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Every Breath You Take 

Inside Track

Published January 7, 2004 at 5:00 p.m.

Every move you make, Ho-Ho. Every bond you break. Every step you take, they'll be watching you. And watching Howard Dean has become the new #1 pastime for the national media. The question is, how good is their eyesight?

As former Gov. Dean has risen like Vermont cream to the top of the Democrats' presidential milk tank, a number of stories have appeared that many say unfairly and inaccurately portray Dean's gubernatorial record.

What's funny is that the criticism of the national press is coming from some of Ho-Ho's oldest and toughest political foes: current State Auditor and former State Sen. Elizabeth Ready and her predecessor in the auditor's office, Ed Flanagan.

Using audits and reviews produced by the pair, the Boston Globe, The New York Times and the Associated Press have recently portrayed Dean as hypocritical in criticizing George W. Bush for cutting sweetheart deals with Halliburton and being lax on security issues at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon. Monday's New York Times blamed Ho-Ho for alleged sleazy dealing in 1992 by then Administration Secretary David Wilson in a contract awarded to CHP, an HMO that no longer exists.

"It is not responsible," said Chainsaw Liz, "to drag out old audits as if they were fresh news, especially when they cover subjects like nuclear safety. The national press is featuring findings that are long corrected, people who are dead, and companies that left the state."

Flanagan said he agrees with Ready on this one. Ten years ago, Fast Eddie issued the review of the CHP contract that caught the eye of Times reporter Rick Lyman. "There was no direct connection I know of between Gov. Dean and what David Wilson did," said Flanagan.

What David Wilson did, said Flanagan, was stick his nose into the process, discouraging Blue Cross Blue Shield from meeting with Dean. Wilson previously was a Statehouse lobbyist for CHP, a competitor of the Blues.

Despite their sometimes heated battles with Ho-Ho over the years, the two once very liberal Democrats now enthusiastically support Dean's presidential bid.

"I learned a lot from him," said Chainsaw, "but he learned a few things from us. And," said the Vermont native, "he made the place I love a stronger and better place than when he found it."

The good news is, there's some indication this week that the real story of Howard Dean's Vermont experience may get out. CNN stopped by Seven Days Tuesday morning. Producer Rose Marie Arce and reporter Kelly Wallace came to town on a quest. They wanted to find out if the current portrayal of Dean as an angry, left-wing extremist rabble-rouser is correct.

Yours truly was only too happy to take them on a stroll down memory lane, back to the good old days when Howard Dean represented the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. Back to reality.

Anyone can get a story. Getting it right is the challenge. Kudos to CNN for being the first to make the effort.

P.S. Mr. Flanagan told Seven Days he plans on dipping his toes back in the political pond this year. Fast Eddie said he will be a candidate for one of the six Chittenden County seats in the state senate.

Governor Moonbeam?

Gubernatorial hopeful Peter Clavelle appears primed for his bid to unseat Republican one-term wonder Jim Douglas. Mayor Moonie has been on the road a lot lately. The feedback we're getting from out in the mountains is that Pedro comes across as a very knowledgeable and caring soul with a vision for the future.

But political insiders are almost universally dissing his chances in November. Even if former State Sen. Peter Shumlin decides not to challenge him in the Democratic Primary, Moonie's facing a steep uphill struggle.

The reason cited by the pundit class is the fact that Jim Douglas is such a "nice guy." People find him hard to dislike. Who wouldn't want their sister or daughter to date a guy like Jimmy D? He's not a boozer and is the last living member of the Woodstock generation who hasn't inhaled.

Gov. Douglas' talents with a scissors and shovel at ribbon-cuttings and groundbreakings is almost legendary. Like his predecessor, Slim Jim has kept the extreme wing of his party at arm's length while taking liberal positions on a host of issues.

Simply put, Jim Douglas has yet to give voters a reason to get rid of him. Clavelle's challenge will be to articulate such a reason.

"This administration is long on rhetoric and short on results," Clavelle said in a Seven Days interview. Douglas, he said, "has been overoccupied with ribbon-cuttings and certainly has enjoyed an extensive honeymoon with the media."

Where will Moonie be looking for soft spots in Jimmy D's armor? The Burlington mayor charged the current ruler's administration is "moving in the wrong direction on a couple of fronts." Clavelle mentioned Jimbo's "flawed energy strategy" and "health care" as issues on which he'll be taking the offensive.

"Invincibility," said Clavelle, "is not a tag I would apply to [Douglas]."

Mayor Moonie also said he has a "big beef" with the national GOP. "The Republican Party does not represent the long-term interests of voters or Americans," he said. "Nationally, it's the radical party. In this state it's not quite so radical, but it's still the minority party."

Some suggest having Howard Dean top the national Democratic ticket in November will spark a huge turnout locally, one that will hurt Douglas' reelection chances. It's something the governor says he has thought about.

"Vermonters are so independent, and split their tickets prodigiously," he said. "We don't have a straight party box on the ballot like we did up until the 1970s. Many people support Howard Dean in his current quest and support me in my effort to retain this position. So I'm not too concerned."

Imagine the Dean/Douglas bumper stickers?

But under Mr. Confident's leadership, charged Clavelle, "there seems to be an inclination to expend extraordinary amounts of political energy to represent the interests of those with money and power." He said that, so far, Douglas' team has extended "special treatment to those who don't need it."

The old Progressive can still dish out the class-warfare rhetoric, eh?

Asked how he'll overcome Jim Douglas' squeaky-clean, nice-guy image, Clavelle said he'd "heard that George W. Bush is also affable." But this is not about "personality," said da mayor. "This is about public policy and political philosophy."

Well, actually, it's about a lot more than that, but there's plenty of time to flesh it all out.

Clavelle's "official" campaign kickoff is scheduled for February 7 at the Champlain Mill in Winooski. He may be mayor of Burlap, but he was raised a Winooski river rat. For more on Mayor Moonie's campaign, check out http://www.clavelleforgovernor.com.

Blowin' In the Wind? 

Northeast Kingdom Republican maverick Vince Illuzzi is up to his eyeballs in windmills and hydro dams this session. Sen. Illuzzi is the leading "voice crying in the wilderness" on the issue of Vermont's energy future. He has the "radical" idea that the state should not be playing cheerleader and protector for Green Mountain Power and CVPS, the big investor-owned electric utilities. Public power, says Vince, is the way to go.

Illuzzi suggests Vermont has a rare golden opportunity to secure a low-cost energy future by buying the hydro dams on the Connecticut River. It's clean, renewable energy and it would mean cheap power forever — something you'd expect the business-friendly Douglas administration to latch onto.

Unfortunately, our utility-friendly Gov doesn't share Illuzzi's vision.

"The people of Vermont can't forget those dams," said Vince. "The day of reckoning is coming. If we pass it up, our ancestors will say we blew it."

On the wind-power front, Sen. Illuzzi told Seven Days he will introduce a resolution calling on the Public Service Board to seek counsel from the environmental board on land-use issues regarding windmills on ridge lines. Even though Vince has a little wind generator at his Newport villa, he's sensitive to concerns of windmill opponents who fear 300-foot-high wind turbines will harm real estate values in the Kingdom.

Ah, beauty remains in the eye of the beholder.

Making Law 

That is, after all, what the legislature does. And this year we've spotted a few cuties that recently have been introduced.

Vermont whistleblowers will sleep better if S.270 makes it though the sausage grinder. Introduced by Democrat Sen. Peter Welch and others, the bill states: "No employer shall discharge, threaten or otherwise discriminate against any employee regarding any employee's compensation, terms, conditions, location, or privileges of employment based on any whistleblowing."


How about one for the ol' shot and a beer crowd? Welch and Sens. John Campbell and Matt Dunne are there for you!

Under S.269 state liquor laws would be changed to "permit a consumer to carry no more than two open containers of alcoholic beverages at one time."

One for each hand, eh?

Also on the food and beverage front, Sen. Ginny Lyons has introduced S.241. It proposes to "help prevent childhood obesity by directing the state board of education to adopt nutrition standards for public schools; and by defining physical education as a daily program of moderate to vigorous physical activity."

The bite in Skinny Ginny's bill comes in the last sentence: "Only food and beverages which meet the nutritional standards adopted by the state board may be sold on school grounds between one half hour before the start of the school day and one half hour after the end of the school day."

Can you say bye-bye, Coca-Cola?

Mary Fanny Time?

Despite a recent report in The Burlington Free Press, Fletcher Allen Health Care is not on the verge of changing its name. The gist of the story was the hospital wanted to put its sordid Renaissance Project financial scandal in the past and the thought was, a new name will help.

However, Mary Fanny spokesman Mike Nobel told Seven Days the name change idea is only in the most preliminary stage.

"We're beginning to look at what a process might look like to think of changing our name, but at this time there's no process," said the Nobleman.

Told of one rumor that the hospital wants "Vermont" in its new name, Noble just laughed.

The current name came from combining Mary Fletcher with Fanny Allen. We've always said they picked the wrong combo. It ought to be the Mary Fanny.

OK, how about "Mary Vermont's Fanny?"

Wedding Bells

Hey, Britney Spears wasn't the only one who got bit by the love bug this New Year's. Our favorite medical software whiz, Ritchie Tarrant of IDX, tied the knot with longtime sweetheart Deborah Messner on New Year's Eve. Tarrant announced the nuptials that evening at a New Year's Eve party he threw for 200 of his closest friends at the Clarion Hotel in South Burlington.

Congratulations to the love birds!

Now, if Mr. IDX decides to take a plunge into the 2004 U.S. Senate race, he'll do so as a happily married man.

Media Notes

Montpelier's Associated Press bureau has new digs and a new staffer. The old, shall we say, bare bones bureau occupied the second floor above the Thrush Tavern for the last 25 years. That meant the governor's office across the street was less than a minute's walk away, and the Statehouse just two minutes.

The new, modern facilities are down by the river on Stonecutter's Way. Now it's a good 10-minute hike to the Golden Dome.

"It's not as convenient as the Thrush," said veteran A.P. Reporter Wilson Ring.

The new reporter at A.P.'s Montpeculiar outpost is Tim McCahill. Son of a diplomat, Tim graduated Middlebury College last February and was a reporter for the weekly Addison Independent before moving to the world's largest news service. Bureau Chief Chris Graff also went to Dingle-berry College. So did Gov. Jim Douglas.

Wait a minute.


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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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