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August 2013

August 14, 2013

This Week's Issue: Drones, Vaginas and Cholera

CoverYou know the drill — another Wednesday, another Seven Days. No epic website outages here today (knock on wood!), so here are the news and politics stories you can read right now:

Grab it on newsstands, online or on the app.

Media Note: Barton Chronicle Reporter Looks On as His Car Gets Stolen

CrvLet's say you're a thief looking to steal a car. You probably don't want to be seen, so you wouldn't want to commit the crime in broad daylight. And competent reporters are usually on the lookout for unusual things, so stealing a car from a newspaper's parking lot might be a bad idea. And since you can't drive a stick shift, you'll swipe an automatic. Right?

Not if you're this hotshot wannabe bandit in Barton.

Yesterday afternoon, someone stole Barton Chronicle reporter Paul Lefebvre's SUV from the office's parking lot — in broad daylight, as Lefebvre looked on:

Continue reading "Media Note: Barton Chronicle Reporter Looks On as His Car Gets Stolen" »

August 13, 2013

Passions Flare on a Summer's Night as Locals Debate the F-35 — Again

F35 005State Rep. Kurt Wright criticized ice-cream baron Ben Cohen, who in turn had indirectly accused Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger of lying.

And so it went at Monday night's speak-out on the proposed basing of the F-35 warplane at Burlington International Airport. The Burlington City Council meeting drew a placard-holding, finger-wiggling, standing-room crowd that generated almost two hours of public comments — to which city officials listened but did not respond.

Ward 7 Democrat Tom Ayres had earlier withdrawn a resolution that would have postponed a council decision on stationing the fighter jet at Burlington's city-owned airport. Ayres said private conversations had indicated that his proposal lacked support "across the spectrum."

The council's Progressives dissed the resolution because it did not explicitly oppose basing the F-35 at the airport. Democrats, who form the largest bloc on the council, had declined last year to oppose local basing, instead passing a resolution that amounted to a slightly weaker version of Ayres' aborted proposal. Ayres said during a meeting recess that council Dems, including himself, remain unwilling to go on record against local bed-down of the stealth fighter.

Speaker after speaker sounded familiar themes Monday night as the two sides clashed in their third showdown at a local city council in the past six weeks. Winooski's council voted 4-0 against the BTV basing option, while South Burlington's council reversed its earlier opposition and passed a resolution on a 3-2 vote in support of the planes.

But the stakes are potentially higher in Burlington, which owns the airport.

Continue reading "Passions Flare on a Summer's Night as Locals Debate the F-35 — Again" »

August 11, 2013

Opinion: More Press Sensationalism, Popular Hysteria and Counterproductive Policy in the Case of Sex Offender Timothy Szad

Save-a-deerEd. note: Poli Psy columnist Judith Levine wrote this post.

“Vermont on edge as officials warn boys aged 12-13 to be on alert as pedophile rapist is getting out of jail on Friday.” That’s the headline in ... the UK’s Daily Mail 

The release of Timothy Szad — convicted in 2000 of snatching, handcuffing and sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy — is apparently world news. 

It’s also the usual story of press sensationalism, popular hysteria and counterproductive policy.

On July 15, the police announced that Szad would be released on July 26 from the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vt., after serving his maximum sentence. The notification said Szad completed sex-offender treatment in prison but warned that he is at high risk for committing another crime.

This risk assessment is based on a formula assigning points based on the offender’s age, social and criminal history, the victim’s sex and other factors.

On July 16, WCAX reported that Springfield, where Szad was to live with his parents, was “on alert.”

July 17 the Eagle Times of Claremont, N.H., posted Szad’s physical characteristics., a national forum, warned mothers of Szad’s release.

Every news item basically said: Lock up your blond, blue-eyed 12- and 13-year-old boys. They all drew similar comments: “sickening,” “scary,” “They should all be castrated.”

After Fox44 television posted Szad’s sex-offender registry listing on Facebook, someone put up a photo of a truck emblazoned with a decal reading “Save a Deer. Hunt a Pedophile.”

Continue reading "Opinion: More Press Sensationalism, Popular Hysteria and Counterproductive Policy in the Case of Sex Offender Timothy Szad" »

Progs Seem Eager to Take on Shumlin ... If They Can Find the Money and the Candidate

Progs bethel 004The absence of some of the party's brightest stars didn't prevent Vermont Progressives at a meeting on Saturday from considering a race next year against Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin.

The 40 Prog faithful who gathered on a dazzling August afternoon in Bethel's town hall (right) reached no conclusions about election strategy in 2014. Most speakers, however, did express support for running what one described as "a serious statewide campaign."

Morgan Daybell, the party's former executive director, argued instead for investing the Progs' "limited money" in insurgent campaigns for the legislature in each of the state's 14 counties. One reason for taking that more grassrootsy approach, Daybell suggested, is that the party can count only "a limited number of people willing to be credible [statewide] candidates."

State Rep. Chris Pearson, a Prog who probably could project political credibility on a statewide stage, tilted toward the let's-go-for-it position during a cordial 20-minute dialogue with Daybell.

Continue reading "Progs Seem Eager to Take on Shumlin ... If They Can Find the Money and the Candidate" »

August 09, 2013

Electric Cars: Climate Friendly in Vermont, Not in Kentucky

Screen Shot 2013-08-09 at 3.20.42 PMSure, we all want to be nice to Mother Earth, but let's be real — if you live in Middle-of-Nowhere, Vt., you're going to need a car to get around. If you want the cleanest, greenest vehicle on four wheels, you'll want an electric car, right? In Vermont that's the case, but in other states ... maybe not!

In fact, there are only 11 states where an electric car is better for the environment than a high-efficiency gas hybrid, and Vermont is one of them, according to a new study by Climate Central. Here, the best electric car emits as much carbon as a gas-powered car that gets 2600 miles per gallon. Good luck finding one of those.

What's the difference? When your car is powered by the grid, it matters where the grid gets its juice — because what's the point of a plug-in car if it's plugging into mountaintop removal? Vermont is the only state in the nation that doesn't get any electricity at all from coal or natural gas sources — here it's all nuclear, hydropower and a little bit from "other renewables."

Continue reading "Electric Cars: Climate Friendly in Vermont, Not in Kentucky" »

The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers

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

Switch-bumpers, snake-haters, calculators, power companies, TV stations, defense attorneys, creepy travel writers and more!

Here's the Scoreboard for the week of Friday, Aug. 9: 


Brooks McArthur — The Burlington defense attorney played some serious offense this week on behalf of his client, Burlington Police Department Deputy Chief Andi Higbee. When the Vermont State Police refused to give the Burlington Free Press a copy of a cruiser cam video of Higbee's July DUI arrest, Brooks took it upon himself to hand over a copy. A savvy way to score points with Freeps transparency czar Mike Donoghue and shift the conversation to why Higbee was pulled over in the first place. 

WPTZ-TV — Last month WCAX-TV announced that, come September, it would expand its news coverage to weekend mornings. But the station's main competitor, WPTZ-TV, beat Channel 3 to the punch, launching its own weekend news programming last weekend without fanfare. What's more? Channel 5 will feature four full hours of news coverage — twice as much as Channel 3's promised.

The Timothy Szad Beat — The recently-released sex offender is back in town after a brief trip to California. And that's got the state's cops and courts reporters in a tizzy reporting his every last move. Public service journalism or tabloid reporting?

Patrick Leahy — Because the U.S. Senate President Pro Tem's got some very special friends in the entertainment, defense, telecom, legal, tech and beverage industries.

Peter Welch — A BuzzFeed puff piece on the Vermont Congressman's bipartisan street cred netted something even better for Welch: a glowing editorial from the Saint Albans Messenger's Emerson Lynn echoing Welch's — ahem, BuzzFeed's — talking points.

Losers and tie score after the jump...

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

August 08, 2013

Will a Prog Run for Gov? Nope.

Pearson & Progs"Should Progs challenge Shumlin in '14?"

That's the question Burlington Free Press reporter Terri Hallenbeck put to Vermont Progressive Party leaders in Tuesday's paper. The occasion for the query was the Progs' upcoming state committee meeting (at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Bethel Town Hall), which will feature an hourlong strategy session focusing, in part, on whether to run a candidate against Gov. Peter Shumlin, a second-term Democrat.

So should they? Maybe. But will they? I highly doubt it. Here are two reasons why:

Reason 1: For a bunch of lefties, Prog Party leaders have become mighty pragmatic.

Since 2008, when Progressive activist Anthony Pollina and Democratic House Speaker Gaye Symington split the left-of-center vote and handed Republican governor Jim Douglas a fourth term, the two parties have avoided statewide confrontations. In 2010 and 2012, the Progs flirted with a guber run, but backed out both times, preferring to focus on building their ranks in the legislature.

That strategy has mostly worked. 

Continue reading "Will a Prog Run for Gov? Nope." »

August 07, 2013

Fair Game Overtime: Where Does Leahy's PAC Money Come From?

DSC04806In this week's Fair Game, we touched on Sen. Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) use of a "leadership PAC" to collect contributions from corporate and union political action committees.

As we noted, only a slim minority (14 percent) of the $136,000 he raised in his traditional campaign account last quarter came from special interest groups. But a majority (70 percent) of the $197,000 he raised for Green Mountain PAC during the first half of the year came from those sources.

We focused in the column on contributions Leahy reaped from the aerospace and weapons industry. But that's not the only sector forking over the dough. Here's a sampling of other groups who contributed $2500 or more to Green Mountain PAC during the first six months of 2013:

  • Labor: IBEW ($5000), Laborers' Political League ($2500), International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers ($5000)
  • Banking: Bank of America ($2500), Deloitte ($5000)
  • Entertainment: Directors Guild of America ($2500), National Association of Broadcasters ($3500), News America/FOX ($2500), Commissioner of Major League Baseball ($5000), Sony Pictures ($5000), Walt Disney ($2500), Viacom ($2500)
  • Telecom/Cable: Comcast/NBC ($5000), DirecTV ($2500), EchoStar/Dish Network ($2500), National Cable and Telecommunications Association ($5000), Verizon ($2500)
  • Law: Alston & Bird ($5000), American Association for Justice ($5000), DLA Piper ($2500)
  • Aerospace/Military: Boeing ($5000), General Dynamics ($5000), Lockheed Martin ($2500), Raytheon ($2500), United Technologies ($3500)
  • Technology: GoDaddy ($2500), Microsoft ($5000), Netflix ($2500)
  • Beverage: Miller Coors ($2500), National Beer Wholesalers ($500O), Wine and Spirits Wholesalers ($5000)

Again, those are just contributions to Green Mountain PAC. Some of those very same organizations also gave money to the senator's traditional campaign account. For instance, General Dynamics gave another $1000 to the Leahy for U.S. Senator Committee; GoDaddy gave another $2000; and Raytheon gave another $1000. 

Continue reading "Fair Game Overtime: Where Does Leahy's PAC Money Come From?" »

This Week's Issue: Seven Days Writers Finally Go Outside

080713-coverToday's Seven Days is worth picking up just to see our writers in adorable little cartoon form on the cover, as illustrated by Rob Donnelly (right). But if you're looking for actual news, here's what we've got this week:

Pick up your copy in print, online or on our app. And BTW, Northeast Kingdom-ites, did you know we now distribute more papers than ever in your neck of the woods?

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