Press Release

Press Release: Selene Colburn to Seek Progressive Nomination for Ward 1 City Council

BURLINGTON – Selene Colburn will seek the Progressive nomination for the City Council seat being vacated by outgoing Ward 1 Councilor Kevin Worden.  Selene, a librarian at the University of Vermont and a Trustee on the Burlington Library Commission, brings a rich understanding of issues important to Ward 1 residents.

“I was born and raised in Ward 1,” Selene says.  “I come from a long line of Burlingtonians who have made unique contributions as educators and public servants and I’m inspired by their leadership.  My main priorities will be to work with my neighbors to increase the city’s focus on neighborhood issues and to encourage the hiring of more women to positions of power within city government.”

Progressive Party State Chair Emma Mulvaney-Stanak praised Selene’s work ethic, saying, “I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Selene on a number of projects and can’t think of anyone who will work harder for Ward 1 residents.  All of Burlington will benefit from her insight and objectivity as a Councilor.”

Selene is an Assistant to the Dean of Libraries at UVM.  She is a cofounder and former Board Chair of Vermont Access to Reproductive Freedom.  She has also served on the boards of Vermont Community Access Media, Cradle to Grave Arts, Grace Roots Art and Community Effort, and the Vermont Library Association (VLA).  She is currently chair of the VLA’s Government Relations committee and a parent volunteer at Edmunds Elementary School.

A long-time advocate for economic and social justice, Selene says, “I intend to speak up for neighborhood safety, a strong local response to climate change, and inclusive processes for the city’s development and budgeting initiatives.  I’m looking forward to representing the immense creativity and expertise we have to offer on these issues in Ward 1.

“I’m an evidence-based decision maker and I’ll bring an even-handed, objective approach to my work as a City Councilor.  I love Burlington with all my heart and I’ll hold myself and my fellow Councilors to high standards on its behalf.”

Selene spent much of her childhood in a family home on the corner of College and Willard.  She has lived on Latham Ct with her husband Chris Burns and their two daughters since 2008.  Her grandfather Francis was an artist and humorist who helped found the Art Department at UVM and her grandmother Gladys taught for decades at Burlington High School.  Her mother Lorrie worked at the Fletcher Free Library for over 20 years.

Press Release: Progressive Party Concludes 2013 Reorganization With A Bang

On Saturday, Progressives gathered at the Capital City Grange in Berlin for the final stage of the 2013 reorganization process, their State Convention.  Over 125 people attended the event and 73 ballots were cast by State Committee Delegates in the election of a new Coordinating Committee at the Convention.  To put those numbers in perspective, only 58 ballots were cast in the hotly contested races for leadership at a State Republican Party meeting earlier the same day.

Emma Mulvaney-Stanak of Winooski was elected State Party Chair; Selene Colburn of Burlington was elected State Party Vice Chair; Chris Brimmer of South Ryegate was elected State Party Secretary; Martha Abbott of Underhill was elected State Party Treasurer; and Katherine Sims of Lowell was elected State Party Asst. Treasurer.  The following At-Large Coordinating Committee members were also elected: Caryn Connolly of South Royalton, Mari Cordes of Lincoln, Corey Decker of Fletcher, Lee Madden of Brattleboro, Adam Norton of Burlington, and Nancy Potak of Greensboro.

In addition to the elections, those in attendance viewed a video message from Professor Bill McKibben, participated in a panel discussion with college students from UVM and Middlebury who are leading fossil fuel divestment movements at their schools, and heard from many elected Progressives about their priorities for 2014, including State Auditor Doug Hoffer (D/P).

Newly elected Progressive Party Chair Emma Mulvaney-Stanak had this to say:

“I'm excited the new Party leadership reflects some of the new and young leaders who have emerged within the Party in recent years. I am honored the State Committee chose me to be their new Chair.  I can’t thank Martha Abbott enough for her years of service as Chair and look forward to continuing to work with her in her new role as Treasurer, and with all the new members of the Party’s Coordinating Committee.

“As a lifelong Vermonter, I have seen the Progressive Party grow from a Burlington-focused party into a truly statewide, major party, which has changed the way we do politics in Vermont.  As Chair, I intend to continue that growth by focusing on building the Party's capacity to run strong candidates for office and to push the core issues of our platform. I will also focus on recruiting young people and women to run for office and to get engaged in the Party.”

Press Release: Oversight of State cell phones is deficient, resulting in under-utilization & opportunities for savings

MONTPELIER, VT – A new report from the State Auditor’s Office finds problems with the State’s purchasing and oversight of cell-phone services. State Auditor Doug Hoffer said, “The State’s current system is decentralized and does not have consistent policies and procedures to ensure that resources are optimized. As a result, we found potential savings of almost $300,000.”

The report notes that the Department of Buildings and General Services contracts with cell phone providers on behalf of all State agencies. However, decisions related to cell phone purchases and management of their use are handled by individual State entities, meaning there is no central responsibility to track utilization and total spending. The objectives of the audit were to determine 1) whether State-issued cell phones are underutilized and 2) if State agencies and departments could reduce their costs for State-issued cell phones.

In 2012, charges for 3,080 state-issued cell phones totaled $1,646,995. After reviewing phone records, the audit team found that “9% of state-issued cell phones were not used at all and 20% had limited use.”[1]

These little used phones cost the State about $272,000.

Many State entities manage voice minutes via cell phone pools to avoid overage charges for exceeding monthly voice minute allowances.  The pools enable sharing of voice minutes among all cell phones within a pool. The State had 115 cell phone pools in 2012, and these pools purchased a total of approximately 11 million voice minutes. The audit team found that over 5.1 million minutes went unused (47% of the total).
In addition, of the 2,899 cell phones with bundled voice and data service plans, 42% used no data or less than 25,000 KB of data per month. This suggests opportunities for additional savings by switching to lower cost monthly service plans that more closely reflect actual usage (i.e., voice only). Hoffer stated that “The extent of under-utilization of the services purchased represents lax oversight and a significant waste of taxpayer money.”

The Department of Information and Innovation has a statewide policy for security of mobile devices and the Department of Human Resources has a statewide policy addressing personal use of state-owned wireless communication devices.  However, the State lacks a statewide policy that addresses other aspects of cell phone management, such as determination of criteria for business need, periodic review of usage levels, and consideration of continued business need.

Responsibility for most of the decision making relative to cell phones resides at State agencies and departments.  Based on the responses of 42 out of 45 surveyed State entities, less than half have policies or procedures for managing cell phones; only 19% had written criteria to guide decisions regarding who should be assigned a cell phone; and about 10% had written policies addressing monitoring cell phone costs.  Without consistent cell phone management practices and continuous monitoring of cell phone use, the State risks paying for cell phones and services that are not needed.

We made various recommendations to the Secretary of the Agency of Administration and the commissioners of the Department of Information and Innovation and the Department of Buildings and General Services.  Among others, these recommendations included: 1) developing statewide guidelines addressing aspects of cell phone management and 2) requiring State agencies and departments to document their policies and procedures related to cell phone management.

We are pleased to report that the Secretary of Administration agrees with our recommendations. Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding added, “We have been looking forward to the Auditor’s report and plan to use it as a springboard to establish a comprehensive statewide framework governing the purchase, acceptable usage, and management of not only cellular devices…but also statewide land use as well.”[2]

See the full report here.

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[1] Limited use was defined as averaging less than 100 voice minutes and less than 25,000 kilobytes of data per month. This equates to five minutes of phone calls, two emails with attachments and less than two websites viewed per business day. For context, the most prevalent service plan purchased by the State is for 400 voice minutes with unlimited data usage.

[2]November 1, 2013 e-mail from Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding.

Press Release: Auditor finds cost overruns in correctional health care, but contract oversight has improved

MONTPELIER, VT – Spending on health care for in-state prisoners was $4.2 million over budget for the last three years, according to an audit released today by State Auditor Doug Hoffer.

The Department of Corrections (DOC) contracts with Correct Care Solutions (CCS) to operate a comprehensive health care program for inmates housed in-state. Because of the importance and expense of this contract, the State Auditor’s Office (SAO) decided to review the State’s oversight of this contract.

In fiscal year 2012, DOC housed an average daily population of in-state inmates of 1,583, which included both sentenced offenders and detainees. The State budgeted $49.1 million for the three-year contract but eventually paid $53.3 million, including a $4.7 million management fee.

Hoffer noted that, "Since it’s a cost-plus-management fee contract, the state bears the financial risk and the contractor lacks incentive to minimize costs." The audit report stated that DOC’s "cost monitoring was not robust during the earlier years of the contract but has improved since late 2012."

For complex cases involving treatment outside prison facilities, the contract requires CCS to ascertain whether the inmate has health insurance and to pursue collection on the State’s behalf, including from Medicaid if applicable (only for services provided outside the prisons). During the audit, "testing identified one instance in which Medicaid was not billed for an inmate who was hospitalized at a cost to DOC of $84,000." This is important because state funds for Medicaid are matched with federal funds, while the Corrections’ budget is entirely state funds.

The report further stated that, "DOC’s monitoring of CCS’s performance against the contract requirements has been mixed." Based on testing by the audit staff, CCS met some of its performance standards and was deficient in others, with no apparent pattern. Hoffer stated that, "DOC’s failure to levy contractually allowed penalties for two years represented a lost opportunity for the State to offer a monetary incentive for CCS to correct its deficiencies in a timely manner."

Furthermore, the report found that "the lack of timely application of all allowable penalties appears to be due, at least in part, to significant personnel and operational changes at the Department." Hoffer stated that "DOC’s hiring of a new contract monitor in October 2012 has resulted in substantial improvements to both their cost and performance monitoring processes in the past year. Nevertheless, DOC (and all state entities) should plan for such contingencies so that contract oversight will not suffer when personnel changes occur."

Notwithstanding the progress already made, more needs to be done to help ensure that the State is not paying excessive amounts for these services and that the contractor meets the performance standards in the contract. Accordingly, we have offered various recommendations to help reduce DOC’s current costs and improve internal controls, and to reduce its risks in the implementation of health care delivery models under current consideration.

The full report can be found here.

Press Release: Burlington Progressive Party Endorses Goodkind for Mayor, Candidates for City Council

From left: Councilor Selene Colburn, Councilor Max Tracy, mayoral candidate Steve Goodkind, Councilor Jane Knodell, city council candidate Sara Giannoni.

Sunday evening Progressive Party members voted at their Burlington caucus to endorse Steve Goodkind as the Progressive candidate for the 2015 mayoral race. The Party also endorsed candidates for at least half of the upcoming city council races.

Prior to the vote, Goodkind addressed the approximately 60 caucus participants, speaking about his experience as the former director of the Department of Public Works, and the many improvements he made over the years to help the city of Burlington function better. He said that many of the voters he’s spoken with are discontent with the job that Mayor Miro Weinberger is doing, especially in regard to city development, and Goodkind is running in part to provide them with another option on the ballot.

“Although there are plenty of things we should be saying ‘no’ to, this will be a positive campaign,” Goodkind said. “For every issue I raise, I’ll offer a viable alternative. I will stand for choices, not just for change.”

Four Progressives received the endorsement for Burlington City Council races. They are: Jane Knodell (Central district), Selene Colburn (East District), Max Tracy (Ward 2), and Sara Giannoni (Ward 3). Two Independents also received Progressive endorsements: Sharon Bushor (Ward 1), and Ben Vidal (Ward 8).

Current City Councilor for Ward 2, Jane Knodell, said she is excited to run for the district seat and stressed the importance of this upcoming election, which she said will determine the direction Burlington takes in the next few years, as well as whose voices are being heard in local government.

“The next City Council will be involved in decisions about the future of affordable housing, Burlington Telecom, and the Church Street Marketplace. We're talking about the future of our city," Knodell said. "Progressives will look out for all members of our community, most especially low- and middle-income families, and people whose voices are often marginalized because they aren’t the well-to-do.”

The Chair of the Burlington Progressive Party, Kyle Silliman-Smith, said she is pleased with the slate of candidates endorsed, and is optimistic about the upcoming election in March. “We want to provide voters with alternatives to the two-party system, and we want to elect people who will fight for progressive values,” she said. “I think we are doing that, and I’m excited to see what 2015 holds.”

Vermont Progressive Party Hires New Elections Director

The Vermont Progressive Party Coordinating Committee has hired Kelly Mangan of Burlington to be the Party’s new Elections Director as of July 7th, 2014.

In recent years, Mangan has worked as a labor organizer for food service workers with the United Electrical Workers (UE), helping Sodexo employees at Vermont’s higher learning institutions who wished to unionize, and has been an organizer for childcare providers with the American Federation of Teachers. She was the Field Director for Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2012 re-election campaign, leading the campaign's statewide outreach and canvassing program. And in January of this year, Mangan added "new mom" to her list of job descriptions. 

“I'm excited to be VPP's Election Director because I want our state to be governed in the best interests of everyone, not just a wealthy few,” Mangan said. “I believe the Vermont Progressive Party is the only political party in our state that is sincerely trying to empower and engage working people around the issues that affect us. That’s why I’m eager to help elect new Progressive candidates, and to re-elect those who are fighting for us in Montpelier.”

Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Progressive Party State Chair, says she believes Mangan’s background in union organizing is a beneficial skill set that she brings to the Party. “As an organizer, Kelly knows how important it is to develop leadership potential in others. I’m excited to work with her as our Party continues to grow,” she said.

Former Party Director Robert Millar resigned in June to run for State Representative for the Chittenden 6-7 district. Mangan said: “Robert is a knowledgeable and extremely qualified candidate for State Rep. I’m excited about his race and very happy to be working to support him and all the other great Progressive candidates around the state.”

To contact Kelly, you can email kelly[at]progressiveparty.org

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