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November 2012

November 30, 2012

The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers

Scoreboard.newThe Scoreboard took a week off to bask in turkey and stuffing, but today it's back in full force.

Here's our list of the week's winners and losers in Vermont news and politics:

Winners:

Crepe Debate — First, a disclosure: I love me a good crepe. Also, I love getting paid! All that aside, the debate that erupted this week in social media, the blogosphere and even in the good ol' lamestream media about Skinny Pancake's exemption from Burlington's living wage ordinance has been fascinating to behold. First reported by the Burlington Free Press, #crepegate found a new home in the comments section of Green Mountain Daily, where Democratic State Auditor-elect Doug Hoffer and Skinny Pancake founder Benjamin Adler engaged in a spirited and edifying (and edible?) exchange. Good on 'em for hashing it out in public.

Ex-Candidates — Turns out losing ain't that bad. This week, defeated lieutenant governor candidate Cassandra Gekas got a gig at the Department of Vermont Health Access, while defeated state auditor candidate Vince Illuzzi seems headed for a lobbying job at the Vermont State Employees Association. Lesson: Next time you need a new job, run for statewide office.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters — Near the end of a tough year for the Waterbury java giant, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters announced impressive third quarter earnings Tuesday, prompting a serious surge in the company's stock price. Analysts cited strong growth in its K-Cup packet and brewer sales. We'll drink to that.

Losers after the break...

Continue reading "The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers" »

Gekas to Join Department of Vermont Health Access

GekasSen. Vince Illuzzi isn't the only ex-statewide candidate with a shiny new job.

Cassandra Gekas, a Progressive and Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor this year, tells Seven Days she's lined up a new gig at the Department of Vermont Health Access. She starts Monday as DVHA's health access policy and planning chief.

"As I was thinking about what I wanted to do post-election, it's really important that I'm doing work I care about and that's going to make the most difference to the lives of Vermonters," Gekas says. "For me, I'm going to miss the Statehouse, but for the time being I think it's really important for me to focus my energies and skills on making sure we get to single-payer."

Part of the Agency of Human Services, DVHA manages the state's publicly funded health insurance programs. Led by former state representative Mark Larson, it's charged with implementing the state's health insurance exchange, which was mandated by the federal Affordable Care Act (That's "Obama-care" to all you Fox Newsers).

Gekas will take the lead on policy research and analysis relating to the development of the exchange, according to a job description prepared by the department.

Continue reading "Gekas to Join Department of Vermont Health Access" »

Vergennes Rep. Greg Clark Struck and Killed by Car

GregclarkState Rep. Greg Clark, a Republican who had represented Vergennes in the Statehouse since 2002, was killed in a car accident on Route 7 in Waltham this morning. He was 65.

The Addison County Independent reports that Clark was scraping ice off his car's windshield when he was struck by a passing car. More from the Addy Indy:

“It is shocking,” said Rep. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, who had been Clark’s colleague in the two-seat Addison-3 Vermont House district for the past four years.

...

“Oh my God, he was such a nice man,” she said.

Indeed, Clark was known as a gregarious, conscientious man both at the Statehouse and in the halls of Mount Abe, where he built a solid rapport with other lawmakers and his students.

“When he stood up on the House floor, he would make a comment that was not only germane to the issue, but that also made everyone laugh,” said Lanpher of her colleague. Clark and Lanpher easily won re-election to new two-year terms earlier this month.

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Morning Read: Leahy Privacy Bill Sails Through Judiciary Committee

MorningreadRemember back when everybody was wigging out about Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) allegedly pulling a switcheroo and swapping out a bill that would increase electronic privacy for one that would erode it?

As you may recall, CNET's Declan McCullagh reported last week in a thinly-sourced story that Leahy had "quietly rewritten" legislation originally intended to require law enforcement officials to obtain warrants before accessing old emails. Citing anonymous sources, McCullagh reported that Leahy had flip-flopped and planned to back a new version of the bill "giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law."

Well, Vermont's senior senator put that rumor to rest Thursday when he presided over a unanimous Senate Judiciary Committee voice vote strengthening email privacy rules, as the New York Times reports:

Senator Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the committee, was an architect of the 1986 law and is leading the effort to remake it. He said at the meeting on Thursday that e-mails stored by third parties should receive the same protection as papers stored in a filing cabinet in an individual’s house.

“Like many Americans, I am concerned about the growing and unwelcome intrusions into our private lives in cyberspace,” Mr. Leahy said. “I also understand that we must update our digital privacy laws to keep pace with the rapid advances in technology.”

Continue reading "Morning Read: Leahy Privacy Bill Sails Through Judiciary Committee" »

November 29, 2012

Times Argus Says it Knew Reporter's Criminal Record When Hiring Him

Times Argus front pageIn a front page story in its own paper, the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus disclosed Thursday morning that it was aware of a reporter's history as a convicted sex offender when it hired and assigned him to cover cops and courts.

Veteran Times Argus and Rutland Herald reporter Susan Smallheer writes that the reporter in question, Eric Blaisdell, "immediately disclosed his criminal history" to Times Argus editor Steven Pappas when applying for the job in June. Smallheer writes:

Pappas said he had checked Blaisdell’s references and talked to the N.H. Department of Corrections. Everyone said that Blaisdell posed no risk to the general public, was contrite, and was working hard to put his life back together.

Smallheer's story, which also ran in the Herald, comes a day after Seven Days reported on Blaisdell's criminal record. A Times Argus editor told Seven Days in that story that he had no knowledge of Blaisdell's criminal past and other top editors and managers declined to correct that statement.

The 27-year-old reporter was arrested in 2007 after New Hampshire law enforcement officials and an online vigilante group both caught Blaisdell conversing online with individuals posing as underage girls. Blaisdell pled guilty to three charges of using the internet to solicit sex from minors and served more than eight months in prison; he remains on probation.

Smallheer quotes Times Argus and Rutland Herald publisher John Mitchell defending his company's decision to hire Blaisdell:

“I applaud the efforts of the criminal justice system in fairly administering punishment to those who have broken the law and also offering an opportunity for rehabilitation,” said publisher R. John Mitchell in a statement to The Times Argus and its sister publication, the Rutland Herald. “This is an incredibly well supervised and restricted situation by the judge, the probation officer and a therapist, I am not going to second guess that process, am willing to participate in it and give it a chance.”

Smallheer quotes two national media ethics experts — one of whom, Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute, was also quoted in the original Seven Days story — raising questions about the Times Argus's decision to let Blaisdell cover sex crimes and sex offenders. They also argue that the paper should have been more transparent about the situation with its audience.

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Lawyers Spar Over Presidential Candidate's $50 Million Libel Suit Against St. Mike's Student Journalists

HaywoodJohn D. Haywood caught a flight from North Carolina to Burlington on Wednesday to tell a judge why St. Michael's College should pay him $50 million in a libel lawsuit aimed at student journalists.

Haywood (pictured) ran for president of the United States as a Democrat in the New Hampshire primary this year and blames a profile of him written by St. Mike's students for sinking his White House dreams. (Click here for background on the case.)

Students in Professor David Mindich's "Media and American Politics" class have been profiling lesser-known presidential candidates in every election since 2004, with the goal of giving voice to all candidates. Haywood complained that students grossly misrepresented his positions in the article, published on a college website 10 days before last January's primary, and says the errors cost him the race against President Obama. Haywood received just 432 votes, meaning he lost to Obama by a ratio of 115 to 1.

"Anyone who read their profile wouldn't touch my website with a 10-foot pole," Haywood told U.S. Magistrate Judge John Conroy on Wednesday. "Things they said about my positions are so extreme, so ridiculous."

Continue reading "Lawyers Spar Over Presidential Candidate's $50 Million Libel Suit Against St. Mike's Student Journalists" »

This Week's Paper: A Reporter With a Record; Marijuana Dispensaries Face Financial Pressures

618-f-drugwarIn this week's print edition of Seven Days, you'll find these bits of news:

 

Morning Read: Budget Cuts Might Keep F-35s Out of Vermont

Morning-readFor the last few months, Vermonters have been arguing over whether the Air Force should bring its new F-35 fighter jets to Burlington International Airport. 

Anyone following the debate should take a few minutes to read the F-35 story in this morning's New York Times ("Costliest Jet, Years in Making, Sees the Enemy: Budget Cuts") The Times does a thorough review of the F-35 project, which is facing increased scrutiny as we approach the fiscal cliff.

Why? Because each jet is now expected to cost up to $137 million to build. According to the NYT:

The jets would cost taxpayers $396 billion, including research and development, if the Pentagon sticks to its plan to build 2443 by the late 2030s. That would be nearly four times as much as any other weapons system and two-thirds of the $589 billion the United States has spent on the war in Afghanistan. The military is also desperately trying to figure out how to reduce the long-term costs of operating the planes, now projected at $1.1 trillion.

That's a chunk of change. Here's another eye-popping number: 24 million. That's how many lines of code are required to make these planes work. And they're not all "secured and tested" yet. The new general who's about to begin overseeing the project calls that "the gorilla in the room." 

Continue reading "Morning Read: Budget Cuts Might Keep F-35s Out of Vermont" »

November 28, 2012

Illuzzi in Talks to Lobby for State Employees Union

IlluzziOn the heels of losing a race for state auditor, Sen. Vince Illuzzi (R-Essex/Orleans) says he's in talks with the Vermont State Employees Association about a "lobbyist and legal role" at the 5200-member union.

"We're talking," Illuzzi says. "That's all I can say on the record."

The longtime state senator, who's leaving the upper chamber in January after 32 years in office, says he would not become a full-time employee of the organization; instead he'd work on a contract basis. As such, he says he'd be able to continue in his part-time elected job as Essex County State's Attorney.

"It's a contracted position that reflects I have my own law practice and serve as state's attorney," he says.

VSEA spokesman Doug Gibson confirms that Illuzzi and the union are in discussions.

"It's not formal. He's talked with us and we've talked to him. Nothing's been signed or sealed yet," Gibson says. "I know the board and [executive director Mark Mitchell] have talked with him. I'm not sure there's a formal offer on the table, but they've talked."

VTDigger.org's Anne Galloway first reported news of the negotiations earlier Wednesday.

Continue reading "Illuzzi in Talks to Lobby for State Employees Union" »

Is the F-35 Harmful to Health? Burlington Board Seeks Answers

F-35A Burlington Board of Health meeting Tuesday night on the effects of basing F-35 fighter planes at the city-owned airport was bookended by often-emotional condemnations of the plane's anticipated impact and by a military officer's assurance that the jets will prove to be good neighbors.

In between, three experts offered generally critical testimony on the likely health consequences of stationing up to two dozen of the fighters at BTV.

Noise produced by the F-35 "is probably going to be quite similar to what we have with the F-16" currently based at the airport, said Vermont Air National Guard Lt. Col. Luke "Torch" Ahmann, who has piloted F-16s for the past 12 years.

Dressed in a flight suit and clicking his way through a Power Point presentation in city hall's Contois auditorium, Ahmann said the F-35 will be louder than the F-16 in some locations near the airport but quieter in others.

Continue reading "Is the F-35 Harmful to Health? Burlington Board Seeks Answers" »

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