Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Primary Day post

After voting this morning, I saw Rich Tarrant on Main Street in Stowe on my way into work. He had his signature yellow and red "Tarrant/ Senate" sign hoisted in the air, behind the backdrop of the Akeley Memorial Building.

Yep, it's Primary Day all right. But I must admit — I was a bit dumbfounded to see candidate Tarrant vying for last-minute votes in Stowe.

Afterall, surely candidate Tarrant knows that only 215 — or 5.9 percent — of Stowe’s 3,599 registered voters cast ballots in last year's primary election. Now, you might suppose generously that an even 10 percent will vote by the end today. That leaves you with 360 voters, of which perhaps half will vote in the Republican primary. OK, that leaves you with 180 voters to pursuade. If we guess that about 60,000 people in Vermont will vote in today's election, of which perhaps half voting Republican, that means Stowe's Republican primary voters represent about .006 percent of the people he needs to vote for him. Unless my math is off, Stowe Republican primary voters would appear to represent not quite one-tenth of 1 percent of people Tarrant wants to vote for him.

Plus, Stowe's historically been a stronghold for moderate Republicans — a label Tarrant's been pretty adamant about in his own campaign.

Hey, I guess Stowe's as good a place as any to start Tuesday morning.And every vote does count, as any town-meeting veteran will tell you. Until the numbers come out tomorrow...

Friday, September 08, 2006

More campaign chatter

A few more candidates have since stopped by our office to say hi, and to pitch their platform. This week, we had incumbent Sen. Susan Bartlett, who staked out education issues as her top concerns. The primary election, by the way, is Tuesday.

Here's an updated rundown of who's been by for visit so far, and what they've said:

• Heidi Scheuermann, Republican for Stowe House: “I’m a traditional sort of Vermont Republican — fiscally very conscious and concerned that we have systems we can afford.”

• Matt Dunne, Democrat for Vermont lieutenant governor: "I believe Vermonters value above all other things someone who is getting up and working hard for you. It is that kind of commitment to working hard … that I think people respond to. And I don’t think Brian (Dubie) has delivered."

• John Tracy, Democrat for Vermont lieutenant governor: “I’m willing to lead in difficult times. I think we’re at a crossroads as a state.”

• Jim Black, Republican for Lamoille Senate: "We can’t afford the money we spend right now (on education). It’s going to bankrupt the state. We have to limit the increase."

• Susan Bartlett, Democrat for Lamoille Senate: "I really believe that the underlining principals of Act 60 — the a statewide property tax, trying to get every student access to a really good education and trying to have some balance on how much property tax and how it’s connected to folks’ incomes — are valid principals and ideas."

• Mark Shepard, Republican for Vermont U.S. House:“If we’re going to be a party that’s really relevant, we have to be aiming for things that produce opportunities for people and get back to those core principles which, in my lifetime, I would best attach to Ronald Reagan."

• Martha Rainville, Republican for Vermont U.S. House: “I believe in a strong defense; I believe in fiscal responsibility; and I really believe in the strength and responsibility of the individual."

• Peter Welch, Democrat for Vermont U.S. House: "The reason I’m running, fundamentally, is we’ve got a president who, in my view, is pushing through a radical and extreme agenda. The administration has also been incompetent and I’ve seen in an immediate and direct way the damage it’s doing to our state and country."

• Rich Tarrant, Republican for Vermont U.S. Senate: “I know how to negotiate, I know how to get along with people and I know how to sell, and that’s very important when you want to get a particular point across or a bill passed that brings advantages back to Vermont."

Stay tuned for more after the primary...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Campaign chatter

The mid-term elections will be here before you know it. Here at 49 School Street, we've been ready for a good nine months now. That's about when candidates started stopping by our office to say hi, and to pitch their platform.

This week, we have election coverage of the Stowe House race, as well as the statewide showdown for lieutenant governor.

Here's a rundown of who's been by for visit so far, and what they've said:

• Heidi Scheuermann, Republican for Stowe House: “I’m a traditional sort of Vermont Republican — fiscally very conscious and concerned that we have systems we can afford.”

• John Tracy, Democrat for Vermont lieutenant governor: “I’m willing to lead in difficult times. I think we’re at a crossroads as a state.”

• Jim Black, Republican for Lamoille Senate: “I’m concerned about the general trend of a state Legislature that keeps spending more money, adding expensive new programs, and driving the state deeper and deeper into debt."

• Mark Shepard, Republican for Vermont U.S. House:“If we’re going to be a party that’s really relevant, we have to be aiming for things that produce opportunities for people and get back to those core principles which, in my lifetime, I would best attach to Ronald Reagan."

• Martha Rainville, Republican for Vermont U.S. House: “I believe in a strong defense; I believe in fiscal responsibility; and I really believe in the strength and responsibility of the individual."

• Peter Welch, Democrat for Vermont U.S. House: "The reason I’m running, fundamentally, is we’ve got a president who, in my view, is pushing through a radical and extreme agenda. The administration has also been incompetent and I’ve seen in an immediate and direct way the damage it’s doing to our state and country."

• Rich Tarrant, Republican for Vermont U.S. Senate: “I know how to negotiate, I know how to get along with people and I know how to sell, and that’s very important when you want to get a particular point across or a bill passed that brings advantages back to Vermont."

Stay tuned for more candidates as the air get chillier and the leaves start changing colors...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Chinese-French deja vu

You know that feeling, the one you can only say what it is in French? A lot of folks over here probably are feeling it.

Everyone's debating once again whether the Stowe school system should replace its French program with Mandarin Chinese. That's because the school board is holding a special meeting Monday, July 24, to reconsider its decision. School board members say they're re-convening in response to an outcry from the community — letters to the editor, a student petition, and people posting in the Reader's Forum — some supporters and others critics of the decision. Instead of ignoring all that, the issue is back on the table. Cool.

What's been interesting from my vantage point is the way in which the debate has broadened its focus in the last several months. Many people have questioned larger issues of teaching foreign language in middle and high school, and what exactly the goal of such programs should be. Is it about preparing students to take foreign language in college, or just planting the seeds of curiosity? What's the most important factor in deciding what foreign language to offer: the fact French is a much more practical and widely-used language in the Northeast; or that Chinese is quickly becoming (if it's not already) the language of global commerce in the 21st century?

For that matter, some people have asked, why does the community have to decide between two languages at all? It seems the school board — wary of adding onto a $8 million-plus budget that's already multiplied many times more in tax dollars by the state government — doesn't want to go there. A lot of local taxpayers who've seen their property-tax bills double or triple in the last decade want to see school spending go down, not up. It would be interesting to know, for instance, exactly how much it would cost to keep Stowe's French program as it is now (hire a new full-time teacher) AND start the beginnings of a Chinese program — $25,000, $50,000, $100,000? I don't know, but that may come up Monday. Reinstating seventh-grade French would cost an estimated $14,000.

Unfortunately, I won't be there; I'll be scribbling away on the Stowe Select Board. Be sure to check it out if you're in town. Reporter Jesse Schloff will be there to cover the action. It should be — as people euphemistically like to say — interesting

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Poll power

Polls are a funny thing. We love to decry them as useless and way off the mark, and yet we still love to vote in them. Well, I do, at least.

Most, though not all, newspapers now offer online polls at their Web sites, and the Stowe Reporter isn't any different. As the dude who - most of the time - thinks up the poll question each week after a deluge of deadline writing, I find it interesting to watch for what kinds of questions people yawn at, and which ones they scramble for. Sometimes I'm surprised.

Case in point: We had over a 300-percent increase in poll participation from last week's question to this week's. The difference? The latter asked people how many yard sales they've been to lately, and the former whether they thought the school board should reconsider its controversial decision to replace French with Chinese. OK, maybe we didn't need to poll to tell which is the hot topic. In Stowe, lately, it's been all Chinese, and there aren't any signs the debate will let up. It's as hot as community issues get.

In that spirit, I just posted this week's poll question: If the election were held now, whom would you vote for in the race for Stowe’s seat in the Vermont House of Representatives? Hmmmm... polling a full 4.5 months before the general election? If it gets another 150 people clicking, why not?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Globe-trotting

Yesterday, I took a trip to the southside of Beantown. I was at The Boston Globe for a morning newspaper critique session, sponsored by the New England Society of Newspaper Editors. I joined the "writing" table with a handful of other copy editors and longtime newspaper people, from the The Keene (N.H.) Sentinel, Foster's Daily Democrat of Dover, N.H., among others.

And, like the bad blogger that I am, I forgot to bring my camera. Oops.

If you haven't been to the Globe (I hadn't) I can assure you the place is huge. That's huge as in mega-mall huge: Escalators, a cafeteria, and cubicles as far the eye can see. Hell, they even had a department labeled "Ideas."

Back at the table we talked about, you guessed it, writing. The Stowe Reporter's critic was Len Levin, a former longtime copy editor at the Providence (R.I.) Journal who's now at the Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Mass.

I didn't get the kind of hard-nosed criticism I had hoped for, but I got a few good suggestions here and there. Much of Levin's advice echoed that of William K. Zinsser, the author the classic "On Writing Well." Zinsser's thesis: "...the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word..."

Amen.