Monthly Archives: September 2007

U.S. Reps to FairPoint: We’re not too sure about you

Every single U.S. representative from the northern New England states have called on federal regulators to closely scrutinize FairPoint’s bid to buy Verizon’s landlines and Internet service in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Rep. Thomas Allen, D-ME;  Rep. Paul Hodes, D-NH; Rep. Michael Michaud, D-ME;, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH; and Rep. Peter Welch, D-VT, all signed onto the letter asked the Federal Communications Commission  to “conduct a thorough and extensive review of the proposed transaction to ensure that it is in the best interest of consumers, employees, and state and local economies.”

This is not a good sign for FairPoint, who are already facing tough questions from regulators in the three states over the finances of the proposed deal.

-Dan Barlow

That’s surprising

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch voted YES today to condemn MoveOn.org’s much-talked about "General Betray Us" advertisement in the New York Times.

The anti-MoveOn.org resolution passed in the U.S. House today by a vote of 341-79. That’s about two-thirds of the Democrats in the House speaking out against the liberal advocacy group that has worked to get Democrats elected.

-Dan Barlow

Rod Gander’s memorial service next month

Former state senator Rod Gander died early this week after a battle against cancer that lasted several years.

His election to the Vermont Senate representing Windham County was one of the first political stories I remember covering in Vermont, soon after I joined the staff of the Brattleboro Reformer in late 2002.

Gander had an illustrious career in the news business and could spin tales for hours. After that he became the well-liked president of Marlboro College before finally entering politics in the last decade. And whether or not you agreed with his positions, he talked from the heart. I’ll miss chatting with him.

Gander’s memorial service will be held on Oct. 20 at West Village Meeting House in West Brattleboro at 3:30 p.m.

-Dan Barlow

Reformer’s Sabina Haskell joins the Douglas administration

Brattleboro Reformer editor Sabina Haskell is the new communications director of the Agency of Natural Resources. She replaces another former Vermont news person who jumped from the papers to politics, Darren Allen.

Everyone in news in Vermont knows Haskell. I worked with her a bit when she briefly joined the Herald back in 2004 and then competed against her team of reporters down in Windham County for the next two years after she left for the Reformer. And prior to all that, she spent some time over at the Bennington Banner.

Familiarity with the state’s news media seems to be one of the things the Douglas people liked. Here’s what Agency Secretary George Crombie had to say in the official press release today:

"Sabina’s experience in the Vermont press corps and the information reporters need will help us better do our jobs."

I remember Haskell as a tough, but fair, editor at the Herald. She certainly pushed me a few times to dig deeper on stories, for which I was thankful for. I heard similar stories from her reporters in the years that followed at the Reformer. It will be interesting to see how that translates to the new job.

Congratulations, Sabina! Does this mean you’re moving to Montpelier too?

-Dan Barlow

Vermont high-tech jobs move to California

Bad economic news for Vermont this morning as Burlington’s Jmar Technologies announces it is shutting down its operations here to consolidate in San Diego.

Read their press release here. About 28 jobs gone.

-Dan Barlow

Bill O’Reilly takes another swipe at Vermont

This is from his show on FOX News last night, according to a transcript posted on the network’s Web site.

You may remember Vincent Filyaw, a South Carolina man convicted of kidnapping and sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl. Well, Judge Thomas Cooper sentenced Filyaw to 421 years in prison.

Are you listening, Vermont?

For that sentence, Judge Cooper is a patriot.

-Dan Barlow

Bush promises veto of sCHIP expansion

According to the Associated Press, President Bush will veto any expansion of the state children’s health insurance program above the $5 billion more than he already agreed to. If he vetoes the bill, an estimated 2,000 kids in Vermont will lose their health insurance.

Here’s what the president said today:

"Unfortunately, instead of working with the administration to enact this funding increase for children’s health, Democrats in Congress have decided to pass a bill they know will be vetoed. One of their leaders has even said such a veto would be, quote, ‘a political victory.’"

Vermont’s congressional delegation wasted no time Thursday in blasting Bush for his veto threat. Sen. Patrick Leahy said it is bizarre that Bush threatens to veto a children’s health insurance program while asking for $100 billion in more spending for the Iraq war. Sen. Bernard Sanders pointed out that the veto would affect 4 million kids across the country and vowed a strong fight to save the program. Rep. Peter Welch called the president morally misguided and out of touch.

Here’s what Leahy had to say:

"This veto threat flies in the face of Congress’s bipartisan work to pass a carefully crafted plan to cover more uninsured children.  It is sad that basic health care for children is even an issue in the richest nation on earth.  I hope the President will reconsider before it’s too late for those who his veto would hurt the most."

Clearly, sCHIP also has bipartisan support and Vermont’s Republican governor, James Douglas, has already broken with Bush on this issue. Democrats in Congress better hope the bipartisan, veto-proof majority they allegedly have lined up actually exists.

-Dan Barlow

Daryl Pillsbury eyes the Vermont Senate

The Brattleboro Reformer’s Paul Heintz has an interesting story this morning about Rep. Daryl Pillsbury’s future plans to run for the Vermont Senate.

Pillsbury is a Brattleboro independent. He’s been in the Vermont House for 12 years and is well liked in Brattleboro across the board by liberals and conservatives and people in the middle. He’s the kind of guy that can cast surprising votes in the House.

And if Pillsbury does run for the Senate – he said he needs to do some serious fund raising first – he would be challenging either Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin or Sen. Jeanette White. White has been in the Senate since 2002; Shumlin just returned last year after an absence of four years.

Republicans have a real hard time running in Windham County, although they can win a few towns such as Vernon or the Wilmington area. But there hasn’t been a senate candidate to oppose the Democratic ones down there in quite some time that actually had a shot – and some name recognition – at winning.

I don’t think Shumlin or White probably expected to face this kind of challenger next year. It’s be fun to watch if it happens.

-Dan Barlow

Gay Marriage Commission announces first forum

The Vermont Commission on Family Recognition and Protection – or the Gay Marriage Commission as most people outside of Montpelier are calling it – has scheduled the first few public forums on the issue.

Commission members will meet for a short organization session at Johnson State College on Oct. 10 at 5:30 p.m. Following that, in the Bentley Auditorium at the college, the commission will hold its first forum from 7-9 p.m.

The second forum is scheduled for Bennington, location to be announced, on Nov. 19. Before that, the commission will also meet with legal experts and law students on Oct. 29 from 1-5 p.m. at the Chase Center at Vermont Law School in South Royalton.

-Dan Barlow

Gov. Douglas goes to Washington

Gov. James Douglas went to Washington, D.C. Tuesday to press lawmakers and federal government officials to reauthorize of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides vital health care to the children of families living at or near the poverty level.

Douglas, a Republican, has been critical of President Bush for imposing new rules for SCHIP that would lead to more Vermont kids being dropped from the program. But, Douglas also has a long-standing friendly relationship with the Republican president and some hope that that history will provide some leverage.

Still, according to a press release from Douglas this week, Bush was not on the list of people he met with. Instead, he spent some time with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of Human Services Mike Leavitt.

Here’s what Douglas had to say as he left for the trip:

“We’re at a critical juncture for health care policy across the country and I felt it was necessary to travel to

Washington

and convey that message from the states.

Vermont

and other states are taking the lead in adopting far-reaching, innovative reforms to cover the uninsured and reduce the growth in health care costs.  It’s time for policymakers in

Washington

to work with the states to reauthorize the SCHIP and to encourage forward progress in areas like electronic health information.” 

I imagine that Douglas will have more to say on this trip at his press conference here in Montpelier tomorrow.

-Dan Barlow

Leahy reacts to Bush’s new AG nominee

It’s not really clear yet how Sen. Patrick Leahy – who as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee will be leading any hearings on the country’s new Attorney General – feels about President Bush’s announcement today of Michael Mukasey as his pick.

But here’s the senator’s statement, released just moments ago this morning.

“The Judiciary Committee will approach consideration of the nomination of an Attorney General in a serious and deliberate fashion.  The Administration took months determining that a change in leadership was needed at the Department of Justice and then the President spent several weeks before making a nomination.  Our focus now will be on securing the relevant information we need so we can proceed to schedule fair and thorough hearings.  Cooperation from the White House will be essential in determining that schedule. 

“The next Attorney General needs to be someone who can begin the process of restoring the Department of Justice to its proper mission.  I am hopeful that once we obtain the information we need and we have had the opportunity to consider the nomination, we will be able to make progress in this regard.” 

-Dan Barlow

Vermont Gov. Bob Newhart

  The Valley News’ John Gregg has the scoop to end all scoops in Thursday’s edition of that paper.

According to his column, whImage001ich was based on a recent conversation with former MassachusettsUntitled governor and current Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, President George W. Bush has an interesting nickname for our Republican governor here in Vermont.

Bob Newhart.

Now everyone knows that Bush is fond of giving friends and colleagues nicknames, sometimes against their will.  He has reportedly even crowned Russian President Vladimir Putin as "pootie-poot." So, I guess Douglas – whom Bush apparently believes resembles and speaks like the famous comedian – got off easy.

"We had dinner at the White House, and he [Bush] referred to him as Bob," Romney told Gregg. "He knew he was using a made-up name, but he says, ‘You know, this is Bob Newhart. Look at him: he looks like him, he sounds like him.’"

Good work, Gregg. The rest of the Vermont press corps wish we got this anecdote.

-Dan Barlow

Vermont vs. Wal-Mart

Remember that new play, "Walmartopia," that debuted recently in New York City? It’s the one about a future where the retail giant has taken over the whole United States, except for Vermont, which is ruled over by our two famous ice cream guys.

Most NYC critics panned the story, but Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam seemed to like it. He writes a bit about the play and the Green Mountain State’s long battles with the business in his column this week, which you can read right here.

-Dan Barlow

Feeling bored today? Do you have hours with nothing to do?

Well, all 244 pages of yesterday’s court decision over automobile emissions can be read here.

-Dan Barlow

Six Years

Six years ago I was in the basement of the Jaffrey, N.H. police department, going through the weekly incident log with the chief. One of his sergeants ran in with the news that a plane had just hit one of the World Trade Center towers. We watched the shaky footage on a small television mounted in the ceiling corner of the officers’ break room.

There was no television in the news room at the Peterborough Transcript, the rag-tag, family-owned weekly newspaper I worked at. I asked the publisher what we should do. There was a thick sense in the air that we needed to be doing something else at that moment. He shook his head and went back to the emotional news reports on the radio.

I drove down to Peterborough’s high school. Most of the students were crowded into the library where they sat silent and shocked as they watched the news from several televisions that had been set up. I just began talking to them … what do you think is going on? Are we at war now? Do you know anyone in New York City?

I will always remember that it was a Tuesday because the newspaper came out Thursday, meaning we would spend Wednesday writing the last of our stories and then lay the whole publication out, which we were still doing using a laser printer, industrial wax, razor blades and light tables. The publisher sat down the other reporter and I (our third reporter was on vacation) Wednesday morning and announced that the whole paper that week would be about Tuesday’s attacks.  We were each given four or five new stories to research and write. Somehow, we got that paper out on time.

Being a reporter on Sept. 11 allowed me to focus on the work, which seemed vital and necessary, and avoid the large and messy emotional questions that the attacks raised in the hearts of many of my friends and family members.

Last summer I made my first trip as an adult to New York City. I had only seen the city in movies before. I didn’t intend to find myself at Ground Zero on a Friday afternoon in late June, but that is where I ended up and it was there and then I understood the size of the event that would define everything that has happened over the last six years.

Peaking through the tarp-covered fence, twisting my neck and squinting my eyes for a proper view, I scanned the dirt and the machines in the hole for something meaningful. I watched the past as a rerun through a broken viewfinder and I think I understood then, but needed to see more. I needed to see all of it with my two wide eyes.

And all I could ask myself, as I walked back toward the life and heart of the city, was, "Why won’t they let us see it?"

-Dan Barlow