Monthly Archives: March 2009

Same-sex marriage and the arts

Alex Aldrich, the executive director of the Vermont Arts Council, is in a tough position.

The Arts Council is a quasi-state agency, a non-profit group that receives lots of its funding from Vermont's state coffers. So, he can't say how he feels about the same-sex marriage bill working through the Legislature.

On his blog last week, Aldrich wrote:

"I am forbidden by law to advocate for a particular position regarding pending legislation since I am the director of an independent 501(c)(3) organization that also serves as the official Vermont State Arts Agency. I am, however, allowed to offer fair and balanced opportunities to all people to educate themselves about issues of note."

He recommends that arts supporters visit the Web sites of those opposed to same-sex marriage (www.takeittothepeople.com) and supporters (www.freedomtomarry.org) to make a decision on the issue.

"Still haven’t made up your mind? Go back and do it again, and yet again if you have to. I truly don’t care what your position ends up being. I just don’t want you or your children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren to feel any regret that you didn’t take a position and communicate it to your legislators when you had the chance."

Aldrich adds at the end, "As to where I personally stand on this issue, feel free to draw your own conclusions."

-Dan Barlow 

Watch me tonight

I'll be one of the three guests tonight on Vermont This Week.

Topics on the show will include the same-sex marriage bill, state budget battles and the Vermont Yankee decommissioning bill.

You can watch the show at home tonight and Sunday, or listen and watch on-line at the Vermont Public Television Web site.

-Dan Barlow

7%

Unemployment numbers for Vermont are in for the month of February.

The state hit 7 percent unemployment for that month, up two-tenths of a percent from the January numbers. It's an increase – although not nearly as large as the increase the state saw between December 2008 and January 2009.

Of course, we are still waiting for those IBM lay-offs earlier this year to finally show up on the unemployment rolls.

-Dan Barlow

1,000 strong

The "Vermonters calling on Douglas to NOT VETO same sex marriage" Facebook group now has more than 1,000 members.

It was created about 24 hours ago.

-Dan Barlow

Politics in this new Facebook world

Defend the Natural Family: Stop Gay Marriage in Vermont Facebook group

33 members

Stop Gov. James Douglas from vetoing Gay Marriage bill Facebook group

45 members

-Dan Barlow

VT Freedom to Marry to rally at Statehouse Friday morning.

Same-sex marriage supporters will rally at the Statehouse Friday morning, at the same time the governor has his legislative open door.

A safe bet: Huge turnout.

-Dan Barlow

Who’s spamming Vermont on gay marriage?

There were signs Wednesday that the same-sex marriage debate in the Vermont Legislature has attracted outside interest.

A Green Mountain Daily poster mentions today getting a robo call from a Washington, D.C. area phone number with a rather odd poll – Should Vermont lawmakers vote on same sex-marriage or focus on the economy?

The call allegedly came from 202-747-7306, which shows up on several Web sites that collect information on robo-calls. A posting on some of the sites note that it was used last November to send out thousands of calls for a pro-life Republican.

Wednesday morning at the Statehouse I began hearing from a handful of Democratic state reps and senators that their e-mails are being flooded that day with form letters of opposition from out of staters. They said these are coming at about one every minute.

For the record, reporters asked Gov. James Douglas today if he put a poll out about same-sex marriage. His answer was no. But he too has received thousands of messages on this issue, about half from outside of Vermont.

-Dan Barlow

 

Douglas to make gay marriage announcement

For Immediate Release:

March 25, 2009

 **MEDIA ADVISORY**

Governor Douglas to make Statement Regarding Same-sex marriage

WHAT:    Governor Douglas today will make a public statement regarding same-sex marriage.       

 WHEN:    Wednesday, March 25, 2009 – 2:15pm - 2:30pm   

WHERE:   Pavilion 5th Floor Conference Room

- Dan Barlow

Prioritizing downstream

The priority list for stimulus spending on Vermont projects was based on the "ready-to-go-ness" of each project. But this has resulted in some strange priorities, as Rutland mayor Christopher Louras wrote to the state's Dept. of Environmental Conservation (full story here):

"At the risk of opening a new front in class warfare, I would contend
that it is neither in the state's interest nor within the spirit of the
legislation to provide loan forgiveness for nonresident/second
homeowners at private resort condominiums when true public
infrastructure is in critical need of public funding."

Because the private projects – for water systems at private developments – are more "shovel-ready", they are prioritized in front of of public projects like upgrading Rutland's ancient water system, or work on Brattleboro's wastewater system. Good news is, the process is not yet complete. But it may be difficult bucking the federal requirement for speed over need.

In a related state municipal story, the real estate downturn may soon create more problems for cities and towns, as Gordon Dritschilo wrote in the Sunday Rutland Herald. Changes in home values will probably trigger reappraisals in nearly a third of Vermont towns, meaning lower property taxes, and putting municipalities into a bind with education funding. The problem, according to Stratton Town Clerk Kevin Young:

"…the town could find itself holding the bag as it would have already
paid into the state education fund. While the town would have to
reimburse property owners, the state would not have to reimburse the
town."

Superheroes and Rutland

Independent comics publisher Larry Young (who I once bought a nice page of original comic art from), on how his move to Vermont inspired his desire to make and sell comics.

It was Avengers #119, and the Collector had come to Rutland to kidnap the Avengers who were in town for the Halloween Parade. And there really was a Halloween Parade in Rutland! This story could have actually happened!

-Dan Barlow

Thank you, Dad

Rutland Republican Sen. Kevin Mullin's son wrote to the Rutland Herald this week thanking his father for his vote last week on the same-sex marriage bill.

Mullin, the sole GOP member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, voted yes alongside the Democrats on the committee.

Here's the letter:

Many are calling Sen. Kevin Mullin's vote to send a gay marriage bill to the House and Senate an act of courage and a powerful example to other lawmakers here in Vermont – and it certainly was. I know how difficult this issue has been for him and I applaud him for voting for what he believes. I am also proud to say that Sen. Kevin Mullin is my father whom I love and support with all of my heart. I would like to thank him for standing up and supporting my own rights.

However, in response to Stephen Cable's remarks, I am outraged. I sincerely hope that voters will not vote based solely on this issue come next election. My father has devoted his life to serving Rutland County and his credits are immeasurable. In addition, Cable claims that this bill will "no longer seek to promote that each child have a mother and a father." A child deserves to be loved – regardless of their parent or parents' gender. I know that I certainly feel loved today. Thank you, Dad.

BARTLEY MULLIN
Rutland Town

-Dan Barlow

“We agree with President Obama …”

Vermont Republicans debuted a new line of defense against same-sex marriage this week: They have the most popular Democratic president in decades on their side.

Sen. Randy Brock, R-Franklin, from my story in today's TA/RH, during the Senate floor debate Monday afternoon:

Republican Sen. Randy Brock of Franklin was one of the strong opponents of the bill who spoke on the Senate floor Monday. He invoked both President Barack Obama and Gov. James Douglas' opposition to same-sex marriage in his argument.

"I strongly believe that gay and lesbian Vermonters should be offered the same rights as other Vermonters," Brock said. "Our civil union law accomplished that."

Douglas' spokesperson to CNN on Monday night:

"Gov. Douglas agrees with President Obama that marriage is between a man and a woman. He supports Vermont's current civil union law, which provides equal rights, benefits and responsibilities to Vermonters in civil unions," Douglas spokeswoman Dennise Casey said.

-Dan Barlow

 

Gay marriage vote in the Vermont Senate

Voting yes:

-         Sen. Timothy Ashe, D-Chittenden

-         Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison

-         Sen. Susan Bartlett, D-Lamoille

-         Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor

-         Sen. Bill Carris, D-Rutland

-         Sen. Matthew Choate, D-Caledonia

-         Sen. Ann Cummings, D-Washington

-         Sen. William Doyle, R-Washington

-         Sen. Edward Flanagan, D-Chittenden

-         Sen. Harold Giard, D-Addison

-         Sen. Robert Hartwell, D-Bennington

-         Sen. Jane Kitchell, D-Caledonia/

Orange

-         Sen. Sarah Kittell, D-Franklin

-         Sen. Virginia Lyons, D-Chittenden

-         Sen. Mark McDonald, D-Orange

-         Sen. Richard Mazza, D-Chittenden/ Grand Isle

-         Sen. Richard McCormack, D-Windsor

-         Sen. Hinda Miller, D-Chittenden

-         Sen. Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland

-         Sen. Alice Nitka, D-Windsor

-         Sen. Doug Racine, D-Chittenden

-         Sen. Philip Scott, R-Washington

-         Sen. Richard Sears, D-Bennington

-         Sen. Peter Shumlin, D-Windham

-         Sen. Diane Snelling, R-Chittenden

-         Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham

 

Voting no:

-         Sen. Randy Brock, R-Franklin

-         Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, R-Essex/ Lamoille

-         Sen. Hull Maynard, R-Rutland

-         Sen. Robert Starr, D-Essex/Orleans

 

 

Monday news round-up

- The Vermont Senate is expected to vote on the same-sex marriage bill this afternoon.

- Vermont is the fourth safest state in the country, according to a new survey. Which state is the most dangerous? Here's a hint: They have lots of casinos.

- Libraries across the state are seeing increases in usage as the economy sours.

- Howard Dean has a new job: He'll be a contributor for CNBC, the business network for NBC.

-Dan Barlow

$114.72 million

Rep. Tony Klein's magic numbers for the bill forcing the owner of Vermont Yankee to fill up its decommissioning fund are in.

According to a draft of the bill I got from the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee this morning that magic number is: $114.72 million.

If the bill passes, Entergy would be forced to put that amount of money into the fund four times between now and 2020.

The committee is expected to approve the bill Thursday.

-Dan Barlow