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September 2013

September 24, 2013

Burlington City Council Backs Plan for Fewer Members

BTVCC092313After 10 months of debate over how to redraw its own electoral districts, the Burlington City Council agreed in concept Monday night to a plan that would shrink the body from 14 members to 12

But even after it became clear the plan would move forward, the council found something new to bicker about: precisely who came up with it.

One faction credited Burlington resident George Gamache, who died in July. Others credited resident Robert Bristow-Johnson. Another said Mayor Miro Weinberger came up with the plan, while yet another said it was "drawn up at the 11th hour by councilors" and wasn't properly vetted by the public.

Whoever conceived of it, the proposal was brought to life by an unusual faction of Progressives, Democrats and the council's sole Republican — all of whom hail from the city's New North End and Old North End. Democrats and independents representing the city's more southerly wards opposed it. 

The vote was 8 to 6. The plan will now go to the council's Charter Change Committee, which will flesh out its details. If the council approves those, voters will have a chance to approve or reject it next March.

Continue reading "Burlington City Council Backs Plan for Fewer Members" »

September 23, 2013

Vermont GOP Chairman Jack Lindley Hospitalized, in Critical Condition

LindleyVermont Republican Party chairman Jack Lindley was hospitalized Friday at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, the party announced Monday morning. He remains in critical condition.

"It's pretty shocking and scary," said Mark Snelling, a friend of Lindley's and the party's treasurer.

At the request of Lindley's family, Snelling and the party withheld further information about the chairman's condition.

"Jack's family appreciates all of your prayers, good wishes and your respect for their privacy as they support Jack," the party said in a statement.

Vice chairwoman Deborah Bucknam, a St. Johnsbury attorney, will serve as the party's interim chairwoman for the time being, Snelling said.

September 22, 2013

City Council to Consider "Eight/Four/12" — the Solution to Burlington's Redistricting Riddle?

RedistrictOn Monday night, the Burlington City Council will consider a complicated compromise on redistricting that as of Sunday was just one vote shy of having majority support.

This proposed reconfiguration of the city's political boundaries already has the expressed backing of seven of the council's 14 members. Three Democrats, three Progressives and the council's lone Republican are behind the plan, giving it the gloss of tripartisan appeal.

Geographically, however, support for the scheme is so far confined to the Old North End and the New North End. It remains to be seen whether councilors representing other parts of the city will go along with the proposal to establish eight wards and four "precincts" to be represented by a total of 12 councilors — two fewer than today. The council's Monday agenda also includes five alternative plans, each of which has the listed support of at most a single council member.

One of the virtues of the "hybrid" proposal is that it keeps the four current Old North End and New North End wards intact and distinct, notes Progressive Councilor Max Tracy. Residents in those two sections of Burlington have indicated they do not want their neighborhoods to be combined as a result of the redistricting process, Tracy says.

Continue reading "City Council to Consider "Eight/Four/12" — the Solution to Burlington's Redistricting Riddle?" »

September 20, 2013

Shumlin Taps Burlington Judge Geoffrey Crawford for VT Supreme Court

Crawford cropCiting a reputation for "fairness and rigor, as well as his demonstrated commitment to ensuring that our judiciary serves the needs of Vermonters," Gov. Peter Shumlin this morning announced the appointment of Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford to be the next Vermont Supreme Court justice. Crawford will replace former Justice Brian Burgess, who retired on August 1.

Crawford (seen right, in bowtie, with the HowardCenter's Bob Wolford) was appointed to the Chittenden County Superior Court in 2002 by then-governor Howard Dean. Previously, he was a partner in Burlington law firm of O’Neill Crawford & Green, where he handled a variety of civil matters, including commercial litigation and personal injury cases.

As a superior court judge, Crawford is known for his compassion and "having a strong legal mind," says Vermont Law School Professor Cheryl Hanna. She says she was particularly impressed with the way Crawford handled the case of Christopher Williams, the man convicted of murdering Linda Lambesis and Alicia Shanks in the August 2006 Essex school shooting. Hanna says that Crawford showed "real judicial leadership" in the case, which affected not only the victims and their families, but the entire community.

"He's considered to be a real humanist," she adds, "someone who really cares about people who are underserved." 

Crawford's empathy extends beyond office hours. He currently serves as a board member of Dismas of Vermont in Burlington, which helps prison inmates integrate back into their home communities.

Crawford was featured prominently in a December 6, 2006 Seven Days cover story about his service on Vermont's first-ever mental health court, titled, "A Kinder Court: Chittenden County rethinks its approach to mentally ill offenders." The article made note of Crawford's ability to connect with the people who entered his courtroom, to whom he referred not as "defendants" in need of punishment but as "clients" who required counseling and other support services.

A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, Crawford lives with his wife in Burlington, where they raised five children. 

The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers

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

Gun owners, cops, windmills, bridge-crossers, Upper Valley-ites, unions, pot-lovers and more!

Here's the Scoreboard for the week of Friday, Sept. 20:


Updated résumés — It was appointment week in Vermont. Gov. Peter Shumlin named a new Vermont Supreme Court justice, education secretary, Public Service Board member, state rep, chief performance officer, deputy finance and management commish and legislative liasion. Talk about job creation!

Renewable energy — The newest member of Vermont's powerful Public Service Board, soon-to-be-ex-Rep. Margaret Cheney (D-Norwich), established herself during her seven years in the legislature as one of its strongest renewable energy advocates. That bodes poorly for those who oppose ridgeline wind. Runner-up winner: Welch/Shumlin cross-pollination. Cheney also happens to be married to Rep. Peter Welch (though, to be clear, she earned the job in her own right). Shumlin also hired former Welch flack Scott Coriell (disclosure, disclosure) as a new legislative liaison.

Strained analogies — In Shumlin's mind, the fight for legalizing marijuana is a lot like the fights for civil unions and same-sex marriage. Wait, what?!

Lobbyist turnover — Kevin Ellis is leaving KSE Partners, while Tim Meehan's retiring from MMR (KSE's K left a couple years ago). Perhaps the two top lobby shops should bury the hatchet, merge their alphabet soup names and call themselves SMR. Or MRS. Or something.

Labor — Vermont's labor community this week rallied for higher wages at the Vermont State Colleges, against the firings of two St. Mike's custodians and for paid sick days. Are Vermont's unions trying to increase their relevance? 

Hikers — With L.L. Dean (ahem, former governor Howard Dean) and Shumlin in attendance, the Green Mountain Club on Monday broke ground on a new cross-Winooski footbridge that will soon eliminate a major road walk on the Long Trail. Runner-up winners: Everyone in attendance, because we got to tromp around on the LT and call it work.

Seven Days — (Warning: raging self-call) In hiring the Valley News' Jeff Good, Vermont's fave alt-weekly scored a top-notch news boss. Plus, after dropping by the Alchemist Cannery on Wednesday, the Atlantic's James Fallows stopped by Seven Days and had this to say about us.

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

Spring Training? The Ritual of Dem, Prog and GOP Reorganization Meetings

Spring training in September?

That's one way to think of the reorganization meetings that Vermont's major political parties are currently holding in towns around the state.

Like baseball's pre-season exhibition games, these gatherings generally attract only fanatical followers of the sport. And in addition to prepping for the big contests ahead, the teams use these laid-back occasions to honor retired heroes, rev up excitement for the current roster and showcase promising rookies.

Dem reorg 002At Burlington's Democratic Party reorganization meeting last night, for example, past stars such as former city councilors Bill Keogh and Ed Adrian schmoozed with members of today's council lineup, including Tom Ayres, Chip Mason, Norm Blais and team captain Joan Shannon. State lawmakers representing Burlington districts, including Joey Donovan (pictured below with Ayres), were on hand to report on their doings in Montpelier.

Mayor Miro Weinberger was hailed as the all-star slugger for the local Dem side. He smiled modestly in response to the ovations he received before, during and after his animated 10-minute pep talk to the 50 or so faithful gathered in Burlington City Hall. The Contois Auditorium spotlight was also aimed briefly at Emily Lee, who almost made the council team in last March's election and seems poised to try again soon.

Continue reading "Spring Training? The Ritual of Dem, Prog and GOP Reorganization Meetings " »

Media Note: Seven Days Hires Jeff Good as News Editor

Jeff.GoodSeven Days has hired Valley News editor Jeff Good to lead its news team, the Burlington-based media company announced late Thursday. 

Good, who won a Pulitzer Prize in editorial writing, will serve as Seven Days' co-editor in charge of news content. He replaces former news editor Andy Bromage, who left the paper in July to return to his native Connecticut.

Born in Missouri and raised all over the Midwest, Good first moved to Vermont to attend St. Michael's College — and despite a few detours over the years, he says he hasn't been able to quit the state.

Good started his journalism career as an intern at the Vermont Vanguard Press and worked as a writer and editor for Ralph Nader in Washington, D.C. He went on to spend 12 years at Florida's St. Petersburg Times, where he won the 1995 Pulitzer for a series on state probate courts. He returned to Vermont in 1996 to serve as the Burlington Free Press' capital bureau chief. Good left the Freeps in 1999 to teach journalism and serve as college historian at his alma mater. In 2000 he joined the Lebanon, N.H.-based Valley News and worked his way up from capital bureau chief to news editor, managing editor and editor.

Continue reading "Media Note: Seven Days Hires Jeff Good as News Editor" »

September 19, 2013

Shumlin Joins Pro-Pot Legalization "Strategy" Session; Reporters Excluded


* Updated below with new comments from Gov. Shumlin *

Gov. Peter Shumlin starred in a fundraising conference call held by the Marijuana Policy Project Thursday afternoon. In an invitation obtained by Seven Days last month, the call was billed as a "strategy" session to discuss how to legalize marijuana nationwide.

The "exclusive conference call," as MPP executive director Rob Kampia put it in the invitation, was open only to the pro-legalization advocacy group's major donors. Participants had to pledge to contribute $1000 to $10,000 to the group itself — or to pro-pot politicians.

Seven Days requested permission from MPP and the Shumlin administration to listen to the call, but was denied by the former and ignored by the latter.

"The idea was that it would be an opportunity for donors to hear from MPP staffers and from Gov. Shumlin, so we did not envision any media being on the call," MPP legislative analyst Matt Simon said Wednesday. "I don't think we have anything in particular to hide. At the same time, I'm not authorized to let you join us."

Simon added, "We figure members of the media already have plenty of opportunities to ask questions. Our donors do not."

Continue reading "Shumlin Joins Pro-Pot Legalization "Strategy" Session; Reporters Excluded" »

September 18, 2013

This Week's Issue: Untangling Vermont's Health Care Exchange; Union Busting Allegations at SMC

Cover-091813Happy Wednesday, people. Here are the news and politics stories you'll find in the latest edition of Seven Days:

If those links aren't your style, read these stories in print or on the Seven Days app.

Cover illustration by Michael Tonn

Morning Read: Rutland Herald Puts Headquarters Up for Sale

Morningread"The Rutland Herald is not for sale," the Rutland Herald's Gordon Dritschilo reported in Wednesday's paper. It's just the damn boss starting rumors again:

Publisher R. John Mitchell said Tuesday he may have inadvertently started rumors to that effect while discussing plans to sell the building. The building is for sale, listed by Coldwell Banker Watson Realty for $995,000. 

The news comes a month after the Mitchell family sold the Barre headquarters of its other paper, the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, and moved its operations to a new downtown rental. The Gannett-owned Burlington Free Press has also put most of its College Street facility up for sale; that property is listed as "under agreement" on the Freeps' broker's website.

The Herald has called the building home since the mid-1930s. Mitchell tells Dritschilo the paper will remain in downtown Rutland.

Read the full Herald story about the Herald here.

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