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November 2008

November 13, 2008

Barnard Requests Recount *updated*

Think Election '08 is over? Hardly.

Today, Democrat Denise Begins Barnard asked Chittenden County Clerk Diane Lavallee for a recount of the vote in the state senate race.

As I noted in this weeks' column, former State Rep. Barnard came in seventh place in the six-seat district, behind Progressive Burlington City Councilor Tim Ashe. Barnard finished just 417 votes behind Ashe, who earned a "D" after his name by winning in the September primary.

"This is about ensuring the validity of the process,” said Barnard.”I have the utmost respect for the voting process, the candidates, the town clerks, and polling center workers, and it is my intent to ensure that each vote is counted as it was intended.  Between the closeness of the race and the documented inconsistencies, it is my belief that a recount is warranted."

Barnard told Seven Days that inconsistencies center around Burlington's vote tally.

Other than the election-night snafu in which an election worker mistyped Ashe's results into a spreadsheet of unofficial tallies for the media, there is also the case of one district that reported 2211 spoiled ballots.

Election officials told me last week that the 2211 spoiled ballots were not actually spoiled — it was an error in filling out the spreadsheet. They were really supposed to be recorded as "blank" ballots. The official said the error would be corrected before the official results are sent to the secretary of state's office.

Spoiled ballots are ballots on which a voter makes an error on the ballot, turns it in and asks for  a new ballot to cast. Blank ballots are recorded when a voter doesn't vote for all candidates in a race. For example, in the senate race you can vote for no more than six candidates. A blank ballot in this case would mean someone only voted for two or four or one candidate.

Barnard said she spent about three hours talking with state election officials Tuesday and looking at the results.

There were more than 75,000 ballots cast in the Chittenden County senate district. Of the county's 17 towns only two — Charlotte and Bolton — count ballots by hand. The rest are counted by tabulator machines.

In a recount, all ballots will be counted by hand at the county clerk's office. Each political party will be asked to provide volunteers to oversee the recount. During the recount, two people count the ballots and two people watch the counters.

"I've received an overwhelming number of phone calls," said Barnard. "I owe it to myself and to the voters, the people who supported me and the people who worked on my campaign. I need to do this so we know once and for all."

Barnard spent some time Thursday alerting all the town clerks that she was asking for a recount. Not out of necessity, but of courtesy.

Ashe declined to comment on Barnard's decision.

This isn't the first time county officials have had to hand recount ballots. Two years ago, a recount after a Democratic primary for the state senate took 118 volunteers seven consecutive days to count just 10,000 ballots. In the end, it did not affect the outcome of the race.

That same year, about 50,000 ballots were recounted when Democrat Tom Salmon contested the outcome of the state auditor's race. That recount in Chittenden County took more than a month to complete as the parties had difficulty recruiting volunteers during the pre-holiday shopping season.

UPDATE: Chittenden County Clerk Diane Lavallee says there isn't likely to be a quick recount in the senate race. That's because she's already been asked to recount ballots in a House race in Milton. That's scheduled for Nov. 24; Lavallee is hoping that will only take one day.

The Senate recount won't take place until possibly the second week of December, but Lavallee said she hopes she can get enough volunteers to complete the recount by Christmas. If enough volunteers show up from all parties, she is hopeful the recount can be done in 10 days.

Urban Egg-Layers, Unite!

Urbanchickens_logo My story in this week's food section profiles a 21-year-old Burlington goatherder, and his struggle to raise farm animals in accordance with the city's convoluted zoning regs. It's a follow-up, of sorts, to a story I wrote in March about Queen City  residents who raise chickens.

Thanks to one astute Seven Days reader, I just learned about, a New Mexico-based advocacy site for folks who are passionate about backyard cluckers. On the site's international Google map of chicken farmers, the nearest coop to Vermont appears to be in Sandwich, Mass. A search feature on "chicken groups and chicken ordinances" assures that Vermont ordinances are "Coming Soon!"

Godspeed, digital poultry-teers: It may be awhile before your data comes home to roost.

Cabot Sock Sale 2008

The "Hunter's Widow" Sock Sale at Cabot Hosiery Mills is happening this weekend, though you wouldn't know it from searching the internet.

I'm not sure if the company just forgot to tell people about it, or if they're trying to keep it quiet for some reason, but there is very little info about this popular annual event online. There's not even an announcement on their website. I actually had to pick up the phone (gasp!) and call them to find out when it's happening.

Here's the info:

Cabot Sock Sale
Saturday and Sunday, November 15/16
Saturday and Sunday, November 22/23
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. all days
346 Whetstone Dr. in Northfield.

This is Eva Sollberger's "Stuck in Vermont" video on last year's sock sale, in case you missed it. And a link to a very funny and random parody of the video.

Vermont Democratic Caucus Cluster#$@& *updated*

Summer The race for top leadership posts in the legislative Democratic caucus is getting very crowded.

As I pointed out in my post-election column, there is a crowded race for Speaker of the House. Now, it looks like there is a battle for majority leader, too.

Floyd Nease, of Johnson, the assistant majority leader, was the only candidate running for majority leader, until now. Janet Ancel, of Calais, is also tossing her hat into the race for majority leader.

Ancel, who served as chairwoman of the House Education Committee this past session, has plenty of legislative and executive experience. She was Gov. Howard Dean's legal counsel and served as tax commissioner under Dean. Prior to that, she worked for lawmakers in legislative council.

"I think we have an opportunity this coming session to have a really strong team at the top and I think I bring some real strengths to the job," said Ancel. She sees the role of majority leader as a good manager, and one who has to listen to all members of the caucus, which will be a whopping 95 in January.

Ancel said her decision to run is not a reflection on Nease's abilities. "People are worried about it being divisive for the caucus, but I disagree. I think this is an indication of how strong we are."

That strength and depth is certainly on display in the race for speaker, to replace outgoing Speaker Gaye Symington.

House Majority Leader Rep. Carolyn Partridge, of Windham, was first out of the gate in the race for speaker. But, she is facing strong challenges from Rep. Mark Larson, of Burlington; Rep. Shap Smith of Morristown; Rep. John Rodgers, of Glover; and Rep. Johanna Leddy Donovan, of Burlington.

Word is that the battle for speaker is coming down to Smith and Larson. 

Continue reading "Vermont Democratic Caucus Cluster#$@& *updated*" »

November 12, 2008

Seven Days of Sex

Got an interesting article via Google alert this morning that I can't resist sharing.

Dallas pastor Ed Young is urging the married couples in his 20,000-member megachurch to have sex for seven days in a row, starting on November 16.

"We want to turn whining into whoopi!" said Young. "With the current financial crises, moral debates on marriage, growing divorce rates, and rampant marital infidelity, marriages and families are under siege; there is a lot of whining going on.

That's the most fun recession-survival strategy I've heard yet.

November 11, 2008

Grannis Gallery is Closing

Img_2064_2 Sad, but true — designer goldsmith Timothy Grannis and his wife, Susan Hurd are closing their store, Grannis Gallery, Fine Jewelry, on Bank Street in Burlington.

They sent a letter to loyal customers that arrived yesterday, announcing a going-out-of-business sale. Apparently they're making a public announcement on Thursday. From the letter:

Our entire inventory of fine diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires as well as our extraordinary collection of designer jewely will be sold at SAVINGS OF UP TO 60% OFF, bringing you the BEST JEWELRY VALUE for your dollar in New England. Our entire inventory MUST BE SOLD!

Reached by phone, Hurd said that the sale wasn't a response to the recent economic downturn; they've been wanting to get out of retail for awhile. The store has been for sale for the past year and half. Getting out now, she said, is a way of "de-stressing." No word on what will happen to their storefront.Img_2069

On a personal level, I'm sorry to see them go. My partner and I know Tim's daughter, Rebecca — in fact, she made our civil union rings. Here's a picture of mine. The design is one of her father's, from his "Lake Champlain" series. It's hard to tell from this angle, but it's meant to recall the Adirondack mountains, as you'd see them across Lake Champlain.

Thanks, Grannis Gallery, for all of your good work over the years. You will definitely be missed.

November 10, 2008

Pandemic Flu Angst

Flu In the aftermath of my cover story from last week, "Dead Serious" about Vermont's level of preparedness — or lack thereof —  for the next major flu pandemic, several readers and close friends were quick to, um, "thank" me for the hours of lost sleep they endured worrying about the next ultra-nasty bug that will afflict the human race. Several told me that they've started adding a few extra items to their weekly grocery runs (a prudent move for any disaster preparedness), while others asked me what's the best way to store water for extended periods of time. (I suggested buying those big bottles of water that sit on office coolers.)

Personally, I admit that on my drive home from interviewing Ross Nagy at Vermont Emergency Management in Waterbury, I made a quick detour into Home Depot to pick up a few disaster-related essentials, including a hand-powered AM/FM radio, extra batteries for the flashlights, duct tape (which has myriad uses in a pinch), a box of surgical masks, and a bottle of bleach. (The $600 generators were a tad out of my price range, at least for now.) Then, over the weekend I stopped into Costco for some oversized containers of nonperishable and canned food items. While my wife seems mildly amused that I'm getting in touch with my inner survivalist — I did live in the mountains of Montana, after all  — she seems relieved that I've finally found myself a hobby.

In the meantime, several folks have asked where they can find more information on preparing for pan flu, and for keeping up on the issue. I suggested the flu wiki, which has oodles  of titillating and terrifying tidbits to keep the whole family sleepless for at least a fortnight.

Another interesting suggestion comes from Eric Gundersen with the Washington, D.C. communications firm, Development Seed, which helps international development organizations build tools for better communicating with their geographically dispersed teams. Gundersen uses an open-source program on to monitor a variety of news sources, from traditional media outlets, such as newspapers and magazines, to blogs, video sites and micro-blogging platforms such as Twitter.

"I can track the mention of ‘chicken’ in eight different Asian languages in real time coming across micro-blogging platforms," Gundersen says. "What’s cool about this is that people can use whatever means of communication they’re going to use to talk about stuff, and if you listen in right, you can start noticing patterns, and notice them sooner.

“The growing problem is there’s a lot of information out there and it causes a lot of noise," Gundersen adds. "What we’re trying to solve is how do you increase the signal ratio, so the noise is actually valuable. Never before could we hear so much stuff and hear people’s musings to such a point and get early warning about things.”

Well, I'm just glad someone's out there listening...

Dean Will Step Down as DNC Chair

Looks like former Vermont governor Howard Dean will soon step down as the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He of the "50-state-strategy" took over as DNC Chair in 2005.

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly speculates on Dean's replacement:

Rumor has it that Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a close Obama ally and effective campaign surrogate, is a leading candidate to fill Dean's shoes, with Steve Hildebrand, Obama's deputy campaign manager, likely to take over day-to-day operations at the DNC.

But no matter who is selected, Dean has left an indelible mark on how the party operates, and how it approaches national elections. Indeed, for all of Dean's detractors — inside the Democratic Party and out — the former governor leaves knowing that his strategy was vindicated, thanks to unambiguous election results.

There's also been speculation that our former gov might land a cabinet post. But it looks like Obama won't be announcing any cabinet appointments this week, so we'll have to wait and see...

November 07, 2008

Vermont Blog Roundup -- Post-Election Edition

What a week this has been! I'm totally exhausted, and ready for some downtime. How about you?

We're probably all taking a bit of a break for the next couple days. So before I head out, I want to leave you with some links, lest you wander over here over the weekend looking for something to read:

  • What's Good blogger Max Bookman has been following the Chitteden 3-4 House race for the past month. He did some wrap-up interviews with Dave Zuckerman, Chris Pearson and rep-elect Kesha Ram. Pearson lost to Ram. "I never was the most popular when I was at UVM," he says, "so I guess this shouldn't be a surprise."
  • Vermonters Bill and Jane Stetson were in Chicago on election. They shared the experience on Philip Baruth's Vermont Daily Briefing.
  • Software developer Julie Lerman had some unusual visitors at her office this week. Yep, this is what it's like to be a software developer in Vermont.
  • Blogger Steve Benen of Essex Junction appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show again this week. That's the vid I've embedded here. Steve is not sitting in an actual library — apparently that's a super-swanky WCAX studio.
  • And last but not least, a Gen Xer essay from Salon that someone in my Facebook network posted. It starts out, "Dear boomers: We're sorry for rolling our eyes at you all these years. We apologize for scoffing at your earnestness, your lack of self-deprecation, your tendency to take yourselves a little too seriously." You can probably guess where this is going.

Have a great weekend!

November 06, 2008

Kunstler to Speak in Montpelier


Not everyone in Vermont is content with Obama or the two-party system he emerged from. Take the folks at Second Vermont Republic: They're putting on tomorrow's all-day Vermont Independence Convention at the State House in Montpelier. In addition to members of the Alaskan Independence Party, the convention features keynote speaker James Howard Kunstler.

Kunstler, the author of the acclaimed non-fiction book, The Long Emergency, spoke with Seven Days in April 2005. For better or worse, his ideas about peak oil and suburban sprawl are as timely as ever.

What's Kunstler up to these days? Earlier this year, he released World Made by Hand, what his website calls "A Novel of the post-oil future." Learn more about the novel from this New York Times review.

ADDENDUM: My Tuesday Blurt post from Denise Begins Barnard's Richmond hair salon failed to mention Diane Snelling, a Republican candidate for Senate in Chittenden County. Snelling won back her Senate seat by earning 31,148 votes. Barnard lost.

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

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