Monthly Archives: June 2011

Pollina jumps into Dem-Prog redistricting spat

MONTPELIER – Sen. Anthony Pollina couldn’t sit idly by as members of the Vermont Democratic Party in a recent fundraising letter said Progressives were threatening health care reform through their work on the Legislative Apportionment Board.

Pollina is a long-time Progressive who is also a newly minted Democrat.

So Pollina fired off a letter of his own to Vermont Democratic Party executive director Jesse Bragg, pointing out that Progressives have long championed the kind of health care reform underway in Vermont and to suggest they were now threatening it was ludicrous.

“I find it absurd that the Democratic Party would accuse Progressives of undermining single payer health reforms as a fundraising tactic,” Pollina wrote in his letter, which was sent Monday night.

“You should know, for many, many years Progressives have had a clear, principled, unwavering commitment to single payer health care. Progressives have stood fast for single payer when leaders of the Democratic and Republican Parties have not,” he added.

Pollina’s letter to his newly adopted party was the latest missive fired in a spat between Democrats and Progressives over the work of the Legislative Apportionment Board, which is working to redraw voting districts based on the recent census.

The Republicans and Progressives on the board voted for a plan that makes a push for single-member districts, a move that could pit incumbent Democratic lawmakers against one another and was opposed by Democrats on the board.

In response, the Dems issued a fundraising letter that said the GOP and Progressive Party were threatening Democrats and thus their signature issue: health care reform.

“It’s likely you’ve heard about the Republican and Progressive Party’s joint effort to significantly alter Vermont’s existing State House and Senate districts,” the Democratic Party letter said.  

The letter went on: “In order to ensure the success of single-payer healthcare, we must maintain our strong majorities and hold onto the Governor’s office in 2012.These redistricting tactics threaten the success of Governor Shumlin's healthcare plan and many other democratic efforts that we've all worked hard to advance."

The Progressive Party sent out its own fundraising letter in response, and shortly after came Pollina’s letter.

Pollina said he just had a gut response to the VDP letter – which he said was full of “misinformation” – and needed to respond.

“I felt on a personal was well as political level a need to respond,” said Pollina.

Alicia D’Alessandro, communications director for the VDP, said the party received Pollina’s letter and has reached out to the Washington County Senator to try to have a chat with him but hadn’t heard back as of Tuesday evening.

D’Alessandro said she didn’t want to prolong dispute.

“This is not a big party fight,” she said.

But as for who should get credit for the success so far of health care reform, it’s Dems all the way, she said.

“Let’s be frank here,” said D’Alessandro. “The Democrats passed single-payer and we are happy to have Progressives as our allies. But a Democratic majority in the House and Senate and Democratic governor got it done.”

Here’s Pollina’s letter in its entirety:

Jesse Bragg                                                                                       

Vermont Democratic Party

Dear Jesse, 

I find it absurd that the Democratic Party would accuse Progressives of undermining single payer health reforms as a fundraising tactic. (Letter: Redistricting Tactics Threaten Healthcare Reform)

You should know, for many, many years Progressives have had a clear, principled, unwavering commitment to single payer health care. Progressives have stood fast for single payer when leaders of the Democratic and Republican Parties have not.

All of the Progressive members of the Legislature voted for the recently enacted health care reforms and played critical roles in shaping and advocating for the bill. The same cannot be said for all Democrats.

This suggests electing more Progressives and Progressive/ Democratic legislators would strengthen our health care reform, tax reform and job creation efforts.

In regards to the reapportionment board decision you referenced; a majority of the board did vote to emphasize single member districts. You may disagree with the vote, but single member districts are more democratic, allow a closer relationship between Legislators and citizens and mean candidates spend less money campaigning and have more time to talk to all their constituents.

You also know the reapportionment board only makes a recommendation. The real decision about the makeup of House districts will be made by members of the Legislature, a strong majority of Democrats and Progressives. Painting the board vote as political will only make the Legislature’s vote even more so, especially when it overturns the board’s recommendation and maintains the status quo.

I think it is important that we work together on important issues like health reform. Your fundraising letter creates divisions that are needless and counterproductive. Please rethink your strategy. 

Thanks,

Anthony Pollina P/D/WF

Vermont State Senate  

cc: Martha Abbott

       Judy Bevans

Will she? Won’t she?

Anya Rader Wallack, Gov. Peter Shumlin’s special assistant in charge of health care reform, has been enmeshed in the administration’s push for a single-payer health care system since Shumlin took office last January.

Will Wallack throw her hat in the ring and apply to be on the Green Mountain Care Board, the five-member panel that will wield tremendous power over the trajectory of health care reform in Vermont?

“I have not made any decision about that at this point,” Wallack said on Wednesday.

Asked if she’s been encouraged by other people in the administration to apply for a position, Wallack said those kinds of conversations haven’t taken place.

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Vermont Dems pick new vice chair

The Vermont Democratic State Committee has a new vice chairman, the Vermont Democratic Party announced Monday.

Jacob Perkinson was named vice chairman at a meeting on Saturday in Randolph, according to a post on the Vermont Democratic Party website.

From the news release:

"…Party Vice Chair Michael Inners stepped down, effective immediately. The Democratic State Committee moved to (elect) Jacob Perkinson, current Chair of the Chittenden County Democratic Party, to succeed Inners as the new Vice Chair. Vermont Democratic Party Chair Judy Bevans praised the selection: 'Jake has been an asset to the party in Chittenden County. I’m so pleased to have him step up in this leadership role and I look forward to working with him.'"

Prior to his election to the Chair of the Chittenden County Democratic Committee, Perkinson served as chair of the Burlington City Democratic Committee, and was vice-chair for several years, the news release said.

A graduate of Vermont Law School, according to the news release, Perkinson is a Burlington resident known to his friends as "Pappy."

NRC director under fire

For folks who follow the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant issue/debate/court case/train wreck, the director of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Gregory Jaczko may be a familiar name.

Well, it's not a good news cycle for the man.

The Wall Street Journal has a story today on an internal NRC investigation that says Jaczko "stretegically" withheld information related to the neverending debate about what to do with the country's nuclear waste.

Apparently, the guy can be kind of a jerk, too. The report says he has a temper that makes it "difficult for people to work with him." 

(I was not blocked WSJ's paywall. Hopefully you have the same good fortune).

“Challenges for Change” gets a new name: Government Accountability Committee

MONTPELIER – A legislative committee created to oversee controversial government-restructuring legislation in 2010 will continue to meet this summer despite the death of “Challenges for Change.”
In the spring of 2010, the Democratically controlled Legislature and Republican administration of Gov. James Douglas launched a government-restructuring plan aimed at trimming $38 million from the budget without disrupting the programs and services administered by state government.
Dubbed “Challenges for Change,” the initiative fell well short of its goal and has since been criticized by members of both parties as a disingenuous scheme to shore up budget deficits without actually making difficult spending decisions.
As House Speaker Shap Smith said Monday, “’Challenges’ … has become a dirty word, so we won’t use ‘Challenges’ anymore.”
But Smith and officials in the new administration, including Gov. Peter Shumlin himself, say that while “Challenges for Change” may be dead, the concept it embodied will continue to figure heavily in the state’s budget-making process.
Smith underscored his support for the concept Monday at the first post-session meeting of the Government Accountability Committee, a 13-person committee comprised of 12 lawmakers and a representative of the Shumlin administration.
Rep. Donna Sweaney, a Windsor Democrat and chairwoman of the committee, said the group is “floundering with where we’re going” in the wake of ‘Challenges.’
Smith said he wants to see the panel focus its energy on devising new ways to measure the performance of various state-funded programs at the Agency of Human Services.
“I think we all share the goal of being able to better understand what we’re getting for the money we’re spending,” Smith said.

Friday fundraiser for Montpelier businesses

Todd Bailey, a Statehouse lobbyist with KSE Partners, is a longtime denizen of Montpelier’s downtown. As he toured the flood damage along Main, State and Langdon streets last Friday, “it became pretty clear pretty quickly that the flood damage was going to have a serious impact on downtown businesses,” Bailey said outside Capitol Grounds Wednesday.

To help out those business owners, Bailey came up with the idea for a “Flash Mob Fundraiser” outside City Hall this Friday. From 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., Bailey, along with the Montpelier Business Association, will pass around a pair of mud boots into which charitable residents will deposit donations for the flood-relief fund.

Bailey, a Montpelier resident who formerly headed the Vermont League of Conservation Voters, has tapped his expansive social media network to get out the word. His employer has promised to match all donations up to $2,500. The Vermont State Employees Credit Union, where Bailey, 39, is a board member, has pledged $1,000 to the effort.

“Certainly there are some businesses that would benefit from financial support at this point, so it’s good to see the community responding in this way,” said Phayvanh Luekhamhan, executive director of Montpelier Alive, which administers the MBA and will disburse the relief funds.

Bailey is offering potential donors to the relief fund three possible options: $103 (the level, in feet, of Lake Champlain); $57 (days it has rained this spring); and $18 (record-breaking inches of rain this spring).

People interested in giving to the cause but unable to make it Friday can make a tax-deductible donation online by visiting http://www.montpelieralive.org/ and following the instructions there.

Secretary of State to move office from Terrace Street to State Street

We received the following press release a few minutes ago from the Secretary of State’s office:

Secretary of State Jim Condos announced today that the offices of the Secretary of State, currently housed in the Redstone Building on Terrace Street, will be relocated to 128 State Street effective June 6, 2011.

“The decision to move the office out of the Redstone building and into 128 State Street – right across the street from the statehouse – will ensure our services will be easily accessible to the public and to the legislature. We spend a great deal of time at the Statehouse during the legislative session, and being this close will allow for increased availability and accessibility,” states Secretary Condos.

“We are committed to being more accessible to the public—to our constituents—whether it is an individual seeking information, lobbyists looking to file their disclosure reports, town clerks with an elections question, or businesses needing to access our Corporations division. Our new location is centrally located and it will be easy to stop in and utilize our services,” adds Condos.

Condos went further, “It is especially important to me that the citizens of Vermont have open and easy access to their government.”

I welcome folks to stop in and see our new space, meet our staff, and know that we are available and ready to respond to their needs with friendly, competent customer service, whether over the telephone or in person.

Vermont Press Bureau temporarily home to Times Argus

While the cleanup continues at the Barre offices of the Times Argus, we are still putting out the newspaper, and the offices of the Vermont Press Bureau at 3 Pitkin Court have become the de-facto meeting point for the Times Argus newsroom staff. Several editors are working out of the Rutland Herald, the Times Argus' sister paper; others are filing stories and photos from home. Find the live blog coverage archived here: http://www.timesargus.com/article/20110601/THISJUSTIN/110609991