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June 2012

June 18, 2012

Grazing: Wine on Tap

Lake_road1Gut instinct might tell you to stay away from wine in a box, but you’d only be half right: Boxed wines have been improving, though some are still god-awful.

Wine in kegs, however, are way ahead of the game. Often, restaurants must eat the cost of wine that oxidizes in the bottle, such as a slightly unusual varietal opened for a glass pour and never ordered again. This is partly why many wine-by-the-glass lists tend to resemble each other. (K-J Chardonnay, anyone?)

Enter kegged wine. Even if the clunkiness of a beer keg seems at odds with the elegance of wine, tapping vino in an airtight container keeps ruinous oxygen at bay and a batch of wine fresher, longer. It's also eminently "green," cutting down on glass waste.

Continue reading "Grazing: Wine on Tap" »

June 15, 2012

Movies You Missed 43: Thin Ice

Thin-iceThis week in movies you missed: murder and chicanery in the land of ice fishing, with Greg Kinnear playing a silver-tongued bastard.

First, a special announcement: This Monday, June 18, the Burlington Film Society is meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Palace 9 in South Burlington to watch and discuss Polisse. This is a French drama about an urban child-protection unit: Think cop show with more gritty realism. It made a splash at Cannes, was a hit in France and got great reviews here, too. It's playing all week at the Palace. So don't miss it. If you live in the area, watch the BFS page for more meetups like this.

What You Missed

"Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see." That's the motto of Mickey Prohaska (Kinnear), an insurance agent who spends his life scaring and wheedling people into buying coverage they don't need. His constant hustling hasn't helped him escape frigid small-town Wisconsin — yet.

But then Mickey's guileless new salesman (David Harbour) introduces him to an old farmer named Gorvy Hauer (Alan Arkin, pictured). Hauer doesn't quite understand the concept of home insurance (he decides he needs it because his TV is "broken," i.e., unplugged), but he does possess a valuable antique. It's a violin that, according to a sniffy Chicago luthier (Bob Balaban), is worth $25,000. The farmer, who doesn't know that yet, is letting his beloved Australian cattle dog play fetch with the instrument.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed 43: Thin Ice" »

Vermont Public Service Board Approves GMP/CVPS Merger

UnknownThis morning, the Vermont Public Service Board OK'd the proposed merger of Vermont's two largest electric utilities, granting final approval for Green Mountain Power (GMP) to acquire Central Vermont Public Service Corporation (CVPS). The deal is seen as an unqualified victory for Gov. Peter Shumlin, who supported the deal, and GMP President and CEO Mary Powell, who took over leadership of GMP in August 2008. Powell will continue to run the newly combined utility under the GMP name.

Supporters of the deal had touted the merger as a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" that would reap more than $144 million in savings and efficiencies for Vermont ratepayers in the first 10 years, and almost $500 million over 20 years.

Evidently, the PSB took those words to heart. In its 173-page order, which can be read in detail here, the board described the merger as "a historic opportunity to achieve significant, immediate and enduring benefits for all retail customers of CVPS and GMP." 

Continue reading "Vermont Public Service Board Approves GMP/CVPS Merger" »

June 14, 2012

Shelburne Museum Opens 'Time Machines,' and Not a Moment Too Soon

Flash_Gordon_puzzleAll of the exhibits the Shelburne Museum opened last month are pretty groovy — from vintage snowmobiles to man-stitched quilts to life-size metal elephants — but the one that's arguably the coolest is finally opening this Saturday: "Time Machines: Robots, Rockets and Steampunk."

Along with other members of the media, I got a preview today, and I can vouch for its coolness.

The general idea for "Time Machines," curated by Kory Rogers, is visions of the future ... from the past. And so there is a fantastical replica Time Machine inspired by the H.G. Wells novella and realized, at least on celluloid, in a 1960 movie. There are baby-boomer-nostalgic midcentury toys in the Flash Gordon (see puzzle, right) and Buck Rogers vein. And there are post-Sputnik (1957) items of both Soviet and American origin —from "Star Trek" figures to Apollo 11 memorabilia to Russian posters.

Continue reading "Shelburne Museum Opens 'Time Machines,' and Not a Moment Too Soon" »

With Deadline Past, A Few Surprises For the November Ballot

DSC03756Ding, ding! As of 5 p.m. Thursday, the filing deadline for those seeking election to state office in November has passed. Secretary of State Jim Condos just sent over an unofficial list of candidates — a "final draft" is expected by Monday — and we thought we'd share a few nuggets:

  • The biggest surprise is this: the Democrats found a candidate to put up against race car rock star Phil Scott, the incumbent Republican lite guv. Who is it? Cassandra Gekas, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group's health care lobbyist. Gekas, who didn't immediately return a call for comment, is well-known around the Statehouse — but can she take down the Thunder Road king? That remains to be seen. [Also in the race is Progressive Marjorie Powers.]
  • McMullen is in. Whoever wins the bruiser of a Democratic primary between incumbent Attorney General Bill Sorrell and challenger T.J. Donovan, the Chittenden County state's attorney, will face two-time U.S. Senate candidate Jack McMullen, a Republican. "I think I'll bring a new perspective to the office," McMullen told us today, noting his business and legal experience. He said he's hired a campaign manager and plans to be "financially competitive" with whoever wins the Democratic nod.

Continue reading "With Deadline Past, A Few Surprises For the November Ballot" »

Weinberger Taps Hanover Urban Designer to Lead CEDO

DSC03762Looking out over the Burlington waterfront Thursday afternoon, Peter Owens recalled his years in the mid-1980s as "a bright-eyed twenty-something" working as a young urban designer in the Queen City. Bernie Sanders was mayor, the Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO) was brand new, and Owens was helping to plan the city's revitalization.

"At that point, this was all vacant wasteland," Owens said, pointing from the Burlington Boathouse toward the now-bustling waterfront.

Owens was in town nearly three decades later for Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger's announcement that he'd tapped Owens to lead CEDO, the city agency responsible for a broad swath of the mayor's agenda — including continuing the revitalizaiton of the city's lakeside property.

Calling Owens "a collaborator and listener who's committed to building community," Weinberger said the urban designer from Hanover, N.H., would be charged with restoring CEDO to a role as "think tank and innovator." The mayor said he's hoping the city council will confirm Owen to the $90,000-a-year position at its June 25 meeting with a start date of July 9. In the meantime, outgoing CEDO director Larry Kupferman, whose reappointment Weinberger declined to consider, will remain on the job.

Owens grew up in West Hartford, Conn. He holds a degree from Middlebury College and a Ph.D. in environmental planning and urban design from the University of California, Berkeley. After his time in Burlington in the mid-80s, Owens moved to the Bay Area and worked as an urban designer, eventually becoming a senior planner with the Presidio Trust. He and his family moved to the Upper Valley in 2002, where he now serves as a principal at his wife's landscape architecture and planning firm.

DSC03759Weinberger first met his nominee when the future mayor was presenting a development project to the Hanover Planning Commission, on which Owens serves, though the two do not know each other well. Owens was recommended to Weinberger by several mutual friends, the mayor said.

Owens, who has two high school-aged children, plans to rent an apartment in Burlington to comply with the city's residency requirement for department heads, though his family will remain in the Upper Valley.

Owens called his new gig "a dream job" in which he would work for "a dream mayor."

"I love this city. I'm not bullshitting," he said. "It's deeply engrained in my psyche."

Photos: Top right: Owens (l) and Weinberger (r). Above left: The mayor's team walking toward the Burlington Boathouse.

Burlington Superintendent Jeanne Collins Holds on to Her Job

CollinsAfter months of harsh criticism, Burlington School District superintendent Jeanne Collins can breathe a sigh of relief: The BSD school board voted 9-5  late last night to extend her contract until 2014.

Board commissioners Keith Pillsbury, Haik Bedrosian, Ben Truman, Alan Matson, Kathy Chasan, Dave Davidson, Ed Scott and Bernie O'Rourke all gave Collins the go-ahead for another year on the job. (Had the board voted down her contact extension, Collins would have been job hunting in 2013.) Jill Evans, Rebecca Grimm, Paul Hochanadel, Meredith Woodward King and Erin Kranichfeld voted against retaining the superintendent.

The vote came after months of heated allegations of racism in the Burlington School District, and criticism centered in recent weeks on Collins. Her opponents  — who included activists from the minority community, some students of color, and City Councilor Vince Brennan — accused the superintendent of responding too slowly to these allegations, and called repeatedly for her replacement. Collins' supporters rallied in recent weeks, citing her long record of achievements in the district (including establishing the state's first magnet elementary schools) as reasons to keep her on.

Continue reading "Burlington Superintendent Jeanne Collins Holds on to Her Job" »

Dubie: "No Clear Path Forward" If Vermont Air Guard Doesn't Get The F-35s

Dubie HorizontalFaced with mounting community opposition to the Air Force's proposed stationing of 18 to 24 F-35 fighter jets at Burlington International Airport, Vermont Adjutant General Michael Dubie moved another step closer to advocating on behalf of the new striker fighters, warning that he sees "no clear path forward" for the Vermont Air National Guard (VTANG) if the F-35s are based elsewhere.

"The way we see things now, there is no plan B" if the F-35s aren't based at Burlington International, Dubie said. "We may not close our doors, but we will be dramatically smaller." Such a loss, he argued, would spell fewer local jobs, money and other resources for Vermonters. Currently, VTANG has an annual budget of $50 million and employs 400 fulltime workers and 700 parttime workers.

Speaking to an audience of reporters and more than two dozen Guard members at Camp Johnson in Colchester, Dubie pointed out that Vermont's "legacy" fleet of fighters, already 26 years old, is due to "time out" — that is, be mothballed — sometime between 2018 and 2020 and the F-35 is its only replacement. Vermonters should not expect a "cafeteria-style menu" from the Air Force from which to pick a new replacement aircraft. Larger aircraft, such as cargo planes or drones, are not likely to be based here due to the size of the Burlington runway and other air space considerations.

"If we don't get a fighter aircraft," Dubie added, "my current professional opinion is that we're going to be much smaller." 

Continue reading "Dubie: "No Clear Path Forward" If Vermont Air Guard Doesn't Get The F-35s" »

June 13, 2012

Calling All Candidates: One Day Left to File

Take out the trash? Check.

Pick up little Jimmy from school? Check.

File signatures with the Secretary of State's office? Oh, shit!

Yep, it's that time of the year. Those hoping to run for state office this November must turn in their signatures (500 for statewide seats, 100 for the Vermont Senate, 50 for the House) by 5 p.m. Thursday. With less than 24 hours to go, plenty of incumbents and challengers have filed for candidacy — but there remain a few notable holes.

Here's a (very partial) rundown of who's not running — yet:

  • Lieutenant Governor: Granted, it's a part-time job without much in the way of responsibilities, but surely somebody's interested! So far, though, not even incumbent Phil Scott, a Republican, has filed.
  • Treasurer: Beth Pearce, a Democrat who was appointed to the job a year and a half ago, has said she's running — as has Progressive Don Schramm. But so far, only Wendy Wilton, the Republican city treasurer of Rutland has filed.
  • Auditor: Democrat and Progressive Doug Hoffer says he's running. Sen. Vince Illuzzi (R-Essex/Orleans) finally settled on the race. But neither has submitted a petition.
  • Attorney General: Democrats Bill Sorrell, the incumbent, and Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan have filed. But businessman Jack McMullen, a Republican who has been eyeing the race, has yet to formally plunge in.
  • U.S. House: Republican Mark Donka is in; independent James "Sam" Desrochers is in; VoteKISS party (whatever that is!) member Andre LaFramboise is in. But incumbent Democrat Peter Welch is nowhere to be found.
  • Chittenden County State Senate: Of the five incumbents expected to run for reelection to the state's most populous state Senate district (Sen. Hinda Miller, a Democrat, has announced she's not running), only three have filed: Philip Baruth, Sally Fox and Ginny Lyons — all Democrats. Who's missing? Tim Ashe, a Democrat and Progressive, and Republican Diane Snelling. Newcomers on the ballot thus far include Democrats Ed Adrian, Debbie Ingram and Loyal Ploof; Republican and Tea Partier Shelley Palmer; Progressive Richard "Terry" Jeroloman; and independents Bob Kiss and Robert Letovsky.

If you're hoping to pigeon-hole an elected official tomorrow, it shouldn't be hard to find one. Just hang out next to the Secretary of State's office or a nearby copy shop. Who knows? Maybe they'll even ask you for your signature.

June 12, 2012

Leader of Progressive Jewish Lobby to Speak on Mideast Conflict

Jeremy Ben-Ami"Emotions run high when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the role of the United States in helping to resolve it," Burlington's Ohavi Zedek synagogue says in announcing a talk tomorrow (June 13 at 7:30 p.m.) by the leader of a progressive and increasingly influential Jewish American lobbying group.

Strong responses — pro and con — can be expected when Jeremy Ben-Ami (pictured), founder and president of J Street, outlines what he regards as a just and achievable resolution of the seemingly endless confrontation in the Middle East. The talk will also serve as something of a homecoming reception for Ben-Ami. He lived in Burlington for much of Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign, for which he served as national policy director.

While J Street's call for a two-state solution and removal of some Jewish settlements may generate controversy at Ohavi Zedek, its position appears to be gaining ground among mainstream U.S. politicians.

Continue reading "Leader of Progressive Jewish Lobby to Speak on Mideast Conflict" »

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