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February 10, 2014

Essex Junction Considers New Land-Use Code to Prevent Unscrupulous Massage Parlors

Seiwa PhotoOn Tuesday, the Village of Essex Junction Board of Trustees will consider proposed changes to its land development code that would make it more difficult to open massage parlors that allow criminal activities on their premises. The measure, introduced by village trustee Elaine Sopchak, comes in response to revelations last year by Seven Days that at least three Chittenden County massage parlors, including the now-defunct Seiwa Spa in Essex Junction (seen right in a May 2013 photo), were allegedly offering sex for money, possibly by female workers who were the victims of human trafficking.

The proposal, scheduled for discussion at the board's February 11 meeting, would create a new section of the village's land development code that specifically targets massage establishments. According to Sopchak, the new code would define what constitutes a massage parlor and would require a public hearing before one may open, as well as routine inspections and an annually renewable business permit.

The new code would also place physical restrictions on such businesses, such as prohibiting sleeping quarters on the premises, banning locks on massage room doors and not allowing customers to enter and exit from the rear of the building. Sopchak, who's been working closely on the new code with Essex Police Chief Brad LaRose, said that many of the proposed changes are borrowed from a model ordinances developed by the Polaris Project, an international anti-human-trafficking group based in Washington, D.C.

Continue reading "Essex Junction Considers New Land-Use Code to Prevent Unscrupulous Massage Parlors" »

February 08, 2014

The Weekly 7: This Week in Vermont News

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Each weekday, Seven Days scans the news across the Vermont media landscape to find the smartest, best and most compelling stories. We bundle them up in an email and send them out to our subscribers early each afternoon. It's called the Daily 7.

So which Vermont news stories are you reading? And which should you be reading? Here are the stories you clicked on most from this week's editions of the Daily 7:

 

#1Disharmony on Prospect Street: A Dispute Between Neighbors Strikes a Sour Note
By Alicia Freese, Seven Days — Wednesday, February 5

A feud between neighbors over a Burlington man's home guitar workshop has gone on for a year and a half and could reach the Vermont Supreme Court.

 

#2 Potent Synthetic Being Sold as Heroin Causes Three Vermont Deaths
By Taylor Dobbs, Vermont Public Radio — Thursday, February 6

The Department of Health says three people in Addison County died after overdosing on what they thought was heroin but was actually the prescription painkiller Fentanyl.

Continue reading "The Weekly 7: This Week in Vermont News" »

February 06, 2014

This Week's Issue: A Neighborly Noise Feud in Burlington, 'Border' Security and Maple Saplings

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Find these news and politics stories in this week's Seven Days...

February 04, 2014

Burlington Telecom Deal Could Be Big Win for Weinberger — And for Taxpayers?

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The administration of Mayor Miro Weinberger appears to have negotiated a good deal for the city in the proposed $10.5 million settlement of Citibank's $33.5 million lawsuit over troubles at Burlington Telecom.

While the settlement would pay off the city-owned utility's debt to Citibank, it does not immediately reimburse taxpayers for an additional $16.9 million improperly spent by BT — although Weinberger said in announcing the deal Monday that it could eventually lead to at least partial reimbursement.

And the settlement may eventually come at the price of ceding control of the city-owned utility to private interests, as well as requiring taxpayers to cover at least a portion of the $1.3 million city contribution to the settlement.

The plan unveiled Monday will likely lead to the city ceding majority ownership to an outside partner or partners  within four years, Weinberger said. While corporate interests would be most likely to have the necessary cash, the local group working to form a telecom co-op could conceivably emerge as the new owner, Weinberger said.

Alan Matson, a leader of the co-op effort, said in an interview that his group will seek to “seize this opportunity” to keep BT in local hands and under democratic control. But the fledgling co-op, which has so far raised less than $300,000 from supporters, will have to achieve a stunning financial breakthrough in order to come up with the $6 million “bridge loan” the city needs to pay off part of its debt to Citibank. 

Weinberger said at the news conference that “investment banks” would be the likeliest source of the bridge financing. 

Continue reading "Burlington Telecom Deal Could Be Big Win for Weinberger — And for Taxpayers?" »

January 31, 2014

On Paid Sick Leave, Top Vermont Dems Are Noncommittal

Paid sick leave hearing 1.30.14
John Dubie, owner of Burlington's Pearl Street Beverage, testified against paid sick leave legislation Thursday at the Statehouse.

With a reference to the world of Don Draper, President Obama renewed his call for mandatory paid sick leave Tuesday night in his State of the Union address

"A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship," he said. "And you know what, a father does, too. It's time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a 'Mad Men' episode."

But the president's full-throated support for the idea isn't exactly echoed by Vermont's Democratic leaders. As a committee in the Vermont House takes up legislation that would require businesses to provide employees up to seven days per year in accrued, paid sick leave, top Dems have been hesitant to take a side.

Continue reading "On Paid Sick Leave, Top Vermont Dems Are Noncommittal" »

January 22, 2014

Burlington's 'Civic Cloud' Wins $35K Grant From the Knight Foundation

800px-Cisco-Gigabit-Switch-Router-Performance-Route-Processor-0aEarlier this month, Techie.com dubbed Burlington one of the most promising tech hubs to watch in 2014; today, an innovative coalition of Vermont groups calling itself the Civic Cloud Collaborative demonstrated why. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced today that it's awarding the Collaborative a $35,000 grant from its Prototype Fund.

The coalition will use the funding to develop an online space — a so-called “Civic Cloud” — for community-minded, nonprofit entities to expand their digital footprint. Members of the Collaborative include the civic-hacking group Code for BTV, the public-access television station CCTV Center for Media and Democracy and the web-based music platform Big Heavy World

In an email to Seven Days, Big Heavy World executive director James Lockridge explained that the Civic Cloud is essentially "an internet makerspace."

Continue reading "Burlington's 'Civic Cloud' Wins $35K Grant From the Knight Foundation" »

December 11, 2013

Media Note: Condensed USA Today Editions Coming to the Burlington Free Press

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Like USA Today AND the Burlington Free Press? If so, Gannett has a deal for you!

The Virginia-based media company announced today that it's inserting condensed versions of its flagship newspaper into 35 local dailies, including the Burlington Free Press. The so-called "Butterfly" edition of USA Today runs about 10 pages, up to 22 on Sundays, and is already active in four markets (here's the memo USA Today's publisher wrote when the pilot project was announced in September). The Freeps and 30 other local papers will get theirs beginning in early 2014.

Continue reading "Media Note: Condensed USA Today Editions Coming to the Burlington Free Press" »

December 09, 2013

Media Note: WCAX's Kristin Carlson Decamps to Green Mountain Power

Kristin CarlsonWorcester native Kristin Carlson got her first gig at WCAX-TV as an intern after her junior year at Syracuse University. When she graduated the next year, she recalls, she phoned then-news director Marselis Parsons, who offered her a job on the spot.

"I never even had to put together a resume," she says.

Now, 14 years later, Carlson is leaving Channel 3 to join the state's electricity behemoth, Green Mountain Power. The company on Monday named Carlson its next "media director." She'll replace executive Steve Terry, who is retiring for the second time as director of GMP's communications shop.

"I've only ever worked for Channel 3," Carlson says. "It's always been my passion. I love reporting — love it. Nothing can ever replace this."

But after GMP approached her about the prospect roughly two weeks ago, she says, Carlson came to the conclusion that working for the power company would bring new challenges and the same pride she feels working for WCAX.

"I've had the privilege of working for a company I respect with people I respect," she says. "This is a similar opportunity. I respect all my interactions with Green Mountain Power and the people there. I'm excited by what they're doing."

Continue reading "Media Note: WCAX's Kristin Carlson Decamps to Green Mountain Power" »

December 05, 2013

Demonstrators Tell SoBu McDonald's 'We're Not Lovin' Poverty Pay'

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On top of the customary musical accompaniment to their Happy Meals, customers at the McDonald's on Williston Road in South Burlington were serenaded on Thursday with a noontime chant of "Hold the burgers, hold the fries, make our wages supersize!"

About two dozen protesters brought their demand for livable wages into the busy fast-food eatery as McDonald's workers looked on silently — and seemingly stunned. It was unclear how much those workers make; local managers also declined to comment on the local manifestation of a nationwide day of walkouts and solidarity demonstrations at fast-food restaurants in support of a $15-an-hour wage.

The demonstrators weren't at all reticent. One of them led several others in the "mic check" call-and-response popularized by the Occupy Wall Street movement.

"On this day ..." the leader shouted.

Her fellow protesters joined in with this chant: " ...Workers in 100 cities/are going on strike/and people like us/are standing with them/to demand McDonald's respect the right/ to work with dignity."

A South Burlington police officer rushed into the restaurant at that point and told the protestors they had to leave. They filed out a couple of minutes later, resuming their chant and sign-waving on the sidewalk for half an hour as several passing motorists honked in response. 

Continue reading "Demonstrators Tell SoBu McDonald's 'We're Not Lovin' Poverty Pay'" »

December 04, 2013

This Week's Issue: COTS Stations, Mobile Meals and 2014 Election News

 

Cover-120413Boy, how about those F-35s, huh? When you're done reading about the planes on this here blog, check out the stories on other newsy topics in this week's Seven Days.

Read all about it in print, online or on the iOS app.

Cover photo of folk singer Rik Palieri by Matthew Thorsen.

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