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July 2012

July 31, 2012

An Anti-Climactic Protest Bids Govs and Canadian Premiers Adieu from Burlington

Protest 1

Corrected below regarding the Burlington police presence.

What one Occupy agitator had billed earlier in the day as "an awesome action" turned out to be an anti-climactic fizzle on Monday evening. About 30 demonstrators briefly jeered a convoy of New England governors and Canadian premiers exiting the U.S. Coast Guard station on the Burlington waterfront following a cruise on Lake Champlain.

The protest would have been a bit bigger, and perhaps more militant, if the dignitaries had not engaged their detractors in a semi-successful game of hide-and-seek. Even so, Monday's demo would probably not have replicated the commotion on College Street the previous day when Burlington police fired non-lethal projectiles. Their target: a few civil disobeyers among an outpouring of 500 law-abiding protesters. The confrontational cadre was trying to block buses carrying the govs and their Canadian counterparts to a dinner reception in Shelburne.

As a followup, a group of 50 or so dissenters had initially gathered at Perkins Pier under a hot sun late Monday afternoon. They waited about an hour, expecting the VIPs to set sail from the ferry dock, as had been indicated in publicity material for the conference taking place at the Hilton on Battery Street. The patient remnant then walked or cycled to a small park adjoining the Burlington Community Boathouse. The Spirit of Ethan Allen cruise ship had docked alongside, leading the protesters to assume that the govs and premiers would actually be setting sail from there.

Continue reading "An Anti-Climactic Protest Bids Govs and Canadian Premiers Adieu from Burlington" »

Alice Eats: 99 Asian Market Eatery

IMG_4490242 N. Winooski Ave., Burlington, 865-0226

It's been almost two years since 99 Asian Market added "Eatery" to its name, set up some simple seating and expanded its menu beyond made-to-order banh mi and a hot bar.

I've eaten there plenty of times since, but for some reason, I've never shared the love on this blog. Perhaps I wanted to keep the secret to myself.

I usually order the same thing; the grilled pork bun (noodle salad) and an order of egg rolls are all I need. But while those are both excellent, they're not what make 99 special.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: 99 Asian Market Eatery" »

July 30, 2012

Video: Police Clash With Protesters Outside Governors Conference in Burlington

ProtestPolice fired pepper balls and sting balls at protesters outside the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers Conference in Burlington yesterday.

Activists from New England and Quebec converged on the Queen City for a day of protests outside the conference, which took place at the Hilton Burlington. The protests centered on Canada's mining of tar sands oil and what environmentalists believe is a plan to ship tar sands oil through the Northeast Kingdom. Protesters also rallied in solidarity with Quebec's student demonstrations and representatives from the Innu First Nation denounced Hydro Quebec.

The rallies were peaceful and non-violent all day long, with protesters numbering in the hundreds. But late in the afternoon, a small group of protesters attempted to block buses believed to be carrying the governors and premiers from leaving the Hilton's side driveway on College Street. It was then that protesters and police clashed and some protesters were shot with "less-lethal" munitions.

From a Burlington Police Department press release:

[Protesters] were warned several more times before a crowd control team of officers with plastic shields and helmets was deployed to walk ahead of the bus following standard procedure to ensure that protestors were not struck and to assist the bus in leaving. As the officers walked forward they were physically confronted by the crowd. Some began pushing back toward the officers, others sat on the ground while at least two others laid down locking arms. 

Click here to read the full account of the incident from the police department.

Below are some videos and photos shot by protesters and onlookers.

Continue reading "Video: Police Clash With Protesters Outside Governors Conference in Burlington" »

July 27, 2012

Congressman Allen West, GOP Provocateur, to Hold Vermont Fundraiser

Allen-westVermont Republicans can't seem to get enough of national GOP figures with a propensity to drop — um, there's no other way to say this — Nazi references on a fairly regular basis.

First came Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who touched down in Vermont two weeks ago to bring in the dough for Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock. During his time in the Green Mountain State, the Maine gov managed to reignite and escalate a national uproar over comments he made comparing the IRS to the Gestapo.

Next up? Florida Congressman Allen West, a rising star in the national Republican scene with a reputation for politically incorrect zingers. The Vermont Republican Party on Friday announced in an email that West will host a fundraiser for his campaign August 5 at Waterbury's Country Club of Vermont. Vermont GOP chairman Jack Lindley said that while his party is helping to spread the word about the event, it's being hosted by "a conglomeration of Tea Party activists and people who are concerned about the direction of the world."

Not familiar with Rep. West? Here's a quick highlight reel of some of his more controversial utterances:

  • "Well, you know what, it is about time that we end this Gestapo-like intimidation tactics that we see coming from Nancy Pelosi and also from the president as well," West told Sirius/XM radio in August 2010.
  • "If Joseph Goebbels was around, he'd be very proud of the Democrat Party, because they have an incredible propaganda machine," West told reporters in the U.S. Capitol in December 2011, according to Politico.
  • "You have this 21st century plantation that has been out there where the Democrat Party has forever taken the black vote for granted. And you have established certain black leaders who are nothing more than the overseers of that plantation, and now the people on that plantation are upset because they've been disregarded, disrespected and their concerns are not cared about," he told Fox News in August 2011. "So I'm here as the modern-day Harriet Tubman to kinda lead people on the underground railroad away from that plantation and to a sense of sensibility."
  • In an e-mail to Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who also chairs the Democratic National Committee, West wrote in July 2011, "You are the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the US House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise shut the heck up," according to the Palm Beach Post. "You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!"
  • And, lastly, West said during an April town hall meeting that there are "78 to 81 [U.S. House] members of the Democrat party that are members of the communist party."

If you can't get enough of this stuff, be sure to check out "What West Said," a website set up by West's Democratic opponent, Patrick Murphy.

Continue reading "Congressman Allen West, GOP Provocateur, to Hold Vermont Fundraiser" »

Adrian Drops Out of Chittenden County Senate Race

Local-adrian2With just a month to go before the Democratic primary, Burlington City Councilor Ed Adrian said Friday he's dropping his bid to represent Chittenden County in the state senate.

"I had too many balls in the air at the same time and I wanted to make sure I didn't drop one, so I guess last in, first out," Adrian says. "As things have sort of accelerated and other obligations have accelerated, it became apparent to me that I wouldn't be able to give it 100 percent."

Because primary ballots have already been printed and distributed to town and city clerks, Adrian says, his name will still appear on the ballot — though he says he would decline the Democratic nomination if he were to win it.

One of nine Democrats and 17 candidates total seeking to fill six seats in the Chittenden County delegation, Adrian was one of the first challengers to float his name as a contender back in March. With four incumbent Democrats seeking reelection, Adrian was principally competing with four other Democratic challengers for the remaining two slots on the party's ballot: Williston selectboard member Debbie Ingram, former state representative Peter Hunt of Essex, dog walker and filmmaker Loyal Ploof of Burlington and former state representative David Zuckerman of Hinesburg.

Adrian, who recently reported raising $6052 for his campaign, says he's confident he had "a good shot at winning" had he stayed in the race, but made the decision to drop out because he was overstretched. While he says he was aware when he entered the race that it would take a lot of time, he didn't realize "how it was going to be received at home."

"Sometimes you don't quite grasp the entire situation until you're in it," he says. "It's weird timing, but I wanted to do it enough in advance of the primary to give people enough notice."

Adrian had previously said he planned to leave the city council when his term expires in March 2014 and on Friday said that plan remained unchanged.

Photo credit: Matthew Thorsen, Seven Days

Movies You Missed 49: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro-dreams-sushiThis week in movies you missed: Behold the best sushi you will never get to eat (unless you have a trip to Japan planned) and the dedication of the men who make it.

What You Missed

Eighty-five-year-old Jiro Ono has been making sushi since he was 10 and doesn't regret a minute of it. His tiny restaurant in Tokyo, adjacent to a subway station, has a Michelin three-star rating. The price starts at 30,000 yen (about $375), the average meal lasts 15 minutes, and reservations must be made at least two months in advance.

In this documentary, director David Gelb shows us Jiro's world, including his kitchen, his apprentices, his fish market and suppliers, his customers and his two grown sons. One has his own restaurant; the other, at 50, still works for Jiro and expects to succeed him one day.

But that day seems unlikely to come soon. Although Jiro says he concocts sushi innovations in his dreams, he primarily seems happy to "do the same thing every day." And to do it perfectly, if his reputation and customers are any indication.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed 49: Jiro Dreams of Sushi" »

July 26, 2012

In Currier Case, a Scoop — Then Silence

Currier PresserMore than 13 months after Bill and Lorraine Currier disappeared without a trace from their Essex home, a host of law enforcement officials called a press conference last Friday morning to divulge new details about one of Vermont's most mysterious recent crime stories.

With a dozen reporters covering the presser and several news outlets carrying it live, authorities disclosed that the Curriers were murdered in a random act committed by a suspect now in custody outside of Vermont.

Beyond that, federal, state and local law enforcement officials' lips were sealed. They wouldn't say who the suspect was, where he or she was being held, nor how they broke the case.

Shortly after the presser ended, though, one local news station, WCAX-TV, appeared to break the story wide open: cops and courts reporter Jennifer Reading reported on the station's noon broadcast and then via Twitter that, "Ch. 3 confirms that Currier murder suspect is 34 year old Israel Keyes from AK. He's behind bars there 4 allegedly killing a teen in April."

CAX followed up at 6 p.m. with a more complete broadcast story outlining further details: Keyes, Reading reported, was being held in Alaska for allegedly kidnapping and killing an 18-year-old coffee shop worker and using her debit card to withdraw money at ATMs all across the western United States. The station said that while Keyes was being questioned about the Alaska murder, "he told investigators where they could find the bodies of a missing Vermont couple." That intel apparently led to a dig at another Essex property and, eventually, to a Coventry landfill.

As soon as CAX broke the story, it spread like wildfire — at least, in Alaska. Television stations, radio stations and newspapers across the Last Frontier ran with the story, mostly just repeating CAX's reporting.

In Vermont, however, there was only silence.

Continue reading "In Currier Case, a Scoop — Then Silence" »

Green Mountain Compost to Dole Out Compensation for Contaminated Compost

TomriddleLast night the board of commissioners for the Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD) approved a customer-assistance package to provide refunds and some remediation for gardeners affected by trace herbicides discovered in CSWD's Green Mountain Compost. The boarded approved expenditures up to $934,992 to reimburse customers who purchased compost between January 1 and July 13. CSWD voluntarily stopped selling the compost in late June, after first suspecting the presence of persistent herbicides. 

The early suspicions of customers and CSWD staff about the contaminated compost were spot on: As Corin Hirsch reported earlier this month, further testing revealed the presence of two persistent herbicides — clopyralid and picloram — in Green Mountain Compost. CSWD marketing coordinator Clare Innes says that, so far, 470 gardeners have contacted the district to report possible damage from the contaminated soil, and that number is rising daily.

Continue reading "Green Mountain Compost to Dole Out Compensation for Contaminated Compost" »

Activists From Québec's Innu First Nation To Protest This Weekend's New England Governors' Conference in Burlington

Innu photo #1More than a dozen protesters from Quebec's Innu First Nation are due to arrive in Vermont this weekend to protest the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers, being held in Burlington. They are protesting against the construction of a new hydroelectric dam on the Romaine River by Hydro-Québec, which they say would destroy their entire way of life. Vermont purchases the vast majority of its power from the Canadian utility giant and Gov. Peter Shumlin currently chairs the New England Governors' Conference.

This new dam is but one aspect of a much larger development project in the region known as Plan Nord. According to the Québec government's official website, Plan Nord is "one of the biggest economic, social and environmental projects in our time." The 25-year, $80 billion project will create or consolidate an average of 20,000 jobs per year, the Québec government says.

The Innu people — not to be confused with Canada's Inuit people — come from the community of Mani-Utenam, near the city of Sept Iles.  They are an indigenous population from northeastern Quebec and Labrador who claim they have never ceded their rights to the land to the Québec or Canadian governments.

In March of 2012, members of the Mani-Utenam community, which numbers roughly 4000 people, erected a blockade along Québec's Highway 138, the main artery along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. The blockade was a protest against Plan Nord and dams being built along the Romaine River, about two to three hours northeast of their community. Highway 138 is the only way, except by boat, to access the inland areas along the north shore. It's also the only road into this part of Québec, and facilitates most of the industrial development that happens in this region.

Among the activists coming to Vermont is Elyse Vollant, an Innu grandmother who in June was arrested at the blockade, along with several others from the community. After the blockade was removed by dozens of riot police and Surete du Québec (Quebec state police), the Innu erected an encampment alongside 138.

Many Innu feel that the Charest government has ignored their concerns and traditional right to the land.  While some tribal councils have signed on to the Romaine project, other Innu view these councils as colonial forms of government that were set up by the Québec government without much consent from Innu decades ago.

According to Vermont activists working with the Innu, Mani-Utenam has not signed any agreements around the Romaine project.  However, Hydro-Québec has started clear cutting swaths of forest near their community for the transmission lines that will will carry power from the dams. For more on the Innu protests from earlier this year, check out this piece by Alexis Lathem in Toward Freedom.

Seven Days spoke with Vollant last weekend by phone in advance of her trip to Burlington. (French interpretation courtesy of Andrew Simon.)

SEVEN DAYS: Under Canadian law, do the Innu people have any legal rights or say over how this land will be used?

ELYSE VOLLANT: In general, First Nations have the right to a say over what happens in their territory. The communities affected held two referenda and said no to the dam being constructed. Hydro-Quebec, even after the referenda, has continued their construction work, putting in pylons for the dam... We have a right to determine what goes on in our territory and Hydro-Québec is not really listening to us when they continue the construction. 

Continue reading "Activists From Québec's Innu First Nation To Protest This Weekend's New England Governors' Conference in Burlington" »

Hold the Applause: Sorrell, Sessions and Super PACs in Vermont

Updated below with comment from Sorrell challenger T.J. Donovan


Did a campaign finance decision handed down last month by U.S. District Judge William K. Sessions III limit the role of money in Vermont politics — or did it open up the floodgates?

If you're Attorney General Bill Sorrell, it depends when you ask.

A day after Sessions sided with the state in Vermont Right to Life Committee v. Sorrell, the attorney general's office issued a press release touting the decision as a victory for Vermont's campaign finance laws.

"Attorney General William Sorrell applauded the decision," the June press release reads, quoting Sorrell as saying, "The Court's ruling provides resounding confirmation of the validity of Vermont's campaign finance disclosure laws and the State's ability to address Vermonter's [sic] concerns about the influence of money in politics."

Fast-forward a month to Wednesday, when a new press release issued by the AG's office announced that, "in light of" Sessions' decision, so-called "super PACS" in Vermont are free to raise as much as they want from whomever they want and spend it however they like — so long as they do not directly coordinate with political campaigns.

Continue reading "Hold the Applause: Sorrell, Sessions and Super PACs in Vermont" »

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