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April 2012

April 17, 2012

Air Force Releases Draft Environmental Report on F-35 "Beddown" In Burlington

300px-CF-1_flight_testFeeling the need for speed? Cue Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone" and roll the testosterone-releasing Top Gun video montage.

The U.S. Air Force has just released the results of its draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for its proposed "beddown" of F-35A Lightning II fighter jets at Burlington International Airport sometime in the next five years. The Air Force's executive summary and Parts 1 and 2 of the full draft EIS are now available online for public review and comment. A public hearing on the draft EIS is scheduled for Monday, May 14, from 5 to 8 p.m. at South Burlington High School.

In July 2010, the Air Force announced that Burlington International Airport had been chosen as one of two "preferred locations" for the F-35A strike fighters, which are designed and built by Lockheed Martin. Under two proposed scenarios, the Vermont Air National Guard would replace all 18 of its F-16 jets with either 18 or 24 new F-35As.

Based on a quick-and-dirty review of the draft EIS, here are a few of the salient findings:

  • Hours of operation: The new jets would employ similar takeoff and landing patterns as VTANG's current F-16s and would not fly between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. The Air Force anticipates that by 2020, the 18 F-35As would fly 5486 flights per year from Burlington International under scenario 1, or 7296 flights under scenario 2.
  • Noise: Under both scenarios 1 and 2, the overall area affected by noise levels of 65 decibels or louder would increase, as would the total residential areas subjected to noise levels of 65 to 85 dB. The report notes that "some residential areas would be newly subject to noise above 65 dB." In certain out-of-state regions of routine flight, including parts of New Hampshire and Maine, "persons on the ground could perceive an increase in noise. Such increases would likely add to the percentage of the population annoyed by aircraft noise. Persons recreating in special land use areas, such as White Mountain National Park, may consider additional noise especially intrusive."
  • Air Quality: Under scenario 1 (18 new fighters), pollutant emissions would "decrease [or remain the same] for six of seven pollutant categories;" under scenario 2 (24 new jets) four of seven pollutant emissions would decrease or remain the same. For other categories of pollutants, "minor increases" would result. The Air Force further claims that "neither... Scenario 1 nor 2 would introduce emissions that would deteriorate regional air quality; the area would remain in attainment for all federal and state air quality standards."
  • Safety: "The F-35A is a new type of aircraft; historical trends show that mishap rates of all types decrease the longer an aircraft is operational and as flight crews and maintenance personnel learn more about the aircraft’s capabilities and limitations. The F-35A will have undergone extensive testing prior to the time the beddown would occur. In addition, the F-35A engine is the product of 30 years of engineering, lessons learned from previous single-engine aircraft, and an extensive, rigorous testing program. Overall, the risks of a mishap are not expected to increase substantially."
  • Biological Resources: Under scenarios 1 and 2, the Air Force claims that although noise from the aircrafts' operations would increase, "the wildlife in the area of Burlington [International Airport] have become habituated to it. As such, no impacts to wildlife, threatened and endangered species, wetlands, or plants would occur. Decreased airfield operations would result in a decreased opportunity for bird/wildlife-aircraft strikes to occur. Similarly, use of higher altitudes by the F-35As would reduce potential strikes in altitude zones where birds mostly fly."
  • Military presence in Vermont: Under scenario 1, the Vermont Air National Guard would not see a change in the number of personnel or overall military payrolls. "With no additional personnel, the scenario would not impact regional employment, income, or regional housing market." Scenario 2 would result in an increase of 266 military personnel, and an annual increase in salaries of approximately $3.4 million. "Either scenario would expend an estimated $2.34 million in 2016 for proposed modification projects. The Burlington area would likely provide the skilled workers for the temporary construction jobs."

As Seven Days' Kevin Kelley reported in October 2010, proponents of the Burlington beddown, including all three members of Vermont’s congressional delegation, argue that the F-35s will better protect the country, generate jobs and support the ongoing mission of the Green Mountain Boys. Meanwhile, opponents, especially those living near the airport, argue against the deployment on environmental grounds, charging that the louder aircraft will impact Chittenden County’s air with benzene emissions. Still others see the F-35 primarily as a costly and unnecessary expense at a time when the federal government should be scaling back its massive spending on defense.

When contacted Tuesday afternoon, Lt. Col. Lloyd Goodrow, public information officer with the Vermont Air National Guard, said he had not yet had a chance to review the draft EIS and thus couldn't comment on its contents. He did say, however, that it's important for the Vermont National Guard to "remain neutral in the process" at this time when "public opinion is of paramount importance."

"I'm just glad it's out," said Goodrow. "We're very pleased that the Air Force is considering us for the aircraft, but none of this will happen without the public's input."

The Air Force will be accepting written comment through June 1, 2012; both written and oral comments will be considered equally.  Written comments can be submitted via U.S. Postal Service to HQ ACC/A7PS, 129 Andrews Street, Suite 337, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia 23665-2769, ATTN: Mr. Nick Germanos. Oral comments will be recorded by a stenographer at each of the hearing meetings.

Alice Eats: Brunch at Rusty Nail Bar & Grille

IMG_38851190 Mountain Rd., Stowe, 253-6245

There's nothing like a lovely spring day to stir brunch cravings. I'm ready for a Benedict at any time of year, but when I headed to the Rusty Nail Bar & Grille on Sunday, I was met by a brunch rush that could only have been kindled by the 70-degree weather and plenty of outdoor seating.

Having an obsessive fear of sun damage, I was happy to stay inside. Our hostess had some difficulty processing that idea, but, hey, it got me a table right away.

A table filled with local ingredients for Bloody Marys sat beside the bar, and general manager Kate Wise told us that she was making excellent Irish coffees that day. But even at 2 p.m., I just wasn't in the head (or body) space for cocktails.

I was feeling more like a bacon, egg and cheeseburger between two duck-fat doughnuts. Unfortunately, the "Donaught" had just sold out. A burger served on doughnuts had sold out? This brunch crowd was serious, and apparently had learned nothing from Paula Deen's diabetes. My kind of crew.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: Brunch at Rusty Nail Bar & Grille" »

Burlington's Flynn Center Announces New Artistic Director

Steve macqueen, headshotSteve MacQueen is headed north. Way north. The director since 2007 of the 7 Days of Opening Nights Performing Arts Festival in Tallahassee, Fla., has been selected as the new artistic director of the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington. MacQueen follows the 15-year tenure of Arnie Malina, who retired this spring.

Stylistically, the match seems ideal: The 7 Days fest website indicates programming that's "closely aligned" with the Flynn's mix of "world-class artists in jazz, dance, roots music, family entertainment, theater, world music and more," according to a press announcement released today. In addition, MacQueen appears to be steeped in experiences with commissioning new works, educational outreach, and forming community partnerships.

For his part, MacQueen says he is thrilled to come to the Flynn, both because of the venue's stellar reputation in the arts-presenting world, and because of the cultural community. And MacQueen, 48, is no stranger to moving around. A self-described "Air Force brat," he says he grew up relocating constantly. The family landed in Florida when he was in middle school, and he stayed, later attending Florida State University — home of the 7 Days festival. In between college and programming performing arts, he was a newspaper reporter. And he's always been in bands — though MacQueen is humorously self-deprecating about his musical talent.

Continue reading "Burlington's Flynn Center Announces New Artistic Director" »

April 16, 2012

In Burgeoning Bromance, Burlington Mayor Taps Best Bud for City Attorney

DSC03411When Miro Weinberger first considered running for mayor of Burlington last summer, he turned to attorney and friend Ian Carleton for political advice. Now that he’s settling into his new digs in City Hall, Weinberger hopes to turn to Carleton for legal advice.

On Monday morning, the mayor tapped his best bro and political consigliere for the role of city attorney.

“Ian is somebody I’ve known for a decade as a friend, as a professional, as a public official for much of that time,” Weinberger said at a City Hall press conference.

The mayor said he’d be “hard-pressed to find a candidate that is more qualified for the city attorney position than Ian Carleton.”

An attorney at Sheehey Furlong and Behm, Carleton has deep political roots in city and state politics, having served as a three-term city councilor representing Ward 1, president of the council and chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party. If confirmed, Carleton would replace Ken Schatz, who is retiring from the job.

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April 13, 2012

Grazing: The Disneyland of Olive Oil

Olive_oilThe first time I saw a specialty olive-oil store — on Long Island — I thought it was kind of gimmicky. I'm not much for infused oils (unless I do it myself), and the concept seemed to take "artisanal" to a nutty level. Yet I formed this judgment without ever stepping through the door, and held fast to it even after I was given an olive-oil-store gift basket for Christmas and became hooked on chocolate balsamic vinegar. It was tasty, but would I ever buy some for myself? Nah.

So when I walked out of the Saratoga Olive Oil Co. store this week with three bottles under my arm, including an olive oil pressed with blood-orange peel, I had to admit I'd been turned. Seduced? I'm not sure. It probably doesn't matter, but like a favorite shoe store, I need to pace my visits.

The shop opened about a month ago at 86 Church Street, the second branch in what might be a slowly growing empire owned and run by the Braidwood family of Saratoga. The interior is spare, and both sides lined by stainless-steel urns filled with single-varietal and infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars. In their midst is a table filled with jars of specialty salts in tricked-out flavors such as Hawaiian Black Lava and French Garden.

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Vermont Senate Rejects Right-to-Die Legislation — Without Ever Voting On It

Campbell Miller 2No one expected discussion of a right-to-die bill to last more than a few minutes in the Vermont Senate on Thursday. On her way into the chamber, Amy Shollenberger, a lobbyist for the advocacy group Patient Choices at End of Life Vermont, quipped, "Don't blink, or you'll miss it."

Even so, sticker-wearing supporters and opponents of the legislation packed the chamber to see the full Senate debate the issue for the first time.

In the end, they got a debate — but no up-or-down vote.

The Vermont Senate went into session ostensibly to tackle a procedural question: Could legislation that would give terminally ill Vermonters the right to end their lives with a fatal dose of medication be added to a bill regulating tanning salons?

Proponents of an Oregon-style "death with dignity" law attached the language to the tanning bill in committee this week in a last-ditch attempt to pass it this session. But whether it survived to get a floor vote depended on whether it was deemed germane to tanning salons.

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, who presides over the Senate, ruled that it wasn't. The senators could have overruled him if three quarters of them disagreed. Instead, they voted to sustain his decision — but not before the procedural question morphed into an emotional, two-hour debate on the merits of "death with dignity," which opponents call "doctor-assisted suicide." Senators also traded some testy remarks about the unusual way the bill ended up on the floor in the first place. 

Continue reading "Vermont Senate Rejects Right-to-Die Legislation — Without Ever Voting On It" »

Movies You Missed 34: Miss Representation

MISS-REPRESENTATION-1This week in movies you missed: What's missing from movies? Positive representations of women, according to this documentary.

What You Missed

Jennifer Siebel Newsom (pictured) is a Hollywood actor married to a politician (California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom). Pregnant with her first daughter, she started worrying about the media climate's effects on girls, which eventually led her to make this documentary. Basically, Miss Representation is a collection of damning clips full of woman portrayed as sex kittens or shrieking harridans, alternating with interviews with familiar faces such as Gloria Steinem, Rachel Maddow, Geena Davis and Margaret Cho.

Its thesis is that today's media are objectifying and demonizing women, perhaps more than ever before, and that this is part of a backlash against feminism. Most revelatory — for a non-cable-news watcher, anyway — was the series of clips with pundits ranting about female political candidates or asking them ridiculous questions ("Did you have breast implants?"). If politics are always a circus these days, this footage represents their most shameful sideshow.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed 34: Miss Representation" »

April 12, 2012

A Cause for Paws: A Vermonter Rescues a Stray Dog From Mozambique

Carmen today2From how far away are you willing to rescue a stray dog? From across the county? Across the state? Perhaps you'll even adopt one through, which lists hundreds of thousands of homeless animals rescued from kill shelters all over the United States. Many travel to their new homes in New England via livestock trailers that make scheduled stops along the interstates in a process resembling a modern-day underground railroad.

But even Artie, the cockapoo mutt I rescued via from a Nashville, Tenn., kill shelter in 2008, had a short trip home compared to Carmen. Next week, the 5-year-old street hound (pictured above) will make the journey of her lifetime from her native home in Mozambique to Jay, Vt., where a local couple are eagerly awaiting her arrival.

The intercontinental canine connection is the work of Claudia Neto, a Rice Memorial High School grad now living in Mozambique. Two years ago, Neto and her partner founded that country's first and only known animal rescue organization, called MAPS, or Mozambique Animal Protection Society. To date, they've "rehomed" nearly 100 dogs and puppies and 90 cats and kittens, mostly to expats living in the southeastern African nation.

"Carmen had been stuck at the shelter for over a year, seemingly with no hope of a future," Neto writes via email from Mozambique. "When I shared her story and situation on Facebook, a friend in Vermont found a couple up in Jay, Vt., who were willing to give Carmen a forever home." Thus began the arduous task of figuring out how to get her there — in particular, covering the expense, estimated at nearly $2000.

Continue reading "A Cause for Paws: A Vermonter Rescues a Stray Dog From Mozambique" »

We've Got the Shakes

Wanna go see Alabama Shakes at Higher Gound this Saturday? Of course you do. Problem is, the show is sold out and you forgot to get tickets. Bummer, dude. But you might be in luck.

Through the magic of being awesome, we've got two tickets to the show to give away. But we're going to make you work for them. To win the tix, go to our music editor's Facebook page, Dan Bolles — That Guy From the Seven Days, and post something funny. That's it. Around 5 o'clock, we'll review the postings and bestow the tickets on whomever most tickles our funny bone. And yes, you'll have to "like" the page first. And yes, it's a shamless ploy to drive up traffic. But hey, you might just score free tickets out of the deal…


April 11, 2012

The Jazzmen (and Women) Cometh: BDJF 2012 Lineup Announced

The sun is shining, birds are chirping, leaves are confused and at a press conference earlier today the lineup for the 2012 Burlington Discover Jazz Festival was announced. It's official, folks. Spring has sprung in Vermont.

As usual, this year's lineup features a wealth of options, jazz and jazz-ish, to suit a wide variety of tastes. But in contrast to previous fests anchored by jazz icons such as Ornette Coleman and Sonny Rollins, the 2012 BDJF lineup feels a little less top heavy and more balanced throughout.

To be sure, there are some big names atop the marquee — Bonnie Raitt, Jimmy Cliff and Diane Reeves, to name a few. But the bulk of the slate comprises a mix of heavy hitters (Christian McBride, Marco Benevento), rising stars (Donny McCaslin Group, Trombone Shorty) and lesser-known up-and-comers (Mary Halvorson Quintet, Asphalt Orchestra) that should place the notion of discovery front and center at this year's fest.

You can check out the entire lineup at the BDJF website, which launched today. But here are a few quick hits that have this critic pretty, um, jazzed. (Sorry.)

The Stooges Brass Band, City Hall Park, Saturday, June 2.

OK, I confess. I saw the name and had visions of a N'awlins brass band doing Iggy Pop. That's not quite what we'll get on Big Joe Burrell Day. But judging by this version of Chick Corea's "Spain," the band's mix of traditional New Orleans brass and urban beats and rhythms is a good consolation.


Continue reading "The Jazzmen (and Women) Cometh: BDJF 2012 Lineup Announced" »

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