Become a Progressive Justice of the Peace

Of course most of our attention is focussed on the race for governor and our legislative races, but keep in mind the possibility of running for Justice of the Peace in your town. It's a great way to become involved in electoral politics and a great way to keep the Progressive Party name connected with candidates. The glory part of the job is performing marriages and civil unions, but JPs also count votes in the primary and general elections as well as at town meetings. Check out all the responsibilities involved by viewing the Vermont Secretary of State's website, here. And be in touch with the Progressive Party's Director, Morgan Daybell to find out how to get your name on the ballot.

Cutting Public Defenders

The Rutland Herald reports that Defender General Matthew Valerio has been informed he must trim his budget by $526,000 which will eliminate 7 1/2 Public Defender positions.  Earlier this year the Vermont Supreme Court acknowledged the state might be in crisis in providing public defender services as it ordered the release of a felon because the state took too long to bring him to trial. Valerio says the Public Defenders Office is already understaffed by 20 to 25 percent. The says the additional cuts would make it understaffed by 40 per cent. Is this where we should be making cuts?

The Call to Do "Something" - The Brian Dubie Petition

10,000 people have reportedly signed the Lt. Governor's petition calling for Jessica's Law. At least one of those signers missed the fine print. Among other provisions, Dubie's new law would include “a ‘presumptive’ clause for weak evidence or a victim who chooses not to testify.” In other words, anyone accused of a sex crime against a child would be presumed guilty. Just the accusation. That’s all you would need to convict.

I am old enough to remember a daycare scandal about 1990 when many children charged their daycare workers with sex abuse. In a Salem-witch-trial atmosphere, all those workers were convicted in the press, lost their livelihood and several their freedom. Later the children admitted that all the charges had been untrue. The kids’ stories had been influenced by the adults who questioned them.

We learned from that case. Now investigators are much more careful about who interviews a child victim and how the child is approached. But false accusations are still possible. Divorced parents often want to “get” the other spouse. There are even angry, vindictive kids out there.

Dubie needed to overcome the resistance of prosecutors to Jessica’s law. Since police and state’s attorneys fear that real perpetrators go free if we enact Jessica’s law (See blog 7/14), advocates for the 25-year minimum sentence rely on this presumption to overcome an argument they cannot otherwise defeat.

When I confronted one of my friends who had signed Dubie’s petition, she admitted that she had not read all the fine print. She still believes in our constitutional right to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. So at least one person is having second thoughts about having added her voice to the clamor. Another signer said that he assumed any problems with the petition, such as the presumption of guilt, would be ironed out in the legislative process. Sadly, the one-day special legislative session proposed by the Lt. Governor would not allow for any hearings, revision or serious debate over such details. How many more of those 10,000 signers also believe that this issue is too complex for a quickie fix?

[This is an update to a series I wrote three weeks ago examining some of the issues raised by the Brooke Bennett tragedy. Entitled “The Call to do ‘Something,’” you can read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4]

Clean Grassroots Community Power

Hopefully, sleepy pols inside the beltway and under the golden dome in Montpelier...will awaken from their corporate carbon-induced stupor and begin supporting the spreading grassroots community power movement here in Vermont and elsewhere. This morning's VPR report on the likelihood of re-starting the Middlebury Falls hydro project was most encouraging...particularly when one considers that there are many "laid aside" small hydro sites throughout the state, including one here in Tunbridge. On the solar front, Green Mountain Power's recent decision to pay a premium price to individual solar power providers feeding back into the grid seems to be a pragmatic business decision on their part which holds great incentivizing promise for those sitting on the fence about making a long-term solar investment. Oilseed crop production is also up in VT with local farmers, agronomists and cleaner transport folks gettin' into the grease groove....some with the support of the VT Sustainable Jobs Fund headed up by Netaka White, former head of the Vermont Biofuels Association. Of course, independent thrifty Vermonters continue the sensible green traditions of cutting their own firewood, walking up the dirt road and turning off needless power hogs...just think how much further down the greener path we could be if Montpelier/Washington paid more attention to the people/earth than to the slick-suited lobbyists.

Vermont Economy, State Revenue, Services, Infrastructure, & Jobs

Podcast of Equal Time Radio interview with policy analyst Doug Hoffer on the latest report on Vermont's economy. Joined by state Rep. Chris Pearson, chair of the Progressive Caucus - who served on the House Government Operations Committee. Vermont Economy, State Revenue, Services, Infrastructure, & Jobs Equal Time 7.31.08 Length: 47:44 minutes (19.12 MB) at

Medical Repatriation, AKA International Patient Dumping

The New York Times reports on the case of Luis Alberto Jimenez who "has come to represent the collision of two deeply flawed American systems, immigration and health care.  Read the story here.
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