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Republicans Clobbered in Burlington Election


Published March 8, 2000 at 4:00 a.m.

Republicans Clobbered in Burlington Election

Sweetwaters on Church Street had that once-a-year crowd Tuesday night — Progressives. And as the clock struck nine, the new city councilor from the Bloody Third strode through the swinging doors to the cheers of the crowd. Phil Fiermonte had made it to prime time.

For 20 years, Philip has been one of Bernie Sanders' most talented and dedicated lieutenants. Now he'll be looked at as a potential future mayor or even congressman as the Progressive Party stretches out for statewide credibility.

There essentially were three big stories on election night.

The first is that all the pissing and moaning over the downtown supermarket did not in the end cost one councilor a seat. The Progs were targeted by the pro-Shaw's team, but you can't easily defeat an entrenched political machine that treats Election Day like the Olympics.

Second, Burlington's Republicans have gone from being a four-seat opposition party to a two-seat lonely hearts club. The five Progressives, five Democrats and two Prog-leaning Independents give Mayor Clavelle a lock on power. No more Matt Gardy to nip at his heels anymore, either.

And third, Adelphia, the monopoly cable monster with the greedy reputation, just lost Vermont's largest city. In the telecommunications world, Burlap just hit the big time.

Mighty Ducks Radio Blitz — The radio spot from Take It to the People, Inc. (TIP) has been blaring on the Vermont radio airwaves for weeks. You must have heard it by now. "If it looks like a duck and swims like a duck..."

TIP gets its funding from the Roman Catholic Church, the Mormon Church and individuals, though you won't find mention of that on its Web site.

The snappy commercial mocks same-sex marriage, and even the recognition of -civil unions" that's supported by Gov. Howard Brush Dean and the tri-partisan House Judiciary Committee. For these Mighty Ducks of Religious Morality, even the extension of basic civil rights to gay and lesbian Vermont couples is too much to swallow. How Christian of them.

But pass the Wonder Bread, Daffy, this duck stuff is mucho interesting.

For example, on Saturday morning, yours truly was biking along the Burlington Waterfront. Behind the breakwater by the Coast Guard station, a few dozen local ducks fought the morning sunrise by determinedly sleeping on one of the last sheets of melting ice in the harbor. We paused to catch their slumber, the TIP anti-gay rights radio spot ringing in our ears.

We counted 43 sleeping mallards, 23 females and 22 males. Twelve male-and-female pairs slept close together like committed, bonded couples. But then there were four pairs of just male ducks doing likewise, and three pairs of just female ducks nestled together two-by-two. That left five ducks, three males and two females who slept alone against the wind, snuggling with no other duck.

In the golden early morning sunlight, the duck world of Burlington Harbor appeared free of the ignorance and fear that the Self-Righteous Ducks are flaunting in the people world ashore. All ducks were equal, regardless of who they slept with, or even if they chose to sleep alone.

Back to the War — On Tuesday morning, House judiciary Committee Chairman Thomas Little went before the lions on "The Mark Johnson Show" on WKDR. The Abomination Squad was all over him. One notorious right-wing talk-radio big-mouth even blasted Little for being a "moderate" Republican, "which I can't stand!"

One Tipster predicted legal same-sex civil unions will bring down Vermont like the Roman Empire before it! Another enlightened caller railed against "legalizing sodomy" in the Green Mountains.

Mr. Little pointed out that, as it is now, there are no laws on Vermont's books outlawing sodomy. In fact, said Little, he'd checked his dictionary the other night while in the midst of an e-mail debate with a constituent. "And the first definition of sodomy," he said, "is sex between a man and a woman in any manner other than the standard missionary position. In Vermont, we try to stay out of people's bedrooms, and I think we should."

Oh, my God! Heterosexual sodomites in Vermont bedrooms. Get me Pat Robertson, pronto!

Angell Sighting — Bishop Ken Angell, CEO of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Vermont, made USA Today Monday with his "We Shall Overcome!" call to rally the troops against same-sex marriage. The paper pointed out Little's committee had reached a compromise supporting civil unions, granting same-sex couples rights to inheritance, health insurance, hospital visitation and other benefits.

Still, it remains an abomination in the eyes of the Bingo Bishop. "This isn't just a civil matter," Angell told USA Today. "We're here to uphold the Ten Commandments."

Jeezum crow! How about a little itsy-bitsy bit of tolerance from Big Bish, instead of fear, ignorance and divisiveness?

USA Today noted not all Vermont bishops share the same affection for intolerance as does Angell. Vermont's Episcopal and United Methodist bishops and dozens of other clerics in Vermont disagree completely with the Bingo Bish, it reported.

When God finally decides to take a position, we trust Seven Days will be on Holy Heaven's media fax list. Hear they've got quite the press office up there.

Painted Black — Speaking of Bishop Angell — quite the powerful reaction to Inside Track's "Men in Black" item of two weeks ago. Yours truly received a heartwarming response, indicating many readers have not forgotten the days when the Roman Catholic Church in this country stood for tolerance and social justice, for civil rights and peace. If only it still did!

What a stark difference from the Catholic Church of today, a church that's positioned itself as the leading opponent of reproductive rights for women, while bitterly fighting against equal rights for homosexual citizens.

There were just two negative responses we ran across. Bob Garvey, lobbyist for Take It to the People, sent a letter with two gifts enclosed — a prayer card and a religious medal. We returned the items noting we do not accept religious trinkets from lobbyists.

Garvey wondered what awful experiences we must have had in seminary. Au contraire, Bob, those years (1966-69) were among the very best we've known. The learning curve was a steep one, and we'll treasure our experiences always.

The other negative response was found in, of all places, the Vermont Republican Party's biweekly newsletter, .the "GOP Update." Managing Editor Libby Sternberg, a regular Vermont Public Radio commentator, writes a section critiquing the Vermont press, normally on issues with a GOP connection.

In the March 1 edition, Ms. Sternberg noted her disgust with "Men in Black." What particularly offended her was our asking where it’s written in the Bible that “altar boys exist for the pleasure of the pastor.”

Wrote Libby, “The most effective form of scorn, one wise old sage said, is silence. `Nough said.”

Alas, the dreaded silent treatment! But we wondered if the scorn of the managing editor of the official Republican Party newsletter was for the priests who have abused so many boys, or for this writer for daring to mention it?

We contacted Ms. Sternberg and, guess what? She made it perfectly clear her scorn and disgust were directed squarely at yours truly.

Yes, it’s a distasteful subject but, unfortunately, it’s also a reality. And it’s a crime with real live perpetrators and real live victims. Ch. 3 reported Monday night that, according to officials at Chittenden County’s police sex crimes unit, the overwhelming majority of victims of sexual assault are children. Who was it that said, “There are none so blind as those who will not see?”

Looks like these days the Vermont GOP leadership is cozying up to the Religious Right.

Good luck, gang!

Dueling Lobbyists — There is an interesting and very civil debate on the current edition of “Point-Counterpoint,” airing on government/public access TV. The combatants are Steve Kimbell of Kimbell Sherman & Ellis and Bill Shouldice III, of Shouldice & Associates — two powerful Montpelier lobbying firms. Normally these guys represent Corporate America, from tobacco, wine and beer to insurance, solid waste and gambling interests. Each has been hired to saddle competing horses in the current gay marriage/civil union derby under the golden dome. Kimbell represents the Vermont Freedom to Marry Action Committee. Shouldice rides for Vermonters for Traditional Marriage.

This year’s raging statewide debate, said Kimbell, “has been able to educate people about the fact gay and lesbian couples are us. They’re members of society. They pay taxes. They raise kids. They sit on school boards. They have families and they deserve all the civil rights that other couples have. Whatever the legislature does,” said Kimbell, “this has been a real good debate.”

Shouldice agreed the debate had been a good one for Vermont. “It’s raised the issue, I don’t think we should discriminate. The gay and lesbian community deserves a number of rights that maybe aren’t afforded to them right now,” conceded Shouldice, “but whether a parallel bill mimicking marriage is that, we don’t so.”

Lobbyist Down! — Cats may have nine lives, but that doesn’t guarantee they’ll always land on their paws. Take the case of Statehouse lobbyist Gerry Morris of Charlotte. Morris the Cat took an awful bad tumble at home a week ago Saturday. He fell down the basement stairs, fracturing his pelvis and hip. Ouch!

Gerry says the accident occurred as he tried to avoid stepping on the family cat. “Petah.” That’ll happen when you start taking in cats with weird, sophisticated names. Morris the Cat anticipates a few more weeks in traction at Fletcher Allen. His lobbying partner Allison Crowley Demag gets to carry the whole load now.

On the Radio Dial — Results from the fall sweeps are out, and there has been a significant shift in the local radio ratings. Among the younger 18-34 set, “Corm and the Coach” on WCPV took a nose dive, dropping from a 23 share in the spring to just an 8 share last fall. Meanwhile, Howard Stern on WIZN jumped from a 13 share up to a 22 share and claimed first place. For the older 25-54 crowd, Stern and the Coach are tied at 12.7, while WOKO was tops with a 15 share.

Garrett Busted AgainHaskell Garrett of Burlington, who cut an incredibly lenient deal last summer for kidnapping, staking and aggravated domestic assault, is back in the slammer. Garrett was sentenced last summer to a sweet five-year furlough to be served at home. A few months later he was working in men’s wear at Filene’s. Not bad.

According to corrections officials, Garrett was picked up for “a new offense” on February 16. Officials declined to reveal the offense until he’s arraigned.

Looks like Filene’s has an opening in the men’s department.