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November 2013

November 08, 2013

A New Prison for Vermont?

Emptying out my notebook, I wanted to share a few details that did not make it into the story than ran this week about the Department of Corrections' decision, in the face of a persistently high inmate population, to extend its contract with Corrections Corporation of America and continue to send hundreds of Vermont inmates out-of-state.

* Given that the DOC currently has 1,600 in-state beds and 2,100 inmates, I asked Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito whether his department is considering building a new prison in Vermont, rather than relying on the for-profit CCA. Pallito said the DOC does not have even preliminary plans to build a new prison, but expected to discuss the issue with state lawmakers during the upcoming session.

"I think it will come up this legislative session," Pallito said. "I think it will be a part of the conversation, though it's always about money."

Continue reading "A New Prison for Vermont? " »

The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers

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

Big boxes, prisons, pandas, tans, Republican unity, Putney nudity, Waterbury canneries and.... Vermont Health Connect. Duh.

Here's the Scoreboard for the week of Friday, November 8:


Jeff Davis — With an assist from Gov. Peter Shumlin, Vermont's biggest big-box store developer won a promise this week from the Preservation Trust of Vermont and the Vermont Natural Resources Council that both will drop their opposition to his proposed Derby Wal-Mart. In exchange, developer Jeff Davis agreed to pony up $200,000 to the Preservation Trust for remediation efforts in Orleans County, while the state promised to appropriate another $500,000 for downtown tax credits. Davis also pledged to refrain from proposing future Walmarts in the state until 2020. Runner-up loser: VNRC executive director Brian Shupe, who spent years fighting Walmarts while working at Smart Growth Vermont, and looked visibly pained at the deal's announcement Wednesday. He called it "bittersweet."

Gov. Peter Shumlin — Terry McAuliffe's narrow victory in Virginia's closely watched gubernatorial race gave Shumlin an important victory in his first year as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. And because he and the DGA effectively distanced themselves from the only other guber race in the country — New Jersey Republican Chris Christie's reelection romp — they avoided taking blame for the loss. Runner-up winner: Vermont's own Robby Mook, who solidified his credentials as one of the top political operatives in the country.

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott — A week after the Republican lite gov stood in solidarity with the Democratic gov at a tough health care announcement, Scott managed to scare the Vermont GOP's conservative chairman out of running for reelection. The next day, he announced he was bringing Republican rock star Chris Christie to town. Looks like Scott's moderate Republican brand is catching on. 

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

November 07, 2013

Burlington Police Fatally Shoot Shovel-Wielding Man

IMG_2431A Burlington police officer fatally shot a 49-year-old man in the New North End yesterday evening after his mother called police to report that he had been acting irrationally, authorities said.

Wayne Brunette, a longtime Burlington resident, was killed two minutes after two police officers arrived at the home he shared with his parents on Randy Lane, in a quiet neighborhood tucked behind the Lyman Hunt Middle School, police said.

Brunette approached the officers in a “threatening manner,” while holding a “long-handled pointed spade shovel," Vermont State Police Major Glenn Hall said at a late morning press conference inside the Burlington police station.

Corporal Ethan Thibault, a 12-year-veteran, fired his .40 caliber Glock, killing Brunette. It was the first time Burlington police have fired their weapons at someone since 1997.

Corporal Brent Navari, a 10-year-veteran, did not fire. Neither officer was injured. Brunette was pronounced dead at the Fletcher Allen Health Care emergency department.

Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling (pictured) said that, while the investigation is in its infancy, authorities currently believe Thibault followed the applicable rules and laws in firing at Brunette.

Continue reading "Burlington Police Fatally Shoot Shovel-Wielding Man" »

As Vermont Republicans Squabble Over Leadership, Lindley Exits Race for Chairman

LindleyCiting a desire to focus on his health, Vermont Republican Party chairman Jack Lindley announced Wednesday he will not seek reelection to his leadership post. The GOP party boss has been recovering from an unspecified illness since September.

"My time and energy is best spent working on building my strength and fully recovering," Lindley (pictured at right) told fellow Republicans in an emailed statement, which was first reported by the Vermont Press Bureau's Neal Goswami.

Lindley, who has led the party since February 2012, urged his fellow party members to elect former senatorial candidate John MacGovern as party chairman when the Vermont GOP meets this weekend in Montpelier. MacGovern is facing off against former Rutland state representative David Sunderland, the preferred pick of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.

MacGovern, who unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) last November, said Thursday he was "deeply moved and honored" to earn Lindley's support. 

"We should not be ashamed of our values," MacGovern said in an emailed statement. "Our ideas, of a smaller, more limited government with more personal freedom and individual liberty and responsibility are winning ideas."

Continue reading "As Vermont Republicans Squabble Over Leadership, Lindley Exits Race for Chairman" »

Christie to Headline Vermont GOP Winter Fundraiser

Fresh off a decisive reelection to a second term, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a likely candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, is headed for the critical primary state of...

Oh, wait, no. He's coming to Vermont.

The Vermont Republican Party announced Thursday morning that Christie will headline the party's "Welcome Winter Gala" next month. The fundraiser will take place December 11 at the Robert E. Miller Expo Centre in Essex Junction. 

"There's just so many similarities between Vermont and New Jersey from a political standpoint, and I like the fact that Chris Christie speaks his mind and knows how to reach across the aisle as well," says Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, who organized the event with Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe).

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November 06, 2013

This Week's Issue: Little Italy, Big Prisons and a Band Called Phish

Cover-110613Happy November, everyone. If you're cooped up inside bemoaning the chill in the air and the absence of sunlight, hey, more time for reading Seven Days. And more time for a couch tour, if you're a Phish-head — our own Paul Heintz took a break from politics this week to look back at the Vermont band's 30 years on the jam circuit. Once you're finished with that long read, here are this week's newsy stories:

Read it all in print, online or on the iOS app.

Shumlin's Democratic Governors Association Scores in Virginia

DSC04535In his first test as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, Gov. Peter Shumlin walked away from Tuesday's elections with a win and a loss. 

But the win, in Virginia's hotly contested gubernatorial race, was more significant for the DGA than the loss in New Jersey's decidedly less competitive gubernatorial match.

The DGA poured $6.5 million into the Old Dominion to support former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe's fight against Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, while it largely sat out New Jersey state Sen. Barbara Buono's uphill battle against Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

(Pictured from L to R at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill last November: DGA senior advisor Bill Lofy, Shumlin, DGA executive director Colm O'Comartun and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley)

"I am really excited we're going to have a job-creating governor in Virginia who does not embrace the radical policies of the Tea Party," Shumlin said Wednesday after a press conference in Burlington. "It's a great victory and a great victory for all of us."

Continue reading "Shumlin's Democratic Governors Association Scores in Virginia" »

At Burlington Summit, a Call for Action on City's Pension System

 The shadow of Detroit hovered over Burlington city hall on Tuesday as more than 100 municipal employees and local residents gathered for a "summit" on the city's underfunded pension system.

The name of the Midwestern financial disaster area was spoken just once, and then only to reassure the audience that Burlington's pension problems are nowhere near as dire as Detroit's. The Queen City's situation is actually only slightly worse than that of the average U.S. municipality, a national expert on pension issues noted. Pension summit 002

Still, the gap between current resources and future obligations is relentlessly widening in the pension plan that covers close to 1000 municipal workers in Vermont's largest city. Mayor Miro Weinberger put it succinctly in introducing the topic addressed by a dozen stakeholders during the three-hour session: "We've gone from having a significantly overfunded system to a significantly underfunded system. Taxpayers' contributions to the system have increased dramatically."

Continue reading "At Burlington Summit, a Call for Action on City's Pension System" »

November 05, 2013

'Low-Cost' Carrier Booked to Fly Nonstop from Burlington to Florida

 Sun-starved, shivering Vermonters will again be able to fly nonstop to Florida from Burlington International Airport starting February 19. That's when Allegiant Air plans to inaugurate twice-a-week service (Wednesday and Saturday) between BTV and Orlando's Sanford International Airport. Allegiant 005

Yellow, orange and blue balloons festooned the airport mezzanine on Tuesday as Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger announced the arrival of Allegiant. The Las Vegas-based carrier, which bills itself as a low-cost alternative for leisure fliers, is offering introductory fares from Burlington to Orlando for as little as $67 each way.

Continue reading "'Low-Cost' Carrier Booked to Fly Nonstop from Burlington to Florida" »

Waterfront Development Inches Ahead as City Council Gets Briefed on Nine Plans

Cedo 001

An expanded marina, a Cherry Street "promenade" and a Moran Plant transformed into an aquatics center or, alternately, a space for food, galleries and "makers" were among nine infrastructure-improvement proposals outlined at a Burlington City Council session on Monday. 

It was another step in a waterfront development process that began early this year and will culminate in a vote on Town Meeting Day in March. A five-member Public Investment Team of planners, architects and developers winnowed 50 proposals submitted to the city last April to the current crop of nine, which Burlington residents can review at a series of five open houses starting next week. 

Continue reading "Waterfront Development Inches Ahead as City Council Gets Briefed on Nine Plans" »

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