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January 2013

January 31, 2013

Saturday Popup Will Bring Moran Plant Back from the Dead

Moran PlantBurlington’s Moran Plant is popping up from the dead, but its resurrection will be short-lived.

The 60-year-old power plant, which went offline in 1986, will be the site on Saturday of a set of city-sponsored events intended to renew local interest in the decrepit waterfront structure and its surroundings. The “Popup Moran” happenings are set to start soon after Penguin Plungers emerge from the lake around 11:30 a.m. Lit by a bonfire, the fun continues till 10 at night.

“We want to bring energy and life to that part of the waterfront,” explains popup coordinator Diana Colangelo, who works for the city’s Community and Economic Development Office. “In a lot of people’s minds, the waterfront sort of ends at the Coast Guard station. We want people to feel invested in Moran.”

Does that mean the Weinberger administration is formally advocating rehabbing the building rather than, say, tearing it down? Not necessarily, Colangelo responds.

Continue reading "Saturday Popup Will Bring Moran Plant Back from the Dead" »

Donovan Looking into Vermont National Guard Sexual Assault Allegation

DSC03275Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan says he's "troubled" by an allegation of sexual assault in the Vermont National Guard and plans to look into the matter.

But given the anonymous nature of the accusation — in an unsigned letter shared with state legislators — and the length of time since the alleged incident, he's unsure whether his office will be able to launch a formal investigation.

"It's an interesting dilemma given the lack of a complaint to law enforcement, which would trigger an investigation," Donovan said Thursday. "At the same time, we're looking at a situation where we may have a sexual predator living in our community."

Donovan was referring to allegations made in an anonymous letter claiming that a senior Guard officer sexually assaulted another Guard member in December 2007. The letter further claimed that two other senior Guard officers — retired Brig. Gen. Jonathan Farnham and acting Adj. Gen. Thomas Drew — were made aware of the alleged assault and did not report it to civilian law enforcement authorities. 

The letter, provided to Rep. George Till (D-Jericho) two weeks ago, prompted Farnham on Monday to withdraw from the race to become the state's next adjutant general. Citing privacy constraints, neither Farnham nor Drew have been able to provide their side of the story, though Farnham disputed the letter's account in a written statement.

Continue reading "Donovan Looking into Vermont National Guard Sexual Assault Allegation" »

January 30, 2013

Media Note: VPR Teams Up With Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus

DSC04205Not enough John Dillon in your life? We know how you feel!

Never fear. If you're a Rutland Herald or Barre-Montpelier Times Argus subscriber, you can now read the Vermont Public Radio reporter's crisp copy in your morning paper as you eat your Cheerios and listen to him on "Morning Edition."

That's because the two Mitchell family-owned newspapers have struck up a new content-sharing arrangement with Vermont's statewide public radio station.

(Pictured at right: Dillon and his sweet ride)

"It's part of VPR's strategic goals to consider partnerships that would benefit the people of Vermont," says VPR senior vice president John Van Hoesen. "We look for partnerships that help to inform the audience to the highest degree that we can."

Here's how it'll work: The Herald and the T-A will run print versions of stories filed by VPR's three Statehouse reporters: Dillon, Bob Kinzel and Kirk Carapezza. In return, Herald and T-A reporter Peter Hirschfeld will contribute radio versions of his stories to VPR and appear on air, according to Rob Mitchell, state editor and heir apparent to the two newspapers.

Continue reading "Media Note: VPR Teams Up With Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus" »

Burlington City Council Election to Feature Five Contested Races

EmilyLeeBurlington voters will see five contested city council races this March — several of which could turn out to be competitive. 

In the New North End, Democrat Tom Ayres and Republican Jim Robert will duke it out for a Ward 7 seat being vacated by Republican Councilor Vince Dober. Though the district tends to be the most conservative in the city, Ayres only narrowly lost a race last year to a well known incumbent Republican, Paul Decelles.

The Old North End will also have a contested election for an open seat. Former Progressive city councilor Jane Knodell was quick to jump into the race last week after Democratic Councilor Bram Kranichfeld announced his plans to step down from his Ward 2 seat at the end of his term.

On Monday, the day petitions to run were due at City Hall, Democrats announced their own candidate: neighborhood activist and local banker Emily Lee (pictured), a vice president at the downtown Merrill Lynch branch. The cofounder of the West Hill Neighborhood Association says she's particularly focused on housing.

"I've been really active here in the neighborhood and my feeling was we have a great deal of momentum going to improve Ward 2," she said. "I think we need more housing options — more housing built, so we have choices of where to live."

Continue reading "Burlington City Council Election to Feature Five Contested Races" »

In Memoriam: Dan Balón, Champion of Racial Diversity and Cultural Awareness


Daniello "Dan" Balón, a longtime educator and advocate for improving cultural awareness and racial sensitivity in the Burlington School District, died suddenly Tuesday morning from a heart attack. Balón, 42, leaves behind his wife and two daughters.

"This was completely unexpected," said Amy Mellencamp, Burlington High School principal, who has worked with Balón for the last four years. "Over the years, I have appreciated Dan's very deep commitment and passion for the opportunities each one of us should have in life... No one could ever doubt the commitment he had for young people."

Balón, a Filipino American, worked as director of diversity, education and engagmenet for the Burlington School District. His job involved recruiting and retaining people of color to city school jobs and providing diversity and equity training.

He was never shy about calling out what he saw as institutional racism and bigotry in all its forms. In a November 11, 2009 cover story, "Minority Rule: Who will lead the next generation of Vermont’s racial justice activists?"  Seven Days identified Balón as an up-and-coming leader in Vermont's social justice movement. Ironically, the story was precipitated by the deaths of two longtime Burlington civil rights adocates: John Tucker and Larry McCrory.

Continue reading "In Memoriam: Dan Balón, Champion of Racial Diversity and Cultural Awareness" »

Judge Tosses Libel Suit Against St. Michael's Student Journos, but Former Candidate Appeals

John HaywoodLongshot presidential candidate John D. Haywood wanted $50 million in damages from St. Michael’s College and two student journalists who penned a candidate profile he claimed was libelous.

Instead, a judge has tossed out Haywood’s lawsuit and ordered him to reimburse the college and students for $23,336 they spent defending the lawsuit.

Haywood, who lives in Durham, N.C., sued the college and student journalists for libel last summer, claiming an article they wrote on him for a class project grossly mischaracterized his positions and was responsible for his loss to President Obama in the 2012 New Hampshire primary. Haywood (pictured) received just 432 votes, meaning he lost to Obama by a ratio of 115 to 1.

Haywood has reportedly paid the court-ordered sum, but he's not done with St. Michael's or the student reporters yet. He has appealed the decision to U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit pro se, or without a lawyer's assistance.

Continue reading "Judge Tosses Libel Suit Against St. Michael's Student Journos, but Former Candidate Appeals" »

This Week's Issue: Daycare Nightmares, Telecom Troubles, Motel Money

013013coverIn this week's print edition of Seven Days, which is still totally free:


Leahy to Hold Gun Violence Hearing Today

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) today will hold the first congressional hearings on gun violence since last month's deadly school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs, is expected to be the first stop for any federal legislation Congress considers in the wake of Sandy Hook. The committee is scheduled to hear from National Rifle Association executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre, along with Mark Kelly, the husband of former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was injured two years ago in a deadly shooting in Tuscon.

Politico is reporting that Giffords herself is set to give a surprise opening statement at Leahy's hearing.

You can watch the hearing, which starts at 10 a.m., here at the Judiciary Commttee's website. It will also be carried live on C-SPAN.

Below is a list of witnesses scheduled to appear.

  • Captain Mark Kelly, USN (Ret.), Americans for Responsible Solutions
  • Professor David Kopel, Adjunct Professor of Advanced Constitutional Law, Denver University, Strum College of Law
  • James Johnson, Chief of Police, Baltimore County Police Department, Chair, National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence 
  • Gayle Trotter, Attorney and Senior Fellow, Independent Women’s Forum
  • Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, National Rifle Association 



January 29, 2013

Former WCAX News Anchor Charged With Animal Cruelty in Horse Case

George Wilson
A former WCAX news anchor found himself on the wrong side of a perp walk on Tuesday.

George Wilson (pictured) was charged with animal cruelty for allegedly keeping horses locked up inside dark stalls on his Shelburne property for years, and letting several other animals die. The 63-year-old was arraigned in Chittenden County Superior Court, under the gaze of local news reporters who used to be his colleagues.

Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan cited Wilson into court Friday, in part because he said Wilson owns guns and made threatening remarks to police investigating the cruelty. A judge ordered Wilson to forfeit the weapons.

According to a police affidavit, Wilson owns a high-powered rifle and made a "bee line" toward it after discovering law enforcement on his property January 15, but he was intercepted by an officer. Shelburne police officer Michael Thomas wrote that before Wilson headed for the gun, he said, "I want everyone to leave or someone is going to get hurt."

Clarendon-based Spring Hill Horse Rescue, which removed two mares and a stallion from Wilson's property on January 15, called it "the worst case of abuse and neglect we have ever seen." The group said it found the horses — named Willie, Dolly and Lolly — standing in several feet of manure, almost blind from lack of sunlight, covered in lice and barely able to stand on badly overgrown hooves. They also found bags of bones from dead horses. (Click here for photos and more background.)

At Wednesday's arraignment, Wilson joked with news crews lined up to film his perp walk. "It's funny being on this side, isn't it?" Wilson called out to a WCAX photographer before his arraignment. Afterward, he complimented Burlington Free Press reporter Mike Donoghue for being the first to confirm his identity as the owner of the horses.

But Wilson vigorously defended himself against the charges, pleading not guilty and saying he never threatened anyone. He denied he ever went for his gun. "I never did. It never came to my mind and I'm just unhappy that we had a large invasion force come onto our property without any notice. Who would like that? It's as if the aliens landed at your house, took your dog, cat, your wife and absconded with them."

Continue reading "Former WCAX News Anchor Charged With Animal Cruelty in Horse Case" »

January 28, 2013

Farnham Drops Bid to Lead Vermont Guard, Citing Anonymous Complaint

Farnham*Updated below with reaction from House Speaker Shap Smith and other legislators.*

Retired Brig. Gen. Jonathan Farnham withdrew from the race to lead the Vermont National Guard Monday afternoon, citing an inability to defend himself against charges leveled at him in an unsigned letter purportedly from a former Guard member.

The letter, which was circulated among top lawmakers last week, includes allegations that Farnham and another senior officer failed to immediately report or take action to address an alleged sexual assault committed by one member of the Guard against another in December 2007.

In a statement to Seven Days, Farnham (pictured) said that while the Guard's privacy rules prevented him from addressing the allegations in any detail, he "simply was not involved in the disposition of the matter."

"While the anonymous allegations are untrue, they have proved a significant distraction to both the legislature and the Guard as they continue their important work on behalf of all Vermonters," Farnham wrote. "I am unwilling to allow that distraction to continue."

Farnham was one of at least three candidates vying to succeed Michael Dubie as the next adjutant general of the 4000-member Vermont National Guard. The Vermont Legislature is scheduled to select the Guard's next leader in a secret ballot scheduled for Feb. 21. Farnham and Air Guard Brig. Gen. Steven Cray, another leading candidate, have been fixtures at the Statehouse in recent weeks as they've lobbied lawmakers for support.

Farnham's candidacy has been on the rocks for at least a week, as legislative leaders have digested the contents of the anonymous two-page letter, which was first sent to the writer's state representative. Both Farnham and the letter-writer met with at least two House members last Wednesday in the Statehouse to discuss the situation, according to several people close to the situation.

Seven Days obtained the letter late last week and spoke with its author, but that person declined to speak on the record. The paper was unable to independently verify the allegations included in it.

Continue reading "Farnham Drops Bid to Lead Vermont Guard, Citing Anonymous Complaint" »

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