Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

NOTE: Blurt has been retired and is no longer updated regularly. For new content, follow these links:

OFF MESSAGE: Vermont News and Politics
BITE CLUB: Food and Drink Blog

« July 2009 | Main | September 2009 »

August 2009

August 31, 2009

Trial Balloons Begin to Pop

It's only been four days since Gov. Jim Douglas (R) shocked Vermont's political world and announced he would not seek reelection in 2010.

Since then, this reporter's phone has been buzzing with calls from political insiders floating names of possible candidates who "would be great for the job," or by politicians themselves claiming they are "weighing their options" or "expressing an interest" in one of several possible statewide offices.

I say "possible," because it's not yet clear how many offices will open up as a result of Douglas' decision. It all really depends on whether Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie (pictured) decides to run for governor, and if he does, who runs for his seat.
If Dubie opts to not run for governor, or even reelection, that would certainly open up the political floodgates in a way that didn't happen after U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords (I) announced in April 2005 that he would not seek reelection in 2006.

After an initial flurry of speculation, then-U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders (I) announced he would seek Jeffords' seat, opening up his lone post in the House. Douglas, wooed heavily by national Republicans to run for Congress, balked at taking on Sanders. Instead, businessman Rich Tarrant ended up taking one for the team. And how.

It was really the race to replace Sanders that became the hot ticket of the 2006 election cycle, as it became clear early that Sanders was going to walk away with the Senate race against Tarrant.

The House race involved former Adjutant General Martha Rainville, the Republican, and State Senate President Pro Tem Peter Welch (D-Windsor). Rainville's decision, while opening up a post to be filled by a vote of the legislature, did not have a ripple effect in the political world. Welch's seat, too, opened up a county seat, not a statewide one.

The outcomes? Welch won the House seat, Dubie's brother Michael Dubie was elected Adjutant General, and Sens. Alice Nitka (D) and Dick McCormack (D) were elected to the state senate from Windsor County. That year, Democratic State Sen. Matt Dunne, also of Windsor County, ran and lost his bid to unseat incumbent Lt. Governor Dubie.

Today, we have a similar scenario at play.

Continue reading "Trial Balloons Begin to Pop" »

August 28, 2009

Calling Off the Dogs on the Big Cats at the Champlain Valley Expo

Meow! Talk about a nasty stink rising out of the litter box at the Champlain Valley Expo. The Burlington-area supermarket chain Price Chopper has pulled its sponsorship of a wild-animal act at the Expo known as the "Nerger Lion and Tiger Show." According to a company spokesperson, Price Chopper was "misled" as to the true nature of the animal act and was under the false impression that it was sponsoring a petting zoo. You know, the kind of "pets" that'll gnaw off a toddler's tibia.

Local animal rights activists praised the PC decision and called off a protest planned for this weekend. Burlington animal rights activist Rev. Gary Kowalski has organized demonstrations against the Nerger show because its parent company, the Hawthorn Corporation, leases exotic animals to traveling circuses and shows worldwide. Kowalski points to the corporation's $275,000 in fines racked up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for gross violations of the Federal Animal Welfare Act.

The animal rights group PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — has a rap sheet on the Hawthorn Corporation longer than an elephant's trunk. Its abuses, which date back to 1978, include failure to provide animals with adequate veterinary care, food or water, and criminal convictions for cruelty. In 1994, for instance, one Hawthorn elephant went on a rampage in Hawaii, crushing its trainer and injuring two other circus workers before being brought down by police in a hail of gunfire. An autopsy later revealed the presence of cocaine and alcohol in the elephant's body. Now, there's wholesome family fun!

This isn't the first time controversy has swirled over a wild-animal show at the Champlain Valley Expo. Back in 2004, the fair hosted the Bear Mountain Wildlife Encounter. Fair goers were able to "encounter" the bears "in their natural-looking, climate-controlled habitat" — aka, an air-conditioned, sawdust-filled doublewide — and witness their "natural behaviors," such as riding bicycles, dunking basketballs, standing on their hindquarters for extended stretches and fantasizing, perhaps, about eating that kid in the front row with the mustard-stained T-shirt.

Such wild-animal acts aren't allowed in Burlington anymore. In 2004, the Burlington City Council passed ban on shows involving wild and undomesticated animals. At the time, Burlington's animal control officer Jodi Harvey said her department shouldn't be put in the position of allowing these shows. Specifically, if she witnessed violations of the Federal Animal Welfare Act, there's just no place in the city to house a confiscated lion, tiger or elephant. 

Douglas: He's Out, Everybody's In

Anyone who is not thinking of running for Vermont governor in 2010, please raise your hand.

Yikes. This could get interesting. If nothing else, this political columnist is thankful for a little job security through at least one more election cycle.

Less than 24 hours after four-term Republican Gov. Jim Douglas surprised our tiny political world in Vermont, the political landscape in Vermont is still firmly settled in a fog bank.

Dubie While Republicans may do most of their primary work behind the scenes, the Democrats are completely out in the open.

Both House Speaker Shap Smith and President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin tell Seven Days they are weighing bids for governor, adding their names to an already crowded field.

On the GOP side, the top candidate is Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie (pictured). Dubie was first elected to office in 2002 along with Douglas and has been his trusty "co-pilot" ever since. Dubie will be taking some time to weigh his options.

Continue reading "Douglas: He's Out, Everybody's In" »

August 27, 2009

Giddy-uppin' with the Clydesdales

You know what the most awesomest part of Burlington is? The fact that on any given day in the three-and-a-half-week summer we enjoy, some kind of crazy-assness is going on. One day someone's building a microhouse in City Hall Park, and the next day pit bulls are tearing each other asunder in front of that little house. Whatever people say about Burlington — it's too provincial, it's too precious, it's too hippie, it's too commercial — they can never say it's boring. Well, they can, but they'd be wrong. Today proves my point.

As I was reading the paper this morning over my bowl of cardboard flakes and fake milk, I happened upon an ad touting the arrival of the Budweiser Clydesdale horses today at noon on Church Street. Glory be! This sure is my lucky day, I thought. There's nothing I love more than draft horses, unless it's a butterscotch-dipped creemee or karate, so I figured I had to carve out some time in my very busy schedule to go check them out. 

Continue reading "Giddy-uppin' with the Clydesdales" »

Police, Prosecutors Reviewing Flanagan Charges

Burlington Police this afternoon confirmed to Seven Days that they have largely completed their investigation of Democratic State Sen. Ed Flanagan, and are beginning to review the case with state prosecutors.

Burlington Police Chief Michael Shirling did not know how long the review could take, but did confirm that the case is now under review.

Police confirmed August 18 that Flanagan, a Chittenden County Senator, was under criminal investigation for allegedly masturbating in front of patrons in the Men’s Wellness Center at the Greater Burlington YMCA.

“Fair Game” first reported the incident last month, when YMCA member Tiki Archambeau filed a complaint about Flanagan with Y officials. “Fair Game” also talked to other patrons who had witnessed bizarre behavior on Flanagan’s part. The former state auditor has denied the charges, but apologized for anything he did while naked that may have been misconstrued by others.

A formal complaint about Flanagan’s behavior was filed August 14 with Burlington police.

Contacted by Seven Days, Archambeau said he had spoken to an investigator from the Chittenden Unit for Special Investigation on August 18. He declined to elaborate on the nature of the CUSI investigation.

Flanagan’s membership was suspended during the Y’s investigation. Flanagan said he plans to find another gym and never return to the Y. Numerous calls to the senator about the criminal probe were not returned by late this afternoon.

The YMCA has declined to say publicly whether it has completed its investigation — nor will it share any details when the inquiry is over. According to one former employee, some YMCA officials had been made aware of Flanagan's behavior.

Some observers believe that Flanagan may still be struggling from the traumatic brain injury he suffered in 2005 — an injury that some fear may be affecting his judgment.

Flanagan did not return phone calls to his home.

Douglas Opts Out in '10: Political Reaction

Photo(4) Before a packed room of staff, lobbyists, media and other members of Montpelier's political class, Republican Gov. Jim Douglas made it official: He's not seeking reelection in 2010.

He also said he's not seeking any other political office. But, he made no indication as to what his next steps may be — other than taking a break from the political spotlight. He's held elective office of one kind or another for roughly 36 years, standing for statewide election 15 times.

"I know there will be some speculation as to what is next, so I want to lay a few questions to rest immediately. I am not running for president. Dorothy has a divorce lawyer on speed dial if I ever utter that crazy idea," Douglas told more than 100 people who packed the governor's ceremonial Statehouse office. "I’m not running for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House or any other statewide office in 2010. However, for the next 16 months, I am running state government."

Will he take a job in the administration of Pres. Barack Obama? There continues to be speculation he just might. But Douglas also made it clear that after trekking from his Middlebury home to Montpelier — over the App Gap along Vermont 17 — in snow, rain and sun was taking its toll.

"As any farmer knows, after many years – working sun up to sun down, seven days a week — there comes a time to turn over the reins to fresh arms. For me, that time is approaching," Douglas said. "My service to this state will not end with the governorship. Whether I’m in the corner office or my home office, I will always strive to do what I can to make better this great state. But I am also ready to write a new chapter in my life."

Continue reading "Douglas Opts Out in '10: Political Reaction" »

Douglas Makes it Official: He's not Running in '10

Photo(5) Here is the full text of Gov. Jim Douglas' 10-minute speech announcing his attentions to not seek reelection in 2010.

* * * * *

I want to thank all of you for coming this morning.

I especially want to thank the members of my Administration for being here, as well as my staff.

Since January 1973, after I was first elected to the Vermont House, I’ve been making the trip over the Appalachian Gap from my home in Middlebury to serve the people in Montpelier.

I’ve traversed that pass at all hours, in all seasons, through rain, snow and sun. On a clear day, I can look west over the Champlain basin and east toward the Connecticut River valley, out across the breadth of this place that is like no other. And each time I reach the top, I am reminded of the sturdy shoulders of our people – as strong and as solid as the hills – and my hope for Vermont is renewed.

Continue reading "Douglas Makes it Official: He's not Running in '10" »

Gov. Jim Douglas to Announce He's Not Running in 2010

Shortly after meeting with his cabinet this morning, Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas will announce he's not running for reelection in 2010.

Sources confirm that Douglas will make the announcement at 11 a.m. in the governor's ceremonial office at the Statehouse. The governor will also announce that he is not running for any other elective office in 2010.

Word of the press conference spread rapidly this morning on the political grapevine.

My trusty iPhone was buzzing this morning with text messages and emails from Montpelier insiders wondering if the rumors were true: Will Gov. Jim Douglas resign from office today, shortly after meeting with his cabinet?

The conservative blog Vermont Tiger hinted this morning in a blog post that "the news will be big and its political reverberations, lasting."


The Republican governor, now in his fourth term, recently took over as chairman of the National Governor's Association which will put him in touch with the DC beltway on a more frequent basis.

That, coupled with his cozy relationship with Pres. Barack Obama, has led many Vermont Democrats to wonder, if not hope and pray, that Douglas would become another GOP addition to the Obama administration.

Three Democrats have already announced their intentions to run for governor: Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, Former Lt. Governor and current State Sen. Doug Racine, and State Sen. Susan Bartlett.

With Douglas' announcement, could we see more Democrats jump in? Who amongst the GOP will announce a bid for the office?

Developing ...

August 26, 2009

Stock Up Now on Quirky Cards — Scribbles is Closing

Ss-scribbles-JS Burlington is about to lose its favorite stationery store. Jane Jarecki emailed Seven Days today to say that Scribbles on Church Street is closing its doors. Seven Days readers awarded Scribbles the "Best Stationer" Daysie in 2008 and 2009. Scribbles was also named the "Grooviest Gift Shop" in 2007 and 2008, and was runner-up this year. A going-out-of-business sale starts Thursday.

The Jarecki family has operated Scribbles for the past 15 years — Jane's mom Debby and dad Joe own the store. Her twin sister, Jennifer, is the manager. Jane doesn't work there much anymore, but both she and her sister helped out a lot, growing up.

"It's definitely been a difficult decision to make," says Jane in a follow-up phone interview. The recession has been hard for them, she explains. And it doesn't help that increasingly, people are sending e-cards rather than real ones. Actual, written correspondence isn't quite as popular as it used to be, and the local stationers have been feeling it for awhile now. "We just can't keep going on like this," she says. 

Jane says she hopes that the closing of her family's store will remind people to shop local, rather than at chain stores, or online. "Local businesses need support every day," she says, adding that she's seen the number of locally owned businesses on Church Street dwindle during her family's tenure there. She laments the fact that Scribbles will probably be replaced by "another corporate store."

Jane says the Jareckis are marking everything 50 percent off at their final sale, which could last up to three weeks.

What's next for the Jareckis? According to Jane, the entrepreneurial family doesn't have any concrete plans, but "schemes are already being chattered about."

"I wouldn't be surprised if another paper store resurfaced with some Jarecki-ness behind it," she says.

Seven Days Hires Andy Bromage


Starting next week, look for seasoned political reporter Andy Bromage’s byline in Seven Days. Andy is joining our editorial team as a staff writer. That's him in the photo.

Andy is an award-winning reporter, editor and columnist who recently left a senior staff position at the Connecticut media company that publishes the New Haven Advocate, the Hartford Advocate and the Fairfield County Weekly. His hard-hitting Statehouse column, “Capitol Intensive,” appeared in all three papers and earned him a reputation for dogged reporting.

Paul Bass of the online New Haven Independent described him as "one of the area’s most respected newshounds." Prior to working for the Advocate chain, Andy was the lead reporter covering city hall for the daily New Haven Register.

Andy, 32, is also an accomplished bluegrass banjo player. He was a member of a band called Limberjack County when he lived in Vermont years ago.

Welcome aboard, Andy!

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684