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A Dairy Miracle!

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They said it couldn’t be done. “They” being the leading lights of the Vermont Republican Party. Folks like Republican National Committeeman Skip Vallee and former state chairman Patrick Garahan.

One year ago, they shouted from the rooftops that U.S. Jim Jeffords’ departure from the GOP would kill prospects for the reauthorization of the Northeast Dairy Compact. They swore that Jeezum Jim’s switch to Independent would come with a steep price — the economic well-being of Vermont’s dairy farms.

But guess what?

Last week on Capitol Hill, a House-Senate Conference Committee adopted the Vermont-sponsored dairy provision in the new farm bill. Jeezum Jim and Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy successfully created a new national dairy program that will provide cash assistance to Vermont’s dairy farmers comparable to what they received under the expired dairy compact.

In fact, the new legislation authorizes retroactive payments to Vermont dairy farmers totaling $9 million. Not bad, eh?

This week Mr. Vallee, fresh from a Caribbean vacation (more on that later), was reluctant to discuss his earlier prediction.

“I think that now that Congress has done this wonderful thing for Vermont,” Vallee told Seven Days, “Patrick Leahy will have time to focus on Miguel Estrada, who’s been denied a fair hearing for almost a year.”

Not surprising Skip would want to change the topic.

Mr. Estrada is one of the conservative — and many say unqualified — judicial nominees put forth by President George W. Bush. Estrada’s chances of getting the blessing of St. Patrick’s Senate Judiciary Committee are between slim and none. The Bushies have charged racism — that St. Patrick is blocking Estrada because of his Hispanic heritage.

Jamas!

Sen. Jeffords, the man Gasoline Vallee repeatedly dubbed “Benedict Arnold last spring, told Seven Days this week, “I can’t tell you how pleased I am that the [Democratic] leadership recognized how important this was to me and the country.”

Vermont’s senior senator, Pat Leahy, had a key seat on the conference committee. “He was fantastic,” said Jeezum Jim.

Jeffords also credited Congressman Bernie Sanders for introducing an innovative dairy provision in the House last fall “that got people thinking.”

This is one more piece of evidence proving beyond a doubt the power and effectiveness of tiny Vermont’s awesome congressional delegation.

Asked if all the gloom-and-doom-sayers like Mr. Vallee ought to be eating some deserved “crow,” Jeffords replied that “the rear end of a cow” might be a better main course.

Bon appetit, Skip!


Court Victory — Last Friday Judge Alan Cheever, a brilliant jurist, sided with Seven Days, the Rutland Herald and The Times Argus and ruled that Gov. Howard Dean must release his daily schedule. The Guv’s law firm, the attorney general’s office, immediately filed an appeal with the Vermont Supreme Court that puts the release of the schedule temporarily on hold.

What’s Ho-Ho afraid of?


War in the Bloody Third? — Burlington’s Ward 3 has been known as the “Bloody Third” since the old days when Democrats butted heads for control of the blue-collar turf.

After the Sanderista revolution of 20 years ago, Ward 3 became fertile soil for the new Progressive Coalition led by Mayor Bernie Sanders. But the Democrats have always hung on. In the Statehouse, the Bloody Third is represented by Progressive Steve Hingtgen and Democrat John Tracy (considered by many to be on track for the mayor’s office).

John and Steve have always avoided public squabbles. But last week the pot boiled over.

Hingtgen was incensed by Tracy’s crack in the local daily, blaming the Progs for backing the Republican redistricting plan.

Steve was so upset he sent John-Boy, the House minority leader, a memo. He also distributed it widely.

“Despite the fact,” wrote Hingtgen, “that we come from different political parties and have had to campaign against each other on three occasions, we have always had a cordial and respectful relationship… I trust you to be honest and I see you as an honorable adversary.”

Then he dropped the hammer.

“Your comments to the press regarding the Progressive role in reapportionment disappoints me. They are dishonest and seem intended solely as a political attack on me and the other three Progressives in the Legislature.”

Hintgen demanded Tracy “set the record straight.”

This week, John-Boy told Seven Days he found Steve’s comments “troubling.” The Bloody Third reps, he said, had had a “long discussion” about the matter and “agreed to disagree.”

Tracy acknowledged the four House Progs had split 2-2 on the floor vote on the Repub-lican plan that gave Burlington, Colchester, South Burlington and Winooski 19 instead of 20 House seats. But Hingtgen was the Prog on the key committee, he noted, and Hingtgen supported it.

“We’ve patched things up,” Tracy told Seven Days.

Not so fast, Johnny.

Hingtgen told Seven Days this week that Mr. Tracy’s suggestion he had supported reducing representation for the four towns is “ludicrous.”

“The votes show that’s not what happened,” insisted Hingtgen. “I looked out for Burlington. That’s my job.”

Steve the Prog said his votes on reapportionment had been “consistent,” while John the Democrat’s votes had been “all over the map.”

“John should stop throwing stones,” said Steve.

By the way, Rep. Hingtgen confirmed he is pondering a bid for secretary of state on the Progressive Party ticket.

Cool.


Spring Flings — With schools closed last week, many Vermonters headed south for a holiday. Democratic Gov. Howard Dean went to Costa Rica. Republican Skip Vallee went “fishing for barracuda” in the crystal-clear waters of the Bahamas. (He confessed he didn’t catch any.) And Progressive Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle and family traveled to the island nation of Grenada.

Grenada, the tiny nation of 90,000 that President Ronald Reagan “conquered” in 1983, is where Mayor Moonie hung out in 1993-94 while Republican Peter Brownell temporarily occupied his City Hall corner office.

Back then, Mr. Clavelle told Seven Days, he’d worked with the opposition political party, the New National Party (NNP). Last week, on the last leg of the trip south, on a puddle jumper from St. Lucia, he bumped into an old friend — Grenada’s Prime Minister Keith Mitchell of the NNP.

Mayor Moonie’s holiday coincided with the NNP’s annual party convention. Clavelle got to sit on the stage, right next to the Cuban ambassador, he told us. Forgot to ask about cigars. Damn.

Grenada, it turns out, is a popular spot for a lot of Vermonters. The mayor told yours truly he bumped into a few, including Gov. Howard Dean’s Chief of Staff Julie Peterson.

“It’s a great place,” said Peterson, “an exotic spice island.” She ran into da’ mayor at Saturday’s public market in St. George’s, the main town on the island. It was her first visit.

Small world, eh?


Media Notes — Interesting personnel changes at WVNY-TV, our local ABC affiliate. Reporter Brendan McDonough recently departed for a gig with the new Time Warner news station in Albany, New York. Best wishes, Brendan!

But the big news is the upcoming departure of the station’s boss, Larry Delia. Larry’s off to New Orleans, where he’ll be VP/General Manager of Tribune Television’s duopoly: WGNO-TV (ABC26) and WNOL-TV (WB38).

The Chicago-based Tribune Company owns and operates 23 major-market stations, including superstation WGN-TV. The media giant also owns 11 major-market newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and New York’s Newsday. It also owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team and is but one example of the media-monster corporations that Congressman Bernie Sanders warns are short-changing the First Amendment.

In his four years in Burlap, Mr. Delia has presided over the total remake of WVNY’s news operation. Everything was upgraded, from the transmitter to the studio and the on-air talent.

“It’s a completely different animal than it was three years ago,” Larry told Seven Days.

And while the improvements haven’t shown up yet in the Nielsen Ratings, said Delia, the rebuilt news operation “will succeed over time.”

Larry also will be remembered as the creator of “A Hard Look with Ruth Dwyer.” Ruth’s the twice-defeated Republican gubernatorial candidate who’s found a second life in TV news. Mrs. Dwyer’s currently in the middle of a four-part series on animal cruelty.

The first part, which aired last Thursday, knocked a few viewers’ socks off with a “hardcore” look at the issue. Anchorman Eric Greene warned viewers up front that they “might find some of the material upsetting and disturbing.”

Ruth opened her animal cruelty series with the report of a man and woman from Richford accused of videotaping sex acts between themselves and their two bow-wows. A state trooper who watched the videos told Dwyer the dogs “were yelping and trying to get away.”

Mrs. Dwyer’s exclusive report noted that, unlike at least 22 other states, Vermont’s criminal code does not have a specific statute addressing bestiality.

Way to go, Ruth! That’s a genuine pooch scoop if we ever heard one. You’re just not going to see stuff like that aired by the competition.

Ruff! Ruff!


Run for the Roses — The Kentucky Derby’s coming up this Saturday afternoon and Vermont will be well represented at Churchill Downs. A full field of 20 three-year-olds will go to the post in a wide-open race. Among the Green Mountain contingent in Kentucky will be former governor and UVM president Tom Salmon and Harlan Sylvester, chairman of the Vermont Racing Commission.

Yes, Vermont has a racing commission, but it doesn’t have a whole lot to do. Harlan emphasized he’s making the trip on his own nickel.

And Mr. Sylvester’s pre-race pick?

Harlan’s Holiday, obviously,” said Harlan. (No, he doesn’t own the horse, but wishes he did.) The Ohio-bred colt won the Florida Derby in March and the Blue Grass Stakes in April, both prominent prep races for the Derby.

Turns out Mr. Sylvester and Mr. Salmon are on the same page of the racing form. Uncle Tom told Seven Days he watched Harlan’s Holiday “make a huge move” in the Florida Derby. That’s his pick, too.

Salmon said he started attending the Kentucky Derby during his days as governor and has annually maintained the tradition except for his first year as UVM prez. That year the board of trustees had a meeting scheduled for the first Saturday in May.

That was the last time on his watch, said Salmon, the trustees scheduled a meeting for the first Saturday in May.

Our third expert handicapper, Rocky Rockwood, owner of Kerry’s Kwik Stop, fancies a different horse. Harlan’s Holiday, said Rocky, looks like one of the horses to beat, but he’s picking Came Home, winner of the Santa Anita Derby.

“They say Came Home can’t get the mile-and-a-quarter distance,” said Mr. Rockwood, “but he’s got a bigger heart than his breeding shows.”

We’ll see.

Yours truly fancies the Irish-trained colt Castle Gandolfo. He’s been first or second in five races in Ireland and England. Can easily get the distance. And the horse is named after the Pope’s summer palace outside Rome.

We can’t resist the Ireland-Pope connection. Besides, the Roman Catholic Church is sure due for a win, eh?


Vermont’s Jockey Club — Bet you didn’t know about Burlington’s latest connection to top-class thoroughbred horse racing?

Amy Tarrant, the former wife of IDX whiz Richard Tarrant, doesn’t have a horse in this year’s Kentucky Derby, but she may have one down the line.

Of late, Ms. Tarrant’s interests have taken her far afield. She’s invested in thoroughbreds and established Hardacre Farm, near Ocala, in Florida horse country.

Last Friday, Ms. Tarrant’s three-year-old filly Bold World was the 6-5 favorite in the feature race at Keeneland, outside Lexington, Kentucky — the seven-furlong Stonerside Beaumont Stakes. Amy purchased Bold World a year ago at the Ocala Breeder’s Sale for $475,000. The lightning-fast filly has won four in a row and was getting noticed by the Daily Racing Form and the betting public.

Yours truly watched the Beaumont live via the Internet. Bold World hooked up with the second favorite in a blistering early speed duel, but ran out of gas after five furlongs and finished out of the money. Word is the filly had trouble breathing due to internal bleeding. It’s a common condition that can be corrected with Lasix.

Bold World will be back. Maybe at Saratoga in a few months?

Can’t wait.

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