September 20, 2019

Vermonter at Large

A few head scratchers

Aug. 25, 2011

By Mal Boright

Oh yes, lingering questions have arisen without immediate answers from recent events here in the Green Mountains, and the ongoing horror of national politics. These include:

Is that a vast economic awareness gulf we see between; on one side, University of Vermont administrators and the board of directors; and on the other side, students, support personnel, some professors and citizen-taxpayers? How else can you explain the $500,000-plus departure payoff to former UVM president Daniel Fogel, which hit the news media the same day as an administration declaration that the university could not afford more than a 1 percent pay increase (over three years) for its service workers.

Can there be any other logical reason for the payoff to departing development vice president Michael Schultz, who we were told, broke no laws or UVM policies while carrying on a friendship with Fogel’s wife Rachel Kahn-Fogel? Schultz leaves but keeps his $155,000 annual salary through 2012, and was also awarded $15,000 for legal costs. Wouldn’t this $700,000 from apparently stretched coffers have been more appropriately spent, for instance, providing health care benefits to part-time workers including instructors?

That leads to this question: Why is there not more outrage at educational institutions, major corporations, and even local, state and (yikes!) the federal government for using the escape hatches of part-time and/or temporary positions as a means to avoid the rising cost of health insurance for employees?

And doesn’t this very fact argue mightily for significant reform in the way we finance health care in this nation?

Shouldn’t we be able to expect a more measured and thoughtful approach to these serious issues from those who would lead the nation? A few weeks ago, Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann declared that no matter what plan came out of Congressional negotiations to raise the U.S. debt ceiling, she would vote against it. She was not alone in her declaration.

Isn’t it well past time for many of those who claim to be inheritors of the mantle of leadership to stop creating facts to fit in a narrow ideological framework, but instead adjust their thinking to meet the requirements of reality as the proper approach to finding workable solutions to vexing problems?

It has been said that in war, the first casualty is truth. Is it not also a fact that truth is also the first casualty in an election campaign?

Is it time for a few “You Go Howard” cheers for Starbucks chief executive officer Howard Schultz? The coffee company executive — appalled as are many others at the shenanigans in Congress — called for a halt to campaign giving to all campaigners until the lawmakers mend their ways, and produce legislative results instead of gridlock. That’s a great idea, but it needs widespread support or nothing good will happen.

Is there a “your Congressperson is a doofus, mine is a hero” syndrome taking place that explains why many of us deplore Congress (lowest poll ratings ever) but generally support our own Congressperson?

Could that have been warm sounds of great relief from the old flivver’s shock absorbers this week during what used to be a teeth-chattering drive from the Industrial Avenue-U.S. 2 intersection to the South Burlington town line? All car parts and driver appreciate the new layer of asphalt.


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