Thursday, March 29, 2007

Pure Political Gossip

Hey gang. Getting through it. Hourly by hourly. Day by day. Stroke by stroke. But, hey, things could be worse. I could be Tasha Wallis. She’s Governor Douglas’ Commissioner of Buildings and Grounds. And it an age of sick state government buildings turning up faster than Bush’s ethics lapses, let’s just say she’s not a real popular lady.

In ordinary times, being the Commissioner of Buildings and Grounds wouldn’t be a too stressful job. In fact, you’d probably best consider it either a stepping-stone toward something bigger and better or a cruise toward retirement. It’s not often that those holding that job get the white-hot spotlight of citizen and employee anger aimed right at them.

But it’s been no picnic for Tasha. And while the dopey Dems are trying to make this into another two-bit party fight, they’d better do a little boning up on Tasha’s resume before they go too far down that road. Hint: Tasha broke into the Vermont government scene as a policy analyst for the Dean team.

The word I’m getting from the inside – oh, okay, the stuff people will tell a painter in their office – is that the friction between the state employees and the Douglas Administration – especially Wallis – is starting to boil over, especially in light of the memo she put out trying to gag state employees from speaking to the media.

Worse, it seems as though there are more claims of sick government buildings coming our way soon. Could it be that those poorly designed and hideously ugly buildings of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s are little more than germ factories and boredom repositories? It would seem from my conversations with the working folk that Tasha ought to put more energy on fixing the buildings and less into silencing the state employees. Trust me, Tasha, people love to talk – especially state workers.

Speaking of Douglas
, don’t be surprised if you see him with a little extra spring in his step nowadays. You see, this was supposed to be the legislative session whereby he was supposed to be “under siege” from the veto-proof Dem majorities in BOTH houses of the Vermont legislature. But, for some reason, the Dems have been more interested in fighting amongst themselves than doing ANYTHING to make Douglas uncomfortable yet.

So far, the closest they got was with the so-called Death with Dignity bill that didn’t even make it far enough for Douglas to even bother mentioning the “veto” word. And, please, if Speaker Gaye Symington was trying to prove that she can’t herd cats – er, make that, Dems – she did a fine job by bring the bill to the floor, voting for it herself and then watching it go down in flames. That’s not leading, Gaye; that’s losing. And, yes, that was laughter and celebrating you were hearing from the Guv’s office that night. And the theme? Thanks, Gaye.

Oh sure, there were also those war resolutions, but – like anyone who understands the bullshit nature of them – Douglas just let the Dems play in that sandbox as long as they wanted to. It was, as we know, just a resolution.

Trust me, Douglas isn’t sweating a thing. In fact, he’s loving the Dem in-fighting, the growing nervousness about who’s gonna be the fall-guy or girl against him in 2008, and the near-complete lack of an agenda-setting spine from the Dems. In other words, what should have been a rather troubling session has been little but a cakewalk for the Guv.

Where, for example, are the Dems on health care?
While they tried to blame Douglas on the silly Catamount Plan that will only go down as one big stall toward a real solution, they’ve now got the power to do whatever they supposedly wanted to do in the last session. Hell, they can even override the threatened veto. But they haven’t moved. And they won’t.

Instead, the Dems seem utterly – and stupidly – content with doing very little and trying to make themselves feel good about it. Consider, for example, the absolute glee they felt when they learned – rightly or wrongly – from the public that they didn’t want the legislature “going too fast” on the school funding issues. The Dems treated this news like some kind of victory.

“See,” they oh-so-happily declared, “the public doesn’t want us to do anything!”

Hmm, strange way to lead, for sure. And, please, would someone please tell them that they ARE leaders.

But the Guv and his political team have got Symington & Co. wrapped around their little fingers. And if she strays too far afield, all they have to do is whisper this in her ear: Civil Unions. Because Gaye is always so quick to remind her backroom supporters what happened to the Dem majorities the last time they held them: They got all “radical” and passed the civil union legislation [history reminder: the Dems got bounced from majority status in the next election]. But, I would argue, they got bounced more because they didn’t stand up and fight for their beliefs. And there’s nothing worse than a pol doing something historical and then hiding from it. Hell, they couldn’t even get Howard Dean out of the fucking closet to sign the damn bill. Yeah, that’ll show ‘em.

It’s about principles, you idiots. Say it. Do it. And believe it. And as George Bush has tragically shown, people will actually vote for that kind of consistency. Moreover, voters will NOT vote for a crew that says they want to solve health care and then won’t even introduce legislation to address it; that says they believe Bush has trashed the Constitution and committed high crimes and misdemeanors against the people but won’t allow impeachment resolutions to even have a vote (Thanks, Gaye); that talk about high school taxes but throw a party when they get so much as a hint that they can “go slow” on the issue; that talks a tough game at election time about stopping the war but then vote to give the same president they’ve called a criminal more than $120 billion to just carry on.

It’s really quite bizarre.

Finally, let me end this episode of snark with a bit of pure media gossip. Peter Freyne of Seven Days gave more ink to Burlington City Councilor Tim Ashe (P-Ward 3) in his column this week. And while I hear he’s a great guy from most, I read it and wondered why he’s so frequently getting mentioned by Freyne but so infrequently by anyone else in the media. Even Freyne seems to be questioning his own decision to give him ink when, after announcing that Ashe may run for council president, he concludes: “…it doesn’t look like he’s got a chance at council presidency.”

Well, yeah, we all know that. So why the ink, Peter? Hmm, could it be that Tim Ashe is the boyfriend and housemate to one of Peter’s bosses, Paula Routly? And while there’s clearly nothing wrong with the connection, it would seem more than a bit appropriate to disclose this little fact while writing about his political aspirations in the paper his lover publishes and edits, no? Imagine the field day Peter would have if the Free Press pulled this kind of stunt….

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