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Thanks, Ralph 

Sanders lashes out at his old friend Ralph Nader for his role in tipping the election to George W. Bush.

We’ll have turkey on the table Thursday but, as yet, it looks like no turkey in the Presidential on-deck circle. And both Gov. Howard Dean and Congressman Bernie Sanders think credit should go where credit is due. That means, thank you, Ralph Nader. Thanks a whole frickin’ lot!

Shortly after the votes were counted and the stalemate began, Dean said he hoped the Nader voters in the Sunshine State — all 93,000 — were “happy.” Said he hoped they would be comfortable with the Supreme Court justices that Dubya will be appointing if he proves to be the eventual winner. Dean supported Ralph Nader’s right to run, but sarcastically expressed the hope that Nader’s supporters will live at peace with themselves under the looming Bush administration.

And Sanders, an old friend of the Green Party candidate, was even more upset.

“It seemed to me,” said Ol’ Bernardo, “that in the last month or two, Nader really made a deliberate effort to defeat Al Gore. He went to those states where the races were closest and was pretty clear about his goal. I don’t understand that and I think that was wrong.”

Hindsight’s always 20-20.

Thanks, Ralph.

Civil-Unions Update — The 11-member commission established by Act 91 met last week at the Statehouse to check up on how Vermont’s landmark legalization of love for all couples was shaking out. The news was quite good.

Steve Patterson, deputy commerce secretary, reported no negative repercussions whatsoever to date. While there’s plenty of anecdotal information about the positive effect the more than 1200 civil unions have had on Vermont’s hospitality sector, Patterson said his agency had compiled no data to quantify that.

Town Clerk Linda Spence of Manchester told the commission over the speakerphone that implementation of the civil-unions law has been remarkably smooth. Vance is also a justice of the peace and the president of the Association of Town Clerks and Treasurers. She was familiar with just one case of rude treatment given an out-of-state lesbian couple by a town official in Weston.

“The sun still rises and sets in Vermont,” said Spence. “I myself am a heterosexual, but I have to say my experiences both as town clerk and justice of the peace have been nothing but positive with this law in place. It has proved to me to be one of the most moving and emotional pieces of legislation I have seen, and I don’t see where it does any harm to anybody.”

We’re No.1??? — University of Vermont men’s ice hockey Coach Mike Gilligan told Seven Days Tuesday morning he’s hanging in there. After all, the guy’s a veteran of the game. A senior statesman. An institution.

When Gilligan first hit Burlington, Bernie Sanders was mayor, Madeleine Kunin just got elected governor, Phish was a typo. Nobody ever heard of Bill Clinton. The lakefront bikepath did not exist.

Things change.

That’s why we had to check Gilligan’s pulse this week. At no time in his 16 years of whistling Vermont line changes has Mike Gilligan been here before. It’s uncharted territory. The numbers don’t lie. As the old Green & Gold prepared for Tuesday night’s game against non-league opponent UMass-Amherst, Vermont is 4-0 and flying solo in first place in the ECAC.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. It’s much too early to suggest that Cinderella is spending the winter in Burlington, Vermont. Way too early. Dream on, right?

But they say the darkest hour comes right before the dawn. And everybody remembers the black night that swallowed UVM last season. However, what these guys have been doing on the ice speaks volumes.

“They learned quite a bit last season,” Gilligan told Seven Days. “They learned how precious one game is. How precious a night on the ice is.”

It shows.

And make no mistake, this is a disciplined team in more ways than one. Gilligan told us forward Graham Mink, a junior from Stowe, Vermont, sat out the first four games as punishment for breaking an undisclosed team rule. When he finally got to play in the Yale game, Big Mink played like a gorilla on ice skates.

A couple of Minnesota schools are coming in this weekend for a Saturday-Sunday tournament at the Gut with Gilligan’s Gorillas and UNH. Duluth and Mankato, in the giant Minnesota state university system, will hit Burlap with some rock-’em-sock-’em “western-style” hockey. Welcome to Vermont, boys!

Media Notes — Is there Mardi Gras coverage in Sera Congi’s future?

Congi is the talented co-anchor of “Vermont’s Own” Ch. 3 News. Marselis Parsons’ better half, some say. Younger, anyway.

Reliable sources report a summer sighting of Sera Congi in New Orleans, and we’ve confirmed Sera was not just another tourist hitting the French Quarter. She was there on business. Had a job interview at the Crescent City’s Hearst-Argyle TV station, WDSU, an NBC affiliate. Hearst-Argyle has 26 TV stations in its lair, including our WPTZ in Plattsburgh and WNNE in White River Junction. New Orleans is the 41st largest TV market in America. We’re 91st.

Turns out, Congi wasn’t looking for them — they were looking for her. We’ve learned that Congi’s trip to New Orleans was arranged by Andy Wormser, news director at WPTZ Ch. 5. That’s our local NBC affiliate, owned by Hearst-Argyle. Interesting way to beat the competition, Andy? Take out the opposition’s star anchorwoman by getting her a higher-paying job far, far away?

“We are always looking for good people for the company,” said Wormser, like a loyal corporation man, on Tuesday. Andy declined further comment on specifics of the Congi recruitment effort or his true motives.

Sera the news anchor is a New York City native. She’s been at WCAX-TV for six years. A natural “news presenter,” as they say in Britain. Doesn’t trip over her tongue and, unlike Marsillyiss, she combs her hair. And she plays quite well on the box.

Congi told Seven Days she’s reached that point in her career where, if one is dedicated to moving up the TV news food chain, when it’s time to check out bigger ports of call.

At the Champlain Valley Fair in September, Ms. Congi turned in a solid performance on a media panel at Gannett’s Newscapade exhibit with Gov. Howard Dean and Freeps’ editor Mickey Hirten.

Also in the room that day — Al Neuharth, USA Today founder and the man who led Gannett (owner of The Burlington Free Press) into the Promised Land of unfathomable riches where unions do not exist. Gannett, in fact, has just launched a publicized effort to eradicate the union at the recently purchased Indianapolis Star. Union-busting is almost a religion with Gannett, but that’s a story for another time.

Afterwards, as we left the Newscapade exhibit, it was tough to squeeze past the throng of admiring teenage girls who flocked like adoring ducklings around their Mother Goose. Quite the popular role model was Sera as she patiently satisfied every excited autograph hound. It was an electric moment for the young star of the electronic media. In fact, nobody noticed Neuharth the kazillionaire, or even the Governor of Vermont, as they quietly slipped by.

And nobody noticed Congi’s videographer-husband, Joe Carroll, as he lugged the Ch. 3 camera equipment out to the van. That’s another important consideration, Congi told Seven Days. Joe’s a native. There’s family here. Roots. And she’s reached that time in life, she told us, when one thinks of starting a family of one’s own.

Yep, sounds like Sera’s got the Vermont bug. And, as you know, there’s still no known cure.

Corren Joins Congressional Staff! — Progressive State Rep. Dean Corren of Brookes Avenue has landed full-time employment on the staff of Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders.

“He’ll be the head of our outreach program,” said Sanders. Mr. Corren, a self-described “inventor,” was the organizer of Tuesday evening’s “Congressional Town Meeting” at the Statehouse on the delayed outcome of the Presidential election. Earlier Mr. Corren organized what he called an environmental “Summit” that some Proggies criticized as a rather bombastic description for a two-hour evening forum.

Corren previously performed in Montpeculiar as part of the Progressive comedy-duo known as The Self-Righteous Brothers. He’s the guy Ruth Dwyer always cited as the “friend” who proved her ability to get along with all kinds. (Hey, maybe Ruthless will join Bernie’s staff, too. Word is she needs a job.)

“I think Dean is going to be a real asset to us in a number of areas,” said Ol’ Bernardo. One of Corren’s roles, said Sanders, will be to serve as liaison to the Vermont Legislature.

Congratulations, Ambassador Corren!

Racine Takes the Point — A few eyebrows were raised in Room 11 at the Statehouse the other day. Commerce Secretary Molly Lambert told the last gathering of Speaker Michael Obuchowski’s Business Advisory Group that Lite-Gov Douglas Racine will be taking the point for the Dean administration on Act 250 tinkering and permitting reform. Ms. Molly said Racine planned on organizing “focus groups” with business leaders around the state to personally hear their gripes. What fun!

The tradition in Vermont politics is that even when they belong to the same party, governors and lieutenant governors sleep in separate bedrooms. The lite-gov’s only power is that of wielding the gavel as the presiding officer when the Vermont Senate is in session. When Howard Dean held the post he simply didn’t appear on Gov. Madeleine Kunin’s radar screen. Nice boy, isn’t he?

Two theories on Racine’s new upgrade quickly emerged. Either Ho-Ho has decided to groom him as his successor, or else set him up as the target for all the pot shots that are expected to be taken at Act 250 in the coming legislative session.

Dr. Dean poo-pooed both theories. Ho-Ho said Racine came to him with the idea of forming a “task force” to take a look at the permitting issue. Atta boy. It’s time Doug got out and met the movers and shakers of the business community. They can be awful handy around election time.

Vermont’s Chief Reader — Quite the generosity from the Freeman Foundation of Stowe this week. Buck Freeman of Stowe announced at the Fletcher Free Library Monday that the family foundation was giving $10 million to support Vermont’s 190 public libraries. That’s 10 million. Seven zeros. Big balloons.

On hand, a beaming Gov. Howard Dean and all assembled were feeling the pro-literacy glow. But when asked what was the latest book he’d read, Vermont’s governor went completely blank. Ho-Ho said he’d just started a new book that morning and, for the life of him, he couldn’t remember what it was called.

Hey, it was a stressful election for the poor guy.

Anyway, Ho-Ho was kind enough to leave us a voice mail later that day. The title of the Guv’s bedside reading is Godfather of the Kremlin: Boris Berezovsky and the Looting of Russia by Paul Klebnikov.

Also the Guv reminded us that, with the election over, he’s back on the panel on “The Editors,” the Canadian/American talking heads program that airs Sundays on Vermont Public Television. It’s taped in Montréal and gives him a chance to commiserate with all the Hydro-Quebec executives down at Club Supersexe.

Just kidding.

Big Paper Gets Small? — Remember how The Burlington Free Press erased the WCAX logo from the coffee cups in a front page photo last month?

Well, there were quite a few chuckles around these parts last week when the same distinguished daily newspaper grudgingly reported on its Money Page that the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce (a.k.a. “Wayne’s World”) had awarded Seven Days its prestigious “Business of the Year” Award. Very big to-do at the Sheraton the previous evening.

Unfortunately, the Freeps somehow managed to neglect to mention the names of the founder/owners of Seven Days, who sashayed up to the ballroom podium to accept their prize — Paula Routly and Pamela Polston. For chrissakes, Paula used to work at the Free Press!

And the Freeps somehow managed to neglect mentioning what kind of business Seven Days is. Travel agency? Nightclub? Shoe store? Hey, Boss Jim Carey, psst! — Seven Days is a weekly newspaper.

And it gets worse.

Instead of highlighting this year’s “Business of the Year” award-winner, as has been the custom in previous years (the owner of last year’s winner was named twice in the Freeps story), the local daily highlighted instead the “Rising Star” award-winners — Mary Lintermann of DEW Construction Corp. and Al Gobeille of Shanty on the Shore. Congratulations to both!

The Freeps ran two big photos with the story. Mary’s was fine, but the gentleman identified as Al Gobeille was not Al Gobeille. Not even close. It was the smiling face of well-known Burlington developer and philanthropist Bobby Miller.

Oops! Only an out-of-town and out-of-touch paper could make such a goof. Mistakes like that will happen when the biggest paper in town deliberately tries to act real small.

When will they ever learn?

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About The Author

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

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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