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501 posts categorized "Current Affairs" Feed

October 24, 2011

"Occupy Burlington" Plans to Truly Occupy Burlington

IMG_3040 Now in its fifth week, the Occupy Wall Street solidarity protesters in Burlington are beginning to channel their energy into more direct action.

Demonstrators plan to stage an actual occupation — of City Hall Park — starting this Friday.

On Sunday, about 150 people gathered in City Hall Park and marched up and down Church Street. Back at the park, the crowd held a "speak out" and "general assembly." The latter resembles a large town meeting, where facilitators help people make proposals to the group — either to form subgroups or take collective action — and bring specific proposals on which the assembly can vote.

The biggest "Occupy Vermont" rally to date was last Saturday, when as many as 500 people gathered in City Hall Park and marched through downtown Burlington. At last Sunday's weekly rally, about 250 people came together and held Burlington's first general assembly. From that meeting, several subgroups were formed — including ones focused on direct action, anti-misogyny, the economy, and media.

After a brief report from the spokesman for the "strategy working group," a demonstrator who identified himself only as Will, the rally-goers agreed to occupy City Hall Park starting at 3 p.m. this coming Friday. The occupation will last through the weekend.

When asked what the purpose of the occupation will be, Will replied, "That's a good question. We're open to suggestions."

Continue reading ""Occupy Burlington" Plans to Truly Occupy Burlington" »

October 20, 2011

GOP Mayoral Candidate's Bold Plan for Burlington: Sell! Sell! Sell!

IMG_3021* Updated below: BED's true debt load, plus Kurt Wright responds to the claim his math is wrong. *

Republican mayoral candidate Kurt Wright promised he would unveil a "bold plan" with "bold solutions" to address the serious fiscal challenges facing the city of Burlington — and on Wednesday, he delivered.

At a city hall press conference, Wright revealed his bold plan to shore up the city's finances: Sell one its most prized assets, the Burlington Electric Department.

Wright claims the sale would bring a one-time windfall to the city of more than $100 million.

Aside from BED, Wright said he'd entertain the notion of selling off Burlington International Airport — or at least having its ownership regionalized, or getting the state to take some ownership — as well as Memorial Auditorium, which he claims loses money annually.

What other city departments and services could Burlington auction off? The bike path? City arts? Church Street? The Waterfront?

(Fire away down in the comments section.)

Wright, who has served on the city council in three different stints over the past 15 years, acknowledged his bold solution to sell BED is, actually, not new.

"People have talked about it in the past, but I don't think the climate was right for this in the past and I think it is now," Wright said. "Would I have proposed this 10 years ago? I wouldn't have and I don't think voters would have reacted to it favorably 10 or 15 years ago."

The difference today is the sheer amount of debt facing the city, thanks to Burlington Telecom, the Burlington airport and a flagging pension fund.

Continue reading "GOP Mayoral Candidate's Bold Plan for Burlington: Sell! Sell! Sell!" »

October 19, 2011

Occupy Lowell Mountain Launches Blog From The Blasting Zone

IMG_4508Talk about your daily blasts: Protesters making a last-ditch effort to halt construction of Green Mountain Power's Kingdom Community Wind Project on Lowell Mountain have launched a daily blog, called "Mountain Talk,"  to spread the word about their ongoing "tent-in" and invite newcomers to join them.

As reported in my story this week, "Occupy Lowell Mountain? Despite Court Order, Opponents Camp Near GMP Blasting Zone," opponents of the 21-turbine, $163 million wind project in the Northeast Kingdom have set up a round-the-clock encampment on land owned by the project's most vocal critics, Don and Shirley Nelson. The protesters, who have permission from the Nelsons, are set up within GMP’s blasting zone and say they’re prepared to stay on the mountain all winter, if necessary, in order to prevent the project from moving forward.

Last week, GMP offered to buy the Nelsons' property at their initial asking price of $1.25 million — the land has been for sale for about a decade — but also threatened the couple with a $1 million lawsuit if the campers don't leave the blast zone and delay construction. The Nelsons said no, then upped their asking price to $2.25 million.

Says Don Nelson, 69, "If they’re gonna sue me for $1 million, I’m gonna add a million to the price tag. It's high-stakes poker, and I don’t intend to sell out to the enemy if I can help it."

October 18, 2011

Did Occupy Vermont Suppress Free Speech in Goldman Sachs Protest Controversy?

Goldman-sucks-sign Jeff Ares, a University of Vermont alumnus who now works for Goldman Sachs, was scheduled to speak to business students at the school on Friday. Given Goldman Sachs's sizable role in the financial meltdown, this didn't make Vermont's contingent of Occupy Wall Street supporters too happy.

Occupy Vermont participants planned a "showdown" at the talk to protest Goldman Sachs and to urge business students to take up careers away from Wall Street. Talk of a protest led Goldman Sachs to request that the event be canceled, according to the AP.

The AP story includes a quote from a notable free speech advocate, who appears to condemn Occupy Vermont for their role in getting the plug pulled:

Continue reading "Did Occupy Vermont Suppress Free Speech in Goldman Sachs Protest Controversy?" »

October 17, 2011

Two Days, Two Rallies Bring Hundreds to "Occupy" Burlington (VIDEO)

IMG_3012Vermont's Occupy Wall Street solidarity movement saw some of its biggest rallies yet this past weekend, and its first steps toward harnessing the energy from these protests into more concrete action.

On Saturday, roughly 500 people filled City Hall Park and then marched up Church Street before heading up the hill to Fletcher Allen Health Care and the University of Vermont. There, protesters called for fair contracts for staff at the two institutions.

Contract talks between the administration and all three of UVM's unions are at an impasse, while nurses are already engaged in tough negotiations for a new contract.

On Sunday, fewer than 200 protesters gathered in City Hall Park for the first "general assembly" after four consecutive weeks of protests and speakouts.

Continue reading "Two Days, Two Rallies Bring Hundreds to "Occupy" Burlington (VIDEO)" »

October 14, 2011

Keeping Track of Gov. Peter Shumlin's Travels

24satelliteSince taking office in January, Gov. Peter Shumlin has taken regular respites — mostly long weekends at his chateau on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia — while at least one high-profile vacay took him to the sandy Caribbean isle of Dominica.

Shumlin was away this past Columbus Day weekend, just six weeks after the state was ravaged by Tropical Storm Irene.

Vermont’s Republican Party took the governor to task for his holiday weekend getaway, believing the gov should have stayed at home and used his bully pulpit to tout the state’s foliage to out-of-state travelers. The gov's staff called the charge "shameful."

Perhaps. If nothing else the vacation was ill-timed as many communities are spending their weekends orchestrating cleanup and repair efforts as evidenced by the calls for help from

Continue reading "Keeping Track of Gov. Peter Shumlin's Travels" »

October 11, 2011

Obama Administration Promises to Expedite Permits for Vermont Wind Project

The Obama Administration announced today that a 15-turbine wind farm proposed for the Green Mountain National Forest in southern Vermont will receive expedited federal permitting and environmental reviews.

Deerfield Wind, a project to be built in Searsburg and Readsboro with a portion of it in the federal Green Mountain National Forest, will see its federal review conducted by year's end, speeding up the review process by as much as six months.

The wind farm is one of 14 so-called infrastructure projects that the Obama administration will give special treatment. The project's developer, Spain-based Iberdrola Renewables, has received top treatment by the Obama White House before. In 2010, it was revealed that the firm received nearly $1 billion in federal stimulus funds even though many of its projects were already underway.

"We are pleased the administration has recognized the significance that infrastructure investments, such as wind projects, can play in promoting economic development and that they intend to help expedite permitting for our proposed project on forest service land," said Paul Copleman, an Iberdrola spokesman.

The federal government is currently reviewing Deerfield, and an intitial decision from the district forester is expected next week. Appeals were initially scheduled to run at least 90 days before any review is passed up the federal food chain for a final decision. Today's news could compress that schedule dramatically.


Continue reading "Obama Administration Promises to Expedite Permits for Vermont Wind Project" »

October 09, 2011

Hundreds of Protesters "Occupy Burlington" During Downtown Rally (VIDEO)

IMG_3040 More than 350 people marched through downtown Burlington on Sunday afternoon in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City — the third such rally in as many weeks.

With a street band leading the procession, the throng marched from City Hall Park up Church Street to the fountain at the top block, turned around, and marched down the street again as shoppers and diners looked on — some smiling, some seemingly dumbfounded and some applauding.

Marchers chanted, "All day, all week, occupy Wall Street" (see video below) as they marched first through the alleyway onto Church Street and along the narrow street passage between the outdoor patios at Sweetwaters and Ri Ra.

As with last week, protest messages and demands ran the gamut and the political spectrum. The multi-generational crowd's demands were as varied as its attendees: End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, support unionized workers at Fletcher Allen Health Care and the University of Vermont, end the corporate influence on the electoral system, end the "corporatization" at UVM, support migrant farm workers, end the Federal Reserve, and the list went on.

Continue reading "Hundreds of Protesters "Occupy Burlington" During Downtown Rally (VIDEO)" »

October 07, 2011

A Vermonter on Wall Street: 'I Knew This Is Where I Had to Be'

IMG_0799 NEW YORK — Despite the looming skyscrapers and the fidgety cops, many Vermonters might feel right at home in Liberty Plaza, the epicenter of the Occupy Wall Street uprising.

Ian Williams and TC Kida (pictured at right) certainly find the scene congenial. When not marching on Lower Manhattan's citadels of capitalism, the two Vermonters have been spending the past few days talking politics and lifestyle philosophies with some of the hundreds of young agitators congregated in this roughly one-acre space surrounded by banks, drug stores, electronics outlets and fast-food joints.

Williams, a McGill University graduate from Enosburg Falls, arrived here after taking part in a protest in Boston last weekend against Bank of America. “Something just awakened in me,” the bearded 26-year-old said, explaining that he quit his temp job in a Williston warehouse because “I knew this is where I had to be.”

Continue reading "A Vermonter on Wall Street: 'I Knew This Is Where I Had to Be'" »

October 06, 2011

Vermont Judge Rules Against Republican Governors Association

Gavel For the second time this year, a Vermont judge has ruled against an out-of-state political action committee — saying the PAC's spending in the 2010 election violated state law.

Today, Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford ruled that political ads run by the Republican Governors Association last year violated the state's campaign finance laws because the group failed to register with the Secretary of State's office and failed to adhere to Vermont's campaign contribution limits.

In July, Crawford ruled that a Democratic Governors Association PAC — Green Mountain Future — violated state law by running ads that attacked GOP candidate Brian Dubie, and failed to register with the Vermont Secretary of State's Office. The group argued that it was legally set up as a so-called 527 group and therefore didn't need to register with the state. Crawford rejected that argument. (Read both judicial decisions below.*)

The DGA-financed group spent more than $500,000 attacking Dubie. The RGA and an affiliated committee shelled out a cool $900,000 in the ad wars.

Continue reading "Vermont Judge Rules Against Republican Governors Association" »

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