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February 2011

February 17, 2011

'Right-To-Die' Bill Introduced in Legislature

DWD Presser Armed with a new poll that says 64 percent of Vermonters support a right-to-die law, a group of lawmakers introduced legislation today that would give terminally ill patients the choice of ending their own lives.

After intense lobbying, the group Patient Choices Vermont secured 43 co-sponsors for H-274, including every House member from Burlington, minus Republican Kurt Wright and Democrat Johannah Leddy Donovan. Rep. Donna Sweaney (D-Windsor) is the lead sponsor. The bill was unveiled by Patient Choices Vermont founder Dick Walters (pictured at podium) and other supporters during a Statehouse press conference this morning.

Two things give supporters hope that "death with dignity" will pass this year: Gov. Peter Shumlin supports it (former Gov. Jim Douglas did not); and a new Zogby poll commissioned by Patient Choices Vermont, and released today, shows broad support for the legislation.

The Death With Dignity National Center in Oregon, where the nation's first right-to-die law was passed in 1997, has targeted Vermont as the most likely state for a legislative victory this year. The center's executive director was in Vermont in December to meet with Shumlin and organizers for the effort. Click here for more background.

The Zogby telephone survey was conducted on February 11 and asked 600 likely Vermont voters: "Would you support or oppose legislation to give a mentally competent adult, dying of a terminal disease with a prognosis of less than 6 months to live, the right to request and take medication to peacefully hasten death?" The results: 64 percent support, 26 percent oppose and 10 percent aren't sure.

That's actually lower support for right-to-die legislation than in previous Zogby polls. A 2007 survey showed 82 percent of Vermonters supported the bill. That same year, the House voted down a right-to-die bill 63 to 82.

Continue reading "'Right-To-Die' Bill Introduced in Legislature" »

Vermont Chefs Nominated for James Beard Honors

Food-duino1 This morning the James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalists for its über-prestigious JBF Awards for the best chefs and restaurants in the United States.

Though Vermont didn't garner any nominations in the biggest categories such as Best New Restaurant (Bluebird Tavern made last year's cut) or Outstanding Chef (generally reserved for superstars), three Green Mountain cooks are in the running for Best Chef: Northeast.

For the third year in a row, Eric Warnstedt of Hen of the Wood at the Grist Mill is a nominee. He was among the select group of Vermont chefs invited to cook last March at the James Beard House in New York City. He worked in that kitchen again in the fall, representing chefs with recipes in the book Harvest to Heat: Cooking With America’s Best Chefs, Farmers, and Artisans.

New nominees include Jason Gulisano of the Green Cup in Waitsfield and Nathaniel Wade (right) of Burlington's ¡Duino! (Duende). Though I wrote this week about the fantastic new food at the tiny café, Wade's nomination comes as something of a surprise — the chef has only been at ¡Duino! (Duende) since December.

Conspicuously absent are Steve and Lara Atkins of the Kitchen Table Bistro. The fine dining dynamic duo were nominated the past two years and cooked with Warnstedt at the Beard House Team Vermont dinner.

Vermont's Unionized Workers Under Pressure to Pay More

Images No expectations that Vermont will see some of the massive labor protests currently going on in Wisconsin, where the Republican governor has said he'd like to pretty much do away with state employees' collective bargaining rights.

The Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, has even asked the state National Guard to be ready to keep the peace if protests get out of hand and workers fail to show up on the job.

Along with doing away with most collective bargaining rights, Walker also wants state employees to pay more for health care premiums and retirement benefits.

As noted in this week's "Fair Game," Vermont's workforce was asked to make similar benefits concessions. Late Tuesday, the 120-member executive council of the Vermont State Employees Association agreed to the concessions, which will mean state employees will kick in more toward their own health care and retirement benefits.

The concessions are part of a $12 million package of labor cost savings that Gov. Peter Shumlin's administration has proposed. Other savings will come from keeping about half of the anticipated vacant positions unfilled.

In other labor updates from stories in this week's Seven Days:

Continue reading "Vermont's Unionized Workers Under Pressure to Pay More" »

February 16, 2011

Facebookers Will Decide Whether Randolph Center Farm Gets $10,000 Grant

Beidler Commercial grain growers in Vermont are a tiny group, and Randolph Center's Beidler Family Farm is among them. In addition to a herd of 35 dairy cows, Brent Beidler, along with his wife Regina and 13-year-old daughter Erin, farm 15 acres of wheat, spelt and millet. They sell their milk to Organic Valley and their flour to markets in central and southern Vermont and New Hampshire, where demand is growing.

For three years, they've been cleaning that grain on a machine that dates from the early 1900s — a machine called the Clipper. “It’s a pretty old, antiquated seed cleaner that does a modestly good job, but I won’t be able to get parts for it when it breaks down,” says Brent Beidler. “I realize I’m on borrowed time.”

A used but modern seed cleaner that the Beidlers have their eye on would cost $5,000 and streamline their production of 10 to 15 tons per year. It would also enable them to expand their product line. The Beidlers inched much closer to retiring the Clipper when they found out had risen to the top of a pool of 72 farmers vying for $10,000 “Grant a Wish” award from Stonyfield.

Stonyfield launched the contest a month ago as a way to highlight the stories of the organic farmers who provide milk for their yogurt. The Beidlers are one of six finalists, and the only farm from New England. Whether they win will be decided by voters on Stonyfield's Facebook page, where each of the farmers have posted a video about themselves and their plans.

Continue reading "Facebookers Will Decide Whether Randolph Center Farm Gets $10,000 Grant" »

Shelburne Museum Names Interim Director

Robert_Skiff Robert Skiff Sr. is going to wake up and smell the lilacs. Well, not till May, actually. But that's a good thing, as there are a lot of chores to do at the Shelburne Museum — like, get the place ready to open for the season — before its bazillion bushes bloom. When that happens, the perfume puts everyone in a pleasant stupor for three days.

But I digress. As the headline above hints, Skiff (pictured) was just announced as the interim director of the museum, taking the reins during a search to replace outgoing director Stephan Jost. After five successful years at the helm, Jost is stepping down in order to learn how to surf in Hawaii.

Continue reading "Shelburne Museum Names Interim Director" »

Vermont Woman Who Led Fight for '99ers' on Verge of Homelessness

Jarrin2 A Brattleboro woman who led an effort to raise awareness about the plight of people who exhausted their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits and were facing eviction is herself now on the verge of homelessness.

Alexandra Jarrin, who was featured on the front page of The New York Times last August and on CNN in December, has been staying in a motel for the past week after she had to leave a friend's home.

In December, Jarrin organized a national effort called "Letters to Bernie." She collected letters from fellow "99ers" — people who were unable to find work after 99 weeks and have since lost unemployment benefits. She hand delivered them to the Brattleboro office of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on the day that Sanders took to the the floor of the U.S. Senate and embarked on an eight-hour faux filibuster — dubbed the "Filibernie."

The goal of the letter-writing campaign — which she launched last summer — was to pressure senators to continue extending unemployment benefits for people who were actively looking for work, but were unable to find a job. Since delivering the letters, Jarrin has not heard from the Senator or his staff. But, she didn't really expect to get a call or a thanks. Sanders did attempt to provide additional unemployment benefits for the long-time unemployed like Jarrin, but that measure failed.

Jarrin has been unemployed since March 2008 when she was let go as a client services manager at a small tech firm in New York. After unsuccessful attempts to find work in New York she eventually trekked to Tennessee to look for a job. But, employment never materialized, so she moved to Vermont to live with a friend while she continued to look for work.

She estimates she's applied for more than 3000 jobs in her three-year search to find work and long ago depleted her personal savings.

Continue reading "Vermont Woman Who Led Fight for '99ers' on Verge of Homelessness" »

Green Mountain Avengers at NYC Fashion Week

Carhartt Here in Vermont, we're aesthetically as far removed from the fashion capitals of the world as you can get. You're about as likely to see grease-stained Carhartts and duct-tape-covered puff coats cruising down the runways of Paris or Milan as you are to spot an albino moose (which will be never, since a hunter shot the only one in the state last year). Sure, we can boast a fashionable few in our ranks. For the most part, though, our sartorial selections lean more toward carpentry than couture. 

But at a recent show during New York's Fashion Week (currently in progress), the Green Mountains made a stand. No more will our functional fashions be relegated to dairy trade publications and logging calendars. After Saturday's Gant by Michael Bastian show, our style is poised to be the toast of the town. Or at least not lampooned for silly things such as mismatched buttons, homemade patches or our liberal mixing of different plaids. 

Continue reading "Green Mountain Avengers at NYC Fashion Week" »

February 15, 2011

VT Filmmakers Say Film Commission Is "Failing" at Its Mission

Almost exactly a year ago, the Associated Press ran a widely circulated article about the potential end of the Vermont Film Commission. The tiny state agency, headed by Executive Director Joe Bookchin, was threatened by then-Gov. Jim Douglas' budget cuts.

The VFC was spared. But now it faces a damning critique -- from some of Vermont's most prominent filmmakers.

The diverse group includes John O'Brien (Man With a Plan), Jay Craven (A Stranger in the Kingdom), David Giancola (who directed Anna Nicole Smith in her final role in Illegal Aliens) and Rusty "The Logger" DeWees.

Continue reading "VT Filmmakers Say Film Commission Is "Failing" at Its Mission" »

Barre City Mayor Proposes New Occupancy Standards in Response to Seven Days Story

This afternoon, Barre City Mayor Thom Lauzon told Seven Days that on Tuesday night he intends to present the Barre City Council with new occupancy standards for all rental units in the city, and credits Seven Days for bringing the matter to his attention.

Lauzon said he first became aware of Barre City's lack of a maximum-occupancy limit for rental properties after reading a February 2 article in Seven Days about four Peruvian workers forced to live in an overcrowded house in Barre for the last three months.

The four Peruvians, all university students from Lima on summer break, expressed bitterness, disappointment and anger at the way they’ve been treated in Vermont. Each said she paid more than $3000 for the opportunity to visit the United States under the federal J-1 Summer Work Travel Program, which allows foreign students to work here for as long as four months.

The women, who range in age from 18 to 23, were among 11 foreign workers hired by Fuad Ndibalema, owner of Somosaman Café in Montpelier, and housed in a five-bedroom, one-bathroom house in Barre City. Though men and women shared the house, there were no doors on the bedrooms, and the bathroom didn’t have a lock.

Continue reading "Barre City Mayor Proposes New Occupancy Standards in Response to Seven Days Story" »

Alice Eats: Rosie's Restaurant

886 Route 7, Middlebury, 802-388-7052

On one of my recent appearances on Charlie + Ernie + Lisa in the Morning! (I'm on every Wednesday), I had the opportunity to try caramel-covered monkey bread from Rosie's Restaurant. After that, I was determined to sample more of the Middlebury restaurant's food.

IMG_1997 I loved the place at first sight. The high-beamed ceilings recalled a barn, except much cleaner. Paintings of ultra-close-up chicken faces decorated the walls, as did locally made quilts for sale. We were the youngest people there by a good 30 years — at 8:30 p.m. The specials menu listed not only dishes available that day but also a dozen or so regulars who were celebrating their birthdays.

It was hard to choose between the cuddly homestyle menu items — chicken and "bakin' powder" biscuits? Pork chops with applesauce and "apple stuffin'?" Ultimately, I couldn't pass up the pulled roast turkey platter.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: Rosie's Restaurant" »

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