Dean's Bubble Bursts
"It was a sad night," said former gubernatorial press secretary Sue Allen as she described her boss' third-place finish in Monday's Iowa Caucuses. As everyone knows by now, Sen. John Kerry won. Sen. John Edwards finished second. Howard Dean was a distant, disappointing third.
"I'm surprised they went to John Kerry," said Sweet Sue.
Many people familiar with Iowa, however, are not. In fact, the hot bumper sticker in Iowa last week, said Des Moines Register reporter Tom Beaumont, was one that read, "Dated Dean, Married Kerry."
So what happened to Howard Dean's historic campaign for the White House Monday? Why did so many Iowa Democrats reject the once-glorious front-runner from the Green Mountains of Vermont?
Obviously, the Dean campaign realized something was wrong as they hit Iowa's homestretch. What else explains the need to rent a Lear jet to fly Ho-Ho's beloved wife, Dr. Judith Steinberg, to Iowa Sunday to make her first campaign appearance since the June kickoff in Burlington?
On Saturday evening, said Sweet Sue, Dr. Judy, the "stay-at-home wife," hosted a dinner at her South Cove White House (it is painted white) for the Burlington High School boys' ice hockey team. Son Paul Dean is quite the talented little hockey puckster, ya know.
Then came the call from the Heartland for help, and Dr. Judy responded. "She didn't hesitate a bit when asked to go," Allen told Seven Days.
Better late than never, eh?
And, excuse me, but if you're going to spend the dough to rent a jet, why not spend a little on a quick shopping trip for Dr. Judy? The Old Navy look may work in Vermont, but hey, this is Hollywood now.
Look, if Howard Dean, the former Republican, er, sorry, Democratic governor of Vermont can pretend to be a left-wing, populist antiwar candidate battling against the establishment of which he's a product, then why can't his physician wife, who graduated Princeton, pretend she can look and dress like a potential First Lady if circumstances require it?
Can you say "lipstick?"
And what explains the fact that 75 percent of the Iowa folks who attended Monday night's Democratic caucuses identified themselves as "antiwar," and then went ahead and voted for two candidates -- Kerry and Edwards -- who supported the war?
Beaumont of the Register told Seven Days that "Iowa people who liked Dean early were loyal, but many others saw him as a loose cannon, too edgy, even though they did not disagree with what he said."
What makes people edgy?
Well, we suggest it's a product of nature. Something about facial structure. As one Iowa observer noted, Dean doesn't have an upper lip. (collagen time?) When he gets passionate, his eyebrows arch and his mouth pouts and he looks like someone in perpetual Halloween mode. Get the man a mirror, will ya?
Sure enough, Ho-Ho's been hit with an all-out press by the press. He's been hit with everything AND the kitchen sink. But that's what happens to frontrunners. Surely it didn't come as a surprise?
And who gets credit for the negative Dean TV spot that targeted his opponents for supporting the Iraq War?
"I don't think the negative ads worked," said Dean volunteer Jaime Schulte, an IDX engineer who went to Iowa to knock on doors for Ho-Ho. "Edwards may have picked up support because of it," Schulte told Seven Days. "He caught a wave of excitement that Dean had weeks and months ago."
Like Beaumont, Schulte was heading for New Hampshire Tuesday, when Granite State voters go to the polls. Big John Kerry hits the White Mountains riding a growing wave. Gen Wesley Clark, who sat out Iowa, has been building remarkable support in New Hamp-shire. Four-star generals look presidential.
Bottom line: Ho-Ho's in deep doo-doo.
If Vermont's national-magazine cover boy doesn't win in New Hampshire next week, or at least beat out Clark for second place behind Kerry, he's toast.
Dr. Dean needs a new prescription, and he needs it fast. Dr. Freyne prescribes he start emphasizing his medical credentials and expertise, which are real, rather than his left-wing antiwar credentials, which are more theatrical in nature. Go back to being the unliberal Howard Dean we all knew, battled with and respected.
Voters want to back a person who fits their image of presidential. The angry prairie-dog look Howard wore through the Iowa cornfields better be left behind, or his run for the White House will be over sooner rather than later.
Physician, heal thyself.
Into the Dark Future --
Last week National Life of Vermont, the state's fourth-largest employer, announced a profitable job-cutting program that will see Vermont jobs go to India. It's the raging trend in the American economy and nobody seems to be doing a damn thing about it.
On Saturday yours truly dialed up America Online for a little technical support. The toll-free phone call was answered by a female in India. She had difficulty hearing and understanding our problem, and yours truly had difficulty understanding her English. After 10 frustrating minutes when the AOL "technical expert" asked us the same question for the fifth time, we simply hung up.
Welcome to our Brave New World, folks. It's a little scary.
Fortunately, a few people in power are paying attention. One is Vermont's Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders. The other is CNN's Lou Dobbs, who hosts a nightly business program. On Monday, Mr. Dobbs was the guest on Mr. Sanders' weekly radio program on WDEV.
Who would have thunk it? Ol' Bernardo and Lou Dobbs on the exact same page!
Turns out Ol' Lou has been on top of this one for some time. Since George W. Bush moved into the White House, you see, three million American manufacturing jobs have gone offshore.
"We made a commitment about a year ago," said Dobbs, "that we would be just absolutely relentless in our research and in our reporting of this despicable trend."
Bernie praised Dobbs for being one of the few in the corporate media who've taken notice.
Dobbs pointed out that "There are more members of the U.S. House of Representatives in the India caucus by a ratio of 4:1 than there are in the manufacturing caucus trying to help keep American jobs here. That is staggering."
And Dobbs has gotten an earful over his commitment to reporting the real business news of the day.
"One CEO said to me a few weeks ago, Lou, you're a damn communist.' And I said, Excuse me?'
"And he said, You just keep bashing Corporate America.'
"And I said, I'm not bashing Corporate America. I am simply pointing out a policy that is being used in the name of productivity and efficiency, that are now code words for exploiting cheap labor in developing countries and taking away high-paying American jobs. That's all I'm saying.'"
Incidentally, Mr. Dobbs' website -- www.cnn.com/lou -- has added National Life of Vermont to its blacklist of American corporations that are sticking it to American workers by moving good-paying jobs offshore.
Sadly, National Life joins other Vermont stalwarts on Dobbs' "Exporting America" list, including IBM, Verizon and General Electric.
In fact, you could add Fletcher Allen Health Care to the list, too, since the Mary Fanny has moved part of its medical transcription business to India.
Bottom line: It's not a good time to be a teenager in the United States.
As Dobbs put it to Bernie on WDEV: "Nobody believes more than I do in the American free-enterprise system. I'm a beneficiary of it. But no one is more disappointed with the way many companies are conducting themselves, and we have to stop it now -- for our future and that of our children."
UVM Sports Arena? --
At Monday's opening meeting of the new Arena Committee instituted by Gov. Jim Douglas, we all got a clearer picture of just what UVM's new regime wants.
Athletic Director Bob Corran told the gathering of 20 at the Champlain Valley Exposition's conference room that UVM fancies a new arena which would have 6500 seats for ice hockey and about 10,000 seats for concerts and other entertainment events.
The desired location?
On UVM land in the undeveloped woods behind the Sheraton Hotel.
As everyone knows, this isn't the first time there's been talk of a sports arena/convention center in the Burlington area.
In 1997 the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce did a study. What's different today, noted the Chamber's Tim Shea, is that in 1997 UVM wanted absolutely nothing to do with it and did not participate. Today, with new President Dan Fogel calling the shots, a new sports arena is high on the university's wish list.
After all, President Danny Boy spent many years at Louisiana State University, where jockdom is an important part of the scene. UVM's recently approved admission to Hockey East, for example, is emblematic of the direction Danny Boy Fogel wants to take the Catamounts.
As Chris McCabe, UVM's assistant VP for marketing and business development, put it, "When you're talking about recruiting the type of student athletes that we are, you really do need to keep up with the Joneses, as they say."
Of course, the university doesn't have any money to pay for a new arena. OPM -- as in "Other People's Money" -- is how this baby would be financed. Perhaps some sort of "arena authority" will be created with power to issue bonds.
Attending Monday's meeting were 20 committee members led by Commerce Secretary Kevin Dorn. Among them were heavy-hitters such as Jimmy Pizzagalli of Pizzagalli Construction, Taft Corners developer Jeff Davis, Sen. Jim Condos (a famous former UVM hockey cheerleader), Duane Marsh, the new president of the state Chamber of Commerce, Dave Dillon from the Ski Areas Association and Karen Marshall from Clear Channel Communications.
UVM's McCabe told the committee a number of architectural firms have already offered drawings. But Pizzagalli quickly injected a dose of reality. Jimmy noted that while architectural drawings are "interesting and get the blood flowing," the committee should first focus on the financial picture -- "how the numbers work.
"The time for architectural pretty pictures," said Mr. Pizzagalli, "is a long way down the road."
Considering the arena would be used for much more than UVM sports, it was surprising no local concert promoter was invited. Sen. Condos suggested Jay Strausser of All Points Booking be brought into the process. Strausser's been promoting concerts in Burlington since the days when Phish was just food.
Strausser told Seven Days he had contacted the UVM athletic department a year ago and gave them an arena study done by "some guys out of Dartmouth." Jay said he hasn't heard a peep from UVM since.
Currently the largest venue in Burlap for music is Memorial Auditorium, with 2500 seats. Having a 10,000-seat facility, said Strausser, would make Burlington attractive for acts that need bigger audiences to make the numbers work.
"I think President Fogel's idea is a great one," said Strausser. "I like his style, and I wouldn't be surprised if in five to seven years something like this happens."
The next step appears to be hiring a consultant to make sure the numbers work. CSL out of Minneapolis is the one mentioned most. As Dorn told us, "If there is an arena to be built here, if it is feasible, it's going to be an expensive proposition and we need to understand from professionals what the market is."
Old Mill Soaking --
You may recall during the recent cold snap there were a few reports of sprinkler systems bursting in large buildings in and around Burlap. UVM's Old Mill sustained an estimated $100,000 in water damage on the night of January 9 before Burlington firefighters arrived and shut off the sprinkler system.
But when the sprinklers burst at 1 Church Street, the Burlington Fire Department was on the scene so quickly -- within two minutes -- that the damage was contained to just three offices.
Why the difference?
According to Assistant Fire Marshall Tom Middleton, 1 Church Street, like most office buildings in town, is equipped with a radio-transmitter alarm that immediately sends a digital signal to the fire department whenever there's a problem.
Meanwhile, with few exceptions, buildings on the UVM campus have hard-wired fire alarms that notify UVM police, rather than BFD. That's what happened on January 9, said UVM spokesman Enrique Corredera. A UVM police officer responded to Old Mill. The officer determined there was no fire, but rather a water problem.
"It was treated as a mechanical problem," said Corredera. UVM maintenance workers were called in. Unfortunately, they were unable to shut off the sprinkler system as thousands of gallons soaked the building's innards. That's when a call went out to BFD, 20 minutes after the first alarm.
Until four years ago, the policy at UVM was to have all fire alarm reports go through UVM Police first. "Due to the nature of life on a college campus," explained Enrique, "there are many instances where false alarms are generated."
Under the new system, said Middleton, whenever UVM police receive word of a fire, a smoke condition or a sprinkler flow alarm, they notify BFD before responding to the scene.
"The university," said Corredera, "is in the process of switching our systems so the alarms go directly to the city." All new construction and dorms under renovation will be equipped with fire alarms wired directly to the city's fire department. However, added Corredera, there are still "100 buildings on campus that operate under the old system."
"It's going to take some time," said Corredera, "to upgrade all of them."