By almost any measure Gov. Phil Scott has been on the conservative end of opening up the state’s economy, most obviously Wednesday when he told out-of-staters not to come to Vermont for their summer vacation. Ouch.
Summer tourism represents roughly a half billion dollars in revenue for the state, something that cannot be made up in the months that follow. The governor’s urging applies to about five million people who typically come to Vermont to enjoy the only time of the year where the water is warm, people wear shorts and t-shirts, and snow isn’t weighing downs the boughs of our trees.
The governor did relax in-state standards for Vermonters, allowing them to hit the golf courses, if they walk and practice social distancing. They can hike, but only in small numbers. And businesses can reopen, but again not in ways that invite people to congregate. In other words, Mr. Scott is not following the examples of governors in states like Georgia, Texas, Florida, South Carolina.
Vermont, in fact, is more closely aligned with the policies of New York and other New England states, which is a more cautious approach and one tied to the new hospitalizations per day, the percentage of people being treated and under the care of hospitals, the number of deaths over a two-week period, etc.
So it was a surprise to see the post on Twitter by R. Christopher DiMezzo, communications director for the Vermont Democratic Party, who said: “This [Gov. Scott’s meager easing of restrictions] is irresponsible, misguided, and will put the lives of Vermonters at risk. There will be a second wave of Covid-19 and these premature reopening guidelines will accelerate the rate of infection.”
It’s unclear just who Mr. DiMezzo represents, and who within the party’s leadership, if anyone, thought the political broadside was a good idea. Or, are we to assume that his missive was vetted beforehand and that it’s accepted and supported by the party’s leaders and its membership?
A website search of the candidates running against Mr. Scott — Lt. Governor David Zuckerman and former Agency of Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe do not reveal the same complaints. Nor does the website of Tim Ashe, Secretary Pro Tempore, and a candidate for Lt. Gov. So, on whose behalf is Mr. DiMezzo speaking?
To this point, the state’s handling of the pandemic has been comfortingly apolitical. Mr. Scott has kept his ego out of the fray and has deferred to the experts. He’s been calm and not judgmental. He’s been the unifier statewide that we wish we had nationwide.
The irony is that if Mr. Scott has a vulnerability it will be later in the campaign season, not now. And Mr. DiMezzo, et al, are positioning themselves in the most vulnerable way possible. The issue in the months before the November election won’t be a second wave of the virus and who is responsible [as if that could be determined] it will be the shortfall in revenue caused by the lack of economic activity and it will be the wrenching budget choices forced by the loss of an estimated $430 million in the next fiscal year.
What the Scott administration has accomplished is putting into place the infrastructure and the technical experience necessary to deal with a second wave should it occur — and it almost certainly will at one level or another. It’s impossible to control for all factors, and it’s ridiculous to insist that the only “win” is zero new cases, and zero deaths from this point forward.
Mr. DiMezzo’s tweet is an ill-advised political play when what the party should be debating is how all the programs dear to the party’s heart are to be funded when the money dries up. What the party should be talking about is how the “new normal” looks in a post pandemic Vermont. The last thing they should be involved in is a blame game that leads nowhere.
by Emerson Lynn