He's only been Chittenden County State's Attorney for about 60 days, but Thomas J. Donovan put in his first performance on WCAX-TV's "You can quote me" this weekend as the top law enforcement official in Vermont's largest county. Has a gift for the gab, too, does Mr. Donovan.
I know, you were in church or on the mountain at 11 am this morning and missed it. I'm almost the only one watching.
But I had to watch T.J. the rookie, thirtysomething state's attorney. because when it comes to the next generation of political leaders in Vermont, this Donovan chap, hometown Burlington boy, has the skills, the desire and the breeding!
His momma is a state representative, Johanna Leddy Donovan, his uncle was a state senator and his grandpa was almost governor. Proud Vermont Democrats one and all.
And let's not forget, okay, what United States Senator Patrick J. Leahy's last job was some 32 years ago before getting the one he currently holds?
That's right - he was a thirtysomething Chittenden County State's Attorney!
On "Quote Me," the issue of drug legalization came up early on, an idea that's finally getting some serious attention thanks to the courageous public remarks of a veteran Vermont state's attorney. Donovan showed his political talent by judiciously trying to walk both sides of the drug-policy street.
He called for thinking "outside the box" (T.J.'s favorite buzz-word), and doing a better job of addressing the causes of addiction, but he wasn't ready to go as far into the world of reality as Windsor County State's Attorney Robert Sand has gone.
State's Attorney Donovan: "We spend more money in this state on incarcerating people than we do on higher education - on educating people and sending Vermonters to UVM to Lyndon State. That’s disturbing. Let’s be pro-active. Let’s think outside the box. We want to hold people accountable - no question. But let’s give then the opportunity to succeed by treating the underlying addiction."
Marselis Parsons: "The suggestion for decriminalizing some drugs came not from the 'Wacko Left.' It came from one of your collegaues, a fellow state's attorney, a state’s attorney in a similarly busy county - Windsor County - Bob Sand is no kook!"
Donovan: "I didn’t say he was."
Parsons; "His idea is this will help solve some of the problem."
Donovan: "I don’t think so. Let me say this about 'Bobby Sands' (sic). He should be commended for bringing this topic into the mainstream. Trememdous amount of political courage to be a law-enforcement official, to be the top law enforcement official in his county, [and] to say that he supports the legalization of drugs. He should be comended. It’s a conversation we should have, frankly.
"What we’re seeing in this county, it may be different in the southern part of the state, I doubt it. What we’re seeing is crime being committed as a result of legal regulated drugs, opiate-based painkillers; Percocet, OxyContin. Home invasions. People are going in and robbing elderly people who are legally prescribed these drugs. So I don’t see how it’s going to solve the problem to legalize it.
"It’s not going to address one’s addiction and, ah, I don’t want to live in a community, frankly, where heroin, cocaine - because [Sand] is not just talking about thr legalization of marijuana, he’s talking about the legalization of all drugs - and I don’t want to be in a community where you can go to your local pharmacy and get cocaine and get heroin. It’s a very scary thing. There are a lot of collateral consequences to, ah, the one using drugs, and it’s crime, the property crime.
"Are we facing challenges regarding the drug issue?
"Do I have all the answers?
"But I don’t think that legalizing drugs is the answer."
So much for Mr. "Outside the Box," eh?
Hey, let's give Young T.J. some time.
As he pointed out to his inquisitors, he's only been state's attorney in Big Bad Burlap for two months.