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April 2012

April 24, 2012

Vermont Dems Hire Granite Stater as Executive Director

JuliaHeadshotAs the Vermont Democratic Party gears up for the 2012 election, it has hired a Granite State political operative to lead the party’s staff.

Julia Barnes, of Bedford, N.H., was chosen Monday night by the Dems’ executive committee to serve as the party’s new executive director.

“I’m very excited,” Barnes says. “When this opportunity came up I thought it’d be a great chance for me to kind of expand my presence in New England politics and really get a chance to work with some really high-achieving progressives and a state party that has demonstrated it wants to be around for a while.”

Barnes will replace outgoing ED Jesse Bragg on May 3. She has held a number of political positions across the river, serving as a county field coordinator for then-Sen. Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, deputy field director for Gov. John Lynch’s 2008 reelection campaign and state field director for Organizing For America during the 2010 cycle.

Given the bloodbath Granite State Dems endured that year — they lost both houses of the legislature, two U.S. House seats and the chance to take a Republican-controlled Senate seat — is Barnes simply looking for greener pastures?

“The New Hampshire Dems are incredibly organized,” she says. “They’ve got a really big fight ahead of them because there are some legitimately insane people in the legislature right now.”

Continue reading "Vermont Dems Hire Granite Stater as Executive Director" »

Rock Out(side): More Summer Concerts Announced

The good folks over at Higher Ground Presents announced a slew of outdoor summer shows this morning, including the headlining acts for the Lake Champlain Maritime Festival and a few choice dates at the Shelburne Museum. In chronological order, they are: 

LovettJuly 20: Andrew Bird at the Ben & Jerry's Concerts on the Green at Shelburne Museum.

August 1: Rufus Wainwright at Shelburne Museum.

August 7: Lyle Lovett at Shelburne Museum.

August 9: Gogol Bordello at Waterfront Park in Burlington.

August 10: Old Crow Medicine Show at Waterfront Park in Burlington.

August 11: Strangefolk at Waterfront Park in Burlington.

August 12: Citizen Cope at Waterfront Park in Burlington

That's a pretty star-studded midsummer run, no? Also of note are the openers for Old Crow Medicine Show on August 10: the Milk Carton Kids and the Lumineers. The latter band recently played a tremendous set at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge, thrilling a surprisingly large and enthusiastic midweek crowd and reaffirming my budding love affair with them.

Also, here's hoping Andrew Bird plays this:


Alice Eats: Bove's Restaurant

IMG_394968 Pearl St., Burlington 864-6651

The building at 68 Pearl Street looks much as it did in 1941. Bove's Venetian cityscape mural brings diners back to WWII-era ideas of what makes a restaurant worth visiting. It extends to the menu, the drinks — and the prices.

Few things still exist in the world quite like the time capsule that is the Bove's cocktail menu. Like a Brandy Alexander? Meet Greg Alexander, her gin-flavored dad. There is also a John Collins, a rum-and-vodka drink to keep Tom company. And they all cost $3.75.

The portions are small, but the liquor is strong. My choice, the relatively safe-sounding Stinger, is composed of brandy and white crème de menthe, and it packed a fire along with a refreshing minty flavor.

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

April 20, 2012

House Speaker Agrees to Move Marijuana Decrim Bill ...Next Year

LorberHappy 4/20, dudes!

Just in time for the pot smokers' high holiday comes this toke-tastic news from the statehouse in Montpelier.

A bill to decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana — which was blocked this year by House Speaker Shap Smith (D-Buzzkill) — will finally get a hearing.

Next year.

Smith blocked marijuana decriminalization from consideration in the House this year, prompting anoymous pot advocates to harass him and his family online. A Senate version could still pass before a May 4 adjournment, but the Senate sponsors are doubtful about its prospects.

On Friday, Tom Cheney, Smith's aide, told Seven Days that the speaker has brokered a deal with the House bill's tri-parisan sponsors, Reps. Jason Lorber (D-Burlington, pictured at a statehouse cookout held today), Chris Pearson (P-Burlington) and Adam Howard (R-Cambridge). The agreement means the legislation will move next year.

The deal apparently has two parts. First, Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn will head up a study this summer examining the costs and benefits of decrininalizing marijuana in the states where possession is now a civil penalty rather than a crime — such as New York, Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut, to name a few.

Second, the House Judiciary Committee will take testimony on the bill in 2013.

That might not seem like much of a victory for decrim supporters — especially since the deal depends upon its architects winning re-election this November. But Lorber, the bill's lead sponsor, views it as a significant step forward.

"This was not the desired outcome, but we'll get there," Lorber said. "This path is not unusual. We had a similar approach when we did marriage [equality]. There was a summer study, and that laid the groundwork. The issues are very different, but there's precedent."

Continue reading "House Speaker Agrees to Move Marijuana Decrim Bill ...Next Year" »

Movies You Missed 35: Coonskin, aka Street Fight

Coonskin_(1975)This week in movies you missed: a film about race in America from the great animator Ralph Bakshi that, according to the warning label on an early VHS release, "offends everybody."

What You Missed

We open with a live-action sequence: In a rural prison, Randy (Philip Michael Thomas) and Pappy (Scatman Crothers) wait for Randy's two friends, played by Barry White and Charles Gordone, to come bust them out. To while away the time, Pappy tells a story of three outlaws who he says resemble Randy and his friends: Brother Fox, Brother Bear and Brother Rabbit, who left the South to embark on a series of violent adventures in Harlem.

Bakshi's animation takes over as we watch the exploits of the three brothers (voiced by Thomas, Gordone and White), which include bringing down a corrupt preacher, a cop on the take and, in the climactic sequence, the Mafia.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed 35: Coonskin, aka Street Fight" »

Grazing: 'Sup, Montcalm La Crescent?

Montcalm_lacrescentAs the weather tries on spring for size, white wine is appearing in my glass more often than red. Specifically, that racy little white grape that's helping to put Vermont wines on the map.

A few weeks ago at the Woodstock Farmers Market, I saw a bottle of La Crescent I hadn't tried before, from Montcalm Vineyards in Benson. I don't know where I've been, as many others have been sipping on this while I've imbibed beloved versions from Lincoln Peak and Shelburne Vineyard. At $14.99, it's comparable in price, so I took home one of the tall, slender bottles.

Once I realized the man behind it is Ray Knutsen, the bottle gained some backstory. Knutsen is an elder of the Vermont wine scene, planting the first vines at his Champlain Valley Vineyards in 1978 when cold-hardy La Crescent was just a glimmer in some oenologist's eye.

I didn't wait for a spicy dish to pop open his La Crescent — the only excuse it took was a sunny weekend afternoon, and a friend to join me. This wine was juicy and alive. Pale gold in the glass, it has intense and heady aromas, reminiscent of lying underneath blooming honeysuckle bushes and apple trees.

On the first sip, all of that flowery promise turned to summer fruit, with off-dry, juicy waves of ripe peaches, pineapples and melons floating on that floral undercurrent, and a crisp acidity keeping the entire thing lively. At a lowish 10.5 percent alcohol, it could be called a sessionable wine, if such a term existed. (Thanks to the beer drinkers for that.)

The wine's sweetness marks it as an able escort to Pla Goong from Tiny Thai or any other spicy fish or poultry dish — it's a fine subsitute for Riesling. Me, I just drink it on its own.


April 19, 2012

Rep. Olsen Takes Merger Fight to Citizens United Debate

PhotoEver the clever amender, Rep. Oliver Olsen (R-Jamaica) on Thursday took his fight against a proposed utility merger to — of all things — a resolution condemning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

What would Olsen’s amendment do?

It would prevent U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies from contributing to domestic political campaigns or “any fund established to finance an inaugural or similar post-election celebration of a candidate’s victory.”

Sound familiar? That’s because opponents of Gaz Metro’s proposed acquisition of Central Vermont Public Service — opponents like Olsen — repeatedly cite Gov. Peter Shumlin’s 2011 inaugural ball as Exhibit A that Shummy's too chummy with the Montréal-based energy company.

Continue reading "Rep. Olsen Takes Merger Fight to Citizens United Debate" »

Healthy Living Responds to Encroaching Trader Joe's

Food-healthylivingSeven Days reported earlier this week that Healthy Living Market and Café's landlord, Malone Properties, is in talks with Trader Joe's to open a branch of the California-based chain right next door to the South Burlington store. At the time, we were unable to reach Healthy Living owner, Katy Lesser, for comment. This morning she responded to Malone Properties owner Patrick Malone's assertion that she was excited about the new neighbor.

Though Lesser says she won't be making any shopping trips just north of her own business, she's not losing sleep over the possibility of a Trader Joe's next door.

For one, the chain, known for its "Two Buck Chuck" Charles Shaw wine label and sometimes exotic frozen foods, will not be carrying the locally farmed meats, veggies and cheeses for which Healthy Living is known. "We really try to focus on organic here," explains Lesser. "The quality of product in places like our bulk department will not be the same at Trader Joe’s... We focus so much on fresh —Trader Joe’s does a great job, but they don’t do a lot of fresh."

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April 18, 2012

At Press Conference, Shumlin Clarifies Position on Utility Merger — Kind Of

One of the key questions in the debate over Gaz Metro’s proposed acquisition of Central Vermont Public Service is this: Is it ever okay for the legislature to stick its nose into a regulatory process governed by the independent Public Service Board?

As we reported in this week’s Seven Days, Gov. Peter Shumlin’s answer last week appeared to be no, not ever. Outside an energy conference in Burlington last Monday, he said, “It’s absolutely inappropriate for the legislature or the governor to weigh in through law on a pending [Public Service Board] case.”

But later that week, Shumlin was asked at a press conference whether he did just that when, as Senate President Pro Tem, he orchestrated a 2010 vote denying Vermont Yankee a new operating license.

The gov’s answer?

No, he said. He was just following Act 160 — a law passed during his four-year hiatus from the Senate — which gave the legislature an up-or-down vote on Yankee’s relicensing. He further added that Act 160 — a law he utilized when trying to shut down Vermont Yankee — wasn’t such a hot idea in the first place.

At a press conference today, however, Shumlin shifted — ahem, elaborated on — his stance.

Asked about his effort last spring to charge Entergy, which owns Vermont Yankee, for any legal expenses the state incurred defending a lawsuit brought by the company, Shumlin today established a new standard of interference: If it has to do with Vermont Yankee, the legislature can do whatever the hell it pleases. If it has to do with utility acquisitions, leave well enough alone.

“The role of the legislature is different in Entergy than it has been in other regulated cases,” Shumlin said, because the legislature authorized the plant’s construction in the first place and then gave itself a role in the relicensing process.

Wait, what? Don’t worry, he explained:

Continue reading "At Press Conference, Shumlin Clarifies Position on Utility Merger — Kind Of" »

Sanders and Welch Raising Big Bucks for Reelection, Despite Lack of Strong Opponents

Sanders-welchOne is facing a longshot challenger. The other is facing none at all.

But U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) are raising serious cash for their 2012 reelection campaigns nonetheless.

The reason? Both say that Citizens United changed the game, leaving them vulnerable to attacks from monied interests who would like to defeat them.

The Sanders campaign reported raising $944,157 during the first three months of this year, and has $3.6 million in cash on hand.

Welch's quarterly fundraising haul was $96,080 and he has $1.2 million in cash on hand.

Welch is facing no declared Republican opponent in his bid for a fourth term in Congress. Sanders is facing Republican John MacGovern of Windsor, a former Massachusetts lawmaker who entered the campaign in March and is widely viewed as an underdog. Sanders is seeking a second six-year term.

The senator has raised $5.2 million for the 2012 election cycle — $4.9 million from individuals and $365,966 from political committees such as PACs, according to a Federal Election Commission report filed this week. To date, Sanders' campaign has spent $2.1 million.

Welch has raised $545,337 for the cycle — $221,169 from individuals and $324,100 from PACs. To date, the Welch camp has spent $218,505.

MacGovern had not filed a fundraising report with the FEC as of Wednesday and did not immediately return phone or email messages seeking comment.

On Wednesday, Sanders sought to play up the number of individual contributors who donated to his campaign — 103,341, for an average of $50 per donor — and to head off criticism about the sheer size of the candidate's war chest.

Continue reading "Sanders and Welch Raising Big Bucks for Reelection, Despite Lack of Strong Opponents" »

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