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Posts from — June 2012

Where is Cassandra Gekas?

WCAX Reports VPIRG fired Cassandra Gekas, and her former boss Paul Burns freaked out and wrote an email saying she’s “completely unprepared” to run for lieutenant governor.

Hmm…I think she might win.

Related Links:

Health care advocate Gekas sets sights on lieutenant governor office (VT Digger)

oh… and Paul Heintz writing for Seven Days covered this too for “Fair Game” although he got one thing wrong saying that in the Digger story she said she quit.  I didn’t read that in there.  The Digger story says

Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, said he did not know Gekas had plans to run for lieutenant governor. Now that she is running for office, she has cut ties with VPIRG.

Burns said because the group is a nonpartisan organization, she could not work for VPIRG and run for office. Similarly, he said, the group does not endorse particular candidates.

Where in that did Paul Heintz read that she said she quit? And why is the column still called “Fair Game?” Isn’t that what Shay Totten came up with when Peter Freyne died? Heintz should give the Seven Days political column a new name… like “Heintz Site” or some other silly Seven Days-type pun.

Heintz also posted the full freak-out email from VPIRG (Vermont Public Interest Research Group) executive director  Paul Burns at Blurt.  How does the executive director of anything decide to click send on such a stupid email?

And the Freep’s VtBuzz blog strongly infers Gekas is related to  former congressman George Gekas of Pennsylvania.  I wonder if he’s her father.

June 28, 2012   13 Comments

Free Press Bluffing

I wrote a post the other day about being denied access to The Burlington Free Press Online because I haven’t purchased a $144 per year subscription.  In the post I made a counter-offer of $20 for a year subscription.  I am now rescinding the counter-offer.

Since I wrote that other post I have not purchased a subscription, but I have been enjoying Free Press content anyway.  After I had supposedly used up my 10 free articles- I tried their site with a different browser and it worked for a few more.  I have continued to read articles on my Blackberry free without warnings or interruptions… and guess what?  If you arrive at a Free Press article from a link on Twitter- you will get it free with a little pop-off bluff- a phony admonition that “this is your last free article.”  I’ve read my “last” free article at least a dozen times already this way.

They are bluffing.  Charging any amount for their online content will cause the Free Press’s readership to evaporate.  Perhaps they have calculated that they can’t afford not to charge for the content.  They will also soon conclude (and perhaps they already have) that they cannot afford to exclude non-paying readers from it.

Adapt or die Free Press.  That means all advertising and no subscription revenue.  Far fewer staff and far better content.  Good luck.

June 20, 2012   5 Comments

Superintendent Survives

Breaking News

Burlington School Board votes 9-5  to extend contract of embattled superintendent.

I made a motion to remove executive session from the agenda that failed 6-8 then the motion to into executive session itself failed 7-7.   My argument was as follows:

“There are valid legal and fiduciary reasons that make executive session in the pubic interest, and it’s the public interest element of such things that justifies the secrecy and gives it its philosophical girding- contract and real estate negotiations, personnel issues, incidents that put us in legal jeopardy.

The appointment of the superintendent is the primary responsibility of the school board and we are a public, political body- This appointment is not the same as personnel issue- The superintendent is a public official, who is up for election among 14 voters. The process by which we arrive at our votes should be public.

It can never be overstated that sunlight is the antiseptic of democracy. We hope for openness and transparency in Damascus and Beijing, in Washington- yet even at this tiniest level of community service we fear it. Think about it.

Our own goals call for transparent, data driven decision making, but going into executive session without a compelling moral justification for secrecy is a mistake. Courageous conversations are out in the open.

If we don’t have to go into executive session for a financial or legal reason, then we should not.”

The board then spent several hours agonizing about parliamentary procedures and about various proposals to fire Collins, then ask her back or some such thing.  In the end the one such proposal by Paul Hochanadel made it to the floor where it clung through lengthy wrangling, then failed something like 9-5.  Paul is a very smart man for whom I have tremendous respect, but I had to vote with the majority on that particular propsoal.

Then in the end Kathy Chasan, the venerable ‘eyes and ears’ of the institution of the school board and, I believe, second in longevity to only Kieth Pillsbury as a member - made a positive motion to extend the superintendent’s contract for 2 years.  I seconded the motion and it passed 9-5.  Congratulations to Superintendent Collins, and to all the members of the school board on a healthy respectful debate.

The meeting including last night’s start at Hunt School from 7pm to 10:45pm , plus tonight’s conclusion at BHS from 7pm to 12am was a cumulative 8.75 hours long.  That’s like a full extra work day.  Why am I on the school board?  Why am I still awake at 2am?

June 14, 2012   6 Comments

Superintendent in Mortal Danger

Breaking News

The Burlington School Board voted 10-4 to bring superintendent Jeanne Collins’s contract renewal to a vote tonight… a vote that due to a delay will take place tomorrow night sometime after 7pm at Burlington High School.  The contract would have renewed automatically without a vote, so that was in essence a 10-4 vote against Jeanne Collins.  I was one of the 4 against voting on her contract ( in favor of her).  Now this does not mean the vote on her contract itself will also be 10-4, but damn- Jeanne can’t feel good about this.

If you have opinions about what the school board should do you can hit up every member in one swoop at .


June 13, 2012   4 Comments

Leave Jeanne Alone!

School Board constituents can get pretty emotional sometimes…

June 11, 2012   Comments Off

Burlington Friends Statement on F-35

In Response To
Mayor Weinberger

Author Anne Liske
Comment Submitted on 2012/06/11 at 7:42 pm

To: Mr. Nicholas Germanos, HQ ACC/A7PS, 129 Andrews St., Suite 332, Langley AFB, VA 23665-2769.

A statement by Burlington, Vermont Friends Meeting concerning the F-35 aircraft proposed to be stationed at the Burlington International Airport.

As members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) we join with other Vermonters in opposing the stationing of a fleet of F-35s at Burlington International Airport (BIA).

As Quakers, we aspire to be good stewards of the world’s resources. The proposed roll out of 2443 of these gigantic military machines is a flagrant waste of resources. Rare metals such as zirconium and titanium are essential in its construction, yet scientists estimate that peak production of these metals is already past. The predictable metal scarcity that is looming will affect our entire industrial civilization. We support a path toward managed austerity of the world’s resources. This path does not include the shockingly wasteful F-35.

As Quakers, we are historically opposed to war. This multirole fighter is being developed to perform ground attack, reconnaissance, and air defense missions with stealth capability. The construction of these killing machines is part of an aggressive military posture that will undermine the peaceful reconciliation of conflict. They are not built to defend Vermonters.

As Quakers, we value frugality: Yet the US government is projecting to spend an estimated $397 billion for development and procurement of these aircraft, of which 18 or 24 are proposed to be stationed at BIA. The lifecycle (50 year) cost for one plane is estimated to be $618 million. Faced with these outrageous figures, we can’t help but recall the statement by former president Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed….” Given our country’s current economic situation, we consider the construction of these weapons to be morally and economically destructive to our wellbeing.

In addition, we mourn the human skills, the brilliant minds of engineers, mechanics, and software designers wasted on building this weapon of destruction, when those engineers and mechanics and designers are urgently needed to develop alternative energy sources, find a solution to desertification, desalinate water, reverse global warming and help resolve the multitude of problems our fragile and precious planet is facing.

As Quakers, we sit in silence in our meetings for worship. Our Burlington meeting is near the flight path for airplanes landing and taking off at Burlington International Airport. We dread the possible future roar of the F-35 into our worship and community space.

In conclusion, we join with many Vermonters to protest this militarization of our community. We consider it an assault on our values as a state.
Anne Liske, Clerk, Burlington Friends Meeting
173 North Prospect St., Burlington VT 05401
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June 11, 2012   Comments Off

Free Press Access Denied

I guess I can’t read the Free Press Online anymore. If it wasn’t for me they would still be calling the College Street Cam the Church Street Cam. Yet despite this they now want me to pay $12 a month for their content. That’s a little too steep for me. I would pay $20 for a year. That sounds about right. Hey Free Press- how about $20 for a year?  You still want to deliver me to your advertisers don’t you?

June 8, 2012   1 Comment

Color Bind

Katherine Flagg wrote a pretty good synopsis of the race-related issues facing the Burlington School District for today’s Seven Days titled:

“Color Bind Everyone agrees the Burlington School District has a race problem. Now what?”

The title is a little weird, but the piece is good. Katherine Flagg interviewed me at the OP last week for my contributions to the article. Nice work Katie! Click the text-link or the image to go to the story at Seven Days.

I may as well say now that I will vote to extend Jeanne’s contract on June 12, although I don’t know what the board will decide collectively. I think she’s doing well enough not to deserve to get fired. That isn’t to say the schools aren’t grappling with issues of racism, cultural insensitivity, achievement gaps, harassment of all types, bullying, ignorance and everything else. Of course we are. Issues like these are more pronounced as an environment becomes more heterogeneous, and Burlington schools are arguably the most heterogeneously popluated societal microcosms in Vermont - The Schools are responsible for the safety and the education of all children so we can’t tolerate any of this type of baloney. 

The fundamental philosophical element of human rights, most religions and the American Way is equality.  Equality.  The board has recently passed a tough new anti-harassment policy the prohibits attacks for all manor of protected characteristics.  Jeanne has been getting cultural training to the staff.  We will be doing a new bullying policy soon.  I would like to hear that Amy Mellencamp is integrating the ‘English Language Learners’ more both physically and educationally at BHS so the kids can all get to know each other better… but I don’t see how firing Jeanne is going to get me that.  We did create a standing board committee on diversity and equity too. 

The arc of the moral universe doesn’t bend itself toward justice.  We have to bend it with persistence and hard work.  Simply getting rid of Jeanne won’t solve these problems at all in my opinion.

June 6, 2012   6 Comments