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August 2010

August 26, 2010

Official Vote Counting Underway in Governor's Race

DSC07312 For the next three days, six staffers in the Secretary of State's office will slog through a mountain of election results to determine who won the contested Democratic primary for governor.

Peter Shumlin claimed victory yesterday after Associated Press figures gave him a 190-vote unofficial lead over Doug Racine. But Racine isn't conceding until results are official, and hasn't ruled out a recount.

By 4 p.m. Thursday, the secretary's office had received official "return of vote" forms from town clerks in all but three or four communities, said state elections director Kathy DeWolfe (pictured). DeWolfe and her staff planned to work straight through the weekend, 12 hours a day if need be, entering results into a database that will become the official record. They're doing "double data entry," meaning each set of results is entered by two different people, to ensure accuracy.

"The chances of two people entering the same wrong thing are slim," said DeWolfe, adding that she's never had an issue with the system.

Continue reading "Official Vote Counting Underway in Governor's Race" »

***UPDATE: Big Cats and Their Litter Boxes Return to the Champlain Valley Fair

Upton-sinclair-the-jungle-200x313  With the recent news that the Nerger Tiger and Lion Show is returning to the Champlain Valley Fair, the Green Mountain Animal Defenders announced today that it's spoiling for my favorite kind of fight: a cat fight.

On Saturday, August 28, at 11:30 a.m., activists from GMAD, Vermont's largest nonprofit animal advocacy group, will converge on the west entrance to the fairgrounds in Essex to shed light on the big cat show's long record of violations of the Federal Animal Welfare Act, including $272,000 in accumulated fines.

According to protest organizers, "Green Mountain Animal Defenders also challenge fair management who contend this show is 'educational' and would question, as a matter of public safety, whether Essex Junction Animal Control is equipped to handle escaped 400-lb. carnivores." 

Well, I guess Upton Sinclair's book The Jungle was was once considered "educational," too. 

Where Do All the Lonely Ballots Go?

6a00d8357f777769e200e550148adc8833-800wi1 This past Tuesday, when I exercised my 19th Amendment-guaranteed right to vote, I couldn't help but notice the surfeit of ballots offered to me. There was one for the Republican slate, one for the Progressive, and one for the Democratic. I took the three ballots, each printed on crisp card stock and, as instructed, filled out only one.

After I made my selections (it was easy — I wrote myself in for every position), I fed my finished ballot into the secret ballot machine and discarded the other two. As I walked out into the sunny afternoon, I thought to myself, "Gee, golly. Where do all those extra ballots go?" Follow-up question: "WWBMD? — What would Bill McKibben do?"

It sure seemed like an awful lot of waste. But what do I know? Perhaps they take all the unused ballots and turn them into fuel for a wood-chip boiler at a homeless shelter. Or maybe they use them to line kitty cages at the animal shelter. Not knowing the answer, but being deemed a reporter, I figured it was my duty to find out.

Continue reading "Where Do All the Lonely Ballots Go?" »

Sanders Mad at Cow Remark

DSC05144 How do you make a Vermont senator mad?

Compare Social Security to "a milk cow with 310 million tits."

That's what Alan Simpson, co-chairman of President Obama's deficit commission, wrote in an email to the director of the Older Women's League. Sen. Bernie Sanders is fuming about it and has written Obama a letter calling for Simpson, a former senator from Wyoming, to be fired.

"Yes, I've made some plenty smart cracks about people on Social Security who milk it to the last degree," Simpson wrote in the email. "You know 'em, too. It's the same with any system in America. We've reached a point now where it's like a milk cow with 310 million tits!"

Continue reading "Sanders Mad at Cow Remark" »

Jail Newspaper Sues VT's Former Prison Health Providers Over Inmate Death

Here's a fascinating lawsuit that will test the legal boundaries of Vermont's public-records statute.

Prison Legal News (PLN), a Brattleboro-based nonprofit that publishes the nation's largest jailhouse newspaper, filed suit today against PHS Correctional Healthcare — formerly known as Prison Health Services — seeking documents related to the August 2009 death of a female inmate at Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans. Until last year, PHS, a Brentwood, Tenn.-based private corporation, was contracted by the state to provide medical services to inmates in all of Vermont prisons.

F-defense1 On August 16, 2009, Ashley Ellis, a 23-year-old Rutland woman who suffered from anorexia and was serving a 30-day sentence, was found unresponsive in her cell and later pronounced dead. The state's chief medical examiner determined that a contributing factor in her death was the "denial of access to medication" by the prison's medical staff. Ellis' family eventually settled its lawsuit with PHS for an undisclosed sum.

Late last year, the Vermont Department of Corrections decided not to renew the company's five-year contract when it expired in January.

Continue reading "Jail Newspaper Sues VT's Former Prison Health Providers Over Inmate Death" »

August 25, 2010

AARP Postpones Gubernatorial Debate

DSC07278 ** UPDATE: The debate has been rescheduled again, this time to Sept. 26.

The AARP and Vermont Public Television have postponed a gubernatorial debate scheduled for tomorrow night in South Burlington because the result of the Democratic primary isn't settled.

State Senator Peter Shumlin has declared victory, but state Senator Doug Racine, who trails Shumlin by 190 votes, isn't conceding until results become official in two to four days. A recount is still possible.

The debate would have been the first between the Democratic nominee and Republican candidate, Lt. Governor Brian Dubie. It's been rescheduled to Sept. 15 at 7:30 in the DoubleTree Hotel and Conference Center.

Sorry, independent and minor party candidates, you're still not invited.

Continue reading "AARP Postpones Gubernatorial Debate" »

Shumlin Victorious? Racine and Markowitz Not Ready to Concede

DSC07225 With a 190-vote lead and all precincts reporting, Peter Shumlin is declaring victory in the five-way Democrat primary for governor. But rivals Doug Racine and Deb Markowitz aren't ready to call it quits.

At a Democratic unity rally at Burlington's Union Station today, Racine and Markowitz stressed that vote tallies are unofficial and the race is still wide open. Neither would comment about whether they would seek a recount, which is allowed for candidates who finish within 2 percent of the winner.

The five Democratic candidates appeared on stage together before a throng of clapping supporters, but there was no singing of Kumbaya. They all raised hands together, but afterward Markowitz and Racine didn't sound ready to hand the election to Shumlin. None spoke to the crowd from the podium.

Afterward, Shumlin told reporters, "It appears that we've won. We believe we've won and obviously we're going to move forward on the basis that we're going to take on [Republican candidate] Brian [Dubie] and we're gonna get the job done."

Continue reading "Shumlin Victorious? Racine and Markowitz Not Ready to Concede" »

Combo Plate: Kipling Quaff, Brookfield Bites

Kipling Quaff

by Alice Levitt

JustSoPhoto Fruit fans may have tasted berries from Springfield's Cherry Hill Farm, owned by the Hingston family, without even knowing it. The business supplies raspberries and red and black currants to regional food makers including Vermont Mystic Pie Company and Walpole Creamery.

The Hingston clan also produces a product line called Vicky Day's Preserves, and sells the spreads at loads of southern Vermont natural food stores, as well as Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpelier and Healthy Living Natural Foods Market in South Burlington.

Now, fans of vitamin-rich currants can get them in liquid form. In June, Cherry Hill Farm shipped its first bottles of Just So Vermont, black currant juice spiked with lime. Honor Hingston says that her father, Peter, began to develop the tipple this April as a non-alchoholic alternative to cassis, which Putney Mountain Winery already makes from the farm's fruit. "My father wanted it to taste rich and serious and look like a grown-up drink," says Hingston, but he didn't want it to be too sweet.

When her family offered sips of the drink at farmers' markets earlier in the season, "It actually stopped people cold," says Hingston. She adds that despite the strong, slightly syrupy taste, "even little kids try it and like it." She attributes that partly to the fact that the beverage includes lime juice — its only non-local ingredient. "It has that Sour Patch thing going for it," Hingston says.

The local focus was partly what gave the sip its name. Just So Vermont — as in Just Southern Vermont. But, the name also refers to the Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. Why? Like the beverage, the author was semi-local, living for a time in a Dummerston home he called Naulakha. The drink's label features Bagheera from Kipling's The Jungle Book.

Black currant and lime is the only flavor available right now, but Hingston hopes that by next season, Just So Vermont will offer currant drinks flavored with the farm's own raspberries or mint.

Want to try it? Just So Vermont is being mixed into cocktails at the Inn at Weathersfield. It's also for sale by the bottle at southern Vermont farmers markets and co-ops, including Springfield Co-op, Your Farm in Fairlee and Upper Valley Food Co-op in White River Junction, VT. Want to stay closer to home? It's at Hunger Mountain Co-op, too.

Brookfield Bites

Food fun at the Floating Bridge

Hardwick seems to get all of the attention for its buzzing agricultural scene, but it's not the only small Vermont town with nearly as many food producers as people. The Floating Bridge Food and Farm Cooperative, based in Brookfield (half-an-hour south of Montpelier) boats 15 farms, cheese makers and restaurants. This Saturday, the Cooperative will hold its first annual Brookfield Market Day.

From 2 to 5 p.m., the Floating Bridge Farmer’s Market will feature fare from all 15 members of the organization. Look for products from Green Mountain Girls Farm, All Together Farm, Sweet Roots Farm, Brotherly Farm, Fat Toad Farm and Buck Farm. The offerings run the gamut from meat to cheese, veggies, maple products and honey.

Jane Doerfer, a cookbook author and owner of Green Trails Inn, will hold cooking classes at 2 and 3:30 that afternoon. Those too, will utilize produce from association members. Of course, attendees will be hungry by then. There will be a barbecue, too, with local chicken, veggies and baked goods for $10 a plate. Hungry for more? Folks can head to Ariel's Restaurant, where chef Lee Duberman always uses whatever is tasty from nearby farms that day.

Dem Guv Race Still Too Close to Call (UPDATE: Shumlin Claims Victory)

**** UPDATE 2 1:05 p.m. : The AP now has all precincts in, with Peter Shumlin winning by 190 votes over Doug Racine.

**** UPDATE 12:22 p.m. : VPR has Peter Shumlin winning the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Shumlin is claiming victory, according the the AP. 


Looks like there's still no winner declared in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, as far as I can tell. Here's the last update from the Times Argus at 1:37 a.m., when Shumlin is leading Racine by 84 votes, with 234 of 260 precincts counted.

We did get some results:

  • Doug Hoffer bested Ed Flanagan in the Democratic auditor's race.
  • Republican Phil Scott and Democrat Steve Howard will face off in the lt. guv race.
  • Paul Beaudry will face off against Rep. Peter Welch in November.
  • Senator Leahy cruised to victory against cow-rider Daniel Freilich.
  • The Free Press has a round-up of Chittenden County state senate results.
  • The AP posts their most up-to-date town-by-town results on this page.

Thanks to everyone who participated in our live blog last night! That was fun.

More info as we have it...

August 24, 2010

Seven on 7: Rutland Just as the Polls Close

Final notes from the reporter's notebook:

6:35 PM, Neshobe Elementry School in Brandon: I may have found the campaign volunteer who's traveled the farthest to work on a statewide campaign: Drew Dunne, Matt Dunne's 35-year-old cousin, who traveled up from New Orleans to help out his kin. Dunne the Younger has been at the polls all day handing out literature, though he hasn't exactly been making much headway in this corner of the state. According to Brandon Town Clerk Bill Dick, the only candidate to show his face here today was former GOP chair and state Rep. Joe Acinapura, who's running unopposed in both the primary and general election.

Despite his lack of opposition, Acinapura was more than eager to bend the ear of a reporter about the list of constituent requests he's gotten today. Among them: A bill to allow artists to hand out free wine at art galleries without a liquor license (isn't that legal already?); a request to do something about all the cars parked on people's front lawns in Brandon; a complaint about the Route 7 upgrade through Brandon being "a complete waste of money;" a request for a legislative earmark to pay for a seniors' bus trip the Statehouse; and, another request for money to pay for "Vermonters' Day" at Fenway Park.

Gotta love small-town politics.

Continue reading "Seven on 7: Rutland Just as the Polls Close" »

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