The Dean Team (as in Gov. Howard B. Dean) had a pretty solid plan of attack mapped out last week — a strategic offensive to cross the Rhine and prompt the retreat of the liberal D's under the golden dome. In addition to frightening 'em into dropping their weapons, the Dean Team wanted them to drop the education funding maps drawn up in John Freidin Land — the House Ways and Means Committee. If things went really well, the Dean Team hoped to scare dem bums out of Montpelier altogether. Scare 'em all the way back to their little towns until a special session come fall. But clearly, the ultimate goal for the Holy Defenders of the Rich was to ship the whole damn tax-reform shooting march off to Never-Never Land, or at least into next year. Slow it down. Stall. Yo! Time for another blue-ribbon study monster.
Surely, they thought, the press would eat it up. Heavy hitters onstage! Wednesday's IDX rocket launch would surely be all over the TV news and all over the newspapers Thursday morning. Coincidentally, Ho-Ho had scheduled his weekly Wednesday spin-doctoring class, aka "press conference," for Thursday afternoon. The momentum would be pulsating by Thursday afternoon. Ho-Ho would hop on his Save Jobs surfboard and ride the crest like a champ.
The Dean Team's plan opened up with the big guns: IDX whiz Ritchie "The Rocket" Tarrant at center, Jimmy "Brother of Angelo" Pizzagalli on right wing, with the Key Bank's David "Mr. Mousemeat" Coates and Mary Alice "The Hotdog" McKenzie filling in the gaps. Pass the mustard and relish, please!
Ritchie the Rocket left New Jersey for the good life in Vermont, and it has been a good life. A hoop star at St. Mike's, he married into the Fayette family, an established and successful local Lebanese-American clan of businessmen and politicians. IDX did $128 million in annual sales in 1995 and is fast overtaking Ben & Jerry's. Ritchie's a rising star, and some Republicans pray he'll change his mind and jump into the Vermont political game.
Pizzagalli Construction is a local icon. To the Sanderistas, they'll long be remembered as the guys who busted the construction unions in Vermont. These days business is pretty good. Jimmy and Angelo live side by side in spanking-new million-dollar homes on Shelburne Point. Their firm pulled in $312 million in annual sales, according to the latest report in Vermont Business Magazine. God bless 'em! Most of it comes from out-of-state projects. Currently, here at home, they've got their sights set on the Big Dog — building Husky in Milton.
"If other states are more capitalistic than Vermont, it's been proven around the world," said the Rocket, "they're the ones that are going to succeed."
Jimmy, "Brother of Angelo," waxed eloquent about the bill's alleged negative impact on economic development and the construction industry.
Mousemeat Coates, a Dean insider and fellow worshiper at the Church of the Almighty Dollar, sang "Fools Rush In" in perfect pitch and Mary Alice, spouse of Ho-Ho's right-hand man, Billy Sorrell, almost pumped out crocodile tears for the guys on her meat floor who'll take home less in their paychecks, she squealed, because of the looming Great Satan coming from the too-liberal House Ways and Means Committee. But you know, she didn't say a peep about their property taxes dropping even more.
The message: Slow Down Zone Ahead. No Passing (a bill that raises my income tax) Zone. Enormous, complicated issue. Study, study, study! The captains of capitalism were at their best, but sometimes things don't go the way you plan them. Sometimes the media is the message.
TV stations Channels 3 and 22 showed. So did The Rutland Herald. Yours truly wouldn't have missed it for the world, but nobody from the daily gag ... sorry, rag, made the treacherous journey down Shelburne Road. That's what happens when you staff a corporate chain paper with aliens. To someone with a California, Michigan or New Jersey mind-set, getting Ritchie the Rocket and Jimmy, "Brother of Angelo," in the same room is about as important as watching Bernie Sanders go bald.
Needless to say, there were several choice epithets hurled Thursday at the Freeps. The plan had failed. The snow started flying and Ho-Ho called off his afternoon spin-doctoring session. Why bother? Time to regroup.
Take Two — Monday morning the local Chamber of Commerce held a pep rally at the Radisson. Every placemat had a copy of "A CALL TO ACTION" for chamber members.
The featured speaker was the new Son of Howard Dean — Sen. Peter Shumlin, the Senate president. Like a Stepford wife, Shummy told 'em everything they wanted to hear. Not bad for a former progressive Democrat from the banana belt. A guy joined at the hip to Bernie Sanders just a few months ago. A guy who yearns for statewide success and knows where the money is.
Shummy's only slip occurred when accountant Mike Flynn inquired if the property tax crisis was real or just a creation of the press.
"A good question," quipped Shummy. "John Carroll made that argument. He's banking now. And a lot of us don't want to join him."
The squealers are pulling out all the stops. Capitalists unite! There's no greater gift than to lay down one's life for the status quo.
The Bernie Beat — Guess what? A lot of people voted for Peter Clavelle, but Bernie Sanders wasn't one of them. Honest. In fact, the guy who's forever wailing about how few people actually do vote didn't vote on Town Meeting Day. Ol' Bernardo forgot until the last minute that he had to be in Washington to give a speech to the United Electrical Workers. He dashed off to D.C. on a 6:30 a.m. flight — before the polls opened. Then his staff got Judge Alden Bryan to authorize issuance of an absentee ballot, even though the deadline had passed. The city clerk faxed it to D.C., but Bernie couldn't find a plane that'd get it back to Burlington by 5 p.m. All the B-2 bombers were busy.
The following day on the House Banking Committee, the Bern vented on Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan for "advocating tax and monetary policies which have benefited the very richest Americans." Sliced and diced him. Chewed him up.
Love & Politics — She met him in November. A Colorado rancher named Michael Miniat. Love at first sight. Last month they rafted down the Futaleufil in Chile. In September, there'll be wedding bells. She's Rep. Kerry Kurt of Colchester, a liberal D. Kerry's heading West. An open seat for Ho-Ho to fill. Oh boy!