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July 2013

July 31, 2013

SEIU Drops Bid to Represent 7000 Home-Care Workers, Clearing Way for AFSCME

SEIU.logoOne of the nation's most powerful labor unions abruptly abandoned its fight to represent 7000 Vermont home-care workers Wednesday afternoon.

The Service Employees International Union, which claims 1.9 million members nationwide, cited the cost, divisiveness and long odds it faced in its battle to represent what will become the the state's largest collective bargaining unit. 

With the SEIU out of the running, its sole opponent — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — is almost certain to prevail in an election scheduled to conclude in early October. AFSCME will then be charged with negotiating state subsidies and benefits for independent contractors who provide in-home care to elderly and disabled Vermonters.

"We were having a difficult time getting our message to be as well-received as we would have liked," explains Matt McDonald, who ran the SEIU's organizing campaign in the state. "You know, I think we were highly disadvantaged by the fact that we don't have members here in Vermont."

Continue reading "SEIU Drops Bid to Represent 7000 Home-Care Workers, Clearing Way for AFSCME" »

Protest Denounces Racism in Vermont and Supports Old North End Family

Racism demo 002***UPDATE BELOW***

About 30 demonstrators rallied this morning outside criminal court in Burlington to denounce racism and voice support for an African American family involved in a July 1 fracas with Burlington police. The demonstrators held placards and chanted slogans such as "BPD — Stop police brutality!"

Susalyn Kirkland, 56 (pictured below), greeted the protesters following a brief appearance in court on charges of impeding a public officer, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. A hearing on her case was set for August 14.

"I didn't do any of that," Kirkland declared outside the courthouse on Cherry Street. "I don't know why they're lying," she said in regard to Burlington police. "They should be telling the truth."

Two of Kirkland's sons — Hassan Williams, 16, and a 15-year-old whose name is not being disclosed — are said by police to have attacked Sgt. Brad Trombley. The officer was responding to a complaint of BB guns being fired at a Spring Street home in the Old North End.

Continue reading "Protest Denounces Racism in Vermont and Supports Old North End Family" »

July 30, 2013

"Sticker Gang" Seeks to Push F-35 Debate Leftward

Sticker 002A sticker slapped on telephone poles and utility boxes around Burlington highlights dissent among the dissenters on the issue of basing the F-35 military fighter jet at the local airport.

A small band of graphic guerrillas who call themselves the Sticker Gang are seeking "to up the political ante by depicting the depth of the opposition to both the weapons system and the pols fronting for the 1 percent's continuing agenda of empire," gangster Albert Petrarca writes in an email.

Designed by a local artist who won't reveal his or her name, the sticker shows the war plane in a completely vertical ascent. It's got a skull-and-crossbones emblazoned on one wing; the nuclear radiation symbol on the other. The exhaust from the F-35's engine takes the form of the names of Vermont politicians who support the basing plan: Shumlin, Sanders, Weinberger, Leahy, Welch. 

"F the 35," the sticker proclaims on top.

Continue reading ""Sticker Gang" Seeks to Push F-35 Debate Leftward" »

July 29, 2013

Morning Read: Vermont's "World Citizen" Garry Davis Dies at 91

MorningreadLike many prophets, Garry Davis was egotistical, single-minded and ... uniquely in touch with a higher truth. The Vermont-based founder of the World Government of World Citizens, who died in Williston last week at age 91, gets a full-scale, strongly sympathetic send-off in today's New York Times.

"His rationale was simple, his aim immense: If there were no nation-states, he believed, there would be no wars," the Times observes.

Davis, the longtime companion of local philanthropist and activist Robin Lloyd, launched his world government in 1953 from the steps of the Ellsworth, Maine, town hall. His organization has since issued some 2.5 million "world passports." 

Davis was a regular at public meetings in and around Burlington. He often took advantage of the Q&A portion to pitch his project. Seven Days profiled Davis in 2001. Last month, a new documentary about his life was released, entitled My Country Is the World, and the World Is My Stage: The True Story of Garry Davis

Gary.Davis"Whether Mr. Davis was a visionary utopian or a quixotic naïf was long debated by press and public," the Times recounts. "His supporters argued that the documents he issued had genuine value for refugees and other stateless people. His detractors countered that by issuing them — and charging a fee — Mr. Davis was selling false hope to people who spent what little they had on papers that are legally recognized almost nowhere in the world."

It's clear, though, where the Times and writer Margalit Fox stand on Davis' unparalled act of chutzpah in declaring himself head of a world government.

"What is beyond dispute is that Mr. Davis’s long insistence on the inalienable right of anyone to travel anywhere prefigures the present-day immigration debate by decades," the obit opines. "It likewise anticipates the current stateless conditions of Julian Assange and Edward J. Snowden."

Read the full New York Times story here.

July 26, 2013

How Many Vermont Lawmakers Are on Social Media?

Ipad_person_iconHow many state senators are live-tweeting lunch? Can you track down your rep on Snapchat? We don't have answers to those questions, specifically, but a new survey attempted to determine how widespread the use of social media and email is in the halls of the Statehouse.

Organized by the Vermont Technology Working Group, the survey asked all 180 state legislators what technology they use to keep in touch with constituents. Only 42 responded. But it's a start toward understanding which platforms are popular among lawmakers. A few key points:

  • Ninety-eight percent of lawmakers use email in their capacity as elected officials. (The one legislator who said he/she doesn't use email is probably not reading this blog post.)
  • Of those, 36 percent said they use email "less than monthly."
  • Sixty-nine percent of legislators said they use social media; 31 percent said they don't.
  • The city effect: 73 percent of Chittenden County legislators are on social media. In the rest of the state, 60 percent said yes.
  • Which platform is most effective for speaking with constituents? Facebook and email tied for the lead, with 36 percent each. Fourteen percent of legislators picked Front Porch Forum as their top social media platform, and Twitter got 5 percent.
  • Email is more popular for connecting with media, with two thirds of lawmakers picking that method to communicate with the press.

Regrettably, the survey did not ask how many have tweeted photos of their junk. Sorry, Carlos Danger.

Click here to see the full survey rundown.

Shelburne Traffic-Stop Case Postponed Because Cops Failed to Show Up in Court

Rod MacIver photoIt looks like Rod MacIver will have to wait another month for his "day in court." The judge ordered a 30-day postponement in his lawsuit against the town of Shelburne and two of its police officers because they failed to show up in court on Friday morning.

As Seven Days' Charles Eichacker first reported earlier this week, MacIver is suing Shelburne and two of its cops after he was wrongfully issued a moving violation for running a red light. The 56-year-old Monkton artist and writer subsequently convinced a traffic court judge to dismiss his ticket after video from the police cruiser revealed that, in fact, he had not broken any law.

But MacIver is still demanding justice and has filed a $2000 lawsuit to make a point. He accuses the two Shelburne cops  — Officer Jason Lawton, who pulled MacIver over in December 2012, and Sgt. Allen Fortin, with whom MacIver later filed a complaint about Lawton's conduct — of being "deliberately deceptive and dishonest" and alleges that they lied under oath about what was on the videotape.

Neither of the two cops, both of whom are named defendants, showed up at the small-claims hearing Friday morning in Burlington. Instead, the town sent Burlington attorney Colin McNeil, of McNeil Leddy & Sheahan, as its sole representative. MacIver told the court that he had received written and verbal assurances from Shelburne Town Manager Paul Bohne III that the officers would appear.

Chittenden Superior Court Judge Samuel Hoar granted MacIver's motion for a continuance, or 30-day postponement, and called the officers' absence "troubling." Noting that he didn't know how the case could be decided without their sworn testimony, Hoar further indicated that their absence from any future hearings would be "a mistake on the part of the town" and could potentially result in a "judgment by default" in favor of MacIver.

Continue reading "Shelburne Traffic-Stop Case Postponed Because Cops Failed to Show Up in Court" »

The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers

Scoreboard.newWho won and lost the week in Vermont news and politics?

Goat-killers, doppelgangers, loggers, Little Rockers, cops and... the economy.

Here's the Scoreboard for the week of Friday, July 26:


The economy, stupid — State revenue forecasts are up, a bit. So that's good. But... Runner-up loser: Congress, whose federal budget sequestration is stalling Vermont's economic recovery.

Mark Mitchell — When the VSEA chief was fired last month by the union's board of trustees, ally and board president John Reese said Mitchell would be vindicated. Turns out Reese was right. Mitchell's back — and that brings us to our our Runner-up losers: Michael Casey and Abigail Winters, who staged the ultimately unsuccessful coup with the help of a few allies on the board. Now Casey and Winters are on their way out.

State auditor's office — Newbie State Auditor Doug Hoffer released the results of his first big audit this week: a sober, constructive look at how the state can do more to prevent workplace injuries. After years of politically motivated work by predecessor, Tom Salmon, isn't that refreshing?

Homeless advocates — They got their way on new motel rules this week, now that Gov. Peter Shumlin is playing nice with lefty lobbyists. Runner-up losers: Legislators who want to cut the program entirely. Oh, and the state budget, which'll be footing the bill for more stays at the Ho Hum Motel. 

Little Rock — For barely beating out Burlington as America's best small city in which to live.

Rutland Herald correspondent Eric Francis — For penning the following sentence in a story headlined, "Man Takes Stand in Goat-killing Case": "Parry said he had nothing personally against Majeski and had no reason to harm the goats beyond the fact that he had consumed more than a dozen beers and nearly as many Percocets that evening, and that Ashline offered to pay him what sounded like a couple of hundred dollars to do it." 'Nuff said.

Vermont's political doppelgangers — Especially Cousin Oliver

A tie score and losers after the break...

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

Burlingtonians Urge City to Give Livable-Wage Ordinance a Makeover

Melissa Gelinas of the Peace & Justice Center calls for changes to Burlington's livable-wage ordinance Thursday night. Photo by Taylor Dobbs.


A handful of speakers urged a Burlington City Council committee Thursday evening to put some teeth into the city's livable-wage ordinance.

Adopted 12 years ago but largely unenforced, the ordinance became the subject of a heated debate last November after the Skinny Pancake was granted an exemption to the rule when it opened a new restaurant at the city-owned Burlington International Airport.

The ordinance requires companies receiving $15,000 in city contracts to pay their employees a livable wage — $13.94 an hour for employees provided health insurance or $15.83 for employees without. A 55-page report issued in April by City Attorney Eileen Blackwood found that only 23 of 160 companies with contracts subject to the ordinance were in compliance.

Thursday night, at the Burlington Police Department's community room, the council's three-member ordinance committee continued its review of the rule, with an eye toward improving its enforcement. But at least one speaker was displeased with the committee's progress.

Continue reading "Burlingtonians Urge City to Give Livable-Wage Ordinance a Makeover" »

No Curfew on Church Street, Schirling Says While Apologizing for 'Move-Along' Orders

Mitchell 001Burlington Police Chief Mike Schirling said on Thursday he has apologized to two Burlington residents who had complained about BPD officers telling them early last Saturday that "Church Street is shutting down" and ordering them to leave the Marketplace.

Craig Mitchell and Dennis Ailor (pictured) — the two men confronted by a pair of cops — say they were causing no disturbance and were simply chatting with one another in front of Red Square at about 2:15 a.m. on July 20. The officers implied they were enforcing a curfew on the Marketplace, both Mitchell and Ailor told Seven Days.

"I felt degraded and disrespected," said Mitchell, who works as a DJ at Red Square. "I wasn't causing a scene."

Continue reading "No Curfew on Church Street, Schirling Says While Apologizing for 'Move-Along' Orders" »

July 25, 2013

Rod MacIver Fought a Bogus Shelburne Traffic Stop and Won. Now He Wants Damages.


Artist Rod MacIver ranted and raved at a Shelburne cop when he was pulled over last December for running a red light.

"I think you're completely out to lunch," he told Officer Jason Lawton. "What are you doing, smoking pot or something?"

Lawton ticketed MacIver, but after the artist reviewed a cruiser cam video of the traffic stop, it became clear his truck passed through the Shelburne Road intersection under a yellow light.

A judge dismissed the ticket. But MacIver wasn't about to let bygones be bygones. He posted the video online, created a web site to shame the Shelburne PD and is taking the town to small claims court. 

Reporter Charles Eichacker covered MacIver's case in a web-only story for Click here to read it.

Here's video of the stop:


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