Commentary: Aren’t we all a little bit Jeremy Dodge?

by Rob Roper (June, 2013)

Did Vermont’s governor take advantage of a neighbor in a real estate deal for personal profit? Here’s a little background for those who might have missed this story….

Governor Peter Shumlin bought a piece of property from his neighbor in East Montpelier, Jeremy Dodge, at what appears to be an extraordinarily good price. According to reports, the sixteen-acre property was listed at $233,700. Shumlin paid Dodge $58,000 for it, with $9000 of that coming back to Shumlin in the form of rent ($1000/month) for allowing Dodge to stay on the property from November 2012 to July 2013, and $17,000 going to pay off back taxes, a move that benefited Shumlin by keeping the property off the auction block.

Jeremy Dodge is apparently struggling with some mental health issues, and is trying to reform himself from a history at odds with law enforcement. The annual property tax bill on his farm, which he inherited from his parents, was $4597 in 2012, but Dodge never made more than $10,000 a year. He could not afford to have a lawyer represent him in the real estate transaction with the governor.

Shumlin has repeatedly insisted that the deal he made with Dodge was, “good for me and good for him.” It’s easy to see how this was good for the governor. But…

Here’s the rub. Dodge, who says he believed he had exhausted all of his options before facing an inevitable tax sale on his property, didn’t have all the information. Vermont’s property tax laws are complex, but Dodge didn’t even know that someone making just $10,000 a year is eligible for income sensitivity. Had he been property registered, his annual property tax bill should have been closer to $500 rather than $5000 — a much more manageable number, for sure, if he wanted to save his farm.

Governor Shumlin, on the other hand, does understand how the property tax system works. Given that Jeremy Dodge is Peter Shumlin’s constituent as well as his neighbor, Shumlin had a fiduciary responsibility to help the man to the best of his ability. He didn’t. Rather than show Dodge how to file a homestead exemption to reduce his tax burden, for example, Shumlin put his own personal ambitions first and treated Dodge as a patsy.

All this raises a critical question: if our governor is willing to abuse the vulnerable position of one constituent, what’s to stop him from tossing the rest of us under a bus if it so suits him?

Here I am specifically thinking of all of those CVPS customers who, thanks to Shumlin’s machinations and manipulations, were hoodwinked out of the $21 million promised to them after that company’s buy out by Gaz Metro. In the end, that politically favored corporation, which is run by Shumlin’s Inaugural Chairwoman, got to keep the cash and spend it on other politically favored projects, like weatherization. The customers received the vague compensation of “societal benefits” in lieu of money, and, like Jeremy Dodge, were assured that this deal was somehow really as good for them as it was for Shumlin and his cronies.

I am also thinking specifically of all the Vermont communities that are now looking at industrial wind towers sprouting atop the ridgelines near their homes. Governor Shumlin told the Public Service Board (PSB) that his goal is to get wind turbines placed, “as fast as we can build them.” So far, the PSB and the legislature, which quashed a popular uprising calling for a moratorium on industrial sized wind projects during the past legislative session, have obliged.

This, of course, is great news for big-time Shumlin donors who happen to be in the wind turbine business and for Shumlin’s national reputation and fundraising prowess as a “green” governor. The rest of have to live with assurances, like the ones given to Jeremy Dodge, that radically altering Vermont’s signature ridgelines in exchange for higher than market-value electric bills and is somehow a good deal for us.

 

And, I am also thinking specifically of every Vermonter who is on track to be living under a single payer health care system by 2017. Our governor refuses to tell us how he intends to pay for this system. He refuses to tell us how much it will cost, or what it will cover. In keeping this information from us he even defied the law he helped to pass (Act 48) when he refused to release a detailed funding plan back in January. He is now insisting that no such plan will be forthcoming until, conveniently for him, after the next election.

 

Never mind. Governor Shumlin tells us not to sweat those pesky details. Don’t bother with the fine print. Trust him. In the end, all of this will really be as good a deal for us as it will be for him. I can’t help but feel that in the governor’s eyes we’re all a little bit Jeremy Dodge.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Donka June 1, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Rob,
Well said it just goes to show how little many of our political “leaders” care about Vermonter’s. The only thing Shumlin is looking out for is Shumlin. I would be willing to bet he had plans to remove Jeremy Dodge from the beginning since his property is next to Jeremy. The original purchase was shackey from the start. But the Liberal VT media does not like to report on that.
Keep up the good work!!

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Linda Kirker June 1, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Well Done, Rob!

We “constituents ” are being taken for a ride that we don’t want to go on. It seems that our Governor sure knows how to “feather his own nest” at our expense.

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Chris Campion June 2, 2013 at 4:04 pm

In Shumlin’s defense, he’s just following President Barry’s playbook – foist something unwanted and unneeded on the citizenry. Put off implementation until after the next election cycle so none of the bad news (like how it can’t be paid for) is kept out of the media, and therefore out of voters’ minds. Then the argument doesn’t become whether or not the idea should have been passed in the first place, it simply becomes a matter of how to implement it, and how to fund it.

Removing or deconstructing gov’t is the larger challenge. Preventing the enlargement of the state’s footprint on the neck of Vermonters should be the goal, so we don’t have to (in say, 5 years’ time) tear down non-functioning wind turbines that a campaign donor’s company built off the earnings of people who work for a living.

As for the governor, he’s not helping anyone else – he’s helping himself. Just as he did in the land deal, he’s helping himself politically for higher office. Like always, he’s doing it on someone else’s dime.

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james June 7, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Curious how the liberal media of this state are unwilling to point out that Shumlin is a “one per center” by their standards.

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Willem Post June 10, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Great article, Bob.
I hope you sent it to all the media in Vermont to expose the charlatans.

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Nancy June 10, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Your article on Shumlin’s mis-treatment of Jeremy Dodge stimulates a response. There have been other issues regarding our governor that have been very annoying, but this tops most in my book.

Did Mr. Dodge get a lawyer to fight this? I’ve lost track of what has transpired lately. If I had the money, I’d pay for one. Shumlin is not an honest person. I cringe to think about what the single payer health care system will read.

The governor needs to start inspecting the paved roads in this state – they are badly in need of repaving, patching just doesn’t cut it.

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Rob June 10, 2013 at 8:02 pm

The last I heard, Shumlin urged Dodge to get a lawyer of Dodge’s own choosing and Shumlin would pick up the tab. I have not heard if Dodge has found a lawyer or not. Thanks for the comment, Nancy. – Rob

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Luann Therrien June 11, 2013 at 11:25 am

The Therrien family of Sheffield would like to extend our sympathies to the Dodge family. Shumlin is good at sacrificing people- he sacrificed ours and other families when he green lighted Industrial Wind Turbines in Vermont. To hear him say he was acting as a good neighbor and true Vermonter is an insult to every Vermonter. Mr. Shumlin, please quit using the terms. A true Vermonter turns every stone to help a neighbor. Not scratch out an agreement and offer their own lawyer as council, making a sacrifice of a neighbor for their own gain. Being who Shumlin is and his background in the State of Vermont- knew full well the laws and that Jerry had options. Shumlin said “with all power comes sacrifice and problems”. Apparently the same can be said if you are his neighbor and live in Vermont. This is just another example of how Shumlin could care less about the ‘little guy’. We know, because Shumlin has sacrificed us

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Maulidya June 24, 2013 at 4:50 pm

This article shows litlte imagination. Why should we be trying to support a population of uneducated, fat, unfit, greedy individuals who have insatiable apatites for stuff? If the goal of Vermonters were to create an enviable quality of life which is affordable, sustainable, achievable then Vermont would be looking at the model described as The Basic Community Unit . The unit is dedicated to carrying out the 12 essential functions we depend upon but with ever increasing understanding of of how to do it, and ever increasing efficiencies.Today, Vermonters are like high-wattage incandescent lights. Very energy consuming as wasteful. We need to transform our culture to be more like LED lights, with high efficiencies reached in providing for our needs. This can come about entirely through education of the people, the will of our Legislature, and the return to honest, fair, direct democracy in our way of government, financial system, educational system, etc..Our educational system is far from useful in this regard. Here are the 12 essential functions which have to be operating at every higher efficiencies.We have to become aware of them and how to develop them.Energy: supply, storage and useFood: supply, storage, useFinancing (non-debt based ) supply, storage, useHealth ( monitoring of environment, people, and supportive practices)Judicial System ( Equal, fair, universal )Governance: Direct democracy by the many, of the many, for the many.Education: Supportive learning throughout lifeEmployment: Available to all, all the time, with good wages, equally.Recreation: Personal time for self maintenance, volunteerism, healing, fun.Places: Points of departure and arrival: buildings, businesses, etc.Transportation: Physical movers to and from places.Communications: Information between places, people.These are all the function needed to create a wonderful existence for all whichis sustainable, healthful, and equitable. It isn’t that we cannot sustain the population; it is the we need to recognize, teach, and mutually dedicate us all toward supporting a population well, and within our means. This is a totally different way of organizing ourselves. We need to get on with it and stop listening to those who only see us as consumers, dependent upon fossil fuels and credit in a capitalistic system. There is another way.’Revolutions do not need to be violent overthrows of anything. A revolution can simply be caused by a new way, which works better, is less costly, so people turn to it, and the old ways die of neglect. The old terms of left of right , capitalist , socialist , or communist , etc, are not sufficient to describe the evolving organic nature of society. The General Theory of Living Systems looks at human organization from a biological perspective, and promotes the cultivation of a healthy people and environment. The Basic Community Unit is the model.

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