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September 2009

September 22, 2009

Best Bites: PK Cafe

186 College Parkway, Colchester 655-6565

Burlingtonians tend to come in factions. You’re either a Sandwich Company person, or you’re a Red Onion person. Not surprisingly, I am neither. I enjoy — even occasionally crave — grinders from the aforementioned eateries, but usually when I’m thinking meat between two slices of bread, my mind goes right to PK Café, on Route 15 across from St. Michael's College.

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Specifically, to the Vermonster (right). Start with buttery and crisp — but not too crisp — focaccia, a holdover from PK’s previous incarnation as Purple Knight Pizza. Add well-seasoned turkey, crisp slices of Granny Smith apples, sharp cheddar and sweet and tangy cranberry mayo and what have you got? My favorite sandwich.

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I'm also a fan of the Honey Chicken Breast (right, below), a juicy slab of meat in a surprisingly piquant homemade honey mustard, topped with crisp bacon, lettuce and tomato. There are breakfast sandwiches available all day. On my next visit, I'm planning to try the Steak, Cheese and Egg Burrito. Composed of three eggs, shaved steak, sautéed mushrooms, onions and provolone. How could it go wrong?

If I’m feeling really crazy, I’ll get some mildly nutty sesame noodles from the case while I wait for my sandwich. I complete the meal with choices from a swell variety of drinks and fresh baked goods. PK Café is one of the only places in Vermont where I can get bottles of Welch's grape soda — my favorite. I finished my last visit — which I spent on one of the comfy couches — with a moist cinnamon muffin. I’m also a fan of the chocolate chip cookies.

What's your sandwich allegiance? Once you try PK, you just might flip.

September 19, 2009

This is What Gay Marriage Looks Like

Dana Kaplan and Katie Dyer got married last Saturday at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe. Seven Days video journalist Eva Sollberger captured the ceremony and reception on camera for this week's episode of "Stuck in Vermont."

You might recognize Dana Kaplan from Burlington indie-pop band, The Smittens. Yep, that's Dana, singing the "Stuck in Vermont" theme song.

Congratulations, Dana and Katie!

September 18, 2009

Snelling Announces Bid for Lt. Governor

Mark Snelling, the son of former Republican Gov. Richard Snelling, announced Friday he is running for lieutenant governor.

The announcement caps weeks of speculation about Snelling's political future. Seven Days first reported Snelling's gubernatorial ambitions earlier this month.

Though he didn't mention this in his announcement, Snelling told Seven Days he will run as a Republican, and he hopes that current Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie runs for governor.

"I'm very hopeful that Brian Dubie will run for governor," said Snelling, "and when I looked at the possibility of him not running and would I, I realized what I would have to do and I would have had to start a campaign very, very quickly. And I'm not in the position to do that right now as I have to wind down some business and personal commitments."

Snelling said his mix of public and private sector experience would serve Vermont well.

"I have worked in the public and private sector for the last 35 years, and I believe I have the skills and the knowledge of Vermont and public policy to be a strong voice and an active participant in the work that must be done," said Snelling. "I have actively served the last five governors working on public policy, including the areas of affordable housing, economic development and the environment."

Continue reading "Snelling Announces Bid for Lt. Governor" »

State's Attorney Recuses Self from Flanagan Probe, Cites Political Conflict

Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan today recused himself from the investigation into alleged lewd conduct by fellow Democrat State Sen. Ed Flanagan, citing his own desire to run for lieutenant governor.

Images As I've noted in "Fair Game" for the past several weeks, Donovan has been talked about as a candidate for the state's number-two post — raising questions of a conflict of interest. Today, Donovan confirmed he is exploring such a bid. Earlier this year, before the charges of lewd behavior surfaced, Flanagan announced his bid for lite guv.

"This circumstance creates a possibility of a conflict between Senator Flanagan and myself," said Donovan in a statement. "In order to insure the integrity of the process, it is therefore appropriate that an independent review of the allegations occur.”

Continue reading "State's Attorney Recuses Self from Flanagan Probe, Cites Political Conflict" »

Federal Student Aid Bill Leaves VSAC Future in Doubt

The US House of Representatives yesterday approved an overhaul and expansion of the federal student aid program by a 253-171 vote, and included an amendment that may keep non-profit lenders like Vermont Student Assistance Corporation in business.

At least for now.

As I described in a recent Seven Days story ("On Borrowed Time?"), the future of VSAC as a lender remains in doubt, as Congress debates doing away with most private lenders and having students and parents borrow directly from the feds — bypassing groups like VSAC.

VSAC officials say that endangers a myriad of services it provides to Vermonters such as career counseling, lending advice and college preparedness. Those services are paid for through profits made from the loan program, not from direct state aid, VSAC officials note.

F-vsac-crackednrusty The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (H.R. 3221) increases Pell Grants to $6,900 by 2019 from $5,350 today, expands the Perkins low-cost loan program to every U.S. college and simplifies the process of applying for student financial aid, and also sets aside funding to improve community colleges and early education opportunities.

Vermont students will receive $60 million more in Pell Grants, and an additional 2,985 students will be eligible over the next 10 years, according to figures released by US Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT).

Welch successfully amended the bill Thursday morning to ensure that non-profit lenders like VSAC can continue providing ancillary services such as college counseling, career placement, financial aid and financial literacy. It also ensures that borrower services – for example, delinquency prevention and default aversion – are allowed uses of the new State Innovation Completion Grants.

"I am pleased that my amendment will help VSAC continue its critical outreach services, which have helped so many Vermonters take advantage of higher education and the opportunities that come with it," said Welch in a statement.

How VSAC would be paid to provide those services is not yet clear, said Scott Giles, VSAC’s vice president for policy, research and planning. Funding would come from the US Department of Education.

The bill also allows non-profit organizations that act as the primary lenders in small states like Vermont to  receive money to service existing loans. But, the feds will pay $2.11 per account per month for up to 100,000 accounts. VSAC has roughly 115,000 active accounts, said Giles.

Even with Welch's amendment, it's likely that VSAC — which currently employs roughly 350 people — could be a dramatically smaller company within a few years.

Continue reading "Federal Student Aid Bill Leaves VSAC Future in Doubt" »

September 17, 2009

Senate Republicans Block Media Shield Law

Journalists hoping for federal protection from being held in contempt of court, fined or even jailed for refusing to divulge confidential sources will have to wait a bit longer.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee blocked any further changes to the bill, specifically a suite of proposed changes agreed to in principle last week that were designed to garner more support.

070709SotomayorPressConfBIG The Free Flow of Information Act (S. 448) would create a federal shield law that would grant protections to journalists who refuse to reveal confidential sources, even when compelled by a subpoena and the threat of penal action.

Currently, journalists and their sources are only protected by privilege statutes or administrative rules in certain states. There is no such protection at the federal level, according to the Society of Professional Journalists. Last week, 70 media companies and organizations — including the Vermont Press Association — urged the committee to support the bill.

Vermont is one of those states without a media shield law, said Michael Donoghue, executive director of the Vermont Press Association and reporter at the Burlington Free Press.

In general, Vermont judges use a two-pronged test established by a state supreme court ruling when asked to force reporters to testify. First, the information in question must not be obtainable anywhere else, and the information must speak to a person's guilt or innocence, said Donoghue.

"Unfortunately, there have been a couple of cases where the Vermont courts have rendered decisions that could provide a chilling effect on reporters in Vermont doing their duty," said Donoghue. "For 35 years, the system has been working fine, but that's not good enough."

Continue reading "Senate Republicans Block Media Shield Law" »

Trashing City Hall Park

IMG_3399 If you think your day is going badly, consider this one thing: At least you didn't spend your morning sorting garbage. Unless you're a garbage collector and you do that for a living, in which case, skip down a few sentences. Jennifer Green and Sandrine Thibault are not garbage collectors. Green is codirector of the Burlington Legacy Project and Thibault is the city's long-range planner. Neither wear orange jumpsuits to work. Except on days when they're sorting garbage.

Today, City Hall, or, more specifically, the Burlington Sustainability Action Team, participated in Vermont's first municipal Trash on the Lawn Day. BSAT was convened back before being green was in vogue by Mayor Bob Kiss to address climate change issues in Burlington. Kiss was conspicuously absent from the trash sorting today. Clearly, he's a smart fellow.

On this day, Green, Thibault and folks from the Chittenden Solid Waste District, dumped a bunch of garbage onto tarps just outside of City Hall and sorted it to see how much city hall employees are wasting. The waste apparently represented three days of city hall trash and refuse from a city council meeting, including Clarence's Davis' fashion doodles and Emma Mulvaney-Stanak's chewed-up coffee cup.  

Continue reading "Trashing City Hall Park" »

September 16, 2009

VT Blogger Named One of 50 Most Influential Commentators

Steve Benen, the Vermont-based "blogger in chief" for the Washington Monthly has been named one of the 50 most influential opinion makers by the Atlantic Wire.

Steve_benenBenen comes in at No. 44, just one slot up from CNN's grumpy angry white guy Lou Dobbs. At the top of list is New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Other big names on the list include the likes of Rush Limbaugh (2), Glenn Beck (7), Rachel Maddow (14) and Bill Moyers (32).

The Wire's "Atlantic 50" is a who's who of bloggers, journalists, TV hosts, columnists and former politicians who regularly grace the nation's leading talk shows, newspapers, websites and cable news channels.

Before coming to the Washington Monthly to pen Political Animal, Benen was the longtime author of The Carpetbagger Report. He closed down that blog in August 2008.

Of the major cable news shows, Benen is a regular guest on the popular MSNBC show "The Rachel Maddow Show".

To come up with this group, the Atlantic used a fairly extensive methodology. The editors identified roughly 400 possible candidates and then surveyed 250 Washington insiders to rank the individuals. From there, the editors hired an outside consultant to measure each commentator's "webiness." In other words, how do they rank on key social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Digg and Delicious.

Cathy Resmer, Seven Days' Online Editor and Associate Publisher, profiled Benen back in 2006, when he was a rising star in the political blogosphere.

Continue reading "VT Blogger Named One of 50 Most Influential Commentators" »

September 15, 2009

Are They Nuts? Sens. Leahy, Sanders Back ACORN — updated

In a lopsided 83-7 vote last night, the Senate voted to bar the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from granting any funds to the nonprofit group known as ACORN.

Vermont Sens. Patrick Leahy (D) and Bernie Sanders (I) voted against the amendment, and have drawn the ire of Vermont Republicans.

Acorn_logo ACORN, which stands for Association of Community Organization for Reform Now, has become a rallying cry for those who believe Pres. Barack Obama has ties to corrupt grassroots organizations.

In a recent video, a conservative activist posing as a prostitute and pimp tried to get free tax advice from an ACORN worker. Three ACORN offices — in Washington, DC, Baltimore and Brooklyn — provided advice to the "couple."

ACORN officials claim the voices of the couple were dubbed in later and do not represent the actual exchange that occurred between the staff. However, numerous staffers have been fired as a result of the news.

Continue reading "Are They Nuts? Sens. Leahy, Sanders Back ACORN — updated" »

Album Station Goes Silent

Static between the owner and programmers of WCLX, the "Album Station," has put the 10-year-old free-form rock station off the air—for now.

The object of the dispute? In a word: money.

S27923 License holder Dennis Jackson says he's had to subsidize the station since December 2008, and he wasn't interested in continuing the practice much past Labor Day. So, on September 9, he took WCLX off the air at 5 p.m., and now the two programmers who built the station's loyal following — Russ Kinsley and Diane Desmond — are trying to figure out their next steps.

Continue reading "Album Station Goes Silent" »

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