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Friday, February 29, 2008

Chelsea Morning

Chelsea_c Remember the Joni Mitchell song?

"Woke up it was a Chelsea morning and the first thing that I heard,
was a song outside my window and the traffic wrote the words...

It was freezing - around zero - on Church Street in downtown Burlington early this morning. At 9:15 AM when it had been broadcast Chelsea Clinton would arrive on Church Street to shake some hands, there were 250 people huddling in the cold hoping to meet and greet the famous daughter of Bill and Hillary.

"We want to see the Clintons, any Clinton we can," said Connie Ramsey of Burlington. "I'm supporting Hillary, but I’ll take either one, her or Barack."

Is it because she’s a woman?

"No," replied Ramsey. "I find that insulting, actually, that people assume if you’re a woman you’ll back the female candidate."

Churchstchelsea Different story for Valerie Parauka from St. Albans.

"I’m voting for Hillary because I want to see a woman in the White House," Parauka told us. "I think she’s capable. I think she’s more capable that Barack. She has the experience and the strength to deal with our country and other countries."

Is her gender a key factor?

"It shouldn’t be a factor, but unfortunately in today’s society, it is a factor," said Valerie, "and people do look at her gender and she has to work twice as hard to overcome that.  I think it’s time for a woman president and I think after Bush’s fiasco, it’s a prime opportunity for her to pop into office."

The crowd has shrunk by the time Chelsea arrived around 10 o'clock. She was escorted by former Gov. Madeleine Kunin and Big Bill's EPA Secretary Carol Browner.

The First Daughter hit Uncommon Grounds for some java. Dropped into Banana Republic, too.

Well, at least she had one parent get elected president of the United States, eh?

For some nice video shot by Ch. 17 Producer Tuija Lindell go here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Let it snow...

Up and at 'em and in 2008 that means up and "online." And the word on WGDR out of Plainfield is here comes da' snow. Yes, indeed. Despite all the global-warming talk, we're about to set the record for snowiest February on record.

Golden_snow Click over to WDEV and catch Eric Michaels getting the Statehouse story out of a sleepy-sounding Kristin Carlson. Kristin's a one-woman capital bureau for Ch. 3 (remember Tim Lewis?) and she was the fill-in anchorwoman on the Six O'Clock last night. Busy gal.

So, let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

The presidential primary heats up in the Green Mountains. Got an automated "Vote for Hillary Clinton" call last night from none other than former Governor/Ambassador Madeleine Kunin. Then I got one from a live person, a male, calling from an Obama for President office on North Street who wanted to urge me to vote for Obama.

Last week, Queen Madeleine and House Speaker Gaye Symington and Rep. Kathy Keenan did a Hillary for President conference call.

This morning the Obama Campaign is hosting a conference-call presser with three women for Barack.

And yes, Progressive Anthony Pollina does exist!

In fact, Tony the Prog's holding a Statehouse presser today at 12:30 in the Cedar Creek Room. This arrived a little after 5 o'clock on Monday. Unfortunately, we can't make it:

Pollina Pollina to hold press conference on Douglas' budget and promises to take the Governor to task for false promises and increasing cost of living for Vermonters, especially low-income families.  "Jim Douglas has built a reputation on keeping taxes low, but his budget increases fees for poor families while giving tax cuts to those on top. Plus, he's decreasing services badly needed by Vermont families," said Pollina.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Who are these guys?

Statehouse_vets Distinguished leaders of the Vermont State Senate, that's who. The Baby Boomer generation in power!

With one distinguished flash from the Statehouse past in the middle of them - the dude in the leather jacket.

Committee rooms and hallways - that's where the action occurs, information's exchanged, deals cut. It's all about communication, eh?

On the left is Sen. Jane Kitchell (D-Caledonia). On the right Sen. John Campbell (D-Windsor). [No relation to the soup.] To Campbell's right, Sen. Susan Bartlett (D-Lamoille). And strolling through the middle of them in bomber jacket and white scarf is a flash from the past: former-State Rep. John Freiden, a co-father of Act 60 [1997] which leveled the education property-tax playing field statewide.

Sen. Bartlett, first elected to the state senate in 1992, is one of the more unheralded, yet powerful political players in Montpeculiar. She's chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Sen. Kitchell was elected to the senate in 2004 - the first - no, the second Democrat - ever elected to a Caledonia County state senate seat (Scudder Parker was the first). Born in St. J and raised in Danville,  Sen. Jane has long been a Montpelier fixture for quite some time. She's a retired state worker - former secretary of the Agency of Human Services.

Sen. Campbell, a relative Montpeculiar newcomer compared to those two, didn't make it to Golden Dome Land until the 21st Century. He's the current Democrat Majority Leader. Was thinking about a gubernatorial bid, but that didn't get far.

In fact, the Vermont Democratic Party is still looking for a gubernatorial candidate to challenge Republican Jim Douglas.

Friday, February 22, 2008

And the point is?

Mplrsnow Democratic House Speaker Gaye Symington's Friday "brown-bagger" with the Statehouse press is now being dubbed her "weekly press discussion."

I was the only one who ever brought a sandwich in a brown bag - to the first one, a few years back. One cannot, however, take notes with food in between one's paws. Gaye kept calling it a "brown-bagger," but no one ever brought food again. After all, it's her chance to counter the Guv's weekly presser, usually held on Thursdays.

Today's gathering in Speaker Gaye's office (a gathering Ch. 3, Ch. 5 and The Associated Press blew off), started 10 minutes late. In fact, with both Gov. Scissorhands and Lite-Gov Doobie-Doo out of state, Ol' Gaye was acting-governor!

When it was over, we were left wondering why she had bothered to call it in the first place. What was the Democratic Speaker of House's message?

Politics, mes amis, is a battle of messages. He/she who has the winning message ends up in power.

Despite his Republican jersey, Jim Douglas has had the winning message in Montpelier since taking office in 2003.

And despite their currently significantly superior numbers under the Golden Dome, Democrats have still been unable to deliver on the core issues they told Vermont voters were their priorities: major healthcare policy reform, serious climate-change legislation and major campaign-finance reform.

If the Democratic Speaker had a message today that she wanted to get out to the Vermont public through the Statehouse press, quite frankly it escaped us. So as the press ran out of questions and the Speaker ran out of anything she wanted to say,  yours truly tossed up the old softball, asking Madame Speaker if there, in fact,  was a particular message she wanted to get out to Vermont voters through today's press gathering?

Symington replied:

Symington "The message that I began with was we’re beginning to write the budget and our priorities in the budget are not to put additional pressure on property taxes, not to put additional, shifting cost onto healthcare premiums for Vermonters, and to focus on the barriers and challenges that both our employers are facing and that Vermonters are facing in terms of being able to get to work and hold work and, you know, be reliable employees and that’s housing and transportation and child care and that we have tough budget choices ahead of us, but those are our priorities."

Wouldn't you agree that until Vermont Democrats can articulate a "message" more clearly and crisply and concisely, [i.e. get to the point!], Republican Gov. Jim Douglas' hold on power is quite secure?

P.S. Anybody see/hear Tony the Prog this week?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Vermont Cop Shortage

When I was a kid, being a cop was one of the desirable career choices in my adult future.

Heck, every little boy wanted to be a cop when they grew up. From Dragnet to Hill Street Blues, police work was noble, honorable, courageous work.

Nowadays there's a 10 percent vacancy-rate nationwide, and many of the best and the brightest are finding other career paths besides law enforcement.

Ceremonial Louis Porter has a story in today's Rutland Herald and Times Argus about the shortage in Vermont.

That's a shot we took of Louis with his pen and notebook yesterday in the Statehouse Ceremonial Office following Gov. Jim Douglas' uneventful weekly presser. Administration Secretary Mike Smith and Chief of Staff Tim Hayward are to his left.

Currently there are 27 unfilled positions at Vermont State Police. Another dozen are on sick leave and five more are on active duty with the US military in Iraq.

P.S. Our annual Statehouse Cafeteria food-fight cable TV program is back on the air - I think it's season #14. Time flies. [Whoopsie! Word from Jess Wilson at CCTV - yours truly's first Point-Counterpoint was in 1993. That makes this Season 16!]

The programs are available around the state on public access cable and on Ch. 17 on Comcast in beautiful Burlington. Also available online right here.

Thanks to Vermont Yankee, CVPS and Associated Industries of Vermont for their underwriting grants.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bernie in the House?

Bernie_in_the_house_2 Spoke to the enviro committees at 11 AM.

Upbeat was he. Incredibly upbeat!

{The Guv didn't even know he was in the building when we asked Jimbo at his 1 PM presser.]

More later...



Vermont's Independent US Sen. Bernie Sanders told lawmakers gathered in the Vermont House chamber, that global warming is "a very, very serious problem," one that scientists have underestimated and, he added, it is “absolutely beyond comprehension”  that the Bush administration has refused to address it.

That’s the bad news.

However, Ol' Bernardo was upbeat with good news about global warming. I'm not making this up.

And the good news - said Sanders - is that we actually do know how to reverse global warming by moving boldly on energy efficiency and promoting sustainable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. We can reverse global warming and in the process, he said, create millions of new jobs!

Said Bernie:

"On this issue I’m upbeat because we know the answers. We have seen it. We know what energy efficiency can do. We know the potential of solar, the potential of wind and geothermal. The question is to put into action -  make real what already exists.

"We don't have to think of what to do, we know what to do. It's a question of implementing what we know."

Sanders said we have the potential right now to create dozens of solar/thermal power facilities in the nation’s Southwest that could meet one-third of America’s energy demand - without producing  greenhouse gases.

All that’s required, said Sanders, is a change in priorities in Washington, so such projects get funding, rather than having tax breaks lavished on Exxon-Mobil, a corporation that reported a $40 billion profit last year.

Window Change

Windshield A new windshield in Freyne Land!

Like having a new car.

Took a little over an hour for Justin Smith, 20, of Georgia, to remove the old one which had a crack in its outer layer (of three) that was about three-feet long, and install the new. Mine was his third window of the day, and, coincidentally, they were all on Saturns.

Been doing windows since last summer, he said. Had tried the two-year mechanical engineering program at VTC in Randolph, but it had been a bit much. If he had it to do over, he would have spread it over three years.

Learning the window trade to get the job at Safelite Auto Glass required completing an 8-week training course in Albany, New York. And like a lot of other technical jobs here and elsewhere, they're hiring. Good benefits, he said, health and dental.

Got to admire someone who actually knows how to do something of practical value, eh?

Obama And when the political columnist inquired if he were paying any attention to the presidential election circus, his eyes suddenly lit up.

Justin the windshield replacer/fixer is on the Barack Obama train. Why?

Because "He's down-to-earth."

Hillary, to him, is "more of the same."

And the fact that's he's a black man makes absolutely, positively no difference whatsoever. It's simply not a factor. I've noticed that more and more of late as Justin's generation hits their twenties.

When I was 20, in 1970, that, unfortunately, wasn't the case.

We've come a long way, baby!

P.S. A little Montpeculiar action today under the Golden Dome. Ol' Bernardo's making the rounds and Gov. Scissorhands is having his "weekly presser."

What fun!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Statehouse Skinheads?

So, the ski industry must have loved the thaw, eh?

For awhile there, it sure felt like winter, didn't it?

3someleg The Statehouse gets back into action today. As time passes, styles change. Once upon a time hair was big. Nowadays, the less hair the better is the style, as demonstrated by this trio of (l. to r.) Todd Bailey, director of the Vermont Alliance of Conservation Voters, Bob Stannard, blues-harp player and lobbyist for the anti-nuke Citizens Action Network,  and State Rep. Tony Klein (D-East Montpelier).

Anyway, it's "Inside Track" day here at the ranch in Burlap. High temp's supposed to be 35 degrees. High enough for the windshield repair guy to come and replace my cracked windshield. An interstate pebble did the damage. Didn't know previously that there are three layers to a windshield. Just the outer one is cracked. The repair guy couldn't come last Tuesday because it was "too cold." He told me not to worry about the whole window breaking or caving in. I haven't. But the crack has extended itself from a couple inches to about three feet.

Not to worry.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Vermont roots...

Did a Monday Montpeculiar run - police headquarters.

St. Patrick, aka U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy was having a presser. Announced an extra $1 million earmark for the Vermont Drug Task Force. All the TVs showed up: Ch. 3, Ch.5 and Fox 44!

Leahytracy That's John Patrick Tracy, a Leahy Vermont staffer and former Democratic leader-type under the Golden Dome, joining the senator. Tracy remains a future something-or-other, eh?

In case you were wondering what his duties currently include, among other things, Tracy "staffs" pressers such as these and when required puts his body in between the journalist/blogger (moi) with the camera and the New York license plate on the vehicle the senior senator from Vermont, his boss, is driving.

"It's a rental," said St. Patrick, that he'd picked up at the Burlington Airport. No big deal, but he sure didn't like the sight of me and the camera. Touchy, touchy.

During the presser, Sen. Leahy mentioned at least three times that his father had been born in Barre, Vermont.

Then he hit Burlington for an "I Love Obama" presser with Ben & Jerry. And he "unveiled" the new Obama radio ad he made with his better half - wife Marcelle Leahy.

Yours truly went over to a friend's place for some tea and a lovely little nap.

Freeps gives Bernie his due

Berniechchst Let's see now. Bernie Sanders [taking a call at right on Church Street] has lived in Vermont since the mid-1960s. Got involved with that left-wing, commie/pinko Liberty Union Party in 1971. First ran statewide in 1972.

And it's only taken 37 years for The Burlington Free Press, the state's largest daily, to write a favorable story about the guy!

It's titled "Sanders makes impact in U.S. Senate."

And Gannett Washington writer Erin Kelly, who has covered Vermont's Washington delegation for quite some time, hit the bullseye in her lead: the fact that the Bernie Sanders you see and hear today hasn't changed his tune one bit from the Bernie you heard way back when. His consistency and his indefatigable persistence are his trademarks. He was the champion of "poor people, working people and the elderly" back then, and he's the champion of "poor people, working people and the elderly" today...."and the environment!"

Yours truly first personally encountered Ol' Bernardo in January 1981. Corner of College and Church. He was a candidate for mayor. In March he pulled off the 10-vote upset that certainly shook this town up.

My job is to ask the questions the pols don't want to hear. Sorry, but it's my job - a 1st Amendment thing. Use it or lose it! It took us only about 15 years to warm up, but we did!

Mayor Bernie was at the helm in Burlington through the 1980s - a crucial and exciting time for change in this old dusty, bedraggled town with a rundown, dirty waterfront.

Statewide, he's won landslide victories every two years for more than a decade. Beat Republican Gazillionaire Ritchie Rich Tarrant 2 to 1 to win Jeezum Jim Jeffords' vacant seat. And seeing him today, in the thick of it in the United States Senate, a champion of the have-nots, of "poor people, working people and the elderly" and an effective one, has at long-last won the appropriate recognition from The Burlington Free Press!

What do you think?

Bernie's best years still ahead of him?

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