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391 posts categorized "Media" Feed

April 09, 2012

Shumlin Quibbles With Quibblers Over Utility Merger Deal

DSC03406Lest there be any doubt, Gov. Peter Shumlin has dug in deep behind the deal struck by his Department of Public Service and Green Mountain Power in the company’s bid to merge with Central Vermont Public Service.

Speaking Monday morning in Burlington at a clean energy summit organized by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the governor twice brought up the growing debate over the merger, calling it “ironic” that Vermonters would “quibble” over a contested $21 million portion of the deal instead of focusing on what he sees as, overall, a good deal for ratepayers.

“It’s ironic to me that [when] we talk about a merger that’s gonna save Vermonters $150 million in 10 years, that we quibble over whether or not we should be putting another $21 million into energy efficiency measures instead of sending out small checks to people we can’t find 12 years later,” he said, before returning to his scripted remarks.

After simmering for weeks, tensions boiled over last week in the Vermont Senate, with legislators grilling DPS Commissioner Liz Miller on Thursday about whether she negotiated the best deal possible for ratepayers. Specifically contested is a $21 million “windfall” payment owed to CVPS customers for bailing out the company in 2001 when it faced bankruptcy. While the Shumlin administration believes the money should be invested in weatherization and energy efficiency measures, AARP and a growing number of legislators believe it should be refunded to consumers.

Continue reading "Shumlin Quibbles With Quibblers Over Utility Merger Deal" »

April 04, 2012

Douglas Flies To The Rescue Of "Copilot" Dubie

Dubie copilotDuring their eight years serving together in Vermont’s top elected offices, former governor Jim Douglas often referred to his lieutenant governor, Brian Dubie — a commercial airline captain — as his copilot.

Last night, during the latest of his regular Vermont Public Radio commentaries, Douglas flew to Dubie’s rescue, arguing that his copilot should not be held personally liable for misdeeds allegedly committed by his 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

“The cost to Brian and his family of defending himself has become steep,” Douglas told VPR listerners. “And I can only assume that a protracted lawsuit such as this one — years after the campaign is over — will only discourage other decent and hardworking people from running.”

In December, the Vermont attorney general’s office sued Dubie and the Republican Governors Association for allegedly violating campaign finance laws by illegally coordinating campaign activities with one another. According to the complaint, Dubie’s campaign shared $93,000 worth of polling information with the RGA, which then used the data to produce $242,000 worth of television commercials on Dubie’s behalf. Those figures, if counted as in-kind contributions between the two entities, exceed legal limits.

Reached at his Middlebury office Wednesday, where he is serving as an "executive in residence," Douglas elaborated on his commentary, arguing that it’s fine for the attorney general to sue a political committee, but it shouldn’t sue a former candidate unless he or she personally broke the law.

“There’s lots of criminal and civil actions against candidates and parties and political entities, but targeting someone personally is what’s different here,” Douglas said. “Targeting an individual and putting them through a very emotionally and financially draining experience isn’t fair. The state has unlimited resources. It’s out of your pockets and mine.”

Continue reading "Douglas Flies To The Rescue Of "Copilot" Dubie" »

March 07, 2012

At Vermont Stations That Carry Rush, Owners Shrug Off "Slut" Comment

Rush_LimbaughPaul Goldman says he's "appalled" that Rush Limbaugh called Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" last week after she told lawmakers in Washington that insurance should cover birth control. But Goldman has no plans to take Rush off the air at the radio station he owns, WVMT 620 AM in Colchester.

"The majority of people who are asking me to take him off the air don't even listen to him," said Goldman. "The listeners still want Rush and that's my job and my business — to satisfy the listeners. It's America. It's freedom of speech. He's paying a financial price for what he said."

Limbaugh made a public apology to Fluke last weekend, saying "those two words were inappropriate." But that hasn't stopped dozens of advertisers — anywhere from 28 to 43, as of Wednesday — from fleeing his show.

At WVMT, Goldman says he received a few calls and emails complaining about the comments, but he said they were part of a coordinated campaign that would not influence programming decisions at the station. It might be different, Goldman said, if regular Rush listeners had complained.

"I get more heat when I pre-empt Rush for a baseball game. I get as many phone calls," Goldman said.

Goldman said none of the station's advertisers had complained to him, nor did anyone who identified as a regular listener of the show, which airs noon to 3 p.m. in the Burlington area.

"It would be different if somebody who personally worked for me did this, but he doesn't work for me," Goldman said.

At WNTK in the New London, N.H., which broadcasts Limbaugh's show over 99.7 FM the Upper Valley, it appears to be much the same story. Station owner Bob Vinikoor told the Valley News he was satisfied with Limbaugh's apology and added, "It was still a pretty poor choice of words and the wrong thing to say."

Continue reading "At Vermont Stations That Carry Rush, Owners Shrug Off "Slut" Comment" »

March 02, 2012

Can a Film Bridge Gaps in the Energy Debate?

JonbiopicbMark your calendars: March 21 is Vermont Energy Independence Day, and proponents of the movement want to hear from Vermonters far and wide about how the state should tackle issues of energy production in the future.

What's that, you say? You've never heard of Vermont Energy Independence Day? Don't fret: You've still got a chance to get in on the ground floor. This year marks the first-ever event of its kind, and it lands, not coincidentally, on the day Vermont Yankee's license would have expired. 

"It was back in November or December that we hatched this idea," says Jon Erickson, a professor with the University of Vermont's Gund Institute for Ecological Economics and a member of the team behind Bright Blue EcoMedia. The Bright Blue producers knew about the significance of the date, and figured that at least some other activists in the state would glom on to the timing, so they crowned March 21 Vermont Energy Independence Day. "So far," he says, "the gamble's paid off."

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February 23, 2012

As Free Press Adopts Pay Wall, Vermont Media Landscape Shifts

In a move that’s sure to shift the media landscape in Vermont, the state’s largest daily newspaper, the Burlington Free Press, announced Thursday that it would start charging readers for online content later this year.

The Free Press’ parent company, Gannett, announced at an investor meeting Wednesday that all 80 of its community newspapers — but not its flagship property, USA Today — will limit readers’ access to between five and 15 articles per month, unless they purchase an online or print subscription.

“It’s a decision companywide, but you know it’s time we begin to charge for our content online,” Free Press publisher Jim Fogler said Thursday. “We’ve been giving it away for free. We should have done this a while ago.”

The pay wall is part of a “Triple Crown” of changes coming to 191 College Street, according to a company press release. The paper is rebuilding its 45-year-old printing press to the tune of $2.4 million, and it is shifting from a broadsheet format to a narrower, tabloid format. Fogler said he expects the new subscription model will launch when the press work is scheduled for completion this June.

“We’ve made a $2.4 million commitment to our community,” Fogler said. “We’re not going anywhere.

In an effort to bolster its online offerings, the Free Press purchased 18 iPhones for its reporters last week. Fogler hopes to turn Free Press reporters into “mobile journalists” — or “Mo-Jos,” as he calls them. At the same time, employees each have been forced to take one-week, unpaid furloughs this quarter, as they did last year.

“I will tell you, I’d much rather take a furlough, including myself, than to go through a round of layoffs,” Fogler said.



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February 16, 2012

The Transparency Pander: Burlington Mayoral Candidates Go All In On Open Goverment

When you’re running for public office, you have to strike a bit of a balance. You want to let voters know where you stand, but you don’t want to make promises you can’t — or won’t — keep.

These things matter because you might just get elected — and then people may well remember those pesky promises you made.

So it was interesting to see just how far Democrat Miro Weinberger and Republican Kurt Wright were willing to go in order to out-transparent one another Tuesday night at a Burlington Free Press mayoral debate on government transparency. [Independent candidate Wanda Hines canceled at the last minute for personal reasons.]

Mayor graphicThe dynamic mayoral duo’s message? We won’t ever hide anything from anyone. Especially the press. Not ever. We promise.

The Free Press has, admirably, made government transparency a central focus of their coverage. They assigned veteran reporter Mike Donoghue to a bit of a Freedom of Information Act beat, and they’ve editorialized on the subject ad nauseam. They even won a Society of Professional Journalists award last summer for what the SJP called a “three-year campaign for open government" — and it looks like Vermont candidates and officeholders are getting the message.

So when Weinberger and Wright showed up to the daily's debate Tuesday night, they were armed and ready to pander. After Wright was unable to name more than two of the nine reasons public boards can go into executive session, Weinberger piped up like an eager schoolboy who’d done all the homework teacher assigned.

“I was hoping I was going to get to fill in for Kurt after— I’ve got the nine reasons right here!” he giddily proclaimed.

Continue reading "The Transparency Pander: Burlington Mayoral Candidates Go All In On Open Goverment" »

February 14, 2012

'Troublemaker' Bill McKibben Talks Keystone XL With Colbert

Bill_McKibben_at_RIT-3Vermont's own globetrotting, carbon-fighting climate activist Bill McKibben cropped up on national television again last night, this time in a repeat visit to the Colbert Report. By way of snappy introduction, Colbert — eyes gleaming gleefully — had this to say of his visitor: "My guest Bill McKibben believes in global warming... so I'm going to deny that he exists."

McKibben was talking up the latest effort by 350.org and a coalition of environmental advocates to block the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. He's has been making headlines in his crusade to stop the proposed pipeline, which would carry oil from Canadian tar sands to Gulf of Mexico refineries. In August, McKibben was arrested in front of the White House at the beginning of a massive series of civil-disobedience protests undertaken by the environmental movement. The two-week sit-in led to the arrests of 1253 protestors and ended in what environmentalists considered a victory: In January the Obama administration denied a permit for the project.

Then, yesterday, came this bad news: On Monday afternoon, Senate Republicans filed an amendment to the transportation bill that would authorize the Keystone XL pipeline. Once again, environmentalists rallied in opposition to the project, which has inspired what some observers call a "too rare unity" in the movement. They set a goal to gather 500,000 signatures on an anti-pipeline petition in 24 hours — then blew that goal out of the water in seven hours instead.

Continue reading "'Troublemaker' Bill McKibben Talks Keystone XL With Colbert" »

February 13, 2012

A Signature Issue: Did Wright Help Hines Get on the Ballot?

Burlmayor12 copyA story written by VTDigger’s Greg Guma about Burlington Republican mayoral candidate Kurt Wright’s “unusual political alliance” had the chattering classes, well, chattering over the weekend. Better that than the Grammys and "Downton Abbey," I suppose.

The most provocative portion of the piece is a suggestion that the Wright campaign — via campaign manager David Hartnett — helped independent candidate Wanda Hines get on the ballot:

Hines and Hartnett are also friends. They first crossed paths at Burlington High School decades ago and have stayed in touch. In January, Hartnett helped Hines obtain enough signatures to get her name on the ballot by putting her petitions out near the cash register at his business, according to a witness.

That nugget was sandwiched between two other compelling observations: that Hines could serve as a spoiler in the race — potentially helping Wright win the election — and that Wright last week publicly offered Hines a job if he was elected.

Taken together, the inference was clear: Wright’s campaign helped Hines get on the ballot to bolster his own chances, and Hines’ reward would be a plum post in his administration.

Problem is, that’s not the whole story.

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February 07, 2012

EatingWell Media Group to Move to Shelburne

= EatingwellThe 6000 block of Shelburne's Route 7 is on its way to becoming an epicenter of food culture.

On the west side side of the road is Shelburne Vineyard; across the street is the brand-new Fiddlehead Brewing Company, as well as Folino's, a flatbread eatery due to open this spring. On the hill behind the brewery, a group of visionary architects and builders have been renovating the 73,000-square-foot former home of Shelburne Industries, with the eventual intention of turning it into a food hub under the loose name of the Vermont Food Project. Eventual tenants will include a bakery and café, and possibly a miller, distiller, creamery and chocolate maker.

There's also tons of office space inside, too. And after more than a year of construction, the complex is about to take its first significant step forward. The ever-growing EatingWell Media Group will relocate its offices here by the end of the month, along with its 30 or so employees.

Over the last decade, EatingWell has grown from an adless quarterly to a thriving media giant, all from its offices in rural Charlotte. It lures four million unique visitors to its website each month, racks up James Beard awards for its cookbooks and articles, and recently increased print circulation from 350,000 last year to 500,000.

Some of that growth has been buoyed by Meredith Corporation, who snapped up EatingWell last summer. At the time, some speculated (and worried) that the very local EatingWell would be moved out of state. Their worries were for naught.

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January 20, 2012

Reid Postpones Vote on PROTECT IP Act; Leahy Criticizes Senate Colleagues

Wiki-blackoutWednesday was the day the internet stood still to protest a pair of antipiracy bills in the U.S. Congress — and it looks like it worked. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has postponed a vote on the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), a much-criticized bill sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy.

"In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday's vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act," Reid said in a statement. This doesn't mean PIPA is dead, though — just sleeping for now. Reid, who supported the bill, praised Leahy's work on PIPA and stressed that there remains a need for strong antipiracy legislation.

In a statement of his own, Leahy said he understood Reid's decision to indefinitely postpone the vote, but he blasted his Senate colleagues for making a "knee-jerk reaction," and said that criminals are "smugly watching how the United States Senate decided it was not even worth debating how to stop the overseas criminals from draining our economy." Leahy's full statement is after the jump.

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