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November 29, 2013

The Scoreboard: A Special Thanksgiving Edition

Scoreboard.newEach Friday here at Scoreboard headquarters, we take a look back at the week's news to see who came out ahead and who came out behind.

But this week — still drunk on tryptophan and gravy, no doubt — we're taking a different approach. Like the pilgrims of yore, gathered around the turducken and marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes at Plymouth Rock, we're taking a moment to reflect on all that for which we are thankful. 

And, to be sure, there is much in this great state for which a political reporter and columnist must give thanks. For instance:

Gov. Peter Shumlin — Yes, we've spilled plenty of ink documenting his many trials, tribulations and boneheaded comments. But let's face it: The guy is a gift to political reporters that just keeps on giving. Nobody's got the gov beat in the chutzpah department, nor in pure, unadulterated political skill. And say what you will about Shummy, the guy works harder than anyone else around. You may question the way he runs this state, but there's no questioning his commitment to it.

The legislatureWe've complained before that the part-time nature of the Vermont legislature actually makes it more difficult for many to serve. Well, hats off to those who do. It's a thankless job, really. Legislators give up four months of their year for little pay and none of that gold-plated health insurance some suspect them of having. And they do it with practically no staff to shield them from their constituents or write their talking points. The citizen's legislature ain't perfect, but I appreciate that I can buy a gallon of milk from the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and delicious pork sausage from the junior senator from Chittenden County. And that I can call their cellphones to hassle them directly.

Flacks — Their job is to run interference between reporters and the politicians and companies they serve. But even when they know a story won't reflect well on their bosses, I find that the flacks I deal with in Vermont — and, in the case of the state's congressional delegation, D.C. — are, for the most part, responsive and good-natured, even when the going gets tough.

Civility — I find the old trope, "It's not the Vermont way," a little overused. But there's definitely something to it. Our politics aren't perfect, but our disagreements tend to be rooted in substance. In these parts, ad hominem attacks remain rare and frowned upon. Let's hope it stays that way.

Tri-partisanship — Yes, we live in an era of Democratic, super-majority rule. But we are lucky in Vermont to have not two but three major parties putting forth platforms and candidates (OK, four, if you count those recently re-majored Liberty Union types). Here's hoping that results in at least a little competition at the ballot box next November! Hey, a political journalist can dream.

The press — We are an utterly fallible breed, sure to miss the story, or — worse yet — bungle it. There aren't as many of us as there used to be, nor as many as there should be. We can be lazy, ignorant and just plain wrong. But I would argue that, compared to other states in which I've lived and worked, Vermont's per capita share of quality journalism is pretty respectable. And while our industry is surely struggling, several Vermont news outlets — particularly those that are not-for-profit or locally owned — have hired more journalists or expanded their news offerings in the past year: VTDigger, Vermont Public Radio, WCAX-TV, WPTZ-TV and Seven Days, to name a few. I remain thankful for all the good work my peers in the press do.

Vermont's congressional delegation — One of them serves as senate president pro tem and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman. Another is the de facto liberal conscience of the Senate. And one has distinguished himself as a workhorse in the House's Democratic minority. Love 'em or hate 'em, Vermont's congressional delegation sure punches above its weight.

Public servants — There's not much glory in serving on your city council, town selectboard or local library commission. State and municipal workers tend only to be noticed when they piss somebody off. And federal employees are taken for granted until a government shutdown sends a stark reminder of the good work they do. They may not make the headlines, but public servants surely deserve a heaping helping of thanks on a holiday Friday they probably don't have off.

You — Most of all, we're thankful to you, dear readers, for picking up Seven Days each week and reading us online. Keep doing that. Please.

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