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July 2008

July 23, 2008

Al Jazeera English and Burlington Telecom Ink Deal

This just out of Burlington City Hall: The City of Burlington’s municipal telecom company, Burlington Telecom (BT), has reached a contractual agreement to continue carrying the Al Jazeera English (AJE) channel.

AJE is an English-language international news channel based in Doha, Qatar.  It has been carried on Burlington Telecom since January of 2007, and is currently offered as a channel in its second-level tier of channels.  It is not available in BT’s basic tier of channels. Whether Burlington Telecom should continue to carry AJE was a recent subject of consideration by the Burlington Telecom Advisory Committee and Cable Advisory Committee.  On June 24, 2008, both committees jointly and unanimously recommended that Burlington Telecom keep the channel.  This recommendation was advisory and was forwarded to Burlington Telecom, Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss, and the Burlington City Council.  Burlington Telecom negotiates all channel contracts on behalf of the City and authority to execute such contracts rests with the City’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). Consistent with the practice regarding all BT carriage agreements, terms of the contract with AJE were not disclosed.  The contract with AJE was signed by CAO Leopold today.

What effect today's announcement will have on the recent effort to bring the issue to voters is unclear. A recently formed group called the Defenders Council of Vermont is collecting signatures to put the matter to a public vote in the November general election.

July 22, 2008

Vermont Compost Company appeals ruling

I didn't have enough room in this week's column to provide updates on the ongoing compost controversies, so readers following the story can tumble these tidbits around for now:

Vermont Compost Company has officially appealed the administrative order issued by the Natural Resources Board. That order, if approved by a judge, would have levied an $18,000 fine, forced an immediate shutdown of the compost operations, and required the company to remove some buildings and compost from their Montpelier site, costing them tens of thousands of dollars.

Karl Hammer, the company's founder, has appealed the order, which will keep the composter in business for now. Hammer's friends, led by NOFA-VT, have set up a legal fund to help defray the cost of the appeal. Interested in helping out? You can mail checks to Vermont Compost Company Legal Fund, c/o Vermont Compost Company, 1996 Main St., Montpelier, VT 05602.  Or, you can visit the company's website and find a handy PayPal widget.

No more news on the Intervale Center's ongoing discussions with the attorney general's office and two major state agencies. For some background on the center's problems and issues facing the Intervale as a whole, check out this Fair Game column.

I'm not sure what the outcome of the Intervale mess will be, but I think most people have come to the conclusion that its current operation is too large for where it is. A smaller demonstration compost project should be kept somewhere down in the Intervale to help keep the soils there healthy and the farm-to-table loop intact. But solid waste diversion for the county may need to happen at one, or two, other sites around the county.

New Arrival!


Seven Days is excited to welcome a new member to the family!

Online Editor Extraordinaire, Cathy Resmer, and partner Ann-Elise have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of their second child... and so have we!

Ivy Adelia Resmer was born at 6:37 a.m. Monday morning - just one day after her official due date. She weighed in at 8.7 lbs and is 20.5 inches long. Both moms and baby are doing great! I have a sneaking suspicion that first child Graham, age 2 1/2, is excited too. Finally, someone to share his love of trucks with!

Congratulations to the whole family... from the entire Seven Days family! We can't wait to meet her!

July 20, 2008

Live Blogging Technical Difficulties

Shay Totten just called from the gubernatorial candidate debate in Waitsfield. Apparently the wireless signal is not as robust as he hoped, so he's not sure how much he'll be able to post, if at all.

He says the debate is being held in a pole barn. He'd stand outside to get the signal, but it's pouring rain.

When he called, he told me he was having some problems, and then I heard some noise in the background. He went quiet for a few seconds.

"Well," he said, "Peter Diamondstone just got arrested. And he's being led away by two state troopers." He didn't sound surprised.

Check back for updates — he'll post 'em when he can get a signal.

Live blogging governor's debate

Yep, the title says it all. Weather and WiFi permitting, I just couldn't sit back and let the Free Press be the only live blogger at tonight's first gubernatorial debate.

So, I'm playing around right now with the live-blogging software Cathy Resmer used during the EpikOne conference. We'll see how it goes.

Hope you can join in.

July 17, 2008

Douglas on Economy: "Going Quite Well"

This morning, the Times Argus followed up on yesterday's Blurt post by Shay Totten on Bill O'Reilly's ambush of Gov. Douglas in Philadelphia.

Shay alluded to Douglas coming off in a less-than-flattering light at the end of the segment, and I presumed he meant O'Reilly's characterization of the governor as weak on sexual predators.

Douglas' relative strength on the issue will likely become clearer when Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Vermont's laws regarding sex offenders begin next month. But I submit that the governor continues to show signs of delusion about the state of the economy in the Green Mountain State.

Via the transcript the TA helpfully appended to this morning's story:

WATTERS: I mean, how much damage in terms of international and national reputation. And Vermont's really getting a bad name after all these cases, case after case after case.

DOUGLAS: Well, things are going quite well for us economically.

Apparently, Douglas hasn't seen the most recent issue of New England Economic Indicators, a monthly publication of the New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston, wherein the  Fed notes that "Vermont was one of New England's poorest-performing economies in 2007."

 As a metric of overall economic health, the state’s economic activity index grew a meager 0.9 percent between December 2006 and December 2007.  This was the slowest growth rate among New England states, and the Green Mountain State’s own worst performance since 2002.

It would be hard to believe that, even if the governor just hasn't had time to read a non-partisan analysis of the state's economy under his leadership, he isn't aware of the same troubling indicators noted by the Fed: the loss of jobs in the construction and manufacturing industries; a decline in Vermont exports; the precipitous drop in housing prices and sales.

The Brooke Bennett tragedy, while worthy of introspection by Vermont's policymakers, has already shown its power to distract. It would be a shame if, in the coming election season, the political pandering over Vermont's treatment of sex offenders was to undermine a substantive discussion on the economy, which, contrary to Douglas' fact-challenged effort to change the subject in Philadelphia, is not going "quite well" at all.

July 16, 2008

FOX's O'Reilly Confronts Douglas

There's no one who can capitalize on tragedy and make it political like FOX bloviator-in-chief Bill O'Reilly, who seems to relish beating up on the liberal loons in Vermont. In separate reports in the past two weeks, O'Reilly has placed us pedophile enablers in his righteous crosshairs.

Here's the link to a great video from the O'Reilly Factor the other night. Watch FOX producer, Jesse Watters — who ambushed House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg, in 2006 in the statehouse cafeteria — confront Gov. Jim Douglas outside a weekend meeting of the National Governor's Association in Philadelphia.

Here's a sampling of how it went between Watters and Douglas:

WATTERS: About how many dead girls are we going to tolerate here? I mean, over and over again, it's another story after another story out of Vermont?

DOUGLAS: One dead girl is one too many. I attended the funeral of Brooke Bennett last week and met with her family, her friends, with people in the community. It's a devastating impact, and we need to be sure that we do something about it. As the pastor said at the funeral, Brooke's life will have meaning if we take action, and I plan to do that.

Check out the whole video. Douglas seems congenial enough during the confrontation, but it ends on a note that I don't think even the governor would admit is flattering. But, that's always the purpose of these hit-and-run pieces.

This was O'Reilly's take on the interview with Douglas:

Well, obviously, Governor Douglas is blaming the legislature, but you, sir, must lead. Your voice has not been loud enough. I think he's a good man, but I don't think he's a strong man.

According to Douglas spokesman Jason Gibbs, the FOX crew didn't request an interview. But Gibbs said the administration knew the crew was there to "interview" governors of states that do not have a Jessica's Law. That law, named for a Florida girl, has a 25-year minimum sentence for child molesters. Some in Vermont, including Lt.Gov. Brian Dubie, believe it is time for Vermont to adopt such a law.

This is not the first time O'Reilly has focused his ire and e-mail-writing minions on Vermont. Two years ago, after a judge gave a 60-day sentence to a child molester — in a convoluted attempt to get the molester into treatment — O'Reilly came in with cameras ablazing.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Watters making a return visit, so keep a watch on moving bushes and people leaping out from in between parked cars, mic in hand.

Farm Aid comes to New England

Farmaid For the first time the annual Farm Aid concert is coming to New England, featuring Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews. The show will take place on Saturday, September 20th, in Mansfield MA. Tickets are already on sale for "FarmYard" members and go on sale to the general public July 28th.

I remember back in 1985 when they started out. It was a pretty big deal. That was back when MTV played music videos. Maybe I'll have to take a trek down to Massachusetts for this one.

We could use a little Farm Aid here in Vermont what with the state regulators trying to shut down our composters. Anti-compost, anti-wind farm — I'm starting to feel like I don't know where I live anymore.

July 15, 2008

The Census Closet

It's been more than a decade since I came out of the ol' closet and told family and friends that I was attracted to women — a big deal both at my conservative college and in my Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist family.

These days I don't lie about myself or my family to anyone — except the federal government.

Every year on my tax forms, I tell the feds that I'm single, even though my partner and I have been civil unioned for 8 years and have one son, and another baby on the way (due any day!).

And in 2010, when the census rolls around, it looks like I'll have to lie once again. According to this article from the Mercury News, I'll have to say that Ann-Elise and I are "unmarried partners." Even though we made a legal commitment to each other that's recognized by the state of Vermont — even though all of our family and friends still tell us how much they enjoyed our wedding.

Why won't the U.S. government count same-sex married couples in the census? There are two states where gay couples can legally wed, in addition to the places where they can be joined in civil union. Why not count them? The government spokesman quoted in the story says they're not counting married same-sex couples because no federal agency collects data about them. Huh?

Here's demographer Gary Gates dissent:

"I just think it's bad form for the census to change a legal response to an incorrect response," said Gary Gates of the Williams Institute, a think tank at the University of California-Los Angeles law school that studies gay-related public policy issues. "That goes against everything the census stands for."

Gates, a prominent demographer who was consulted by Census Bureau officials about counting legally married same-sex couples, said one result is that the census will undercount marriages in states with gay marriage. And because the bureau defines a "family" as two or more people related by birth, adoption or marriage, it also will remove many same-sex married couples from being counted as families.

"It's a systematic hiding not only of married gay couples, but gay couples as families, which I would argue is a fundamentally political decision," Gates said...

"It's an official closet," Gates said, "that the government has built."

It sucks being forced back into the closet. Sucky, suck-dog closet.

A League of Their Own

Ldqv Taking a break from writing, researching and talking about the politics of compost this weekend, I had a chance to catch the Pride parade in Burlington with my kids.

We waved at some friends, and their kids, and then the best damn float in the parade passed: The League of Drag Queen Voters, a float gussied up by none other than the gals from The House of LeMay.

Now, that's a voting league I want to know more about, I said to myself. Well, the wait is over. Just tonight I heard from Amber LeMay, who sent me a note letting me know about the League. Burlington's Democracy statue never looked put to better use.

Here's the quickie: "With the motto  'Don't blow it, VOTE!' The League of Draq Queen Voters (LDVQ) is out to assure that people understand the importance of their participation in the upcoming fall elections. "With drastic differences in the candidates and parties, it's going to bring the wackos out," says Amber LeMay, founder of the new voter information group.

You had me at "motto," Amber. I offer my services as moderator of any debate you gals want to host. I think the problem would be getting the candidates to find Beaver Pond on a map. Once in town, though, I hear the Hot Damn Trailer Park is easy. To find, that is.

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

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