Lame Duck In Flight | Inside Track | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice
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Lame Duck In Flight 

Governor Howard Dean is far, far away from the Green Mountains this week. Around the Statehouse, his increasingly frequent out-of-state travels are being noticed more and more.

As reported in an Associated Press exclusive last week, Ho-Ho is off to Laos this week in hopes of locating the remains of his brother, Charles Dean, who disappeared while traveling there in 1974. It’s believed he was killed by Pathet Lao guerrillas who had taken him prisoner.

A lot of people are curious why Dr. Dean is making the trip now, rather than a few months from now when the Legislature goes home. After all, next month Ho-Ho’s off to Brazil for another weeklong trip, and his list of “presidential campaign” appearances far and wide keeps growing.

So we put the question to the Guv’s press secretary, Susan Allen. Why now?

Would you believe Sweet Sue did not find our interrogatory appropriate?

Her boss’ trip to Southeast Asia — accompanied by two Vermont state troopers — is, in her view, a “private” matter. She told Seven Days she did not expect the “specifics” of the governor’s “private” international travel to be what she termed “public fodder.”

Excuse us. We weren’t after fodder, just an answer to what folks are asking us — “Why now?”

Meanwhile, Dean’s campaign visit to Manchester, New Hampshire, last week was a home run. He received not only local but national coverage. Ho-Ho appeared live from Manchester on CNN’s “Inside Politics” with Judy Woodruff that afternoon.

Asked how he’ll deal with coming from such a small state far outside the Washington Beltway, Dean replied, “I don’t worry about it. I’m going to let the message take care of itself. I think I have something to say. And I don’t think what I have to say is being said by anybody else.”

Vermont’s governor also received top billing in Hotline, the insider Internet publication that tracks national and state races. Hotline prominently noted Dean’s New Hampshire visit and called him the “Vermonster.”

The guy’s getting noticed.

The other day, State Sen. Dick McCormack (D-Windsor) was reminiscing. In the early days of the Dean administration, McCormack the Tax & Spend Liberal and Dean the Centrist Fiscal Conservative tangled often. He recalled a speech Dean gave to fellow Democrats many moons ago.

“He told us,” recounted McCormack, “that we wouldn’t ever be able to accomplish what we wanted to because the people don’t trust Democrats with their money. That our first order of business is to have people understand that we Democrats can handle money. I think he’s more than succeeded at that,” said McCormack.

“I don’t think it’s unthinkable that he can be the President,” said the singing senator from Windsor County. “And, as I say, I’m kicking myself that I wasn’t nicer to him. I could have used a White House job.”

Media Notes — The buzz shot through the Statehouse Tuesday like greased lightning. Jack Hoffman, the chief of the Vermont Press Bureau, is hanging up his reporter’s notebook.

The 54-year-old Marshfield resident signed on with the Rutland Herald 22 years ago. Two years later he landed on the Statehouse beat. Mr. Hoffman told Seven Days he informed his boss on Monday that it was time for him to move on. Besides coordinating state government coverage for the Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus and the Rutland Herald, Jack also writes a popular Sunday column that will be sorely missed by the state’s politicos.

Asked what his finest accomplishments were, he pointed to coverage of civil unions, Act 60 and the state’s infamous kidnapping raid on the Northeast Kingdom Community Church back in 1983.

“I’m probably the only person in the state,” chuckled Jack, “who enjoys covering Act 60.”

Hoffman told us the departure date will be “soon,” as in, within a couple weeks. No word on his replacement, assuming he is replaced.

Plans for his future?

Hoffman said he hasn’t “quite worked out all the details,” but he’s planning on getting involved in a venture “developing high-speed Internet use.”

In addition, there’s a possibility of writing a book about Vermont’s experience with introducing civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. Could be a market for that in the future, since 49 states have yet to take the plunge.

Hoffman’s impending departure comes on the heels of what observers call a “brain drain” at the two newspapers owned by R. John Mitchell. Recent resignations include Herald Managing Editor John van Hoesen, Sunday investigative writers John Dillon and Mark Bushnell, political scribe Diane Derby and Times-Argus Editorial Writer James Falzarano.

A Hard Look at Ruth Dwyer — Okay, okay. Former Republican politician Ruth Dwyer of Thetford has completed her first four-part investigative series on WVNY-TV. We’ll see in a few months, when the TV ratings come out, if she’s making a difference for the perennial last-place news station in the market.

As one of her old friends at the Statehouse remarked the other day, “It’s good to see Ruth picking up a paycheck.”

Good for Ruth, maybe, but a cause for some dissension among the rest of the underpaid news staff. Some Ch. 22 folks work second jobs to make ends meet.

Ruth’s “Hard Look at Ritalin” was a shaky start. No doubt the technical problems will be fixed. But after watching the four episodes, we were left asking, “What’s the point?”

Okay, Vermont has the second-highest per-capita use of Ritalin, a prescription drug. (New Hampshire is No. 1.) Ruth explored all the possible explanations, but in the end there was no punch line. She left viewers hanging as to just why Vermonters pop so much Ritalin.

Instead, it was four days of “maybe this, maybe that.” Kind of reminded us of her campaign strategy — throw everything including the kitchen sink against the wall and maybe something will stick.

One can easily imagine Ruth taking a “Hard Look at the Weather!”

Sometimes it’s hot and sometimes it’s cold. Sometimes it rains and sometimes it snows; sometimes it’s sunny and sometimes it’s dark and sometimes it’s… and that’s a hard look at the weather!

This week, Ruth’s starting her second series — “A Hard Look at Act 250.”

After that, Act 60 and civil unions, perhaps?

Hey, how about “A Hard Look at Howard Dean?”

As everyone knows, Ruth the Politician had a big credibility problem. She embellished recycled anecdotes and turned them into “facts” to suit her purposes.

A check of her biography posted on the the station’s new Web site (www.abc22.com) indicates that accuracy remains a challenge — “As an involved native Vermonter, Ruth knows Vermonters’ concerns.”

Really?

Funny thing is, Ruth was born in Ohio and raised on Long Island.

Some things never change, eh?

Radio Wars — The much-anticipated numbers are out from the Arbitron fall sweeps. Much anticipated because for the first time Arbitron has extended the Burlington Metro Market to include Chittenden, Addison, Grand Isle and Franklin counties on the Vermont side of the pond, and Clinton and Essex counties on the New York side.

The bigger the signal, the bigger the reach. Arbitron bases its results on the tabulation of 833 daily radio diaries distributed at random. This time there are a lot more of them than in the past. Distribution is based on population density. So in Chittenden County, 323 households kept diaries. In Franklin County, 110. In Addison County, 93.

As we’ve noted before, with results broken down every which way by target audiences based on the demographics of age and gender, there’s usually an angle for every radio sales rep to spin with a straight face. Advertising’s all about targeting your desired audience, right?

The envelope, please!

The overall, round-the-clock champion — by an impressive margin — is the 100,000-watt country sound of WOKO-FM (17.8 audience share). Congratulations.

The silver goes to WXXX-FM (10.1 share), locally owned by Paul Goldman’s Sison Communications. 95 Triple X, which reliable sources say will host a nude on-air wedding on Valentine’s Day, pumps out 25,000 watts.

Ah, radio, where the imagination rules!

And the bronze goes to the “adult contemporary” sounds of 100,000-watt WEZF-FM, Star 92.9, owned by the mammoth Enron of America’s radio airwaves, Clear Channel Communications Inc., of San Antonio, Texas. Clear Channel owns 1170 radio stations in all 50 states — more than 10 percent of America’s stations. And it rakes in 20 percent of the ad revenue. Within the last two years, Clear Channel started buying Vermont.

Locally, Clear Channel operates four other stations in our Metro Market: WCPV-FM, “Champ” (classic rock), WJVT-FM (smooth jazz), and the simulcast signals of WEAV-AM and WXZO-FM (talk). The last two have “Imus in the Morning” and recently snatched Rush Limbaugh away from WKDR-AM. Statewide, Clear Channel owns 15 Vermont radio stations.

Radio makes its gravy in the morning drive time, when folks pile out of the sack, into the shower and then hop in their beloved automobiles for the rush-hour crawl to work. Radio “personalities” are the familiar “friends” many people start their day with. The competition is intense.

WOKO’s “Morning Roundup with CK and Wild Bill” is the king of morning drive. “Mike & Chantal in the Morning” on 95 Triple X finished second and, holy mackerel, the “informative” chatter of the one-and-only Howard Stern on WIZN-FM took third place. (Never realized farting was so popular in the north country.)

The big surprise in the new book is that our longtime buddies “Corn & the Crotch,” er, sorry, “Corm & the Coach,” slipped all the way down to seventh place overall. The boyos, Steve Cormier and Tom Brennan, and co-host Lana Wilder, even lost bragging rights to “first place” among the macho male community — “Men 25-54.” WOKO’s “Morning Roundup” and WIZN’s Howard Stern finished 1-2 in that category.

Hey, maybe Lana needs another woman around, eh?

As for the future leaders of America, it appears most of the twentysomethings start their day with the King of Crude — Howard Stern (16.5 share). WOKO was a close second (15.3 share). And 95 Triple X was third (13.8 share).

Vermont Public Radio’s listenership is not included in the Arbitron ratings. Just “commercial” stations. However, if one adds up all the individual shares of the commercial stations, it looks like about 24 percent of the audience is listening to the public radio stations that cover our region.

Correction — In last week’s item on “The Quiet Man,” aka Doug Racine, three paragraphs praising Mr. Racine’s character and leadership skills should have been italicized. They were authored by Statehouse business lobbyist and former Racine campaign manager Christopher Rice. Mr. Rice is currently employed by Wilson & White, a prominent Montpelier lobbying firm representing 28 clients under the golden dome. Rice’s glowing comments about the Democratic candidate for governor were posted on the “Monday Briefing” page of the firm’s Web site (www.wilsonwhite.com).

Rice’s commentary referenced Racine’s “sound thrashing of John Carroll” in the 1996 Lite-Gov race, which Mr. Rice managed. He described the Quiet Man as “a reserved person by nature,” who “cares more about substance than retail politics.”

Sorry for the error.

P.S. A check of the Wilson & White Web site Tuesday indicates Mr. Rice’s Racine commentary is no longer posted.

Interesting.

Speaking of the Dugster — With Gov. Howard Dean on the road to Laos this week, Doug Racine is Vermont’s acting governor. It’s a role he’ll be playing with increasing frequency, as indicated by Ho-Ho’s burgeoning out-of-state travel schedule. We asked Mr. Racine at Monday’s Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce “Legislative Breakfast” at the Sheraton if he’d consider exercising his right to receive Vermont State Police security.

Not our Quiet Man. “I don’t believe it’s necessary,” said the Dugster. Besides, he noted, he’s not making “day-to-day decisions” affecting the state. And, he pointed out, Ho-Ho “is just a phone call away.”

For now, the Quiet Man’s happy tooling around in his own Jeep Cherokee. After all, the family owns the dealership.

However, should Vermont voters choose him to be our next governor, he’ll have no problem adapting to new wheels and the crew of state police drivers.

This Just In — As we head for the printer, there’s word from Republican sources that Republican gubernatorial candidate King Con Hogan is considering running as an Independent. Hogan could not be reached for comment. Stay tuned.

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About The Author

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

Bio:
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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