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November 2013

November 29, 2013

The Scoreboard: A Special Thanksgiving Edition

Scoreboard.newEach Friday here at Scoreboard headquarters, we take a look back at the week's news to see who came out ahead and who came out behind.

But this week — still drunk on tryptophan and gravy, no doubt — we're taking a different approach. Like the pilgrims of yore, gathered around the turducken and marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes at Plymouth Rock, we're taking a moment to reflect on all that for which we are thankful. 

And, to be sure, there is much in this great state for which a political reporter and columnist must give thanks. For instance:

Gov. Peter Shumlin — Yes, we've spilled plenty of ink documenting his many trials, tribulations and boneheaded comments. But let's face it: The guy is a gift to political reporters that just keeps on giving. Nobody's got the gov beat in the chutzpah department, nor in pure, unadulterated political skill. And say what you will about Shummy, the guy works harder than anyone else around. You may question the way he runs this state, but there's no questioning his commitment to it.

Continue reading "The Scoreboard: A Special Thanksgiving Edition" »

November 25, 2013

Shumlin Chastises Health Care Reform Official for Misleading Legislators

Larson.Tucker.LungeIn an uncharacteristic rebuke of one his own, Gov. Peter Shumlin said Monday he was "tremendously disappointed" with his chief health care reform administrator for misleading a legislative committee about a security lapse in the state's new health insurance exchange.

The official, Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson, sent a letter of apology Monday morning to members of the House Health Care Committee. Larson said that after listening to a recording of his testimony at a November 5 committee hearing, he had come to the conclusion that he had been insufficiently candid with committee members.

The Associated Press' Dave Gram reported Friday that Larson's department had reported what it believed to be an isolated security breach to federal authorities prior to the commissioner's appearance before the committee. But Larson told committee members that DVHA had investigated only one complaint and believed it to be unfounded, according to Gram.

In his letter to legislators, Larson wrote that he "failed to disclose" the security breach to legislators, a lapse he said violated his responsibility to be fully transparent with his fellow public servants.

Continue reading "Shumlin Chastises Health Care Reform Official for Misleading Legislators" »

Burlington College Cuts Spark Fears and Student Protests

Christine Plunkett on the Burlington College campus. (file: Matthew Thorsen)

Budget cuts resulting in the loss of four faculty and staff members at financially shaky Burlington College are sparking protests by students who say they're worried about their school's viability.

Two department chairs at the 41-year-old college — Anna Blackmer (humanities) and Emily Schmidt (fine arts) — recently resigned after being offered contracts that would have made them half-time employees and terminated their health benefits. Blackmer, 63, has been working full-time at the college for 25 years.

Web administrator and veterans' liaison Erin Elliott, who is eight months pregnant, saw her position eliminated.

A third academic program head, Gordon Glover (film), was not offered a new contract. And Mary Arbuckle, a professor in the film department, had her hours cut in half and her benefits terminated. That scale-back sharply constricts the one department for which Burlington College has achieved a degree of recognition beyond its North Avenue campus.

Continue reading "Burlington College Cuts Spark Fears and Student Protests" »

November 24, 2013

Sources: New York-Based Firm to Take Over Burlington Town Center

Burlington Town Center, the 230,000-square-foot Church Street shopping mall, is being sold to New York City real-estate investment firm with Vermont ties, two sources tell Seven Days.

Both persons requested anonymity because neither the prospective buyer, Devonwood Investors, nor the seller, Chicago-based General Growth Properties, has announced the deal, which is scheduled to close on December 15.

Mayor Miro Weinberger said in an interview this weekend that he could not provide details on the transaction, including its price, because “it needs to be understood as preliminary.” The purchasers have "not put forward a detailed plan of what they intend to do,” the mayor added.

Weinberger did say that one of the principals in the deal “has spent a considerable amount of time in Burlington.”

Continue reading "Sources: New York-Based Firm to Take Over Burlington Town Center" »

November 22, 2013

Records Show Burlington Cops Used Little Force Prior to Shooting

The two Burlington police officers involved in the shooting death of a mentally ill man wielding a shovel earlier this month had not fired or even pointed a weapon at a suspect in the years before the shooting, according to department records.

Officers Ethan Thibault and Brent Navari used force in the line of duty a combined 14 times since 2010, according to Burlington Police Department records. The officers' use of force reports were obtained by Seven Days under a public records request submitted to the police department. 

Continue reading "Records Show Burlington Cops Used Little Force Prior to Shooting" »

The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers

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

Keno, Christie, the Champlain Parkway, campaign-finance violators, broadband spinners, Sanders speculators, deer hunting pols and, most of all, legislators.

Here's the Scoreboard for the week of Friday, November 22:


Broadband spinmeisters — Gov. Peter Shumlin sure knows how to make lemonade from lemons. Despite falling 3000 homes short of his campaign pledge to provide every Vermonter with broadband access by the end of 2013, the gov all but declared "mission accomplished" at a "celebration of progress" roundtable on Wednesday. The phrase of choice — uttered by the gov and by Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding — was that the administration had "for all intents and purposes" met its goal.

Sanders speculation — In his Saturday story questioning whether Sen. Bernie Sanders might run for president in 2016, Burlington Free Press reporter Sam Hemingway didn't get much more out of the senator than Playboy did last month. Oddly, Hemingway never directly quoted Sanders expressing interest in a run. But the story sure caught the attention of the D.C. press corps, which took it as a sure sign that Bernie's running. We remain skeptical.

Christie love — Less than two weeks after the Vermont Republican Party announced that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's coming to town, the party sold out all 600 tickets to the eventRunner-up winner: Peter Shumlin, who, as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, will likely get more national press now that his counterpart at the Republican Governors Association is Christie, a media darling and 2016 prospect.

Champlain Parkway — Mayor Miro Weinberger scored a victory this week with the announcement that a longtime critic of the Champlain Parkway had dropped his objections to the project. Forty years after the link between I-89 and downtown Burlington was first proposed, it's one small, but significant, step closer to reality.

Big buck hunter — You can't make this shit up! In the opening hours of opening day, Shumlin bagged himself a 186-pound, six-pointerRunner-up winners: The Vermont press corps, whose members were spared repeated references to the feat, since the gov didn't hold a press conference this week.

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

November 21, 2013

With Leahy Presiding, Senate Goes Nuclear

Leahy.FilibusterDuring his 38 years in the U.S. Senate, Patrick Leahy has spent plenty of time in the minority. So it's no surprise that, like many senior Democrats, he's looked warily over the years at proposals to empower the majority at the expense of the minority.

On Thursday, that changed.

Along with 51 other Democrats and independents — including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — Leahy voted to curtail the use of the filibuster by a minority faction to block most presidential appointments. The historic rules change means that a simple majority will suffice to confirm nominees to federal district and circuit courts and to the president's cabinet. 

"I believe in using the rules. I don't believe in abusing them," Leahy told Seven Days Thursday afternoon. "I have enough experience under both Democratic and Republican leadership to know that you have the rules, but you don't abuse them."

Continue reading "With Leahy Presiding, Senate Goes Nuclear" »

November 20, 2013

This Week's Issue: Union Drives, Big-Money Developers and a Long Time in the Clink

112013-coverAnother week, another Wednesday, another Seven Days. Here's this week's lineup of news and politics stories:

Pick up this issue in print, online or on the iOS app.

November 18, 2013

COTS Plans Services and Housing Near Street with History of Fighting Development

Spectacular views of Lake Champlain, a short stroll to Church Street and little in the way of traffic or noise combine to make Lakeview Terrace one of Burlington's most desirable residential streets. But it can also be one rough neighborhood — for developers.

The Committee on Temporary Shelter could soon find that out. COTS has scheduled a briefing for local residents on Thursday evening about its plans to open a daytime services facility for homeless Vermonters and to build up to 16 low-income housing units at a site steps from the southern end of Lakeview Terrace.

Neighbors will be holding their own meeting Wednesday evening to discuss the project and to prepare questions for COTS director Rita Markley. If past experience is a reliable guide, she can expect to encounter a certain skepticism — and possibly protracted opposition.

Continue reading "COTS Plans Services and Housing Near Street with History of Fighting Development" »

Burlington Cops Return to Duty Following Shooting

Updated at 2:59 p.m.

Two Burlington police officers who were placed on administrative leave following the fatal shooting of a shovel-wielding man earlier this month are returning to duty tomorrow, Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling said, as preliminary investigations have showed they did not violate any rules or laws.

While the Vermont State Police and the Burlington Police Department are still reviewing the shooting death of Wayne Brunette in the New North End on November 6, early indications are that Cpl. Ethan Thibault and Cpl. Brent Navari acted appropriately, Schirling said. 

'They don't see any red flags," the chief said in an interview.

The officers are at a training today and will return to regular duty tomorrow, Schirling said.

Brunette was shot four times, the Vermont State Police announced this afternoon, and died of wounds to his torso.  

Thibault fired all four shots, Vermont State Police said. The rounds recovered from Brunette, 49, who had a history of mental illness, will be sent to the Vermont Forensic Lab for ballistic analysis.

Navari did not fire.

The Vermont Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled Brunette’s death a homicide — a medical definition, not a legal one. The formal autopsy report will be incorporated into the ongoing Vermont State Police investigation, which will be submitted to Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell and Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan for review.

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