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November 2008

November 21, 2008

Gov Hints at Same-Sex Marriage Veto

Folks who missed last night's evening news on Vermont Public Radio missed an interesting report on whether Gov. Jim Douglas supports same-sex marriage. The answer? He doesn't.

But, will he veto the measure if it's passed by enough of a majority in the House and Senate? Too hard to tell. Sure, lawmakers will be spending most of their time in Montpelier come January talking about the budgetary woes facing the state and where to cut, and if to raise taxes and fees (and which ones).

As I reported in "Fair Game" this week, same-sex marriage advocates will be pushing hard for the legislature to take action and enact full marriage rights for gays and lesbians. The main problem with Vermont's civil union laws is that it some benefits — specifically around life or death questions — are not guaranteed in the way that they are thanks to the marriage bond.

On the campaign trail, Douglas said civil unions were working just fine and he saw no need to implement same-sex marriage.

He said the same during a Montpelier press conference today. Here's how VPR reported Douglas' comments:

"I think the current Civil Union law is sufficient it accords equality of rights to Vermonters in terms of their relationships and I think we should leave the law as it is my major concern and priority is the fiscal condition of our state government and the economic realities they we're confronting and I think it's important that we make those our top priorities...and not deal with issues that might divert our attention from that goal."

VPR reporter Bob Kinzel noted that Douglas rarely hints at whether he'll veto a bill, but the message he gave reporters was clear (at least I think it was clear):

"I never indicate what I might do when a bill gets to my desk but I've been quite clear that I don't support the legislation," he told VPR.

Beth Robinson, of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force, said Douglas shouldn't sell the legislature short on being able to handle more than one key issue at a time.

"The Legislature can absolutely do more than one thing at once," Robinson told the Associated Press. "The notion that working on civil rights takes away from these other issues really is a false one."

State Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor, has said he will introduce the same-sex marriage bill — as he has in past sessions. News of his plans this week drew at least one angry response. A woman called him at the statehouse and told him she was going to blow up his house.

How civil.

November 19, 2008

Why Can’t Progs and Dems Just Get Along?

Performing_arts_center_theatre In the most recent election Democrats and Progressives slugged it out (at least electorally) in several House races throughout the state — with one particularly charged race in the Queen City.

These races opened up some old wounds, and as a result many Vermont voters, post-election, still want to know whether the parties can work together, or if they'll remain stuck in a time-warp circa 1981.

Here are a few questions I've heard since the election:

  • Should the two parties merge?
  • Should the two parties create a joint primary system, perhaps utilizing IRV?
  • When they do compete, can they do so civilly?
  • Has the Democratic Party become a more comfortable home for progressives?
  • Has the Progressive Party run its course?
  • Should Progressives run in Democratic primaries (or vice versa)?

In the interest of promoting a dialogue about these issues, Seven Days is hosting a public forum. I'll be moderating a conversation with two Democrats and two Progressives on Dec. 4th at 7 p.m. in the Main Street Landing Film House in Burlington.

As of now, our four panelists will be:

  • Rep. Johanna Leddy Donovan, D-Burlington
  • Jane Knodell, City Councilor, P-Ward 2
  • Jake Perkinson, Chairman, Burlington City Democrats
  • Rep. David Zuckerman, P-Burlington

There is plenty of seating at the FIlm House (see the photo), so bring a friend and your questions (no rotting fruit or veggies please). The first part of the forum will feature questions I put to the panelists, and the rest of the questions will come from you, the audience.

Feel free to email me questions in advance as I would be happy to ask yours if you can't make it. You should also feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.

As with the event, I'm looking for spirited, but civil, debate and discussion.

We're also hoping that Channel 17 will be onhand to film the event, and possibly broadcast it live on Burlington Telecom.

Sen. Patrick Leahy Ranks #4 in Senate

Leahy_2 Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy's open contempt for former Democratic caucus member Sen. Joe Lieberman nabbed plenty of headlines (Sen. Bernie Sanders' quick follow-through made for quite the one-two punch). Of course, Lieberman will keep his plum chairmanship but lose a minor subcommittee chairmanship.

Despite the outcome not going his way (his colleagues kept Lieberman in his post by a 42-13 tally) he has something to crow about.

After the Senate shakeout in Alaska, with convicted felon and Republican Sen. Ted Stevens losing to Democrat Mark Begich, Leahy is moving up in seniority.

Stevens had been in office longer than Leahy, but with the Alaskan being sent packing it means Leahy is now the fourth-most senior member of the entire US Senate — and ahead of all Republicans.

The Democrats ahead of Leahy are Sens. Robert Byrd (WV), Ted Kennedy (MA) and Daniel Inouye (HI). Until last night, the most senior Republican was Stevens, and after him Sen. Richard Lugar (IN).

Sen. Inouye will be the new Appropriations Committee chairman. Leahy sits on that panel, too, and will be the most senior member after the chairman. Leahy heads up the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The iPhone Cometh

Specs_dimensions20080609 When Apple introduced the iPhone 3G, it was available in 22 countries (but not Vermont). Soon, the iPhone will be available in 77 different countries.

The background chatter has been intensifying in recent days about whether Vermonters will join the rest of the developing world and be able to buy (and use) the iPhone. Legally.

Seven Days even received several tips that folks visiting local Unicel stores (the carrier that AT&T is buying, the exclusive service carrier for the iPhone) were told that within weeks Unicel will be transformed into AT&T Wireless outlets.

A quick check uncovered that AT&T is hiring in Vermont. There was even some great discussions at iBrattleboro about jobs coming to the area.

The Burlington Free Press has had a couple of interesting blog posts about the coming of the iPhone, including this fun series of posts by Jackie Kazil. But business reporter Dan Mclean dashed all hopes in his most recent post. He's certainly repeating the conventional wisdom I've heard from certain powers-that-be in Vermont (see below).

That said, my local Unicel rep said it's likely an announcement about AT&T Wireless (and therefore the iPhone) coming to Vermont will happen within a week. But, it's not likely Unicel stores will be closed and remade into AT&T outlets until after the holiday season. I mean, really, why close down for a week to renovate when you could be selling phones, right?

Other iPhone watchers, including Don Mayer at Small Dog Electronics, and Stephen Wark, a spokesman for the Department of Public Service, aren't convinced that the deal will close that quickly. Both it could well into next year before iPhones become ubiquitous in the Green Mountains.

Continue reading "The iPhone Cometh" »

November 18, 2008

Welch to Host Electronic Town Meeting

Peterwelch Looking for something to do tomorrow night? Why not spend an hour on the phone with your congressman?

For the second time this year Vermont's lone congressman, Democrat Peter Welch, is asking Vermonters to join him via telephone to discuss the economic crisis and what Congress can do.

The Wednesday night telephone town hall is the second Welch has hosted this year. A June town hall drew more than 4,000 people.

Welch will answer Vermonters' phone questions from his DC office, and listen to Vermonters' ideas about how Congress can help working families during the economic crisis.

"As the fallout from the credit crisis hits Vermonters in the pocketbook, I want to hear from them how Congress can help cushion the blow," Welch said in a statement. "Now is the time to work together and think creatively about how we in Congress can help families struggling to make ends meet and get our economy back on track."

Vermonters wishing to participate in the call should dial 1-877-229-8493 and use PIN code 13785 anytime during the hourlong forum, which will begin at 7 p.m.

November 17, 2008

"Darn Tough" Times

Evasocks Some Vermont businesses are perfectly positioned to weather the economic storm — or any old storm, for that matter.

The check-out line snaked all the way through the factory during last Saturday's "Hunter's Widow Sock Sale" at Cabot Hosiery in Northfield. Hordes of shoppers waited up to 90 minutes to buy all kinds of socks — mostly warm ones — at very deep discounts. There were young dreadlock-sporting dads, Christmas-shopping grandmother and tattooed hipsters.

Customers bought approximately 50,000 pairs over the course of the weekend, according to Executive Vice President Ric Cabot -- an increase of 23 percent over last year. "We tried to get the point across in our advertising: Even though oil prices have come down, it's still expensive. If you have a good pair of socks, you can save money on your heating bills."

Something even more basic may be attracting a record number of customers to Cabot, source of the aptly named Darn Tough brand worn by the U.S. Marines. It's the comfort of knowing that something useful is still made right here in Vermont.

"I could go on and on about the value of manufacturing and what it does to people's psyches," Cabot says of the 100 locals who work at the factory. Once a year, they get to see their customers face to face.

On Saturday, we were happily clutching plastic bags stuffed full of wool, cotton and hemp. After all, you can't do much better than 20 pairs of quality, Vermont-made socks for $45 bucks. The sale runs again this weekend, Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Ed. Note: Seven Days videographer Eva Sollberger also went to the sock sale. This is her photo of her $150 worth of new socks.

Dem Backs out of Burlington Mayor's Race

Just one week after officially throwing his hat into the ring in hopes of challenging Progressive Mayor Bob Kiss in March, Democratic City Councilor Ed Adrian is backing out of the race.

Kiss, who has not officially announced his reelection bid, is up for his second three-year term in March. To date, Adrian and fellow Democratic city councilor Andy Montroll were the only Dems to announce their intention to challenge Kiss. An independent, Dan Smith, has been wooing both Dems and Republicans (along with some stray Progs), since the summer.

Republican lawmaker, and city council president, Kurt Wright has not yet ruled out a bid for mayor.

In a Sunday night email to supporters, Adrian wrote:

The thrust of my platform was to make Burlington a 21st Century city that would encourage families of all types to stay and move into Burlington. 

Thanks to all of you who have reached out to me in the interceding time period.  However, it has become evident to me that if I put 100% of my efforts into helping the families of Burlington, I will not be giving my young family the attention it deserves.  This decision has not been made lightly, however it has been made that much easier in that I am confident that the only other announced Democrat in the race, Andy Montroll will be striving towards many of the same goals that I planned to work on.  I will be working vigorously on Andy’s campaign and hope you will join me in that pursuit. 

It is also evident to me that were I to start down a similar path in the future, there are a number of bridges I need to build, as well as, some that I need to work on repairing.  Over the months and years to come, it is my intention to reach out to those who share similar ideological interests, even if our partisan allegiances differ. 

There's been some interesting back-and-forth between Adrian and Rep. Dave Zuckerman post-election. Haik Bedrosian over at BurlingtonPol has a good rundown in his post "Chittenden 3-4 Aftermath Bitter" including links to a dialogue in the comments section on Seven Days' blog What's Good

Democrats will caucus Dec. 3 at 6:30 PM at Champlain Elementary School on Pine Street. 

With the path cleared, it appears as if Montroll will be the Dem's choice. In 2006, Montroll challenged State Sen. Hinda Miller, and lost after a raucus caucus at Burlington High School.

November 14, 2008

Pro-Gay Marriage Demonstration Planned for Burlington

Fighth8_2 Dust off your placards, lace up your combat boots — there's a good, old-fashioned gay rights demonstration in Burlington tomorrow.

Gay activists and their allies nationwide were outraged last week when Californians voted for Proposition 8, which will amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages. Since then, a number of grassroots protests and demonstrations in support of marriage rights have taken place in California and across the country.

A new grassroots network has sprung up in response to this issue, and organizers nationwide are planning a national day of action tomorrow, Saturday, November 15.

Vermont Freedom to Marry is organizing the Burlington event, despite the fact that it may not help their cause. They've been quietly marshaling their forces for the past couple years, trying to build support for a bill in the legislature that would grant same-sex couples the right to marry (instead of just unionize civilly). From their website:

We've heard from several people around the state who want to take part in the Join the Impact national day of protests about Proposition 8. In truth, we've been wringing hands about this. Given where we are in the marriage movement in Vermont, protests aren't exactly going to advance our efforts, but people are calling on Vermont to Reclaim its Leadership Role — It's time!

We're shifting gears, and we're asking you to join us this Saturday to acknowledge the painful and discriminatory vote in California while urging Vermont to Reclaim its Leadership Role by passing marriage equality in 2009!

I'm sure FTM doesn't want to jeopardize the progress they've made by attracting any negative attention that might galvanize the opposition. But what the heck, right? Everybody's doing it.

Get in on the action tomorrow at Burlington's City Hall Park at 1:30 p.m.

Former Freeps Columnist Buys Franklin County Weekly

Ed Shamy, former news columnist for The Burlington Free Press, and his wife, Kim Asch, have purchased the County Courier, the weekly newspaper for Franklin County.

According to a press release from Asch, Shamy will be editor and publisher of the 130-year-old newspaper. The sale by Alison Dubilier, who ran the paper for 16 years, was completed Nov. 13. The County Courier’s office will remain at its Main Street address in Enosburg Falls. The paper is published on Thursdays.

“Newspapers that are locally owned and community focused are the future of the industry, and I relish the opportunity to build on the County Courier’s legacy,” said Shamy. “This paper is going to be a must-read for everyone who lives or works in Franklin County.”

Shamy was let go from the Free Press in August when the paper's parent company, Gannett, cut a total of 600 newspaper jobs and trimmed another 400 positions through attrition.

Dubilier, told Seven Days' Shay Totten, "I'm so glad to be turning it over to someone who cares about community journalism and knows what community papers are all about. We have had a number of editors and consequently a number of "voices" through the years, but Ed coming on makes so much sense since he has many years of editorial experience."

November 13, 2008

Vermont Tent Goes to Washington

Darfur_tent Last weekend, while visiting Washington D.C., I saw hundreds of painted tents staked out on the National Mall. Turns out they were "Tents of Hope" sent from all over the U.S. Some of the tents would be shipped to Darfur in partnership with the D.C.-based Darfur Peace and Development.

Today, I learned that the only Vermont Tent of Hope was painted at four sites in Middlebury. The painting project was coordinated by Ellen McKay, program coordinator at the Middlebury College Chaplain's Office, and carried out in partnership with the Middlebury Area Clergy Association.

Last week, McKay shipped the tent on a Greyhound for $90, and her nephew picked it up from a D.C. bus station. After heading to Washington, McKay and her 10-year-old son set up the tent last Friday night on the Mall.

When they finished, she tells me, there were about 25 other tents. When they returned in the morning, there were more than 400. "It was pretty wild," McKay recalled. "And that, combined with the general feeling of happiness and celebration that was going in Washington, was very exciting."

"It was sort of like the Champlain Valley Fair," she added, "but everyone had taken a happy drug."

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