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May 2012

May 22, 2012

From Castleton, A New Poll — With a Couple Grains of Salt

ClarkAs we reported in February, Castleton State College’s new polling center is sure to provide plenty of catnip for Vermont’s political chattering class.

Indeed, results from Castleton’s first poll commissioned by Vermont news outlets — WCAX-TV, WDEV radio and Vermont Business Magazine — are trickling out this week. And the numbers released thus far include a couple of interesting nuggets.

Most eye-poppingly, the poll finds that 65 percent of the 607 Vermonters surveyed approve of Gov. Peter Shumlin’s job performance, while only 23 percent disapprove.

With incumbent approval and trust in government so low in most states, those numbers are “pretty solid," says Castleton polling director Rich Clark (pictured with student pollsters.)

“You’ve got to think that Shumlin’s pretty comfortable,” he says.

It’s early yet for head-to-head horse race polls to show much. Statewide candidates only started launching their campaigns this month, and the filing deadline to get on the ballot isn’t until June 14. Notably, the Vermont Republican Party hasn’t yet drawn candidates to run for attorney general, state auditor, secretary of state or the U.S. House — nor have the Democrats found a candidate to oppose Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.

But Shumlin’s approval rating shows that Sen. Randy Brock (R-Franklin) — his leading opponent — may have a tough time making the argument that the incumbent ought to be ousted. For what it's worth, a head-to-head matchup shows Shumlin would trounce Brock 60 — 27 percent if the election were held today.

Continue reading "From Castleton, A New Poll — With a Couple Grains of Salt" »

Alice Eats: The Knotty Shamrock

IMG_412821 East Street, Northfield, 485-4857

I don't often head to Northfield for dinner. It's too far from Montpelier to do a dinner-and-a-show evening. When dining in Northfield, dinner is the destination. That's why it took me almost a year after it opened to visit Irish pub the Knotty Shamrock.

Clearly, I was in the minority. I arrived last Saturday just before 8 p.m. to find the only available table was little more than a varnished plank of wood toward the back of the restaurant. Even the bar, with its inlaid four-leaf clovers, was packed.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: The Knotty Shamrock" »

May 21, 2012

Prog Candidate to Challenge Gov. Shumlin — At Least For Now

Republican Sen. Randy Brock isn't the only one challenging Gov. Peter Shumlin for the state's top job. Progressive Party Chairwoman and perennial candidate Martha Abbott is also gathering signatures to run for governor.

But the Underhill resident, who has run for governor and state auditor before — twice each — says she's not necessarily in it for the long haul.

"There's a lot of issues we don't agree with [Shumlin] on," she says. "But I'm not saying I'm going to stay in the race. I'm not saying I'm not going to stay in the race."

Why all the indecision?

Abbott and Progressive Party executive director Morgan Daybell say the party is fielding a candidate for three reasons: One of their statewide candidates has to win five percent of the vote for the party to retain major party status; they want to keep candidates from other parties from hijacking the nomination; and, most importantly, they want to push Shumlin to the left.

According to Daybell, by putting the squeeze on the Democratic governor, they can "sort of hold Shumlin's feet to the fire on budget, tax and labor issues that the Progressives feel he's not been doing well on."

Continue reading "Prog Candidate to Challenge Gov. Shumlin — At Least For Now" »

May 18, 2012

Auditor Tom Salmon Not Running for Re-Election, Likely Moving to Washington D.C.

Tom SalmonState Auditor Tom Salmon said on Friday that he isn't running for re-election and is likely moving his family to Washington D.C. to work for the federal government.

Salmon (pictured) said he would finish out his term, which ends in January 2013.

"I have a number of options presented to me, and some still out there, in God's hands," Salmon said in a statement released Friday.

"It is most likely I will land in federal service in the IG [inspector general] or CFO [Chief Financial Officers Council] communities as my passion continues to be improving government performance and better federal-state-local intergovernmental collaboration. I have an offer from a CPA firm as well," the statement said. 

In a phone interview Friday, Salmon told Seven Days that he has a "pretty good idea" what job he'll be going to but hasn't accepted a job offer yet. He said he has a "half dozen potential jobs that I could see myself going to. But I have an offer from a large CPA firm as well." He wouldn't name the firm. Salmon said it's "very likely" the job will take him to Washington D.C.

One factor driving Salmon's decision was money. The auditor said he has three college-age kids and needs a job that'll pay the tuition bills.

Continue reading "Auditor Tom Salmon Not Running for Re-Election, Likely Moving to Washington D.C. " »

Movies You Missed 39: Michael

MichaelThis week in movies you missed: To his friends and coworkers, Michael (Michael Fuith) seems like an average thirtysomething bachelor. He sells insurance. Takes ski trips. Buys Harry Potter books for his nephew. And makes sure to pick up an extra copy for the 10-year-old he keeps locked in his basement.

What You Missed

Five months in the lives of a pedophile and his victim (David Rauchenberger). Before you run away screaming, consider this: Michael is low-key, nongraphic and nonsensationalist. None of the horrible things you may be imagining right now happen on screen — but that is how the film gets under your skin and really disturbs you.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed 39: Michael" »

Planned Parenthood Wants 35-Foot "Patient Safety Zone" to Keep Anti-Abortion Protesters At Bay

PPNNE 2The Burlington chapter of Planned Parenthood wants a buffer zone around its new downtown offices to keep anti-abortion demonstrators from approaching patients and staff.

On Monday, the City Council will take up an ordinance that would create a 35-foot "patient safety zone" around the St. Paul Street building.

Jill Krowinski, director of Vermont public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, says more patients and staff have reported being harassed by anti-abortion demonstrators since the organization moved its offices downtown last fall. She says it's a privacy problem and a "serous public safety issue."

"They're walking up to people on the sidewalk, asking them what they're doing at the health center, giving them misinformation about medical procedures and the outcomes of it," says Krowinski, who also represents Burlington in the state legislature. 

Planned Parenthood now shares a building with a hair salon and other offices, some of whom have also complained about the protesters, Krowinski says.

"We had a complaint from a client of the hair salon that's also in the building," Krowinski says. "She was getting out of her car and she was approached by an individual asking if she was here for an abortion and she said, 'I'm here to get my bangs trimmed.'"

Under the ordinance, picketers would be banned from coming within 35 feet of the building — effectively putting them across St. Paul Street. Breaching the buffer zone would be punishable by fines of $50 to $500 per offense.

Leaders of pro-life groups who picket and hold prayer vigils outside Planned Parenthood tell a vastly different story. They deny intimidating anyone and claim it's their members who are being harassed for exercising their constitutional right to free speech.

Continue reading "Planned Parenthood Wants 35-Foot "Patient Safety Zone" to Keep Anti-Abortion Protesters At Bay" »

May 17, 2012

License Plate Sales Not So "Vermont Strong" After All

Vermont_StrongTurns out those ubiquitous, green “I Am Vermont Strong” license plates aren’t quite as ubiquitous as Gov. Peter Shumlin thought.

Pete Hirschfeld over at the Vermont Press Bureau has the goods on a bit of a “miscommunication” between the gov’s office and the Department of Motor Vehicles over how many of the $25 plates have been sold. The state hopes to sell 50,000 of them, raising $1 million for the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund, which supports Vermonters affected by last year’s spring floods and Tropical Storm Irene.

At a press conference early last month, Shumlin ceremoniously bought what he thought was the 25,000th “Vermont Strong” plate sold. But as Hirschfeld found out, the gov actually bought the 25,000th plate made. Only 7832 have actually been sold, the DMV now says.Hope Shumlin kept his receipt!

So how did the governor’s communicators miscommunicate so badly?

Continue reading "License Plate Sales Not So "Vermont Strong" After All" »

May 15, 2012

Vermont Tiger Roars No More

GeoffNormanVermont’s online political arena moved a notch to the left Tuesday as the state’s most prominent conservative blog, Vermont Tiger, announced it's ceasing regular publication.

Dorset writer and editor Geoffrey Norman (pictured right; photo by Lee Krohn), who launched the blog in January 2007, said that competing professional and family obligations are forcing him to scale back from posting new content on a daily basis.

“I made a point when I started this thing: there was going to be something fresh up every day and there was — including the day my mother died,” he says.

Over the years, the blog has featured a host of voices promoting free market principles, including University of Vermont economist Art Woolf, Ethan Allen Institute president John McClaughry and St. Albans Messenger publisher Emerson Lynn.

Though Norman moved to Vermont nearly 35 years ago, the Alabama native told Seven Days in 2010 that he didn’t start paying attention to Vermont politics until his property taxes tripled in 2006.

Norman says that after years training his fire on many of the same issues — Vermont Yankee, Act 160, Act 250 — he’s struggled recently to find fresh things to write.

“I just wonder if I have anything original to say about them,” he says.

Continue reading "Vermont Tiger Roars No More" »

Pop-Up Pride and Memories of 135 Pearl

135-pearlLast week, when President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, Vermonters didn't flock to gay bars to celebrate — there aren't any here. The state's best-known LGBTQ bar, 135 Pearl, closed six years ago next month. So far, no one has been able, or willing, to replace it.

Not permanently, anyway — several temporary queer social spaces have popped up recently around the state. Seven Days food writer Corin Hirsch took a break from the farm and restaurant beat to check them out. Here's a link to her story, "Pop-Up Pride," which appears in this week's paper.

Coincidentally, a new audio documentary about 135 Pearl, "Pearl's", debuted online today. Sarah Ward, the 22-year-old Burlington College documentary studies student who produced the piece, never actually visited the bar; it closed a few months before she arrived from Massachusetts to start her studies.

Ward was looking for a local place to profile for an academic project and came across this Seven Days story I wrote about Pearl's closing. It intrigued her. "I really like stories about places," she says, "and how people interact, how people get tied to spaces."

She put out a call for stories about the bar through the RU12? Community Center. "I got 30 to 35 emails right away," she says. "That was the first indication that Pearl's was really important to a lot of people."

Continue reading "Pop-Up Pride and Memories of 135 Pearl" »

ECHO's "Our Body" Exhibit Sparks Controversy, Questions

OurbodyA splashy front-page article in Sunday's Burlington Free Press cast doubt on the ECHO Lake Center and Aquarium's largest exhibit to date: a 6000-square foot show called "Our Body: The Universe Within," which displays human cadavers of Chinese descent preserved through a process called "plastination." 

Visitors are raving. Doctors at the University of Vermont College of Medicine say the dissections are among the most impressive they've ever seen. On a visit this morning to the display, sophomores from Champlain Valley Union High School marveled at an exposed spinal cord, peered at a sinewy map of the nervous system, and ogled the winding path of the human digestive tract.

But fascination about the exhibit was matched by skepticism on Sunday, when John Briggs' article in the Free Pressheadlined "Who were they?" — called into question the provenance of the cadavers on display at the popular "Our Body" exhibit, which since its opening on April 14 has pulled in more than 9000 visitors at ECHO.

Continue reading "ECHO's "Our Body" Exhibit Sparks Controversy, Questions" »

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