June 30th, 2008

PROMISE OF “TORRENTIAL RAINS” CAN’T STOP THE BBQ ROCK; Third Annual Political BBQ & Hamburg Summit Goes Off Without A Hitch; Symington In House; Pollina Scores With Pie, But Eventually Stumbles In Much-Dreaded “Ryan Test”

by Philip Baruth

For reasons we’re not at liberty to disclose yet, VDB was in NYC for several days in the run-up to the 3rd Annual Hamburger Summit. It was touchy work down there, and it had to be done, of course. But it meant being out of touch during the crucial 24 hours prior to the lighting of the grill, when we usually monitor the weather and — if necessary — lean on the Eye on the Sky boys in St. Johnsbury.

the crowd, huddled

Needless to say, we flew in late Friday night to reports of gathering clouds, looming thunder boomers, and the stark prospect of “torrential rain.” A sobering prospect.

We had two options: call Odum and cancel the whole thing, or show the world that bloggers are, as Richard Burbage says in Shakespeare in Love, “men of parts.”

And, you know, women of parts.

the crowd, huddled

By morning, the rain was nowhere in evidence. Haze, sure, thick enough to wet your face when you walked out the door, but no rain. And the sun lurking somewhere, palpably, above the cloud line.

And it turned out that the forecasts hadn’t made a difference after all: all the sorts of all the people we’d expected began to turn up from all their various home bases, right on time.

We had declared candidates, working the crowd.

the crowd, huddled

We had a candidate launch his campaign right there on the beach, in front of God and everybody. That would be Nate Freeman, below center, who’s now officially hunting him some Dubie.

the crowd, huddled

We had the Brattleboro contingent, very strong this year, almost overpoweringly strong, at 10 or so. And ten Brattleboronians equates to 27 attendees from any other city or village in the state.

They’re that intense.

the crowd, huddled

Maggie and Arnie, as usual, stepped up to the plate and worked the grills. Maggie, the Paul Masson of grillmeisters, will sell no burger before its time. Don and Jason Lorber look on with some concern.

the crowd, huddled

It got to the point where people were badgering us for sausage, hoping we could put a good word in with Maggie. But no dice. Not quite cooked is still not quite cooked.

the crowd, huddled

A wonderful day to hook up with old friends, bloggers and longtime blog readers, and old friends who also happen to be bloggers and longtime blog readers.

the crowd, huddled

the crowd, huddled

the crowd, huddled

the crowd, huddled

On the gubernatorial front, we had something of an embarrassment of riches: Democrat Gaye Symington made the scene, and so did hard-charging Progressive Anthony Pollina, who came bearing pie.

Apple, to be exact. And mighty tasty.

the crowd, huddled

But while Pollina scored initially with the pie, he would eventually face one of the diciest trials the campaign trail has to offer, what is now known simply as the “Ryan Test.”

J.D. Ryan, front-pager for Green Mountain Daily, is as savvy a political blogger as they come. But it’s fair to say that he radiates a certain band of skeptical energy, especially when it comes to working politicians, and for some reason this energy actually draws politicos, who seem compelled to try to put J.D.’s mind at ease.

Last year, it was Congressman Peter Welch, who found himself drawn into J.D.’s web of mild disbelief.

JD and Peter
File Photo: Welch faces Ryan Test, 2007 BBQ

Welch was lucky to escape with a draw in 2007: J.D. clearly wasn’t 100% convinced, but at least his facial expression registered more or less neutral once the exchange was over. And that’s the key — J.D.’s face is closely watched by pundits and bloggers alike to determine the outcome of the exchange.

Which brings us to this year’s Ryan Test. Pollina, after a slow tour of the crowd, spots a potential voter in the mist.

the crowd, huddled

He casually approaches, as J.D. forages for food. At this point, the gubernatorial hopeful has no inkling that he is about to encounter the Hamburger Summit’s human version of Missouri: the ultimate show-me blogger.

the crowd, huddled

And once you realize what you’re into — that this will not be a conversation about weather or macaroni salad, but about all the things you’ve done and perhaps failed to do — there’s no turning back.

the crowd, huddled

Once the conversation nears its end, the whole crowd surreptitiously checks for facial confirmation. Has Pollina managed to mollify his interlocutor? Has he put J.D.’s constitutional suspicions to rest?

Oooh, not good.

the crowd, huddled

But Symington wasn’t having an entirely easy time of it, either. She brought no Secret Service detail, but if she had, let’s just say that they’d have laid down their lives before letting her be surrounded by a crowd like this one. You see what we’re saying.

the crowd, huddled

Official Photographer Yusef is not ordinarily one prone to arthouse, but something about the haze and the stately presence of Gaye Symington seems to have moved him in that photographic direction. And really, this shot captures the way the haze seemed to swim always just at arm’s reach, outside the tree cover, all day long.

the crowd, huddled

The rain never hit, though, and the overcast skies couldn’t stop any of it, any of us. Not that we didn’t spend the day scanning the skies and fearing the worst, waiting for that single strange bolt of lightning to take down the great BBQ tree and everything under it.

But isn’t that the way with politics? Fear the worst, hope against hope for the best, and turn out the people no matter the weather. Amen.

the crowd, huddled

[Many thanks, as always, to the elusive Yusef for his sharp and timely photos. And thanks to all of those who helped in ways large and small to make this year’s event a success.]

June 30th, 2008

Johnny Mac Greatly Expands Scope of What Just Doesn’t Matter; Now Adds Gas Prices

by Philip Baruth

John McCain isn’t the fleetest of candidates when it comes to dodging the dodgy question. He’s not, frankly, a young man, and he’s obviously used to having his way: as a Senator, and as a Senator whose cozy relationship with the press has long allowed him to duck questions with a wink.

He’s said that when we bring the troops home doesn’t matter. But in an interview with the Orange County Register, he takes all of this not mattering to strange new heights. One of the key back-and-forths:

When was the last time you pumped your own gas and how much did it cost?

Oh, I don’t remember. Now there’s Secret Service protection. But I’ve done it for many, many years. I don’t recall and frankly, I don’t see how it matters. I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of town hall meetings, many as short a time ago as yesterday. I communicate with the people and they communicate with me very effectively.

Take a look at the answer again. It’s pretty brazen, especially the non sequitur about town hall meetings. Gas prices? Couldn’t tell you, and it isn’t going to make a damn bit of difference, my friend.

Until some bright boy or girl begins to edit down a reel of Johnny Mac listing all the things that don’t matter, in one killer sequence. We give it, say, 36 hours to appear somewhere on the web. More as details warrant.

June 30th, 2008

Terry McAuliffe Applies Trademark Vinegar and Salt Balm to Clinton’s Raw Wounds

by Philip Baruth

Once again, Terry McAuliffe says just the right thing in just the right way to smooth ruffled feathers. Asked why Bill Clinton isn’t making nice with the novice who schooled him, McAuliffe oh so artfully pointed out that Hillary wears the pants now: “She was the candidate, she got 18 million votes, she’s the political leader of the Clinton family now.”

Sheer brilliance. That should help real good. And people said Hillary should give this McAuliffe guy the bum’s rush.

Not on your life. He’s comedy gold.

June 29th, 2008

VDB Does Everything Conceivable to Muff Coverage of the Obama/Clinton Unity Event, But Succeeds More or Less In Spite of Self

by Philip Baruth

In the crucial days leading up to the Third Annual Political BBQ & Hamburger Summit, the close of voting for the Daysie Awards, and the much-discussed Unity event with Obama and Clinton in New Hampshire, VDB was in New York City facing severe technical issues. We could post, but with something like a 7-hour lag time until that post went live. A nightmare scenario for your compulsive blogger.

All photos by Gretchen Abendschein

But between friends and technology, it’s almost impossible to keep a good blogger down. Case in point: the Unity event. Because Jet Blue apparently makes it a practice to idle all flights a minimum of one hour on the runway, we had plenty of time to take in all the cable post mortems of the ballyhooed New Hampshire love fest.

Sure, the coverage was infantile, focused almost exclusively on “subtle” (pretend) indicators of ongoing discord: body language, posture, presence or absence of spouses, seating arrangements on and off the campaign plane, etc.

Even with that, the pictures and the dogged bonhomie were good for the soul. But what to do for you, the selfless reader?

Again, friends and technology. Turns out a die-hard VDB reader named Annie has a BFF named Gretchen, who happens to have volunteered to work the Unity event, and who happens to be pretty damn handy with a camera.

And bingo bango: we come into the VDB command center this morning and there are your photos, from NH to VT, from Gretchen to Annie to VDB to you.

Tempting to say the process works automatically, because we have so little to do with it, actively speaking, but that’s not it: it’s intensely personal, but that web of personal connection stretches across states.

A truly beautiful thing.

Now let’s face facts: the Clinton and Obama camps have wounds, some of them still open, and any discussion of interiority, of genuine feelings toward one another, is just silly. The issue is not what Hillary or Obama feel, but what they are willing to do.

And in this case, both did everything possible.

No one will ever be able to say that Hillary was disrespected, or that Obama was offered half-hearted support.

Or almost no one. There were, of course, a few dead-enders.

You’ve got to love this woman. First of all, you’ve got to love her because she’s never going away. Ever.

She’ll be there at the Obama inauguration, she’ll be hollering in the crowd outside every Obama State of the Union, and she’ll throw herself in front of the bullet-proof limo just after the second Inauguration.

But second of all, you have to love her because she’s just so incredibly into it. Particularly evocative is the Hillary t-shirt, either designed or worn so it can be read, literally, through a mirror, through the looking glass.

Which is to say that for this woman, there will always be a Wonderland where Hillary won, where sexists were scourged, junior black Senators were content to accept their place on the ladder, and the anger she feels personally about Hillary’s loss is replaced by joy and peace and love.

On the other hand, you don’t have to love this guy with the bitter gun-owner sign, as far as we’re concerned. Feel free not to love, in fact.

But apart from the media-ready handful of dead-enders, it looks like a best-case scenario: Hillary demonstrates all the class and competence her followers have always touted, and Obama shows how ready he is to re-elevate the Clintons and to let bygones be bygones.

Will Obama get every vote in November, with Hillary so publicly on board? No. But it won’t be for lack of trying. This event in Unity showed a couple of candidates and an entire party trying very, very hard, in a good way.

It’s called the enthusiasm gap, and it’s coming for John McCain.

It’s coming for John McCain and it won’t stop until every man, woman, child and pet in the United States of America knows that it’s possible to win this time out, to take it all the way.

[Many thanks to Gretchen Abendschein for the fine photos accompanying this post. And for more Unity photo goodness, try Christian Avard’s contributions to Green Mountain Daily.]

June 26th, 2008

Big Joe To Be Ridden Out on Rail

by Philip Baruth

In advance of his 2008 speech to the Republican National Convention, Big Joe Lieberman has been running an almost non-stop campaign to force Democrats into forcing him out of the Party. It’s like a guy who wants to break up with a girl but doesn’t have the guts to pull the trigger; instead, he wants to be able to say, forever after and more in sorrow than in anger, that she ended it. Well, it looks like Democrats may finally be willing to oblige. It’s called Liebermanmustgo.com, and while there is a petition to be signed, it’s the video montage that’s worth the price of admission.

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June 25th, 2008

Let’s Visit Meghan McCain’s Blog, Shall We?

by Philip Baruth

Flipped through a Newsweek profile of Cindy McCain last night just before bedtime (note to self: dreams may come), and discovered that McCain’s daughter Meghan has been running a campaign blog for months now. A photo blog, to be more specific. And photos are to VDB what bells were to Pavlov’s dogs, of course, so we spent several hours poring through the site this morning. Comedy gold? Not so much.

Clearly the photos are taken by some folks who know their way around a camera, and as clearly the offerings are vetted for unintentional merriment. Still, the site (McCainBlogette.com) offers some insights, which we’ll be happy to share forthwith.

After a single caveat: VDB views McCainBlogette.com, and everything on it, as fair game in the ongoing political campaign, seeing as it takes the campaign trail, and the Republican nominee, as its subject, and looks to diffuse a positive view of that subject across the blogosphere.

In short, John McCain’s daughter Meghan’s blog is a campaign tool being run by a campaign operative: John McCain’s daughter Meghan.

So please, no emails asking that we leave the children alone. This child is a fully grown adult (24 years old), and one glance at the carefully constructed “spontaneity” of the site itself will convince you that she and her father’s campaign staffers can watch out for themselves.

To our muttons, then.

The photo that drew our attention originally was that below, a shot from the campaign trail showing the McCain women holding matching pillows, and monogrammed pillows at that.

Sure, it’s cute, if you’re looking for a photo to match a news story about a Texas mother who’s had her daughter’s competition for pep squad leader killed. And the matching Mother/Daughter aspect rounds out the family values aspect, of course.

But VDB was a little perplexed that the McCain people would allow a picture of the girls holding monogrammed pillows at all, regardless of what the monogramming says.

Add to this an entry on a list of “Ten Things” we don’t know about Cindy McCain, “She can tell if a beer is fresh of not, depending on the taste,” which has a similar boomarang effect.

The campaign clearly means this to qualify Cindy with Joe Sixpack types, and yet it does the opposite, reminding us of her family’s beer fortune, and raising the specter of a woman in a tailored pink suit sending back her pint of Budweiser for something a tad fresher.

Last we checked, there was a narrative about elitism still roiling the mainstream media. And the optics of the pillow photo just seemed odd.

And McCainBlogette.com isn’t shy about putting the glitz out there: there are photos of Meghan with Donatella Versace, and unintentionally hilarious photo accounts of “down home” fundraisers, where the hostess is fabulous (above) and the hayride is designed not to ruin your blazer or cocktail dress (below).

Part of this problem is Cindy McCain herself, who always manages to look preternaturally composed, but with the particular sort of composure that trembles on the verge of firing the maid or berating the gardener. To VDB’s eye, there’s something unsettling there.

Put it this way: she manages to make a large Starbucks look very large indeed.

And that’s when she’s acting normal. When she’s shopping for pearls, she couldn’t look any more like what she is: the heiress to a vast fortune, with enough planes to carry her husband and his staffers wherever they want to go.

Another thing you can’t help but notice about the site, after a while, is how many shots involve someone watching someone watch someone, or someone filming someone filming someone.

You have to suspect that this device gets overused to show readers of the blog, many of them journalists, that McCain’s family is a good postmodern bunch, full of irony and a grasp of created reality.

It’s the visual equivalent of John McCain’s highly successful wink: it’s designed to show the viewer that he knows he’s lost in the funhouse of media, but damned if he isn’t going to speak his mind and have a little fun with it.

So a photo of Meghan McCain checking her own blog (with her BFF, who doubles as a photographer when Meghan is the subject i.e. often) is designed to show that she’s her dad’s daughter: able to frame herself, laugh at herself, and let you in on the whole crazy process.

But the shot is used so much, and in so many different ways, that it can’t help but take the viewer beyond that intended message, to another less comforting: here, like the Romneys, is a family that’s turned itself into bad reality television in a bid to unite family values Republicans and technologically savvy independents and younger voters.

And that takes us back to the original Newsweek profile on Cindy McCain, and the one of the central thrusts of it: that John McCain has put his career ahead of his wives and his family for so long that he now blames himself for both the demise of his first marriage and his current wife’s one-time addiction to pills.

In that sense, all of the shots of someone filming someone filming someone watch John McCain watch a film of his younger war hero self are painful, rather than artsy.

Those moments at McCainBlogette.com can be a little much. And so it’s good, every once in a while, to stumble across a photo that gives you a great big belly laugh, one you don’t have to think too hard about when you’re done laughing.

Like this one, which, if you can believe it, is captioned “Fred Thompson revs up the crowd.”

Or this one. Enough said about that.

June 24th, 2008

Bill Clinton Obviously Still Wicked Pissed

by Philip Baruth

Bill Clinton puts to rest any lingering suspicion that his campaigning on behalf of Obama will be essentially forced at gunpoint, with this long, detailed, even fulsome endorsement: “President Clinton is obviously committed to doing whatever he can and is asked to do to ensure Senator Obama is the next President of the United States.”

bill, hill

That’s it, people.

Clinton was apparently peeved that pundits were questioning his commitment, and so he decided to split the difference between putting speculation to rest and flipping the bird to all involved. That’s the endorsement.

Bill, UnleashedTwenty-seven words in all.

And frankly, we could have done without one of those words. That would be “obviously,” which gives the so-called endorsement all the depth and sincerity of a thirteen-year-old boy telling his mother that obviously he intends to mow the lawn after he clears his personal best on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

If anyone in America needed one last tiny reminder as to why putting Hillary, and her testy come-along spouse, on the 2008 ticket would be a poor idea, this endorsement is obviously it. Like, obviously.

June 21st, 2008

BREAKING: Daysie Awards Open For One More Week, And VDB Needs You To Stop Playing Online Texas Hold-Em And Vote

by Philip Baruth

As we’ve said before, political blogging is an accursed vocation. Your family questions your devotion, your boss gives you the fish eye, and your friends snicker behind your back. And for what? So that you can talk politics, electronically, with an unseen audience, an amorphous group of people whose own friends and family are looking at them more than a little suspiciously. It’s craziness.


There’s no money in it, not a dollar. And when your candidates are down, you’re down, sometimes so far down it feels as though you’re losing a race. And when your candidates lose, it can hurt so bad that your dog dies of a broken heart.

But we do it anyway. And we like to think it makes some sort of difference, somewhere, in the lives of someone. Anyone, really.

But there’s only one way to know for certain: the Seven Days Readers Choice Awards, aka the Daysies.

For the last two years, you’ve helped propel VDB to two straight Daysies, and in the bleak hours, when Rick Santorum looked as though he might find a way to keep his Senate seat, or when Ned Lamont lost to the double-dealing Joe Lieberman, those two Daysies kept us sane.

We try not to ask a lot of readers here, except two things: that they email, because blogging is inherently solitary, and that they vote for us in the Daysies once a year, to show that blogging really isn’t so solitary after all. If you visit the site at all regularly, it’s not a bad trade.

You’ll find this year’s here. Polls close in one week. And as always there are three rules Seven Days insists upon:

1) You can only vote once, although every member of a family can vote, so long as they each have their own email address;

2) You must fill out 33 of the 100 questions online for your ballot to be counted;

3) In the case of Best Blog, you must use the blog’s address rather than its name, so vermontdailybriefing.com counts, but the Vermont Daily Briefing does not. Who knows why, but that’s the state of play.

One final request. The section on media offers you two blogging choices, Best Blog (Political) and Best Blog (Non-Political). If you haven’t got a ready choice for the Non-Political option, we strongly recommend Bill Simmon’s Candleblog (which would be candleboy.com/candleblog/ in Daysie language).

bill and neil
Bill Simmon, left, and Neil Jensen, right, at the 2007 Hamburger Summit. Simmon would later grapple violently with Jensen over who had first claimed the sole remaining bratwurst. Advantage: Simmon.

One of the first in the state, and still one of the absolute best, Candleblog covers everything of crucial interest except politics: TV, movies, technology, social networking, and something that Bill calls “the nerd life,” but which looks suspiciously like goldbricking and drinking coffee to us.

Again, thank you from the bottom of VDB’s scarred political heart for reading throughout the year, and for emailing us, and turning digital communication into something more fundamentally human.

If you actually click through to the survey and cast a ballot, thank you three times over.

June 21st, 2008

Why Is The Democratic Convention Beginning to Emit That Doomsday Smell?

by Philip Baruth

Earlier this week we brought you the disturbing news of military helicopter maneuvers above the Denver Pepsi Center, site of the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Not the most soothing news for someone planning to shoehorn him or herself into the crowd of 50,000 plus in August, but at least black helicopters are a vague and impersonal threat. Not like the 88 MK-IV pepperball rifles the Denver police have just added to their arsenal.

That’s right: the Denver cops are laying down a very sizeable non-lethal marker in advance of the DNC.

The beauty part with pepperball weapons, of course, is the double bonus: the pepperball itself knocks a target down — more or less like a wicked hard stone thrown at high speeds into the body’s soft tissues — and when it hits, it emits a fine cayenne powder that further incapacitates the target, and anyone within breathing range.

Couple of silver linings here.

First, organizers of the Republican National Convention are laying in Tasers as the weapon of choice, making the pepperball rifles seem almost limp-wristed by comparison, and second, there’s nothing like a non-lethal projectile in the kidney to make you remember why we’re fighting for freedom in Iraq.

Still, VDB has to confess, something in the early news coverage out of Denver has us brooding, more than a little.

Let’s remember that Obama’s acceptance will be delivered on the 45th anniversary of King’s “I Have A Dream Speech.” The historical subtext is political transcendence, but also social apocalypse, with distinct overtones of imminent personal danger.

It was that central reality that made Hillary Clinton’s remarks about RFK’s assassination so controversial: they drew attention, like the scratching of a match, to the potentially explosive fumes slowly filling the room.

It’s not for nothing that Rush Limbaugh has been predicting riots in the streets of Denver for the last several months.

And remember, too, the now-familiar line of derision with regard to Obama and his supporters, the cult comparison. Layered into that narrative, that metaphor, is the same presumption of final violence.

All of this has the Federal, state and local authorities on high-alert, already. And coverage of that high alert begets more coverage of the threat dimension, and so on, ad infinitum.

But not to worry. The ratings can’t help but be high. And in America of the early twenty-first century, that’s the surest sign that God is smiling.

June 20th, 2008

Hinda On “Deep Democracy” and H863

by Philip Baruth

The Legislature threaded too many needles to count this past session, one of the trickiest involving the omnibus housing bill, H863. Considering the number of interests it might have offended, the bill was eventually In the piece below, Hinda Miller offers her own birds-eye view of the complex — and existentially searching — process of bringing it in for a landing. — PB

Miller, with Illuzzi, Campbell, and Hartwell.

The Inside View:
Sometimes Miracles Do Happen

by Hinda Miller

Sometimes miracles do happen in the Vermont legislature. Sometimes a diverse group of stakeholders work together to create the art of the possible. Sometimes a legislator can stimulate a collaborative and productive process for the highest good.

This all happened in the creation and ultimate passage of the omnibus housing bill H863, an act relating to municipal planning, encouraging smart growth, purchasing of mobile homes, closure of mobile parks, landlord tenant relations and the state residential lead-based paint poisoning prevention program.

“Deep democracy” is described by Dr. Patricia Wilson, University of Texas, as an organizing principle based on the transformation of separation to interconnectedness, leading to sustainable change. It happens among self-help groups in rural India, in an organization of urban squatters in S. Africa and among environmentalists and developers in successful urban planning.

It starts with the practice of collective engagement, where one listens to the other, to see though the other’s frame and moves towards the visioning of “the whole that wants to emerge.”

The emergence of a healthy supply of affordable housing choices for all working Vermonters at all income levels has long been a challenge for our families, businesses, and the economy.

Affordable homes create the foundation of physical safety, mental stability and spiritual appreciation for healthy and prosperous communities.

Although the Governor had submitted a housing bill in 2004, there was a lack of collaboration and detail that made it difficult to pass with such seemingly opposite agendas: protecting the environment, streamlining state regulations, incorporating Smart Growth principles, and addressing affordability issues like density, cost of land, predictable permitting, lack of inventory and other costs surrounding home ownership.

Such stakeholder complexities rarely get resolved in the Statehouse alone. Much homework and study needs to happen in our communities to get concensus as to how to move forward. It takes leaders ready to play a critical role in nurturing the collective reflection that allow participants to break through old patterns and connect with others in collaborative action.

Such a process leader was Greg Brown, executive director of Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, who, in the summer of 2007, convened advocates from landtrusts, environmental protection, business and homebuilders to provide an initial platform for discussion.

At the same time, I asked key legislators and the administration to sort out old accusations and blame-game editorials that prevented us from moving forward.

Last April, the House sent a controversial bill over to the Senate without majority support. We had to work fast. With support from the pro-tem Peter Shumlin, Senator Vince Illuzzi, Chair of Senate Economic Development Committee, and myself as Vice Chair, decided to give it our best effort.

Though exhausted and a little dubious, a re-energized group of stakeholders sat down to renegotiate basic ingredients for success.

Kevin Dorn and Molly Dugan from the administration participated as well as lobbyists representing diverse stakeholders: Dawn Francis, Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce; Adam Necrasen, spokesperson for various non-profit land trust organizations and Smart Growth Vermont; Tayt Brooks, Assoc. of Homebuilders and Remodelers; and Brian Shupe, Vermont Natural Resource Council.

Unlike Washington lobbyists who are perceived as untrustworthy agents of big business, here in Vermont they can and do operate differently.

Without staff at our disposal, legislators often depend on lobbyists to solve disputes, draw up rough copy, give input on draft legislation and make sure that their constituencies are brought along in the negotiating process.

At this point, Darby Bradley, the revered leader of the land trust movement, with the help of Andy Broderick, stepped up to encourage and endorse certain compromises.

In my six years in the Statehouse, I have never seen such intensity of daily meetings, negotiating, redrafting language, and checking back to see if their stakeholders would agree to changes.

This process of deepening and expanding the consciousness of all participants made us have a deeper appreciation of the whole rather than fighting for our part.

My job, which I relished, was to listen for what was not said and to ask those questions from a place of positive neutrality; to keep people on task while continually dancing around the circle, venturing out of safe corners and painfully giving up more than they thought they could the day before.

This group of hard working people was just one pod in the development of this omnibus bill. Others included Senator Jim Condos, guru of affordable housing in S. Burlington, and Senators Lyons and Cummings who guided the conference committee, chaired by Senator Illuzzi, on lead exposure and affordability issues.

Rental Housing laws were championed by Stuart Bennet and Nadine Scibeck, representing landlords and non-profit housing corporations, Richard Williams of Vermont State Housing Authority as well as Ted Wimpey, Erhard Mahnke of the Affordable Housing Coalition and Chris Rice.

Much progress was also made for mobile home parks. The residential lead paint prevention program was crafted with the help of Wendy Morgan, Attorney General’s office, and Angela Zaikowski who made it reasonable for renters and owners.

Paul Bruhn of Preservation Trust of Vermont worked for an increase in the successful downtown credit program. Treasurer Jeb Spaulding and Sarah Carpenter, exec. director of VT Housing Finance Agency, were directed to look at ways to reduce the cost of loans as well as closing costs.

I have not even mentioned the many witnesses and committee members that worked so hard in the House to contribute to our collective understanding of the issues. Rest assured this bill is just the start of a roadmap that will evolve as we study and resolve many other housing, development and environmental issues.

Having finally found a role that suits my vision of inclusion and interaction for the highest good devoid of political bickering, I also developed a better understanding and respect for the art of the deal.

The master of this process, Senator Illuzzi brought us down the home stretch by withholding some elements and trading priorities for practical as well political reasons.

I take the time to tell the tale, to celebrate the process and feel encouraged that sometimes miracles do happen in the Vermont Legislature.

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