howard Dean, fresh from his trip to Ouagadougou, met with reporters in the state capital Monday afternoon for a wide-ranging, free- flowing exchange. No sign of jet lag. Ho-Ho was in great form. In fact, our favorite presidential hopeful was positively glowing and eagerly took on all comers.

Dr. Dean stoutly defended his use of state police security for his frequent out-of-state travels. The Rutland Herald/Times Argus has made a big deal out of this year’s $9000 travel costs for the bodyguards who cover Ho-Ho’s butt wherever he goes. After all, he’s the governor 24/7, right?

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Rutterdam daily, however, is of a mind that Dr. Dean should pay that tab out-of-pocket, or else cut a check from his new PAC, the Fund for a Healthy America.

Nitpicking?

The Guv doesn’t think so and was happy to discuss it, noting the policy has been the same for previous governors.

What did get his back up, though, was a question from Ch. 3’s Brian Joyce concerning a report aired on WCAX last Friday. It was just a little read-over by co-anchor Sera Congi, but it carried a sting.

“The head of the state’s largest public school teachers’ union,” reported Ms. Congi, “is sending his son to a private school. Angelo Dorta, who has been the president of the Vermont NEA since 1995, is sending his son to Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington for his senior year… Dorta told Ch. 3 today it is a personal and family decision influenced by many factors. He says it is not suitable for further discussion because it is not connected to any kind of policy stances or decision that he makes as NEA president.”

Congi’s report was capped off by an audible snicker from her co-anchor, Marselis Parsons. Another bright moment in the history of WGOP-TV. It was a snicker that spoke volumes — Hey, we gotcha, ya commie-pinko, left-wing, pro-homosexual, union rabble-rouser!

Anybody wonder where Marsillyiss’ kids go to school? Anybody care?

Mr. Dorta told Seven Days this week it was a case of “a political point in search of a story.”

The story about where Mr. Dorta’s son attends school was first broken last week by Tim Dodd on WKDR-AM and sister-station WDEV in Waterbury. Unfortunately, Mr. Dodd, WKDR’s news director, neglected to inform Mr. Dorta the tape was rolling when Angelo returned his call. Needless to say, Angelo was a wee bit shocked to hear his voice on the radio later that day.

“It’s not ethical,” Dorta said.

He’s got a point.

Mr. Dodd told Seven Days that he immediately pulled the Dorta sound bite from the airwaves when the VT-NEA president called to complain. Dodd said he apologized to Angelo.

Monday afternoon, Ch. 3’s Joyce asked the Guv to comment on the report that the boss of the union representing Vermont public school teachers was sending his child to a private school.

“Let me just lay this one right on the line,” replied Dean. “This is out of bounds, Brian. You’ve got to leave people’s children alone when they’re in public life.”

“It’s not his child we’re picking on,” argued Ch. 3’s ace crime reporter.

“It is his child you’re picking on,” insisted Dean, his voice rising. “It’s not your intention, but it is his child you’re picking on. I think you ought to lay off. He has a right to make decisions about his personal family life. I think it’s none of your business, period!”

Touched a nerve, eh?

Later, after he cooled down, Dean said. “It’s tough enough to be in public life and take all the stuff you have to take without having your children involved.”

Dean, father of two, is well aware that his political future may one day have an enormous impact on his own kids. So far, the Vermont press has given a wide berth to the Guv’s family life. Not only have Dean’s kids been given a press pass, but so has has his lovely wife, Judith Steinberg, the other good doctor in the household. Can you say, “Dr. First Lady”?

Radio newsman Dodd shipped the story to the Associated Press bureau in Montpelier. The A.P., however, declined to move on it. Out of bounds, was the call.

“I feel really, really strongly,” explained Dean, “that people’s children are off bounds. I was horrified by what the press did with Jenna Bush. If it had been anybody else, that wouldn’t have been a story.”

Sounding presidential, aren’t we?


Coloring the News? — Many readers, no doubt, remember the case of former Burlington Free Press city hall reporter, Paul Teetor. Paul’s abrupt firing in 1993 sparked an uproar over the paper’s politically correct policy on diversity.

Teetor was fired for reporting the truth. It was a story about a public forum on racism. Mr. Teetor reported accurately what happened at the meeting, even though it depicted several local black activists in a less than favorable light. The next morning, the phones started ringing at 191 College Street. The callers wanted Teetor’s scalp. The editor at the time, Ron Thornburg, summarily sacked Teetor that evening.

The ex-reporter sued the paper and the case went to trial at Chittenden Superior Court in 1996. Under cross-examination by Teetor’s attorney, Ritche Berger, Freeps assistant managing editor Juli Metzger caved on the witness stand. She admitted under oath that she’d lied in her sworn pretrial deposition about the basic facts of the case. The paper’s defense fell apart. Gannett, the huge multinational that owns our local daily, reached for the checkbook and settled out of court.

Teetor headed west. Last report found him writing for a weekly paper on the southern California coast. Mr. Teetor’s covering city hall, naturally.

Now, a hot new book has hit the street detailing how some elements of America’s press have shaped, or rather misshaped, their news coverage in the name of racial diversity.

William McGowan’s Coloring the News — How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism, should sell well locally. That’s because it includes a section on the Paul Teetor vs. Burlington Free Press case and the unseemly corporate policies that dictated racial quotas for the news pages.

Borders was sold out the other day, but they’re ordering another batch. Last-minute Christmas gift?


Slapshot Goes to Court — There’s a status conference scheduled this week down at the Palace of Justice on Cherry Street in Burlington in the aggravated assault case involving a former star University of Vermont hockey player. Graham Mink, 22, of Stowe has pled not guilty to the charge he viciously beat Shane Audette, also 22, into unconsciousness during a midnight street brawl in Burlington on September 16.

According to the police affidavit, the scrap developed as a late-night college party was breaking up on lower Buell Street. Mink and his roommate, ex-UVM goalie Tim Peters, were heading home. There were other young adult males in the area, and testosterone was in the air. Words were exchanged, followed by pushes, punches and, eventually, kicks to the head.

According to the affidavit, Mr. Mink, a power forward on the ice, decked Mr. Audette and continued to punch and kick him as he lay unconscious. As one might expect, Mr. Mink had little difficulty handling Audette since he outweighed him by more than 50 pounds. The facial bone around Audette’s left eye was fractured.

On Buell Street that night, there were no hockey referees or linesmen to pull Mink off the fallen Audette and lead him to the penalty box. Had it happened on the ice, Mink would have received a five-minute penalty for fighting. The home crowd would have cheered. Old-time hockey.

On a public street in Burlap, however, it’s called aggravated assault — a felony. Instead of five minutes in the sin-bin, Mr. Mink faces up to 15 years in the slammer.

Mr. Mink won’t be attending this week’s status conference at the courthouse. His attorney, R. Jeffrey Behm, told Seven Days that Judge Michael Kupersmith granted his request to waive the Minkmeister’s appearance at the courthouse. Pressing business out of state, you see.

Following the altercation, Coach Mike Gilligan quickly cut him from the UVM men’s ice hockey team. Mink, a senior, dropped out of school. He turned pro. These days, Mr. Mink gets paid to throw punches for the Richmond Renegades of the East Coast Hockey League, a minor-league affiliate of the NHL’s Washington Capitals.

Mink, a former three-sport star at Stowe High School, started slowly this season, but got called up to the American Hockey League’s Portland Pirates for a seven-game stretch in early November. When he returned to Virginia, he was a new man. The Richmond Times-Dispatch calls him “Graham Crackerjack,” and, last week, published this report:

Since his return last Thursday, Mink has looked like a different player. Twice in one game he dropped the gloves, doubling his previous fight total. More important, he has three goals in the past two outings, including a pair in Saturday’s 4-3 overtime victory against Atlantic City.

It would appear someone in Portland got in Mink’s ear: Be more aggressive, kid, and the goals will come.

They sent a team message up there: “Be nasty, tough and physical. That’s what I tried to do,” Mink said. “I’m a bigger player, and I need to start throwing my weight around. If anything, the call-up has given me more confidence. I’m more comfortable on the ice.”

Apparently, Mink’s been real comfortable lately. He’s scoring almost a goal a game since returning from Portland, Maine, and getting into punchups almost every night. In fact, the ECHL is currently reviewing last Friday’s ugly “brawl game” against the Reading Royals. According to the score sheet, Mr. Mink was involved in two fights. According to the Times-Dispatch, even the fans got involved. Sounds like a scene from the movie Slapshot. It looks like the big kid from Stowe, Vermont, may have a future in pro hockey after all. Might even make it to the “show” with fists like that. Unfortunately, his future in the Vermont criminal justice system is a bit murkier.

Defense Attorney Behm says the Mink case has a ways to go. They haven’t completed “discovery” yet, he said. Mr. Behm told Seven Days his client has “a valid self-defense defense that we will pursue.”

Looks like the fight in the courtroom may be the biggest fight of Graham Mink’s career. Stay tuned.


Media Notes No explanation, but WVNY-TV news director Bill Colley has quietly departed Vermont’s ABC affiliate for reasons unknown. We were unable to speak with General Manager Larry Delia Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Delia was “in a meeting.” Larry’s the TV wunderkind who’s attempting to turn ex-Republican gubernatorial candidate Ruth Dwyer into an investigative reporter. Colley could not be reached for comment. His home phone was disconnected.

Interesting.


Media Notes II — Radio newsman extraordinaire Bob Kinzel started “Dateline Montpelier” 21 years ago. The Monday-to-Friday five-minute report was syndicated to as many as a dozen Vermont radio stations. But times change. Now, with giants like Clear Channel gobbling up radio stations by the hundreds, local news has taken a big hit. So this month Mr. Kinzel is closing the door and signing off on “Dateline Montpelier” and joining the Vermont Public Radio news team full-time. Bob will continue to host VPR’s “Switchboard,” as well as a new monthly legislative call-in program on Vermont Public Television.

P.S. Bet you didn’t know Mr. Kinzel is a New York City native and a graduate of Stanford.


Happy Christmas — Ho ho ho! It’s that time of year once again. Next week, we’ll have Inside Track’s “Year in Review” special. And what a year it’s been!

The week after that, Seven Days is taking a vacation, That’ll mean no Wednesday fix for all you Inside Track junkies on January 2. We’ll be back on Wednesday, January 9, with all the latest on House Speaker Walter Freed & Co., the Dean for President Campaign, Anthony Pollina’s big decision and more, as the Vermont Legislature returns to duty under Montpeculiar’s golden dome.

Best wishes to you and yours for a safe, cozy holiday season. Remember, we’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time.

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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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