Last Minute Mayoral Scrum
As usual, Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle, attired in an appropriately outrageous costume, will be leading the Mardi Gras parade up Church Street this Saturday afternoon. But with just three days before his assured re-election, somebody's determined to rain on Clavelle's political parade.
It's none other than Mayor Moonie's longtime Republican nemesis, State Rep. Kurt Wright.
Clavelle, as you know, is the nominee of both the Progressive and Democratic parties this year. His only opponent is an unknown named Michael Brown, a guy who apparently just gets a kick out of seeing his name on the ballot.
No Republican has stepped forward to run for mayor this year. Instead, Kwik Stop almost talked Democratic City Councilor Ian Carleton into running. But Lord Carleton, an attorney, dropped the notion when Democratic heavies like Howard Dean and Doug Racine weighed in. Ho-Ho and the Quiet Man, we're told, advised Eager Ian to heed the results of the city Democratic Caucus, which chose Clavelle to be the party's standard bearer.
In the last few days, however, Kwik Stop Kurt has put the word out that voters who are reluctant to fill in the box next to "Peter Clavelle" might consider writing in the name of "Kurt Wright." Kwik Stop's only trying to be helpful.
Rep. Wright told Seven Days that he's announced his write-in candidacy through his favorite local radio talk shows, saying voters should feel free to use his name as a "protest vote."
Mayor Moonie isn't exactly thrilled by Kwik Stop's latest attempt at political grandstanding.
"If Kurt wanted to be mayor," said Clavelle, "I wish he would have gotten his signatures and put his name on the ballot. I would have enjoyed debating him."
Mr. Clavelle said he's wondering if Mr. Wright's last-minute write-in campaign is actually "the kickoff of the 2006 mayor's race."
How well will Kwik Stop do on Tuesday?
The media-savvy Mr. Wright said that will depend on how much press coverage he gets in the waning days of the race. Over 10,000 votes will be cast. Asked if he thinks he'll break 500 votes, he replied, "I think I can."
How about 1000 votes, Kwik Stop?
"That gets a little dicey," he said.
Meanwhile, the Queen City's current and future mayor told Seven Days that, out on the campaign trail, he's hearing a great deal of concern about our Mad Cowboy President's march to war.
"I'm hearing that my fellow Burling-tonians are fed up with winter and eagerly awaiting the arrival of spring," said Clavelle. "They are also very anxious and fearful over the threat of war with Iraq and the possibility of related terrorism. I'm hearing fears about war in all the senior centers I visit and on the streets. It's clear that this is an important local issue."
Freed Loses Muscle Test -- The issue on the table at the Statehouse last Thurs-day was a resolution condemning the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. In January, Glaxo began refusing to sell its prescription drugs to Canadian pharmacies that ship them back across the border to American customers at the much lower Canadian price.
The Glaxo resolution shot through the Senate like a speeding bullet (with 23 cosponsors). But in the House, Republican Speaker Walter Freed, using the power of his pulpit, refused to let the House vote on it. Instead, our favorite Dorset millionaire sent the resolution off to the Health and Welfare Committee.
Democratic supporters were chagrined, to say the least. They've learned the hard way over the last two years that Mr. Freed is an extremely partisan Republican who simply can't be trusted. Given Wally's track record, it was reasonable to suspect that sending the resolution to committee was the equivalent of placing it on a slow boat to China.
So a rebel band led by Rep. Alice Miller of Shaftsbury pulled off a stunning parliamentary maneuver. Alice made a motion to "relieve" the committee of the resolution and place it on the House Action Calendar. A roll call vote ensued. And guess what?
Rep. Miller & Co. pulled off an upset. Even though Freed's Republicans are supposedly in charge, Alice's motion passed 68-66. The Democrats were joined by all the Independents and Progressives, as well as three Republicans: Steve Adams of Hartland, Ed Amidon of Charlotte and Mary Morrissey of Bennington. The victory was a public slap in the face to the pharmaceutical-friendly Duke of Dorset.
On Tuesday an amended version of the resolution that Rep. Miller described as "stronger" than the original sailed through the House 133-1.
Miller told Seven Days that what Glaxo did in halting Canadian sales "is just dead wrong." Back home in Bennington County, Miller said, she has "a neighbor up the hill" who pays $1200 a month for prescription drugs for his wife.
"They can't afford that," said Alice. "He fixes lawnmowers."
The battle with Glaxo will take center stage at a bipartisan Capitol Hill press conference on Thursday. Congressman Bernie Sanders and friends will highlight legislation that, if adopted, would hit GlaxoSmithKline with civil penalties of up to $1 million if the greedy drug giant discriminates against U.S. consumers.
Informed sources say that Bernie's bill on reimportation, cosponsored by Indiana Republican Dan Burton, will be this year's focal point in the congressional prescription drug battle.
P.S. As for Speaker Freed's shocking floor defeat last week, the message is that, down the line, there will be many very close votes on the House floor. The Republican steamroller of the last biennium, built by the homophobic civil-unions backlash, has clearly evaporated.
Judicial Writer's Block? -- Former UVM hockey star Graham Mink of Stowe continues to light the lamp for the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League. Graham has scored 20 goals so far this season. An NHL call-up can't be too far away. The bruising center plays John LeClair-style, planting himself right in front of the net and picking up the rebounds.
This is Mink's second season in Portland. And so far his brilliant career has not been interrupted by the fact that he's facing a felony charge for aggravated assault down at Vermont District Court in Burlington. But what's really amazing is that there's no sign Mink will face trial on the old October 2001 charge anytime soon.
Mink has pleaded not guilty. The case stems from a late-night altercation on Buell Street in which Mink allegedly kicked an unconscious fellow reveler in the head. He turned down the state's offer of a plea deal that would have reduced the charge and put the puckster in the St. Johnsbury work camp for five months.
It's funny, but when the Mink case first hit the courthouse, several judges made it clear that the Stowe kid's hockey career was not going to delay the wheels of Vermont justice. Now it looks like Graham will complete two pro seasons before the system ever brings him to justice.
The latest delay comes courtesy of Judge James Crucitti. On December 12, Crucitti heard arguments on Mink's motion for change of venue because of excessive media exposure. Lawyer R. Jeffrey Behm argued the publicity of UVM's hockey hazing scandal a few years ago would prejudice potential jurors.
At the hearing, Judge Crucitti expressed his doubts that such a move was warranted. Unfor-tunately, it's now almost March and the distinguished jurist has apparently been so busy he's been unable to issue a written ruling on the motion.
That leaves the Mink case in limbo. And it leaves the defendant free on $25,000 bail to play pro hockey without a worry in the world.
Judge Crucitti was on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment. Sometimes rest helps with writer's block.
Judicial Relief! -- Also at District Court this week you'll find a few judges who are still recovering from Gov. Jim Douglas' surprising announcement last week that the Agency of Human Services will seek bids for an 80-bed in-state drug treatment facility. The announcement came like a bolt of lighting. Totally unexpected.
For years we've watched the Black Robes at the courthouse practically pull out their hair in despair as wave after wave of young heroin addicts has passed through their courtrooms. They known damn well locking up junkies is a complete waste of time and taxpayer dollars. Unless the addiction is treated, the defendant will be back in court again and again and again. But with no local facility to provide treatment, our judges' hands have been tied.
Last week, Vermont's new Republican governor surprised everyone by taking a rational approach to the illegal drug problem. Secretary of Human Services Charlie Smith even acknowledged a major policy shift, recognizing drug addiction as a health problem rather than a police problem. Far out!
Judge Brian Burgess told Seven Days that addicts need "more than 28 days of intensive treatment." And when they're released, said Burgess, they need follow-up treatment at the local level. Unless they can get out of their "former milieu," said Burgess, they'll revert to their former bad habits.
The new governor's announce-ment, said Burgess, "is good news."
Colodny Correction? -- Fletcher Allen Health Care interim-CEO Ed Colodny telephoned yours truly last week. Mr. Ed said that it was inaccurate for us to suggest he had been behind Gov. Douglas' call for the FAHC trustees to step down.
Actually, we did not report that Ed was behind it. In fact, we said the governor's sudden change of course was attributable to Congressman Bernie Sanders' keen interest in the issue and what that might mean for the 2004 governor's race.
Mr. Colodny, however, did not question the accuracy of our report, based on administration sources, that he had not raised even one note of objection to the governor's bold move.
Deanwatch 2004 -- Our favorite presidential hopeful was not a guest on the Sunday morning talking-head shows, but he was there in spirit. A lot of the talking heads, you see, were talking about Howard Dean.
On "Face the Nation," CBS' chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer and Time magazine columnist Joe Klein were mesmerized by Dean's rip-roaring speech last Friday to the Democratic National Committee.
What got their attention was the way Ho-Ho had stepped before the party faithful, accused party leaders of copying the Bush Republicans and declared, "I'm Howard Dean and I want to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party."
The audience went bananas! In fact, Dean got more standing ovations than all the other candidates combined.
Said Klein: "Howard Dean came in and he just blew those people away. It was one of the most effective speeches I've ever seen a candidate give."
Said Schieffer: "It is a long way from knowing who the Democrats' nominee will be. But if I were one of those other candidates, I'd start keeping an eye on Howard Dean."
President Howard Dean.
Has a nice ring to it, eh?
Saturday Spectacular! -- Big doings Saturday in Montpeculiar, where Bernie Sanders and Arianna Huffington will headline an all-day "People's Roundtable on the Vermont Economy." The Vermont State Employees Association is the lead sponsor.
Huffington's new book -- Pigs at the Trough: How Corporate Greed and Political Corruption are Undermining America -- documents how a select few are running the government, and the economy, into the ground for the rest of us while reaping profits for themselves.
The 52-year-old millionaire and former Republican is also a syndicated columnist. Recently she mounted an all-out attack on SUVs, the gas-guzzlers that made Arab oil sheiks blush with pride.
Voted the "Funniest Celebrity in Washington," Huffington once slipped into her nightie to appear between the sheets with Al Franken for the "Strange Bed-fellows" segment on "Politically Incorrect."
If you hit the Statehouse around 10 a.m. Saturday, you'll be able to catch the Bernie and Arianna Show. Neither is expected to appear in a nightie.
P.S. The People's Roundtable is being organized by Ethan Ready, oldest son of State Auditor Elizabeth Ready. And it looks like Chainsaw Liz is about to have her first daughter-in-law. Ethan recently became engaged to Burlington attorney Katina Francis.