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September 2009

September 30, 2009

Look, Ma, No More Pigeon Dung!

Ever wonder what seven tons of pigeon guano looks like? Or smells like? Keep wondering.

That's the amount of pigeon crap that was hauled from inside the former Moran Generating Station on Burlington's waterfront. No, it couldn't be composted. And no, it wasn't hazardous waste.

City officials are hosting an open house this weekend to give people a sneak peek inside the brick behemoth now that months of environmental clean-up are over.

Continue reading "Look, Ma, No More Pigeon Dung!" »

September 29, 2009

NYC Greener Than Vermont? Sure, If Air Pollution and Epic Waste Is Green.


If green is the new black and gay is the new green, then that must make New York City the new gay. Whatever.

Anyway, what I mean to say is that, according to an article in the inimitable, hard-hitting news org Time magazine, the Big Apple is greener than the Green Mountain State. But how is that possible? I mean, I'm no Bill McKibben or anything, but Vermont is the essence of green. We invented green. Green didn't exist before Vermont cooked it up in a secret underground lab.

The photo at the right is what environmentalists look like in New York City. Not really. It's a giant rat.

Time gets this little morsel of highly inflammatory information from someone named David Owen, who apparently wrote a book smearing Vermont and praising New York City for being environmental stewards on par with John flipping Muir. Owen's new book Green Metropolis: What the City Can Teach the Country About True Sustainability posits that New York City is the greenest city in America. Um, has he ever been to Queens? Just wondering.

Continue reading "NYC Greener Than Vermont? Sure, If Air Pollution and Epic Waste Is Green." »

Charlie's With the Angels


Vermont lost one of its most accomplished and compelling characters when Charlie Houston, 96, died on Sunday at his Ledge Road home in Burlington. A pioneer in Himalayan mountaineering, high-altitude medicine and international relations — he directed the Peace Corps in India — he was fully engaged in life until he left it. As recently as 2007, he was talking up universal health care on a Church Street soapbox.

I profiled him in a story for Seven Days about elder activists, and asked him to share a memorable fitness moment for our Health and Fitness issue in 2003.

I remember the first time he called, to invite me to lunch at his place. I arrived to find a charming old man, who was virtually blind, padding about a house filled with evidence of his adventures. With a little prompting, Houston would recount the stories himself: his near-death experience on K-2; the lab in which he experimented with human fitness at high altitudes; his efforts to launch a medical Peace Corps; his friendship with Phish keyboard player Page McConnell.

Houston never lost interest in others. At one point, he developed such a fan club of middle-aged women that it was dubbed “Charlie Angels.” Charlie’s with the real angels now.

Photo by Matthew Thorsen.

Best Bites: 99 Asian Market

Fall 2009 006

242 North Winooski Avenue, Burlington 865-0226

It's not often that I can say a restaurant opening has changed my quality of life, but since 99 Asian Market began serving prepared food a month ago, I have had more spring in my step. I can finally get a banh mi, made fresh just for me (right).

What's that, you ask? Only the greatest sandwich combination ever concocted. Picture a baguette spread with pate and butter, then stuffed with pickled carrots, lotus and cucumbers, meat, cilantro and jalapenos. On Friday night, I had an extra-special experience, when the cook cut up the largest pork ribs I had ever seen, prepared to a gloriously salty crispness, and used that as the meat in my banh mi. Did I mention it was still only $3? There were also crispy whole ducks on the buffet line. Next time, I'd like a duck sandwich please.

Friday nights are the best time to hit 99, as the staff has just arrived from the farmers market in Boston. This week, a cooler full of live blue crabs waved goodbye as they waited to be fried up to order.

Continue reading "Best Bites: 99 Asian Market" »

September 24, 2009

Will the Real Third-Party Candidate Please Stand Up?

Horse logger and peace activist Boots Wardinski, a longtime member of the Liberty Union party, is entering the race for lieutenant governor -- as a Progressive.


Wardinski (pictured left in the photo) said he's running to earn the Progressive Party label because some elected officials in the third party are considering bids for office in the Democratic primary in 2010. Specifically, Wardinski points to State Rep. Dave Zuckerman (P-Burlington) and his potential bid for lieutenant governor as a Democrat.

"The fact that Zuckerman wants to cozy up to the Democrats is an important reason to give people a real alternative," Wardinski told Seven Days.

Zuckerman said he's not yet decided on whether he'll run.

"I am going to be making my decision based on the feedback I gather from across the state as well as my family and business considerations," he said.

Continue reading "Will the Real Third-Party Candidate Please Stand Up?" »

Breaking the Silence: Torture Survivors Speak Out


This week, international human rights attorney
Terry Coonan is in Burlington for a FREE screening of his documentary film, Breaking the Silence: Torture Survivors Speak Out

Why is Breaking the Silence such a powerful piece of filmmaking? It’s never easy broaching the subject of torture, and harder still is getting people who’ve survived it themselves to talk about their personal experiences. This film, which is being shown Thursday night, September 24, at 7:30 p.m. at the Main Street Landing Film House in Burlington, includes interviews with scores of torture survivors from around the world. The screening and discussion with the filmmaker is part of a three-day training seminar currently underway for Vermont social-service providers, called  “Building NESTT: Working with Survivors of Torture.” It's a brand-new effort to coordinate social services for Vermonters who have survived torture, rape, genocide and other atrocities in war-torn nations.

Continue reading "Breaking the Silence: Torture Survivors Speak Out" »

September 23, 2009

Tilley's Cafe Is Being Sold

On October 3, Tilley's Café in downtown Burlington — known for its seafood dishes, valet parking and tank full of tropical fish —  will close its doors. Owner Suzanne Johnson explains, "I'm a single mom. I have full custody of three kids. They're my primary responsibility."

Last year, when she took over the full operation of the restaurant from her ex-husband, the plan was always to "find a business partner so I could be home and more present for [my children]." During the ensuing months, Johnson made lots of upgrades, she says, "cutting expenses, becoming a green and sustainable restaurant and educating the public about that."

Payoff came in August, when the Vermont Hospitality Council named Johnson "Restaurateur of the Year," lauding her as a "creative entrepreneur." But despite the accolade, says Johnson, finding a new business partner was tough. "With the economy, most of the [potential] buyers wanted to own and run it themselves."

Luckily, Johnson found someone she trusts to take the turnkey operation and help it thrive under a new name. Although she wouldn't divulge the buyer's identity, yet, she noted that he's "extremely knowledgeable... and will make this a successful place."

Before she closes, Johnson hopes that Tilley's fans will swing by for one more meal, and to say goodbye. "Out of respect for the people who love Tilley's, it was important for me to [tell them] ahead of time," she says. "I didn't want them to come here and find a padlock." Wanna get one last order of calamari or a Hanalei roll? Be sure to make a reservation. "Next weekend is UVM parents' weekend," she notes.

Bleeding a Stone, the Fletcher Allen Way

Dear Dr. Melinda Estes,

Thank you for your letter dated September 16. I appreciate you thinking of me and taking the time to write. It must be tough for you to find a spare minute in your day, what with you being the president and C.E.O. of Vermont's largest hospital and all. And running it well, from what I hear from friends who are doctors and nurses there. They quite like what you've done with the place since you were hired in 2003.


I've witnessed the high quality of health care at Fletcher Allen myself in the past few months. In the early part of the year, I went to Africa and came back with some nasty stowaways in my belly. Thankfully, FAHC was there for me in my hour, or rather months, of need. My intestinal tract will forever be in your debt.

Not only are my guts indebted to you, but I am as well. Well, I'm actually, like, in real debt. I still owe your hospital about $100 for all of the travel health clinic, gastroenterologist and colo-rectal surgeon visits I made from January to April. That's why I can't quite figure out why you sent me a letter asking me to donate to the hospital's Annual Fund.

The photo to the right is an illustration of me trying to figure out why you sent me this letter.

I understand we're in tough economic straits. Why do you think I still owe you guys $100? But really. You're trying to bleed a stone and it ain't gonna work.You should know that. You're a board-certified em dee.

Continue reading "Bleeding a Stone, the Fletcher Allen Way" »

September 22, 2009

Campaign '10 News & Notes: You're Hired!

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful and Secretary of State Deb Markowitz announced this week she has hired a full-time campaign manager.


The hire comes on the heels of news that Markowitz is losing her top two staffers — Jason Powell and Reid DeWolfe. Powell's last day is the end of September, while DeWolfe plans to transition out later this fall.

Paul Tencher, 29, a Rhode Island native, will start the day after Columbus Day. He comes to Markowitz after serving on Capitol Hill as the spokesman for first-year U.S. Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH). She won her seat by less than a 1 percent margin last fall, and he began working for her earlier this year.

In 2008, Tencher was the communications director for Democratic State Rep. Judy Baker’s unsuccessful congressional race in northeast Missouri in 2008.

"Deb is a wonderful candidate with great tools at her disposal," said Tencher. "I've been mostly involved in federal races lately and they've been fun, but I'm much more interested in working with a more grassroots campaign. She's done a ton of work at the grassroots level as secretary of state and has a great demeanor."

Continue reading "Campaign '10 News & Notes: You're Hired!" »

Burlington Telecommentary

A plan aimed at making Burlington Telecom more accountable to taxpayers was put on hold last night amid fears it would jeopardize company trade secrets.

The Burlington City Council voted 7-7 not to make the city-owned cable and telephone company an official city department, effectively killing the measure for now. The council's seven Democrats voted for the change. The three Progressives, two Independents and two Republicans voted against it.

Backers of the measure, including Council President Bill Keogh, D-Ward 5, argued the current system of oversight — with two advisory panels, city department heads, city councilors and other boards all playing roles — is "dysfunctional" and needs serious overhaul.

Keogh praised Burlington Telecom ("Quality is so good on the screen, I feel I'm right at the Red Sox game") before proposing a resolution that would lay the groundwork for making it answerable to a new seven-member commission, and more transparent as a result.

Chief Administrative Officer Jonathan Leopold warned the change would put Burlington Telecom at grave risk of having trade secrets exposed — and then being buried by the competition, namely Comcast and FairPoint. Both the City Council and city commissioners have leaked confidential information in recent years, Leopold said, costing the city money and headaches. Leaking telecom information could be devastating, he said.

"I don't want to be the skunk at the tea party here, but this is very serious," Leopold said.

Continue reading "Burlington Telecommentary" »

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