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December 12, 2011

Miro Weinberger Wins Dem Nomination; Kurt Wright Wins GOP Nod; Progs Delay Decision

DSC01033The Burlington Progressive Party's last best hope to keep control of City Hall went up in ashes Sunday night. In a runoff election at Memorial Auditorium, Miro Weinberger easily beat state Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) to win the Democratic nomination for mayor.

Weinberger (pictured) and Ashe tied 540-540 after three rounds of voting at the Democratic caucus in November. That kicked off a one-month mini campaign before yesterday's final round.

When votes were tallied Sunday, Weinberger came out with 655 votes to Ashe's 530. Out of the 1331 eligible voters, 1188 cast ballots.

Sunday was a caucuspalooza in Burlington. Earlier in the day, Queen City Republicans caucused in the New North End to nominate the man Weinberger will face in March: two-time mayoral candidate Kurt Wright. Later that evening, after Weinberger's nomination, Burlington Progressives assembled in the Old North End and debated whether to endorse Weinberger, run their own candidate or sit this election out.

Continue reading "Miro Weinberger Wins Dem Nomination; Kurt Wright Wins GOP Nod; Progs Delay Decision" »

December 11, 2011

Live Coverage: Burlington Mayoral Caucuses (UPDATE: Weinberger and Wright Nominated; Progs Postpone Caucus)

UPDATE 3, 7:38 P.M.: And now it's the Progressives' turn to enter a state of limbo. After an hour of speeches, Prog voters elected to postpone making a decision on a candidate until January. A full recap of all of today's caucus news is coming up soon.

UPDATE 2, 5:05 P.M.: Miro Weinberger has won the Democratic nomination. Vote totals: Weinberger 655, Ashe 533.

UPDATE 1, 2:19 P.M.: The GOP caucus has already started and ended. Burlington Republicans made their endorsement of Kurt Wright official. One caucus down, two to go.

It's a Caucuspalooza! Burlington Democrats, Republicans and Progressives are ALL holding their respective mayoral caucuses today — or, in the case of the Democrats, continuing their caucus. Seven Days' Andy Bromage, Shay Totten and Tyler Machado will be contributing reports from all three caucuses. Check out our Twitter feed below, and watch live coverage from Channel 17 over to the right beginning at 3:30 p.m. Add your own thoughts in the Facebook box at the bottom of the page, or on Twitter using hashtag #BTVmayor. We'll also update this blog post with the important details.

If you're bored and need to pass the time at a caucus today, fill out our mayoral Mad Lib. Click here to print it in PDF form, or find it on page 12 of this week's Seven Days print issue.

1 p.m.: Voting for the Democratic caucus begins at Memorial Auditorium.
2 p.m.: The Republican caucus begins at the Miller Center.
3:30 p.m.: Channel 17 begins live coverage from Memorial Auditorium.
4 p.m.: Voting at the Democratic caucus closes. The announcement of the winner is expected before 5:00 p.m.
6 p.m.: The Progressive caucus begins at the H.O. Wheeler School.

After the jump, chime in in the Facebook chat box or on Twitter using hashtag #BTVmayor.

Continue reading "Live Coverage: Burlington Mayoral Caucuses (UPDATE: Weinberger and Wright Nominated; Progs Postpone Caucus)" »

December 08, 2011

Sanders Introduces Constitutional Amendment to Overturn "Citizens United" Ruling


Updated Below with Comment from U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT)

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) today proposed a constitutional amendment to overturn a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed unrestricted campaign spending by corporations and labor unions.

The amendment — dubbed the "Saving American Democracy Amendment" — would reverse the narrow 5-to-4 ruling in Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission. In that controversial January 21, 2010 decision, justices gave corporations and unions the same First Amendment free-speech rights as people when it comes to campaign finance spending.

It's the first time Sanders has proposed a constitutional amendment in his two decades in Congress.

“There comes a time when an issue is so important that the only way to address it is by a constitutional amendment,” said Sanders in a statement. He called the court's ruling "a complete undermining of democracy.”

Continue reading "Sanders Introduces Constitutional Amendment to Overturn "Citizens United" Ruling" »

December 07, 2011

Sen. Randy Brock Announces GOP Bid for Governor (VIDEO)

-1State Sen. Randy Brock (R-Franklin) announced today he plans to run for governor next fall against first-term Democrat Peter Shumlin.

In his announcement, Brock sharply criticized the Shumlin administration — specifically on education funding and health care reform, as well as on its approach to energy policy.

"I believe that Peter Shumlin is a good man, but I believe he is blindly steering Vermont’s ship of state toward the shoals," said Brock. "Peter Shumlin’s policies — especially in the areas of health care and energy — are built on rosy assumptions and wishful thinking constructed over a foundation of quicksand. If my travels around this state have taught me anything, it is this: Vermonters don’t want to live in a laboratory for change. They don’t want to be the guinea pigs or lab rats in a grand social experiment. Vermonters simply want to have a fair shake, an honest shot at the opportunities that lie before them, and the ability to lead their lives the way they want to lead them."

Welcome to the 2012 gubernatorial race.

Continue reading "Sen. Randy Brock Announces GOP Bid for Governor (VIDEO)" »

December 02, 2011

State Regulator Denies Sale of Fletcher Allen Dialysis Clinics

ImagesState regulators Thursday preliminarily denied the sale of five outpatient dialysis clinics owned by Fletcher Allen Health Care to one of the nation's largest, for-profit dialysis providers. They claimed the sale could drastically increase rates.

The decision is not final.

FAHC and Fresenius will be able to contest the proposed decision issued by Steve Kimbell, commissioner of the Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration, at a January 18 hearing.

In his decision, Kimbell said BISHCA's analysis of the proposal found that dialysis rates would have to be increased fourfold by Fresenius in order to make the clinics profitable.

FAHC announced last year it wanted to sell off the clinics because they were losing about $1.8 million annually. Fresenius proposed to buy the clinics and run them through its subsidiary, Bio-Medical Care Holdings, based in New Hampshire.

Fletcher Allen operates five outpatient dialysis clinics, in South Burlington, St. Albans, Berlin, Rutland and Newport. They collectively serve about 241 people, with another 26 people receiving services in their homes. Had it taken place, the total sale was valued at more than $28 million.

Continue reading "State Regulator Denies Sale of Fletcher Allen Dialysis Clinics" »

November 30, 2011

Kiss Him Goodbye!

Local-kissWith less than two weeks remaining before Progressives pick a candidate, Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss said this morning he would not seek a third term in March.

Kiss, who is a Progressive, made the announcement on WVMT-AM's Charlie, Ernie and Lisa program, which hosts the mayor each month for a chat with listeners.

Host Charlie Papillo didn't make it easy for the anxious news media. He opened with: "I want to jump right in with the question on everyone's mind: Bob how was your Thanksgiving vacation?"

Turkey and all the trimmings, Kiss said.

Then, the moment of truth: "Is there an announcement you'd like to make?" asked Papillo.

"I will not be running for reelection," said Kiss.

Continue reading "Kiss Him Goodbye!" »

November 22, 2011

Welch Signs Letter Asking Obama to End Controversial Immigration Enforcement Program

F-welch1Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) has added his voice to the chorus calling on President Obama to end the controversial immigration-enforcement initiative known as Secure Communities.

Last Thursday, Welch signed a letter penned by U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) calling on the president to "immediately stop" the enforcement program, which compares fingerprints of people arrested by local police to a federal immigration database to look for deportable aliens.

"Secure Communities sows mistrust of the police and other uniformed personnel, thereby making our communities less safe," reads the letter. "The broad scope of the program means that immigrants, both documented and undocumented, are afraid to cooperate with police officers, because doing so may lead to deportation of themselves or their families."

Welch could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but spokesman Scott Coriell tells Seven Days that the congressman "continues to be frustrated that Congress has not enacted comprehensive immigration reform that creates a fair path to citizenship for law-abiding undocumented immigrants, including a guest-worker program that establishes clear guidelines for farmers and their employees"

Continue reading "Welch Signs Letter Asking Obama to End Controversial Immigration Enforcement Program" »

November 06, 2011

Occupiers and Environmentalists Confront Vermont Democrats (VIDEO)

E89dbec8a219fc75215f8571163e02fb_viewYesterday was a rough day to be a Vermont Democrat.

First, labor activists got pissed off when party chairman Jake Perkinson quashed an effort to have a pro-state-worker resolution taken up at the party's annual organizational meeting. The resolution was prompted by some Democrats concerned that Gov. Peter Shumlin was interfering with state workers' collective-bargaining rights by filing a grievance over being denied emergency pay in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene.

Then, a few hours later, a group of about 50 people confronted the governor, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and other Democratic bigwigs as they entered the Socialist Labor Party Hall in Barre for the fall fundraising dinner.  

The group of protesters had a mixed bag of concerns, but all revolved around the state's energy policies: the industrialization of Vermont's ridge lines, specifically the Shumlin administration's precedent of turning the Lowell Mountain ridge lines into an industrial wind farm, and what that may bode for other mountain vistas in Vermont; and the corporatization of the state's utilities. They voiced objections to the state's  increasingly cozy relationship with Green Mountain Power.

Continue reading "Occupiers and Environmentalists Confront Vermont Democrats (VIDEO)" »

November 01, 2011

Why Farmer Chris Wagner Hired Migrant Workers to Milk His Cows

Picture 1A Franklin County dairy farmer whose migrant workers were removed by the U.S. Border Patrol earlier this year is speaking out about the incident, and about why he hired Hispanic workers to milk his cows.

Chris Wagner (pictured) and his wife own a 300-cow dairy in the town of Franklin, where he's employed Hispanic workers off and on for the past 10 years. On January 7, 2011, one of his workers was trying to call Mexico and mistakenly dialed 911 instead of 011 (to place an international call.)

When the dispatcher asked the nature of the emergency, the worker allegedly said, "No speak English" and hung up. That 911 hangup triggered a response from the Vermont State Police, who sent two cruisers to the farm. State police, in turn, called the U.S. Border Patrol to come and "act as an interpreter." A short while later, three migrant farmworkers were in federal custody and Wagner was handcuffed in the back of a cruiser.

Wagner says he's speaking out now to clear up what he has long felt are mischaracterizations in the official police report. He also felt prompted by the recent, high-profile detention of a migrant farmworker leader and the debate it sparked over immigration enforcement and migrant labor in Vermont.

"They're excellent workers, very strong work ethic in comparison to some of the local help," Wagner says  of his migrant laborers. "Which is unfortunate because there's so many people that need work and these jobs are available. But there aren't that many people who seem willing to put the effort into some of these highly intensive ag jobs."

Continue reading "Why Farmer Chris Wagner Hired Migrant Workers to Milk His Cows" »

October 24, 2011

Top Economists to Advise Sanders on Federal Reserve Reforms

Sanders-BernankeWhat do a Nobel Prize-winning economist and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have in common?

They both want to reform the Federal Reserve.

Joseph Stiglitz, the 2001 winner of the Nobel Prize in economics and an economics professor at Columbia University, is one of nearly 20 of the nation's leading progressive economists and economic analysts who have agreed to advise Sanders on legislation designed to bring a major overhaul to the nation's central bank.

Other prominent names on this special advisory panel include: Robert Reich, secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton; economist James K. Galbraith; Jeffrey Sachs, a special adviser to United National Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; and author William Greider, among others.

Sanders announced the panel last week, on the heels of a second critical report of the Fed issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office and as "Occupy Wall Street" protests began to spread across the nation.

Continue reading "Top Economists to Advise Sanders on Federal Reserve Reforms" »

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