In the Media

Articles from outside news and opinion sources.

Vermont Edition: State Auditor Doug Hoffer

March 14, 2013; Bob Kinzel; VPR

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Two months ago, the state’s constitutional officers were sworn into office, but only one of them was new to his office: state auditor Doug Hoffer, who’s role is to ensure that taxpayer money is spent wisely. We talk with Hoffer about the performance audits his office is undertaking on topics like the health care contracts for prisons and state workers’ cell phone use. We also look at the announcement last week by Governor Peter Shumlin that the state should forgive $6 million owed to the state by towns with TIF districts.

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Vermont Democrats Want More Money in Politics

March 6, 2013; Paul Heintz; Seven Days

White’s bill would have capped individual, corporate and union contributions — which are currently $2000 across the board — at $500 apiece for House candidates, $1000 for Senate candidates and $2000 for statewide candidates. It also would have created a new aggregate limit for donors, barring any individual from giving more than $20,000 total per election cycle.

Then the sausage-making began.

Last week, the Senate Committee on Government Operations, which is chaired by White, amended her bill to drastically increase those and other contribution limits.

On Wednesday, they settled on a fivefold increase for statewide candidates, allowing them to collect $10,000 checks from each donor. But after Sen. Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington) protested, on Thursday, the committee scaled that back to $5000.

“There’s no reason why anybody should give $10,000 to a political campaign,” Pollina argued to his fellow committee members.

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Balance shifts in Burlington Council makeup

March 5, 2013; Joel Banner Baird; Burlington Free Press

The evening’s closest race took place in the Old North End’s Ward 2, where veteran Progressive (and former councilor) Jane Knodell beat political newcomer Emily Lee, a Democrat, 269-243 — a mere 26 votes.

Until the final vote count, Knodell said later, “I didn’t know if I was the underdog or not in this race. Both sides wanted it bad.”

She credited a “classic, Progressive grassroots campaign” with her victory.

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Donation caps for statewide candidates could edge upwards

March 4, 2013; Nat Rudarakanchana; VTDigger

Sen. Anthony Pollina, P-Washington, pushed for lower contribution limits, which he said would curb the influence of money in politics.

But statewide candidates in 2012 elections from Democratic and Republican parties have suggested to Committee Chairwoman Jeanette White, D-Windham, that the advent of Super PACs in Vermont means that candidates need to raise more cash to compete. It’s a refrain that has also been heard from the Democratic and Republican state parties in recent weeks.

“What they told me is that in a world without Super PACs, lower limits were more reasonable,” White said to her committee. “But it’s a whole new world with Super PACs that have unlimited contributions. And unless we can limit the contributions to Super PACs … they need to have higher limits.”

Pollina fired back that this reasoning “sets up a scenario where everyone tries to outspend Super PACs, which no one can do, instead of finding a way to control the Super PACs.”

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Letter to the Editor: Ward 2 should elect Knodell

March 1, 2013; Martha Abbott; Burlington Free Press

What makes Burlington a special place? In the 1960’s, Burlington was divided into the working class and poor or the upper middle class and wealthy. College students all lived on campus. There were a couple of non-profit organizations like the Sara Holbrook Center and the Lund home and the Salvation Army. There was no Land Trust, no homeless shelters.

In the 70s and 80s things changed. Students starting living off campus. Many graduated and made Burlington their home. People with alternative lifestyles moved to Burlington and integrated themselves into downtown and the Old North End of Burlington.

We started the Burlington Land Trust (now the Champlain Housing Trust), the People’s Free Clinic (now the Community Health Center), People Acting for Change Together which started homeless shelters and eventually morphed into COTS, Women Against Rape, the Women’s House of Transition (now Women Helping Battered Women), Peace and Justice Center and many other initiatives.

In 1981 a young alternative politician by the name of Bernie Sanders was elected mayor. Affordable housing and livable wages, women and minority owned businesses, inclusionary zoning, the idea of merging public policy and non profit missions to create community and economic development was born and flourished.

This is a quick history of how Burlington became the unique and special place that it is today. Now we see a new group of people moving into Burlington, running for office and putting forth ideas to develop the public waterfront for private gain, to develop expensive housing, to make exceptions to our livable wage ordinance for selective private business interests located in our public projects.

What makes Burlington special is its economic diversity. Families of modest means living next to students on their way up the economic ladder next to a family with substantial resources side by side with retirees living in the same neighborhood. In order to preserve this fragile balance which makes Burlington such a special place, our leaders must understand and appreciate it.

Jane Knodell is an economist who has chosen to live in the Old North End for 24 years because she wants to participate in an economically diverse community. Tough decisions are being made about Burlington’s future. As a former City Councilor myself, and Burlington business owner and someone who has lived in the Old North End in two different decades, I urge Ward Two residents to elect Jane Knodell on March 5.

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House committee votes down major health budget bill

February 22, 2013; Andrew Stein; VTDigger

Poirier and Pearson voted against the bill for a different reason. They want to provide subsidies that maintain or come close to maintaining health insurance levels for Vermonters currently enrolled in the Catamount and VHAP programs. Those health insurance programs will end in 2014, when the state’s new health benefit exchange, or insurance marketplace, takes effect.

Pearson has repeatedly said that leaving lower income Vermonters with less coverage could jeopardize the state’s ability to implement a universal health care system in 2017, when Vermont would be eligible for a federal waiver to deviate from the Affordable Care Act.

“I’ve said from day one that I want to do more to insulate people shifting from Catamount or VHAP into the exchange,” Pearson said. “We came back with more and more modest proposals. There wasn’t the desire to (provide higher subsidies) even though we included new sources of revenue that would have alleviated pressure on the budget. It seemed really shortsighted to me.”

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