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November 2012

November 28, 2012

Nominated to Second Term as President Pro Tem, Campbell Promises End to Senate Drama

DSC04544It started with chaos and ended with chaos. But for a brief period during the Senate Democrats' reorganizational meeting Tuesday afternoon, the chaos was interrupted by promises that, next year, the Senate will no longer be subsumed by chaos.

We'll see about that.

Meeting for the first time since their reelection at Montpelier's Capitol Plaza, Senate Democrats found plenty to bicker about: whether someone should moderate the meeting, when their next meeting should take place, and whether vote tallies in a leadership election should be released to the public.

"I hope the next two years go better than this," Sen.-elect David Zuckerman (P/D-Chittenden) muttered not-quite-under-his-breath from the back of the room.

The news of the day was that incumbent Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell (D-Windsor) easily fended off his sole challenger, Sen. Ann Cummings (D-Washington), for the Democratic nomination to that post. The vote, which reporters learned only after pressing reluctant senators, was 15 to 6.

Campbell still faces a challenge from Sen. Diane Snelling (R-Chittenden) when the full Senate reconvenes in January.

Continue reading "Nominated to Second Term as President Pro Tem, Campbell Promises End to Senate Drama" »

November 27, 2012

Battle Lines Drawn in Skinny Pancake Livable Wage Controversy

Skinny pancake logo 2Skinny Pancake owner Benjamin Adler says that if he paid a "livable wage" to employees working at his airport restaurants, he'd have to charge $20 for a sandwich. "No restaurant pays their dishwasher $17.71 an hour," he tells Seven Days. "It's not sustainable."

Adler was reacting Tuesday to an avalanche of outrage prompted by a Burlington Free Press article, which reported that Burlington's mayor and board of finance had approved the Skinny Pancake's request for an unusual exemption from the city's livable wage ordinance. Burlington's ordinance requires that city employees and contractors receiving taxpayer funds pay workers a "livable" wage — presently $13.94 an hour, or $17.71 an hour if health insurance is not provided — unless they received a hardship exemption.

Adler lobbied for a hardship exemption and city officials approved one because Skinny Pancake says it would lose money on the airport venture otherwise. One reason for the special treatment: The Skinny Pancake and its sister restaurant, the Chubby Muffin, source almost all of their meat, cheese and vegetables from Vermont farmers and food producers. Adler estimates his restaurants spend $400,000 a year purchasing Vermont-grown foods — and will spend an additional $250,000 buying local food for the airport cafes.

The Free Press article also suggested — without saying explicitly — that Mayor Miro Weinberger's personal relationship with Adler and his brother, Ted, both of whom supported the mayor's campaign last spring, could have influenced the outcome.

Adler vigorously defended the exemption even as people who helped pass the livable wage ordinance back in 2001 warned that the move set a troubling precedent. Adler argues that the livable wage ordinance itself might need review. In spirit, he says he's "all for" guaranteeing a livable wage to people working on the taxpayer's dime. "But in practice, it's setting the bar so high that even a company like mine can't get near it. Is that the right bar to have set?" asks Adler, who pays himself "barely more" than livable wage standards. "Or is it too much money?"

Continue reading "Battle Lines Drawn in Skinny Pancake Livable Wage Controversy" »

November 26, 2012

The Week Ahead: November 26-December 2

The Week AheadHere's what's happening in Vermont news and politics this week. Got an event you want in next week's calendar? Email us by Friday to submit.

Monday, November 26

  • Gov. Peter Shumlin will be in Burlington this afternoon. At 3 p.m., he'll deliver a box of diapers to Jason Fitzgerald, who has collected 20,000 diapers for homeless residents at COTS. At 4 p.m., he tours the Greater Burlington YMCA (and, presumably, pumps some iron). And at 5:30 p.m., he'll speak at a kick-off event for Vermont Disaster Relief Fund at EB Strong's Prime Steakhouse.
  • At 7 p.m., the Burlington City Council meets. On the agenda: a public hearing on a new residential occupancy ordinance that would limit how many people can live in one house near downtown. Also, the resolution by councilors Max Tracy, Rachel Siegel, Sharon Bushor and Vince Brennan to keep a redeveloped Moran Plant publicly owned. 

Continue reading "The Week Ahead: November 26-December 2" »

November 21, 2012

This Week's Paper: St. Mike's Custodians Unionize, Heintz Hunts With Shumlin

F-shumlin-1Here's what you can find in this week's Seven Days, identifiable by a delicious-looking slab of raw meat on the cover...

Burlington to Consider Segway Tourism on the Bike Path

Rick SharpSegways could soon join cycles on Burlington's bike path.

The city's Parks and Recreation Commission is scheduled at its November 27 meeting to consider allowing recreational use of the battery-powered personal transportation devices on the 7.5-mile bike path. Adoption of such a policy could clear the way for the start of guided Segway tours next spring.

Rick Sharp (pictured), a 59-year-old attorney who was instrumental in the bike path's creation, has been trying for the past three years to win city approval for Segway tours he plans to operate on a commercial basis. Sharp expresses hope that the parks commission will support his initiative on at least a trial basis.

He's winning backing for his idea from some key figures.

Chapin Spencer, director of the pedestrian and bicycle advocacy group Local Motion, says he's in favor of giving Segways a trial run. "It would be a chance for [Sharp] to prove it works on the bike path and sidewalks," Spencer comments.

Kelly Devine, director of the Burlington Business Association, is also personally open to trial use of Segways downtown and along the lake. Devine emphasizes that she has not yet presented the issue to her group's board of directors.

The new city parks director likewise appears supportive of Sharp's proposal for a test of Segways' compatibility with other uses of the bike path. Jesse Bridges, now in his fourth week on the job, says there's little question that the city must accept Segway use by disabled persons. Sharp is himself disabled as a result of a paragliding accident several years ago.

Bridges adds that Sharp seemed to have addressed safety concerns in regard to recreational use during a Segway outing that the two recently took on the bike path.

For his part, Sharp remarks, "After three years of stonewalling, I'm thrilled that we actually have a parks director who returns emails and who is willing to experience a Segway first-hand."

Continue reading "Burlington to Consider Segway Tourism on the Bike Path" »

November 20, 2012

In Trip to Burlington, Maryland Gov Hands DGA "Baton" to Shumlin

DSC04535Presidential aspirant and two-term Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley flew to Burlington Tuesday to meet with Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin as the former prepares to hand off the chairmanship of the Democratic Governors Association to the latter.

"I just wanted to meet with him in his element and pass the baton," O'Malley told Seven Days after polishing off lunch with his fellow gov.

Shumlin's element?

That would be Burlington's Farmhouse Tap and Grill, where the two dined with DGA executive director Colm O'Comartun and Shumlin chief of staff Bill Lofy, who is leaving state government to serve as Shumlin's liaison to the DGA.

(Pictured in photo, from left to right: Lofy, Shumlin, O'Comartun and O'Malley)

"I wanted to come up and see Gov. Peter Shumlin, who I anticipate and hope will be the next chair of the Democratic Governors Association," O'Malley said. "He's become a dear friend to me and I have a great deal of respect for how he governs and his leadership abilities. And so I just wanted to come up here and sit down and talk about the transition forward after what was a really good year."

Continue reading "In Trip to Burlington, Maryland Gov Hands DGA "Baton" to Shumlin" »

Cost Per Vote: Which Chittenden County Candidates Got the Biggest Bang for Their Bucks?

Tim AsheThe top vote-getter in the Chittenden County state Senate race also finished near the front of the 14-candidate field in terms of cost effectiveness of individual campaign expenditures. Democrat-Progressive Tim Ashe was elected to a third term with 37,357 votes on reported spending of $10,250 — which works out to 27 cents per vote.

Ginny LyonsDemocrat Ginny Lyons was the No. 2 finisher in the race for six available seats, corralling 34,957 votes. But she was No. 1 in bang for buck. In winning a seventh term, Lyons spent only $5668, according to a November 15 campaign report — or 16 cents per vote.

Patrick Brown didn't gain entree to the charmed circle of six, but among candidates filing campaign finance reports, Brown stretched his money further than anyone in the race except Lyons. The Burlington-based civil rights activist and restaurant owner received 12,217 votes and spent $2150 — a productive investment of 18 cents per vote.

ZuckermanThe bottom — or least cost-effective — spot is occupied by Robert Letovsky, a St. Michael's College business professor running as an Independent. He spent $15,402 and got 8321 votes, which earned him an 11th place finish and cost him $1.85 per vote.

Votes also proved an expensive commodity for David Zuckerman, a Hinesburg farmer and former state representative. The Progressive-Democrat did win a Senate seat, finishing fourth (behind Ashe, Lyons and Democrat Sally Fox). But Zuckerman's return ticket to Montpelier cost him $1.04 per vote. He reported expenditures of $33,550 — by far the most of any candidate who filed on November 15.

Continue reading "Cost Per Vote: Which Chittenden County Candidates Got the Biggest Bang for Their Bucks?" »

November 19, 2012

The Week Ahead: November 19-25, 2012

The Week AheadHere's what happening in Vermont news and politics this week. Got an event for next week's calendar? Email us by Friday to submit.

Monday, November 19

  • At noon, Vermont Public Radio's "Vermont Edition" tackles food stamps, with guests Marissa Parisi and Rob Meehan.
  • U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) is in Chittenden County all day. At 12:15 p.m., he speaks to the Burlington Rotary Club at the Hilton. At 2:45, he visits COTS' Canal Street apartments on — yup, you guessed it — West Canal Street in Winooski. And at 5, he visits the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf in Burlington.
  • Gov. Peter Shumlin's got a light public schedule this week. At 1:20 p.m., the guv holds a press conference in a prison (!). He'll highlight Salvation Farms, a project at the Southeast State Correctional Facility in Windsor to make surplus Vermont-grown potatoes available to food shelves in the southeastern part of the state.
  • At 3:45 p.m., Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger holds a ribbon-cutting press conference to formally open Appletree Park Playground in the New North End. 
  • At 5 p.m., the Burlington City Council's special committee on ward redistricting hosts a public meeting in Contois Auditorium to review redrawn maps for wards 4, 6 and 7. View the maps here.
  • At 5:25 p.m., State Auditor-elect Doug Hoffer is live on Channel 17 (CCTV). Stream it live.
Rest of the holiday week after the break...

Continue reading "The Week Ahead: November 19-25, 2012" »

November 16, 2012

The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers

Scoreboard.newThe election's over, but that doesn't mean The Scoreboard's over. Here's the rundown of winners and losers in Vermont news and politics for the week of Friday, Nov. 16:

Winners:

Liz Miller — The Burlington attorney has rocketed to the top of state government in the past two years, moving from private practice to commissioner of the Department of Public Service to — earlier this week — Gov. Peter Shumlin's next chief of staff. Runner-up winner: Steve Kimbell for managing to re-retire to his Tunbridge home, where he'll have more fun tending to his sheep than he would staying on in the Department of Financial Regulation.

Bill — Sure, the Green Mountain College ox is probably feelin' pretty lonesome these days, but dude seriously dodged a bullet. RIP, Lou.

Peter Shumlin and Randy BrockShummy ends his reelection campaign with $933,000 in the bank — so that's pretty rad for him. As for Brock, he may have lost the $300,000 he loaned his campaign last summer, but Thursday's campaign finance reports indicate he was wise enough, despite hints to the contrary, to refrain from investing more of his own cash in his losing campaign.

Continue reading "The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers" »

VT Dept of Corrections Schedules "Town Meetings" To Replace Citizens Advisory Group

Vermont_Department_Of_Corrections_Patch_VT-1The Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC) has scheduled its first correctional "town meetings" where members of the public can weigh in on  departmental directives, policies and other topics of interest to inmates' families, friends and advocates. 

The first corrections town meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 4 from 4:15 to 6:15 p.m. The dates, times and locations of those town meetings can all be found here

As Seven Days reported in July, the town meeting-style approach will replace Vermont's Corrections Citizen Advisory Group (CCAG) which Corrections Commissioner Andrew Pallito disbanded during the summer due to ongoing concerns about dwindling attendance at its quarterly meetings, as well as its somewhat dysfunctional membership. In July, Pallito told members of the Legislative Corrections Oversight Committee that the meetings had become unduly burdensome and unproductive, with some of its members "wasting my time." 

Continue reading "VT Dept of Corrections Schedules "Town Meetings" To Replace Citizens Advisory Group" »

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