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FAIR GAME

Fare Thee Well But ’tis done — all words are idle. From “Fare Thee Well” by Lord Byron

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12 FAIR GAME

SEVEN DAYS

12.28.11-01.11.12

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eah, yeah, whatever. This is my last column. You’d think that after writing 184 Fair Games, hundreds of blog and Facebook posts, and thousands of tweets, coming up with a final 1600 words would be easy, right? Not really. Where to start? Where to end? Deep breath. I guess I could start at the beginning. “PETER FREYNE, my predecessor in this space with his long-running Inside Track column, was a fearless reporter and is still a helluva guy,” were among the opening lines in my April 2008 in30 Church Street augural Fair Game. “He’s a hard act to APPLE Burlington, 658-6452 follow — though, like any good second Wed–Fri 9:30am– 9pm, MOUNTAIN New Year’s Eve 10am–5pm act, I don’t plan to mimic his routine. Vermont Gifts Nicknames will probably not be found Specialty Foods www.applemountain.net here, but you can expect independent, behind-the-scenes reporting — with dashes of humor — that holds the high 8v-KTC(applemtn)122811.indd 1 12/18/11 3:08 PM and mighty accountable. As this new column’s name suggests, everything and everyone will be fair game, and will be treated fairly.” I hope I lived up to the promise I made in that initial column. When I fell short, readers usually let me know. Politicians, too — some more bluntly than others. I’ve had a remarkable run at Seven They say, “Consider Days. As I’ve told folks in recent weeks, the source.” In Seven it was not an easy job to give up. Writing a political column is truly a Days you can be sure gift gig, in an industry with few gift gigs that employment left. It’s the rare newspaper in Vermont that employs a political columnist. advertisers are legit Which is a shame, because there’s no and local. If you can better way to keep elected officials of all stripes accountable — and to shine a trust us on news and light on important stories that otherwise arts coverage, you go unnoticed or ignored. Since announcing my departure, a can trust us on this. lot of people have asked: Do you have a favorite column? After reading, and rereading, them, I can honestly say I don’t have one favorite. Although the Fair Game from March 18, 2009, comes pretty close. Find a real, local job: I broke a major story in that column, about a $7.25 million golden parachute awarded to WILLIAM R. MILNES JR., former and in the Classifieds CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of section of this issue Vermont. Lawmakers proposed legislation allowing BCBS members to elect

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OPEN SEASON ON VERMONT POLITICS BY SHAY TOTTEN

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the board of directors and a state investigation. The legislation went nowhere, but the investigation resulted in a $3 million levy against BCBS. No chump change. That column also had a First Amendment theme: The Vermont Supreme Court had ruled in favor of two horse loggers protesting at a JOHN NEGROPONTE commencement speech at St. Johnsbury Academy; Republican KURT WRIGHT was getting heat for calling the cops to City Hall Auditorium during a contentious parliamentary debate involving Democratic city councilors DAVID BEREZNIAK and ED ADRIAN.

WRITING A POLITICAL COLUMN IS TRULY A GIFT GIG, IN AN INDUSTRY WITH FEW GIFT GIGS LEFT.

THERE’S NO BETTER WAY TO KEEP ELECTED OFFICIALS OF ALL STRIPES ACCOUNTABLE. I also pointed out how lawmakers were easily making up for a 5 percent pay cut with reimbursements for meals, lodging and mileage. The BCBS story was the first scoop in Fair Game. There were others. Among them: the $17 million “loan” that Queen City taxpayers unknowingly gave to Burlington Telecom, and the behind-the-scenes story of money, not-quite-sex and intrigue involving the spouse of University of Vermont nowformer president DAN FOGEL. Fogel resigned a year ahead of schedule, and UVM launched an internal probe as a result of my reporting. UVM’s board of trustees adopted a new policy governing the volunteer work of presidential spouses. Additional policies are slated for revision, including an updated “campus climate” policy that would give employees more ways to report on-thejob harassment. At Burlington Telecom, things went from bad to worse. Though as Fair Game reported last week, BT may soon

have a new sugar daddy, er, financial partner. Holding the high and mighty accountable — regardless of party — has been my guiding mission. I exposed the cozy relationship that existed between the Douglas administration’s Department of Public Service and the owner of Vermont Yankee. The nuke plant’s top exec was among the guests at Commissioner DAVID O’BRIEN’s annual holiday party. I shined the same bright light on the Shumlin administration’s replacement: DPS Commissioner LIZ MILLER. She may have a conflict of interest on rulings related to Green Mountain Power because her husband is a managing partner in the law firm that represents the utility. In addition, several of Gov. PETER SHUMLIN’s top aides or confidantes either work or have worked for GMP. I’ve had my share of dustups with pols, too. The most memorable was with state Auditor Tom Salmon. In response to an innocent email asking why his office was using a state email account to distribute a campaign message, Salmon replied, “Fuck off.” Good times. My rapport with Salmon has improved to what it was pre-outburst — friendly but professional. In recent days, Salmon even thanked me for holding him, and other state officials, accountable. “I am a better person from what we’ve gone through,” he said. Me, too, Tom. Accountable goes both ways. During my tenure, I’ve also had the privilege of documenting some of the biggest stories of the past decade, ones that will have an impact on future generations of Vermonters. Same-sex marriage should have been a no-brainer, but the issue produced an emotional legislative session that turned into a veto showdown between lawmakers and then-governor JIM DOUGLAS. No one doubted the Senate could override the gov’s veto, but the House was another matter: It needed 100 votes to pass. In the end, the House landed on the right side of history. It was during the same-sex-marriage debate that my tweeting really took off. My tweet-by-tweet report of the House debate served as a news ticker for hundreds of Vermonters who couldn’t fit inside the tiny House chamber.

Profile for Seven Days

Seven Days 12/28/11  

Vermont's only alternative newsweekly

Seven Days 12/28/11  

Vermont's only alternative newsweekly

Profile for 7days