As this edition of Seven Days hits the street Wednesday, nurses at Vermont's largest hospital — and at its satellite outposts across the state — are casting ballots that will have a major impact on the future of Fletcher Allen Health Care. The two-day election will determine if there's enough support among the 1119 eligible nurses to form a union. It is a very, very big deal.
The union battle has been waged floor by floor and nurse by nurse. Hospital management has brought in an anti-union consulting firm from Kentucky to help get their message out. Your patient dollars at work, folks.
The pro-union side has been assisted by organizers from the Vermont Federation of Nurses. And both sides have distributed videos promoting their cause.
The anti-union video features acting CEO Thad Krupka (the guy who's "temporarily" replaced Bill Boettcher) and Mary Botter, the head of nursing.
"What they're saying," warns Boss Thad about the union, "is, trust us, we'll get everything that we promised, but you have no guarantee. That isn't the way I'd buy a car or certainly join a union. I'd want to look at the fine print very carefully before I would decide that this is the organization that I wanted to belong to."
The pro-union side's video is filled with real nurses, including many senior nurses, speaking from the heart. And it also includes scenes of Mayor Peter Clavelle supporting the union cause as one that will benefit the entire community.
In fact, many of our most respected community leaders have come out in support of the nurses' union drive. It's a mighty impressive list that includes folks like Sen. Patrick Leahy, Gov. Howard Dean, M.D., Congressman Bernie Sanders, Roman Catholic Bishop Kenneth Angell, State Auditor Elizabeth Ready and many, many more.
Unfortunately, that support has gotten under Boss Krupka's skin. In fact, it's irritated him so much that he threw a public temper tantrum in his own weekly e-mail newsletter to the Mary Fanny staff.
"No sooner had my appointment as acting CEO been announced," wrote Krupka, "than I began receiving letters from almost every political and religious leader in the state assailing me for spending health care dollars on 'anti-union' activity. This makes me so angry. By definition, any opinion or viewpoint that does not support the union is anti-union. Where are these 'civic-minded' people when we need support for patient-related concerns?"
Krupka's predecessor Bill Boettcher was known for his lousy relationships with the locals. Krupka's public venting indicates he's following in Bill's footsteps. Dumb and dumber, eh?
You'd think after all they've been through, the distinguished silk-stocking Fletcher Allen board of trustees would have the smarts to tell Big Bad Thad to keep his childish comments about the governor and the mayor and the bishop to himself.
"It is sad," wrote Krupka, "that leaders who rarely have a positive interest in Fletcher Allen at any other time are now so interested in this internal matter. It just frosts me that "free and fair" is being so distorted."
Message to Colonel Krupka: We've seen your propaganda video and it's pretty clear that "scare tactics" are your forte, and that "fair" is not a word you really understand. As for getting "frosted" over communications from respected Vermonters, perhaps it's time you found a new home. Best of luck in your next job, Thad, because you've just burned about every bridge the Mary Fanny has in Vermont!
Meub Pulls a Bernie? — Kudos to Republican congressional candidate Bill Meub for crashing Bernie Sanders' Monday press conference on agricultural issues. The Rutland lawyer finally got some press for his longshot campaign to unseat one of Vermont's political legends.
Mr. Meub popped into Sanders' Church Street congressional office just as Ol' Bernardo was starting. Sanders' aide Dean Corren tried unsuccessfully to close the door on him. (Didn't eat your Wheaties, did you, Dean?)
"Excuse me," said Meub as he opened the door.
"Excuse me," replied Sanders. "I'm doing a press conference now and you just came in and disturbed my press conference."
Corren tried to push him out into the hall, but Meub held his ground for two whole minutes and criticized Bernie for not debating him enough. The TV cameras zoomed in on the confrontation.
"A gentleman does not interrupt a press conference in progress," said Corren. "This is highly inappropriate!"
In his appearance on Ch. 3's "You Can Quote Me" last Sunday, Meub quoted a few lines from Sanders' autobiography in which Ol' Bernardo championed the idea of politicians holding as many debates as possible during a campaign.
"I read with amusement," wrote Vermont's lone congressman in Bernie Sanders: Outsider in the House (Verso, 1997), "how some of my congressional colleagues engage in two or three debates during a campaign — sometimes even fewer. That Rose Garden strategy wouldn't work in Vermont and it shouldn't work anywhere else. If you want people to reelect you, you should be prepared to debate your opponents. In a typical campaign, I participate in between 10 and 15 debates all over the state."
Not this time, Bernie. This time it looks like you're the one in the Rose Garden. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
According to the congressman's chief campaign spokesperson and spouse Jane Sanders, there are currently eight debates scheduled, including two that will be broadcast statewide. One will be on Vermont Public Television two days before the election. The other, she said, is tentatively scheduled for Vermont Public Radio on October 15, but since Sanders may be in Washington, October 24 is penciled in as a back-up date. (Surprisingly, none of our local commercial TV stations are sponsoring political debates. Cheapskates?)
Lady Jane called Meub's Monday raid a "gimmick."
Hey, sometimes it takes a gimmick to get attention. The fact is, until now Meub's campaign hasn't hit the radar screen.
P.S. Lady Jane also serves as the media buyer for her husband's campaign (as well as for Progressive Anthony Pollina and Democrat Elizabeth Ready.) And Jane showed her savvy Sunday by surrounding Meub's appearance on "You Can Quote Me" with campaign spots for both Bernie and Anthony.
Secrets, Secrets — Public concern over how Vermont's next administration will be chosen continues to rise. The second audience question at Monday's debate among the candidates for lieutenant governor was about the legislature voting by secret ballot in January to pick the winners in the Guv and Lite-Guv races.
Surprisingly, all three — Progressive Anthony Pollina, Democrat Peter Shumlin and Republican Brian Dubie — agreed that the vote should not be by secret ballot. That would appear to distinguish Doobie-Doo from his GOP running mate Jim Douglas.
Slim Jim has wrapped himself in the Vermont Constitution on this one. Mr. Douglas is all for a secret ballot. And he's all for having the legislature choose the second-highest vote-getter, since, according to all the polls so far, he'll be the second-highest vote-getter behind Democrat Doug Racine. It appears to be Slim Jim's winning strategy at the moment.
At Monday's show before the Burlington Rotary, Shummy also pointed out that Doobie-Doo had flip-flopped on that issue. A couple months back on VPR, noted Shumlin, Mr. Dubie had publicly praised Barbara Snelling for not contesting Doug Racine's slim victory in the 1996 Lite-Guv race, despite the fact that Racine had finished under the 50 percent threshold. Dubie told the VPR audience that he'd support the candidate with the most votes on Election Day.
"Then he talked to a bunch of Republican legislators and he changed his mind," said Shummy.
It's all true.
"A campaign is a very educational process," explained Dubie, our favorite American Airlines pilot. "I stand by what I said on VPR. Barbara Snelling did the classy thing."
But Dubie told the Rotarians that "about 10 Republican legislators" called him right after the show and convinced him otherwise.
Hey, a guy's got to do what a guy's got to do, right?
DeanWatch 2004 — A reporter from the Boston Globe just called. Finally. Wanted to know about Howard Dean. Apparently the Boston media is waking up to the fact that their favorite son, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, does have a little competition.
Sunday our favorite presidential hopeful got high marks for his appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation." The topic was President George W. Bush's warlike passion for invading Iraq as soon as possible.
"What is the rush?" asked Dr. Dean. "Why can't we take the time to get our allies on board? Why do we have to do everything in a unilateral way?
"It's not good for the future of the foreign policy of this country to be the bully on the block and tell people we're going to do what we want to do."
Good point, eh?
This week, Ho-Ho continues to travel so much he should be called Dizzy Dean. He was in South Carolina on Monday, his fourth visit so far. He's in the Big Apple Wednesday and Thursday. And this weekend Dean's giving two big speeches. One is before the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines on Saturday. The other is before the Colorado Democratic Party in Denver on Sunday.
P.S. That's right. The Vermont Supreme Court still hasn't ruled on Ho-Ho's appeal of a court order telling him to cough up his daily gubernatorial schedule. Dean lost his court battle with Seven Days, the Rutland Herald and the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus last April. He quickly appealed to the Supremes.
Sure hope the distinguished Black Robes find the time to make a call before Ho-Ho gets sworn in as President. Judicial constipation is such a dreaded disease. Justice delayed, as we all know, is justice denied.
Oh, Danny Boy! — UVM's rookie President Dan Fogel continues to impress this week with the announcement that Groovy UV is going to buy the old Trinity College campus next door. That's very good news for the locals. No longer will UVM be able to make the argument they have no space for new, on-campus student housing. Hear, hear!
Also, kudos to Candy Page of the Freeps for last week's gem of a one-two punch about the Student Government Association whining about the new Pax Universitas. That's the landmark deal struck between President Fogel and Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle. Danny Boy is the first UVM prez to agree to hold his darling students responsible for off-campus bad behavior and lawbreaking.
The student government unanimously adopted a resolution sponsored by Tim Allen, a junior, asking the powers that be to throw out the agreement and start over. He called the new policy "anti-student."
Then, right beneath that story was one describing how Mr. Allen, the leading whiner, had recently been picked up for public drunkenness on a residential street in the Hill section and taken to Detox.
Hey, Timmy, this Bud's for you, eh? And this one? And this one? And this one???
What's that old saying about actions speaking louder than words?
Meanwhile, over at the Gutterson Field House, fingers are crossed for the upcoming men's ice hockey season. Last year UVM's men's team had the worst record in the country. The word around the rink is that Coach Mike Gilligan wants to put in two more years behind the bench before retiring. If the Hockey Cats perform like last year's squad, retirement might come sooner rather than later. After all, President Fogel grew up the son of a Cornell professor. And at Cornell, ice hockey is king.
The good news on the hockey front is that two more of Coach Gilly's former recruits are performing marvelously in the pro hockey ranks. Last year's high scorer, Patrick Sharp, has made it to the final cut with the Philadelphia Flyers. Sharp has wowed 'em in Philly, where former UVM great John LeClair is hoping for a comeback season, free of back pain and full of goals.
Also, ex-Catamount Graham Mink of Stowe scored the overtime winner Friday night for the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League. Friday afternoon he's due back at Vermont District Court in Burlington. Mink's got a felony assault charge hanging over his head. It stems from a late-night punch-up on lower Buell Street last September.
And finally on the Groovy UV beat, Burlington Police made a great capture the other evening at the Delta Psi fraternity house on Summit Street. Lt. Walt Decker told Seven Days a couple officers stopped by looking for one of the brothers. Inside they spotted a familiar sign on the wall — the one that used to adorn the "Burlington Police Detective Bureau" on South Winooski Avenue.
"We're not sure how it got up there," said Decker. "Perhaps a really strong wind blew it off the wall and up the hill."
Damn weather patterns.