MONTPELIER -- Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said Thursday he’ll skip the traditional inaugural ball after he is sworn into his second term next month, opting instead for a combination open house at the Statehouse and fundraiser for people still suffering the effects of Tropical Storm Irene.
"To all the generous donors (who) donated to the inaugural fund last year ... this year we’re asking them to give to the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund," Shumlin said at his weekly news conference.
The governor said he would greet members of the public in the House chamber beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 10, and that there would be music and light refreshments at the event. He said no admission would be charged, but people would be invited to make a donation to the relief fund, or to buy, for $25, one of the "I am Vermont strong" license plates it has been selling.
The relief fund has set a fundraising goal of $10 million and so far has raised $6.8 million toward that goal, said board member Chris Graff. Graff said it has stepped where the Federal Emergency Management Agency and private insurers won’t.
He told of an elderly woman in Addison County who lost her hearing aids as she was being rescued from flooding during the storm in late August of 2011. She couldn’t prove she’d lost her hearing aids during the disaster, so couldn’t get help from FEMA or her insurance company, Graff said.
"We are the fund of unmet needs, we’re the fund of last resort," Graff said.
Anne-Marie Bolton, whose Berlin mobile home was destroyed in the flood, said the relief fund filled the gap between FEMA funding and what she needed to get into a new home in the Websterville section of Barre Town.
In other matters at his weekly news conference, Shumlin said he was appointing former Vermont Press Bureau reporter Louis Porter, to serve as secretary of civil and military affairs. Porter, 37, of Adamant, who most recently has been working as a lobbyist on water issues for the Conservation Law Foundation environmental group, said he would coordinate the administration’s relations with the Legislature.
The governor also said he would travel to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida next week with the mayors of Burlington and Winooski to listen to a new fighter jet the Air Force is considering housing at the Vermont Air National Guard base near Burlington. The base currently houses F-16 fighters, and Shumlin said he wanted to listen to both planes to see if the F-35 is discernibly louder, as some area residents fear.
Shumlin said relationships he had developed in his new role as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association had helped secure an $8.3 million refund form computer giant Hewlett-Packard after the state decided to scrap efforts to install a new computer system at the Department of Motor Vehicles.