Just before noon on Tuesday, Republican Gov. Jim Douglas issued an "official statement" urging citizens to "Avoid Heat Related Illness." Certainly not something one sees on a regular basis coming from the office of the governor of Vermont.
Gov. Douglas advises everyone to "drink more fluids," to "never leave kids or pets in a locked vehicle" and to "stay indoors if possible." The words "global warming" did not appear anywhere in the Guv's press release. They didn't have to. The temperature's been rising for the last decade. We're not stupid, right?
As Democratic U.S. House candidate Peter Welch put it recently, "There is no longer a serious question that global warming is real, is accelerating and is caused by human beings. The question," said Welch in no uncertain terms, "has been asked and answered."
Not so fast, said Republican U.S. House candidate Martha Rainville. She held a presser on energy-related issues the other day in the Park & Ride parking lot on Rt. 7 near the Colchester-Milton town line. Candidate Rainville, by the way, said she still hasn't had time to catch Al Gore's flick, An Inconvenient Truth.
That's because if she had seen the Gore flick, as anyone who has seen it knows, she would no longer be making embarrassing public statements about all the facts not being in yet when it comes to global warming.
"I think that we're all getting concerned about what is happening with global warming," said Marvelous Martha in her new life beyond the uniform. "The questions are still out there and are the matter of some debate," she continued. "How much warming is occurring and is this part of historic climate trends?"
So she disagrees with Welch?
"I'm not disagreeing or agreeing," answered Rainville. "I'm just saying I'm not a climatologist, Peter's not a climatologist. We come to our own opinions, but we need to look at the science of this."
Yes, indeed, "Misconception 1" on Mr. Gore's list of "the 10 most common misconceptions about global warming" is that "scientists disagree about whether humans are causing the Earth's climate to change."
Actually, Gore notes, they do not. There's strong consensus among scientists.
Ms. Rainville was also asked if she agreed with the recent rather astute remarks of one United States Senator who said, "Instead of national security dictating our energy policy, our failed energy policy is dictating our national security."
"I have to say," replied Rainville off-the-cuff, "I think they've got a point, because when you look at where we have to go for oil, it's in Nigeria, it's in Venezuela, it's in the Middle East, it's in Siberia. These are not easy places or stable places to deal with on a long-term basis. And that is one of the reasons that I think energy is so important, not only for economic reasons and our way of life, but for our national security."
Incidentally, the U.S. Senator who made the point Martha the Republican liked was none other than next-door-neighbor Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, a Democrat.
Maybe it's a woman thing?
Talented Couple -- Everybody knows what she does. After all, she's the Speaker of the House under Montpelier's golden dome. Folks may be less familiar with Speaker Gaye Symington's talented husband Chuck Lacy. Back in the 1990s he ran Ben & Jerry's, but what's he been up to lately?
In an "Inside Track" interview this week, Mr. Lacy described himself as an "entrepreneur" with a few irons in the fire, including a grass-fed beef operation based in Hardwick, and the largest wireless phone company in Bangladesh. At the moment, however, none is hotter than the extraordinary film Ol' Chuck just produced, The War Tapes: The first war movie filmed by the soldiers themselves.
Three members of the New Hampshire National Guard were outfitted with personal video cameras for their one-year tour of duty in Iraq. Nothing is staged. The War Tapes is the next best thing to being there. More at http://www.thewartapes.com.
Chuck of Jericho served as executive producer on the film. The project's roots, he said, began in a writing class at Dartmouth a few years back. Director Deborah Scranton, "the other grown-up in the class," had hoped to imbed with a unit of National Guardsman but wasn't able to," said Lacy. Instead, she came up with the idea of sending cameras with the soldiers. The two of them got out their credit cards and bought 10 cameras. They personally distributed them to Iraq-bound U.S. troops at Ft. Dix, New Jersey. The War Tapes is the remarkable result.
"For me," said Lacy, "the war was a political issue before doing this. The goal of the film is to turn it from a political issue to a personal issue. It gives people a chance to personally know some soldiers who are serving."
U.S. news coverage of our soldiers at war in Iraq has become increasingly sterile, with few reporters venturing outside of the heavily fortified Green Zone in the heart of Baghdad. Lacy's film fills a great void by giving the average American a real-life feel for the explosive, fast-food-equipped, Internet-access-provided hell zone our soldiers are living and dying in.
Chuck said the film is opening this week near the U.S. Army base in Ft. Hood, Texas. The War Tapes will open at the Roxy in downtown Burlington on August 11. It's Iraq uncensored and unfiltered through the eyes of the actual troops.
You owe it to yourself.
Mayor Who? -- He admits it: This time a year ago the thought of running for mayor of Burlington had not yet crossed his mind. But by year's end, Progressive State Rep. Bob Kiss led the Prog Party search for a mayoral candidate -- a search that eventually found Bob Kiss. And today, Mayor Kiss occupies the second-floor corner office at City Hall that was home to Peter Clavelle and Bernie Sanders before him.
Yours truly popped into the mayor's office Monday afternoon and, lo and behold, there was the mayor, quietly working away. Kiss gave us a warm greeting and invited us in for a chat.
"I'm definitely becoming more familiar with the process and the people and the details," said Kiss. And as everyone knows, the devil is in the details.
Needless to say, the new mayor has a different style than did his predecessors. The buzz around City Hall is that everyone thinks he's "a nice guy," but he's "real quiet." Indeed, Sanders and Clavelle never had a problem grabbing the spotlight. Both mastered the art of the city hall press conference and used it to advance their political agendas.
Kiss has only held a couple of pressers, at which his off-the-cuff comments about gun restrictions in Burlington and making the town a "sanctuary city" for illegal immigrants got all the press. These days Kiss is back on message, as they say, and it's about "making the budget work."
What's the biggest problem facing Burlap?
"I'd continue to say, how are we going to pay for our health care next year? How do we sustain a retirement that city employees earned and deserve?"
And the former three-term state representative is not a big fan of the health-care reform legislation that passed this year after his departure to take the reins in Burlington. The Catamount Health Plan, touted by the Democrats and signed by our Republican governor, "doesn't bring us a solution," said Mayor Kiss bluntly.
"If it brings care to 35,000 people and doesn't erode care for others, that might still be progress," said Kiss, "but it doesn't get us where we need to be."
Part of his bluntness comes from the numbers he now knows by heart. "Between the school department and City Hall," said Kiss, "Burlington spends $11 million on health care, and there is no relief for municipalities in the Catamount Plan."
The new mayor says frankly he thinks it's a bit of an "uphill fight to think Vermont can devise some kind of universal health-care plan disconnected from the rest of the country." But Kiss added, "We have to keep the pressure on to say we need a solution that's provided to everyone, and single-payer universal health care not linked to employment is, I think, where we have to be."
At least he has a vision, eh? And it's not really that radical, is it? After all, isn't that how the rest of the industrialized democratic nations on Earth do it?
"In this country," noted Mayor Kiss, "we spend $5000 or more per capita for health care, and we don't cover millions of people. All the other major democracies have health care for everyone and pay far less per capita."
As for the legislature he left behind, Mayor Kiss is excited about the uptick in the number of Progressive House candidates this fall. They currently hold six seats, but are running 18 candidates in the fall and are bound to add to their Statehouse base.
One way the Progressives have separated themselves from the pack has been to announce their intention to abide by the old campaign contribution limits that were recently thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court. Last week, the Prog candidates gathered at the Statehouse and challenged the other parties to join them.
Don't hold your breath, folks.
The Vermont Public Interest Research Group was a strong supporter of Vermont's campaign finance reform effort. And VPIRG Executive Director Paul Burns wasn't shy about complimenting the Progs on their fresh fundraising challenge.
"The Progressives deserve a lot of credit," said Burns, "for taking some leadership here and challenging others to follow their lead in at least limiting the size of the contributions they receive and therefore limiting the influence any major donors may have over their decisions in the future."
So far the silence emanating from the Republican and Democrat Parties has been absolutely deafening.
Police Beat Update -- Last August, we carried an item about the pathetic condition of the homepage of the largest municipal police department in Vermont. Burlington police have a web page at http://www.police.ci.burlington.vt.us, but there's zilch in the way of useful information.
Even new Police Chief Tom Tremblay acknowledged the department's Internet resources were not up to snuff. Tremblay told us last summer that a redesign was in the works and a new website with actual up-to-the-minute crime information would be online "by January 1."
It never happened.
This week we checked back with BPD to mark the one-year anniversary of the "Tremblay Pledge," and learned that the new deputy chief, Michael Schirling, is on top of it!
Final corrections are being made as you read this, and Deputy Chief Schirling says the upgraded cop website should be up and running "sometime next week." The new site will have a "Communities" page that'll break down the city by area and have a photo of and link to the officer in charge of that area. There will be up-to-date crime statistics and a weekly crime log. Schirling also hopes to post video press conferences. Bravo!
Incidentally, Mike Schirling, who replaced Steve Wark as one of BPD's two deputy chiefs, is a native Burlingtonian. He grew up in the New North End, is the son of a lifetime IBMer, and is a graduate of Burlington High School (1988) and the University of Vermont, where he picked up both his Bachelor's and Master's degrees. His cop skills have been top-shelf on everything from missing kids to coordinating the Vermont Internet Crimes Task Force. Now we'll see how his management skills shine.
A future chief?
No McCain Plans? -- Shortly after last week's edition hit the street, the phone rang. Tim Lennon, campaign manager for Rich Tarrant's U.S. Senate longshot bid, was on the other end.
We'd done an item on the snafu between the McCain and Tarrant campaigns over Sen. McCain's plan to boost Martha Rainville -- but not Tarrant -- at a Rutland campaign appearance. It was the McCain appearance that never happened, due to bad weather preventing the Arizona senator from landing at the Rutland Airport.
Lennon worked for "McCain for President" back in 2000, and we had reported he hoped to be on McCain's team in 2008,
"Not true," said Lennon, who demanded a correction.
We told him that was our clear recollection from a conversation we'd had months ago, when he was new to Vermont.
He insisted he never said any such thing.
"OK, then," we asked, "who do you want to work for in 2008?"
"Senator Tarrant," was his reply.
Whatever you say, Tim!
Media Note -- Fired AP Bureau Chief Chris Graff's replacement arrived this week at the Associated Press bureau in Montpelier. John Curran has been with AP for 16 years, most recently running their bureau in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He told "Inside Track" he's looking for a home in the Montpelier area for his wife and three kids.
Welcome to the Vermont news beat, John!
Last Word -- That's coming these days from three bold, brave and determined Vermont public servants who were political stars in their earlier days. Now former Govs. Phil Hoff, Madeleine Kunin and Lt. Gov. Barbara Snelling are starring in a TV spot running right before the Ch. 3 News at Six. It's called "The Time Has Come" and it's about death with dignity. Powerful stuff.
You can watch it here: http://www.deathwithdignityvermont.org.