July 27th, 2008

Key Question: What Would Shatner Do?

by Philip Baruth

For all of those now awash in the public debate about sex offenders, prevention, and the serial politicization of the issue by our current Governor, let VDB recommend a look back at a really eye-opening interview we did a few years ago with current Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan.

T.J. HookerBack in 2006, Donovan was locked in a death-struggle with two other talented Democrats for the party’s nomination; waiting patiently for him on the other end of that fight was a tough-talking Republican named John St. Francis, who had already made “the drug epidemic” his number one talking point.

T.J. eventually beat all comers, and he did it partially by finding a way out of the “soft on crime” thicket that has waylaid Vermont Democrats for decades.

Rule Number One? Don’t be afraid to say that safety comes first:

“Let me start by saying that everybody involved in this case — the neighbors, the police, probation — they all have legitimate concerns about safety. People have a right to live free from fear. In their house. On their street. In their back yard. And that’s the first priority, so when you talk about balancing, the first priority is public safety. And the scales will always be tipped in favor of that.”

The interview is called “T.J. Donovan Is No William Shatner (And That’s A Very Good Thing).” Much talk about restorative justice, the economic costs of crime, and what Donovan calls the “third way” with political discourse about public safety. Worth a look.

Especially these days. Say no more.