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The Nasty Boys? Burlington City Council abandons the Bernie Beach idea 

The Jim Douglas for Governor campaign took some nice bites out of Democrat Doug Racine’s leg last week. Mr. Douglas took out a big ad in The Burlington Free Press titled “Doug Racine: Bad For Jobs.” It was composed of surgically selected press quotes that put Racine in an unfavorable light.

And luck was with them. The ad ran the day after Racine’s campaign kick-off. And the Freeps misidentified the jump page for the page-one campaign story. Readers were led directly to the anti-Racine ad on page 3B instead of the article on page 2B.

Douglas’ pit bulls are Campaign Manager Neale Lunderville and his assistant, Jim Barnett (both graduates of American University in Washington, D.C.). Sharp guys. They’ve been drawing blood, chewing on Doug the Democrat’s flip-flops, the Circ and single-payer health care. But the Douglas newspaper ad crossed the line — the honesty line.

We may be Vermonters, but we ain’t that stupid!

For example, Slim Jim’s attack ad quoted a 1996 Freeps editorial that stated, “Racine has a reputation as a tax and spend liberal.” They want you to believe “tax and spend liberal” is synonymous with “child molester.”

But the editorial they quoted was actually a ringing endorsement of Mr. Racine for lieutenant governor over Republican John Carroll.

The editorial concluded, “Only one candidate in this race has campaigned on a proven record of bringing Republicans and Democrats together to serve all Vermonters. With moderation and civility, Doug Racine will be the lieutenant governor Vermont needs now.”

Understandably, none of that made the Jim Douglas ad. Ditto with the shit-on-Racine quotes lifted from 1998 and 2000 editorials that actually endorsed Racine over his Republican opponents.

On Tuesday, the Racine campaign showed two can play the quotation game. They produced negative quotes from five different Vermont newspaper editorials knocking Douglas’ tactics during his last big race — his 1992 challenge of U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy. And, unlike the Douglas campaign, the Racine campaign sent along the complete editorials.

For example, the Bennington Banner wrote: “Mr. Douglas has made negative campaigning his platform this election season… Voters need to hear the candidates’ positions on the issues, not the candidates’ positions on their opponents, and Mr. Douglas has come up short.”

Apparently, 10 years later, Jim Douglas still hasn’t gotten that message.

DeanWatch2004 — This is starting to get serious now. People are beginning to notice. There’s a “buzz” in national political circles. And the name of the “buzz” is Howard Dean.

This week, Vermont’s lame-duck governor is sleeping in Iowa. He’s following his dream. If he builds it, they will come.

Back here in Vermont, this scribe’s phone has been ringing for weeks with calls from out-of-state reporters with the same questions: “Is this for real? Who the hell is Howard Dean?”

Lately the tone has switched to, “You know, this isn’t as crazy as it seems. Dean has a shot — a long shot, but a shot.”

No surprise here. Our favorite presidential hopeful continues to do all the right things. The New York Times called 10 minutes ago. No shit. Fasten your seat belts.

“[Dean]’s got a complete leg up on what is going to be the number-one issue of 2004, which is health care,” said former Clinton guru James Carville in a current American Prospect story (“If he could raise money, he’d be dangerous.”

Yessiree. The cat’s out of the bag. And this week Ho-Ho’s the cover boy for The New Republic magazine.

“I think this is all great,” said Howard last Friday during a brief appearance in Vermont. “But every campaign has its ups and downs. It’s good to have the buzz,” noted Dr. Dean, “but the media can make you and the media can break you.”

Right now, it’s the make-you phase for Howard Dean. And believe me, the guy is focused.

“I have to basically concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other every single day and try to make some headway,” said Ho-Ho. “Every single day you have to take one more step forward and not let anything deter you from doing that, no matter if you get a lousy press article or a great press article.”

That’s a winning attitude, eh?

Throwing in the Beach Towel? — Bernie Beach is history. Monday night, Burlap’s city council voted unanimously to withdraw the designation, honoring Congressman Bernie Sanders’ request. Finally, Republicans, Democrats and Progressives agreed on something.

A couple weeks back, the council passed a hotly debated resolution (9-5), honoring the former socialist mayor by renaming North Beach “Bernard Sanders Beach.”

They settled on the beach on the north end of Burlington Bay, after proposals to rename the downtown Community Boathouse or Waterfront Park drew intense partisan howls and squeals.

But last week, opponents came up with a technicality requiring the council to revisit the matter. To make Bernie Beach official requires passage of a city ordinance, not just a resolution.

And Republican Councilor Kevin Curley darn near threw a fit on WCAX-TV Sunday night, passionately standing up for the geographical designation.

“All personalities aside,” said the defender of tradition, “North Beach is a landmark in the city of Burlington and it has been North Beach. People know it as North Beach, it’s on maps as North Beach, and it should always be North Beach.”

Enough was enough for Ol’ Bernardo. He is, after all, the champion of “poor people, working people and the elderly,” not sunbathers. Sanders quickly contacted his pal, Councilor Phil Fiermonte, asking that the plug be pulled on the Bernie Beach brouhaha.

Sanders spokesman and wife Jane Sanders told Seven Days Tuesday, the beach debate was “a bit absurd.”

Lady Jane called the beach-naming “a nice gesture.” She said Bernie was flattered, all right. But having it turn into a political donnybrook, said Jane, “is not worth anybody’s time and effort.” It’s the “antithesis of who Bernie is,” she explained. “It’s not in his interest to distract people from the issues.”

The defeat of Bernie Beach was also a victory for rookie city councilor Ian Carleton. The Ward 1 Democrat is an attorney, a graduate of Yale Law School and the junior member at former Gov. Phil Hoff’s Main Street law firm.

Carleton opposed Bernie Beach not because of Bernie, he insisted, but because of the “process.”

“Bernie Sanders is a hero of mine,” said Carleton. “But I wished it had gone to a committee and gotten the proper public input.”

Even if a committee had recommended it to the council, it turns out Councilor Carleton would oppose it. That’s because, he told Seven Days, he does not believe public facilities should be named after politicians until they “retire.”

Of course, that doesn’t apply to everyone. You may have noticed the large structure going up just south of the Community Boathouse?

That, folks, is the $13 million “Marcelle and Patrick Leahy Center for Lake Champlain.” The center’s board of directors voted to name it after St. Patrick and his darling wife. Half the dough comes from federal grants and half from private foundations, according to Leahy’s office.

And everyone knows Vermont’s senior senator, serving in the eye of the Bush storm, is far from retirement.

The fact is, had there been no Mayor Bernie Sanders to take back the waterfront, there’d be no spectacular science center going up today.

“Bernie’s honor was serving the people as Mayor,” said Mrs. Congressman. “His legacy is apparent to anybody who walks along the waterfront.”

But not everybody connects the beautiful lakefront to Bernie.

Monday at noon the congressman officially kicked off his sixth reelection campaign at the Community Boathouse. Just before it began, two giant tour buses unloaded a mostly senior-citizen crowd from Maryland and New Jersey. In an orderly fashion, they all lined up for a cruise on the Spirit of Ethan Allen III.

As yours truly locked up the two-wheeler, we explained to the huddled throng of tourists that Vermont’s lone congressman was about to kick off his reelection campaign in the nearby boathouse. Could anyone name him?

Murmurs and grunts ran through the crowd. Surely, these were folks familiar with the high cost of prescription drugs? But all drew a blank. Finally one little old lady looked up and said, “Jeffords?”

Jeezum crow, lady. Close, but no cigar.

P.S. Councilor Carleton told Seven Days he is seriously considering running for the legislature. He’d be taking on incumbent Progressives David Zuckerman and Bob Kiss.

But there’s a lot going on in Ian’s life right now. His first child is due to arrive next week, he said, and taking the winter off for a Montpeculiar sojourn may not sit well with the law firm. Stay tuned.

All in the Family — Bernie ain’t the only politician in the family, you know. Stepdaughter Carina Driscoll just wrapped up her first term in the Vermont House. She represented the Old North End district that’s been in Progressive hands since Democrat State Rep. Howard Dean moved out and ran for lieutenant governor in 1986. Wonder whatever became of him, eh?

Carina, 26, got high marks as a freshman in the male-dominated club run by Walter Freed on the R-side and John Tracy on the D-side. Unfortunately, her one-seat district disappeared under reapportionment. But she’s not giving up.

This week Rep. Driscoll contacted the Secretary of State’s office for an opinion. Carina’s about to move a few blocks away, putting her in the new district currently represented by fellow Prog Steve Hingtgen and Mr. Democrat, John Tracy.

You see, state law requires a candidate to live in his or her district for a year before seeking office. In her letter, Driscoll points out that the law is “unclear as to what happens in the term following redistricting.”

Technically, nobody’s lived in the district for a year, since the district as reconstrued hasn’t existed for a year.

“I am asking,” wrote Rep. Driscoll, “if I may run for state representative in Chittenden 3-3 this coming November?”

Good question.

If Carina gets the green light, Rep. Tracy, the House Democrat leader, will be up to his eyeballs in Progressives come November. Stay tuned.

Nice Digs — Late Monday afternoon, a familiar elderly gentleman appeared lost near the intersection of Bank and Pine Streets in downtown Burlap. When he spotted us pedaling by, the chap started waving his arms and calling out.

Sure enough, the clean-looking gent was lost.

“Do you know where Democratic headquarters is?” he asked.

“Of course,” we replied, asking him to hang on a second while we locked up the bike. It was, we told him, our destination, too.

The lost soul told us he’d already been in the lobby of the high-rise office building, but there was no listing for the Vermont Democratic Party.

We’d heard the Democrats had recently moved their state headquarters from Montpelier to Burlington. Third floor, we’d been told.

And so, with the apparently harmless senior citizen in tow, we went up the elevator to three. Around the corner, we found a door with “Vermont Democratic Party” on it. Bingo.

And that’s how yours truly helped legendary former Gov. Phil Hoff find the command center of his own party! True story.

Prince Philip was just picking up a couple bumper stickers. And you can bet that he let the “young folks” in the office know it’d be real nice if their whereabouts were posted in the lobby.

The spacious suite offers beautiful views of Lake Champlain. And the joint was hopping with about 15 campaign workers and volunteers. The Racine for Governor campaign occupied the corner office next to that of Executive Director Mark Michaud. A separate office was dedicated to legislative races.

Two years ago, the Democrats occupied a dumpy basement on College Street. This is definitely a step up. The D’s share the third floor of the 100 Bank Street “skyscraper” with AT&T and Verizon. MCI Worldcom and the Chittenden Bank’s credit collections department are below them. The Pomerleau Agency is above them.

In fact, until the state party signed the lease, no Democrats were allowed in the building. Hey, there goes the neighborhood.

Just kidding.

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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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