FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Peace with North Korea is a No Brainer

by MICHAEL COLBY

For Vermonters who have seen Howard Dean up close and personal for the last eleven years as our governor, there’s something darkly comical about watching the national media refer to him as the “liberal” in the race for the Democratic nomination for president. With few exceptions in the 11-plus years he held the state’s top job, Dean was a conservative Democrat at best. And many in Vermont, particularly environmentalists, see Dean as just another Republican in Democrat’s clothing.

As the son of a wealthy Long Island family (his father was a prominent Wall Street insider), Dean’s used to having his golden path well greased. After dutifully attending Yale and then medical school, Dean looked for a state to launch both a private medical practice and a political career. He chose Vermont as much for its beauty as its lenient mood toward carpet bagging politicians, thus joining Brooklynite Bernie Sanders as a born again Vermonter.

Dean became Vermont’s accidental governor in 1991 after Governor Richard Snelling died of a heart attack while swimming in his pool. Dean, the lieutenant governor at the time, took the state’s political reins and immediately followed through with his promise not to offend the Snelling Republicans who occupied the executive branch. And Dean carried on with his right-leaning centrism for the next eleven, long years.

With his sights now set on the White House, the Dean team has been doing its best over the last year to polish up a mediocre gubernatorial record. They’re also trying to position Dean as “the liberal” in the Democratic field so as to grab the much-coveted early primary voters.

And nowhere are the tall tales of Dean’s liberalism more off the mark than when the Dean team begins to gush about his environmental record.

“EP under Governor Dean meant Expedite Permits, not Environmental Protection,” proclaims Annette Smith, the director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment.

Smith is no stranger to Dean’s environmental record, having tangled with the Dean administration on everything from the OMYA Corporation’s mining to pesticide usage on Vermont’s mega-farms. When Smith learned that Dean was holding a press conference at the Burlington Community Boathouse last week to celebrate his eco-legacy, she fired off emails to Vermont environmentalist calling for a protest of the event and wondering if they were “going to let Governor Dean ride out on his white horse of environmental leadership?”

It was Smith who stumbled onto Dean’s official gubernatorial web site a couple of years ago and found a bucolic photo of her home town of Danby being featured with this caption: “Time stands still hereyou might even forget when it’s time to go home.” Ironically, the location depicted in the photo was the same spot Dean was pushing to host a massive gas pipeline, a plan that would have required timber clear-cuts and other dramatic topographical changes. The Dean team removed the photo within a couple of weeks, but not before Smith made hay with his apparent hypocrisy.

“Dean’s attempts to run for president as an environmentalist is nothing but a fraud,” Smith told Wild Matters. “He’s destroyed the Agency of Natural Resources, he’s refused to meet with environmentalists while constantly meeting with the development community, and he’s made the permitting process one, big dysfunctional joke.”

Those are not the words you’d expect to hear from an environmentalist if all you relied on for your news was the mainstream press. The Burlington Free Press, for example, has spent considerable space putting one coat of varnish after another on Dean’s tenure, including a rather smarmy salute to his eco-record. The word from those quarters is that Dean is the environment’s friend and he’s done nothing but anger the business community by slowing development and stymieing growth.

Dean’s record, however, shows just the opposite. Remember, when Dean took office there were no Wal-Marts in Vermont; there was no Home Depots; Burlington’s downtown was dominated by local stores not the national chains that now rule the roost; there were 36% more small farmers in existence; there were no 100,000-hen mega-farms; and sprawl wasn’t a word on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

Interestingly, Dean told the Free Press last week that he wished the rest of “the country were more like Vermont.” But it certainly seems Dean has been doing his best to make Vermont more like the rest of the country.

Stephanie Kaplan, a leading environmental lawyer and the former executive officer of Vermont’s Environmental Board, has seen the regulatory process under Dean become so slanted against environmentalists and concerned citizens that she hardly thinks its worth putting up a fight anymore.

“Under Dean the Act 250 process (Vermont’s primary development review law) and the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) have lost their way,” contends Kaplan. “Dean created the myth that environmental laws hurt the economy and set the tone to allow Act 250 and the ANR to simply be permit mills for developers.”

Kaplan points to the “Environmental Board purge” in the mid-90s that allowed Dean to set the pro-development tone. In 1993, the Board issued an Act 250 permit to C&S Grocers in Brattleboro with conditions that restricted the diesel emissions from its heavy truck traffic. After C&S execs cried foul and threatened to move to New Hampshire, Dean broke gubernatorial precedent by publicly criticizing the Environmental Board for issuing what he called a “non-permit.”

A year after receiving their public rebuke from Dean, four of the Environmental Board members ? including the chair ? were up for reappointment. With the not-so-subtle clues from Dean that he didn’t approve of the Board’s political direction, the Republican majority in the state senate shot down each and every one of their appointments, thus dramatically changing both the structure and climate of the Board.

“After the post-C&S purge,” says Kaplan, “the burden of proof for Act 250 permits switched from being on the applicants — where it’s supposed to be — to being on the environmentalists. That’s why 98% of the permit requests are approved and only 20% ever have hearings.”

There is, however, one issue that Dean deserves credit for: his peripatetic efforts in land conservation. During his tenure, Dean has overseen the public preservation of over one million acres of Vermont land, most notably the former Champion Corporation lands in the Northeast Kingdom.

“But these special parcels seem to be the only land Dean cares about,” says Kaplan. “The rest has been fair game for over development.”

As Dean goes national he may be able to fool an Iowan or two with his eco-record, but Vermonters have seen enough to know that being green isn’t easy for Dean. And he’s far from being a liberal.

MICHAEL COLBY is the editor of the national monthly, Wild Matters. He can be reached at mcolby@wildmatters.org

 

Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail