Monthly Archives: October 2007

First 2008 Vermont race polling out

WCAX has the first political polling for the 2008 gubernatorial race and things still look pretty good for three-term incumbent Jim Douglas.

Research 2000, a Maryland polling company that does much of the political phone-pushing for the TV news channel, polled 400 Vermonters and found that 42 percent would reelect Douglas to a fourth term if the 2008 general election were held now.

About 33 percent of Vermonters would vote against Douglas and another 25 percent are undecided. Of course, the election is still 13 months away.

Vermont Democrats still haven’t named a candidate against Douglas, but WCAX matched some of the rumored names against the governor in the poll. Surprisingly, Democrats now holding political office polled low – Attorney General William Sorrell had 5 percent, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz had 7 percent and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin had 8 percent.

Meanwhile, former state senator Matt Dunne came in the strongest at 22 percent, followed by Progressive Anthony Pollina with 12 percent.

-Dan Barlow

“Unearthing” the mysteries of Vermont burial law

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz sure knows how to celebrate Halloween.

Markowitz held a press conference at the Green Mount Cemetery in Montpelier Tuesday morning, one day before the spooky holiday, to highlight her office’s new handbook on the state’s burial and cemetery law.

But since some of the state’s media jumped on the story a day earlier (was Monday a slow news day?), I seemed to be the only person to attend the 11 a.m. press conference at the cemetery, located just outside of Montpelier’s business district.

The booklet highlights the important and the obscure state laws regarding everything cemeteries, including what paperwork is needed to bury a body and the proper management of private family burial plots.

Although it is not a sexy topic, management of cemeteries is becoming a big deal for some towns, Markowitz said. State law dictates that when a cemetery association dissolves, the land becomes town property and the municipality is now expected to pay for its upkeep.

"Some of these cemeteries are costly to repair," she said. 

Patrick Healy, the director of the Green Mount Cemetery, began working at the there 21 years ago and the job seems to have stuck. But recently he has noticed a disturbing trend – many of the elderly volunteers that keep the grounds maintained are, as Healy put it, "becoming residents here."

"It’s always hard to find volunteers, not matter what field," he said. "But I think it is especially hard for cemeteries."

On a related note, Markowitz’s press release on Monday announcing the new handbook deserves some sort of award for the number of puns it has hidden in it. The document notes that the booklet "untangles the web" of laws surrounding cemetery regulations. Markowitz notes in the press release that the maintenance of cemeteries is a "grave concern."

Later she thanks the Vermont Cemetery Association for helping her "take a stab" at writing the booklet. She concludes, "It was a worthwhile undertaking." Copies of the book can be ordered by calling 802-828-2148 or by going to the secretary of state’s Web site at

-Dan Barlow

Dodd joins Sanders in AG pick opposition

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-CT, has joined our Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-VT, in being the only two members of the U.S. Senate who have publicly stated they will vote against the confirmation of Michael Mukasey as the new attorney general of the U.S. Department of Justice.

But will there be more following soon? Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, appears to be now backing away from his initial "I like him" statement over Mukasey’s refusal to answer if water-boarding should be considered torture.

But will that be enough to sink the nominee?

-Dan Barlow

Welch vs. Rice

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch had some hard questions for Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice Thursday during a committee hearing on the Blackwater controversies in Iraq.

I missed the CSPAN broadcast of the committee hearing yesterday morning – I was over at the National Life complex meeting with Mary Evslin, the new chair of the Vermont Telecommunications Authority Board. Watch for that story on Sunday.

But according to the Associated Press story on the committee hearing, Welch and other Democrats hit Rice hard on why companies such as Blackwater essentially have immunity from prosecution.

"If you just change the deck chairs, it’s not going to change the policy," Welch told Rice.

-Dan Barlow

Clement Dubie

Our condolences go out to Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie and Adj. Gen. Michael Dubie as their father, Clement Dubie, passed away Tuesday.

I haven’t seen an obituary come through the office yet, but according to Dave Janawicz, the chief of the Statehouse Capitol Police, calling hours will be at the St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Essex Junction on Friday from 3-7 p.m.

-Dan Barlow

The Howard Dean decline?

The New York Times had an interesting profile Sunday of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, now the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, on Sunday.

The story paints the picture of a low-profile DNC Chairman who is ignored by the current slate of presidential candidates and has gotten his hands dirty fighting states such as Florida, which hopes to hold an early primary.

I seem to remember there being lots of stories out there two years ago expressing concern over Dean’s style and management and how effective he would be in the 2006 elections. Well, we all know how well that turned out.

Interestingly, most of Dean’s critics are not actually quoted in the Times pieces. There seems to be a large amount of, "Critics say …" in the story, without actually identifying who these critics are.

-Dan Barlow

Doonesbury cartoonist wows White River Junction audience

Garry Trudeau – who has been writing and drawing the popular political strip "Doonesbury" for nearly 40 years – was a big hit with the crowd of about 250 people in White River Junction, Vt. Monday night. The crowd contained a sampling of Vermont’s liberal political establishment, including Matt Dunne and former Gov. Madeleine Kunin.

The biggest laughs of the night came at President George Bush’s expense, as expected, but Trudeau also went over former President Bill Clinton and former Vice-President Al Gore. And as the cartoonist spoke of meeting with wounded soldiers for his recent storylines involving one of his own characters losing a leg in the Iraq War, I realized that this was a lecture that probably could have been enjoyed by people of most political striples.

Doonesbury made headlines here in Vermont earlier this year when Trudeau sent one of his journalist characters to the state to interview residents about our town meeting resolutions urging the impeachment of Bush. But that topic – aside from a quick mention by Kunin in her introductions – didn’t come up.

Trudeau – who was lively, funny, articulate and moving – made his rare public appearance as a benefit for the Center for Cartoon Studies, the three-year-old college dedicated to the craft of comics. The auction for a piece of his original art ended today, I believe. I wonder how much it finally went for.

-Dan Barlow

U.S. House fails to override SCHIP veto

Members of the House voted 273-156 in an attempt to override the presidential veto of the popular children’s health insurance program, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed.

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, Vermont’s Democrat in the House, voted with the majority as expected.

UPDATE: Here’s Welch’s statement.

“President Bush and his allies in Congress have once again demonstrated that they are completely out of touch with the needs of working families. Vermonters long ago recognized that providing children with health care is both cost effective and the right thing to do. The President has no problem pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into a failed policy in Iraq, yet he turns a deaf ear to hard working Americans who simply want to bring their children to a doctor when they are sick.  His stubborn refusal to help these children is a national disgrace.”


Cal Thomas: Republicans should come to Vermont

I’m fairly certain that President Bush will take a day to visit the Green Mountain State before he leaves office in early 2009. But until then, we have conservative columnist Cal Thomas calling on Republicans to come and visit us.

This is what Thomas has to say:

"The president ought to visit Vermont and [Calvin] Coolidge’s birth and burial place. It looks pretty much the way it did when Coolidge lived there and visited as president. The state and private contributors (including me as I serve in an unpaid advisory capacity) have kept it that way."

-Dan Barlow

Bush vetos kid’s health insurance program

Breaking (but expected) news this morning as President Bush vetos the bill expanding sCHIP, the health insurance program for children.

Supporters in Congress – and this bill had strong bipartisan support – believe they might have a veto-proof majority backing this. We’ll see.

11:44 a.m. update: Vermont’s Congressional delegation responds to the veto.

Sen. Patrick Leahy:

“This veto starkly exposes the Bush Administration’s muddled priorities.  For President Bush to veto this children’s health bill for cost reasons would be laughable if it were not so appalling.  This is the same President who would commit the United States to borrow almost a trillion dollars to pay for a catastrophic war.  To him, anything goes if it’s spent in Iraq, but health insurance here at home for kids in families that are struggling is too much.  Insurance coverage for 10 million children costs what we spend in Iraq in just 41 days.”

Sen. Bernard Sanders:

“We are the only country in the industrialized world that does not provide health care for all people. The idea that Bush would veto this legislation to provide health care for children is beyond comprehension.  He has hundreds of billions of dollars for tax breaks for the rich and to pay for the war in Iraq, but apparently he can’t find the funding to provide health insurance for millions of children in families that need help.”

Rep. Peter Welch:

“President Bush has struck a new low today, demonstrating just how out of touch he is with the priorities working Vermonters.  Making sure kids can go see a doctor when they are sick is both inexpensive and the right thing to do.  While 7 million more Americans have joined the ranks of the uninsured since President Bush took office, he seems intent on driving that number higher.  I hope Republican members of Congress will finally stand up to this President on behalf of children and reject his inexcusable veto.”

-Dan Barlow