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501 posts categorized "Current Affairs" Feed

October 04, 2011

Vermont's Got An N-Word Problem, Too (Video)

Rick-perry-gov-and-evangelist If you think Vermont has nothing in common with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, think again. 

The whole flap about the "N-word" variant "n*****head" being painted on the entrance to Perry's family hunting compound has highlighted the fact that this term was used throughout the United States as a place name, including in Vermont.

Last night, "Daily Show" correspondent Wyatt Cenac ran down a list of northern states that are home to equally offensive place names (see video below); there are several in upstate New York.

He mentioned a Vermont pond in his list, which made me wonder: Is it still named that?

Not officially. In Marshfield, three geographic place names have been officially listed with a variant of the "N-word" — a brook, a pond and a mountaintop, according to an online search of the U.S. Board on Geographic Name's Geographic Names Information Service. All three have since been changed.

A quick Internet search finds that the brook has been renamed, though its more offensive name is still noted in several fishing guides. According to the University of Vermont's Center on Rural Studies website, a group petitioned to have the mountaintop and the pond names changed to Marshfield Ledge and Marshfield Pond in 1971. Since 1971, the pond has again been renamed — this time to Turtlehead Pond.

Wait? 1971?

You mean the state that abolished slavery in its constitution back in the late 1700s held onto racially-insensitive place names for nearly 200 years?

Continue reading "Vermont's Got An N-Word Problem, Too (Video)" »

September 30, 2011

Gov. Peter Shumlin Snubs Entergy's Post-Irene Donations

Donation_jar Gov. Peter Shumlin recently thanked a host of private companies for their generous cash donations to state and local flood relief efforts, but there was one major omission: Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee.

The owner of the state's lone nuclear power plant has donated more than $130,000 to Windham County and Brattleboro relief efforts in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene.

Pro-VY blogger Meredith Angwin first noted the oversight on her blog Yes Vermont Yankee.

Shumlin praised numerous "corporate angels" (see list below) during a glad-handing event at National Life in Montpelier last week — including several that donated far less than Entergy. The media, naturally, were invited, but not the gov's nuclear nemesis. We're assuming that ENVY stills resides on Shumlin's "corporate demons" list.

The $130,000 in donations makes Entergy one of the more generous corporate donors to private and public relief efforts, along with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (which donated $250,000) and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont ($150,000). At the top of the list is Vermont Public Radio, which raised more than $625,000 in a single-day fund-raising drive.

Continue reading "Gov. Peter Shumlin Snubs Entergy's Post-Irene Donations" »

September 27, 2011

Did Burlington Miss Out on Its Share of a $650 Million Investment in Carbon War Room?

CovershotDid Burlington just miss out on a slice of $650 million in commercial investment? A recent New York Times story makes you wonder.

Lockheed Martin announced last week that it is partnering with Barclay's bank to help lead a $650 million investment to make commercial buildings more energy efficient in Miami and Sacramento. The investment is a result of Lockheed's role in the Carbon War Room, an international effort that brought Lockheed to Burlington in late 2010.

"It is the most ambitious effort yet to jump-start a national market for energy upgrades that many people believe could eventually be worth billions." crowed the New York Times.

The news of Lockheed's largesse comes just weeks after the weapons maker backed out of an agreement with the city of Burlington thanks, in part, to a lengthy and emotional debate over whether the progressive-minded Queen City should get into bed with one of the world's largest weapons makers.

Could Burlington have been right there alongside Sacramento and Miami in reaping some of this investment in helping to develop model energy efficient buildings?

Continue reading "Did Burlington Miss Out on Its Share of a $650 Million Investment in Carbon War Room?" »

September 26, 2011

At Montpelier Rally, Shumlin Voices Support For Climate Change Protesters Jailed at White House

Spa star rally The 1000-plus people who biked, hiked and bused to Montpelier for a climate change rally on Saturday may have been asking one another afterward, “So, did the planet move?”

It might well have, but Vermont’s mainstream media wasn’t on hand to report on it. By ignoring this spirited gathering on the Statehouse lawn — one of more than 2000 worldwide "Moving Planet Day" events organized by a coalition of groups including, Oxfam, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace — the daily papers, wire services, and radio and television outlets missed at least two important stories:

• Vermonters are accelerating the momentum on climate change issues that got going in August when Middlebury’s Bill McKibben led a series of civil-disobedience sit-ins at the White House gates.

• Peter Shumlin gave a tub-thumper of a speech that surely qualifies him as the most radical of the 50 governors on environmental and clean-energy concern.

Continue reading "At Montpelier Rally, Shumlin Voices Support For Climate Change Protesters Jailed at White House" »

September 23, 2011

VPIRG Backs Off Criticism of Gov. Shumlin's Energy Plan

Fairgame The Vermont Public Interest Research Group today had some harsh words for Gov. Peter Shumlin's new comprehensive energy plan, but then quickly took them back.

Earlier today, VPIRG clean energy advocate Ben Walsh fired off an email titled "Really? This is what we waited for?" The email criticized Shumlin's plan for being less aggressive in the development of renewable energy than his predecessor — Republican Gov. Jim Douglas.


"After more than six months of anticipation and hard work put forth by Vermonters all across the state, the Shumlin administration’s comprehensive energy plan was released last week. Parts of the plan are visionary but we need action, not just vision. Shockingly, the plan promotes slower clean energy adoption than we saw happen under the Douglas administration*," noted Walsh.

At the bottom of the email, Walsh adds this explanation after the asterisk:

"*Really. Since 2005, Vermont utilities have signed up for 13 percent of their electricity to come from new renewable projects by 2013. That is 1.6 percent new per year. The Shumlin plan is only calling for 1.1 percent new renewable electricity per year. :-("

I bet it was the emoticon that really peeved Team Shumlin. Whatever happened, less than four hours later Walsh's boss — James Moore — issued an apology under the email subject line, "Correction: too harsh, good plan."

Continue reading "VPIRG Backs Off Criticism of Gov. Shumlin's Energy Plan" »

Rep. Welch Joins GOP, Approves Disaster Aid Spending Bill (VIDEO)

Welch U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) bucked his caucus early Friday morning and joined the GOP majority to approve additional funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and partially pay for it by making cuts in government loan programs designed to support fuel efficiency and investments in renewable energy.

Welch, a chief deputy whip in the Democratic caucus, was one of six Democrats to join with 213 Republicans in approving the measure. A similar measure failed to pass the House on Wednesday, largely because Democrats opposed linking the disaster relief to budget cuts and Tea Party Republicans who thought there weren't enough budget cuts to offset the disaster relief spending.

Welch's vote came despite his visceral disapproval to linking spending cuts to disaster relief.

Welch railed his GOP colleagues Wednesday (see video below) for forcing budget cuts in order to pay for disaster relief, something he said has never been done before. Despite his objections, however, Welch told Seven Days in a phone interview he voted in favor of the measure both Wednesday and early Friday for a simple reason: He felt it was his obligation as Vermont's lone voice in the U.S. House to support getting money to the flood-damaged state as quickly as possible.

Continue reading "Rep. Welch Joins GOP, Approves Disaster Aid Spending Bill (VIDEO)" »

September 21, 2011

Farm Workers File Racial Profiling Complaint With VT Human Rights Commission (Updated With Police Video)


The two undocumented farm workers turned over to the federal immigration authorities by the Vermont State Police last week have filed a racial profiling complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission, asserting that the state trooper's suspicion was based solely on the color of their skin.

Danilo Lopez (pictured in hat) and Antonio Meza-Sandoval, both from Mexico, were detained following a traffic stop on I-89 in Middlesex on September 13, when a car in which they were passengers was pulled over for going 88 mph. On Monday, they filed a formal complaint at the Human Rights Commission offices.

"We are hopeful that this process will confirm that what happened was discriminatory so that it won't happen again to anyone in Vermont," Lopez said in a statement. "We also hope that the State will take measures to improve its Bias-Free-Policing policy and clearly direct police to not discriminate based on suspected immigration status."

The complaint follows public release of the police video (above) from the cruiser that stopped the car the farm workers were riding in. After viewing the 35-minute video, Lopez said he "re-lived the officer's pressure. He focused immediately on us upon approaching the vehicle. He threatened me with one last chance to speak up 'or else,' even though I wanted to remain silent."

Also, state Rep. Kesha Ram (D-Burlington) is wading into the controversy, saying in a statement released by the Vermont Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project that, "Upon watching clips of the detention of Danilo and Antonio, I am deeply concerned as both a state legislator and a person of color. We cannot reasonably enforce broken federal immigration policies in our state that are disconnected from the reality of our agricultural needs and practices. This incident strengthens my resolve to end racial profiling in Vermont, and I look forward to working with Governor Shumlin to that end."

Continue reading "Farm Workers File Racial Profiling Complaint With VT Human Rights Commission (Updated With Police Video)" »

September 11, 2011

9/11 Anniversary: Rarely Used Emergency Gear Proves Crucial in Flood Response

Colchester Trailer The search-and-rescue trailer housed at Colchester Technical Rescue hasn't seen much action since it was purchased with federal homeland security dollars two years ago. Most days, it sits parked in a three-bay garage at the town ambulance service, packed with gear, waiting for a crisis.

Two weeks ago, the crisis arrived in the form of Tropical Storm Irene. The equipment trailer (pictured here traversing ravaged Route 4 in Mendon), and the highly-trained rescuers that travel with it, were deployed to help Vermont's devastated small towns.

Federal homeland security spending skyrocketed after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 and it's been a contentious topic ever since — particularly in rural states such as Vermont thought to be at low risk of a terrorist attack. Vermont has received more than $95 million in federal homeland security funds since 2001, according to state figures.

Over the years, critics have complained that the expensive equipment purchased with this money is virtually unused. But some Vermont emergency first responders say it played a crucial role in the response to Tropical Storm Irene.

Continue reading "9/11 Anniversary: Rarely Used Emergency Gear Proves Crucial in Flood Response" »

September 09, 2011

They Lost Their Cars to the Floods — But in Doing So, Saved Crucial Computer Servers

Waterbury office complex As flood waters from Tropical Storm Irene swamped the Waterbury state office complex, seven employees from the Vermont Agency of Human Services rushed inside to rescue computer servers that are critical for processing welfare checks and keeping track of paroled prisoners living around the state.

Two AHS employees —network administrator Andrew Matt and deputy chief information officer Darin Prail — parked their cars behind the AHS building at around 6 p.m. that Sunday, August 28, and rushed in to save the equipment. When they came back outside, giant trees were floating by and the entire parking lot was under water. So were their cars.

"We didn't know how much time we had," Matt said, "and our job was to save the servers."

Continue reading "They Lost Their Cars to the Floods — But in Doing So, Saved Crucial Computer Servers" »

September 08, 2011

Gov. Shumlin Names Former Top Republican Aide to Head Irene Recovery

IMG_2929 Gov. Peter Shumlin today appointed Neale Lunderville, an executive at Green Mountain Power and former top aide to Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, to coordinate the state's recovery efforts in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene.

Lunderville is taking a four-month leave of absence from his post at GMP, the state's second largest utility, to help coordinate disaster relief and recovery efforts between federal, state and local governments as well as private and non-profit sectors.

Shumlin said Lunderville will be paid a salary comparable to that of other secretaries and commissioners in his administration, likely in the low six figures, though a final dollar amount has not yet been agreed upon. The governor added that the state expects the federal government will end up picking up the tab for Lunderville's salary.

In the Douglas administration Lunderville led — at separate times — the Agency of Transportation and the Agency of Administration. Lunderville ran Douglas' campaign in 2002 and helped get him elected to office. He remained involved in Douglas' campaigns, and in GOP politics, since then.

Lunderville is a also close ally of Harlan Sylvester, a powerful political powerbroker in Vermont who is chair of Shumlin's Council of Economic Advisors — a post he has held with every governor since Madeleine Kunin. Sylvester backed former Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie in the 2010 gubernatorial election and supported Douglas, despite being a lifelong Democrat.

Continue reading "Gov. Shumlin Names Former Top Republican Aide to Head Irene Recovery" »

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