MORE BLOGS: Bite Club (Food & Drink) | Live Culture (Arts) | Stuck in Vermont (Videos)

Off Message: Vermont News and Politics

« June 2013 | Main | August 2013 »

July 2013

July 18, 2013

This Week's Issue: The Adirondack Issue

071713-coverYou know there's, like, a whole world on the other side of Lake Champlain, right? Where you can canoe, eatget an Airstream refurbished, eat, fight over environmental stuff and so much more? Well, there is. So make like Samuel de Champlain, and get crossing!

In other news this week ...

  • Mary Alice McKenzie of the Burlington Boys and Girls Club wants to talk about gangs. Is Burlington ready to listen?
  • Sewage plants overflow frequently into waterways where Vermonters recreate, but the volume of those spills remains a mystery.
  • State prosecutors took the rare step of using a grand jury to charge a Winooski cop with assault for a recent shooting incident. Why did they do it? 
  • And in Fair Game, Paul Heintz evaluates Shumlin's first term as chair of the Democratic Governors Association, looks into a possible ambassadorship for Vermont's biggest political fundraiser, notes our senior senator's Vermont fundraiser for D.C. donors and bids farewell to one of our own.

July 17, 2013

Fair Game Overtime: That Leahy Fundraiser

In this week's Fair Game, we brought you word of another big-money fundraiser for a member of Vermont's congressional delegation.

Sen. Patrick Leahy has invited out-of-town guests to Burlington to "experience the world-renowned beauty of Vermont at his Fall Foliage Retreat," according to the invitation.

The weekend fundraiser slated for September 27-29 will feature a Friday night reception, Saturday night dinner and Sunday brunch, according to Leahy political operative Carolyn Dwyer. The invite also promises a "Foliage day trip" — perhaps to the senator's famed Middlesex farm?

Anyway, here's the invite, in case you want to RSVP:


This isn't your only opportunity in the coming months to spend a cozy weekend with a member of the Vermont delegation. As we reported a few weeks ago, Congressman Peter Welch is holding a fundraiser for D.C. lobbyists and political action committee representatives at the Woodstock Inn in August. (If you're looking to comparison shop, here's what Welch's invite looked like.)

According to Dwyer, the fall foliage retreat is Leahy's first such fundraising event in Vermont. Typically, she says, he holds them in D.C. 

"The only difference from our perspective is rather than doing this event in D.C., we're bringing the business to Vermont and using the opportunity to showcase Vermont," she says. "Many other members [of Congress] do these sorts of events. We're not the first ones to do this."


Are you on Vermont politicians' fundraising lists? If so, feel free to forward similar invites our way (paul [at] sevendaysvt [dot] com) and we'll post them in this space. 

July 16, 2013

Sanders Calls Filibuster Deal Insufficient to Cure the Senate's Woes

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Tuesday he welcomes a last-minute deal struck by Senate leaders to avert a major showdown over the institution's rules. 

But while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called the deal a "step forward," Vermont's junior senator said it was not enough to remedy the ills of "a seriously dysfunctional Senate."

The deal clears the way for confirmation votes on five of President Obama's long-stalled nominees, including the top jobs at the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Labor and the Consumer Financial Protection Board. In exchange, President Obama will withdraw two controversial nominees to the National Labor Relations Board and replace them with two others, who are expected to receive speedy confirmation.

As late as Monday night, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had threatened to change the Senate's rules to ban filibusters against presidential nominations, unless Republicans agreed to confirm Obama's nominees.

Speaking on the Senate floor after the deal was struck, Sanders said the minority party's ability to scuttle legislation supported by a majority was "a perversion of democracy."

"While this agreement addresses the immediate need for the president of the United States to have his cabinet and his senior staff confirmed, this agreement today only addresses one symptom of a seriously dysfunctional senate," he said. "The issue that must now be addressed is how we create a procedure and a set of rules in the United States Senate which allows us to respond to the needs of the American people in a timely and effective way — something which virtually everybody agrees is not happening now."

Here's a video of Sanders' speech:


Sanders is scheduled to discuss his reaction to the deal in greater detail Wednesday on Vermont Public Radio's "Vermont Edition."

ICE Halts Deportation of Migrant Activist Danilo Lopez — For Now

LopezDanilo Lopez, the Mexican farm worker who became a cause célèbre for Vermont's undocumented farm laborers, won a reprieve in his deportation case today.

U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement granted Lopez (pictured) a "stay of removal" that will allow him to remain in the country at least another year. Lopez has been under threat of deportation since July 5, stemming from a 2011 traffic stop in which he and another farm worker here illegally were stopped by state police in Interstate 89.

Burlington-based advocacy group Migrant Justice issued a press release announcing the news. In it, Lopez is quoted as saying, "I've gotten such tremendous support during this campaign that we've made ICE change their mind. I feel very fortunate to have so much support — in particular from my community of farm workers who told me: 'We've got your back. We'll fight with  you.'"

Perhaps more importantly, Lopez also had support from Vermont's three-member congressional delegation; U.S.Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch all wrote letters of support to ICE officials. Leahy asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to apply prosecutorial discretion to Lopez's case.

Migrant justice organizers Brendan O'Neill and Natalia Fajardo did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.

July 15, 2013

Shumlin Campaign Cuts $275,000 Check to Gov, Forgiving 2010 Debt

ShumlinMore than two years after then-Senate president pro tem Peter Shumlin loaned his gubernatorial campaign $275,000, the now-governor finally got his money back.

According to disclosure forms filed Monday with the secretary of state's office, Shumlin dipped into his sizable campaign war chest on January 3 to fully repay himself for three loans he made to get his campaign off the ground during the summer and fall of 2010.

"It's always been the plan to pay the loan back," explains Shumlin's campaign treasurer, Kate O'Connor. "Luckily, we found ourselves in the position to do so at the beginning of this year. The campaign doesn't want to carry a debt."

Indeed, after decisively defeating former state senator Randy Brock in November to win a second two-year term, Shumlin closed out the campaign season with more than $915,000 in the bank. After raising nearly $88,000 during the past six months and repaying the 2010 loans, the governor now finds himself with nearly $707,000 cash-on-hand. 

While it's not uncommon in Vermont for wealthy candidates to loan their own campaigns generous sums of money, it's rare to see a six-figure loan fully repaid. Typically, candidates who make such loans eventually forgive them — in essence, converting the loans into direct contributions — or they carry them forward indefinitely.

Continue reading "Shumlin Campaign Cuts $275,000 Check to Gov, Forgiving 2010 Debt" »

July 12, 2013

The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers

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

Moose, kids, cats, congress critters, northern cities, pollsters and planes!

For more, read the Scoreboard for the week ending Friday, July 12:


F-35 coverage — The South Burlington City Council said it now supports basing F-35s in town. The Winooski City Council said it now opposes the planes. A group of medical professionals said they're "bad for our children's health." And the Vermont Air Guard said they're "the right fit" for Vermont. Like 'em or not, America's next fighter jets were the talk of the town in Chittenden County this week.

Newport — A Newport-based cycling gear company broke ground on a new facility in Derby. The Jay Peak crew announced that a lite airplane manufacturer is coming to Newport State Airport. And, most importantly, Seven Days' own Corin Hirsch and Megan James cruised to Newport to see if the city's ready for prime-time. On the downside? Newport's North Country Hospital cut 19 jobs Tuesday, according to the Caledonian-Record. Runner-up winner: Gov. Peter Shumlin, who might be able to talk the state into buying him one of those fancy Newport lite planes. Buy local, right?

Weather forecasters — They're the only reporters anybody wants to hear from these days. Runner-up losers: political reporters, for obvious reasons.

T.J. Donovan — The indictment this week of Winooski Police Cpl. Jason Nokes makes the Chittenden County state's attorney look tough on (allegedly) rogue cops — something that can't be said of erstwhile political opponent Attorney General Bill Sorrell. But by letting a grand jury do the dirty work of criminally charging the cop, Donovan avoids directly antagonizing the law enforcement community. A savvy political move by a guy looking for rematch against Sorrell? 

Losers and ties after the break...

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

July 11, 2013

Air Guard Sticking to Its Guns on Basing F-35 in Vermont

Gen. HarrisThe F-35 remains "the right fit" for the Vermont Air Guard, its top officer declared on Thursday — one day after the Winooski city council voted unanimously to oppose local basing of the plane.

During a 90-minute press briefing at Camp Johnson in Colchester, Gen. Dick Harris (pictured) and other Air Guard officers disputed that the F-35 would be significantly louder than the existing fleet of F-16s.

They also challenged the assertion by Vermont medical experts that many local residents exposed to noise levels now produced by the F-16 will suffer negative health effects.

Unless Vermont is chosen to host up to two dozen F-35s, it appears at present that the Air Guard will be left without a mission within the next five to seven years, Harris added. As early as 2018, the F-16 will be withdrawn from operations in Vermont, the general said. "There is nothing hanging out there" as an alternative to the-F35 for the Green Mountain Boys, Harris added. The Air Guard facility at Burlington International Airport will not be included in an Air Force program to extend the lifespan of the F-16, he told reporters.

Continue reading "Air Guard Sticking to Its Guns on Basing F-35 in Vermont" »

After Public Forum, Winooski City Council Opposes Basing of F-35s

Winooski’s city council voted 4-0 Wednesday against basing F-35 fighter jets at Burlington International Airport. The council will formally request that the Air Force take Vermont out of consideration for this round of basing decisions for the next-generation warplane.

The vote came after an hour of discussion by councilors before an audience of 30 people who came to watch the deliberations, virtually all of whom were opposed to basing the jets at the Vermont Air National Guard facility. On Monday, Winooski residents attending a public forum voiced overwhelming opposition to the basing plan. The council wasn’t accepting any additional public comments Wednesday.

Councilor Seth Leonard, right, greets constituents after Wednesday's vote.

The council spent much of Wednesday's meeting piecing together a message to the Air Force using the framework of two documents it submitted last year in response to an environmental impact statement that ranked Burlington as a preferred basing location. It was unclear for much of Wednesday's meeting whether the council would simply submit an updated version of its previous comments — which were hesitant about but not outright opposed to the F-35 — or draft new ones.

The crowd erupted into applause, though, after Councilor Seth Leonard introduced language that took a clear stand.

Leonard read from a prepared document what he hoped the council would say: “In the interest of protecting the public health, quality of life, and economic rights of its citizens, the City of Winooski resolves that the Burlington Airport be removed from consideration for the current basing of F-35 fighter jets.”

Continue reading "After Public Forum, Winooski City Council Opposes Basing of F-35s" »

July 10, 2013

Media Note: WCAX Expanding News Programming to Weekend Mornings


Citing demand for more local news programming, WCAX-TV announced Wednesday it's expanding its coverage to Saturday and Sunday mornings. Starting September 7, the station will air an hour of local news at 8 a.m. both days.

"The public has asked us to do it," says WCAX news director Anson Tebbetts. "News is, as you know, seven days a week."

The station will be the first in the Burlington-Plattsburgh television market to offer locally produced programing weekend mornings, which WCAX owner Peter Martin says are growing more and more essential.

"Morning news — not just here, but around the country — has become almost a center of gravity. People want it and watch it in surprisingly large numbers," Martin says. "There is a set of advertisers — for instance, automobile companies — who are anxious to reach people who watch news."

The move is also the first local broadcast news expansion in Vermont since September 2010, when WCAX added a 5 p.m. weekday newscast and a 5:30 p.m. interview show. The station's primary competitor, WPTZ-TV, began airing a 5 p.m. show in 2002 and a 5:30 p.m. show in 2005.

"We're going to wish them well," WPTZ news director Sinan Sadar said. "More news is better for everybody."

Neither Tebbetts nor Martin would say precisely how many new hires the station would make to staff the shows, though Martin said, "There will be at least several." Tebbetts said some existing on-air staff might also shift to the weekend time slots.

Continue reading "Media Note: WCAX Expanding News Programming to Weekend Mornings" »

This Week's Issue: Welcome to Fabulous Newport ... Vermont!

NewportcoverHere's what's news in this week's print edition of your friendly neighborhood weekly, Seven Days:

Subscribe to the Daily 7

Fill out my online form.
All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684