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December 2010

December 26, 2010

A Year in the Life of Burlington Telecom

Obrien Ed. Note: During the last week of the year, we asked our writers to reflect on the highs and lows of 2010.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

That could easily be Burlington Telecom's motto. Or, its epitaph.

BT remained one of the most politically charged and financially relevant stories of the year, which is saying something when you have a nuclear power plant sprouting a new leak practically each week.

Budget battles under the Golden Dome came and went, as did entire administrations, but allegations of malfeasance and the tanking of a political dynasty in Burlington are here to stay. At least for a few more months.

Expect the first few months of 2011 to be the make-or-break time for Burlington Telecom. Though, it seems as if Mayor Bob Kiss isn't going to go out without a fight. With little credibility left among voters, and even his own party, it's hard to see how Kiss can lay legitimate claim to being the "credible" player on the field.

BT entered 2010 hobbling and under intense scrutiny after it was revealed in late September 2009 that city officials has "loaned" the utility $17 million over the course of several years and failed to repay the cash — violating BT's certificate of public good and the city charter.

It heads out of 2010 in no better shape, really, though somehow still in business.

Continue reading "A Year in the Life of Burlington Telecom" »

December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays from Seven Days

The Seven Days office is now officially closed for our annual holiday break. Our bosses give us all a free week or so off at the end of the year to compensate for the other holidays we have to work (Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veteran's Day, etc.). I think it's a great deal.

We put next week's paper to bed early, so you'll still get a new paper next Wednesday (and a Bite Club e-newsletter on Tuesday, and a NOW e-newsletter on Wednesday), but we won't be back to work until Monday, January 3.

In the meantime, we asked our writers to reflect on 2010. They submitted their blog posts in advance (most of them did, anyway...). I've scheduled them to publish during our break, so you'll have new content to read here on the blog.

Finally, in honor of Christmas Eva — er, Christmas Eve — check out this week's episode of "Stuck in Vermont," whch features Santa's recent visit to Mayfair Park in South Burlington. If your family celebrates Christmas, have a merry one.

December 23, 2010

Dead Bird Dancing

E&L An artist friend once "told me, 'Never contextualize your art,'” Lida Winfield declares, standing beside Ellen Smith Ahern before a packed audience at a recent showing of their work-in-progress, "The Woods Are Deep," at the Firehouse Center for the Arts. Both dancers are dressed in oversized trench coats and holding bundles of sticks. “Your art should speak for itself,” she continues, enunciating every syllable.

Then there’s a dramatic pause. “We have decided not to take this advice,” Winfield says. 

And then they explain exactly what's coming and from whence it came. Their 50-mintue work is about the natural world. It’s inspired by images of hawks and water and woods and love. “Humans are animals, too. Everything dies,” Smith Ahern says.

They've given the audience instructions, too. We're seated in the round, with a ring of rather large sticks at our feet. When the dancers give a signal throughout the show, those in the front row should grab the stick before them and hold it up until they hear the magic number, which, depending on where you're sitting, could be 30, 12 or 5.

Sounds fun, right? Fortunately, Winfield and Smith Ahern have enough self-awareness to treat this request with the appropriate level of irony. 

“This will all become clear,” Smith Ahern assures us before she takes her place with Winfield, in one of four gaps in the circle, to begin.

Continue reading "Dead Bird Dancing" »

December 22, 2010

BT's Legal and Consulting Costs Top $625,000

BurlingtonCityLogo * updated *

The outside consultants hired by the city of Burlington to help it guide Burlington Telecom through an internal restructuring and external reviews by state regulators have cost the utility more than $625,000 since July 1, 2009.

That's according to a memo sent by City Hall officials to City Councilors Paul Decelles (R-Ward 7) Karen Paul (I-Ward 6). The accounting was also made in response to a records request by Seven Days.

In September, I noted in "Fair Game" that Burlington Telecom's financial and regulatory troubles had racked up close to $500,000 in charges. As of December 21, that figure sits at $625,063, according to Scott Schroeder, the city's assistant chief administrative officer.

In all, the city has paid out more than $245,000 for legal and regulatory services, which includes $64,000 toward the recent Larkin and Associates report conducted for the Department of Public Service. DPS officials told Seven Days the full cost of the report was $85,000 and would be billed to Burlington Telecom.

Continue reading "BT's Legal and Consulting Costs Top $625,000" »

December 21, 2010

VT Mozart Fest Calls It Quits

Gil Shohat Thirty-seven years is a respectable run for any arts organization, but tell that to the musicians, staff and board members of the Vermont Mozart Festival. Not to mention the thousands of fans of the grand performances held in gorgeous locations around the state each summer. For my money, a perfect summer evening looks like this: a picnic on the grass at Shelburne Farms (avec vin!), a world-class orchestra striking up on the historic inn's porch, an Adirondack sunset reflecting off Lake Champlain.

But not enough people paid for that kind of summer night over the past few years, apparently — though Seven Days readers voted the fest the 2010 Best Outdoor concert Series, and Vermont Chamber of Commerce consistently named it a top-10 summer event. Moreover, the organization hired a high-profile artistic director, Israeli pianist and composer Gil Shohat (pictured).

Though fundraising actually improved in 2009 and 2010, ticket sales reportedly "sunk well below expected revenues," according to a press release. Two seasons marred by heavy rains did not help. VMF was left with a deficit of $325,000 after this summer's festival, said the release.

Today, the organization, founded in 1974 by Mel Kaplan, announced it will be closing its doors "on or before January 15." Said board president Richard Parlato: "I will miss all the wonderful summer nights and the magic of the music in our beautiful state."

Amen to that.

Alice Eats: Rustico's

21 Essex Way, Essex 802-876-6262

To many folks who grew up in Essex, Foodee's was the equivalent of the Max or the Peach Pit. The pimply pizza crusts were unique and the drink case was one of the best around. There were two kinds of grape soda alone! When Foodee's closed last year, a lot of hearts broke.

Pasta Could Rustico's, its more upscale replacement, ever take a similar place in locals' restaurant-going rotation? I don't know about other Essex kids, but it now firmly belongs in mine. This is mostly due to one dish: the "Tour of Italy."

"Alice Eats" is all about finding great deals for my readers and, this Christmas, I'm sharing one of the best. For $17.99, the meal for two includes salad and an embarrassingly large plate of homemade pasta — your choice of linguine, angel hair or penne. I've had success with both the linguine and cute, irregularly shaped penne. Rustic, indeed.

The gigantic nests of pasta are sauced in the colors of the Italian flag: green pesto, white carbonara and red pomodoro. Though the pesto always tastes fresh, it tends toward the slightly under seasoned and is reliably my least favorite of the three. That's not so bad when the other two tie for first. The pomodoro is beautifully tangy and coats the al dente noodles perfectly. The carbonara grows in flavor with each bite, creamy, cheesy, smoky and salty. It's so good, I almost forget the addictively meaty bolognese that originally took its place.

Salade Though both avowed trenchermen, my boyfriend and I have never been able to finish the dish, so it's actually more like $17.99 for four meals. That's partly due to the bread with herbed olive oil and extra-large salads included with the meal. Though these are the basic "side salads" at the restaurant, the dressings are far from stock players. All are homemade. At my most recent visit, I tried the blood-orange vinaigrette. Although it sounded promising, I could barely detect orange or vinegar. A parmesan and cracked peppercorn dressing simply called "creamy Italian" was so rich and flavorful that my boyfriend asked our very attentive server to thank the kitchen. To his delight, a take-out container filled with the dressing came with our check at the end of the meal. 

Slippers If that's not enough to convince you, there are appealing appetizers, too. I've tried arancini — creamy risotto balls stuffed with  mozzarella and then deep-fried — and house-made potato chips, which come to the table still hot from the fryer. I tried to eat a reasonable amount, dipped into the warm and mild Gorgonzola dip. Impossible.

On my last visit, I tried a Rustico's original, called "Siena Slippers." Toasts were covered with a bed of arugula topped with prosciutto-wrapped fresh mozzarella. The quartet of "slippers," all drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette, resembled distended, meaty rose petals, exactly my kind of bouquet. And Rustico's is my kind of place.





Google Delays Fiber Network Decision Until 2011

Googlelogo Burlington Telecom and the Vermont Telecommunications Authority can cross one item off their Christmas wish list: An announcement from Google about which community will be home to an experimental high-speed fiber internet in the United States.

Google originally said it would make its decision by the end of the year, but last week the tech company announced it was delaying its decision until early 2011.

"We had planned to announce our selected community or communities by the end of this year, but the level of interest was incredible — nearly 1,100 communities across the country responded to our announcement — and exceeded our expectations. While we’re moving ahead full steam on this project, we’re not quite ready to make that announcement," said Milo Medin, Google's vice president of access services in a statement.

Continue reading "Google Delays Fiber Network Decision Until 2011" »

December 20, 2010

Overheard on a Ski Lift

Ski-lift This past Sunday, I dusted off the battered, old snowboard and hit the slopes for the first time this season. I figured I'd get in a few quick runs at Bolton Valley before heading home to make Christmas cookies. And by make, I mean eat the dough and pour sprinkles into my mouth.

Sunday proved a great day to go riding. The sun was out, the temperature was mild-ish and the snow was downy and soft. And the best part of the day was that I didn't have to take a notebook or a pencil with me on the lift, unlike last year where, because of my 20/20 Challenge, every day at the mountain was a work day. No, on this day, I rode unencumbered by writing utensils and paper.

But in a way, I wish I did have some way of recording the day's events, particularly the conversations that I overheard on my many lift rides. There's something about ski lifts that makes people lose all sense of propriety. It's like somehow, but virtue of proximity, you become part of their crew. Or maybe just part of the scenery. People will have the craziest-ass conversations with their friends, while completely ignoring that you're sitting at the other end of the bench, listening to every poorly chosen word that that tumbles out of their mouths. 

Continue reading "Overheard on a Ski Lift" »

Lauryn Hill at Higher Ground: Fail or Fantastic?

LAURYN-HILL-BLOG Would she show up, or wouldn't she? It was the question seemingly on the minds of everyone who dropped $60 to see Lauryn Hill perform last night at Higher Ground. Apparently, Hill, the former Fugees star and and famous flamer-outer, has a history of ditching shows people have paid good money to see. So every ticketholder for last night's show was wondering the same thing — would she, or wouldn't she?

That anyone would spend $60 to see Ms. Lauryn Hill perform songs from her near-anorexic body of work, was mind-blowing to me. Don't get me wrong — The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was a singularly stellar album and provided the soundtrack to my junior year of college. But sister has 14 songs to her name, not including those penned with the Fugees, and hasn't released an album since 2002's MTV Unplugged No. 2.0. So $60 is a bit rich for my blood, on principle. But maybe I'm just a cheapskate. 

Bucking speculation that she would be a no-show, Hill played Higher Ground just like her people promised she would. Granted, she went on at 11:30 p.m. — an hour and a half after she was supposed to hit the stage. Some people got so fed up with waiting, they demanded refunds from Higher Ground. And, according to a Higher Ground employee, they did give a "handful" of refunds due to the high cost of the ticket and the fact that the show was on a Sunday night, as opposed to a non-school/work night. 

So what I'm wondering, fair readers, is this: How was the show? Was it worth the 60 shekels? Did she blow you away? Did she live up to the hype? Were the back-up singers the best part of the night? If you wouldn't spend $60 to see Lauryn Hill, who would you spend that much, or more, to see? Lady Gaga? Insane Clown Posse? Nelson? Let us know below. 


Corm, Coach and Lana Wilder Team up for New Morning Show

CormcoachLanawilderThey're baaack.

The Champlain Valley awoke this morning once again to the sounds of Corm, Coach and Lana — only this time from their computers and smartphones rather than the radio.

Steve Cormier ("Corm"), Tom Brennan ("Coach") and Lana Wilder ("Lana"  launched a new, two-hour morning show on Northeast Sports Network ( The show airs from 7 to 9 a.m. After the first of the year, the show will be simulcast on WCAXtra, WCAX-TV's secondary digital channel.

News of the deal with NSNSports was first reported back in November, but no date had been set for a launch.

"Corm & the Coach" has been broadcasting to the Champlain Valley for nearly two decades and was among the region's most popular morning talk shows until it ended in 2008. "Corm & the Coach" returned to the airwaves in 2009 but stopped broadcasting in April when the station they were on fell into financial difficulty. Wilder was let go from her morning radio gig at Star 92.9 FM earlier this year after seven years at the station and more than 20 years in the local market.

Continue reading "Corm, Coach and Lana Wilder Team up for New Morning Show" »

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