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June 2012

June 26, 2012

New CEDO Director Wins Grudging Support From Burlington Progs, Faces Challenges

IMG_1620The Burlington mayor's office and the Community and Economic Development Office, both located in City Hall, share a connection that is symbolic as well as physical. CEDO is in fact a creation of the mayor, having been established by Bernie Sanders in 1983 as a means of implementing progressive plans for the Queen City.

This signature initiative on the part of the city's socialist leader became the catalyst for many of the Progressive Party's proudest achievements. And with the exception of two years of Republican rule in the mid-'90s, CEDO has always been run by prog-ish figures — first, Peter Clavelle (who went on to become mayor); then Michael Monte, who held the post both before and after the Republican interregnum; and most recently Larry Kupferman, who ran the office during most of the Kiss administration. So, losing control of CEDO has been almost as traumatic for the Progs as losing the mayor's office.

The era formally ended last night when the city council approved Mayor Miro Weinberger's nominee Peter Owens (pictured) as CEDO director. The vote was unanimous, with all three Progressive councilors affirming their support. Behind the scenes, however, some Progs were unhappy that one of their own, CEDO housing director Brian Pine, was passed over for the job.

Vince Brennan, a member of the council's Progressive trio, said in an interview on Tuesday that Weinberger need not have gone so far afield to find a highly qualified replacement for Kupferman; Owens is an urban designer in White River Junction. "We could've gotten somebody right in our own backyard," Brennan said in reference to Pine, a Progressive former councilor who has worked at CEDO for almost 15 years.

Owens, who says he's a registered Independent, suggested in an interview last evening that "it wouldn't make sense" for the new Democratic mayor to pick a Prog for a post that's seen as expressive of an administration's political identity.

Continue reading "New CEDO Director Wins Grudging Support From Burlington Progs, Faces Challenges" »

June 25, 2012

Movies You Missed 44: Keyhole

KeyholeThis week in movies you missed: the world's strangest gangster film from Canadian director Guy Maddin.

What You Missed

In a black-and-white world that evokes the 1930s, gangster Ulysses Pick (Jason Patric) brings his ragtag gang back to his home, which is stuffed to the gills with ghosts and memories.

After a shoot-out that leaves some of his men dead (they demonstrate their "dead" status by turning around and facing the wall), Ulysses rambles through the house's rooms, reliving memories of his wife, Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini), who's hiding in an upstairs room and refuses to admit him. Chained to her bed is her naked, obese father, who narrates the film and intones sinisterly, "Remember, Ulysses. Remember!"

As the family's dismal history emerges — the Pick kids don't have a good survival rate — Hyacinth and her father speculate that Ulysses seeks not revenge, but forgiveness, "which is even more threatening."

Continue reading "Movies You Missed 44: Keyhole" »

June 22, 2012

Vermont Dems Attack Brock for Supporting an Anti-Abortion Law He, In Fact, Does Not Support

Vermont's Democratic and Republican parties spent the week in a press-release pissing match over whether Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock should be held responsible for the views of a pair of prominent GOP governors who are campaigning for him.

By enlisting the help of Maine Gov. Paul LePage and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, the Dems argue, Brock "confirms his allegiance to a radically conservative Republican agenda." Vermont Republican Party chairman Jack Lindley responded by referring to his counterparts as "the name callers who dwell in the bowels at the Vermont Democratic Party."

Whoa! Chill out, homies!

In today's episode, the Democrats are insinuating that Brock, who supports abortion rights, actually secretly backs a controversial Virginia law requiring women to receive an ultrasound before getting an abortion.

"The vast majority of Vermonters support a woman's right to choose, and it is unsettling that Randy Brock is siding on this issue with ultra-conservative GOP Governor McDonnell — his host at a Washington DC fundraiser next week," Dem party chairman Jake Perkinson says in a press release.

Perkinson's evidence? An Associated Press story that says Brock campaign adviser and fundraiser Darcie Johnston praised the Virginia law. Here's the relevant paragraph from AP reporter Dave Gram's story:

Brock campaign aide Darcie Johnston in an email lavished praise on McDonnell for improvements in Virginia’s economy, and called the ultrasound bill a "common-sense pro-life bill that puts Virginia in line with a number of other states."

But according to the Brock campaign, the AP story resulted from a miscommunication between Johnston and Gram. The campaign says it offered Gram background information about the Virginia governor to counter Democratic claims about his record. After reaching out to McDonnell's office to clarify his position on the ultrasound issue, Johnston copied and pasted talking points supplied by the Virginia governor's staff and emailed them to Gram. She says she did not mean to imply that the words were her own.

Emails provided by the Brock campaign confirm that the "common-sense pro-life" language comes directly from a McDonnell aide. Johnston's email to Gram, however, does not explain that the information came from a third party.

Gram did not immediately return a call to the AP's Montpelier bureau seeking comment.

As for Brock, he says he does not support the Virginia ultrasound law and strongly backs a woman's right to choose: "I am and always have been pro-choice. I don't believe the government should be interfering in women's medical decisions. Period."

He called the Democrats' release "a classic smear tactic to divert people away from the real issues" and called on his opponent, Gov. Peter Shumlin, to "tell the Democrats to stop the negative campaigning."

And how does Johnston really feel about the law?

"I support the same position as my boss," she says.

So she's pro-choice, too?

"I support the same position as my boss," she repeats.

Grazing: A (Local) Kir Royale

My HipstaPrint 0Hot, it is hot, as Yoda might say. Take a drink I shall, yes, hmmm.

This week in Seven Days I wrote about mead, and the bees that make it. And though I developed an affection for Artesano's Essence Mead along the way, I also stumbled across a bottle of Honey Gardens Apiaries' Melissa Sparkling Mead, made with raw honey.

It looks like Champagne, it pours like Champagne, but it's really not much like Champagne. Though I bet meadmakers would love to capture more of the wedding market, modern palates might still need some getting used to these flavors — subtly sweet, earthy and herbaceous, unlike most wine or beer. But those who brave mead — or have grown to adore it — have discovered its very beguiling otherness, and flavors that seem to be from another planet but are actually ancient.

For an easy entry to the style, marry some sparkling mead to a little Vermont-made Sumptuous Black Currant Syrup and some Artesano Blueberry Mead, and you'll conjure an all-local twist on the Kir Royale, that perfect-for-summer classic blend of Champagne and crème de cassis or Chambord.

Fortunately for Vermont Kir lovers, Grand View Winery makes its own cassis. With 12 percent alcohol, you could sip it as a dessert wine on its own; pour some into sparkling mead, though, et voila! A berry-hued refresher with a honeyed undercarriage, a wisp of fruitiness and some yummy medicinal notes. 

To make a local Kir Royale, take your average Champagne flute, and add a generous splash of Grand View's Cassis (and optionally, one glug of blueberry mead, too.) Top with sparkling mead (or wine), and drink up! Or rather, your Kir drink, mmmm.

Each week, Grazing highlights tasty, sometimes under-the-radar dishes and drinks that reflect the season. If you know of a local edible (or libation) worth making a fuss over, let me know: [email protected]

In a Citizen Legislature, Should a Top Politician Go to Work for a Power Company?

Is it okay for the majority leader of the Vermont House of Representatives to take a "community relations" job with the state's dominant power company? A company that just two months ago fought tooth-and-nail to kill a House bill that would have forced it to return $21 million to ratepayers?

That's the question after Rep. Lucy Leriche (D-Hardwick) confirmed to the Vermont Press Bureau this week that she's accepted a temporary gig with Green Mountain Power, the state's largest electric utility. Leriche announced weeks earlier that she won't seek reelection this fall, but she remains House majority leader until January. In her new role at GMP, Leriche will work with local and state officials to coordinate the company's construction of the controversial Kingdom Community Wind project in Lowell.

"Welcome to Vermont," says Secretary of State Jim Condos. "A person has a right to work for a living — as long as they're well aware of any lines that might occur, as far as conflicts of interest. Vermont's a small place."

Condos would know. For years, while serving as state senator, Condos held down a job at Vermont Gas Systems,* which, like Green Mountain Power, is owned by Montreal-based Gaz Metro. These days, Vermont Gas' spokesman is a guy by the name of Stephen Wark, a former deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Service, which regulates utilities, and a one-time flack for former Gov. Jim Douglas.

Other former top officials in the Gaz Metro empire? How about Robert Dostis, GMP's top lobbyist and former chairman of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee? Or Neale Lunderville, GMP's recently-departed director of enterprise innovation, who was Douglas' secretary of administration? Or David Coriell, the guy Leriche is replacing at GMP, who also served as a Douglas flack?

To Wally Roberts, executive director of the good government group Common Cause, the ever-revolving door between industry and government in Vermont is problematic. He says the state "falls back on its tradition of small town acquaintanceships and the feeling that everybody in state government should be trusted."

"That was true in the past, but that kind of attitude is not appropriate anymore," he continues. "It's a faith that was maybe appropriate in some bygone era, but I think big money has started to come into Vermont elections."

Continue reading "In a Citizen Legislature, Should a Top Politician Go to Work for a Power Company?" »

June 21, 2012

What the Farm Bill May (or May Not) Mean for Vermont Farmers

BarnThe 2012 farm bill is continuing on its arduous way through the sausage grinder after passing the Senate in a 64-35 vote this afternoon. It's a behemoth of a bill, to which lawmakers at one point attached more than 300 amendments — some entirely unrelated to the business of food and farming.

The complex bill would trim $4 billion over 10 years from the food stamps program; consolidate several conservation programs; cap subsidy payments to farmers making (get this) more than $750,000 a year; and would do away with direct payments to farmers — currently totaling roughly $5 billion a year in subsidies — replacing that system with a crop insurance program instead. But subsidies aren't going anywhere yet: The government would subsidize farmers' insurance premiums while also guaranteeing a backstop for insurance company losses.

One amendment from Vermont's own Sen. Bernie Sanders would have allowed states to require that food containing genetically modified organisms be labeled as such — but that measure failed this afternoon in a 73-26 vote.

Continue reading "What the Farm Bill May (or May Not) Mean for Vermont Farmers" »

More on Markowitz's Muddled Message

As we reported in this week's Fair Game, Agency of Natural Resources Sec. Deb Markowitz made a bit of a whoopsie last week at a Norwich University panel on Tropical Storm Irene recovery efforts. The ANR secretary and former gubernatorial candidate apparently stepped on her boss' message, criticizing Gov. Peter Shumlin's handling of the state's waterways in the weeks and months afer the August flooding.

The episode was first reported by Vermont Public Radio's Steve Zind, who quoted Markowitz as saying, "[Shumlin] early on made some statements, some ‘dig-baby-dig' type statements, that inspired Vermonters to help out in ways that ultimately are very costly not just to the ecosystem but to the infrastructure."

After administration officials pushed back on her comments, Markowitz declined or ignored several requests for an interview (we suspected she might have been stuck in time out), but she did send us an e-mail saying her comments "were misinterpreted."

Well, VPR has now posted a two-and-a-half minute audio clip of Markowitz's remarks on its website, providing a little more context to the episode.

Did VPR get it wrong? Actually, the comments are even worse than we thought. Markowitz bemoans the fact that she and her agency "didn't have a chance to educate [Shumlin] in advance" and failed to "manage up" — i.e. get her boss on message.

Continue reading "More on Markowitz's Muddled Message" »

June 19, 2012

Alice Eats: Peace & Love Catering

IMG_4234Burlington Farmers Market, Saturdays, 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at City Hall Park. Info, 310-5172.

My affection for this year's new-and-improved Burlington Farmers Market is no secret. With 90 vendors this year, the lunch selection is almost overwhelming. Still, there's been a break-out hit for me.

It doesn't have a sign yet. The vendors are incorporated as MPT, but they'll soon be advertising themselves as Peace & Love Catering. The motives for the name aren't as hippy-dippy as they sound — Mayllet Paz and Wilfredo Amor run the stand. Their last names translate to peace and love, respectively.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: Peace & Love Catering" »

New Co-Working Space Opens in Montpelier for Vermont's Nomadic Professionals

Tumblr_m53tjnz7vi1rtgcyoo1_500-1In the April 25 issue of Seven Days, we explored how Vermont businesses, from lone freelancers to major employers such as National Life Group, are thinking outside the conventional cubicle ("Spaces To Roam"). We also noted a growing trend: the creation of so-called "professional coworking spaces" — such as Office Squared (O2) in downtown Burlingtion — that serve Vermonters who need a worksspace that's more than a converted bedroom but less than a permanent office suite.

This week I got word that Local 64, a proposed coworking space mentioned in that story, is now up and running on the second floor at 5 State Street, in downtown Montpelier (see photo). Owner Lars Hasselbrad Torres reports that the space, which he describes as "one part hive, another part lounge," already has 21 members, with plenty of room to grow. Local 64 will also host a solo art show opening on Friday, July 6, for art enthusiasts and/or other folks interested in checking out the space and possibly joining as members.

Need more incentive to drop in? O2 founder and owner Jen Mincar has been talking with her own members and Torres about the possibility of creating a "coworking visa" that allows her members to work in Torres' space, and vice versa. So, when O2 members are in Montpelier they can use Local 64 as an auxilliary office where they can check email, make phone calls, meet clients or just work on their laptops. Likewise, when Local 64 members visit the Queen City, they can drop by one of O2's two downtown locations and do the same.

Continue reading "New Co-Working Space Opens in Montpelier for Vermont's Nomadic Professionals" »

Burlington City Council Neither Supports Nor Opposes Bed-down of F-35

Clark1610Three Vermont Air National Guard officers (including Col. Joel Clark, right) sat silently at a Burlington City Council public hearing last night as speaker after speaker after speaker denounced the proposed basing here of the F-35 supersonic fighter jet.

Afterward, however, the local military brass expressed satisfaction with the council's decision to neither support nor oppose the bed-down at Burlington International Airport. Councilors instead voted unanimously, after a 90-minute debate and 90 minutes of public comments, to put questions to the U.S. Air Force regarding the F-35's potential impact on public health, real-estate values and the regional economy.

Mayor Miro Weinberger backed the successful resolution, which also calls for an F-35 to be brought to Burlington to demonstrate the degree of noise the plane produces.

Continue reading "Burlington City Council Neither Supports Nor Opposes Bed-down of F-35" »

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