Monthly Archives: February 2009

Warning!

Vermont is listed under Code Red for High on Google Flu Trends this week.

-Dan Barlow

Where have all the doctors gone?

A few things I learned while staying home with the flu this week:

- There are no doctors in Montpelier accepting new patients.

- Even if your insurance company tells you a certain doctor is accepting new patients, they are probably not.

- Some doctors with full patient loads will still give you a check-up out of the kindness of their hearts.

-Dan Barlow

A few short observations…
Vanity Fair has a short piece on barter in Vermont; apparently it's the new New York recession solution, and they mention several local businesses that have used barter. They missed Central Vermont's Onion River Exchange, which is more of a time bank anyway. Are bankers' hours worth less these days?
Maverick Media did an 8-part history on the Progressives in Vermont, starting with the Burlington mayoral race – from 1981, and leading up to the current one, which is lighting the Burlington-based Vermont blogosphere afire lately. It's an interesting perspective on how the shift in power from established Democrats and Republicans led to a change in the future for Burlington, and the state.
The Rutland mayoral and aldermanic debates took place this week; the Herald's city hall reporter Stephanie Peters live-blogged the debate.
A firefighters site has linked to stories about St. Albans firefighters possibly getting laid off; apparently Middlebury college's calculations about their new biomass boiler (how about just wood furnace?) include some extrapolation to get to the claim that it will reduce the college's carbon dioxide emissions by 40%.
An unusual blog: the Vermont chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America has a blog. Long live the printed word.

-Rob Mitchell

Monday afternoon news round-up

Good afternoon! It seems like it will snow forever here in Montpelier and I'm fighting a cold that seems to have found its way to me this weekend.

Here are some headlines that caught my interest:

- Comedy Central's political blog says Gov. James Douglas had a much better quip on the federal stimulus funds than his Republican colleague in California.

- Douglas is all over the national news today as President Obama meets with the National Governors Association today to discuss the stimulus funds.

- Former Vermont Gov. Kunin will speak in Massachusetts next month in celebration of International Women's Day.

 - A Broadway performance in New York City will benefit several gay and lesbian rights organizations, including the Vermont Freedom to Marry Taskforce.

- Not all Vermont Republicans like the federal stimulus package. Here's Rob Roper, the chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, calling it "one last hoorah of profligate fiscal gluttony …"

-Dan Barlow

Weekend roundup

News and opinion from around the state.
From the Press Bureau:

Vermont still has many open homicide cases, despite an arrest this week in one of them, the 1982 murder of Pamela Brown. This turn brought some relief to Barre residents, and will no doubt come up in the continuing debate over DNA databanks in Vermont.

The VSEA came back with an alternative plan to cutting more than 600 state jobs, although the details to the counterproposal are still vague.
A report released this week recommends changes to the structure of Vermont's state law enforcement apparatus. This was reported at WCAX, the Burlington Free Press, WPTZ, and the Brattleboro Reformer, but there is not a copy of the report or the summary given to lawmakers available online, even at the State of Vermont's Web site. This report cost $150,000 – shouldn't it be easily available to the public, online, whether you're in Montpelier or in Brattleboro or Newport?

The state's top judge spoke before the legislature on restructuring the system, as the legislation changing the sex offender laws moved forward (and a bill changing statutory rape laws failed). 

On the blogs around the state:

VSAC is coming under scrutiny from Nate Freeman, the Northfield man who ran for lieutenant governor last fall. At issue is a $50 million moral obligation bond to back the publicly chartered entity, which has been fiscally challenged since the failure of the auction-rate bond market last year. Freeman is questioning whether we should put our money behind a student lending corporation that is in trouble.

Over at Green Mountain Daily there's a speculative piece on Deb Markowitz's ambitions and use of Vermont Democratic Party offices. This comes after the state Democratic party head Ian Carleton resigned Friday.

She's Right celebrated a 3-year anniversary this week. The blog's first post was way back in 2006. Blogger Charity Tensel has been opinionating on national issues much more since that first Burlington-centric post, but she brings a fresh perspective to the state blogosphere. We like that her posts are short and to the point, with a nice sense of irony, and as her blog says, "someone's gotta be right around here!". 

-Rob Mitchell

New Model

I have no idea what this press release is actually trying to say, but it appears that Vermont's very own Caledonia Record is experimenting with a new financial model.

 tyBit and Vermont daily newspaper, The Caledonian Record recently partnered to produce CRsearch, a private label search engine customized for the newspaper.

Already exceeding over 25,000 searches a month, The Caledonian Record is monetizing website visitors and signing up its print advertisers so they can take advantage of online advertising.

CRsearch provides a place for The Caledonian Record's subscribers and web visitors to search the Internet for local online advertising results while at the same time being able to provide them with print advertisements from local businesses.

Something to watch, I bet.

- Dan Barlow

Press Bureau roundup

It's busy time in Montpelier; here's what the Press Bureau has been working on the last few days:

Stimulus won't alter project prioritization – Louis Porter, VPB
VPIRG wants to ban fire-retardant chemical - Louis Porter, VPB
Just let us farm - Peter Hirschfeld, VPB
Lawmakers weigh in on federal truck policy – Peter Hirschfeld, VPB
Energy bill from Berkeley to Vermont – Daniel Barlow, VPB
Bennett Case sparks push for easier supoenas – Daniel Barlow, VPB
For 80 state workers, pay tops $100,000 – Daniel Barlow, VPB

Sustainable Coffee for Vermont

This is either a massive PR push, or a generous act of philanthropy (maybe both), but Green Mountain Coffee Roasters has announced four grants worth $200,000 each to "support work on reducing climate change". Whether that is admirable or a waste of money probably depends on your point of view, but the way that they are doing it – using a kind of wikiproposal site to do it is interesting. The process for applying for a grant begins with submitting your idea on the justmeans.com site, sharing it with your network and then submitting a regular grant application. JustMeans is "where you can talk to companies about their social and environmental impact." We'll be following this to see how it works out – the winners will be announced on Earth Day in April.
If there is any irony in this, it's that one of GMCR's most successful recent products is a one-time-use, disposable coffee system that produces a little package of trash with every cup. It seems like they make up for it in other areas – maybe a kind of "landfill offset" the same way there are carbon offsets.
We buy Vermont Coffee Company coffee here in Rutland, but recently discovered you can order their coffee online, in 2.5-lb bags.  And they have a bag recycling program. Look here for an example of how globalization can benefit communities here in Vermont and abroad.

-Rob Mitchell

USA Spending in the 802

Congratulations to Green Mountain Daily, which just turned three years old. Not five. Three. Which makes it about the same age as Vermont View. They don't pull punches, and the diarists – is that the right term? – are not anonymouses, or at least they have online identifiers. The Vermont blogosphere is inconsistent at best – many blogrolls are outdated, linking to defunct addresses and stale cobweblogs that haven't been updated in months. But GMD is fresh just about every day, and we are proud that they link to us on occasion.
Anyway, while we wait to see what impact the stimulus package will have on the state spending, we have been looking around the Internet to see what we can dig up. There's a great site, usaspending.org, which tracks all federal contracts and grants by state – including the TARP program. They have a pretty cool mashup showing where the TARP money has gone – none of it to Vermont banks, apparently.
-Rob Mitchell

Bernie is your Moment of Zen

Sorry for the lack of posting around here this week – a combination of busy days and a nasty cold. And thank you, Blog Gods, or whoever added that great banner this week. We love it over here at the Vermont Press Bureau.

U.S. Sen Bernie Sanders became part of the Daily Show's Moment of Zen Wednesday night.

Check it out right here.

-Dan Barlow

Blessed be the Newspapers

There has been a lot of ink spilled on news about newspapers lately. And electrons (blogging), and whatever it is that delivers radio signals, too. Apparently, we are dead – we disagree. There are some interesting ideas for resurrection, including some of the following:

-Charging 'micropayments' for online readers - an automatic charge of 10 cents, 2 cents, 50 cents or something similarly small for a daily visit to your local newspaper site. So far, this is impractical, although models like iTunes and others have shown that it can work. One gripe we have with this so far is that developing this kind of technology is beyond small local papers like ours, but most of the attention on this is focused on the major metro newspapers and chains, who actually may have the economy of scale to implement it. The real problem here is technology – making it easy and painless to an online reader.

-Cutting out the print edition, going online only. We don't like this, because we have thousands of readers and hundreds of advertisers who still rely on a print edition, and the digital-only business model doesn't support a robust reporting staff on a local scale. Yet.

-Re-create newspapers under a non-profit or endowment model. With this idea, either local news lives and dies on how an endowment does in the stock market (the endowment provided by a mythical angel investor like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs). Or, as a non-profit the pressure to deliver money to shareholders is removed, and the focus can be on news. Intriguing ideas, but on the whole, probably not practical. Part of the vitality of newspapers comes from the balance between the business side and the news side. We are part of the community in more ways than one – we deliver accurate reporting, but we also connect advertisers with community members. On the other hand, there could possibly be an investigative reporting foundation or non-profit investigative project, which does the heavy lifting (going in depth into state finances, etc.) side-by-side with the day-to-day nuts and bolts of reporting (city council meetings, police reports, etc.).

-Here's the best one I've heard so far: make newspapers a religion. We become a non-profit, non-taxable entity, and readers become "followers". Some in this industry already consider themselves "high priests", so why not?

As far as this Vermont company is concerned, we're still figuring it out.

-Rob Mitchell

Reformer, Banner newspapers hit by recession

Employees at the Brattleboro Reformer (where I got my start in daily newspapers) and sister paper the Bennington Banner will take unpaid, week-long furloughs between now and the end of the March, the papers' parent company announced today.

The Reformer and the Banner are owned by MediaNews Group. The furloughs will be enforced at all the company's newspapers across the country.

-Dan Barlow

Spaulding out

Jeb Spaulding will not run for governor in 2010, he announced this morning.

Here's the e-mail he sent to staff:

From: Spaulding, Jeb
Sent: Monday, February 09, 2009 8:30 AM
To: TRE
Subject: 2010

 Hi folks,

After a good deal of consideration, conversation, and introspection, I have decided to forgo a campaign for Governor in 2010 and instead focus intently on fulfilling my responsibilities as Vermont's State Treasurer.  I thought you might like to know this before the word gets around.

Many of you know how enthusiastic I am about serving as State Treasurer with all of you.  In these difficult economic times, the job is especially challenging and rewarding.  I can serve Vermonters best at this time by paying close attention to the financial affairs of our State with as few distractions as possible.

I look forward to working together.

 — Jeb

 

That only leaves 199 other Democrats considering a bid next year.

-Dan Barlow

Week’s Opinion

Vermont News & Opinions
Marriage
Marriage Equality? – Maggie Gunderson, Green Mountain Daily

Ben Stein
Dan Fogel is a Politically Correct Weakling) – Caledonian Record
Stein Flap hits Big Hollywood – Charity Tensel, She's Right Blog
Fogel Flip-Flop Embarrassing for UVM – Burlington Free Press

Budget/Health Care/Economy
Catamount Health is a sham – Caledonian Record
Symposium to reshape the Economy – Charity Tensel, She's Right Blog
We. Are. Screwed - Julie Waters, Green Mountain Daily
Preserve the Safety Net – Christopher Curtis, Burlington Free Press
An Irrational Fear of Taxes – Jack Hoffman, The Rutland Herald

Entergy
A Questionable Snub – Brattleboro Reformer
ENVY is worse than worthless – ed, Green Mountain Daily

The buzz for Dean

There are now nearly 3,000 members of a Facebook group calling on President Obama to nominate Howard Dean as the new secretary of Health and Human Services.

That's in just a tad more than 24 hours.

-Dan Barlow