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194 posts categorized "Burlington" Feed

July 20, 2012

F-35 Protestors Loudly Confront Democrats' Intervale Fundraising Soiree

Protest 204Burlington's Intervale was the setting Thursday evening for an exceptionally dramatic piece of political theater. Close to 100 protestors denouncing the F-35 stealth fighter jet loudly confronted a smaller set of Democratic Party politicians, staffers and donors who had gathered nearby for an outdoor fundraising soiree.

The fired-up demonstrators had chosen this venue because every member of Vermont's elected Democratic hierarchy supports bringing the supersonic war plane to the Air Guard station at Burlington International Airport. So does Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who consistently votes in concert with Democratic liberals. None of the big-dog backers of the F-35 attended the fundraiser in person, although Sen. Patrick Leahy, Rep. Peter Welch, Gov. Peter Shumlin and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger all dispatched aides to the event, as did Sanders.

At one point, the two groups — one casually dressed and shouting slogans; the other outfitted in summertime finery and nibbling hors d'ouvres — were separated by only about 20 yards in an open field. Chants of "money for jobs and education, not for community decimation!" drowned out the amplified voices of Democratic speakers warning of the horrors to come if Mitt Romney is elected president.

It was an awkward as well as tense juxtaposition.

Continue reading "F-35 Protestors Loudly Confront Democrats' Intervale Fundraising Soiree" »

July 19, 2012

At Burlington City Hall, Dean Re-Endorses Sorrell for Attorney General

Sorrell and DeanIn case you missed it, former governor Howard Dean totes backs Attorney General Bill Sorrell's bid for reelection.

Back in March, Dean told Seven Days' Andy Bromage he's, "all in for Bill."

"I'm going to campaign for him. I'm going to raise money for him," Dean said of his former Secretary of Administration, who he appointed to the AG post in 1997. "I don't see any reason to change horses."

But earlier this month, for a story about former governor Phil Hoff endorsing Sorrell's opponent — Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan — the AG apparently told Burlington Free Press reporter Terri Hallenbeck that Dean hadn't yet endorsed him. Two days later, a postcard featuring Dean endorsing him (see below) landed in mailboxes around the state.

Continue reading "At Burlington City Hall, Dean Re-Endorses Sorrell for Attorney General" »

July 17, 2012

Burlington City Council Approves Planned Parenthood No-Protest Zone

Anti-abortionThe Burlington City Council overwhelmingly approved an ordinance Monday night that establishes a 35-foot "buffer zone" around health centers. The vote was 13 to 1 in support, with Councilor Paul Decelles (R–Ward 7) casting the lone dissenting vote.

Councilors said the ordinance seeks to balance the First Amendment right of protesters to speak out against abortion with the public safety concerns of patients to access medical care without being subjected to threats, fear or intimidation, 

Although the new ordinance applies to all healthcare facilities in Burlington, its primary aim was the Planned Parenthood clinic on St. Paul Street. Since moving to its downtown location last fall, Planned Parenthood has reported an uptick in anti-abortion activists approaching its patients on the sidewalk, asking why they're visiting the clinic and, in some cases, trying to dissuade them from getting an abortion.

Jill Krowinski, Vermont public affairs director for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, told the council that in the past month alone, 30 patients have reported being "approached, intimidated or harassed" by anti-abortion protesters as they attempted to enter the clinic, creating "a serious public safety issue."

Continue reading "Burlington City Council Approves Planned Parenthood No-Protest Zone" »

July 14, 2012

Weinberger Appoints New Interim Airport Chief, Seeks Change in Governance

DSC03839Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger on Friday tapped real estate developer and airport commission chairman Gene Richards to serve as the city's new interim aviation director.

If approved by the council, Richards would replace Bob McKewing, who has served in the role on an interim basis for the past year and a half. Weinberger said that, pending confirmation by the city council, Richards would serve for six to nine months before a permanent director is named.

As chairman of the five-member airport commission, Richards "played a leadership role in helping to turn around the airport in terms of constraining costs, in terms of putting procedures in place that ensure the financial strength of the airport," Weinberger said at a press conference held at the airport.

The mayor also called for the creation of a "strategic planning committee" charged with formulating a new financial plan for the airport and proposing changes to its governance. Weinberger made the announcement alongside city councilors Karen Paul and Paul Decelles Vince Dober, who he said he would appoint to the committee, which he said would create "a road map for success in the years ahead."

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July 11, 2012

Dreams for Downtown and the Waterfront Move Closer to the Drawing Board

BurlingtonVisions of a radically remade downtown and waterfront took a small step closer to reality Tuesday evening as Burlington planning commissioners got a power-point preview of the "Plan BTV" report.

A draft version of the document — the product of a week-long public brainstorming session held in January — will be released online in a few days. By the end of July, the city will release the report in magazine format, in the hope it will evolve into the first-ever master plan for Burlington's urban core.

The report is replete with heady ideas. And judging from public participation at the public design "charrette" back in January, some proposals — such as the greening of streets between the Church Street Marketplace and the waterfront — will win wide favor. Others, like construction of a parking garage in the slope below Battery Park, seem likely to generate agita.

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July 10, 2012

Alice Eats: Sky Burgers

IMG_4371161 Church St., Burlington, 881-0642

For some reason, Sky Burgers is one of those places I just don't think of when considering my Burlington dining options. I should. It's a fun concept — creative dinners in burger form.

Sunday, I finally got it together to visit Sky Burgers for the first time since opening day, when I accompanied former Seven Days food editor Suzanne Podhaizer on her First Bite meal there. I was impressed at how the menu had grown, both in scale and innovation. There were far more than house-ground beef patties and chicken breasts. Burger options now range from quinoa to lobster.

IMG_4368However, in the spirit of outdoor dining and the pleasant weather, I ordered exclusively from the summer specials menu. That's where I found the new-and-improved fish taco. It was slaw-covered and soggy when I tried it two and a half years ago, but it's now a darn fine replication of fish-taco flavors in patty form.

The mahi mahi patty was lightly crusted in bread crumbs to approximate the feel of fried chunks of fish. The "slaw" was still there, but much less of it and not at all soggy. In fact, until I rechecked the menu, I thought it was supposed to be plain cabbage. Pico de gallo and crispy tortilla strips added even more crunch, but it was Holy Chipotle aioli that defined the creamy, spicy flavor.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: Sky Burgers" »

July 09, 2012

Weinberger Nominates Eileen Blackwood for City Attorney, Would Be First Woman in Top Legal Job

Eileen BlackwoodBurlington Mayor Miro Weinberger's first pick for city attorney ended badly, but his new nominee appears likely to win confirmation when the City Council meets on July 16.

On Monday, Weinberger announced the nomination of Eileen Blackwood (pictured with the mayor), a former president of the Vermont Bar Association and for many years the principal in a Burlington law firm.

This time, Weinberger gave prior notice of his pick to city councilors, who had "a very positive response" to Blackwood, the mayor said at a City Hall Park press conference. He called Blackwood "one of the most respected and admired attorneys" in the state, and pointed out that she would be the first woman to serve as Burlington city attorney.

She and her wife, mental health counselor Lynn Goyette, were also among the first couples to be joined in a Vermont civil union in 2000.

In brief remarks at the press event, Blackwood steered clear of controversy. In particular, she and Weinberger were not seeking her exemption from the city's stepped pay system, which entitles her to earn what the mayor said would be "a little under $110,000." That's "somewhat less" than what retiring city attorney Ken Schatz makes, Weinberger noted.

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Growing Issues: Burlington's Urban Ag Task Force Seeks Feedback On Its Draft Report

Rooney:Dorn photoWant to raise alpacas on Peru Street? How about cherry trees on Washington Street, or goats on Grant Street? If you're an urban farmer, gardener, beekeeper or tender of livestock within Burlington city limits — or want to be — the Urban Agriculture Task Force wants your feedback ASAP.

Last week, the Urban Agriculture Task Force released its long-awaited draft report of recommendations to the Burlington City Council on how it should manage and regulate the interests and needs of residents who raise food within the Queen City. The 70-page report is chock full of advice and recommendations for dealing with the needs and interests of Burlington residents, such as master gardeners Michael Rooney and Susan Dorn (right), whose urban farming — in their case, unpermitted hoophouses — conflict with neighbors' aesthetic desires and local zoning ordinances.

City council created the citizen-led task force in March 2011 in order to study issues of urban ag and provide policy recommendations for raising livestock, composting, farming and community gardens. For years, the council has heard growing complaints about conflicts over greenbelt veggie patches, crowing roosters and how many pigs or sheep are appropriate in the backyard of a two-bedroom duplex. Rather than addressing each of these problems piecemeal, the council opted to take a more holistic approach to urban agriculture.

Continue reading "Growing Issues: Burlington's Urban Ag Task Force Seeks Feedback On Its Draft Report" »

July 03, 2012

Ice Factor 'Disappointed' in Mayor's Moran Decision -- Also Not Pleased With How It Was Handled

Officials with Ice Factor, the Scotland-based company that planned to build an ice-climbing wall in Burlington's abandoned Moran power plant, say they have not been kept adequately informed of Mayor Miro Weinberger's decision to kill the Moran redevelopment plan. The company adds that it is disappointed with Weinberger's move, which he announced at a press conference on Monday, and blames the city for the complex deal falling apart. 

In a statement e-mailed early on Tuesday, Ice Factor managing director Jamie Smith says, "We have yet to receive any formal update from the new mayor or his administration on the future of the Moran development." Smith adds that he has learned from "a number of reports" that Weinberger intends to review the Ice Factor plan for Moran in September.

Weinberger said at his press conference on Monday that he had spoken with Ice Factor about his decision and that the company, while disappointed, said it understood his position.

Asked for comment on Smith's subsequent assertion that he has not been updated on the mayor's decision, Weinberger said on Tuesday that he has been in regular contact with Phil McCully, a Montreal-based member of Ice Factor's board of directors. The mayor added that Smith, in Scotland, is referring only to a formal communication that he said will soon be sent to Ice Factor.

Weinberger actually gave that notification in a letter dated July 2 and addressed to Smith; the mayor's office sent a copy to Seven Days on Tuesday. Weinberger's three-paragraph "Dear Jamie" letter concludes in part by saying: "Please know that the City of Burlington would be willing to consider Ice Factor in our future development plans...."

Reached by phone on Tuesday in Montreal, McCully said it was he who had initiated contacts with Weinberger in recent weeks in an effort to learn what the new mayor intended to do in regard to the Moran plant. In a conversation last week, McCully recounted, the mayor told him the Ice Factor plan was still under review. Weinberger subsequently gave him the impression, McCully said, that Ice Factor's involvement in Moran remains on the table and is being assessed with the intention of deciding its fate in September. McCully added that Weinberger was "encouraging" in regard to Ice Factor having an ongoing role in Moran's redevelopment.

"We're a bit disappointed at how it's turned out," McCully said. He noted that the company has spent "a considerable amount of money" in trying to advance the project. Executives have flown to Vermont from Scotland on a number of occasions, while he himself has made 35 trips to Burlington from Montreal in the past four years, McCully said.

It's not Ice Factor that has stalled the project, but rather it has been the city's inability to execute its end of "an incredibly complex deal," McCully added. "The city had asked us to put a fair amount of cash in escrow for the project," he continued, "but we said we couldn't do that because we're not the Disney Corporation" — in other words, a cash-rich entity.

July 02, 2012

Mayor Miro Scraps Plans for Moran Plant Development, Offers 'New Direction'

Updated at 4 p.m. with additional reporting and photos. 

Miro and MoranDeclaring that he would "not risk Moran becoming another Burlington Telecom," Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger this afternoon announced he is scrapping the Kiss administration's stalled plan for a Scottish company to build an ice-climbing facility in the former power plant on the Burlington waterfront.

Weinberger declared in an "Open Letter to the People of Burlington" that the city must not serve as the developer of a "complicated, speculative, commercial real estate venture." Making note of the BT-related downgrades in Burlington's credit rating, the mayor added that "now is not the time for further speculative financial adventures by the city."

Instead, Weinberger unveiled a "five-point action plan for near-term progress" on the portion of the waterfront near the Moran plant. In addition to initiating a new competitive process to determine the future of the hulking and scarred 59-year-old structure, Weinberger said the city will seek a permanent home for the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center, which was originally part of the Moran plant redevelopment plan under former mayor Bob Kiss. Sailing Center president Marc Sherman was on hand at the mayor's waterfront press conference to voice approval for Weinberger's new approach.

The "action plan" also includes an envisioned $3 million investment to upgrade the portion of the "beloved" waterfront bike path between Perkins Pier and a point a few hundred yards north of the Moran plant. Weinberger added that he wants to create "a world-class skate park" as part of a set of enhancements to a six-acre parcel of land surrounding the Moran plant.

Weinberger explained that he wants to use a total of about $5 million worth of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds for the waterfront to help pay for the skate park and the bike path upgrade. Burlington voters will have the ultimate say on the outcome of this new process, most likely through a binding vote on TIF investment in the Moran redevelopment. 

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