Blowing in the Wind! | Inside Track | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Blowing in the Wind! 

Inside Track

Bernie Sanders

Published December 7, 2005 at 5:00 p.m.

Ah, the anthem of yours truly's teenage years in the bygone '60s -- Bob Dylan telling all who would listen, "The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind. The answer is blowin' in the wind."


But what the hell did it mean? Outside of his brilliant lyrics, Bobby D. has never been the most articulate elocutionist. But with the long-predicted energy crisis -- global warming, peak oil -- coming to pass, we can't help but smile at the memory of Dylan's priceless "message." Doubtless the poet himself didn't appreciate it when he wrote it.

Last week the voters of little Sheffield in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom were looking for their answer. They found it by voting 120-93 in favor of having a large, commercial wind farm locate on their town's scenic ridgelines. The anti-wind Caledonian Record of St. Johnsbury, bastion of a no-change conservatism it often confuses with Vermont's heritage, called it a "close" vote. That's funny -- when GOP Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie got 56 percent of the vote it was a "landslide!"

Wind-power proponents realize that Republican Gov. Jim Douglas is currently the state's leading opponent of clean, commercial wind-energy development. But the public may be confused because of the Guv's superb public-relations savvy.

On Tuesday, his office issued a release announcing Gov. Scissorhands has formed a "Commission on Climate Change!"

But will the real Jim Douglas please stand up?

You see, the day after the Sheffield vote, we emailed Press Secretary Jason Gibbs, seeking his boss' reaction to the pro-wind outcome. We wanted to know if Vermont's governor was:

a. surprised

b. not surprised

c. impressed

d. couldn't care less

e. going to rethink his opposition

f. not aware there was a vote in Sheffield

g. other ___________.

Unfortunately, Gibbs did not reply, so on Monday we tracked down our chief executive at the Sheraton. The administration had rented a conference room to hold a meeting of the governor's staff. From there he left to attend the big U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Montreal.

Asked for his reaction to the Sheffield vote, the Guv told us he was not aware of the outcome.

"I didn't even hear," said Douglas.

Well, he had been in Delaware for a few days attending the Council on State Governments annual convention, but, hey, man, it's the Internet Age. Informed of the pro-wind, Dubie-esque "landslide," Gov. Douglas said he wasn't surprised. Local residents, he said, appreciate the tax revenue such projects bring. A previous vote in East Haven, he noted, also supported a local commercial wind-power development.

Would the Sheffield vote have any effect on his strong anti-wind stance?

"A lot of people appreciate my leadership on protecting the ridgelines of our state," Douglas replied. "It's the natural beauty of Vermont that sets us apart from the rest of the planet. I'm determined to make sure that it's not impaired."

David Rapaport of the East Haven Wind Farm project said he was not surprised at the Sheffield vote, either.

"Public opinion surveys have always shown that a majority of Vermonters strongly support wind," he said.

In fact, added Rapaport, "Vermont is actually behind the curve." New York State has 3000 megawatts planned. So does Quebec.

"It would certainly be helpful," he said, "to have some real leadership from the governor's office."

Enough said.

P.S. Vermont's other big anti-wind voice, the Gannett-owned Burlington Free Press, swallowed hard following the Sheffield vote. The paper ran an editorial calling the pro-wind vote a "wake-up call."

Good luck.

"When they have tried to rally people in opposition to wind before," noted Rapaport, "they've always failed."

Perhaps it's the Freeps editorial page that needs a wake-up call?

So far, the position of Vermont's largest daily on wind-power development has merely highlighted how out of touch it has become. Perfectly understandable for a paper whose headquarters is in Virginia, eh?

Forward Thinking? -- Everyone knows the Bush administration opposes the U.N.'s landmark 1997 Kyoto Protocol, designed to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. Before he left for Montreal, we asked Gov. Douglas for his position on the Kyoto Protocol.

"Well, I haven't said whether I like Kyoto or not," replied Douglas. "I don't know all the details." However, Vermont's top Repub- lican said he was "sure" the Bush administration "had some reasons" to oppose it.

Hope the Bush White House appreciates the continued existence of at least one loyal follower in Vermont.

Mayor Swimming Pool? -- Seven Days went to press before Tuesday evening's Burlington Republican Caucus. Veteran City Councilor Kevin Curley looked like the prohibitive favorite to garner the party's 2006 mayoral nomination.

Curley is "a legitimate" candidate, said fellow GOP councilor and State Rep. Kurt Wright, who likely would have run himself had Curley not stepped up.

"Kevin's been a city councilor for seven years," noted Wright. "It'll be a competitive race."

But against whom?

City Democrats won't have their caucus until January. State Sen. Hinda Miller and City Councilor Andy Montroll are seeking the nomination.

But since it is, after all, "The People's Republic of Burlington," you might be wondering who the left-wing Progressive Party candidate will be.

"If the Progressives don't run a contender," said Wright the Republican, "their movement will be on life support. Clavelle put one nail in the coffin, and now they're putting the coffin into the ground."

Incumbent Mayor Peter Clavelle, you'll recall, kissed the Prog Party goodbye three years ago when he sought and narrowly won the Democratic nomination for mayor. Then Mayor Moonie sought and won the Democratic nomination for Governor -- for all the good it did him, eh?

Clavelle, the born-again Democrat, got crushed by a Jim Douglas landslide and has since decided to retire. The two-decade "progressive" hold on the mayor's office of Vermont's largest city looks to be ending, but the Progs aren't admitting it just yet.

As for Wright's prediction of a Prog Party funeral, Councilor Phil Fiermonte (P-Ward 3) told "Inside Track," "For someone from a party with only two elected people on the city council (out of 14), I'd be careful about whose demise he's predicting. I fully expect we'll have a strong candidate for mayor."

Sure you will.

P.S. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get Republican Councilor Curley on the phone (taking a nap, we were told), but Kevin the Candidate was on the AM dial with "Charlie & Ernie" Tuesday morning. If there's one thing Curley can do, it's talk.

"I think that I'm the right person for this job," Kevin told the WVMT drive-time audience. "It's absolutely my time to get out and have the opportunity to shine for the city of Burlington to put us back on the right track."

The "right" track?

"I think we need to drive some of these predators that are out there out of our community. We have to empower our residents more. We have to have them have the opportunity to vote on more and different tax increases that we have, be it franchise fees or whatever the case may be."

Mayor Tax-Increase Curley?

"One of the things that I really think we're ready for is to put forward a revenue bond to build an indoor swimming facility. There's no reason we don't have one in the city of Burlington."

Hey, and we could freeze it in wintertime for ice skating! And curling!

Back At It -- Vermont Democratic Party Executive Director Jon Copans resurfaced this week following a month in the doghouse. In early Novem-ber, Copans issue an uncharacteristically virulent press release attacking the Douglas administration. He claimed they'd awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to a firm with ties to GOP sleazeballs such as indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas.

Always nice to see the Vermont Democratic Party fired up, but unfortunately, Mr. Copans got his facts wrong. He'd zeroed in on a firm with a similar name but no ties to the GOP. Copans quickly apologized and hadn't been heard from since, until this week.

On Monday, Copans issued a brand-new press release stating: "Where Does Martha Rainville Stand on National GOP Leadership?" In it, he trashed DeLay and Vice-President Dick Cheney, who was the featured speaker at a DeLay campaign fundraiser Monday night.

Then Copans connected the dots, linking the leading GOP sleazeballs to Vermont Adjutant Gen. Martha Rainville. Martha has formed an "exploratory" congressional campaign committee.

"This is the political party Martha Rainville has selected for her anticipated campaign to be Vermont's next United States Representative," wrote Copans. "In light of the recent wave of criminal indictments and criminal investigations of national Republican leadership, Martha Rainville must answer the following questions . . ."

Among them was whether Rainville would "stand arm and arm (sic) at a fundraiser with Dick Cheney and Tom DeLay."

As everyone, including Copans, knows, the nation's first female adjutant general will not answer political questions until she drops "exploratory" from the name of her campaign committee. Vermont Republican Party Chairman Jim Barnett, however, was happy to respond to the Copans assault.

"I think the Democrat leadership is very bitter and vindictive," said Mad Dog, "because Gen. Rainville rejected them after they tried desperately to recruit her to run for Congress on their ticket instead of two-time bust Peter Welch."

P.S. Sources say Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) will headline a January fundraiser in Vermont for both Welch and U.S. Senate hopeful Rep. Bernie Sanders.

Speaking of Rainville -- State Sen. Peter Welch appeared on WGOP, sorry, WCAX-TV's "You Can Quote Me" Sunday morning and easily handled the "third-degree" he got from Marselis Parsons and reporter Anson Tebbetts.

There's just something about Anson's combative style with "leftists" that makes one feel they're in a cop-show interrogation room:

Tebbetts: Will you serve out the remainder of your term?

Welch: Yes.

Tebbetts: Will you continue to be in a leadership position?

Welch: Yes.

Tebbetts: No consideration of resigning that position?

Welch explained, in case Tebbetts didn't believe him the first time, that the Democratic caucus wanted him to stay on as their elected senate leader through the end of the session. Then Marsillyiss took a particularly wild swing at the Democratic candidate:

Parsons: Martha Rainville was elected to be adjutant general. You've called for her to step aside!

Welch: Oh, no, I have not.

Parsons: So you don't think she ought to step aside?

Apparently Parsons hasn't been following his own newscasts. Welch has never called for Gen. Rainville to resign her military position while pursuing a race for Congress. He did, however, use the opportunity to note that Gen. Rainville does have to follow the orders of the commander-in-chief.

"When you're running for office, particularly in this campaign," said Welchie, "there's going to be a big debate about the orders of the commander-in-chief. So that's a tough thing to balance. She'll have to figure that out."

Yes, she will.

Next Generation -- The Progressive Party Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Burlington vegetable farmer David Zuckerman, is a dad!

Wife Rachel Nevitt brought Addie Celie Keep Nevitt into the world at Fletcher Allen Health Care Monday afternoon. The parents had planned a home birth, but Rachel went into labor Wednesday night, said Pony Tail Dave, and "it seemed to be taking a bit too long."

Parents and newborn are home now, "and settling in nicely," said Rep. Zuckerman.

No word on any decision about David's possible congressional bid. Right now, it's diaper time!

President Nurse -- Speaking of hospital deliveries, the head of the nurses' union at Fletcher Allen is moving up. Jen Henry, R.N., has just been elected president of United Professions of Vermont/AFT, a statewide union that, in addition to nurses, represents Vermont State College and UVM faculty --

The mother of four courageously led the newly organized Mary Fanny nurses to their first contract in 2003. (Husband "Big George" is also a Mary Fanny nurse.). The current contract expires next July. Negotiations on a new one will start in February.

As for her new job, Nurse Jen told us, "I think that I'm the right gal for the job!"

Media Notes -- We found former WCAX-TV news anchor Sera Congi online the other day. She's in Boston working the daily street beat for the CBS affiliate -- Old fans in the Green Mountains can watch the former Vermont news anchor's Boston transformation.

Sera's in a very different news world from Burlington. She's been covering everything from grisly crime scenes to an adult Halloween costume boutique. (Want to see her as a blonde?)

Though still technically a "freelancer" at the station, Sera's been working a regular daily schedule and, dare we say, it brings out more of her news talent than Vermont viewers got to see when she was parked behind the anchor desk. Her current beat is a world away from the makeup, hairspray and teleprompter-reading . On Monday she was "live" at a school shooting in Roxbury.

"It's big-city reporting," Congi told yours truly. "It's been a learning experience, and it's been fun."

Onward and upward!

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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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