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May 2010

May 24, 2010

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy: Close Morses Line Border Crossing

F-crossingtheline-border In the wake of a spirited public meeting on Saturday, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is urging Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to close down the Morses Line border crossing.

"The past nine years have seen a dramatic change in the way America protects its borders — and aging ports of entry critical to security and commerce need upgrades.  It is my opinion, and the opinion of all who spoke at the Franklin public meeting, that the Morses Line port is not a critical link in the chain of our nation’s security or commerce," wrote Leahy. "If it requires a major influx of taxpayer funding to ensure the dedicated agents who protect or borders can do their jobs safely, then it is best to close the port and focus on more critical border security needs."

Leahy, who is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he hoped Napolitano would voluntarily close down the port, but added that he would be prepared to close it as part of the budget review process.

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May 21, 2010

Hair to the Rescue

1849813837_544d8aa1d3 Probably like most of you, I have never given much thought to where my hair goes once I get it cut. Actually, I have never given any thought to it. That's why I'm getting it cut — because I don't want to deal with it anymore. I'm sure salons have some nifty disposal method (like shooting clipped coifs into space), but I haven't cared enough to inquire. Once it's cut, it serves no purpose.

Or does it? Recently, I heard about a nationwide effort to get salons to donate their hair clippings to help with the oil spill in the Gulf Coast. Now, I've heard about Locks of Love where long-tressed folks donate their luxurious mane for wigs for underprivileged kids with medical hair loss, but how is hair going to clean up the gulf? I'm gagging just thinking about it. I'm just envisioning the world's largest hair ball or drain clog.

 Matter of Truth, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, collects hair, as well as fur, for all you pet groomers out there, and felts them into oil-absorbing "hairmats" and "hairbooms." Now, if any of you have seen me after a two-week showerless bender, you know that hair is pretty good at absorbing oil. It makes sense to take a natural surplus product like hair clippings and turn them into something useful, albeit super creepy.

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Moody's Downgrades Burlington Airport Credit Rating

BTV_logo For the second time in less than three months, the credit rating agency Moody's has downgraded Burlington's bond rating — this time affecting millions of dollars in bonds held by the Burlington International Airport.

The news came via press release late this morning from the mayor's office, but has been known for several days and was shared last night at the city's board of finance meeting.

Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the Burlington International Airport’s credit rating from Baa1 to Baa3, citing concerns about the airport’s “protective liquidity” due to uncertainties in the city’s pooled cash system, a debt service coverage ratio that is too low, and a potential reduction in enplanements based on the recent departure of AirTrans.

Earlier this year, the city's overall bond rating was downgraded due to the $17 million Burlington Telecom owed to the city's "cash pool," an amount that has yet to be repaid. Moody's put the city on a 90-day credit watch in March.

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May 20, 2010

Alice Eats: The Belted Cow Bistro

010 4 Park Street, Essex Junction 316-3883

Another two days, another two Vermont Restaurant Week meals.Tuesday night it was Bistro Sauce. The meal started with chamomile-scented parsnip soup and a green salad with candied hazelnuts and one big dried date, like a cherry on top. I had been coveting the risotto with guanciale since I got Sauce's Restaurant Week menu. I was not disappointed, though the dish had been modified to include artichokes and lemon zest in place of pickled ramps and fresh herbs. Adobo, full of plump shreds of chicken and hominy, was a sweet-and-sour treat, topped with smoked pepperoncini.

Instead of dessert, the third course offerings included hearty entrées. Slices of LaPlatte Farm steak laid across a bed of creamy garlic mash, sitting in an intense red-wine reduction and a drizzle of Hollandaise. The one complaint: The roasted root veggies included were slightly singed. Nonetheless, the value was incomparable: The steak alone usually goes for $25. For Restaurant Week, that's what I paid for the whole meal. I felt so flush, I splurged on dessert. I highly recommend the elegant bay-leaf ice cream.

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Burlington Free Press Publisher to Leave Post

F-freepress-illustration Brad Robertson, the publisher of the Burlington Free Press, is moving on after just 2-and-a-half years on the job.

Robertson is leaving to become president of Gannett Local and vice president of business development for the U.S. Community Publishing division. This division oversees Gannett's 81 daily newspapers, or "information centers," as they are now dubbed by corporate HQ.

According to the Freeps, Gannett Local is "a new business model focused on working with small- and medium-sized business to provide them a high-touch marketing consultation and a suite of multiplatform solutions (search engine marketing, email, digital display, website and geo-targeted print/flyers) delivered by a team of dedicated experts over the phone."

Gannett Local is based in Phoenix, Ariz.

Hmm. Sounds like the in-house consulting group Robertson launched last year,  "191 College" — named for the physical address of the state's largest daily.

In all honesty, Robertson was never likely to become a long-term fixture in Burlington. Born and bred into the Gannett family, the guy is sharp, likable and full of ideas.

He was being groomed for bigger and better things than running a small-circ daily in Vermont.

"I was really bummed to hear that he's leaving. He's been obviously going back and forth to Phoenix a lot in the past year, and it was probably inevitable," said Ted Adler of Union Street Media, who met Robertson when the publisher first arrived to town.

"It's a huge loss," added Adler. "I think he really turned the paper around and made it personally a lot more relevant to me in my daily life."

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May 19, 2010

VTDigger Hits Pay Dirt

Smallshovel The news website VTDigger has won a competitive two-year, $25,000 national grant from J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism.

What timing, too.

The site's founder — Anne Galloway — posted an item Tuesday asking readers to help raise more money so the site can cover the gubernatorial election.

Galloway told Seven Days that she was given notice last week that she, and eight other groups, had won the award, but she had to keep quiet until J-Lab made the official announcement. In all, 284 groups competed for the "New Voices" award.

That takes some effort: A journalist keeping quiet on a scoop!

"I'm still wondering if I should pinch myself," joked Galloway. The site will receive $17,000 this year and $8000 next year, she added.

Here's how J-Lab described Galloway's winning entry.

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City Council Backs Off Challenge to Phoenix House Permit

Zcard Update: The original vote total provided for the council's Monday night was incorrect. The post has been updated with the correct vote total.

Update x 2: The vote total provided by the city clerk's office correcting the original post was, in fact, incorrect. After reviewing the video of the vote, the corrected tally is below, along with the names of the councilors voting in opposition.

After a closed-door session with city officials, the Burlington City Council late Monday night backed off its challenge of an Act 250 permit granted to a 20-bed transitional house for ex-inmates.

The council authorized the city attorney's office to enter in a settlement with Burlington Housing Authority and Phoenix House. Conditions of the settlement will set, in concrete terms, who can be admitted to the home and how they will be overseen while living in the home.

The issue usurped plenty of public oxygen at the past two council meetings with a number of Church Street business owners and downtown business leaders concerned that a home so close to the Marketplace would send people to the street to simply hang out and loiter all day, scaring away customers.

A number of Phoenix House advocates said without the transitional home on Elmwood Avenue, ex-inmates would be returned to Burlington — likely the Old North End — live without supervision or support. And, it's likely they'd end up on Church Street anyway. 

Advocates also noted that when Northern Lights — a transitional house for women offenders — was first proposed several years ago on Cherry Street, it raised similar fears from downtown merchants.

The home has proven successful for the women who live there, and the fears regarding its negative impact on downtown have not been borne out, said Leigh Steele, of Vermont Works for Women.

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Losing "Lost"

Locke-orange The TV show "Lost" finally ends on Sunday, and I have a confession to make: I don't like "Lost." Also, I've probably watched more episodes of "Lost" and know more about "Lost" than anyone else who thinks the characters are boring and doesn't really care about their flashbacks, flash-forwards, flash-sideways, secret crimes, shocking deaths, shocking returns from the dead, sweaty trysts, love triangles, J. Crew-model physiques, mind-bending transformations into embodiments of good and evil, or famous philosopher namesakes. They're just a bunch of actors in tight shirts to me.

But, while I don't love the fictional people or stories of "Lost," I'm fascinated by the story of "Lost" as the series that finally succeeded in taking sci-fi weirdness, alternate realities and other such stuff mainstream. It should have been "Twin Peaks." It could have been "The X-Files" or "Buffy." But ultimately "Lost" was the show that geekified Middle America.

In that spirit, I offer some Lostie links.

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May 18, 2010

BTV Welcome Wagon Rolls Into Terry Bikes

Welcome_wagon Press conferences tend to be boring, sit-down affairs where stuffed suits natter on about things most of us care nothing about. Generally, the presser's host doesn't even have the sense to offer free food to the three reporters in attendance.

But that wasn't true Tuesday when Terry Precision Bicycles hosted a little gathering at its swank new digs inside Maple Street design shop JDK. Well, Terry didn't exactly throw the event for themselves. The city, repped by Mayor Bob Kiss, Jon Adams-Kollitz of CEDO and others, put on the little shindig, complete with homemade carrot cupcakes and a little bike ride, to welcome the company to town.

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Alice Eats: The Daily Planet

15 Center Street, Burlington 802-862-9647

Planet2 I am taking full advantage of Vermont Restaurant Week. Friday I hit Café Shelburne for three stunning courses of goat cheese ravioli, chicken and buttery wild mushrooms over housemade fettuccine and a ganache of white, milk and dark chocolates, lying in a bath of pistachio cream. Saturday was dinner at the Bluebird Tavern with the panelists from our discussion "Food in the 21st Century" held that morning at the Essex. Sunday night was a revelatory fiesta of high-end Mexican plates at 3 Squares.

Last night, I hit The Daily Planet for an early dinner before helping host Culinary Pub Quiz at Nectar's. Even before menu items hit the table, I gloried in two different breads, a white rosemary-studded one and multigrain, both spread with house-made butter, dotted with big chunks of sea salt.

My party shared all three of the appetizers on offer. Frog Leg Stew was presented amphibian 'n' biscuits-style in a comforting cream sauce with chopped veggies. Buttery toast points floated in the comforting stew in place of biscuits. This was my first taste of frog, the "tastes like chicken" adage holds somewhat true. Imagine three-quarters chicken to one quarter grouper.

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