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To be honest, though, my favorites were more low-key news items that went on to affect state policy. Three examples: • In 2009, a top aide to Gov. Douglas claimed budget cuts weren’t affecting the administration’s ability to draw down federal funds. Guess what? They were. On the chopping block was a program that hooked up low-income kids with fresh food and veggies. In response, the Department of Education staffed up to ensure schools could sign up for the federal grants. The new staffers were also able to accept applications for a special federally funded after school meals program championed by Sen. Bernie SanderS (I-VT). • In 2010, I revealed that the private owners of the Wharf Lane apartments in Burlington might sell the building to Champlain College. Wharf Lane was one of thousands of affordable housing complexes built 30 years ago using taxpayer-subsidized mortgages and rental subsidies provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The deal was that at the end of the mortgage, the developers would have the option to sell the low-income housing to the highest bidder. You know how it goes: The public subsidizes the risk, and the owners privatize the profits. As a result of public scrutiny by Fair Game, the landlords returned to the table with a couple of nonprofit housing agencies. With assistance from the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, the Burlington Housing Authority bought the building, and the 44 residents of Wharf Lane — and nearly 100 in a nearby building — avoided eviction. • Finally, in August 2010 I broke the news that the state was falling further and further behind in processing foodstamps requests as well as applications for other forms of public assistance. In some cases, people were waiting up to three months for help. A court order from the 1990s requires the state to respond within 30 days. More staff were added, the wait times shortened, and people began to get help more quickly. Did it make a difference? Months after the story ran, an elderly
woman approached me at the grocery store. “When I read your column, I realized I wasn’t alone. I thought I was the only one having problems getting help from the state,” she said. Yeah, it made a difference. By now you must be asking yourself: Won’t he miss it? Of course I will. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. I plan to remain an engaged and informed Vermont citizen — something I’ve been almost all my life. I’ll have plenty of opportunity to chime in on the events of the day, including politics, thanks to my role as communications director for Chelsea Green Publishing. Their authors are at the cutting edge of politics, agriculture, food, farming, the environment, energy and business. It’s a provocative bunch, and I’m happy to be tossed in with it. I leave Fair Game in the extremely capable hands of andy Bromage. My advice to him: Trust your instincts and develop your voice as a writer, and you’ll do just fine. And if people tell you that you have big shoes to fill, just nod and smile. Andy will make his own mark with this column by taking it in new directions. I will be an avid reader. Before I sign off, I want to thank Paula routly and Pamela PolSton for believing I could follow in the footsteps of a larger-than-life presence. I did my best to prove them right. Each is a great editor and boss and I’ve been lucky to work with the two of them. They have provided consistent guidance and support — right up to and through my decision to leave. I also want to thank Seven Days staffers for welcoming me into their awesome, quirky, caring, hardworking and successful newspaper family. To you, dear readers, I offer two simple words (no, not those two): Thank you. m
11/28/11 2:54 PM
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www.nbmvt.com • 1-877-508-8455 Brandon • Bristol • HinesB urg • MiddleB ury • Vergennes
12/19/11 11:51 AM
FAIR GAME 13
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