Thursday, March 1, 2012

Robert Wagner Plans to Play a Shell Game at This Coming Monday Night's Town Meeting in Ripton, VT

Wagner's written a ordinance for consideration at Ripton's Town Meeting this coming Monday evening and he says,
"I plan to bring it to my Town Meeting in (formerly bucolic [his words]) Ripton… just watch the sparks fly!"

Great! Wagner's no longer satisfied with bringing his angry attacks and negativity to the electoral process as he's done with his smears of his neighbor, Ripton's representative in the legislature, Rep. Willem Jewett (D-Ripton), and as well as every member of the Vermont legislature - senators and representatives - who he calls "corrupt" and "stealing from" Vermonters. He's going to mix it up in a big way at Ripton's Town Meeting.

There's a process, naturally, that's normally used by proponents of local legislation that's to be considered by the community. You get 5% of the town's voters to sign a petition to the selectboard to have the proposed ordinance placed on the Town Meeting warning. This is a good process for a number of reasons, not the least of which it gives the selectboard opportunity to have town counsel review the legality and constitutionality of the proposed ordinance, as well as having, if approved for the warning, the ordinance published for the benefit of the voters informed consideration. But if you've got a shaky ordinance with aspects that you'd rather people not take too close a look at, the route you do take has a great deal more in common with a shell game than an informative process. You can read Wagner's entire proposal here.

Here's the route that Wagner's chosen to take. Knowing that he'd successfully missed the cutoff for additions to the Ripton Town Meeting Warning, Wagner brought his proposed ordinance to the February 13 Ripton selectboard meeting. This from their minutes of that meeting:
"Robert Wagner attended to discuss an ordinance he proposes to ban smart meter installation in Ripton. His request to include a question about the ordinance came after the deadline for the Town Meeting Warning, and he was encouraged to raise the topic during Article 8: any other business. Smart meters replace existing electric meters and transmit a wireless signal to a utility company. Mr. Wagner opposes smart meter technology because of health and privacy concerns. The health concerns are due to constant, widely broadcast electromagnet- ic signals. The privacy concerns relate to the detailed information a utility company gathers, and the difficulty of keeping that information secure. He pointed out the ecological, energy saving argument in favor of the technology, and that for a monthly fee people may opt not to have one. The fee may make opting out not an option for those with low incomes. To help familiarize residents with smart meters and the plan for their installation in Ripton in 2012, Mr. Wagner will prepare handouts describing pros and cons of the technology for dis- tribution at town meeting. If considering adoption of an ordinance banning the meters, the selectboard will hear from those on both sides of the issue, and residents."

"There was discussion about town meeting procedures: specifically how to keep people from heading for refreshments during the closing Article: any other business; and the purpose of and procedure for the time given legislators, particularly for questions and answers. The town moderator will be informed of the concerns and suggestions offered."

"Mr. Wagner left the meeting at the end of discussion of these items."
Wagner spoke at length about Smart Meters, fees and unsubstantiated "health and privacy concerns." Given Wagner's long history of partisan misrepresentation, it is laughable to find that he's to "prepare handouts describing pros and cons of the technology." In particular because of the things that he apparently left out of his discussion with the selectboard, to wit, that Wagner's proposed law is patently unconstitutional. Wagner's ordinance proposes:
3. Statements of Law: Bill of Rights for Ripton Residents
(a number of Wagner's enumerated Bill of Rights for Ripton Residents openly conflict with state and federal law but I'm going to just cite here the most troubling one and come back to it later)
(e) The people are sovereign and shall have access to local government.

4.Statements of Law – Prohibitions:.
(c) Corporations cannot enforce state or federal preemptive law on the town of Ripton to override the ordinance.
(d) All local, state, federal permits that are in violation of this ordinance are nullified.
At this very moment there's a case at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit regarding a preemption issue that the state just lost. It remains to be seen if the federal judge's interpretation of the degree to which preemption is involved will be upheld but if he is, the state of Vermont may be on the hook for more than $4,600,000 in legal fees. Were Wagner's proposed ordinance to pass there'd be no doubt about the outcome for the preemption issue or the result for the Town should the matter find its way to state or federal court. Plain and simple, Ripton would lose the case. Worse still, his ordinance would even take away any real semblance of local control and would allow any resident to force the matter to court since Wagner's ordinance even has a workaround for any form of local or town government interference with his ordinance or, perhaps more accurately, his plans:
(a) Describes the method of enforcement.
(b) The Town may enforce the ordinance.
(c) Any resident may enforce the ordinance.
Wagner's proposed ordinance is a nullification statute on a scale not seen since the early 19th century and the result then was that the proponents did not succeed. At another level, Wagner's proposal is a barely concealed secession ordinance under another name:
8. People’s Right to Self-Govern: The people’s right to local self-government is inalienable. Should state or federal governments attempt to overrule the ordinance, and challenge the people’s right to govern, the Town may secede.
Why would he attempt such a disingenuous workaround for his proposed ordinance rather than obtaining the needed signatures and providing adequate notice of such a potentially important change to Ripton's relationship with both the state and federal governments? Well, he has nearly no following in Ripton and wouldn't have been likely to gather the 5% of all of the registered voters signatures required to warn Town Meeting goers of his proposed radical legislation. As Riptonites will recall, Wagner only received 7% of the votes cast for Senator in the 2010 election. And even a few of those may have been from voters who, not knowing who Wagner was, thought, "Isn't he that nice old gentleman who plays Agent DiNozzo's father on NCIS? Maybe I should vote for him." Or perhaps Wagner's counting on his personal charisma washing over the room to force the matter forward on the floor. Or maybe (more likely) it's an irrational, delusional, ego driven thing since as recently as this past September and nearly a year after his meager last place showing in the Addison County race for a Vermont Senate seat Wagner, who has never served a day in any elective office, wrote here,
"My learned colleagues in the State House..."
It isn't probably going to happen but it'd be nice if Wagner would explain to Ripton voters why he, who has repeatedly criticized others like Sen. Mullin (R-Rutland) for having associations with out of state groups, went to an out of state group from Pennsylvania for sole assistance in writing an ordinance that is unconstitutional in Vermont rather than, say, bringing the matter up earlier with the town's elected officials. After all, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Wagner's nullification strategy is buttressed by his statement that, "(the) people are sovereign." He's counting on Riptonites not being aware of the sovereign citizen movement. More can be learned about Wagner's sovereign citizens movement here, here, here and here. The sovereign citizen claptrap isn't a new thing for Wagner's crowd at Vermont Commons and in the Second Vermont Republic "civic club'; I first wrote about their legal whirlpool more than a year ago here.

And just in case there are still any Riptonites who are still unaware, Robert Wagner is an ardent advocate for Vermont's secession from the U.S. He's already set up a provisional capitol for his nascent nation over the mountain in Hancock, VT.

Wagner's purported Smart Meter ordinance is merely a thinly veiled trick designed to drag his neighbors down into his conspiracy addled, sovereign citizen movement, secessionist rathole via a not so clever shell game.

Meanwhile, in another matter related to Wagner's conflicting positions, there's been no word yet about whether Wagner will be returning the $288.30 subsidy he received while flying out of the airport in Rutland, VT, which is exactly the kind of subsidy that he "is strongly opposed to" and has argued harms Vermonters that I revealed he'd hypocritically availed himself of (as in sticking his snout in the federal money trough) here.

Wagner must publicly give back that subsidy money or he'll be exposed for the hypocritical fraud that many of us Vermonters know him to be.

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