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March 2010

March 25, 2010

Who's Killing Vermont's Quality Seals?

Babyseals_front* * Updated Below with Response from Douglas Administration * *

While I was paying attention to health care reform, taxes, Burlington Telecom and Commissioner David "Sunshine" O'Brien for this week's column, I missed a huge story — Vermont's quality seals are being clubbed to death to close the state's $150 million budget gap.

WCAX-TV had the story on Sunday, and pols began to chime in shortly thereafter.

Sen. Doug Racine (D-Chittenden), one of five Democrats hoping to become the next governor, said the seals had been "rendered meaningless," and their eradication was "a black eye for the state of Vermont."

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture announced Monday its plans to kill off the quality seals as part of budget cuts, a process that quietly began on January 1. The agency did not give the number of dead seals in Vermont to date.

As someone who's lived in Vermont almost my entire life (so far), this was news to me. Do we have seals? Otters, sure. But, seals?

And, apparently they are not just any seals but quality seals. All that clean country living, no doubt. Which is why they are costing us money.

Where is PETA? Greenpeace? Where is Paul Watson and his merry band of righteous Sea Shepherds?

Today, Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie broke ranks with Gov. Jim Douglas and decried the clubbing of Vermont seals. Dubie is the putative Republican candidate for governor this fall.

Continue reading "Who's Killing Vermont's Quality Seals?" »

Is It Too Soon to Be Nostalgic for Video Stores?

Be-kind-rewind In Montpelier, Capitol Video closed last weekend after 26 years of business.

Meanwhile, mammoth Blockbuster Video, known for crushing many a beloved indie store around the U.S., is also in trouble and warning that it may declare bankruptcy.

Netflix, what hath thou wrought? Check out this Onion news video for a glimpse of our tragically Blockbuster-less future.

OK, I'm kidding. I wouldn't miss Blockbuster. But I would miss Waterfront Video, which I've been patronizing since back when it actually was on the Burlington waterfront.

One thing you can do there that you can't do on Netflix is browse the big shelf of New Arrivals that aren't new releases. Usually they're obscure or old-but-new-to-DVD movies that a customer requested. From art films to '60s drug-trip exploitation flicks to classics that suffered recent Hollywood remakes, they give you a snapshot of what local movie addicts are watching right now.

I also remember a time ... it feels so long ago ... when Waterfront seemed like the big, shiny, well-stocked, thriving alternative to a struggling neighborhood video store that I tried to support whenever I could. That store was the long-gone branch of Showtime Video on North Winooski Ave. in the Old North End. Back in the late '90s,  it was conveniently located right beside the Onion River Co-op.

Continue reading "Is It Too Soon to Be Nostalgic for Video Stores?" »

March 24, 2010

Rasmussen Polls Vermont Senate, Gubernatorial Contests

RasmussenLogoHome Pollster Rasmussen gave Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy high chances of reelection versus a "generic Republican" in a recent poll of 500 Vermonters.

Just who the hell is this generic Republican person? 

I guess Rasmussen got the memo that Leahy's GOP challenger is businessman Len Britton. Or, that Leahy has a Democratic challenger, Daniel Freilich.

In this match-up against a fictitious generic GOP candidate, Leahy, a Democrat, won by a 58-33 margin. That's about right, given Vermont's electorate is roughly one-third Republican, one-third Democrat, maybe 5 percent Progressive and the rest independent. 

Sixty-six percent of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of Leahy, with 46 percent who view him very favorably. Thirty-two percent regard him unfavorably, including 20 percent with a very unfavorable view. Just 2 percent have no opinion of the six-term senator. Must be those folks just moved here.

The poll also found that Vermonters, more than others in the nation, support the federal health care reform just passed by Congress and signed into law by Pres. Barack Obama.

Here's what Rasmussen reports:

Fifty-five percent (55 percent) of voters in the state, for example, favor the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. Forty-four percent (44 percent) oppose the plan. Those with strong feelings are almost evenly tied: 33 percent strongly favor the plan, while 35 percent strongly oppose it. This is a much higher level of support for the plan than is found nationally.

Rasmussen also reported this interesting tidbit: "While a bare majority (52 percent) of Vermont voters think it would be better for the country if most incumbents in Congress were defeated this November, 51 percent say their local representative deserves reelection."

Wow, that means they polled 103 percent of their sample. Impressive.

Finally, one other fun stat from the Rasmussen poll: "Thirty-two percent have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement. Thirty-nine percent do not. Just 12 percent regard themselves as part of that movement."

In a separate Vermont-based poll, Rasmussen found that Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie leads all five of his Democratic challengers in head-to-head match-ups.

Rasmussen reports, "Secretary of State Deb Markowitz [is] the most competitive Democrat for now. Dubie leads her by seven points, 46 to 39 percent. He posts a 48 to 35 percent lead over State Senator Doug Racine, a former lieutenant governor."

Dubie earns 51 percent of the vote against Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, who earns 33 percent. Dubie bests former state Senator Matt Dunne 51 to 29 percent.

Dubie defeats Sen. Susan Bartlett by a two-to-one margin, 52 to 26 percent.

The poll found 64 percent of those polled approve of Gov. Jim Douglas, while 36 percent disapprove.

Among the six gubernatorial candidates, here is how Rasmussen scored their favorability ratings: Dubie was viewed most favorably, while Shumlin was viewed most unfavorably:

Dubie is viewed very favorably by 31 percent of Vermont’s voters and very unfavorably by just 13 percent.

Markowitz’s ratings are 22 percent very favorable and 14 percent very unfavorable.

Racine earns very favorable reviews from 10 percent of voters, but 14 percent view him very unfavorably.

As for Shumlin, 10 percent view him very favorably, while 23 percent view him very unfavorably.

Eight percent of voters in the state have a very favorable impression of Dunne, while 15 percent view him very unfavorably.

Bartlett is viewed very favorably by 5 percent and very unfavorably by 16 percent.

March 23, 2010

Democrats Debate Future of Vermont's Community Support Systems

IMG_0828 Vermont's five Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls faced off against a packed house Monday night in South Burlington. The topic? The future of the state's community-based system for folks in need of mental heath and substance abuse treatment, as well as people with developmental disabilities.

The Vermont Council of Developmental and Mental Health Services sponsored the two-hour debate, which took place in the South Burlington High School Auditorium. The moderater was Kristin Carlson of WCAX-TV.

The council promotes a statewide, nonprofit system of care for people with developmental disabilities, serious and persistent mental illness and substance abuse; and children experiencing severe emotional disturbance, as well as their families.

More than 200 people filled the auditorium, and several of them had a chance to ask questions of the candidates.

Continue reading "Democrats Debate Future of Vermont's Community Support Systems" »

Shredding Church Street with Hannah Teter

Free_cone_dayBen & Jerry's Free Cone Day (also known as Americans Getting Fatter Day) is upon us. Generally, I try to stay as far away from the Free Cone Day as I possibly can.

For one thing, I hate waiting in line. Especially not for a $2.50 ice cream cone that's only going to make my cholesterol continue its slow creep towards the top of the charts.

Secondly, I hate being sticky. 'Nuf said.

And finally, I am a curmudgeon and don't like fun things.

However, this year's Free Cone Day in Burlington at the Church Street Scoop Shop was different. Sure, the line still stretched all the way down to Outdoor Gear Exchange. And, yes, people still acted like Ben & Jerry's was giving away a free car. But this Free Cone Day featured an appearance by Olympic snowboarder, native Vermonter and all around swell gal Hannah Teter.

Continue reading "Shredding Church Street with Hannah Teter" »

'Tweens and 1080s — The U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships

IMG_4433 You know what sucks more than riding a chair lift by yourself? Riding a chair lift with four foul-mouthed, flatulent 'tweens who want nothing more than for you to take your pathetic ass and hurl it to the snowy depth below. But this is my life. Or at least my life for the next two weeks, until I wrap up my 20/20 Challenge. Yes, I'm nearly finished. Thank the sweet bearded Lord in heaven for that.

Throughout this project, I'd had to deal with a number of hiccups — broken bindings, no one to ride with, scheduling snags, ski areas that were closed, ski areas that are now private and won't let me in. But none was more aggravating than my recent oversight at Stratton.

Continue reading "'Tweens and 1080s — The U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships" »

March 22, 2010

House to Vote on Sweeping Plan to Restructure Judiciary

Gavel The House Judiciary Committee gave its OK to a bill restructuring Vermont’s court system, but changed some of the more controversial recommendations made by a special commission created by the Vermont Supreme Court.

The Judiciary Committee’s proposal — which was quickly reviewed by the Appropriations Committee late last week — will hit the House floor tomorrow and Wednesday.

The 178-page proposal passed out of committee by a 10-0 margin.

In short, the committee's proposal would ensure that each county has a court venue. That means people would not have to travel beyond the county seat in order to seek out a judge. Instead judges will be the ones to travel to the courthouse to hear cases.

Residents in Essex and Grand Isle counties feared they would lose direct access to some court functions as a result of the merger.

Lippert said his committee’s proposal eliminates that fear.

Continue reading "House to Vote on Sweeping Plan to Restructure Judiciary" »

March 19, 2010

Lyme disease documentary to spark panel discussion at GMFF

Under-skin As the weather warms up and people venture outdoors again, concerns about what could lurk in the tall grass — namely, deer ticks carrying Lyme disease — return, too.

Since it was first identified in 1982, Lyme disease has caused public fear, confusion — and controversy. A film screening this Sunday at the 13th annual Green Mountain Film Festival should fuel the latter.

The consensus among major medical journals and doctors is that chronic Lyme disease does not exist, and that those who claim to be afflicted with it are actually victims of a psychosomatic condition or other unknown illness. The documentary Under Our Skin, directed by Andy Abrahams Wilson (who's made other docs for PBS and HBO) strongly challenges this claim.

The film classifies Lyme Disease as an epidemic, claiming it is 10 times more prevalent than AIDS and West Nile combined. It documents the lives of patients, some severely disabled, as they struggle to find a cure or even a diagnosis. Interviews with patients and doctors make a larger statement about politics and corruption in our current health care system.

The showing is on Sunday, March 21, at 5 p.m. at the Pavilion Auditorium at 109 State Street in Montpelier. A discussion with central Vermonters affected by Lyme Disease and local doctors follows. Check here for ticketing information.

Republican Governors Association Fires On Shumlin Using 7D Survey

DSC04768 The Republican Governors Association is using Seven Days' Legislative Survey as campaign ammunition to attack a Democrat running for governor this year, Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin (pictured).

Makes us wonder if the GOP even read the whole survey. If they had, they might realize they're shooting blanks.

From the Rutland Herald's blog:

On Wednesday, Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin - a 2010 Democratic gubernatorial candidate - was named "most ethically challenged" in a survey of Statehouse lawmakers and staff by Seven Days, the weekly Burlington newspaper.

Today, the Republican Governors Association - the national GOP group supporting Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie's bid for the job of Vermont governor - sent out a press release using that finding to slam Shumlin.

Continue reading "Republican Governors Association Fires On Shumlin Using 7D Survey" »

March 18, 2010

Vermont Milk Company Building, Property Sold at Auction

IMG_0819 The Vermont businessman and real estate developer who purchased the former Vermont Milk Company building at an eco-industrial park in Hardwick says he hopes to find a tenant, or tenants, interested in local food production.

Howard Manosh of Morrisville bought the building for $275,000 — a price that seemed to surprise the more than 100 people who gathered to either bid or watch the bidding. Separate from the building, about 200 "lots" of equipment and supplies were being sold separately.

The auction began at 9:30 a.m., and the building was sold within 20 minutes. Bidding began around $150,000 and twice appeared to stall at lower amounts before bidders kept ticking up the price upon the urging of Thomas Hirchak (pictured right).

"Hardwick has become a real center for food processing," Manosh told several reporters after the sale. He has had interest from at least one area organic dairy farm, and other food-related processors, in becoming tenants.

"I'd like to keep the building in food processing," said Manosh, who owns properties throughout north-central Vermont. "There has been some interest in doing that."

Continue reading "Vermont Milk Company Building, Property Sold at Auction" »

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